Category Archives: reluctant readers

Part 2: {Secret} signs of a cognitive weakness

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This is part two in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses. Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card.

Kristen Thompson, brain training expert. Photo by Jen Harris Photography

Most parents and teachers know the typical warning signs of a learning problem: declining grades, apathy, noticeable shifts in mood. “But for many children, like Jenny (featured in part one of this series), the signs that something’s amiss are much more subtle,” shares LearningRx owner and former Cobb County, Georgia, teacher Kristen Thompson.

Here, Kristen shares some lesser-known telltales of cognitive weaknesses: 

  • Completing homework is a struggle and takes an inordinate amount of time.
  • Looking several times at something while copying is necessary.
  • Remembering and independently following multi-step directions is a challenge.
  • Solving math word problems causes frustration. (Math skills are directly connected to cognitive skills.)
  • Responding with, “I don’t get this!” or “What should I do first?” is common.
  • Reading comprehension is weak; the “big picture” is often missed.
  • At test-time, recalling facts and remembering what was studied is difficult.
  • Asking for things to be repeated is a regular occurrence.
  • The student’s sense of direction and map-reading skills are weak.
  • The ability to readily “get” jokes or understand others’ senses of humor seems hindered.
  • Jigsaw puzzles are avoided or deemed “too hard.”
  • Organization of materials and time is elusive.

“The good news, however, is that the brain can be trained to overcome any cognitive weaknesses that might be causing these behaviors,” shares Kristen.

The first step, according to Kristen, is identifying exactly which cognitive skills are being impacted by a weaknesses. For more information on each of these different cognitive areas, stay tuned for part three in this series.

Click here to take a quick online quiz to determine if your child is displaying these warning signs.

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Filed under Academic Success, brain training, cognitive weakness, Critical Thinking, Home Schooling, reluctant readers, School Readiness

Part 1: The {true} story of overcoming a cognitive weakness

by Suzanna Palmer 

This is part one in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! 

meet Jenny

Eight-year-old Jenny doesn’t fit the profile of a child with a learning disability. She receives high marks in school and praise from her teachers. She’s considered one of the smartest kids in her class and consistently scores in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. But last year, halfway through the second grade, Jenny became increasingly frustrated during afternoon homework sessions.

“Finishing assignments, especially math, would take a really long time,” recalls Jenny’s mother, Sherry. “As I explained things, she would say over and over, ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’”

To compensate for her struggle to learn new material, Jenny spent countless hours on homework each day, and as a result, continued to do well in school. But despite Jenny’s apparent success, Sherry had a feeling something was amiss: “I just knew in my gut something was wrong.”

Following her instincts, she had Jenny tested at a center called LearningRx that helps children overcome cognitive weaknesses. The tests revealed that Jenny did indeed have processing weaknesses that were impacting her ability to organize and recall information.

 a path of action

Over the next five months, Jenny participated in activities designed to retrain her brain to think and respond efficiently. The three weekly sessions, each an hour-and-a-half long, worked miracles. By the end of her training, Jenny’s cognitive test scores had improved by leaps and bounds—as had her ability to listen, remember and follow directions.

Although now-third-grader Jenny is finished with her training, she and her parents are still reaping the rewards. They no longer dread homework, and her mother reports that Jenny’s maturity level and relationships have also improved tremendously.

“There is a total difference in her personality,” Sherry concludes. “She is capable of understanding and remembering things we say to her. She’s not frustrated anymore. In a nutshell, LearningRx gave me my daughter back.”

 Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series: secret signs of a cognitive weakness (and how to identify them). 

Jenny’s success was found through the LearningRx. Call 770-529-4800 or visit www.learningrx.com/kennesaw for more information.

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Filed under Academic Success, brain training, cognitive weakness, Critical Thinking, Reading, reluctant readers, special needs

a foolproof way to introduce poetry {to middle schoolers}

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are picked each month. 

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

The first year I taught, I was faced with the daunting task of introducing poetry to a class of too-cool-for-school eighth graders.

I was young, naive…and therefore optimistic. I had grand visions of unearthing a poetic genius from this unlikely crew, and I just knew that they would connect with the authentic voices of Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings and Maya Angelou. If I could get them to keep an open mind.

