Best ELA Apps & Websites


Best ELA Apps & Websites

High School students need to develop analytical skills in all subject areas. In the ELA classroom students need to learn to be independent thinkers, encourage appreciation for literature and express their opinions through writing and discussion. Finding resources to get your secondary students excited about English is important.  But, when it also makes your life easier, it is a goldmine!

6 Best ELA apps and websites

  1. New York Times – NYT and Verizon have teamed up to offer every high school student in the U.S. free access to the New York Times. Students can educate themselves to better understand the pandemic and other events going on in the world. Resources are up to date and available in all subject areas.
  2. Newsela – Newsela is an online news-as-literacy platform that features high-interest articles on everything from current events to myths and legends and from literature to science. Users can choose a free account (which just features news and current events) or paid subscriptions that include daily news story updates and subject-specific products for ELA, social studies, science, and SEL.
  3. CommonLit – CommonLit is a free digital library of leveled texts: news articles, poems, short stories, and historical documents. Articles can be filtered by collections by grade level, Lexile level, theme, genre, literary device, even Common Core State Standards. There are over 2,000 high-quality free reading passages for grades 3-12 that also include aligned assessments.  
  4. Teaching Tolerance – Teaching Tolerance is “a place where educators who care about diversity, equity and justice can find news, suggestions, conversation and support.” This is a great resource to include social awareness. 
  5. Purdue OWL – Great site for clarification in grammar, style, or proper citations to develop good writers. Includes printable and online practice.  It was my “go to” site for my dissertation. 
  6. UNC Writing Center – Handouts and videos for many writing issues. Extensive resources that are easy to use and ready to start today.

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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Lesson Filler Activities

Lesson filler activities can be FUN!

Lesson filler activities are great learning opportunities whether a lesson finishes early or our students just need a Brain Break.  Finding ones that engage students that require little little or no preparation is great.  But finding ones that are FUN…. even better!  Check out these ideas:

10 Lesson Filler Activities

Mystery BoxHave a shoebox ready with some items that can be put in for students to guess what is inside.  Limit the number of questions that students can ask and be sure that the questions can only be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Encourage them to use all their senses. Once they figure out what the item is, open the box and let them see it.

Sticky NotesCreate sticky note “pairs” by writing pairs of words (opposites, compound words, vocabulary word and meaning, math problems) on post its. Distribute a post-it to each child and have students find their “match”.  An alternative activity is to distribute the post-its around the room and have one student match all the pairs.  Add a timer to add to the challenge.  

Current Events – Read a headline aloud and ask the child what they think the story was about.  Adaptations is reading the headline independently and/or working with a partner to discuss the story possibilities.

Sign Language – Kids love learning sign language.  Show kids some basic signs and have them practice with each other.  Need link

Follow the Directions – Create a list of 3-5 step directions.  Read a set of directions aloud and then ask children to do the activities in order.  Ex. Stand up, say Happy Birthday, touch your head, turn around, sit down.  Be sure that you write the directions down because they are easy to forget! 

I have a Number – Prepare a setof cards from 1 to 50 with math problems and 50 different answers.  Examples:   I have a 5, who has this number plus 10.  The child with 15 says, I have 15.  Who has my number minus 12?  I have 3.  Who has my number plus 25?  I have 28.  Who has my number minus 2?  I have 26.  Who has my number plus 20? 

The Price is RightHave them play the popular game show by guessing how much an item costs.  Show them a flyer with items and cover the cost. For younger students you may have to give them a range that it could cost until they understand prices.

What’s My Number?  Write a number on a piece of paper and tell students you are thinking of a number between ____ and _______.  For younger students, using a number line to add their guesses will help them understand greater than and less than.

Give me FiveChallenge students to name five things that are alike.  Choose a student to answer and if they get the 5 items, they can call on the next person to try another challenge.  For students playing alone, set a timer to see how fast they can do it.

__Things Found on a ____Name a place that students are familiar and ask them to name things they would find there.  Ex:  Things on a boat, on a farm, at the zoo, in the kitchen etc.

