End of Year Science

As the end-of-the-year quickly approaches, we often find ourselves looking for exciting ways to engage our kids, keep their interest, and teach them all the way until the last day.  Okay, okay....the last week(ish), LOL.  So often Science and Social Studies take a backseat to the daily demands of math and literacy, but there are SO many ways to incorporate science on a cross-curricular level.  Why not end the year with a BANG and incorporate hands-on science activities that include a literacy and math component as well?!  

Abby and I created a year's worth of The Science Of...resources to meet the needs of science, but also incorporate literacy and math components.  These are our FAVORITE resources(I know, we're biased), but we LOVE them!!  And so do teachers and students across the globe!!  

Here's what we have on tap for end-of-year cross-curricular science activities.

The end of the school year is a great time to teach about the ocean & ocean animals.  A pretty great segue into summer, don't you think?!    Two weeks worth of our science plans & activities focus on oceans and ocean animals.  One of my favorite activities is "eating the ocean".  We make little ocean parfaits and then write about the different ocean animals and ocean life that can be found in each level of the ocean.  Ocean trioramas are always a school-to-home favorite, too!

My kids have always seemed to have an ocean animal fascination.  Quite frankly, I do too! LOL.  We only live an hour away from the beach, so I'll often take a day trip down to Galveston during this time of the year and have my boys help me collect artifacts to bring back and share with my kids.  Shells, the occasional shark tooth!!!, sand, etc.  We talk all about the different animals in the ocean, the foods they eat, how they protect themselves from danger...etc.  My kids are always fascinated to see how small octopuses can be and the looks of disgust on their faces when they learn people eat octopus always gives me a little giggle.  

Right now, Target is carrying these darling ocean animal erasers in the dollar spot!!!  Aren't they great?!  We'll be using these as counters for some of the ocean themed games we have planned.

Teaching thematically also gives us an opportunity to introduce rich vocabulary to our kids and prompt them to apply their learning to everyday activities.  Little marine biologists, if you will :)  

After ocean animals and ocean life, we move right into dinosaurs.  Our babies sure do love dinosaurs, don't they?!  And these activities are defintely engaging and hands-on!!!  

Speaking of dinosaurs, Target is KILLING it right now in the dinosaur science department!!!  Just look at all these dinosaur goodies I found at Target in the dollar spot!  These would be such a great compliment to the activities planned for dinosaur week!

We've heard from so many teachers how much they loved kitchen chemistry week!  Cooking & exploring physical and chemical changes sounds like a pretty great way to end the year.  Anytime I can incorporate food into my lesson plans, I'm ALL in.  My friends know this well :)  #noshame

Abby and I also created a "sample" science packet focusing on the science of sunscreen...a pretty timely, and important!, concept heading into the sunny and hot summer days.  And if you're only needing a week's worth of cross-curricular lesson plans....or want to see what "The Science Of..." is all about....this is a great resource to have on hand!

Here's one of our sweet homeschool readers proudly displaying his Science of Summer activities!  I absolutely LOVE this pic!!!  How precious is his work?!

Lots of talk about sunscreen....

How sunscreen works, sunburn info, and some fact & opinion fun, to boot.

I had my boys do these activites the first couple of weeks of summer last year because they're always fighting me about wearing sunscreen.  Why?!  LOL. 
A couple of the experiments included helped them to visually see the kind of damage the sun can do if we choose not to keep our sun protected with sunscreen.  In fact, I think I might have laid on the info pretty thick because they sure didn't forget to remind me when I wasn't wearing any, haha.  

Alright...time to head outside.  And no, I won't forget my sunscreen!  LOL!!!!

Celebrating Mother's Day

Can y'all believe we're already (quickly) approaching the end of April?!  WHERE DID THE YEAR GO?!  Our babies get out at the end of May and you know how May goes.  Everything sort of hits us at once.  Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, testing, assessment after assessment, portfolios, cumulative folders, plays, musicals, field trips, graduation, etc., etc., etc.  Try as we may to be on top of things, sometimes the inevitable just sneaks up on us!  For me, that is usually Mother's Day.  I always think I have more time to plan and prep.  What about you?!

Well today I wanted to share with you some Mother's Day ideas so that this doesn't sneak up on you and leave you without a spare second to plan.  Shall we?!

