Friday, December 30, 2011

Technology (Reading and Spelling)

At my school, our classrooms have been blessed to have tablet pc's and LCD projectors in every room. In my classroom, we are using Saxon Phonics for reading and spelling. As a way to enhance my lessons with some engaging activities, I use Microsoft PowerPoint and an excellent FREE site: As a new letter is introduced for the week, we visit Starfall's website to see their cute, animated, fully colored two minute video for each letter we are looking at. (found in their section called "ABC's Let's Get Ready to Read." From their website: " opened in September of 2002 as a free public service to teach children to read with phonics. Our systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice, is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children."

As students learn most of the letters, I begin to do Starfall story reviews from their section "Learn to Read". I take key words from the story and create PowerPoints for the class. For instance, previous to reading through Mox's Shop, I created a PowerPoint that I recorded my own narration over. Each slide introduced a key CVC word from Starfall's story such as a character's name or element from the story. I use this opportunity to also compare and contrast how animal characters in the story are fictional and different or like real animals that are well known to the students. 

Students have a kindergarten lined piece of paper in front of them. They see a picture and hear me say what it is in the PowerPoint and repeat it themselves. They then slowly sound out the word with me on the PowerPoint. As they say each sound, that letter appears on the PowerPoint slide eventually spelling out the word. We then blend the letters together and say the word again. The word disappears and students see only the picture. They then repeat the process themselves as they spell the word on the paper in front of them. The next slide brings the word back as a way for them to check their spelling. I do this with 9-10 words from the Starfall story. We then go to the Starfall site and view the story together.

The Starfall stories have so many child-friendly options. When you move your cursor under each word of the story, it highlights the word, so you can move along as quickly or slowly as you like. If the students can not read the word themselves, you click on the word and a child voice will read it to them. If you click on different parts of the pictures, they are programmed to do a variety of different things. At the end of the story, students are always given the option to vote on whether they liked the book presented or not. Also, the background wallpaper changes with the seasons. 

This website has tons of free and inexpensive download options and also allows for students to make printouts of things they create here. It also has a tab called "More Starfall" which offers an amazing amount of new things in a "Teacher Lounge". If you haven't seen or tried this site yet, I highly recommend you explore it in the New Year! I have used this site with many of the K-3 grade students I tutor and we all love it!

100th Day Activities

Teaching Blog Addicts (TBA) asked what we are doing for the 100th day of school. Here is a preview for you!

My students are really enjoying counting the days down until the 100th day of school. We have an animal roller coaster roaming the walls of our room as seen above. There is a new animals for each day we are in school. I am amazed that there are actually 100 different animals with no repeats. This set was found at Really Good Stuff. I had a bit of a back issue, so my wonderful friend (and parent in the class) Laura Huff of kind enough to come in every few days to put up the next few animals. She and I get a big kick out of watching the students exclaim in surprise when they see the new animals on the end of the coaster. Things got really exciting and tangible for them when we hit day 50 and they were told they were half way there!

The night before the 100th day of school, my students have homework. They are to choose 100 pieces of something healthy to bring to school for show and tell and snack. In our school, because of the prevalence of allergy issues, we do not mix and share snack foods. I do tell the students that they are not expected to eat all 100 pieces of their snack at once. They can snack on the rest later in the day if they like. 

My students are welcomed to school on the 100th day with a table setting that features a 100th day crown from Really Good Stuff and a special book. The book was created by If you go to their home page and look under products, you will see a tab on the right side of their page called "theme books". Here is the direct link to the item:,ProductName. They provided me with a cd I can use year after year. On their site, you can download this book. I found them at a conference I attended. Their products are very high quality and loved by parents. I have the students begin this book on the 100th day and we continue it until the next day. I let the students choose the pages they want to work on first. I have a parent prepare this book with the cool cover in a comb binding for each student. In this book, students have an opportunity to practice reading and writing the number 100 on each page. The book is made so that it is a hands on experience. There are things to cut and glue (such as money). There is a page to let the student draw what they will look like when they are 100 years old. They can draw and journal about what they'd like to eat 100 of. This is a terrific book! (by the way, they have tons of EXCELLENT theme books......I love them!)

Another activity that the students LOVE is our dalmation dotting activity. I have an 8 1/2 x 11 black line master of a dalmation dog, sans his spots. The students use stamp pads and pencil erasers (new Ticonderoga work best, they don't break). The dalmation dog is drawn such that he has 10 areas for "dotting". The students place 10 dots on his right ear, 10 on his left ear, 10 on his face, and so on. Before they can go on to another area of the dog, they must count to check that they have 10 dots. I found small stamp pads at Michael's on sale. I save the stamp pads and pencils each year. I have used the same set for 8 years now and still going strong!

During the day, we also use a 100 spaced (10x10) grid. The students use fruit loops to fill in their grid before counting them by ones as they place them onto a string for a necklace. I love this activity because it allows for a lot of individuality. Some students just go right into and fill the grid up haphazardly with whatever fruit loop their cute little fingers touch first. Others will unknowingly let me see that they understand patterning VERY well by creating AB or ABB or ABC patterns....calling out, "I need two more purple ones!" They love snacking on the broken ones and somehow we end up with quite a few "broken" ones. I wonder why.....I love this activity because it allows them to count by 1's, 10's, 2's, 5's according to what pattern they made.

I also have a number of other fun things we do that day. Let me know if you are interested in any of my other ideas and I'll send them your way. Also if you'd like a copy of the dog, I can send that to you once we get back to school too.

One last item: in order to transition from one fun activity to another (or to clean up), we see if we can finish what we are doing before everyone counts to 100...sometimes, to move them faster, we count by 5's or 10's!

Have a super fun 100th Day!!

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