They're not short, they're FUN size!

Hehe!!!  I'm still giggling over the title of this post.  I originally was going to have this as a tag line on the cover of this pack I'm here to talk to you about today, but it didn't really fit.  So instead, I got to use it as the title of this post.  

I was here not too long ago posting to you about how I teach phonics and I showed some snapshots of my Phonics "Ph"riends Bundle of Blends.  While writing that post I was still working on my short vowel pack.  I had a few of my wonderful, amazing followers contact me to give a little more detail about what's in this one now that it is complete.  So to those fabulous friends - here is a closer look at The Short Family.  

Have I ever mentioned how much I appreciate all of you - those who comment and email, and those who just visit and read.  It is an honor to have you here!  And if you ever want to see me do a post on something, ideas or products or whatever, don't hesitate to ask.  I will always try to deliver.  Since it's summer, I don't have any student pictures for this post - so sorry =(  But I hope I was able to give you enough pictures to see what you're getting.

Ok, back to this "little" family.  

As I've mentioned before, I really like giving my students something visual and tangible to connect to whenever learning something new.  I think it's so much more engaging and fun to connect to characters when dealing with phonics and word work.  If I could write and illustrate my own children's books, this is something I would love to do.  But, since I do not have those skills (not even a little bit), I get to grab some super cute clip art from some super talented people to help do it for me.  (The Short Family characters are from Jessica Weible in case you were wondering).

So in order to introduce my students to these new characters I use the posters you see below.

I made posters with each character and then I have posters that include some of the graphics from their stories on it.  I like to use the plain posters to introduce the characters and brainstorm other words we know that have that sound.  Then I put them into the Picture Sort and Word Sort centers below to use as sorting mats.  As we read each character's stories, then I bring out the posters with the extra graphics.

This is just an example of the mini-book for Dad, but there is one for each character.  I tried to include as many different words for them to read and practice.  The readability should be appropriate for those lower readers since I tried to include some early sight words and mostly decodable text.  I read these stories to the students when I introduce the characters and then they have the chance to reread the books, highlight the short a (in this book) words and trace them.  Of course they can color them if they have time too.  We keep these in their book bins for free reading time.

Here is just 1 example of each type of practice page included.  There are 8 pages of cut and paste sorts with different word families and 5 pages of both the read and draw and highlight and write - one for each short vowel.  

Next up are the 9 literacy centers included in this pack.  These are perfect for your word work stations in your classroom.
The first center is Rollin' with _____.  Each character has a separate center.  You will need dice for these centers.  Basically they roll the dice and then pick a beginning sound letter card.  So if they roll a 1 in Rollin' with Dad and pick the letter b it would make the word bat.  Then they decide if the word is real or nonsense and record it on the sheet.  This would have to be modeled whole class so there isn't any confusion when they get to the center.  As I write that I'm thinking, Duh!  You of course would know you have to model how to do each center.  Thank you Captain Obvious!  =)

Next up is this picture sort center.  There are tons of picture cards. You don't need to use them all, but could pick and choose which ones work for you.  Or you could use some one time and then change them the next time for a whole new center.

The same goes for the Word Sort center - there are tons of words and you can pick and choose which ones you want.  I included two direction sheets for this one because I know a lot of teachers like to do write the room.   Personally, I would rather have the students complete this on the floor or at a table so they can use the sorting mats.  I included a few choices of flip charts to use for recording at this center.
Silly Sentences is the next center.  Students have to find the same colored words and put them together to make a sentence.  There are 5 sentences to make, but I only have my students choose 2 of them to write on the recording sheet and illustrate them.  
And finally is Word Detectives.  This center is meant to go along with a reading book.  You could do this with students during guided reading or you could have them complete it on their own, possibly during Read to Self time or DEAR or whatever you do in your classroom.  **FYI-The typo in the direction sheet has been fixed in the product - thank you to Lori for catching it for me.  I love when people are looking out for me.  =)
I hope this helps you see what is included in this pack and how I use it with my students.  If you wanted a closer look at the Bundle of Blends you can click on the picture below to go that post.  Or if you are a blogger, you can link up a post of your own about how you teach phonics and do word work in your classroom.

