Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vocabulary Spinner

Unfortunately, I can not take credit for this amazing idea. My team member, Macee, developed this idea for her students but has let me use it with my own.

This is another game which helps reinforce vocabulary skills while allowing students to have fun. Using the top of a large shoe box, Macee taped down vocabulary flashcards to created a vocabulary spinning game.She combined both sight words as well as science vocabulary words on the flashcards. She made additional cards (not shown) which she added over the course of the game.

During the game, the students spin a top on the board. Once the top stops spinning and lands, the students must read the word it landed on. Macee made the game even more challenging by asking the students to define the science words and use the sight words in a sentence.

All of our students have enjoyed the game thus far! I have enjoyed it because it encourages my students to be excited about recognizing harder vocabulary words.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Highlighter

As my title suggests, this post is about the power of a highlighter. I discovered the power of a highlighter from Kathryn Starke, a literacy expert who spoke to VCU AmeriCorps during one of our trainings. She explained that students love props and that something as simple as a highlighter can help further engage students in reading material.  She was so right! 

I often have my students use highlighters on their reading passages to highlight  new vocabulary words or words which contain the phonemes we practiced that day. Other days, I challenge them to highlight all of the rhyming words within a passage. Sometimes I ask them to highlight the punctuation marks of a passage so that they notice when to pause or change their expression while reading. All of these methods help my students examine what they are reading a litte more and recognize the complexity of the words they are reading.  Additionally, this helps add extra challenges to their lesson for the day. So when in doubt, grab a highlighter!

Sight Word Twister

One of the my primary focuses in my first grade tutoring group has been increasing their ability to recognize sight words. At least two to three times a week, we begin our session with a game of sight word slap. They have improved vastly and can read almost all of the words on the Dolch First Grade Vocabulary List. For one of their prize days recently, I decided to reward their efforts with a game of Sight Word Twister.  

My inspiration for this game came from Pinterest. I discovered a pin where one educator had written sight words onto the circles of a Twister mat and instead of calling out the colors for students to place their hands on, she would call out the sight words. I thought this was a great idea and decided to try it out for myself. 

For my students, I altered the rules of game somewhat. One of my first graders is wheelchair bound and I didn't want her to feel excluded from the group. Instead of having the students place their hands and feet on the mat, I had all of the children sit around the mat. One at a time, they were given a die to roll. The student would roll the die onto the mat and would have to read the word that the die landed on. I came prepared with a lot of sight word flashcards to place on top of the Twister circles. I did not write on actual mat itself because I wanted to be able to reuse the game in the future. Once a student successfully read a sight word, I replaced the flashcard with a new one. The game lasted the entire 30 minutes of our intervention. 

For the most part, my students enjoyed this game. If I play in the future, I would like to use a larger ball instead of die. The die was small and would frequently land on the white space of the mat. At that point, I would just choose a word for the student to read.  

From an educators stand point, it was a very successful game because my students were able to have fun while practicing their vocabulary skills for 30 minutes! 

Sight Word Twister

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reading Pointers

During on of my favorite training sessions for AmeriCorps, Kathryn Starke, a reading specialist for the City of Richmond, shared some of the many ways she engages her students during reading interventions. One of the many tricks I took away from her training session was the use of props. She explained that she uses props like witch fingers and superhero masks during her interventions to get her students excited about reading. 

Taking her advice, I decided to create my own reading pointers for my students. I found great templates for reading pointers on TeachersPayTeachers. One teacher made her "Read Along Pointers" free and included new templates for each month of the year. Here is the link.


I recommend that if you make these, laminate the pointers and use hot glue. Originally, I did not laminate the pointers and they were destroyed within a week.  

I found that by using these, my students are more likely to follow along while reading and are more excited about reading portion of the intervention. 