Next Month: 10 more lesson filler activities

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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First Grade Reading Overview

First Grade Reading

First grade reading and writing curricula looks different in different states, countries, and classrooms.  However, there are some basic expectations and ideas that can be used to support learning.

Building reading skills is an essential part of a first grader’s learning process and academic success down the road. Even when students are not specifically learning “reading,” they are constantly using this skill to learn other subjects—which is why it is crucial for your child’s success in all subjects. As first graders develop their reading comprehension, they will talk more about certain topics and gain a deeper understanding of what they read. 

14 Skills for First Grade Reading

  1. Knows the difference between fiction and non-fiction.
  2. Compares different characters, events, or texts.
  3. Discusses books with an understanding of plot, characters, and important ideas.
  4. Identifies sentence features (i.e. punctuation, capitalization).
  5. Recognizes the spelling and sound of two letters that represent one sound, such as thchwh (these are also known as digraphs).
  6. Can read sight words in isolation and in text.
  7. Reads regularly spelled one-syllable words.
  8. Understands how an “e” at the end of a word changes a vowel within the word.
  9. Talks about and answers questions about the text they read.
  10. Reads texts aloud at an appropriate speed and with expression. This is called fluency.
  11. Breaks up longer words into syllables to read them.
  12. Grade-level words with “irregular” spellings are included in their reading vocabulary.
  13. Understands the purpose of and uses common features in a book, such as headings, tables of contents, and glossaries.
  14. Begins to read grade-appropriate poetry and identifies words and phrases that relate to emotions and the senses.

First Grade Reading Activities

Poetry Recitals: Read small and simple poems together and talk about the feelings they convey. Allow, your first grader to try writing their own poems about people, places, or things. Allow their creativity to shine.

Put on a Show: Encouraging your child to read a favorite story or poem using different voices for characters is both beneficial and fun. Do not be surprised that you might have some “actors in your classroom.”

Create A Personal Dictionary: Keep track of your child’s new words in their own notebook.  They can write the word, add an illustration and the meaning.  They can also add a sentence using the word.  Each of these additions can be added to the dictionary at different times.

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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First Grade Learning Standards

First Grade Learning Standards

This resource consolidates all New York State first grade learning standards into one document (2019). It was intended to be used as a reference tool by teachers, specialists, and administrators responsible for designing programs for second grade students. However, during the current COVID-19 crisis, it is helpful for homeschooling families and parents supporting remote learning.

The Learning Standards are end of year expectations rather than a curriculum, assessment, or a set of teaching strategies. The resource provides a uniform format for learning standards in all content areas to make it easier for users to read and understand. Users that are looking for a higher level of detail can find it at New York State Education Department’s website. The site provides additional background information and shows learning progressions across grades.

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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First Grade Writing Overview

First Grade Writing

Reading and writing curricula look different in different states, countries, and classrooms.  However, there are some basic expectations and ideas in first grade writing that can be used to support learning.

Once first graders master writing their letter and some basic words; it is time to watch the writing begin! First grade writers write longer pieces and try out new spelling words in a variety of subjects. This Septembers, remote learning settings will give first graders more opportunities to use technology rather than handwriting. This may help develop great writers who would otherwise be hesitant to write because of the extra work involved in handwriting. In first grade, students will be using their writing skills in all subject areas.

First Grade Writing Skills

  1. Writes with structure, including an introductory sentence, supporting or accurate details, and some sense of closure.
  2. Writes a variety of texts including, narratives, informational pieces, how to’s and opinion pieces.
  3. Contributes to a group writing with teacher help. 

First Grade Writing Activities

Write, Write, Write:  Find opportunities to allow your child to write.  Using their skills to label items, write directions, or draw a picture and write a sentence to explain their drawing are all great ways to practice writing.   Encourage them to read their writing to family and friends.  Practice, practice, practice.

Answer a Question: It is time to put your child to work to find the answers to their questions.  When a question comes up, encourage them to research the answer using a book or the computer.  They can share their answers verbally, draw a poster, or write a story.