Ok now for the fun part.  Those of you who made it all the way through that long post now get the chance to win this or any of my Phonics "Ph"riends products.  

Here's what you have to do to win:
1. Pin any picture from this post OR from the How to Teach Phonics post and write a brief comment about what you like about it or what it is.  
2. Leave a comment below that includes the URL of your pin AND your email address so I can send it to you if you win.  

If there is something else in my store that you want instead, you can hop over there and pin the product and leave that URL instead.  I will pick 2 winners using a randomizer.  You can enter as many times as you want and each pin will be a different entry.  You have until Monday night after the finale of the Bachelorette to pin.  I'll pick the winner after I'm done watching this little guilty pleasure.  I hope poor Des ends up with someone.  The commercials don't look too promising.  

Ok - enough reality gossip ---- get pinning!!!!

Back to School Shopping

Oh Target and Hobby Lobby - how I love you so!!!!!

Actually below are pictures of a shopping spree at those fabulous stores and also Dollar Tree and Staples.  

Saved my receipts for my teacher write-off, of course, but they really need to increase the amount us teachers can claim on our taxes.  Really - $250???  In a whole year???  I know we all spend WAY more than that on our classrooms.  Oh well...

So here is what I am planning for some of the things I bought.

I plan to use the Fly Swatters to swat and read sight words (probably at a group with me or another adult so it doesn't get out of hand).   Or maybe as a whole class activity to swat the words that rhyme or have a short a sound or something like that.  

I think I'll have to make a fun Fishing for Sight Words center with this cute fishing pole from the Dollar Tree.  Maybe I'll turn a dish bin into a small pond (minus the water).  They could fish for sight words and then use the ones they get in a sentence.  

Math, huh?  Well the heart is perfect for working on combinations to 10.  I think I'll save it for Valentine's Day and use conversation hearts.  

And the plain white plastic tablecloths????  Ok - this is a project.  I plan to make a life size tens frame on one of them and a life size number line on the other.  I haven't decided how to do it yet - I'm thinking some fun duct tape to start.  Not sure about the rest yet.  Any suggestions???

Here are some Dollar Tree finds for kids to use when tracking as they read.  I will be gluing the googly eyes on the popsicle sticks so everyone has their own, but then the others will be special ones for centers or guided reading.  

Washi tape and chevron - Yes, please!!!!  
I have lots of little things planned for the washi tape - nothing big yet.  I'm going to use one of the chevron fabrics to cover a small cork board that I have next to my desk.  Not sure about the other one yet.  

 I'm new to Scentos, but I'm sure my kiddos will LOVE them!!!  And do you see those adorably oversized push pins.  Fun!!!

This is what my classroom looks like right now.  Nothing was put back where it was and I was missing a few pieces of furniture that I had to hunt down around the school.  Ugh!!!  So much to do!!! 

Here are just a couple of the things I've been working on at home (when I'm not stressing about my classroom or shopping).  A new lunch clip chart and some math resources.  You can find the math resources in my TpT store.  Let me know if you're interested in the lunch chart and I will make it a freebie.  I wasn't sure though since each school has their own choices for lunch and ways of saying it.  

And finally, some things to hopefully make you laugh.  If you follow me on Instagram you have seen these already.  

I'm potty training my youngest right now.  It is my least favorite thing about parenting.  She's doing great, but there's always a few slip-ups along the way, so this is my new best friend.

And I just loved this e-card (despite the typo).  Hilarious!!!  (I took this picture of my computer screen so it got all wacky - sorry). 


Oh, and have you seen this free resource that was just added to TpT???

This one is for Math K-2 Common Core resources put together by the amazing Rachelle Smith at What the Teacher Wants.  There is going to be an ELA K-2 that Deanna Jump is putting together too.  There are also ones for 3-5 and tons more.  Click on the picture to go to TpT to download it for free.  You will find TONS of great tips for implementing common core standards and freebies!!!

 I hope you are enjoying your summer, even if you're getting ready for going back to school.  

