I'm Mary, a Kindergarten teacher from Georgia. I am a learner. I have a Bachelors and Masters degree in early childhood education as well as a specialist degree in Instructional Technology. I adore my small family. I love blogging, creating games, and instructing little minds. Teaching is my life's passion.
My job as an educator is to be a servant to others; my students, their families, fellow staff members, and the community. Sometimes we get a student who needs to be loved. And sometimes we get a student we have to fight for. Let me share with you this story, the story of a student worth fighting for. Because one day, you may have a student you have to fight for.
A Student Worth Fighting For Comes
Once upon a time in an absolutely real world of Kindergarten, a little boy showed up at my school and was welcomed into my classroom. He didn’t smile, why would he? His story was as sad as they come and his baggage made his head almost impossible to tilt up. The details don’t really matter to others because they are his story to tell when he is ready.
This boy’s family knew school would be a struggle, but they also knew he absolutely needed to be in school and he needed to get an education. They knew it was going to be hard on them, on me, on the class, but most specifically this boy.
We Have to Reach Them Before We Can Teach Them
He wasn’t ready to learn. Nor was he wasn’t ready to trust or feel safe. He wasn’t ready to be a classroom full of children or in a lunchroom packed with students or even on a playground with no safe place to hide. Simple, he really wasn’t even ready to be loved. But we have to reach them before we can teach them.
Step 1: Keep Him Safe
Our first goal was to keep him safe. This was hard. I would say this was an impossible task that we somehow managed. I am still not sure how we did but we did. Without question, I was blessed with the full support of my administration and we had plans in place for him. I prayed daily I could keep him safe. Safe from himself and safe from his fears. If he could be safe, we had a chance. HE had a chance. This kid needed a chance. He needed someone to fight for him.
Step 2: Build His Trust
Once he felt safe, we hoped we to build his trust. Eventually I hoped he would feel some of our love. Maybe then we could reach him and then maybe we could teach him. I prayed daily that he would choose to run to me when he panicked instead of away. When I came to school everyday, I had to be ready to protect him and keep him. I would wait until no one was around and cry my fears to God that I couldn’t reach him and I wouldn’t be enough to help him.
Then it happened. One day he was without me and he panicked. I was immediately notified and went to get him. But, he did it. HE RAN TO ME. He felt safe with me. I broke through? Did I break through?
Step 3: Don’t Punish
First, we continued to work on keeping this student safe and we continued to build his trust. It felt like playing tug of war against an invisible team. You don’t know what you are pulling against and you don’t know how to win. But this student was worth fighting for. I didn’t care how calloused my hands got, I was pulling on the rope. I don’t care how tired my arms got, I was pulling on the rope. It was simple; I was fighting for him. He was worth fighting for.
Next, my administration did everything in their power to help him and me. They set up and notified me of the people who needed to come observe. I always said yes and made it easy to happen. His family also worked hard to get paperwork completed and appointments made. He has a team of people who saw that we don’t punish students who need help, we help them. One significant thing to mention is how much they supported me as a teacher. They saw my effort and never let me get discouraged. This was huge. Looking back, I can see how important this was for not just me, but my classroom, and this student.
Continuously, I would talk to this boy often and about anything and everything. I often asked his favorite color or what he liked to play. Anything to spark his conversation. Some of our talks here silly, normal and fun for a little learner! (He was in there! I could see little glimpse of him!) Some of our talks would shock your soul. If he trusted me to talk to me, then I listened. If he allowed, I would wrap my arm around him, gently squeeze his arm or hand, or give him a little pat while I told him I loved him.
Step 4: Fight for Their Success
How do you teach a child you can’t reach? You can’t. But while you are reaching him, you set that student up for their path of success. This means filling out all the paperwork and documentation. Then, it means hosting all the observers and personnel. Next, it means communicating the ins and outs of the day with those who need to know. Collaborating with school staff and guardians is also critical. Our goal was also the child, the student, and what he needed.
This means to do the work, then the more work, then the more work. I left many meetings in full sweat. More so, I stayed late filling in charts and documentation sheets before I could lesson plan or prep. I would love to say I was the wife or mother I wanted to be, but sometimes I just wasn’t. I couldn’t. My cup was empty. And that was okay because I believed in the greater good in this situation.
Step 5: His Steps
Since this story of the boy who is worth fighting for, I can’t disclose everything. I can’t tell you exactly what happened and how it happened. I can tell you that I did every single thing I could to set him up for success; so did my school and so did his family. We all made sure to make sure we all had this child’s best interest in mind. You see, we all fought for this student because he was worth it.
