Using an Interesting Words Journal

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No matter what year or grade level you teach, helping your students to develop a wide vocabulary is one of our most important (and fun!) jobs. Words are everywhere, and we want to our students to be curious about words and to know how they work and what they mean.

One way I like to address this with my Foundation students is with an Interesting Words Journal.

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It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a journal for interesting words.

Whenever we do a read aloud, or when we’re listening to conversations or watching a visual or video text, I encourage my students to stop and ask, “Hey, what does that word mean?” when they come across a word that’s unfamiliar or unknown to theme.

This usually prompts a lot of discussion.

And it’s wonderful.

Typically, I try and encourage the other students to explain what a word means – often they get pretty close to the meaning of a word on their own. Between them, my class – just like all of yours – brings a lot of prior knowledge. They may not know all the answers on their own, but collectively? They know a lot and they do a great job or working together to pool their knowledge to the betterment of all.

Once we’ve identified the word and explained the word we can add it to our Interesting Words Journal.

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This journal is simply a scrapbook with a front cover and a page for each letter of the alphabet. We add the words under the correct letter. It’s often a great opportunity to review the previous interesting words as you add new ones.

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We use these words a lot in oral language – we think of sentences to use them in (often the wackier the better!) and share them with our Turn and Talk Buddies. We write them down on the board. I also encourage students to use these new words in their own writing, too.

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There’s a true power in committing these new words to paper in one place. My students truly remember them.

Earlier in the week, we read a story with a lot of ‘h’ words as part of our sound focus for the week. One of the words that came up was heartbroken. We had a discussion around what it meant (the most wonderful description being “heartbroken means you’re super sad!”) and we put it in our book.

At the end of the week we were exploring emotions and looking at photos of people displaying a range of different emotions. One card was a little girl who looked very sad and one of my students put her hand up and said, “She looks heartbroken,” and then went on to explain why she thought that.

It was a wonderful moment and a true testament to the power of building vocabulary with students.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. I’d love to hear your stories of the power of building vocabulary with students.

You can find a purchasable version on my TeachersPayTeachers store with lined and unlined options.

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Until next time, happy teaching!

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Speaking & Listening are crucial

Today I was watching a replay of one of Jen Jones’ periscopes and one particular quote struck me:

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Here in Australia, Speaking & Listening has been a part of our English assessment strands for as long as I’ve been teaching, so I know the importance of giving students the time to and space to present and share their learning and understandings with an audience.

When students have an authentic audience – not just the teacher – they have a reason and purpose for writing, and also presenting. Both writing and speaking and listening are the ‘output’ (compared to reading’s ‘input’) and are crucial to teach and model daily.

I think the conversation had in this Periscope was a great reminder that we shouldn’t just focus on reading skills (which are definitely important, don’t get me wrong), but also provide our students with regular opportunities to speak and share their learning daily.

With that in mind, what are your favourite ways to include speaking and listening practise during the day?

Word Wall Alphabet

My goodness, it’s been a while. I hope all my Aussie teacher friends are enjoying their mid-year break, and that all my Northern Hemisphere friends are enjoying their Summer!

I had a few requests after my last post (the June Bright Ideas Linky) for me to share my Word Wall Alphabet letter tiles. As of this morning, I have finally been able to upload it to my TpT Store:

MGL-WordWallAlphabet

 

It’s currently on sale for  $1.50 until tomorrow lunch time here in Melbourne. Grab it here.

For images of what it looks like in my classroom, don’t forget to revisit my last post.

Have a fabulous week, my friends!

Back to School Bounty Giveaway!

Hello friends! I’m back on home soil after 24 wonderful days spent with my best friend in Toronto. I have that lovely bittersweet feeling of enjoying being home, but being sad that I had to say goodbye to some people that I love dearly. But, the wonderful thing about living in this day an age is the awesomeness of Skype and FaceTime!

I’m interrupting my scheduled blogging program to share a fun giveaway that some friends and I are putting on to celebrate the start of the new school year here in Australia!

So, to all my Aussie friends – this post is to cheer you up as we embark on a brand new year. To anyone who’s not starting the new year now, there are still PLENTY of wonderful things for you to win, so do join in the fun!

My friends and I have teamed up to give you a chance to win 2 fabulous prizes!

 

All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For those of you who are new to my blog, or those of you who missed this last year, here’s a fun freebie for you – a Valentine’s Day class book that coordinates perfectly with my Start Write Away pack included in the ELA giveaway!

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Finally, you have the opportunity to win a $10 voucher for TpT! Simply complete the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and don’t forget to check out the other fabulous blogs involved for a chance to win other vouchers, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.jsI’ll see you all tomorrow for my Five For Friday post!   Sig_NewBlog2014//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Such Sweet Language, Sale & Giveaway!

Now that I’m home I’ve finally been able to finish my valentines-themed Literacy Centers pack!

This pack includes 7 centers, perfect for use during February. Each center includes a recording sheet (or more than one option).