I always love introducing different concepts, topics, and holidays with a read aloud.  Here are some of my favorite Mother's Day read alouds.

Mother's Day Blessings, by Jan & Stan Berstain
Just Me & My Mom, by Mercer Mayer
I Love My Mommy Because..., by Laurel Porter Gaylord
Happy Mother's Day!, by Mercer Mayer
I Love You Mommy, by Jillian Harker
My Mom, by Anthony Browne

After reading a couple of different read alouds, we talk about different things that moms do.  The responses always make me laugh, LOL.  

Speaking as a mom, my favorite gifts I get from my kids are always the handwritten tokens of love.  It's like a little piece of their hearts and thoughts on paper, forever frozen in time.  I LOVE THEM.  SO, I like having my school babies make the same type of gifts for their moms, or V.I.P's, too!!  My mom kept all of these kinds of things my siblings and I made for her and I have a growing box of goodies my boys have created for me.  Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but I seriously can't get enough.  Here's just a little sample of some things we make for Mother's Day...

My most favorite is this Mother's Day booklet.

We create these as a guided writing activity during our guided reading small groups.  Sometimes I'll even place some of the pages in the writing center throughout the two weeks leading up to Mother's Day...just depends on the class I have and how much time we have to work on them.

I adhere the cover to a piece of construction paper and the first two pages are an original poem and an "all about mom" page.  The "all about" page is always my favorite, LOL!!!  Then I use my 3-hole-punch & ribbon to tie it altogether.
There are lots of different pages within the book.  Sometimes we have enough time to finish them all, sometimes we only have time for 3-5.  It's a new ball game every year :)  

Anybody remember this gem that one of my students gifted her mom back in 2012?!?!  I DIE!!!!  This is my favorite to date.  Mom and I had a huge laugh over this one, LOL!!!  Mom came up to school not long after this booklet went home and she and I could NOT stop laughing!!  Out of the mouths of babes!

If you're interested in having your kids do something like this for their moms, I uploaded a freebie for you to use in your classrooms :)  I was also sure to include pages that read "V.I.P" instead of "mom" should you have any students who need to designate an dad/aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa/family friend as a mother figure.  

I also have my kids send home Mother's Day coupon books that include coupons redeemable for things like hugs, foot rubs, house cleaning, naps, etc.  My kids get a kick out of these!!!  These are SUPER easy to assemble...just print, cut, collate, and staple!  I'll often tie a ribbon around the booklets for a little something extra.  Your kids can choose the coupons they want to include or you can choose for them :)

In addition to the Mother's Day keepsake booklet, I usually have my kids create Mother's Day simile books.  I usually start with a mentor book and simile lesson to set the stage.  Together we'll brainstorm a list of different descriptors to use in our books.  

I go to the Dollar Tree, but a bunch of white or brown gift bags, and have my kids paint their handprints on the bag.  Once they dry, they write "Happy Mother's Day" with a sharpie over their handprint.  We place all of these keepsakes inside their gift bags to take home & instruct them to make sure that mom doesn't peek until Mother's Day!!!
And no Mother's Day is complete without some sort of craft!  These are a couple of my favorites.  I don't send them both home the same year...unless we have a ton of time!!!...but I'll alternate years and just kind of feel out which one is appropriate for the current school year.  I love getting things like this from my boys!

Here are a couple of craft ideas that make my heart swell.  Such precious gift ideas for mom or a special V.I.P!!!  And easy to boot!

This suncatcher doubles as a clever little Mother's Day card.  How cute is that?!

How simple and easy is this craft?!  "I love my mom because" flowers!  You can take this a step further and place it in a clay pot decorated with their thumbprints :)  That's for the ambitious teacher.  I know this time of the year doesn't always afford us time!  LOL!

Blowing kisses to mom!  A canvas some paint, scrapbook paper, photographs, and mod podge make this a pretty easy, and adorable, Mother's Day gift! 

My oldest brought home a picture just like this in a handmade frame a few years ago.  I died.  His said, "I love you because you give good hugs."  BLESS IT.  It's still hanging in my room :)

via Pinterest (if you know the original source, holler!  Can't find it!!!)

How do you celebrate Mother's Day in the classroom?!?!?!