Here is What Happened
Here is what I can tell you. I saw a miracle happen. A slow and steady, bring you to your knees, transformation that was day after day after day. I believe I can use the word resilient to describe this child.
I ended the year seeing a boy who smiled. He laughed. I saw the child he was always able to be before my eyes. It wasn’t just beautiful. There isn’t a word for what it was.
You see, not only was he worth fighting for, in reality, we all showed him how to fight. When he found out he was worth it and how to fight for himself, we were finally able to reach him and then we were finally able to teach him.
My Role Was Not His Hero
I was not his hero. I was a person along his path who chose to love him, to fight for him, and to try to reach him. He has heroes who fight for him every day and can continue to fight for him at night and over school breaks, holidays, and summer. Those people are the real heroes. His story isn’t over. So I continue to pray and care and love. I hope you will as well.
And when you are given a student worth fighting for… please know it is worth it. THEY are worth it. Your struggles are worth it. You are not alone, but you are one critical piece in the fight.
Note: I wrote this with the permission of this students family. THEY are and will remain his true heroes.
Sight words is always a struggle with little learners! The gap with children who have been exposed to words to those who are not as fortunate is real. Sadly, we can’t teach and reteach each child the words they need when they need them. Or can we? We need to promote independent learning with Sight Word Printables because it just makes sense.
We need to be meeting students where they are regardless of their background, readiness, and time. But time is that factor that gets us the most! Why? (Did that make you laugh? You most likely already know why!) You can simply not be everywhere at once. Students need to be able to work on sight words without you there. Let me introduce to you a real and really good solution to this problem.
Sight Word Printables
Let me introduce you to an idea that I had brewing in my head for some time. Sight Word Printables. Here is how they work. Your student scans the QR code with a smart device. (You must have wifi or internet access.) An AUDIO file comes up that lasts 4-6 minutes long. It is a direct sight word instruction lesson for that student to help them learn that specific sight word.
You can see below what appears on the screen as it matches the paper.
Why Audio Codes?
Let me explain why I purposeful chose to use an audio file. I created both audio and visual codes and tested them with my students. I learned that when my students used an audio file, they tracked the text better, followed along more accurately, and overall did a better job learning the sight word presented. When they used the visual, or movie, file they were too busy watching the video than learning.
I also know that YouTube can cause issues at many schools. I purposefully did not create these codes using YouTube.
Use Your Data
Once you assess your students on sight words, grab a class list and write down one word that each student is lacking. You could even write down two or three.
-This can be a word you have already taught, but that students somehow missed or didn’t assess as accurate.
-It could also be a work you are currently working on.
-It could even be an extension to push another student forward with a word you haven’t taught yet.
Next, grab the sight word printable your student is lacking. You can provide them a paper version or you can slip it into a clear page protector for reuse with a dry erase marker. (This is the option I use.)
Then, your student scans the word and get their direct instruction for that specific sight word. Best yet. You do not have to be the one teaching them. The audio file can do that for you!
Personalized Learning with Sight Word Printables
Here is a real world example from my classroom during RTI time. I have 4 students all working on a different sight word, all at the same time. Of course, I could have each student working on their own sight words. This is great for early finishers, word work, morning work, HOMEWORK, and even more!
The Biggest Trick is Management
My biggest issue was simple. My kids learn a few hundred words in kindergarten so that could potentially be a hard task to manage. After trying a few different ways, but let me share with you the way that actually worked for me!
I got this file organizer from Amazon because it had tabs for A-Z. I printed out my Sight Word Printables. Then I organized them alphabetically. I try to put each printable into a clear page protector if I have enough as well. If not, I place a lot of page protectors in the back of this file organizer. (I tried using a binder, but I was opening and closing it constantly, so this slip in and out organizer was amazing.)
How to Get Sight Word Printables
First, I have two freebies you can TRY before you buy!
There is one freebie in the PREVIEW HERE. It is for the word DOWN.
Here is another freebie in the PREVIEW HERE. It is for the word WHAT.
New teachers and new to kindergarten teachers are asking and asking… what things do you LOVE for your classroom? I thought I would kindly make a list (an ever changing list) of all the things I use and love for my classroom. Welcome to Amazon Wish List for Teachers.
First, since we are in the real world, I am using Amazon links. The truth is… this is the primary way I choose to shop. At my door in 2 days is my jam. If you can find these things cheaper elsewhere, do it. I have just found my time is usually the most valuable thing I have and I am not a shopper AT ALL. Shop around. Compare prices. You do you. I use Amazon.