Sight Word Slap Game

The curriculum that the City of Richmond uses for reading has a very strategic approach. For second grade, every lesson begins with a list of 15-20 words which follow a pattern. For example, in the lesson I taught today, the list included many words which exhibit how when added -ing to a word, some words have double letters after the vowels and some have a single letter. The list also included words with phonemes we have reviewed in the recent past.  Here is the list: roping, batting, filing, filling, hoping, hopping, file, filled, paid, afraid, rained, repair, near, roof, sounded, outside. Additionally, each list includes six irregular words. Today's irregular words were grew, change, though, toward, young, and knew. 

Having to practice this many words on a daily basis becomes very boring and repetitive for both my students and I. In order to spice things up, I developed a game I coined Sight Word Slap. Each day I write the words for the day on flashcards. After reviewing the words twice, I place the flashcards face up on the table in front of my students.  Next, I ask them to hold their hands up and wiggle their fingers. (I make them wiggle their fingers so that they don't take the game too seriously and so that I know they are ready to play) Once all the students are ready and have their fingers moving, I call out a word. The first student that slaps the correct card gets to keep that card and earns a point. If they slap an incorrect card, I get to keep the card and no one earns a point. Also, if there is a tie between two students, I get to keep the card and no one earns a point. During the game, if I notice that one student is earning all the points, I start to play so that no one gets too upset about losing.  

This is a great game which is really easy to play and allows for the students to review the words for a third time while having fun. I think if my students knew this game was helping their reading skills, they would hate it. Luckily, they have not figured this part out yet. I strongly recommend this game if you are reviewing sight words or are introducing new words to your students. 

The Phases of Word Study

I did not begin tutoring my first grade students until January and was shocked by the difference between a first grader and a second grader at mid-year. I quickly realized that the pace of the two grades is vastly different and that I would have to use different techniques to engage my first graders. It took me a while to find a balance of work for them which was challenging but would not overwhelm my students and cause them to shut down. I found that word study was something that met this criteria. In this post, I am going to chronicle the stages I used to help my students master each set of word study words.  

Step 1: Introduce the students to the words. On the first day, I ask the students to cut the words out. Next, as a group, we read the words and identify the sounds we are practicing. For example, while using the word study list below, we practiced the short e,i,o, and u sounds.  

Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice. For the next few tutoring sessions, I would have my students spend the last 10-15 minutes of our tutoring session practicing how to sort and read these words. With each word set, I would provide them with a sheet to sort on with separate columns for each of the word sounds. I have some perfectionists on my hands who become easily stressed when their lines aren't perfect. Providing a word sheet helped eliminate this problem.  

Step 3: Rainbow Write!! After I felt that my students could read the words in the sort easily, I challenge them to rainbow write the words. My students get really excited about this step but all it encompasses is them writing the sorts down in crayon. I use this step as my way of measuring how well my student's have mastered the word list before we move on to the next one.  

Step 4: Glue the words and move on!  
For the final step, I have my students glue their word sorts down onto the paper I provided them. As they are gluing down their words, I quiz them each individually on the words to ensure that they understand the sound pattern we are practicing.  

Overall, I have been really happy with this process and my student's reaction to it. It took a while to introduce the to the process but we are now at a point where they understand the routine and practice word study without question. We have moved through a number of lists and I am pleased with their progress. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cause and Effect

After playing The Paper Bag Princess game, my students asked repeatedly if they could play another book board game. I was glad to hear that they had found a prize day so fun so I was more than happy to oblige. As I stated in my last post,  the blog First Grade a la Carte: Odds and Ends from a First Grade  Classroom posted a number of reading comprehension board games. One of the games is based upon If you Give a Mouse a Cookie... and the questions ask the students to determine cause and effect. For example, one question asks:
What is the cause?
 "I got an award" 
a. I did not do my work. 
b. I got good grades 
c. I am hungry.   

Before playing, I made sure to review cause and effect with my students so that there would be no confusion regarding the vocabulary of the game. My second graders really enjoyed the game and did not see it as a great challenge. The first graders struggled with the questions and required a lot of assistance throughout the game. However, regardless of the challenge, I felt that they were confident in the ability to determine cause and effect by the end of the game.  
If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, Board Game, Dice, and Game Questions
Example Questions