Make Books:  Fold and cut 8.5 X 11 pages into halves and staple the pages together. Staple the left side of pages (3 staples: top, middle bottom) so that the pages can turn like a standard book.  4 full pages makes a book with a cover and back page and 14 pages to use for writing and/or illustrations. Add or delete pages as your child needs.  

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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Grade 2 Writing Overview

Grade 2 Writing

Reading and writing curricula look different in different states, countries, and classrooms.  However, there are some basic expectations and ideas that can be used to support learning.

Second Grade Writers

Second graders write texts that are longer and include details which helps to refine their writing. They often use technology to publish their writing. Like reading, writing occurs throughout the day as students use it for a variety of subjects. 

4 Ways to Build Grade 2 Writing Skills

  1. Writes a variety of types of texts including:
    • Informative/Explanatory Pieces: Students introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a conclusion.
    • Opinion Pieces: Students state their opinions and provide reasons to support them, closing with a conclusion.
    • Narrative Pieces: Students write about an event, describing actions, thoughts, and feelings, and provide a conclusion.
  2. Research topics for individual writings or shared writing projects.
  3. Encourage revisions and edits to improve writing.
  4. Uses digital tools, with adult support, to publish writing.

Second Grade Writing Activities

Keep a Journal: Ask your child to write about their daily events.  Something special that happened, hopes, dreams, activities; anything that gets them writing.  Allow them to illustrate their entries. It sometimes reminds them of more details. On days where writing is difficult, they might try expanding one of their previous entries.

Give Your Opinion: Allow your child to express their opinions. Discuss with your child a topic and ask them their thoughts.  Explore their reasoning behind their thoughts and ask them to write their opinion.

Provide an Audience:  Who does not like to have an audience?  Ask your child to read their opinion piece out loud to an audience and take questions.  Of course, family members are perfect for being a “friendly audience. ”

 Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

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Grade 2 Reading Overview

Second grade reading and writing curricula looks different in different states, countries, and classrooms.  However, there are some basic expectations and ideas that can be used to support learning.

Grade 2 Reading

Second Grade Readers  

Second graders continue to develop their literacy skills as they learn more complex words and longer passages in different genres. Students can expand their reading comprehension skills by talking about what they read.  This helps them develop more advanced ideas around those topics. Kids get lots of reading opportunities throughout the school day by practicing their reading skills when learning other subjects.

11 Ways to Build Second Grade Reading Skills

  1. Self-corrects mistakes and re-reads when necessary
  2. Reads more complex words, such as two-syllable words.
  3. Begins to make connections within and between texts.
  4. Reads words with common prefixes and suffixes, for example: pre-re-un-, –able, –ad, and –er.
  5. Reads grade-appropriate, irregularly spelled words (consult your child’s teacher for a specific list of these words).
  6. Reads a variety of texts including fables, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
  7. Understands the structure of a story, specifically the purpose of beginnings (introducing the text) and endings (concluding the text).
  8. Understands the most important details of a text—its main purpose and the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” (see activity below)
  9. Talks about characters’ responses, main events, lessons learned, and important ideas or concepts.
  10. Compares at least two different versions of the same story, such as two versions of a classic fairy tale.
  11. Reads at grade level with correct accuracy, pace, expression, and comprehension.

3 Grade 2 Reading Activities

Give Attention to Prefixes and Suffixes: When your child uses a word with a prefix or suffix, occasionally stop to talk about it. Break down the word and say what the prefix or suffix and root word mean when they are put together, and brainstorm other words that have the same suffix or prefix. 

Make a “W” Chart: While you and your child read books together, make a “W” chart. Fill out the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” of the book as your child discovers them.

Make Up Your Own Version of a Story: After your child reads a story, encourage new versions that your child may think make the story different. Perhaps they want to change the character, the setting or even the ending.  They may even want to use themselves or a family member be the main character. This activity helps them understand story structure and make comparisons.

 Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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Second Grade Standards for Learning

Second grade standards

This resource consolidates all New York State second-grade learning standards into one document (2019). It was intended to be used as a reference tool by teachers, specialists, and administrators responsible for designing programs for second grade students. However, during the current COVID-19 crisis, it is helpful for homeschooling families and parents supporting remote learning.