Learning About Oviparous Animals

If you're anything like me, as a teacher you love teaching thematically.  SO much content can be covered on a cross-curricular level...so many connections can be made... when taking this approach to instruction.  And because most public schools don't support teaching about Easter, this is a great time of the year for teaching all about oviparous and viviparous animals!  Today I wanted to share with you a few activities and read alouds I love incorporating in my plans this time of the year.

No thematic unit of learning is complete without a good set of read alouds!  These are a few of my favorite oviparous animal books to keep in the classroom during this unit of study.  

Animals That Hatch from Eggs by Baby Professor
What Will Hatch? by Jennifer Ward
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
An Egg is Quiet by Diana Hutts Aston
Where Are You From? by In-Sook Kim
Ollie by Olivier Dunrea

To start off our unit of learning, I like to create a schema chart to see what kids think they know about oviparous animals.  When I ask kids, "Who knows what an oviparous animal is?" I usually get a ton of blank stares and several wild guesses that leave me in a fit of hysterics.  Ha!  We discuss the definition...as well as the definition of viviparous animals...and then we move on to a read aloud.  Chickens Aren't the Only Ones is a great one to start with!  
As a whole group follow-up to the reading, we'll sort pictures of oviparous and viviparous animals.  They always love this.   

As we read and learn about oviparous animals, we add to our schema/new learning chart and discuss our misconceptions.  Then I have my kids follow-up our new learning with a non-fiction writing craftivity.  

This is pretty simple.  I don't have a template available for this, but you really don't need one!  First, the kids write a short paragraph...or 2-3 sentences...about oviparous animals.  Then they illustrate an oviparous animal of their choosing, cut it out, and adhere it to a piece of construction paper.  A cracked egg is placed on top of their illustration to make it look like the animal is hatching from the egg.  Then we use kraft krinkle cut paper/gift filler and glue that to the picture to resemble a nest. We love creating hands-on visuals to show off our learning and solidfy connections!

I think it's really important to empower kids with terminology to deepen their understanding.  I love incorporating rich and relevant vocabulary into my instruction and then using those vocabulary words in different games and activities that are hands-on and engaging for my kids.  The more engaging and hands-on, the more I can guarantee that my kids will remember what they learn.  Of course, it's not enough to just memorize, I want to empower them with the ability to then APPLY their learning. My kids have tons of opportunities to apply and use the vocabulary words in the different activities I incorporate during this time.

One of their favorite vocabulary activities was a small group activity where they had to work to place the eggs in the matching nests (seen above).  The nests were made out of paper lunch bags and Easter grass!  SIMPLE!  Each nest was labeled with a vocabulary word and then they had to work to match the visual representation of the word to the definition and place them in the corresponding nests.  Since this was done in a small group setting, I was able to easily facilitate the activity and assess understanding.  

Of course, I'd be remiss not to include learning about life cycles!  Frogs and chickens are in our standards, so I make sure to incorporate these oviparous animals into our unit of study as well.  Again, I love incorporating craftivities because they help kids to make connections to their learning in a hands-on way.  So important!  

Experiments and investigations are ALWAYS a class favorite, so I try to include as many as I can that help deepen understanding.  During our oviparous animal unit, we do an Incredible Egg Investigation where we investigate an egg and its attributes.  I make sure to keep lots of paper towels and newspaper on hand for this hands-on activity because little hands often don't know their own strength! Ha!

We also "hatch" homemade eggs using a vinegar & baking soda experiment that the kids love.  LOTS of predictions are made during this time and the "ooohs" and "ahhhhhs" are overwhelming!  The kids love to predict which animals will hatch....and they can always eliminate any animal that isn't oviparous because we've learned that oviparous animals are the only animals that hatch from eggs!

My favorite thing about teaching thematically is the cross-curricular connections that can be incorporated.  This also allows me to fit in more content throughout my day.  SO many great opportunities to incorporate learning into math as well as literacy.  Lots of opportunities for writing....text to self connections, etc.  I'm often asked, "when do you have time for writing?" Well, ANYTIME is a good time to write and incorporating writing activities throughout the day often helps me not only to target specific skills, but helps me to assess my student's understanding of the content we're learning.  

Speaking of writing, this is one of my most favorite oviparous animal writing activities.  I did this every year for almost all 14 years I was in the classroom!

