4.12.2017

Word Work for Older Kids


As an elementary teacher, one of the most important skills I can teach my students is how to read, write and spell. The use of word work in my classroom is essential, even in the upper elementary grades. Word work is when students practice spelling, vocabulary, frequently used words and word parts like prefixes, suffixes, and roots. This helps them continue to grow as young readers and writers.

In order to keep your students interested and engaged, you have to find age-appropriate word work activities that they will enjoy. A fourth grader most likely will not appreciate rainbow spelling the way a first grader would. In contrast, solving vocabulary puzzles would be an excellent choice for older students. I like to incorporate word work in my third grade classroom during centers and reading groups. During centers, they often independently practice a skill that we have worked on during reading group.

One really important skill for understanding language is the ability to break words down into their individual parts to extract the meaning. This requires instruction in word analysis: specifically prefixes, suffixes, and Green and Latin roots. When students understand the individual parts of a word, they are much more successful at determining the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary.

This resource consists of word wall words, a Word of the Day worksheet, and word building cards including prefixes, suffixes, and many Greek and Latin roots students will encounter in their reading. {Click the picture to see more.}


In addition to analyzing words, students in third, fourth, and fifth graders still need practice with more advanced phonics and spelling patterns, and vocabulary.

Listed below are a few really great and age-appropriate activities for your students to try:

  • Vocabulary Crossword Bulletin Board: Laminate squares of blank paper (so they can be used over and over again) and use them to create a giant crossword grid on your bulletin board. Post the clues about your weekly vocabulary words next to the grid. For example, if one of your vocabulary words was "pointless", then 1 across might say "Having no purpose". Students can record their answers on their response sheets or you can have them write their answers on the grid using dry erase markers.


  • Scrabble Spelling: Older students don't often like to practice their spelling words. One way to add some fun is to turn it into a game. Scrabble tiles work great for this. Put all of the tiles into a bag or box. Each student should also have their spelling list handy. They take turns pulling a tile from the bag. If they can use it to build a spelling word, they keep it. If not, it gets set aside. Keep pulling tiles until they are all used up. Any completed words get scored by adding the points on the tiles used. Incomplete words do not count. The person with the highest score wins.
  • Word Sorts for Big Kids: Word sorting is typically a primary grades activity but it can work for intermediate too. There are plenty of advanced spelling patterns that lend themselves well to word sorting. One example is the "shun" sound. The tion, sion, and cian patterns are confusing and take a lot of practice.

Students can complete these activities in groups or centers to practice sorting words by the suffix “tion, sion and cian”. At the same time, they will be building their vocabulary. (This resource includes word cards, definition cards, a recording sheet and a cut & paste worksheet.)
  • Stamp Challenge: Since students love competition, this game is perfect! With a partner, two stamp pads, and a set of letter stampers, students take a word from a work bucket, and stamp out the spelling of the word as quickly as possible to beat their partner. This game is strictly for spelling practice but it sure is fun! 
While word work is essential for the younger grades, it is important to keep reinforcing spelling and vocabulary skills as our students progress. Students will enjoy games and group activities that increase their knowledge of words beyond just how to spell them. I hope you and your students find these ideas helpful! Enjoy!



2.26.2017

Today On the Farm

A little peek at our little farm today...


I'm really excited about the vegetables that are ready to pick. I made pickled red beets yesterday and today I'll be making cole slaw with some of that cabbage. YUM! 

Gracie looks so pretty in that picture, doesn't she? No so much the other day...



2.23.2017

Saving Your Sanity With a Difficult Class



Without mentioning any names, I will say I have one of the most exhausting classes ever this year. Not only do they talk a lot, they blurt out, get up and wander around, announce loudly how bored they are, refuse to work with others in a nice way, and pretty much complain all day long. Now this isn't my entire class, of course. It's a small handful that makes it feel like the whole class is out to get me. I know you've had years like this too. We all do.

So what's a worn out teacher to do when spring break is still a few weeks away but your sanity ran out a few weeks ago? Let's look at a few of the problems going on in my class right now and some tips that are actually helping me make it through the days, the long long long days...
You know the one. Mine comes in the door talking... to everyone, to no one, to himself, to the walls. It doesn't matter if anyone is listening or not. It doesn't matter if I'm already talking or not. His mouth runs... all... day... long. No amount of discipline stops it because his mouth actually has a will of its own and that will is VERY strong. This type of child will drive an introverted teacher like me (yes, we exist) absolutely crazy. Temporary solutions...

Music, Gum, and Headphones

First put on some appealing music. I like the kids radio station on Pandora. This will divert the talker's attention from his own never-ending dialogue to some other sound. If he talks, he hears himself instead of the music. If he talks, the rest of the class hears him instead of the music. Peer pressure is very powerful.

Next, pass out some gum. It's harder to talk with gum in your mouth. Then, you can institute the "Loose Lips" rule...  If you talk with gum in your mouth, I take it away. If I see any evidence of gum sticking out of your lips, I take it away. Believe me, losing your gum is so so sad to a third grader. Sometimes I do the gum at the same time as the music. But don't use it too often or your class becomes way too fun.

Last, pull out the headphones for the Super Talker. For some strange reason, if he can't hear other people talking, he somehow thinks they can't hear him either. The headphones only work for short periods though. They are especially good during a test because they also help Super Talker focus on what's in front of him.