Next, yes… some of these item will be cheaper during back to school. Grab when they are cheap but I use Amazon when I run out. But as you are looking for classroom things, here is my list.
Basic Supplies & Consumables
These are the things I use each year and go through. Many of these items may be provided to you by your families, so you can even use this list to create a supply list.
Once you have what you NEED, these are the items I love and use every day, but I don’t have to purchase again and again because they last for so long. Some of these are pricer items but since I keep them in my classroom, they are worth it in the long run. You can create a wish list for your classroom needs to share with your parents!
-Whiteboard Clipboard pack of 30 (here)
-Paint cups with lids (here)
-Learning Cubes/Pocket Chart Dice (here) / ideas to use them (here)
-Blue, Green, Yellow 3 piece Pocket Chart dice (here) / ideas to use them (here)
-Handwriting Without Tears Slide, Stamp, & Screen (here)
-Sentence Pocket Chart (here)
-Calendar Pocket Chart (here)
-X-ACTO Pencil Sharpener (here)
-Really Good Stuff Colored Larger Baskets (here)
-Really Good Stuff Colored Thinner Baskets (here)
-Scotch Laminator (here)
-Fiskar Scissors Class Set (here)
-SnapWords Cards (here)
Here are bigger items that you can get over time. (Think Donor’s Choose, PTO, Grants, and other funds.)
-Light Panel (here) / ideas to use this (here)
-Wobble Seats (here) / ideas to use them (here)
-Art Easel **This is my dream item at the moment** (here)
-Colorful tables **I hope your school provides these, but in case they don’t** (here)
A few of the technology elements that are achievable for classrooms use.
-Kidz Gear Wired Headsets (here)
-USB hub for school computers to gain USB drives (here)
-Osmo Base for iPad (here) **I actually recommend all Osmo items for the classroom except the race car game.)**
Ideas to use Osmo (here)
Hands on Math
You can never have enough COOL math manipulatives.
-Yellow and Red two sided counter (here)
-Unifix Cubes pack of 300 (here)
-Pattern Blocks (here)
-Ten Frame Stamp (here)
-Ten Frame Towers Board (here)
-100 Chart (here)
-Learning Resources Buggy Balance Measurement Activity Set (here)
-Learning Resources Dive into Shapes! Builds 3D shapes (here) / ideas to use it (here)
-Educational Insights Number Balance (here)
-Geometric Nets Cut Outs for Solid Shapes (here)
Word Work Fun
Hands on reading fun!!! I use these items all the time in my classroom and high recommend them.
-Learning Resources Word Constructions (here) / ideas to use them (here)
-Lowercase Letter Beads (here) / ideas to use them (here) and (here)
-Alphabet Acorn Game (here)
-Foam Square Color Tiles (here) /ideas to use them (here)
-Alphabet Learning Locks (here)
-Magnetic Lowercase Letters in Storage Case (here)
-Spelligator (here) /ideas to use it (here)
Many of these items are used for hands on learning fun. You can read about this (here.)
-Light Refraction Glasses to see colors in light like a prism (here)
-Create Your Own Kaleidoscope Sets 12 pack (here)
-Learning Resources Playground Engineering & Design (here)
-Mindware Letter Treasure Word Building Game (here)
-Game Zone Honey Bee Tree Game (here)
-EdX Junior Geostix (here)
-Leapfrog Letter Pop Up Game (here)
The above link to items are Amazon Affiliate link that I receive a small amount of money if you purchase using that link. . I was not asked to or paid to support these products in any way. All the feelings and opinions expressed in this article are mine and have not been altered to support another company.
Hi my name is Mary and I have an addiction. I am addicted to creating editable activities for the classroom to make learning fun! When a teacher friend sent me a picture of the new Teddy Graham Outdoor Discovery, I knew what needed to be done. I knew we all needed a Teddy Graham Outdoor Discovery Freebie File.
Next, I highly suggest portioning out the treats into snack size baggies. These activities do not need to have specific pieces per bag like the Bag of Bones Freebie, so this one is super simple to prep. Just print out the copies you need for your students. As usual, anything that touches food isn’t good to be saved year after year unless you laminate.
You will get a one page sorting sheet for individual sorting. There are also two other sized sorting sheets to use for table or group sorting. You can see the one page sorting sheet above.
I also gave you a slightly larger sorting sheet which take up one fourth of the page. Lastly, there is a full page sorting sheet. You can check out the last two types of sorts below.
This is my favorite part of the freebie pack!
Your students will love to make a graph with these Teddy Grahams like shown below.
