Saturday, October 18, 2014

DIBELS on the Brain

When the Middle of the Year DIBELS benchmarks roll along, I will have been the DIBELS coordinator for my school for a full year.  My word, have I learned a lot about these tests in the past year!

I always have known the skills tested were important for kids to be great readers, but I didn't really know more than that.  DIBELS tests are meant to look at the "Big Ideas In Early Literacy" (indicated by the National Reading Panel's report), which are phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with text, vocabulary, and comprehension.  I always send this link to my parents so they can understand first of all, what is DIBELS, and second of all, why the skills the  DIBELS tests assess are important.  That was a tongue twister!

Since I started teaching, I have always had my students complete bellwork.  They have been trained from day one to follow the morning procedure, and then get started on their bellwork.  During this time, I take attendance, hear random stories from my students, and pull students for RTI.  Before I begin a new type of bellwork, I always walk them through the process so they can feel comfortable doing the work independently.

I start my kindergartners with first sound bellwork, because I want to give them practice hearing the first sounds in words and they also get some extra phonics practice because they have to write the letter as well.

The kids cut and glue (which is an important skill on its own) the picture in the correct column.  Before they get started, I go over all of the pictures at the bottom.  I ask if there are any questions.  After the questions have been answered, if a student needs to know what a picture is, they have to ask their neighbor.

The back side was formatted so the paper could be double sided.  There is a space at the bottom because the kids cut it off on the other side.  I'm weird about saving paper.  Again, before I get started, I explain all of the pictures, and if the kids have any questions after my explanation, they need to ask a neighbor.

We then transition into the vowel challenge bellwork.  We use this bellwork through the rest of first quarter and the first few weeks of second quarter. 

 It steps it up a bit, because it moves from just writing the first sound to writing the vowel sound to full phonemic segmentation.

The front side of the paper looks exactly the same as the first set, so the kids already feel very comfortable with the format.

I also have them sort by short and long vowel sounds, which is a common core standard.

The move from writing the medial sound...

to full phonemic segmentation.  Again, the pages are formatted so they can be copied double sided.

 It has the kids use their letter sound knowledge and the spelling rules we have studied.  We start with simple CVC words, and then move into CVCE words and then even tougher words.  We always check our work before we start our day, and I love how I can see the light bulb illuminate, and then hear, "Mrs. McCleary, I see a phonogram!"  If I had a quarter for every time I heard that, I wouldn't need to work; however, it is SO incredibly rewarding when the kids make those connections.

When we begin entering words into our spelling notebook (which will happen in two weeks), I change the bellwork again.  We start working on DIBELS skills for the middle of the year tests (nonsense words, letter naming, phonemic segmentation, first sound fluency).  In my opinion, the kids need to understand that nonsense words won't make sense when they sound them.  This is kind of an odd thought when we always ask them, "Does that sound right?"  So, I want them to understand the words don't make sense.  I have seen my scores increase and my students' reading skills improve since I've started using them.

So, I combined DIBELS skill practice with the kids practicing their spelling words.  I teach at a Spalding school, so the lists are aligned with the kindergarten spelling lists.  Even if you don't teach at a Spalding school, the words come from the Ayres list of high frequency words, and the extra practice will be beneficial for your students.

This is the front side of the page.  The format does not change through the end of the year.  The sentence at the bottom of the page becomes more difficult as the year progresses.

This page format is used on days one through three.  The kids "rainbow write" their spelling words twice.  They add the missing letter, and they copy the sentence.  For the higher kids, I am going to have them write their own sentence using the words at the top of the page.  As the year progresses (the third set of bellwork), all kids have to write their own sentence.

Day four is a word scramble.  I let them work with a neighbor to unscramble the words.  The kids have a blast and really learn to work together well.

Day five is a word search.  I was hesitant to use it at first; however, once I teach the kids how to complete a word search, they really do a great job.  I let them work with a friend on this as well.  They love it, and they LOVE to find hidden words that are not on the list.

Start with this set.

This is really the second set (now).  I went back and created the file with lists 1-5.

This is really part three now. 

Plus, if you go to Facebook and "like" my page, you will get this fan only freebie with the benchmark goals for kindergarten through third grade.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm back...

Wow!  Life has been very busy this school year.  We are already done with one quarter, and our fall break is coming to an end.  I overheard a mom talking to her friends while I was watching my girls at gymnastics the other day.  She said, "I think two and a half weeks for Fall Break is too long.  One week is more than enough."  Obviously, she is not a teacher.