How to Teach Phonics Linky

I have to start out with a little disclaimer---------

(not even close, really!)
Which is why I'm making this a linky so you can link up with what you do in your own classrooms =)

So, I am writing this post, not to TELL you how to teach phonics, but to EXPLORE how to teach phonics. If I did have all the answers, as if there was only ONE way to teach phonics, then I'd be very famous.    But... sigh... I don't, and I'm not.  And as far as I know, there are a variety of different approaches and theories about how children learn to read.  Teaching phonics isn't necessarily included in some of those theories.   But for me, my own theories, and the district I teach in - we teach phonics.  Even looking at the Common Core Standards, I think a teacher would almost have to teach phonics (and phonemic awareness) in order to reach those standards.  (Again, I could be wrong because remember I don't have all the answers).  

So where does one start when trying to teach children how to read.  Hmmm - this could take a while.  I think I'll skip ahead --- past letter recognition and past phonemic awareness where children learn about the sounds our letters make, or the phonemes.

Hold on - I already went too far.  I think I need to briefly talk about phonemic awareness.  Obviously, children need to be able to recognize their letters in order to read, but more importantly, children need to realize that letters have sounds, those sounds come together to make words, and those words make sentences.  Phonemic awareness is all about children HEARING the sounds and being able to segment the sounds.  You can practice this with children by segmenting sounds out loud for them and with them.  For example, what sounds do you hear in cat?  /c/ /a/ /t/  What if I change the /c/ to /h/ - what word would that make?  And so on.  These activities can be very difficult for pre-readers, but the modeling and guided practice is oh so important.  After they can hear the sounds, they need to represent the sounds and manipulate the sounds.

Here is a quick video from YouTube that shows some things you can do when teaching phonemic awareness.  Love the hand movements!

This is where I would say the phonics instruction comes in - linking the sounds they hear to the letter or letters that make those sounds.  And of course, the English language has to make things extremely difficult for us by having rules and rule breakers and ifs and only whens.   It can be confusing for sure.      But as the teacher, you need to provide direct teaching and then multiple opportunities for students to practice.  With almost any learning, the way to get better is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!

So here is a list, in no particular order, of some ways to practice:

  • Show students the letters that make the sounds-using flashcards or something visual 
  • Give students examples of words with those letters/sounds.  
  • Think of other words with those sounds and chart them.  Give nonsense words as well, but identify them as such.  Keep the charts up if you can.  Displaying word families is one to do this. 
  • Make words using tiles, playdoh, Wiki stix, magnetic letters, stamps, etc.  Elkonin Sound boxes are helpful when doing this.
  • Read the words in context - using decodable readers when possible so there is multiple exposure.
This is an example of a decodable reader that comes in our reading program - Treasures.  There are many others out there - Reading A-Z is a great online resource with printable books.  

  • Practice writing the words - alone and in sentences
  • Sort the words 
  • Be a detective and find the words - either in your reading or write the room activities
  • Make it kinesthetic and/or musical and use movements or music to reinforce the sounds
And so much more!

I KNOW there are many other activities that you can do, but this is a list of what I work hard to do in my own classroom.

Here's the MOST IMPORTANT THING about all of those activities  . . .


Remember I said how important it is to practice, practice, practice?  Well, when it comes to many things, repetitive practice can get *yawn* boring.  It's the teacher's job to make it interesting!  Spice it up!  Find something fun and go with it....and then after a while, find something new.  Of course you want routines in there, but you also need to keep things interesting and keep your students on their toes.  Children become machines if they are doing the same activities day in and day out.  They need something shiny to make it new again - which could be as simple as using a witch's finger pointer around Halloween to point to words on a chart.   Especially for younger children, little changes make a big difference.  

Here's why I think it's important to make it fun:

One day, as I was using yet another worksheet from our Treasures program this past year, and looked around the class at my children practically falling out of their chairs from boredom, I decided I wanted to make something that was going to make this more fun and exciting - both for my students and for me.  I get bored teaching with worksheets too!  That night, as I was sitting at home, after my kids went to bed, my Phonics "Ph"riends were born.  I thought, wouldn't it be so much more fun to tie each sound to a character?  And have each character have its own story?  We could connect to the character and not just the sounds.  So here is what came from that late night brainstorming.

These pictures are from my R-Blend Pack, but is representative of the other Phonics "Ph"riends packs as well.