Of course your students can color in the graph after they lay the cookies on them.
I understand that getting these Teddy Graphs may not be the easiest,
so I have provided these two printables below that you can use to generate the numbers for the graphs.
Math Word Problems
Use these mats to have your students create a fun picture and them use this image to write math story problems with them. You can use a simple mat or the one with number lines and a box provided. Totally your decisions!
Comparing Numbers Activities
You can grab these comparing number printables and mats. These are an easy way to have fun with numbers!
Osmo fans, get ready to jump for joy! I have some fun Fry Sight Words on Osmo to share with you to use on Osmo Words! The best news is… you can grab the activities I created from Osmo for FREE. Let me talk you through how to grab these activities and use them in your classroom.
Customized Activities on Osmo
iFirst, f you are a fan of Osmo Words, I hope you know that you can create customized sight word lists. You can read more about that here! I have tons of sight word activities you can grab for free from their library. Most of my words revolve around Dolch Sight words and match my Sight Word Station activities. We teach all 220 Dolch sight words in K.
When our students master all their Dolch sight words, we move them onto Fry Lists. This created a small problem for me. My students LOVE playing Osmo Words, but I didn’t have Fry lists on Osmo to play. My solution was to create Fry sight word activities as a form of differentiated activities for my students. Let me show you how I use this to meet all my students need. First, you must go to Osmo’s Website and make a free account.
Add these words to your account. It does not cost any money.
How to Use Fry Games
Now, grab your iPad and download then open the Words app. This is also free. You will have to log into your account as well. Then, go to where the red arrow shows you… Library. This is where you can add certain games to your account or browse for even more premade activities.
Please note, you can have personal accounts or school accounts. The school accounts are amazing for differentiation. I typically use Osmo is small groups and could use this feature. I like that they have ONE 8 digit code you can use. This is so easy to use!
Your Library on Osmo
Here is what your Library screen will look like while in the app. All the activities on the top are installed. The next section is “Mine” which are the ones you have created. Below that is a section titled Featured. If you tap on the activity in one of the bottom two sections, it downloads this into the installed section for you.
Your students will play the activities with a check mark on them. You can select on activity or more than one! The red arrows show you the games selected to be played. To select just tap on that activity. To unselect, just tap on it again.
How to Differentiated with Fry Sight Words
It is easy to differentiated activities using the installed activities on Osmo. First, I divide my students by which sight word list they are working on. My students were either working on Fry 100, Fry 200, Fry 300, or Fry 400. I set an Osmo up at each table since I have 6 Osmo bases. Then, I put the activity those students were working towards mastering on the device they needed to work on. They go to the table I tell them and they play a game with the words they are working on.
Since mastery is important, if my students were working on Fry 300, I could choose if I wanted them to work on Fry 100 and Fry 2oo words as well.
How to Play a Created Activity
Osmo pushed out a great upgrade to the app which is called Adventure. You can not create your own words for this section of the game. Nor can you use the Zen Junior feature. Instead you need to use Verse or Zen, where I have the blue and purple arrows.
Adventure is super cute and fun, so let your students play this another time. It just isn’t for the customized activities.
Now, you students can play the exact game with the exact words they are working on! Since I had 6 tables with different Osmo games going all at the same time, my students were literally ability grouped and had no clue. They were having so much fun learning, they didn’t mind at all.
Fry Games in Action
Lastly, I took a few pictures of these games in action in my classroom.
I am a teacher. My goal for each and every year can easily be written yet hard to execute.
Here is my teacher goal is to be the kind of teacher I pray my own children have.
Teachers: Who We Are
First, we are professionals. That means we are more than educators. We are masters of our craft and experts of our fields. Next, we should be supported by parents, administrators, and even law makers. Also, we should be uplifted by each other. Even when we are not supported by others, we should always be encouraging each other.
Teachers: What We Do
It is easy to say we teach. But we do so much more than that. We prep, copy, laminate, cut, glue, paint, assemble, tie, and every other verb allotted in the dictionary of multitasking skills.
Reality is that is what the job description is. But we do so much more than these tasks. We love, inspire, listen, model, wait, train, laugh, cry, laugh until we cry. But mostly we hope and pray. Lastly, we do the impossible every single day. We love. Oh how we love.
Teachers: Why We Become Educators
Our dream in college isn’t to make good test takers or to help product students higher on standardized tests. It might have been to make a difference in lives of students. It may have been to teach little ones to read or big ones to find joy in math. We became teachers because we believe in the wonderful goodness of children. The strive to help child meet their potential.
Teachers: How We Can Help Each Other
One of our many roles is to support and uplift other teachers. Collaboration is vital to keep the education momentum of doing what is best for students going! We are our greatest strengths.
You are going to have so much phonics fun with sound sticks! This is a simple way to teach, review, and practice phonics skills with little learners. It is paperless, hands on, engaging, and FUN. Best yet… you can use it for how you need to use it. There is no right or wrong here! If you are in a school like mine where hands on activities are preferred over printables, I have got a treat for you! This is something you can make once and reuse year after year!
Sound Stick Prep
Putting together your materials is easy! All you need is the sound printables and fun craft sticks, think dollar store or Amazon. Since my printables come with 78 sounds with a color rich version as well as black and white version, you can truly make these your own! You can see that 5 sets of vowel pieces print out on one sheet.
All sheets have been organized into teachable stages so you don’t have to make all the sound sticks at one time, but rather at teachable segments through the year. Best yet, there ate 78 sounds in this one back so chances are, your phonics skills can and will be more than covered.
If you prefer the black and white printables, you can choose to print these onto colorful for paper for organization and attach them to plain sticks. The option is totally yours. I do prefer the larger popsicle sticks for these activities though.
Storing Sound Sticks
You can store these fun phonics sticks in baggies, but you can also choose to use these typical pencil cases as well. I have found that it is easy for students to grab the sound sticks we are using as long as they are color coded.
Here is how I prefer to store my sound sticks. First, I place each student set in a baggie. Since we are doing the bossy r sounds this week, all those sounds are in one baggie. When we need the sticks, I pass them out and collect them when we are done. At the end of the week, students put their sticks only in their boxes. I reuse the baggies that did hold the sticks for the next sounds.
We review sounds and play games with these sticks on small groups often as well. We pull from the boxes or use baggies. I can see teachers who use desks storing their sound sticks in pencil cases in desks. I can also see teachers who use community supplies using baggies.
Organizing Your Sound Sticks
The real key to phonics fun with sound sticks to to think about the whole year and break your sounds into teachable parts with colors.
You can make your own system for organization. Since I knew I wanted to use these for the whole year, I knew I needed a way to color code them. I am going to show my strategy and my reasoning.
First, on yellow sticks, I chose to put those tricky letters b, d, q, and p. These are letters that we teachers work on all the time. I wanted these sticks on their own color because it is a skill we always work on and use. If they are on their own color, students can pull out their yellow pieces fast!
Next, I also chose to put the blends on the blue sticks. I put all the r blends on these pieces, and I can add the l blends to the other side of the same sticks as well. This just saves sticks! You can also use the same sticks for the s blends as well. Since their are so many blends, I found myself running out blue sticks quickly!
Then, we can’t forget the digraphs! Here they are! The th sound is double sided with both th sounds. Their home is on the green sticks.
Also, we included the double consonant endings, along with the final -ck sound. These are on the purple. I know -ck isn’t a double ending sound, but in a way it is since the c and k can both make the same sound.
Lastly, and most importantly, those vowels! These are two sided with the long sound on one side and the short sound on the other side. We use these sound sticks the most often. Do you love to use the term FLIPPING the sound? It is the term we use, so flipping the stick with the sound is so much fun for them.
I debated the stick color for the bossy r sounds, but settled on orange. I didn’t want them to remain red since the r isn’t a vowel, so I though orange gave them their own color for easy finding and usage.
Ready for Phonics Fun with Sound Sticks
First, don’t give your students all their sound sticks at one! NO WAY.
Instead, you will have them work with their sound sticks as you teach whatever phonics program you use. Then the sound sticks go in their box or baggie. Students can use and reuse their sticks over and over again for phonics fun.
How to Play with Sound Sticks
-a great alternative to worksheet, printable, or written phonics
-introduce a letter and it sound with the stick
-have students compare two or more sounds using the sticks
-give students a picture and have them hold up the stick with that initial, middle, or ending sound
-give students a word with the sound pattern missing, have them hold up the stick with the correct sound in it
-have students use during word work activity with the supporting pictures and letter support
-place students back to back but both with sticks, give them a picture or a word, ask them to hold up the correct sound, then ask them to walk with their partner about why they chose their sound
-use to fill in missing letters of words
-have students build words with sticks
-make real or nonsense words
-use as a simple assessment or complete assessment of sound understanding
-review letters and sounds quickly
-keep on hand for reversal issues such as b, d, p, q
-great review for RTI and SST students
-easy differentiation with students using the sound sticks they need
-fun visual support for sand trays or other sensory phonics activity
-can be used in sensory bins