I've been trying a bunch of new things in my classroom this year.  I have read a bunch of PD books, and I am integrating some of those ideas into our curriculum.  I am SO happy that I changed it up, because I feel my students are better readers and writers even this early in the year.  I'll be sharing out some of those ideas within the next few weeks because I am in the process of taking pictures.

Last year, I did the Karate Sight Word program with my students.  I had an aide for the first 30 minutes of the day, so she tested the kids.  It was a dream.  Well, this year, they added another kindergarten class and our class sizes went down, so we don't have an aide.  I still have the same number of students; however, one of the kinder classes is down to 20, so there's no hope for an aide.  Bummer.  So, I had to get creative with my time.

This year, I am having the sixth grade buddies test the kinders.  We practice during the week, and then the kinders read the phrases to their sixth grade buddies.  I modeled what fluent reading sounds like to the sixth grade buddies, and they let me know how their kinder buddy did while reading the phrases.  Since we are a direct instruction school, we don't have centers for reading, so I had to get creative.  So far, it has worked really well.  

Another thing that I have been doing differently is incorporating Fry's phrases into our day instead of just the words.  I read a few books by Timothy Rasinski (I LOVE his books), and he talked me into changing my paradigm.  I am talking like I'm his BFF or something.  If I ever met him, I swear I would kiss him on the lips because he has made me such a better teacher.  Plus, he's at Kent state, which is like 30 minutes from my childhood home.  

Anyway, in the book The Fluent Reader, Rasinski talks about how it's important to teach the kids sight words in their phrases.  Recent studies on reading indicate that word reading practice have a beneficial effect on students' word recognition skills. We all know the importance of kids being able to read high frequency words so they don't have to spend valuable brain power decoding these words.

Reading words in isolation may cause some kids to believe that reading "... is simply about identifying individual words," leading to word-by-word reading in some children (Rasinski, 2010). Some researchers believe that "...phrase is the key component in gaining meaning through written text." Timothy Rasinski's research has shown that "...helping students learn to read in phrases will improve their reading fluency and overall reading achievement" (Rasinski, 2010).

Finding a way for the kids to practice their Fry's phrases independently has been my major project over the past several weeks.  I am really happy with the way everything came together.  I made six different sets of the Fry's phrases.

The first set includes pages that have students write the focus word, cut and paste it in a sentence (that includes the Fry's phrase), write it in the same sentence, write their own sentence using the word, and draw a picture of the sentence they just wrote.  Since my school uses Spalding, I made a version that uses Spalding phonograms, and I made a version that just uses letters.

All of the six sets include flashcards that I have formatted to be cut in half, with one half being sent home and one half being kept at school.

All six sets also include a way for the kids to practice reading sentences that include the Fry's phrases.  The first set includes five phrases (written in two different sentences per page), and the other sets include ten phrases.  The first set includes only the smiley paper that focuses on fluency.

The other five sets include the smiley paper that focuses on fluency, and another option that focuses on the number of times the sentence was read.  The kids tally in the speech bubble.

 Sets two through six contain the "Finish the Phrase" sheets instead of the cut and paste sheets.  The kids will fill in the blank for five sentences, and then write three sentences using the focus words in the box.

Have I mentioned how excited I am to be using these?!?!  With a little bit of training, the kids will be completely independent when using them.  What valuable bellwork or filler for the kids!

If you are interested in checking them out, click the links below:

I also bundled them together to give you the most bang for your buck.

And, if you hurry, you can save even more, because everything in my store is 20% off!

Click on the picture, or click here.

I'll be sharing some more of my new things over the next few weeks.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back to School Blow Out Sale with Educents


 I am so excited to announce that is having a HUGE back-to-school blowout sale and I am going to be featured in two of the curriculum bundles! From July 30 - August 2 (Wednesday - Saturday), they are bringing back all of their favorite and most popular bundles for INSTANT download at up to 77% OFF! There is something for everyone and it is their BIGGEST sale of the year! Take a peak into what is on sale! Tell your friends, because there is something for everyone who teaches children in PreK-8th grade!

Preschool Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 72% OFF


My "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" pack is in the preschool bundle.