The Learning Standards are end of year expectations rather than a curriculum, assessment, or a set of teaching strategies. The resource provides a uniform format for learning standards in all content areas to make it easier for users to read and understand. Users that are looking for a higher level of detail can find it at New York State Education Department’s website. The site provides additional background information and shows learning progressions across grades.

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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Sight Word Practice at Home & School

Sight word practice can help kids learn sight words.

8 Ways to Practice Sight Words

Sight Word Search – Let the child select a handful of sight word cards at random and ask them to find them around the house or classroom. (magazines, newspapers, books etc.)

Hide- and-Seek Sight Words – Hide ten-word card and let your child find them and read them to you.

What is on my Back? –  Trace a word on your child’s back and see if they know what it is.  Take turns with different words.

What is my Color – Have your child write their new sight words using different types of writing tools.  They might also want to try writing the letters in different colors.

Cupboard Search – Let your child explore the cupboard or pantry boxes to find sight words.  Often the item descriptions, and not the item name, are filled with sight words. 

Sing a Song of Sight Words – Practice sight words my replacing them into familiar songs.  Familiar songs can include but not be limited to Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Twinkle, Twinkle.

Spill a Sight Word – Put some of the cut-up words into a cup and spill the cup and ask your child to read the words spilled.  Extension activity is to use the word in a sentence.  

Find the Letter – Place scrabble letters on top of the letters in the sight words.  Ask child to say the word, say the letters and restate the word. Ex: Best is spelled B-E-S-T the word is best.  Extension activity is to use the word in a sentence.

The more sight words children know, the better readers they become. 

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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COVID-19 Learning Resources

 New COVID-19 FREE Resources
Learning Resources to help during COVID-19 home learning

COVID-19 Learning Resources

Who would think I would still be posting COVID-19 Learning resources 5 months later than my first COVID-19 post? But we are here, once again, with schools closed, delayed or virtual and millions of families impacted. Parents are stepping up to “homeschool” their children and are using home packets and online resources. For many, this is still unfamiliar territory and an added element to their already full plates.

For those parents scouring the internet to find additional activities or to support schoolwork, here are some websites to get you started. Keep checking back for additional posts.

KnowitAll.org

A FREE online collection of educational resources designed specifically for classroom use. The site includes nearly 9,000 multimedia resources to include mobile-friendly videos, audio resources, photo galleries, and interactives.

LeaningWhy.org

FREE K-12 Project-Based and One-to-One lessons vetted and editable to meet your needs.

PBS LearningMedia

FREE standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans aligned to PBS

Early Elementary

Find elementary resources and lessons.  Videos, games and activities aligned to state and national standards.

PBS KIDS Learn

Multiple resources to help support learning at home.

PBS Parents

Sign up for a FREE for a free weekday newsletter with activities and tips to help kids play and learn at home.

PBS KIDS Games

Wide collection of games that are searchable by subject area.

PBS KIDS Apps

Searchable by skills and age level.

 Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education All about reaching the kids in the classroom and at home?

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September Learning Activities

September learning activities gives relevance to historical dates.

For kids in school, knowing historical dates helps them relate to history and builds their general knowledge. Knowing these dates can help parents and teachers engage students in valuable learning activities. Check out September learning activities.

Read a New Book Month

Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15-Oct. 15

Sept. 2        Birthday of K. Macmillion (inventor of the first bicycle with pedals)

STEAM Activity: Draw a picture of a bicycle

Sept. 4        Henry Hudson discovered the island of Manhattan, New York (1609)

Art/Geography Activity: Draw a picture of the Hudson River or visit the Hudson River

Sept. 5        Voyager 1 launched a grand tour of the Solar System, 1977

Art/Science Activity: Draw and label a picture of the Solar System

Sept. 6        Read a Book Day

Literacy/Art Activity: Write a book report on your favorite book or draw a picture to describe your favorite part.