I create a huge chick anchor chart out of butcher paper and then we brainstorm a list of words to describe it.  I add the words to the chart and then prompt my students to create their very own chicks using a variety of mediums I make available to them.  After making their chicks, they have to write about it using descriptive words (adjectives).  For my kindergartners, I prompted them to write at least 3 sentences using the prompt, "My chick is....".  With my first graders, we took a slightly different approach.  I created a can/have/are thinking map with them and they had to write using the prompts "My chick can; My chick has; My chick is".  We kept the chicks close by so that they could also write a fiction story all about their chicks in the writing center.  That was a favorite for sure!

These are just a few of the activities I incorporate into our Oviparous Animal study.  For more ideas, check out my Oviparous Animal Pinterest Board.  Don't you wish there were 24 MORE hours in each day, LOL?!?!?!  Never enough time for everything I want to do!!!

(***Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.  Purchasing items through the Amazon affiliate links included in this post may result in a commission for the author.***)

5 Tips for Teaching Sight Words - How to Make Them Stick!

Today we're talking all about sight words.  Specifically, my top 5 effective tips for making sight words STICK! 

So often we as teachers focus on assessing our student's sight word automaticity in isolation, but overlook the need to reinforce that same instant recall when identifying sight words in context.  We assume that easily reading sight words in context will be a by-product of focused instruction of words in isolation, right?!

TRUTH:  I would always get so frustrated when my kids would recall words in isolation with NO problem, but when reading them in context...it was like crickets!  Complete and utter silence.  WHA?!  How many times would I say to them, "Baby...I know you know that word!  You JUST read that word for me yesterday!!!!" while they stare back at me blankly and wonder what in the world I'm talking about.  Can anybody else relate?!

Teaching & reinforcing sight words in isolation is an integral piece of the puzzle, but it's not the only piece.  We need to remember to pair that same instruction with opportunities for kids to explore sight words in context as well.  Guided reading is the perfect time to provide our kids with these experiences (reading & identifying sight words in leveled texts, etc.), but we can also transfer these same opportunities to whole group activities as well.  Introducing & reinforcing sight words in context helps our kids to build an understanding of how these words are used in everyday language, thus establishing the value & importance of word recognition  (both in and out of context).

Here are some ideas for identifying and reading sight words in context...

This is one of my favorite activities and typically a favorite among kids, too.  The idea behind this activity is to choose 2-3 different sight words and incorporate them in a written message to your kids.  I loved making this a part of my morning message.  Before showing my kids the message, I would cover up the targeted sight words with sticky notes.  During whole group, I would read the message aloud to my kids while pointing to each word.  When I'd point to the sticky note, instead of saying the targeted sight word, I'd say "BEEP" (like the "bleep" sound you hear when there's a cuss on TV ;)), and keep on reading.  I'd prompt the kids to help me "beep", too!  Now can you see why this was a class favorite?! ;)

The objective of this activity is to prompt students to listen for context clues to determine which sight word best fit into each sentence.  After reading the message one time through, I would go back and read aloud each sentence one at a time and pause when I'd get to a sticky note.  I'd prompt the kids to tell me what sight word best fit in the sentence and they would use the bank of sight word cards on the chart paper to determine the missing word.  After guessing, I'd remove the sticky note to reveal the sight word and then re-read the sentence again and ask questions like, "Did that make sense?", "Is there another word that would make sense there?", etc.

Cloze sentences are a great extension of this activity.  You can easily create cloze sentences using sentence strips  and sight word flashcards.  Place them in a pocket chart,read, and prompt students to place the matching word in the empty space.  I scaled down this idea for use in small group by adding cloze sentences to my Sight Word Support binder.  This is just a resource I kept at my guided reading table and would use to quickly reinforce sight word recognition with my small groups.  Oftentimes I would read the cloze sentences aloud and prompt the kids to guess the missing word or even use letter tiles to spell the missing words.  I would also pass out cover-up cards and have the kids use counters to cover-up the missing word which gave me the freedom to quickly assess understanding of all kids in the group at once.  This was a great way to practice identifying and reading words in context in a small group setting.