Which–for eighth graders–is a big if.

Sure enough, when I announced the unit on the very first day, the word poetry was met with groans and rolled eyes. I knew I had to change the students’ perceptions. Clearly, they were thinking of poetry that’s limited by rules and rhymes.

I wrote the word “poetry” on the board and asked them for a definition. As they called out phrases (“it rhymes,” “it’s all mushy and lovey-dovey,” “boring”), I wrote them on the board. Every one of them.

Then I told them we were going to read some of my favorite poems. I pulled out the overhead projector (dating myself here :) and put up an overhead with a long poem on it. We started reading it, and they were still groaning. It was a love poem.

But, what they didn’t know was that it was actually a song; I’d typed out the lyrics to a song by Boyz II Men (dating myself again). But I kept that little secret to myself and just let the students tear into the “poem.”

Then, without saying much, I hit play on my CD player (phew, I’d have been really embarrassed to have to type cassette deck), and the song

There- ha! At least my photo is up-to-date. :)

started playing. It took my students a minute to catch on, but when they realized that they were listening to the “lame” words on the screen being sung by their idols…well, let’s just say I had them hooked on poetry.

After the song was over, I pointed out the obvious: music is poetry. If you like music, you like poetry. And so, with that revelation in mind, I erased their previous definitions of poetry from the board and asked for new ones. This time, they filled the board with phrases like “songs are poetry,” “meaningful,” “you can connect with it,” “sometimes it tells a story,” etc.

By the end of the poetry unit, I was right. They had connected with Hughes and Angelou and cummings. And…quite a few unlikely poetic geniuses had also been unearthed.

To search for song lyrics for your poetry unit, check out www.allthelyrics.com.

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Filed under Motivation, Poetry, reluctant readers

Creative Dr. Seuss Birthday Ideas {It’s March 2!}

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

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One of my favorite sayings comes from my children’s favorite author. Seriously. Consider the wisdom of Theodor Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Truth, plain and simple.

Every March 2, libraries and schools around the country celebrate the birthday of this beloved childhood muse. So why not go beyond simply reading his timless tales and bring them to life? Here are some creative ideas to take you from snack time to craft time to recess.

Fun with Food

With a smidgen of creativity, Dr. Seuss’s books become veritable cookbooks! Favorite yum-o ideas:

  • Create a stack of pancakes with strawberry filling to look like the hat of The Cat In the Hat
  • Eat cake in the bathtub at home, like the cat does in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (do it while holding an open umbrella, if you’re truly talented)
  • Hand out multicolored Goldfish crackers to illustrate One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Drink pink ink (strawberry Quik-flavored milk) like the “pink yink ink” in One Fish, Two Fish
  • Of course there’s green eggs and ham. Of course.
  • And check out these adorable Thing One Thing Two cupcakes, shown right, from Go Graham Go!

Dress Up, Seuss-style

Keep the fun going by helping kids dress like their favorite (or original!) Seuss character.

  • Look for tall pipe-like hats at the craft store and decorate them with red and white stripes (or make your own from poster board).
  • Wear socks on your hands and feet to resemble Fox in Socks.
  •  And if your dress-up box is a bit more on the wild side, let children layer on the funny furs, feather boas, ears and snouts to create their own silly Seuss-like character! Older children can then write rhyming stories about their original character to share with a younger class.

Tim Tebow Storytime

View the animated webcast recording of football phenom Tim Tebow reading Green Eggs and Ham. Great reading role model! Just click “watch now” and then enter the little information it asks for (city, state, etc.). The video is adorable.

Cat-y Crafts!

Looking for something to do? How about some help from Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Let kids create two paper bag hand puppets of the Things with this adorable template from obSEUSSed.com. In addition to a printout for each student (provided on the site), you’ll need two red paper bags (or white bags colored red), scissors, glue/double-sided tape and crayons or markers. So stinkin’ cute!