Sept. 8        International Literacy Day

Literacy/Art Activity: Write a book report on your favorite book or draw a picture to describe your favorite part.

Sept. 9        California became a state, 1850

Geography Activity: On US map: find California, name capital, state flower.

Sept. 10      Elias Howe patented his sewing machine, 1846.

Science Activity: Find 5 things in your house that were sewn or try to use a sewing machine.

Sept. 12      Mid-autumn Festival, China

Science/Art Activity: Make a leaf rubbing

Sept. 13      Grandparents Day

Art Activity: Make a card for your grandparent or a favorite person in your life.

Sept. 15      International Day of Peace

Art Activity:  Make a dove, a symbol of peace

Sept. 15      Make a Hat Day

Art Activity:  Make a hat that you like

Sept. 17      Constitution Day (US)

History Activity: Ask someone about the Constitution

Sept. 21      World Gratitude Day

Literacy/Art Activity: Write about or draw something you are thankful for

Sept. 25      Birthday of Shel Silverstein (1930)

Literacy Activity: Read a silly poem

Sept. 26    Johnny Appleseed born (1774)

Literacy Activity: Read about Johnny Appleseed

Sept. 28      National Family Day

Literacy/Art Activity: Write about your family or draw a picture of your family.

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Sight Words: Good Start for New Readers

Kids that know sight words are better readers.

Did you know that there is a list of 200+ sight words that are seen LOTS OF TIMES in reading and writing? Kids that know these words can become better readers.   Including them in games and everyday activities can make learning fun for kids. 

These words are high-frequency words and kids that know these words are more fluent readers.  When kids know these words they use them more often in  reading and writing.  This also results in a child having more time to focus on other words in their reading.

6 Steps to Teaching Sight Words Guidelines

  1. Introduce the word, saying and spelling it.
  2. Read the word in a sentence.  Reading it from a book you are reading with the child is perfect
  3. Write the word on paper or chalkboard, say it, spell it again and underline it. 
  4. Talk about the word and invite kids to see the differences in the word (e.g. tall letters, round shapes, double letters, camel humps)
  5. Have children practice writing the word in journals, in the air, with letters etc.
  6. Add the word to your word collection.  This could be a card on the refrigerator, a jar, a twist tie or a hook, zip lock bag or taped to a wall.  The best location is one that be seen and practiced. For families on the go- make an extra set of cards or take photos of cards and use your phone’s photo gallery to practice.

While teaching, keep in mind that many of these words are irregular.  Irregular words do not follow the phonics rules that kids may be learning (e.g. with, where, were, when, the, them this). 

Sight Word Lists

Different lists are available in school, but a commonly used list is the Dolch list. The list of 200+ sight words was developed by Dr. Edward William Dolch in the 1930’s-40’s Yes, a long time ago but the list is still used in many classrooms today.  The list can be used in its entirety or by grade levels.  There is even a special list of nouns.

  • Dolch Sight Words (complete list)                                                                                          
  • Pre-K Dolch Sight Words (40 words)                                                                                 a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you                                                                   
  • Kindergarten Dolch Sight Words (52 words)

    all, am, are, at, ate, be, black, brown, but, came, did, do, eat, four, get, good, have, he, into, like, must, new, no, now, on, our, out, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, so, soon, that, there, they, this, too, under, want, was, well, went, what, white, who, will, with, yes

  • First Grade Sight Words (41 words)after, again, an, any, as, ask, by, could, every, fly, from, give, going, had, has, her, him, his, how, just, know, let, live, may, of, old, once, open, over, put, round, some, stop, take, thank, them, then, think, walk, were, when

  • Second Grade Sight Words (46 words)

    always, around, because, been, before, best, both, buy, call, cold, does, don’t, fast, first, five, found, gave, goes, green, its, made, many, off, or, pull, read, right, sing, sit, sleep, tell, their, these, those, upon, us, use, very, wash, which, why, wish, work, would, write, your