It contains links and printable resources so parents can help their child be ready for kindergarten.  All you need to do is e-mail the PDF to parents.  SO... EASY!!!!  I can tell you that parents from the past two years have used it and love it!  I have seen kids come in knowing letters, numbers, shapes, and first sounds better than in the years I did not use this pack.  Have I made it clear how much I LOVE this pack?

Plus, I have used a lot of the other products in my kindergarten classroom for remedial work.  It is seriously a great set of products at an AMAZING price!

Kindergarten Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 75% OFF


My "Letter Reversal Pack" is included in this bundle.

I feel like I show my thumbs all day trying to teach common letter reversals.  My "Letter Reversal Pack" gives kids practice with common letter reversals.  There are all kinds of activities and games, and they are all kid approved!

Click on any of the photos to take a closer look.  You will NOT regret it!

Don't Miss It!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Songs at Calendar? Yes, please!

I am the weirdo that LOVES calendar time.  I really hate when I have to skip it because I ran over on my time in other subjects.  I think calendar time is a great opportunity to review so many math topics.  Anyhow, I have been wanting to find a fun way to teach my littles how to spell the months of the year.

I looked around the internet for a while, and I found the coolest lyrics to practice spelling the months of the year.  Now, I cannot take credit for these songs, as I found them here.  The only month that wasn't included was July.  We go back to school in July, so I had to use my creative juices to make a song.  So, I'm no Bob Dylan or Irving Berlin, and as my students always tell me, "You tried your best," and that's what counts.

I am planning on writing these out on chart paper (with my new smelly Mr. Sketch markers... I LOVE those markers!) and hanging them so my students can read the words while they sing.  I am also going to print a copy for each student so they can take it home and sing the song for their parents.  Click on the picture below to grab your freebie.

Plus, I am running a sale this weekend!  Save 20% on everything in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Here are a few other products that you may be interested in for back to school time.  
Click on the picture to learn more.

Plus, here's a link to some great freebies in my TpT Store.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


This Monday, we had our DIBELS benchmarks for second and third grades.  We have been working REALLY hard to ensure the kids are ready to show what they know.  We've been working on retell and comprehension.  We've also been working on cloze and DAZE passages.

DAZE exercises are on the third grade DIBELS assessments.  If you have never seen a DAZE passage before, it may be a little intimidating.  So, I took some second grade standards (mostly scientists) and turned them into DAZE passages with a little comprehension sprinkled in.  Our second grade teachers started using them this quarter and, hopefully, this group will be comfortable when they see the DAZE passages on next year's DIBELS assessments.  Plus, the passages are all non-fiction (bonus) so we are reading across the curriculum.

Right now, you can try out my latest creation by downloading it through Educents.  Please tell me you have heard of Educents.  They have everything a teacher wants at a discount price.  I just bought some awesome books from Educents.  The books were shipped quickly and they were cheaper than Amazon.  I was thrilled!

Learn all about Alexander Graham Bell with this {FREEBIE}.  It's only available for a limited time, so head over there now, and save it for later!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Makeover Time

Do you ever look back on your week and wonder what you accomplished?  Sometimes, I swear, the little things just add up and take up all of my time.  I've been doing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and just trying to stay afloat.

We had our big "Muffins with Mom" shindig this past week.  It takes up SO MUCH TIME getting prepped, but I know the kids and the moms love it.  It's so worth it to see the kinders cuddled up with their moms, eating some muffins, and enjoying some special time together.  Then, the kids sing four songs and everyone is on their way.  I'll have to remember to take photos next year, when I am not running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

In my (little) free time, I have updated two different products.  My favorite has to be the "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" pack.  We e-mail this to incoming parents so they can work with their kids over the summer.  Our parents are notified electronically of their teacher assignments, so this pack is sent as an attachment along with the supply list.  We don't have to copy or staple anything!  Hallelujah!  Plus, parents can print as many copies as they want without having to ask us for extras.  Again... hallelujah!  Click the picture below to see what is included.  I check the links in order to make sure they are still active, and I add links when I find something cool.  If you own this pack, make sure to download the updated file.

The second product that I have revised is the Nicky Noun and Vicky Verb pack.  This was near and dear to my heart because it was the first paid product I uploaded to Teachers Pay Teachers.  My computer skills have obviously improved in the past 18 months, so an update was needed.  I actually added three new activities to go with this concept.  When I first uploaded this product, I only had the anchor charts and the first activity.  Now, this pack is top notch and a smokin' deal! 

Click here to check it out!

Have a fantastic week!