Get Movin’

Balance Silliness: Recreate some of the fun from the Cat in the Hat by letting children try their hand at carrying and balancing a variety of items, cat-style, while walking across the room: balance a book on a child’s head, hold a stack of books with a ball on top, and hang a curved-handled umbrella over the crook of the child’s arm. Make it into a contest: Have every child in your class try walking with the same items. Mark each child’s stopping point (how far they get before things topple) on tape on the rug, labeled with their names. The child who walks the farthest wins!

Kite Race: Recreate another activity from the Cat in the Hat by letting kids race kites outside or in the gym at school. Keep things safe by spacing children at least 10 feet apart from each other and shortening their kite strings to under 10 feet. They’ll end up dragging the kites the whole way, but it is hysterical!

Lego Cat Hat: Looking for a simple activity? Have kids sort out red and white Lego blocks and see who can build the tallest ‘Cat Hat’ quickest. Make sure to have a timer and ruler ready to see who wins!

After a Seusstacular day, your students will be saying, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

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Filed under Activities, Art, creative writing, Games, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Writing

Getting Out the Pre-Holiday Wiggles! {aka Keeping your Students’ Attention in December}

adapted from an article by Rachel Stepp, M. Ed. 

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and also the most distracted! Enter any classroom between now and the holiday break, and you’ll find students who are a little more fidgety and a little less interested in long division and the exploits of European explorers. But, have no fear, all you brave and determined educators out there. Here are a few easy activities you can incorporate into your December lesson plans to help channel (and burn) your students’ extra energy.

Get Crafty

Okay, this is an obvious one that you’re probably already doing, so we’ll just mention it quickly. Plan festive crafts that allow your students to engage their holiday excitement in a productive way. Here’s a site to check out if you’re searching for original ideas: crafts.kaboose.com. 

Curriculum Tie-In: Crafts build hand-eye-coordination, encourage creativity, and promote fine motor skills. Not to mention that they’re just plain fun.

Do a “Walk and Talk”

This activity allows your students to talk (probably one of their favorite activities), walk, and be outdoors. So, during regular school-day transitions (like between subjects or after lunch), bundle up and go get some fresh air. During a walk and talk, students go outside to a track or playground where they can walk while talking with their classmates or grade level. This allows them to socialize and get a little low-key exercise.

Writing Tie-In: This activity can easily be turned “academic” by calling it a “Winter Nature Walk.” Instruct students to notice their five senses during the walk: certain sounds? sights? smells? feelings? Then, come back inside and do a little creative sensory writing using their observations. The paragraphs can be posted on cut-out snowflakes and hung around the room.

Get Techy

Head to the computer lab! Something as simple as having “history” class in the lab and exploring relevant websites together will have your students saying, “Santa who?”–at least for the next 40 minutes.

Curriculum Tie-In: Come up with a list of websites for students to explore that relate to a topic at-hand (like those European explorers), or ask your school’s computer teacher to help you select games that align with your current curriculum. You may want to create an Internet scavenger hunt, where you give students a list of fill-in-the-blank sentences or questions that they complete by finding the answers on various websites you provide.

Or, if you have a little extra time on your hands (stop laughing), you could just give your students 20 minutes of free time in the lab. School computer programs offer many possibilities, but due to time restraints, students don’t always get to use their favorite programs. They’ll enjoy exploring their favorites during a little pre-holiday free time.

Read Around the Room

Allow your students to bring one thing to school that will make reading more enjoyable for them. These things could include a beach towel, a stuffed animal, or slippers. Allow your students to have time during one day to read around the classroom with their favorite thing. You can up the anticipation-ante by bringing in a special snack like popcorn to munch while reading.

Language Arts Tie-In: Use this idea during regular reading class, when students are reading novels or nonfiction. Or, go to the library as a class first, and allow students to check out any book that interests them. Pleasure reading is still educational, you know!

Create an Obstacle Course

If your class needs to get out some energy, ask your physical education teachers to set up an obstacle course on the playground or in the gym (or get their feedback on how to do it, and have your students help you set it up themselves). Allow your students to complete the course in teams. Running, jumping and competing will help them use energy that they have (hopefully) been controlling.

Curriculum Tie-In: Obstacle courses help promote social skills, build physical abilities, develop coordination, and enhance motor skills. All good things!