  1. Such a Sweet Alphabet: ordering letters of the alphabet, sorting uppercase and lowercase letters, sorting consonants and vowels.
  2. Such Sweet ABC Order: 9 valentines-themed words to alphabetise and record.
  3. Such Sweet Nouns: sorting (18) nouns
  4. Such Sweet Compound Words: 16 compound word puzzles
  5. Such Sweet Contractions: matching ‘not’ contraction
  6. Such Sweet Sentences: 6 beginnings and 6 endings for students to make their own sentences
  7. Such Sweet Comma Pies: perfect for practising using commas in a sentence – students create their own designer pie, using commas to separate the ingredients

I’m so excited to use these activities with my kiddos (although some will be later on, since we only start our new year on the 31st January!).

To celebrate my new pack I’m having a SALE in my TpT store! You can get

20% off everything!

That definitely includes Such Sweet Language.

Visit my TpT Store

And, because I love giving away things I’m giving one person the chance to win a copy of Such Sweet Language. Simply leave me a comment (including your email) and tell my your favourite valentines activity. CLOSED

Congrats, Kelly!

A-Z Silly Sentence Sorts Pack & End of Year Freebie

Available on TeachersPayTeachers and Teachers Notebook (coming soon)

Silly Sentence sorts is a collection of 26 alliterative sentences that have been mixed up. When read out loud they sound very ‘silly’ and young students get a great kick out of recognising that it doesn’t make sense!

These would make a great addition to literacy center rotations – younger students can use the complete sentence strip as a reference when rebuilding the mixed-up words, while more capable students can piece it back together using their knowledge of sentence structure.

These look great on coloured card stock, or simply pasted into Literacy workbooks.

I hope that you find a place for them in your resources!

A-Z Silly Sentence Sorts (TpT)

A-Z Silly Sentence Sorts (TN)

Good grief – the end of year (here in the Southern Hemisphere, at least) is fast approaching. Soon we’ll be reflecting on our year-long learning journey.

It is available with Australian spelling and American!

Enjoy!

Freebie Fridays

Label the Trick-or-Treaters Pack & Friday Freebie

I’m having so much fun with labelling kits – they’re a great way to reinforce adjectives – and I had to make a set for Halloween using Nikki’s beautiful Halloween Kidlettes clipart. It was an exclusive bundle she released last weekend and it’s just adorable!

The pack contains 6 colour AND black & white labelling mats for trick-or-treaters in fantastic animal costumes.

The black & white mats can be printed and copied (either individually or onto coloured card stock and laminated for re-use. The colour ones could be laminated and used multiple times with whiteboard markers.

Super-cute and super-fun! Just in time for the Halloween holiday season.

You purchase it on TpT and Teachers Notebook.

Freebie Fridays

And, because I love you guys so much, I’ve also included a freebie in the Preview file.

Click on the picture above to take you to TpT for the free download!

However, the first 2 people to leave a comment and their email address will get a copy of Label the Trick-or-Treaters for FREE!

What’s your favourite Halloween costume?

Word Cloud Art

Well, sort of.

A little while ago I saw a fantastic idea posted on a classroom blog (and I feel terrible because I forgot to save the post and I can’t remember where I saw it – point being, this is not my original idea!) that I remembered this afternoon and had to try.

This year I’m moving into a brand new classroom in brand new building. Now, I’m slightly distressed because the room is tiny and I have a LOT of stuff. I don’t even have room to hang a net in my room – which is difficult for me, because I put up student work and displays left, right, up, down, all across the classroom. This year, however, I have to be super organised and crafty with my room space.

But I am determined (I swear!) to have a cozy reading space. And this is why my borrowed idea comes in handy.

Blog-HungryUsing my (undeniable) love for word clouds, I’m making picture-book word clouds for some of my favourite children’s books using the words from the stories. I’m using Tagxedo, mostly because I love the different shape layout options, but I do also have a love for the original word clouds from Wordle.

My aim is to frame these and put them up in the reading area, and throughout the year make new ones and switch them around based on my class’ favourite stories. (Not counting the other many Literacy-rich activities that word clouds can be used for – but that’s another post all on its own!)

If anyone’s interested I’ve put together some of the word clouds I made in a .pdf featuring the following books:

  • Imagine a Place (Rob Gonsalves and Sarah L. Thomson)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
  • The Very Itchy Bear (Nick Bland)
  • Possum Magic (Mem Fox)
  • The Red Tree (Shaun Tan)
  • Diary of a Wombat (Jackie French)

Download the .pdf here

I have no doubt that more classroom decorating posts will follow (I’m notorious for documenting that sort of thing) once I can actually get into my classroom! First trip in on Tuesday, to sort out the Prep Resource Room (a disaster site after our moving day in December).

However, I think more of these picture-book word clouds are also on the agenda, because frankly, they’re addictive and cute!

Which picture-books would you turn into a word cloud?

Isabella’s Garden, Pt. 2

Earlier this week I made a post about Isabella’s Garden, a beautiful picturebook written by Glenda Millard, and illustrated by Rebecca Cool.

I also talked about an art activity that I’ve used following a reading of the story, using torn bits of coloured paper to create a landscape image in the season of the students’ choosing. Below, please find examples of students work from 2011.

Isabella's Garden

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I also promised to share a photo of my Book Week Parade costume – Sunday Chutney!
IMG_0237Alas, I cut all my hair off the Saturday prior to the parade, but other than that I was quite happy with my costume!
How was your Book Week? (For those who celebrated it!)

Who would you dress up as for a book parade?

Mobile Learning

IMG_0009(Preps using an iPad during Literacy Rotations)

This term I’ve been ‘road-testing’ mobile learning devices in my prep classroom. This is in part due to a research project my school is participating in, funded by the DEECD’s Innovation department, and partly inspired by my own grand ideas of using technology.

This morning I was listening to Shelly Terrell‘s webinar at SimpleK12 on “Read World Learning Through Mobile Devices” (at 5am!) – which was particularly fortunate timing for me, given my exploratory use of an iPad and iPod Touch in the classroom. I also particularly enjoyed Shelly’s ebook Effective Mobile Learning (50+ Quick Tips & Resources).

Now, a very quick overview of my class: I teach a class of 22 preps (5-6 year olds) in a government school in the Northern Metropolitan region of Melbourne. I have a wonderful mix of cultures within my classroom, a small number of ESL students, and a wide range of abilities (both in traditional curriculum areas and also in using technology). A handful of students have iPod Touches, 1 has an iPad that he shares with a sibling, a few more occasionally play on their parents’ iPhones, and about half the class have access to a computer (desktop or laptop) at home under parent supervision.

Since the start of this term, I’ve spent quite a bit of time incorporating at least 1 literacy-based technology activity into my literacy rotations (school wireless permitting!). I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the way all of my students have worked together to respect the rules of using these devices, and have demonstrated great cooperative skills and a willingness to be involved. Needless to say, the enthusiasm of the group using the iPad outweighs most of the other activities!

Activities I have incorporated:

  • An interactive ebook story (The Three Pandas) – students listened to the story, touched the screen to interact with the characters. At the end of each session the groups discussed the story, relating it to other stories they knew of (Goldilocks and the Three Bears), talking about the differences between the ebook and a traditional paper-based book. We also connected it to our IWB and watched it as a class.
  • Watched (downloaded) YouTube videos appropriate to lessons (including nursery rhymes, counting rhymes and other fun little videos based on sounds and word play).
  • Used Halftone to take photos and create a one-page poster with a descriptive sentence. I worked with each student one-on-one (and quite a few of the students worked together, teaching each other, too!) to explore how to take a photo and how to edit and create text in the Halftone app. They then saved these photos to iPhoto and printed them in colour to make a classroom book. They were able to show (and demonstrate) to our Principal – who was amazed at the knowledge and ability of the students after one lesson using the app – and Assistant Principal their creations both on the iPad and then the book. This lead to their introduction to Comic Life during ICT sessions (starting today).
  • This week we’re focusing on short-vowel sounds and are using Spelling Magic 1 (and 2) to listen to and make simple/CVC words using the vowel sounds. The picture at the top of this post is 3 students using the app and recording the words that they hear on a vowel chart. They then took these posters to our desktops (Macs) and (with some help) logged into Voki and created avatars who introduced themselves and shared some of the words from their posters. We’ve put their Vokis onto our classroom blog, to share with their peers, families and members of our school community. Needless to say, they’re all very proud of their work, and I look forward to seeing what else they come up with during the week.
  • I’ve also recorded lots of simple levelled reading texts in Garage Band and uploaded them onto the iPod Touch which, coupled with a headphone splitter, has turned into a portable listening post.

What do I have planned for the future?

  • Inspired by Shelly’s webinar, I’m planning on using MouthOff on the iPod Touch (and our mini HD Flip cameras) to record student communications – most likely with them talking about their weekends!
  • A simple QR code hunt – likely to revolve around either our Sounds of the Week or a text response activity.
  • An activity (still in the planning stages) using the PuppetPals app on the iPad.

Plus a whole host of other activities that I’m determined to design using lots of apps and the cameras and video functions.

I don’t think any of these activities are revolutionary (I see so many fantastic and inspiring activities being posted on Twitter by my PLN on a daily basis, and I feel so behind!) – but they’re a step forward for my school and I’m quite happy to be the one pushing things forward… even just a little bit!

As my AP said in the staffroom – a few years ago you would never have thought to have Prep students creating a Voki. And while I do a lot of the set-up and logging in for them – they type in the text and they create their avatars and that’s fantastic to see!

Are you in the Early Years and using mobile learning devices? What activities have you implemented? (Or, spare some advice on what worked for you/what didn’t work!)