Instead of focusing solely on the visual appearance of a word (rote memorization), remember to draw the student's attention to the attributes of the words as well.  It's important to give our kids opportunities to analyze words and process them in detail.  Looking at the vowels, consonants, number of letters, beginning letter(s), ending letter, etc. is powerful and helps kids to make concrete connections and process words on a deeper level.  This doesn't have to be something that takes up a ton of your instructional time, so let me share with you how I was able to incorporate this easily & effectively.

This activity is easy to implement and very effective.  Place 3-5 sight word cards in a pocket chart (or display on an easel/white board. You could even write them on chart paper!). Choose a word from the set as your "secret" word and don't tell the kids which word you've chosen.  Tell the kids, "I'm thinking of a word...." and describe it's attributes before prompting students to guess your secret word.  For example, "I'm thinking of a word.....that starts/ends with a vowel;  that starts/ends with a consonant;  that rhymes with _____; that has ___ vowels and ____ consonants;  that begins with a tall letter; that ends with a short letter; that means _____.; etc."  You can choose to describe your secret word using one prompt or several...whatever works best for your group(s)!  Prompt students to guess the word, point to it, spell it, etc.  This can be done with several different words in a 3-5 minute time span and makes a great warm-up for a small or whole group activity.

To piggyback off the idea of "I'm thinking of a word...", I created a set of Sight Word Prompts to use during small group/guided reading.  These prompts are broken down into sets of 5 & 10 sight words (to target the various needs of my students) and cover a wide variety of prompts to help kids focus on the various attributes of different words.  Students are given a cover-up card labeled with sight words.  I also pass out a set of counters to the group.   I call out the prompts and the kids have to cover-up the matching word on their card described by the attributes read aloud from the prompt.   This activity takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes and is perfect to quickly assess understanding and provide immediate feedback and intervention as needed.

I also carried this idea into our whole group activities with the Sight Word of the Day.  First, I laminate this focus card and display it on our white board.  Then I choose a (sight) word of the day and write it in the space provided.  I typically write the vowels in red to bring attention to those attributes and visually display the difference btween vowels & consonants.  We work together to break down the word and study it's attributes as well as make connections with the word of the day to other words in our vocabulary or on our word wall.  My kids LOVE this!!! 

To extend our whole group word study, I created printables to go along with this activity so that my kids would have the opportunity to independently practice identifying the attributes of the different words we were learning.  This might be something they would choose to complete as a fast finisher activity.

I'm fascinated by brain research, so when I found this idea on Pinterest five years ago I implemented it immediately.  And lo and behold, it worked!!!    According to brain specialist, Fritz Mengert, using a red dot when teaching and/or reinforcing sight words will improve students' word retention and automatcity.  The idea behind the red dot is to place it in the center of a word which will help kids focus on the middle of the word rather than just the beginning. How many times have you had a student quickly look at a word and guess what it says based on the beginning sound alone?  That's been my experience too many times to count!!  I was so excited to try this strategy with my kids and even more thrilled when I realized that it actually worked!  I'm not saying the quick guessing didn't disappear completely, but it was significantly reduced.  My kids were focusing on the beginning, middle, and end of each word we were learning.  

I wrote out each of our sight words on an index card and drew a red dot in the center of each word using a red marker.  I would spend about 2-3 minutes of our guided reading small group time to review these words with my kids.  We'd discuss them a little bit each day (Monday-Wednesday) before guided reading instruction.  Then we'd play BANG! (incorporating these words) on Thursdays and Fridays.  And they got it!!!  Pretty cool stuff!  My philosophy is to try everything at least once and I'm so glad I gave this one a go!

We can't expect our kids to improve their retention and automaticity if we don't provide them with the resources to be able to see the words as often as possible.  It's so important to be mindful about making sight words visible.  When I first started teaching...okay, so the first five years or so...I honestly didn't see the value in word walls.  In all honesty, I thought it was consuming too much real estate in the landscape of my classroom.  Hello!!! Wall space is limited and PRECIOUS.  I wanted to display #allthecutethings.  Word walls were anything but that.  Remember earlier when I said that I love brain research?!  Well I do.  And my whole outlook on word walls changed after doing some research of my own.  

Did you know that brain research has proven that kids need 6-12 exposures to a word for it to become embedded in their working memory?