Schedule Some “Me Time”

Finally, let’s just be real for a minute. Students aren’t the only ones who have trouble focusing before the holidays. Don’t forget to treat yourself to some free time after a long day of herding cats…er, I mean educating precious angels.

Tips to Try: Don’t grade papers at your desk after school. Take the stack home, put a log on the fire and slippers on your feet, and curl up on the couch to do your grading. And indulge in little pick-me-ups, like bringing your favorite warm beverage into school with you in the morning. Or plan an after-school outing or shopping trip with some of your favorite teaching peers for a Friday afternoon. Recharging your batteries will ensure that you can go the extra mile with your students before the break.

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Filed under Academic Success, Cooperative Learning, creative writing, History, Holidays, Reading, reluctant readers, Snack Time, Writing

Instilling a LOVE for Reading

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Any child who says he or she does not like reading simply has not been introduced to the right book. Everyone loves stories, and reading provides infinite access to innumerable stories. Even the toughest little nut sitting in your class (or living under your roof) will learn to love and enjoy reading with some positive encouragement.

Here’s how:

1. Get caught “read” handed. Make sure that you–the adult role model–is seen reading on a regular basis. Research shows that children who grow up with parents who read magazines are more likely to reach higher levels of education than their peers with non-magazine-reading parents. Children are more likely to do as you do, not as you say.

2. Let there be light (reading). Don’t insist on a certain type or genre of reading material. For regular pleasure reading, let your children select their own materials depending on their interest and comfort level, even if it’s “lighter” than what you’d prefer. Even comic books have been shown to significantly broaden student vocabulary (Holy Toledo, Bat Man!).

3. Pay up. In addition to whatever regular allowance your child may receive, allow them also to earn a “book allowance.” So many hours of reading per week can earn money toward either a purchase of their choice– or toward a new book or magazine. You can decide the stipulations, but either way, you’re encouraging reading the same way you encourage responsibility.

4. Establish ownership. Kids buy into activities when they feel a sense of ownership and independence. To establish ownership with reading:

  • Allow your child tosubscribe to a children’s magazine of their choice. They will enjoy getting something in the mail just for them.
  • Help your child design a reading corner in her bedroom with her favorite books organized on shelves or in inexpensive bins and baskets. Add a comfy floor pillow or blanket, a poster on the wall, a favorite stuffed animal: whatever makes the space feel like her own.
  • Have your child write his name in his books–again, signifying ownership.

5. Get plugged in. Literacy and technology go hand-in-hand. You are, after all, reading this online article at the moment, aren’t you? To encourage reading online, check out some of these sites, recommended by 24/7 Moms as the 2011 Top Learning Websites for Kids:

Discovery Kids http://kids.discovery.com/

National Geographic kids.nationalgeographic.com

Funbrain www.funbrain.com

Cool Math 4 Kids http://www.coolmath4kids.com/

Learning Planet www.learningplanet.com

Kaboose Fun School www. funschool.kaboose.com

e-Learning For Kids www.e-learningforkids.org

The Kidz Page http://thekidzpage.com/learninggames/

Science Made Simple www.sciencemadesimple.com

The Story Place http://www.storyplace.org/

6. Love your library. You can explore books together, check out DVDs, interact on the computer (together :), and–even if your child doesn’t want to take home a book–you can check one out for yourself. There you go, being a good role model again.

The take-away? Reading isn’t a school-time activity; it’s a lifetime gift. By incorporating fun reading attitudes and activities into your child’s world, positive associations with literacy will be built. Even for that toughest nut.

For a wide array of well-priced children’s books for all ages, visit http://www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx

For a selection of floor cushions and loungers perfect for a reading corner (and starting at $18), check out: http://www.schoolbox.com/Search.aspx?Search=floor+cushion&CategoryID=1

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Filed under Academic Success, Reading, reluctant readers, Science, technology

Classroom Makeover Part I: Print-Rich Environment

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series will share a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!

 

Creating a Print-Rich Environment

It’s a researched fact: children exposed to high-quality print in abundance are better readers. But, kids are just like adults: they want things (like books) to be nice, pretty and attractive before they pick them up. So, if your class library is a little less than attractive (read: tattered hand-me-downs wedged onto a spare shelf), check out these tips for creating an effective reading corner that will lure children into literacy.

