Teaching Main Idea: Anchor Chart

Here's a great little anchor chart to use with upper elementary students (grades 2-5) when you're working on the concept of main idea.  Readers need to learn that the author is intentional about everything included in the text and that includes not only the words themselves, but special text features.  The features an author chooses to highlight in a selection are usually a good clue as to what the main idea of the passage is.  Teach children to look at these key features when they're trying to synthesize several components and determine the main idea.  

Over the next few weeks, I'll expand this post to include other anchor charts that will support your planning and your kids' understanding of main idea.  Keep an eye out for those...

Happy teaching!

After the Fall: Teaching Perseverance

I found a great book today called After the Fall:  How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat.  

The story picks up where the original tale ends... Humpty has been put back together again.  

But now he's scared.  The fall broke not only his shell, but his courage and confidence, too.  His fears hold him back and they keep him from enjoying the things he used to.  Until, one day, one step at a time, he decides to conquer his greatest fear.

This story is a great support to any discussion you're having about growth mindsets, but it's just a good life lesson as well... even for me... even now.  As a matter of fact, when you're discussing perseverance with your children, plan to share a personal example from your own life.  It's a great way to connect with the kids and will give you credibility when working with them throughout the year.  And the lesson is a good one... young or old... "Life begins when you get back up."

Happy teaching!

Ditch the Teacher Desk

Go on!  Try it.  Ditch your teacher desk.  :)

I just finished reading chapter 18 from Justin Ashley's book The Balanced Teacher Path where he encourages us to take a leap of faith and relocate our desks to the supply closet.  

I moved mine into a classroom closet years ago... but for slightly different reasons.  Take a look at the video to hear some ideas!

Happy teaching!

Writing on the Ceiling!

If you've seen any of my recent posts, you know my kids are NUTS for these lasers!  They're actually just cat toys I found in the pet section of Walmart.  Compared to "serious" lasers from office supply stores, these lasers cost less than $4.00 each.

And that's a steal.

Trust me.  

Today, we took our learning down to the floor... literally.  These kindergarteners are still in the early developmental stages of learning how to recognize and form numbers correctly.  I've used different materials to appeal to their senses (scented markers, sand, shaving cream, etc.), but then today I thought of something else...

...why not "write" our numbers on the ceiling tiles??  

So, lying on the floor, we used our lasers as pencils and the ceiling tiles as paper.  It was a great way to warm up before working with our small white boards.  And the kinesthetic variations (larger arm movements / lying on our backs) increased engagement and memory.

First, they watched as I modeled making a number and saying the coordinating number poem.  Then, they followed me by keeping their laser dot on mine while we formed the number together.  And then, they worked on doing it all by themselves.  

My little management tip for this activity is to assign each child their own ceiling tile (if you have that kind of ceiling) and show them how to work within the boundaries of their own tile. 

Happy teaching!  :)

Segmenting & Blending Sounds

These are a few simple ways I try to help my visual and tactile learners practice segmenting the sounds in words. This is especially helpful if their auditory discrimination skills are still developing.  This way, they can connect hearing the sounds with something they can also see and feel.  

The tool we like best is the one that uses pony beads on a pipe cleaner.  They're so easy and inexpensive that I can easily make one for each child.  

Introducing the Tool

At first, we just work with words that have 2 sounds and I specifically use a green and red bead.  We slide the green bead (GO) for the 1st sound in the word and then the red bead (STOP) for the last sound in the word.  Then we slide them back together to blend both sounds as we say the whole word fluently.  

When they're ready, you can introduce words with 3 sounds. When I do this, I add a yellow bead to represent the middle sound in the word.  We usually start with basic CVC words, but I eventually want them to understand that sometimes it takes 2 letters to make 1 sound.  That's when we start segmenting words like:


Each of these words contain 3 sounds, but have more than 3 letters.  This helps create a foundation I can build upon when I'm ready to add the phonics instruction to their growing understanding of phonemes.  

Want to practice segmenting words with more sounds?  Just add more beads. 

We use the pipe cleaner beads often, but you could also use blocks, snap cubes, counters, or bingo chips... anything they can see and touch.  Whenever you engage more than one sense at a time, the opportunity to understand and remember increases. 

Do you have another way of teaching segmenting sounds that works?  This is so hard for some children.  Leave an idea in the comments below, if you do.  

Happy teaching!

Circle and Erase ... {An Easy Game}


I love when something is so easy and engaging.  I honestly have no idea why the kids like this activity so much, but I'm not complaining.  It doesn't require the printer, the copier, or the laminator, so it's all good for me.  

And I wish I had a fancier or more clever name to share with you, but we just call it the "Circle and Erase" game.  (And, psst, it's not actually a game.  There are no rules and no losers.  But the kids think it's a game, so yay!)

This group of kids is working on recognizing letters and sounds, so I write random letters on the easel and then begin with the circling prompts:

"Circle the a."
"Circle the m."
"Circle the letter that comes after d."

When they're finished recognizing the letters, we take turns erasing them based on a given sound:

"Erase the letter that makes the sound /s/."
"Erase the letter that makes the sound at the beginning of hat."

Yep.  That's it. 

But the kids love it.  It's as fast-paced as you want it to be, so it's perfect for a quick little warm-up or review.  

And if you come up with a better name for it, let me know.  

Until then, happy teaching!

Laser Tag in the Classroom

My students really LOVE using these "Loco Lasers" to play laser tag in the classroom.  They're easy to find in the pet section of most discount stores or pet shops.  (I found these at Walmart for only $3.97 each... which is a lot better than at an office supply store where they can easily cost between $14 and $30 dollars!)

I usually use them in a small group setting as a warm-up activity, but I've used them with the whole class, giving one person per team a laser and then having them take turns using it to respond to the questions.  

Right now, I'm working with a small group of kindergarten children who are learning how to recognize and name the letters of the alphabet.  I placed letter cards randomly on the wall and then gave each a laser.  I can simply say:

"Tag the letter K."

Or I can elevate the challenge a little and ask:

"Can you tag the letter that makes the sound /t/?"

Or I might say:

"Tag a vowel."
"Tag the letter that comes after O."
"Tag the letter that makes the sound at the end of the word mop."

You can really "tag" anything though.  We often play "Word Wall Laser Tag" where I challenge the kids to tag certain words on our word wall:

"Tag the word have."
"Tag the word that rhymes with bike."
"Tag the word that makes sense in this sentence."  (Provide a sentence with a missing word.)

You can write numbers on the board and ask kids to tag the answers to quick math facts:

"What is 3+4?  Tag the answer."
"What number comes before 9?"
"How many sides does a triangle have?"

Want a low-prep idea?  Students can tag objects you already have in the room:

"Tag an object that rhymes with rock."  
"Tag an object that begins with the /d/ sound."
"Tag an object that has 3 syllables in it."
"Tag an object that is shaped like a circle."

Be creative... the options are endless.  But definitely get a few of these for your classroom.  You won't believe how engaged the kids will be for these activities!

Happy teaching!

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