Brain research has also proven that our brains are actually programmed to see in borders.  If you have the opportunity to section off your word walls like the examples in the pictures above, I would *highly* recommend trying this in your own classroom.  I'm a big believer in giving kids every opportunity I can give them to be successful and this small, but transformational, design tip works wonders for our littlest learners!

Speaking of word walls, I think it's extremely important to teach our kids HOW to use them.  Can I be honest with you for a second?  (Let's be real...I'm nothing if not totally transparent ;) Ha!)When I was in a traditional classroom setting, I was the teacher who had REALLY big ideas and great intentions at the beginning of every school year.  In reality, I was more of the teacher who stayed at school until midnight the night before parent/teacher conferences putting all of my words on my empty word wall.  #teacherconfession.

We so often neglect the word wall in all of it's glory because we just don't know how to best utilize it.  We adamantly insist that our kids to "use the word wall as a resource!", but fail to teach them HOW to use it in a way that will enrich what they're learning and aid in retention and identification. My ineptitude in this area forced me to do some serious research and create a bank of ideas and activities to teach my kids so that they could best utilize this resource in their daily activities.  I needed to give them the chance to put the word wall to use in their everyday word work activities.  This was transformational!  Teach your kids how to use the word wall and provide them with opportunities to use it as often as possible.

You can read more about my Word Wall, ideas, and activities...as well as grab several Word Wall Freebies....in THIS BLOG POST.

In addition to the Word Wall, I labeled my tables with sight words.  I had five tables in my room...four students per table...and hung the sight words above each table.  When I'd call kids to the carpet....or to line up...I'd say something alond the lines of, "Table YOU...come have a seat on the carpet.  Table SAID...line up at the door".  This kind of forced the kids assigned to those words to be able to identify them.  I was very intentional about where these words were placed.  If I knew a particular student needed reinforcement with a certain word, I placed that word above his/her table.  I kept the words above the tables for 1-2 weeks, depending on how quickly the students were able to retain and recall the words in both isolation and in context (I assessed this once a week).  You can also use this same idea as a behavior management incentive. Write the words displayed above the table on the white board and award points to each group (word) based on positive reinforcement.  The table with the most points at the end of the day or week gets an incentive (no shoes for the day, writing with markers, 10 extra minutes of tech time, etc.)

Don't limit visibility to the four walls of your classroom.  Give your students opportunities to identify and read sight words before they even walk into the room!  My most favorite idea for incorporating this quick recognition is in the form of high fives because who doesn't love a good high five in the morning?!  Trace & cut out hand templates...or use the pre-cut hand templates like THIS or THIS....and label each with a different sight word.  Adhere the hands to the wall right outside of your classroom door at arm's reach (not too high...the kids will need to be able to reach them!).  Before your kids can enter the room, they need to give each hand a high five as they read the word on the hand aloud.  If they're unable to correctly identify the word, use that moment to quickly re-teach...point out a specific attribute, rhyming word, etc. and move along.  Keep the words up on the wall for a week or two or until you feel that your students are able to recall each word with automaticity.

We're all familiar with the age old adage, "practice makes perfect".  The more our kids are given opportunities to explore & practice building, reading, and identifying sight words, the better they will be at recognizing & reading them in isolation and in context.  Repetition & consistency is key!

I think the easiest way to give kids repeated opportunities to build and and identify sight words is to incorporate a sight word station in your room.  Kids can visit the sight word station in the mornings for morning work, during center time, or even as a fast finisher activity.  I found that the key to making this station successful was to provide a variety of activities that didn't have to be frequently changed (aka - hands-on, no or limited printables).  By keeping the activities consistent and allowing students to make their own choices regarding which activities to complete, they were able to build familiarity and could complete the provided activities efficiently and successfully.

These materials were fixtures in my sight word center.  Since I differentiated my sight word instruction, each of my kids had their own ring of sight words they would take to the center to practice and they were given the autonomy to choose how they practiced their words.  This gave them ownership over what and how they were learning and made the "buy-in" so much more authentic and the outcome & engagement successful.

I taught my kids to build words using letter tiles and magnetic letters and baking sheets. We used THESE FREE PLAY-DOH WORD MATS to build & write sight words.  My kids also loved using wikki stix and pipe cleaners to make letters and assemble them into words.  The small Magna Doodles were always a favorite.  Kids loved writing their words and watching them magically disappear.  Aren't Kindergarten and First Grade babies the best?!?!

I kept a set of pony beads in a container with a set of pipe cleaners (cut in half).  I prompted my kids to create word bracelets and allowed them to wear those throughout the day (they had to return the beads and pipe cleaners back to the station before the end of the day.).  This was a great way to incorporate fine motor skills into learning as well (a skill severely lacking in today's kids!!!).  One of my darling girls loved creating sentence bracelets.  She would make several different word bracelets and then place them on her arm one after the other to make a full sentence.  She was a HOOT!  But boy was she engaged!

I kept a set of spelling sticks in a container in my station to give my kids more of a guided choice in practicing their words.  If there wasn't enough space to sit in the station, they could remove a stick from the container and take it to a spot in the classroom where they could work independently.  I love that this activity offered SO many different ways to practice sight words and my kids loved the multitude of choices as well.  There was always a new way to practice!   Instead of making them all available at the same time, I would limit them to 5-7 choices bi-weekly.  Then I'd change them up as the novelty wore off.  I made sure to spiral the activities throughout the year so they had many opportunities to repeat the activities.

It seems like every child I know LOVES to stamp, so giving them options to stamp with different mediums is a great way to provide repeated opportunities for practice.  This is one of my favorite ideas.  Tiny legos and play-doh!  How great is that?!  Not just building the word, but building each letter within the word as well and focusing on the attributes, too.

As I said before, most of the materials in our sight word station were hands-on.  I had a VERY limited amount of printables available because 1. I hated making copies! and 2. I felt my kids were so much more engaged in hands-on activities vs. worksheets.  This activity required a bit more thinking on their part because they had to determine the beginning sound of each picture in the set, stamp them, and then identify & read the new word and write it in a sentence.  And because they got to solve a mystery, they were all over it!

I copied three different sets each week and placed each set in a labeled drawer.  Each drawer contained the mystery sheet as well as a scratch-off class list.  This ensured that my kids were only doing this activity 3 times (at the most) each week.  Sometimes I'd only make one or two available depending on the week.  They'd remove the scratch-off list,  use a vis-a-vis to cross out their name, and then take a printable.  They wouldn't be able to take another printable from that drawer until I wiped the slate clean.  This was an easy way to keep them accountable and on-track while working independently.

Speaking of mysteries, my kids LOVED hide-and-seek words!  I cut up small pieces of white construction paper and wrote various sight words on them using a white crayon.  I gave my kids the option of using watercolors or markers to reveal the hidden word.  I also gave my kids the freedom to create their own hide-and-seek words and encouraged them to work with a partner, prompting their peers to guess the hidden word using the prompts & directives they were familiar with from our "I'm thinking of a word..." whole group activity.  I think they liked being able to create much better than just revealing!

In addition to building and manipulating words, I also gave my kids multiple options for repeated reading & identification.

I was constantly asking for (school appropriate) magazines.  My kids used their personal sight word rings & highlighters to search through the magazines & identify the words in text using a highlighter that matched those on their rings.
Each student had their very own Word Collector Notebook as well.  They could search through magazines, find the words, cut them out, and glue them inside of their notebooks.  They absolutely LOVED this one.  You can grab your Word Collector Notebooks by clicking the pic below.

Another example of giving students repeated practice in identifying and reading sight words would be to incorporate sight word fluency sentences students can read independently.  These can be stored in plastic sheets and kept in a binder.  Teach students how to remove the sheets from the binder and take them to a spot in the classroom where they can read these independently.  

The idea behind this activity is to identify the word, read it in isolation, and then read it in context three different times (rebus sentences).  After those tasks are complete, they can take it a step further by rolling a die and writing the sentence that matches.  Allow your kids to use whisper phones and voice cards to read the sentences.

Voice cards are great for reading with expresession and intonation and help tremendously with reading fluency.  My kids were able to use these voice cards in their sight word fluency center as well as in the sight word station.

You can read more about my Sight Word Fluency Center HERE.

There are MANY different ways to make instruction engaging and effective, but these 5 tips are my go-to's.  Please feel free to leave a comment and share your tips for making sight words stick!  The more ideas, the better!!

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