First: Place Books With Covers Outward

Reading guru Jim Trelease makes the point that grocery stores arrange products with the fronts of packaging–not the spines–facing outward. Why? To attract buyers. But, how do we usually shelve books for children? Like this:


photo from www.trelease-on-reading.com

The solution? Face covers outward. Here are two ways to do just that.

TIP ONE: Install rain gutters!

This one would take some approval (it involves drilling), but look how GREAT this is. Inexpensive rain gutters make incredible, inviting book holders. Jim Trelease shares many success stories on this method on his website. Here are two photos, to show you how cute this is:

TIP TWO: Book baskets

This idea is easier and even less expensive than the gutters. Simply snag a bunch of cheap baskets from your local big-box store. Then, create genre labels for each basket by printing genres (mysteries, historical fiction, picture books, sports books, adventures, etc.) on cardstock, cutting them into small rectangles, laminating them, and attaching the labels to the front of each basket. Place books in baskets, covers facing outward. The books in a basket will overlap and cover each other obviously, but the front cover will face outward invitingly. Line up baskets side-by-side on your shelves, and voila! A colorful, inviting, well-organized library that children will literally run to when they first walk in the door. (The baskets also teach children to search for book by genre…another good literary lesson.)

Second: Comfy seating

Any non-school-looking seating options make for a great reading corner: an old rug, a couple beanbag chairs, a slew of pillows, a stack of carpet squares, a hand-me-down love seat, a futon. My elementary school library even had an old ceramic bathtub filled will pillows! It was THE hot spot in the library, of course. Any way you can set this space apart as fun and different will create positive connotations with literacy for your students.

Third: Fun lighting

A couple small lamps on the top of a bookshelf add a warm, inviting ambiance to your reading corner. Again, it’s all about giving the corner that “Oooh!-effect” when students walk in.

Fourth: Kids’ book reviews

Post a bulletin board above your reading corner that says: “Books We Dig.” You can decorate the bulletin board with a paper bucket and some paper “dirt” at the bottom (coffee grounds glued onto brown construction or bulletin board paper are cute…and smell Starbucks-y :). Tie a real plastic shovel on as an accent. Then, put a stack of colorful note cards nearby, and tell your class that after they read a book in the class library, they can recommend it to their classmates by writing a review for it on a note card, which you can then staple or tack onto the bulletin board. Include a sample card on the board that looks something like this:

Title:

Author:

Genre:

Why Was It Good?

Two-Sentence Summary (no spoilers!):

Do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year on how to write an effective book review, using this format. (“No spoilers” is a simple reminder not to give away the ending!)

Then, when your students say, “But I don’t know WHAT to read!”–tell them to read their classmates’ reviews and pick a book.

Fifth: Stock the shelves

To stock your library with children’s books, check out garage sales, ask for donations from parents, and create a Library Wish List to send home (or post at Open House), listing titles your kids are asking for. For a large selection of children’s books at really great prices, check out: www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx.

Another idea: If you have a budget to play with, check out this awesome two-sided library shelf from The School Box (LOVE that store!): double sided library shelf.

Now that your reading corner has been sufficiently spiffed up, give yourself a pat on the back. You just created an inviting print-rich environment!

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

The Little Red Hen {awesome activities!}

by Kelli Lewis

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Here is a fun activity to submerge your kindergarteners or first graders in this memorable story favorite. They’ll participate in their own writing and bring the story to life through an adorable craft. Just in time for spring…and perfect for the classroom or at home with your own kiddos.

Start by reading The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone.

This is the classic folk tale version most of us are familiar with (and it’s available at The School Box for $5.95 if your library doesn’t have it). Use this time to review concepts you’ve been working on prior to this activity. For instance, ask students to identify the story’s problem and solution, make predictions as you’re reading, point out compound words or proper nouns, etc.

Next, watch The Little Red Hen on video.

I found this on youtube.com, but you may or may not have permission to show this in your classroom. However, I would bet there is a way you can get this from your school media center or the local library, since it’s such a popular video. Here’s the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zr-yQGD9eAA

Connect and write about it.