I use these reference posters to display when we are doing whole group activities like making anchor charts and sorting words in pocket charts.  I like to keep these up for reference.

Of course you still need some practice pages, but these are way more interesting than just a worksheet.  These pages have your kids cutting and pasting, highlighting, and drawing.

And of course, probably the most important of all, are the literacy centers where students can work together in groups to practice their new sounds independently.

You can find my Blends packets by clicking on the picture below.

I also have a Digraphs pack in my store right now.  You can click on this picture to go to my store.   I added a few pictures of my students' work from last year below.



I will end off with another quick video from the amazing Teacher Tipster where he explains a cute center you can make with your students' photos.  Love it!!!

I'd love if you link up your own blog posts below to share some ideas and activities you use to teach phonics and things you do for word work in your classroom.  Just grab the picture at the beginning of this post and link it back here.  Can't wait to read about what you're doing in your classroom!  If you don't have a blog, you can tell me about it in the comments.  

A Little Bit of This...

Here I am for a quick little Sunday Smorgasbord.  I was thinking about what random school things I've been doing this past week and I immediately thought of Instagram.  I've been posting my random thoughts and things that have happened on Instagram all week.  I'm not sure if you have or haven't jumped on the Instagram bandwagon or not, but I am LOVIN' it --- kinda like McDonald's.  It's just a fun way make some more connections to other teachers (and other non-teachers as well).  

So for those of you who are not on Instagram yet, 
I decided to show you (through Instagram) what I've been doing this past week for my Sunday Smorgasbord.  It doesn't get any more random than this...

You can click on each picture to go the original post on Instagram and read my posted comment as well other comments too!

Something I'm working on right now!

Back to school shopping already?!?!?!  But who doesn't love Target?

A little teacher handwriting link-up with Babbling Abby.  So fun!!!

My daughter wanted to link-up too!

A little bit of crafting!

I would highly recommend jumping on Instagram and following all your favorite people, teachers, bloggers, etc.  It's a great place to find new ideas (kinda like Pinterest) and share pictures (a little like Facebook).  If you want to see some of the Photo Apps I use, click HERE to go my original post about Instagram.  Since that post I've added Beautiful Mess and it's my FAVE!  

While you are floating around Instagram ---- try some of the these hashtags to see some great posts from other teachers:

You can also click on any of the pictures above to follow me on Instagram or on the right side of the page where you see the blue camera.  I'd love to know if you are also on Instagram - leave a note below so I know how to find you :-)

Don't forget to head over to Fabulous in First to check out the other randomness!!!  

Giveaway is almost over!

In case you didn't know - I'm having a quick little giveaway and it ENDS IN 6 HOURS!!!!!

Click on the picture above to take you to the post and enter.  

I'm also planning a little freebie for my new Bloglovin' followers (and of course, for my followers who have been here since WAY back before Bloglovin'.  :-)

I'll announce the winner tomorrow.  

We Make a Difference!

I really loved reading this article on Facebook.  A friend of mine shared it and I just had to repost it.  What an amazing husband to write this about his wife.  He sees first hand what we all go through, and although we never went into this job for the money --- we are being criticized in the media that we are "underworked and overpaid".  I know we all love what we do because of the children - BOTTOM LINE!  It's just so disheartening when people try to break us down.  You don't know until you know, and this husband KNOWS!  It's so nice to have some people out there who understand and are willing to speak up about it.  Thank you Vic DeSantis!!! 

(You can click on the title to go to the direct link)

I am a guy who lives for summers. I wasn’t always like this but I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint the exact time in my life where the months of June, July, and August became such an integral part of my happiness.

You might be inclined to deduce that my yearning for these warmer times is related to a sports season or a passion for outdoor activities; perhaps even slower times at work. In some regards you might be correct but not exactly for the any one of the three multiple choice answers provided.

You see, my wife is a teacher.

When I met my wife she was not a teacher - she was a student. When we married she was finishing her degree and starting out on her own professional career. To say that I knew nothing about the educational system at that point would be an enormous understatement. In the nearly 20 years that followed I have learned everything that a parent, student, citizen, and spouse should know about the challenges that every teacher faces. Armed with those insights it is difficult to reconcile the carefully framed messages of politicians and privatized education proponents with the realities of life in the classroom.

My wife is a teacher. I’ve never once, in the history of our life together, seen her trading derivatives, speculate in real estate, engage in subprime lending practices, or make exorbitant demands on her employer for an outrageous salary. It is perplexing to me that over the past few years she and her colleagues have, at least in the eyes of many, become public enemy number one. I suspect that a good portion of this misguided angst is directly related to the economic environment; something that she had absolutely no part in creating. Is she without fault? Absolutely not. I have over the years thought that she would have been much better off taking her well-earned college degree and her intelligence into the private sector and guiltlessly accumulated as much wealth and material possessions as possible. Sometimes you just can’t talk sense into these folks.

My wife is a teacher. Instead of making money she decided to make a difference.

My wife is a teacher. For nearly 2 years she worked diligently to achieve the prestigious designation as a nationally board certified teacher – a designation that came with a small annual bonus. After meeting her end of the bargain, the state pulled the funding.

My wife is a teacher. She has worked for a decade and a half for far less money than her counterparts who are not public employees. She did this satisfied with the proposition that the pay was steady, a small retirement income certain, and the intangible satisfaction of steering the lives of children.

My wife is a teacher. Her income is now in decline. As a reward for her faithful years of service our state has decided that she should give back 3% of her salary towards her retirement. After all they say “this is what folks in the private sector do.” Tack-on another 2% reduction for the expired payroll tax holiday and the hits just keep on coming.

My wife is a teacher. Despite continuous assaults on her take-home pay, she shells out thousands of her own dollars for classroom supplies. She is impervious to the yearly barrage of administrative mandates established by politicians and so-called “educational experts” – she soldiers on.

My wife is a teacher. She is reviled by certain segments of our society who labor under the belief that she is underworked and overpaid. One would think that after fifteen plus years in a professional where a four-year college degree is a minimum entry requirement that most would not begrudge her a $40,000 a year salary. And for those less inclined to the truth, her salary is adjusted to smaller twice-a-month paychecks to cover the summer months when school is not in session.

My wife is a teacher. She is tasked with the enormous responsibility for the care and safety of your children. I’ll dispense with the lengthy analysis on this topic. Two words suffice – Newtown and Oklahoma. Someone please let me know the next time Lebron James throws his body between a child and the working end of an assault rifle and I will hold professional athletes in the same reverence I do teachers.

My wife is a teacher. For nine months of every year our family lives in the metronomic cycle of early morning wake-ups and late evening lesson-planning. We revel in the plethora of candies and candles, gift-cards and gadgets that herald the arrival of the “Christmas Break,” and I observe with interest the emotion that a hand-written note from a 1st grader can bring at the end of a school year.

My wife is a teacher. From August to May she had dedicated herself to the interests of her kids and her school. She has prepared and toiled, laughed and cried – and shared one hundred stories about the amazing kids that walk through her door each morning. She has left me wondering in awe how she does so much with - and for - so little.

It is the summer now – my happy time comprised of the few short weeks that I do not have to share her. My wife is a teacher – she is also my hero. I promise to return her in August.

So to all the teachers out there!  

You DO make a difference!!!  

You DESERVE your summer vacation - so go enjoy it!!!!  

Technology Apology and Instagram

I have to assume, for my own piece of mind, that I am not the only one who has technology DUH! moments every once in a while.  I can't be the only one -------- right???  

Ok - before I get to the DUH! moment here's some background ----

I'm the type of technological person who LOVES new technology, wants to jump in when there's something else new and fun out there, and also wants to take time to explore and figure things out on my own.  I love being asked by my principal to pilot some new software, go to an inservice, or use new gadgets in my classroom.  I say - Bring it on!!!  I also always like to explore and play around with something in order to get to know it well.  I seem to think I can work through kinks myself until I run into a problem and then I ask Google for some help.  Which, by the way, any technology problem is almost always answered with a quick Google search.  Believe it or not, you are probably not the first person who has a question about something and by the time you do, there are at least 50 people who have answered it for you on the internet.  Isn't the internet an amazing thing??!?! 

Anywho - I am also the type of person who wants to be in the know and not be one of those teachers who doesn't keep up with the times.  I'm not by any means saying I know everything - Nope, not even close, not even a little bit!  I just don't want to be in a conversation with someone and not know what they are talking about or be the last to find out.  

This brings me to Instagram.  

I signed up for Instagram a couple months ago and just didn't have a chance to sit down and figure it out (remember how I like to take time to explore).  I realized that it was all about sharing pictures (of course) and a little bit like Facebook (Uh-Oh!!!) but I just didn't get how or why I would use it and/or if I needed it.   

Well, I know I don't necessarily NEED it, but now that I started (like most things dealing with social media) I'm addicted!!!!  

Then I stumbled across this super fun linky over at What the Teacher Wants.  

The linky was during a very hectic time in school and I knew I wouldn't be able to link up at the time, but definitely wanted to jump in later on. Don't you just love summer, if not for the time off, but for the time to do things you didn't have time for during the school year.  

So needless to say - I have joined Instagram, downloaded some fun apps to make my pictures look more exciting, and am joining in on the Teacher Talk Tuesday fun.  I missed the linky, but I can still use my hashtags :-)  

Here are some of the picture apps I found that make my pictures look a little more exciting.  

There are MANY more out there - I know I have just scratched the surface.  So, I'd love to hear if you have any other photo apps to recommend (not that I need more things to consume my time :-)

Here are a couple pictures where I used some of these apps:

This doesn't look like a picture, but it's a screen shot on my iPhone.  I was excited that Pinterest now tells me when I've already pinned something.  Thank goodness for that update since I clearly Pin It and Forget It :-)

So although it is summer and I'm not necessarily in my classroom doing anything productive, I will still be joining in on the Teacher Talk Tuesday fun.  I'd love if you check it out by following me on Instagram, or even better, join in on the fun yourself!!!!  

Follow me on Instagram
Just click on the picture below


Ok, onto the DUH! moment and my Technology Apology....... 
(hehe, that rhymes)

This apology is for anyone who follows me on Pinterest.  If you do, you many have noticed an INSANE amount of pinning going on the other day from me.  Well, I had the bright idea to reorganize my pins to be more user friendly (for me) and so I would be able to find my pins a little easier.  When I started on Pinterest I had a board titled Classroom and Teaching.  I never realized just how many things I would actually pin onto this board.  I had WAY too many pins and needed to reorganize my pins and break that board up into smaller boards.  
So I did!  
Sounds simple enough, right?  
I added more boards (i.e. Literacy Centers, Teaching Math, Classroom Organization and Decor, etc).  Then I went through my Classroom and Teaching board and REPINNED ALL OF MY PINS ONTO NEW BOARDS!!!!!  If you are a Pinterest addict then you probably already know what happened when I did that.  Anyone who had chosen to follow all of my boards were now getting ALL of my pins!  I just figured since they were new boards that no one would be seeing my pins until they started following those boards.  


So I'M SORRY if you follow me on Pinterest and were really annoyed with me!

I did see A TON of repins going on, so I know some of you found some new ideas in the process, but I truly didn't mean to hog your feed.  The good thing is that those pins were 99% ideas and photos and only 1% TpT products.  I can just hope that my followers were more Pinspired than Pinned off.

So remember I told you that you can find the answer to anything technology by asking Google.  Well I did, and after Google told me I was an idiot --- I found out the BETTER way to reorganize your pins and I think this way keeps your followers from seeing it.  I must say though - I'm not totally sure about that and I'm a little afraid to check.  But if you end up doing this with your Pinterest account and it doesn't flood your followers' boards then let me know.  

So, I hope you found some new ideas and don't hate me for my Pinterest Oops!

One more thing ----- actually 2 more -----

Blog Hoppin' is having a Bloglovin' linky right now.  You can go find some awesome blogs to follow on Bloglovin' (You are probably already following all of them anyway because they're amazing, but  you might find a new one you like).  So head on over and check it out and link up!

And lastly, don't forget to follow ME on Bloglovin' and enter my giveaway.  

Click {HERE} to go to the post and enter.   Only 4 more days!!!