If all of the above fails, pull out "The Note" and send your little talker on a very important errand:
Don't all teachers need a Big Red Eraser And Keys sometimes? If the other teacher is a good friend, she'll take a long time finding what you need {wink wink}.
This student is particularly aggravating. She's the one who refuses to work with anyone. When forced to, the sabotage begins... and it's always someone else's fault. As a result, none of the other students want to work with her either. Every group or partner activity turns into an unproductive complain-fest. This is a tough problem to solve because it involves negative attention-seeking behavior... the worst kind in my opinion. So, what to do?

The Bigger, Better Deal

Here's how it works: Announce to the class that today you will be picking partners. Then write two things on the board...

Fill in the blank with something the Lone Wolf really likes. In my case, it's the computer. So I would fill in "10 minutes of technology". This solution works because it gives everyone an incentive to work cooperatively. They ALL want to pick their own partners and the Lone Wolf really wants that computer time. (If that's not enough for your little loner, pull her aside and let her know that if she does well this time, next time she can choose to work alone.) The beauty of the bigger, better deal is that it's self-perpetuating. Every time they do partner work, the deal is still the same and they are in charge of the outcome.

I actually have three Wendy Whiners this year. No matter what we're doing, it's boring, stupid, or too much work and they feel entitled to announce these feelings to the whole class. I also have one who lets his mouth hang open in utter shock whenever a test is announced. So for these students, I have instituted what I like to call...

Bonus Questions

Now "bonus questions" sounds like a good thing, but it's definitely not. It goes like this... If you smile and accept your assignment without complaining, you get the short version. If you whine or complain about your assignment, you get the "bonus questions" (i.e. the long version). This is an all-or-nothing incentive. One person whining means the whole class gets the bonus questions. There are two reasons for this: 1) peer pressure and 2) there really is no long version of the assignment.

I wouldn't normally encourage tricking small children like this, but desperate times call for desperate measures. No matter what they do, they're going to get the same assignment... but they don't know that. The affect is that the whiners do NOT, under any circumstance, want more work. So they will bite their tongues and keep their complaining to themselves just to keep the assignment as short as possible. What they don't know won't hurt them and they'll think they are being rewarded for a positive attitude. In return, you get students who accept the assignment without a battle.

Now, if spring break would just hurry up and get here....


Looking for behavior management resources? Try these:

      

1.29.2017

Why Games Are Important In The Math Classroom

How often do your students play games during math? Do you bring them out on special occasions only? Maybe Fun Friday? Here are five reasons games should be a regular part of your math instruction:
  1. Computational Fluency: This is something we want all of our students to have. A lack of fluency can become a serious impediment to performance in math. When all of a student's effort is spent on figuring out basic facts, they cannot focus on the real work of math which is problem solving. There are MANY games out there that build fluency. One of my favorite store-bought ones is Sumoku. It's great for practicing repeated addition and building multiplication skills.

  2. Strategic Thinking: One of our goals as math teachers is to teach students to problem solve in multiple ways. Thinking strategically and choosing the most efficient way to solve a problem takes a lot of practice. When engaged in playing a game, students will do this naturally without even realizing that it's happening. One my students' favorite games for the past three years has been The Grocery Game. To play, they must fill their grocery bags while staying within their budget and having as much money left over as possible. This requires not only addition and subtraction, but planning, estimation, and strategy. Here is a picture of my students playing this game:



  3. Real-world Connection: Want to make your math instruction meaningful? Then use games! One of my favorite things to do is have a guided whole group lesson and then bring out a game at the end that uses the same skill. Then, they get to play the game with their friends! Sometimes they can borrow my game to take home and play with their family! See, math isn't just for the classroom. It isn't something that you just sit and do on paper. There are many games available that teach real-life math skills (see The Grocery Game in #2). Want a really fun homework assignment? Tell your students go home and play a game of darts (lots of addition!) or anything else that requires keeping score. Or have them run sprints and then calculate their average time. There are so many ways math is incorporated into everyday life.

  4. Student-Driven: What sounds more fun: solving problems your teacher came up with or playing a game with your friends? As awesome as you think you are, I promise that your students would rather play the game. Know why? Because they're in charge. They are choosing who goes first. They are drawing the cards and asking the questions, They are determining who wins. When students are in charge of their own learning, magic happens. Enough said.

  5. Motivation: One of the best reasons to use games (maybe THE best) is that it motivates kids to do math. Many children (and some adults) don't get why math is important and no amount of telling them will make them think otherwise. By using games, you are giving those kids a reason to do math. Not because you said so, not because it's part of school, but because it's part of an activity that has personal meaning. Even the most reluctant math students will join in when you bring out the games and they're almost always excited to do so!



























1.02.2017

New Year Wishes $100 Giveaway

What a surprise when an envelope from Teachers Pay Teachers arrived in the mail and inside were two $25 gift cards to give away to my followers! TpT knows how hard teachers work, often spending our own money to give the best to our students. So in that same spirit of giving, they have sent out these gift cards for teacher-authors to pass along to help make a few wishes come true.

But that's not all... for the two winners of these $25 gift cards, I will also give $25 to spend in my store. That's a total of $100 in free resources just for being awesome teachers like YOU!

To enter, all you have to do is comment with a wish you have for 2017 and enter below:



I'll start the wishing...

For 2017, I wish to add some of these to my little farm:


Good luck! I can't wait to give away some awesome prizes to some well-deserving teachers!
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