Have students write sentences about how they help out around their homes: “I help at home when I ________.” Then, they can draw a picture to show them helping.

Bring your story to life with a craft!

This hen is pretty easy to assemble and fun to create. I like using the hen template found here: http://www.first-school.ws/t/craft/hen_c_craft.html. However, by taking a look at it, you could easily get your own ideas for making a hen.

Make it scrapy! Using scrapbook paper for the hen’s feathers/arms makes these little guys absolutely adorable. Check your local Hobby Lobby or any other crafty stores for a variety of scrapbook paper with all different sorts of prints. These places usually have a section of discounted papers you can sort through, if you’d like. Cooking-themed and farm-themed papers repeat the story’s themes, but red-and-white checkered paper is super cute, too.

Who’s down for an extension?

After reading this version of the Little Red Hen, children get really tickled by reading different versions.  Check out The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philomen Sturges, with its modern, wacky twist. Then, talk about how the two stories are similar, and yet also different.

So, who’s going to go try these activities? And none of you had better answer, “Not I”!

For more Little Red Hen ideas, including a felt board set and a Big Book, click here.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia whose creative ideas are always inspiring!

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Filed under Activities, Art, comprehension, creative writing, Language Arts, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, Writing

The Reading Pond: Creating an Enchanting Reading Corner

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by Rachel Stepp

By creatively designing parts of your classroom, you can intrigue students to utilize these areas properly and often. One space that I think is important to put time into designing is the classroom library.

The Reading Pond

  1. PICK A SPOT. Designate one corner of your classroom as the reading area. This area can carry an enchanting theme of the “Reading Pond” by incorporating cool colors (blues & greens), water themes, and maybe even a pet fish or two!
  2. FABRIC. To get started, drape some strips of blue fabric from the ceiling to create fabric swag over the lights. This will add softer lighting to this area. At the end of the fabric, drape blue bead curtains or skinny strips of blue fabric that go all the way to the floor. The curtain of fabric hanging from the ceiling to the floor will create a secluded area where students will feel comfortable reading. The blue fabric can be the “waterfall” that fills the “Reading Pond.”
  3. PAINT. Paint your bookshelves blue as if they are water. Fill your shelves with all kinds of books that students would be interested in reading. Display the books in baskets, so that the covers face forward. When students are able to look at the covers instead of just the spines of books, they are more likely to choose a book they will enjoy.
  4. PEER INVOLVEMENT. Along the wall, give the students an area where they can suggest books to their classmates. Call this area, “Catch a good book!” Draw or cut out a fishing pole and put it on the wall. Also, cut out many blank fish shapes out of construction paper. These paper fish can be stored in a clear fishbowl that is accessible to the students. Students can recommend a good book to their peers by writing the title, author, and their name on a paper fish and then taping it to the wall.
  5. PILLOWS AND STUFFED FRIENDS. Floor space should be comfortable so that students want to spend time in the reading area. You can do this by putting green bean bag chairs or green pillows that represent “lily pads” in the “Reading Pond.” You can also add pond-related stuffed animals such as frogs, fish, and water snakes that students can read to and have as reading companions.

This is just one idea for making your classroom creative and inviting. Remember, it is important to create an environment that makes your students feel safe and comfortable so that they can challenge themselves in the classroom. It would even be possible to carry to water theme throughout your entire classroom!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Academic Success, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

A Great List of Activities…Themed by Alphabet Letter!

Looking for a fun way to teach the alphabet and keep students engaged in reading?  Here’s a super creative list of books and activities to coordinate with EVERY letter of the alphabet. Yowsa, this is a great resource!

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by Kelli Lewis

This list of activities is perfect for students in Pre-K and Kindergarten who are learning their ABC’s! This is also a great way to incorporate activities from several subject areas throughout the day. You can make this as simple or as challenging as needed, depending on your students. After each lesson, the books can be displayed in a special “ABC books” basket or shelf, so that students are able to return to them often.