  • Third Grade Sight Words (41 words)

    about, better, bring, carry, clean, cut, done, draw, drink, eight, fall, far, full, got, grow, hold, hot, hurt, if, keep, kind, laugh, light, long, much, myself, never, only, own, pick, seven, shall, show, six, small, start, ten, today, together, try, warm

  • Noun Dolch Sigh Words (95 words)

    apple, baby, back, ball, bear, bed, bell, bird, birthday, boat, box, boy, bread, brother, cake, car, cat, chair, chicken, children, Christmas, coat, corn, cow, day, dog, doll, door, duck, egg, eye, farm, farmer, father, feet, fire, fish, floor, flower, game, garden, girl, goodbye, grass, ground, hand, head, hill, home, horse, house, kitty, leg, letter, man, men, milk, money, morning, mother, name, nest, night, paper, party, picture, pig, rabbit, rain, ring, robin, Santa Claus, school, seed, sheep, shoe, sister, snow, song, squirrel, stick, street, sun, table, thing, time, top, toy, tree, watch, water, way, wind, window, wood

Reinforcing sight words and celebrating the many new words your child’s learning is key to reading success.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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9 Sight Words Games for Kids

Kids and Question Topics

Kids ask LOTS OF questions

COVID -19 has taught us many things.  As many parents have experienced full time over the last few months, kids ask a lot of questions.  Sometimes they are different but most of the time, it is the same question over and over.  Of course, we should be answering all their questions but, that’s not life. Question Topics might be the answer!

However, answering and asking questions is good for kids.  It helps them respond to answers and gets them thinking.  Asking questions helps them express their creativity but also shows their comprehension skills. The trick to questioning and answering, (and keeping your sanity) is to ask questions that can have both broad and multiple answers.  Focusing on a topic will help to keep the conversation focused and will allow your child to expand their thinking.  Extending their thoughts is beneficial to both of you.  Check out the following topics and see if you can “survive” the next round of questions.

Question Topics for Discussion

  • What things make you happy?  Extend conversation with why?
  • What do you like daydreaming about?  What was your favorite daydream and why?
  • What would you do if I told you we were going to the beach?  Extend with prompts like: how would you get there, what would you bring, what will we do when we get there, when and how will we get home.
  • How would you design a treehouse?  How would you start the plan, what would you include, what would it be made of, how would you get into it, where would it be, what would you do in it, who would you invite to visit you.
  • What are three different things you want to do this summer?
  • If your stuffed animal could talk, what would it say?  Which animal, how about a different animal?
  • When you woke up this morning, what did you want to do? 
  • What is your favorite meal?  If you were the chef in a restaurant what would you add to your menu?

Don’t be afraid to recycle question topics. It’s fun to see the changes to their stories.

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Short Mysteries for Kids: May

Read carefully to find the mystery solutions.
Read carefully to find the mystery solutions.

Short minute mysteries are stories that can be solved with close examination of the clues in the story. Put on your thinking caps for this month’s fun.

May Mysteries

  1. There were two fathers and two sons on a boat fishing. They each caught a fish, but only three fish where caught. How can this be so?
  2. What would you be sure to find in the middle of Toronto?
  3. If today is Monday, what is the day after the day before the day before tomorrow?
  4. There are two plastic jugs filled with water. How could you put all of this water into a barrel, without using the jugs or any dividers, and still tell which water came from which jug?
  5. In the basement there are 3 light switches in the “off position.” Each switch controls one of three light bulbs on the floor above. You may turn on any of the switches, but you may only go upstairs one time to see which light(s) were affected. How can you determine which switch controls each particular light bulb?

Mystery Clues:

  1. One of the characters plays more than one role.
  2. You don’t have to know anything about the city of Toronto.
  3. Write down the names of the days of the week in order and use it to figure out the answer.
  4. Water can be in different forms.
  5. You can tell whether the light was “on” without seeing it.

Answers:

  1. There was a Grandfather, his son, and his son’s son in the boat. Two fathers and two sons.
  2. There is the letter “o” right in the middle of the word TorOnto.
  3. Monday…today!
  4. Freeze one or both jugs, then cut the plastic away leaving only the ice. You could now put them into the barrel and still tell which water came from which jug.
  5. Turn any one switch to the “on” position for 5 minutes. Then turn that switch “off” and quickly turn on one of the other two switches to the “on” position. Then run upstairs and touch the two lights that are “off.” One of them will be “hot” because it was turned on for 5 minutes. Obviously the “hot” bulb is controlled by the first switch you turned “on.” The light that is currently “on” is controlled by the switch you last turned “on.” The “cold” bulb that is “off” is controlled by the only switch left.
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Creative Thinking Tools

Creative thinking tools enable kids to think creatively.
Creative thinking tools enable kids to think creatively.

When I was a teacher in the TAG (Talented and Gifted) program I had to administer a creativity test to all 3rd grade students in the district as part of admission into program.  That test, along with achievement and cognitive tests, were equal components in the program admission.

I loved administering the creativity test and so did the kids!  The test asked students to draw a series of pictures using only partial shapes; adding details and identifying what they drew.  Every year, there were always a few students who asked if they could do the test again.  They just knew they could do it better!  This realization showed us that teaching kids to think creatively was not only important for learning but could also be fun. Working with classroom teachers, my partner and I created lessons and programs that allowed students to be creative.

We started by teaching kids the tools needed to be creative thinkers. Creative thinking builds on the concept that a single question can have multiple answers. It doesn’t focus on right or wrong answers but on the importance of giving students the opportunity to express their ideas. This idea was especially liberating for our student with special needs, quiet, anxious and ELL students.  Being allowed to give non-ordinary responses, especially in a group activity, allows ALL students to participate.

How to Teach Creative Thinking

Once the TAG admission tests were completed, we used a similar Creativity activity to show kids the “tricks” or “creative thinking tools” to be creative.  We taught them 5 creative thinking tools; the SAME 5 components of good writing: fluency, flexibility, originality, elaboration and evaluation.  

  • Fluency – Being able to think of lots of responses to a single question or response.
  • Flexibility – Being able to shift thinking from one way of thinking to another. 
  • Originality – Trying to come up with answers that are clever and unique.
  • Elaboration – Adding details to a basic idea to make it more interesting and complete.
  • Evaluation –Teaching kids how to weigh alternative ideas.  This was especially important when kids were working on team projects.   

Once the kids understood the basic components of creative thinking the LEARNING really began. 

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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COVID – 19 Tip: ABC’s of Active Reading

Active Reading starts with the ABCs of questions
Active Reading starts with the ABCs of questions

Many parents are helping their children with schoolwork during the COVID-19 pandemic.  What I’m hearing from them is that they don’t know what to ask their child after he/she has completing the home assignments.  A good strategy to use that if often used in schools is to steer the conversations around the ABC’s of active reading. This method will engage your child through Asking questions, Building vocabulary and Connecting with the world.  This strategy helps to keep both you and your child focused and on track.

Check out the common questions listed below to get your started.  All of them can be adjusted to meet your needs. 

Ask questions

  • What happened in the story?
  • Can you tell the events in order from the beginning to the end?
  • How does the main character feel in the beginning of the story?
  • What does the character do or say to make you think this way?
  • How does the author organize the book and why was it organized this way?

Build Vocabulary

  • Identify the words that were familiar?
  • What part of the text helped you to figure out what the word meant?
  • Besides the words the author uses, what are other words you can use to describe the character’s actions for feelings?
  • Why did you choose these words?

Connect with the world

  • Write about how this problem exists in the real world and how it is solved or is trying to be solved?
  • What is the big problem that is at the heart of this story?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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1000 Books Before Kindergarten: YES!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten
1000 Books Before Kindergarten

Reading 1000 Books to a child before Kindergarten? We’ve all heard about the importance of reading to young children. But, 1000 before kindergarten? It sounds like a lot, but if you read just one book a day that’s a little less than 3 years. Or, reading just 2 books a week, is another way to get to a 1000 by the time your child is 5. It certainly is possible if you start to keep track.

So, why is it important? Research shows that as many as one in five children have trouble learning to read and reading has been linked to academic success. With formal schooling not usually starting until ages 5-6, exposing your child to reading before kindergarten makes a lot of sense.

This gives the role of teacher for the first years of a child’s life to parents, caregivers, and preschool teachers. These are the people that spend countless hours with our kids, so recruit them into the counting process. Join the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge and give your child a good head start in learning.

So, maybe you don’t read 1000 books, but you get the idea. The more books you read to your child before kindergarten the better it is for your child.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Early Childhood Great Websites

Great resources for early childhood teachers
Great resources for early childhood teachers

When working with Early Childhood Student Teachers I often hear that they are spending lots of time looking online for resources.  There is SO MUCH OUT THERE, I certainly can see how that happens! My suggestion for them is to start with just 2 “Tried and True” sites and explore them thoroughly.  The two that I suggest are The National Association for the Education of Young Children and Family Education. They are extensive and are updated regularly.

I also suggest that they open a Word Doc and write a few notes about their favorite websites including notes and the dates that you researched it. This helps to organize past research and topic areas. Yes, you can BOOKMARK it too, but you’ll soon learn that many of the site names sound alike! 

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children Expand your knowledge and skills and find classroom activities quickly with these great resources from NAEYC.  Check out the quick list of resources for new and classic resource.
  • Family Education Great articles, activity ideas, internet tips for teachers (including special needs) can be found at this site. Good parenting articles also.

Once you tackle these two, start to explore some of the other resources from earlier posts.   Happy Researching!

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Reading Skills Checklist for Early Readers

Reading Skills Checklist for  Early Readers
Reading Skills Checklist for Early Readers

One thing that I stress when working with my Elementary Student teachers is to remember that observing their students’ reading skills should occur often and throughout the day. Using a checklist of reading skills and behaviors helps a teacher track student reading needs and helps to better plan instruction.

The BIG 10 of Reading Skills

Yes, I am using a March Madness term, but after all it is March!  However, it’s also a good way of remembering 10 BIG areas to track in early reading behaviors.  Some behaviors are basic and usually achieved in the very early grades.  Other skills need to be reviewed and reinforced throughout the reading process since mastery may be dependent on the reading or genre of the reading material. Since student teachers are always preparing for that first teacher job, knowing all 10 areas is always a good idea. Excellent info for teaching interviews as well.

  • Directionality
    • Knows where to start on a page
    • Reads from left to right
    • Reads top to bottom
    • Return sweeps
  • One to One correspondence
    • Matches spoken to written word
    • Rereads to make word match
  • Unknown Words
    • Can locate unknown word using letters and sounds
  • Structure
    • Asks, does it sound right?
    • Asks, does it sound like the way we say it?
    • Rereads for how it sounds
  • Monitoring
    • Recognizes when an error is made but may not know how to fix it.
  • Self-correcting
    • Recognizes when a mistake is made and is able to fix it.
  • Cross-checking
    • Uses picture, meaning, structure and visual clues
    • Rereads and uses more than one source to check information
  • Visual Clues
    • Matches spoken to written word
    • Checks beginning, middle and end
    • Uses sound and chunks to solve unknown words
  • High frequency words
    • Is able to locate words on a word wall for spelling
    • Reads (number) of words from Dolch list
  • Determining meaning
    • Uses pictures
    • Rereads
    • Asking does this make sense
    • Uses background knowledge
    • Uses story
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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COVID-19 Learning Activities Reading Newsletter

COVID-19 Learning  Activities for Reading
COVID-19 Learning Activities for Reading

Who would think that I would ever be posting a COVID-19 Learning activities newsletter? However, here we are with schools closed and millions of kids home. Parents are stepping up to “homeschool” their children and are using home packets and online resources. For many this is unfamiliar territory and an added element to their already full plates.

Many parents are scouring the internet to find school activities to support schoolwork or looking for additional activities. To help shorten your search I’m working on some mid-month newsletters of some past posts from my blog threeringsconnections.org to get you started. This newsletter is focused on  READING activities. Keep checking back for additional posts.

Reading Resources

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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