Alphabet Themed Books & Activities

Letter: A

Theme: amazing animals

Activity: students come to school with their favorite stuffed animal

Book: Corduroy, by Don Freeman

Letter: B

Theme: bogus bubbles

Activity: students play with bubbles outside

Book: Bubble Trouble, by Margaret Mahy

Letter: C

Theme: crazy chalk

Activity: students are given an opportunity to write with chalk on a sidewalk

Book: Chalk & Cheese, by Tim Warnes

Letter: D

Theme: delicious donuts with dad

Activity: dads come to school and have donuts for breakfast with their child

Book: Arnie the Doughnut, by Laurie Keller

Letter: E

Theme: easy elephants

Activity: students will learn about elephants and make elephant masks out of paper plates by stapling on ears, etc. and eat imitation elephant ears (tortilla, butter, cinnamon)

Book: Elephants Can Paint Too!, by Katya Arnold

Letter: F

Theme: funny feet

Activity: students wear silly socks to school

Book: The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss

Letter: G

Theme: great glasses

Activity: students wear sunglasses, or any type of glasses they want, to school

Book: I Need Glasses, by Virginia Dooley

Letter: H

Theme: hideous hat day

Activity: students are allowed to wear a hat to school

Book: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss

Letter: I

Theme: indescribable ice cream sundaes

Activity: students make ice cream sundaes

Book: Ice Cream Everywhere, by Stephanie Roth

Letter: J

Theme: jammin’ jammies

Activity: students and teachers may wear their pajamas to school

Book: Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

Letter: K

Theme: kiddy kites

Activity: students bring in their favorite kite and get to fly them at outside

Book: Curious George Flies a Kite, by H. A. Rey

Letter: L

Theme: licking lollipops

Activity: students will be given huge lollipops

Book: Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan

Letter: M

Theme: magnificent muffins with mom

Activity: moms come to school and have muffins for breakfast with their child

Book: If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Numeroff

Letter: N

Theme: nice necklaces

Activity: students make a necklace out of beads for someone “nice” or special in their lives (ex. Mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, neighbor, etc.)

Book: The Loon’s Necklace, by William Toye

Letter: O

Theme: outside oranges

Activity: students eat oranges outside and learn facts about oranges

Book: The Big Orange Splot, by D. Manus Pinkwater

Letter: P

Theme: perfect popcorn

Activity: students eat popcorn and/or make popcorn crafts

Book: The Popcorn Book, by Tomie dePaola

Letter: Q

Theme: quaint quilts

Activity: students bring their favorite quilt/blanket to school and have a picnic together outside for snack/lunch

Book: The Patchwork Quilt, by Valerie Flournoy

Letter: R

Theme: ready readers

Activity: students bring their favorite book to school, share their books, and have a reading day outside with blankets

Book: Use your personal favorite picture book to share

Letter: S

Theme: sunny sandcastles

Activity: students are given opportunity to play in sand and make sandcastles

Book: The Sandcastle Contest, by Robert Munsch

Letter: T

Theme: terribly tacky

Activity: students come to school dressed the tackiest they can

Book: Tacky the Penguin, by Helen Lester

Letter: U

Theme: unbelievable unicorns

Activity: students learn about unicorns (mystical animals), and create/invent their own mystical animal

Book: The Dragon and the Unicorn, by Lynne Cherry

Letter: V

Theme: voluptuous vegetables

Activity: students eat a variety of vegetables, learn facts about them, and how important they are for you (ex. carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, etc.)

Book: The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin

Letter: W

Theme: wild & wet

Activity: students bring a change of clothes and play with water guns, water balloons, etc.

Book: Wet Dog!, by Elise Broach

Letter: X

Theme: eXtra xylophones

Activity: students learn about xylophones and play them together

Book: Pooh’s Xylophone Book, by Publications International Staff

Letter: Y

Theme: yellow youngsters

Activity: students wear as much yellow as they can to school

Book: The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger

Letter: Z

Theme: zany zebras

Activity: students learn about zebras and make zebra masks using paint

Book: Greedy Zebra, by Mwenye Hadithi & Adrienne Kennaway

And that’s a wrap. Enjoy these activities, which make reading as easy as A, B, C!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia.

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Filed under comprehension, Phonics, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers