Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interactive Sight Word FLASHCARDS. . . and more fun sight word stuff!

I am always looking for great ideas on how to teach sight words most effectively. I hope you find some ideas here you can implement in your own classroom!

Have a tall file cabinet? Make it a really easy spelling center by using your word wall cards throughout the week for kids to build using magnetic letters! On Fridays, we move the words to our word wall and on Mondays, we place the new words on the cabinet. I love easy. Want FREE word wall cards? Click the picture for a complimentary set that includes Fry words 1-100.

A few years ago, I realized the flashcards I was using didn't help my kids learn their sight words much. They were just regular flashcards, with one sight word on each card. With someone helping the children practice them, they were good, but I just couldn't work with 23 children at once, so I needed something they could work on independently. So, I created sight word flashcards with. . . picture sentences!
And I also made large cards for whole-group use: word wall, words of the week bulletin board, games, etc.

The pictures help in several ways:
       •Students can focus on the target sight word, rather than struggle to decode the other words in the sentence.
       •They could use the cards independently because of the picture supports (so you get more time to work with small groups).
•They are learning the words in context, rather than in isolation. Ever have a child that can read a list of practiced sight words, but doesn't recognize them in context? This helps to improve recognition in texts.

Here are some ways I use these cards in my class.
•On Mondays, when I introduce our weekly sight words, I use the large sentence cards. I show the word side, then I show the sentence side for an example of the word in context. I then place the cards in my spelling pocket chart, where they will remain on display throughout the week.
•Throughout the week, we practice reading the words and sentences. Sometimes I quiz kids on the word side, and if they need help, I show the sentence side to help them. This way, everyone is successful when called on!

•Games- We use the cards for relay race (have kids sit in a few rows and only the first person in each row can call out the word when I show it. First person to read correctly gets to go to the back of their line (when the original 1st person leads again, that team wins).

EASY center! Simply laminate a piece of paper for students to place the card on and use letters to build, a dry-erase marker to write, finger-trace the large word, and use play-doh to stamp! All the fun of stamping with no mess. The best part is all you have to do each week is switch out the cards with your new words of the week and you have your spelling center ready to go. Nothing to print, nothing to correct.  I LOVE EASY! 

In addition to having the big cards for practice, each card is attached to a mix-and-fix sentence for students to practice building them! This covers skills like capitalization, punctuation, and 1:1 correspondence.

My sight word packs also include sheets you can use for at-a-glance assessment and to give parents to help reinforce the words their child needs practice with.

Here’s how I started keeping track this year. Each student has an envelope. When they master a set of 25 words, they get a color-coded sticker: pink, green, blue, yellow, and a certificate in their envelope! They are so excited to get their word rings and start practicing!

Here are the certificates they earn, which come in color and B&W. 

This is all included in the sight word mega-bundle: large 2-sided word cards with mix-and-fix sentences, sentence flashcards,  and cloze sheets (with and without picture supports) for Fry words 1-200, plus certificates and assessment sheets. Color and B&W options.
Want to try it free? Here is a freebie sample. Try this  with your kiddos to see how they like it! :)
 Here are a few more sight word freebies.

This year, we have our assistants for only 2 periods daily, so I asked parents if they would be willing to help out a bit with some of our classroom prep. They were so happy to help out! So I made these bags to send home with kids on a rotating basis- this really helps with getting the sight word rings ready! I also have bags for cutting out cards, sharpening pencils, and more.  I modified a poem I found on Pinterest to use it as a thank you treat :)!
For a free copy of the poem, click the picture below.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Parent Teacher Conferences!

WOW, the first quarter is just about wrapping up and we're heading into parent-teacher conferences! 

This time of year is always crazy and stressful as we are testing our kiddos and then putting all of the data into the online report cards. Oh, and then scheduling 25 different conferences to discuss each child.  

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy getting to sit down with parents and have that time with them.  However, some of you may have a different perspective about conferences.  Maybe you've encountered these kinds of parents:

Luckily, I've never ran into too many of these situations in my career! 

I also found this video that gives great tips for holding successful Parent-Teacher Conferences:


After watching this video, I reflected about how I run my conferences.  I definitely try to be as organized as possible.  I love to show parents examples of their child's work.  I really liked her idea about having an action plan paper to take notes on during the conference. 
Grab it here if you'd like one too.

I have all of the kid's folders that are filled with their data in front of me while I'm talking to parents.  I've found this to be the most organized way for me to show parents how their child is doing.

Well that's about all I have. If you have any tips/tricks that you'd like to share about Parent Teacher Conferences, I'd love to  hear them!  

Hope all of your conferences are great!

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Hi, it's Always First with Sue Lynch! School is now in full swing and I don't know about you, but I am still working on routines in order for my students to become more independent.

I would like to share with you some ideas and tools that I use during my math block time. 

Have you heard about Dreambox Learning? It's a great Math Tool!  I do not have a subscription (yet), but I love using the Teacher Tools that the site provides for free!

Math Racks help your students understand numbers.  Have you tried them?

BrainPop/BrainPop Jr. is another great site not only for math, but all curricular areas. If you are lucky enough to have school funding, this is a great resource.  My kids LOVE BrianPop and BrainPop Jr.!

A few FREE sites that I have my students use for reinforcement is CoolMath4Kids & Fun 4 the Brain!

Cool Math 4 Kids - Cool Math Lessons, Games and Activities for Kids

The games are wonderful, though I am not a fan of the layout.  I usually have the game ready for my students so they don't have to do a 'search.'   I love using the Math Lines games.  These games work on the combinations of sums.  Math Lines 10 is a favorite!

                                                   Fun 4 the Brain has some great interactive FREE games!

Allowing my students to be engaged with technology during math, is motivating.  I continue to provide engaging activities in order for my students to learn and love math!  I have a few tools in my TpT store that you can check out and use during your math block.

Some items to find at my Always First with Sue Lynch TpT Store:

Free 120 Number Charts!. You can play 'Race to 120' or show patterns of counting.  Included in this product are blank charts for your students to write the number 1 to 120.  This is a great resource for your students. 

Free Number Lines: These are great for games and as a resource for solving equations 0 to 20.  They come in color and B & W.

Some products that you can purchase to keep your students engaged and learning during your math time! 

 Solve & Sort Bundle: This set allows your students to not only solve addition and subtraction equations, but they have to sort the equations according to what strategy they used.  

                 ZAP! Bundle: ZAP! is an  
                 awesome game for students
                 to work on addition and
                 subtraction facts.  The best
                 part is the 'smartest kid' does
                 not always win!  Check out
                 my four ZAP! math games
                 in my TpT Store.

Lastly, my Number Bond Task Cards I have two sets:  Sums to 10 and Sums to 20. Both sets can be purchased with or without QR Codes (where students can self correct their work!).  

I hope I have given you some new ideas for your math time!  I know that providing students with fun and engaging tools, not only makes learning fun but also helps your math time run more smoothly.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Language Arts Centers

Recently I decided to take a hiatus from teaching. That's right, after 5 years, and finally feeling like I was getting the teacher thing down, I quit. But it was justified, I promise! I decided to stay home for awhile with my kids (well, son, with one on the way!). However, there are days I desperately miss the classroom and can't wait to return!

I love creating products for TPT, especially products I wish I had when I was teaching. The number one thing I dreaded planning the most was my language arts centers. I taught 6th grade in an elementary school, but I still felt it was relevant to have small groups and work on reading skills with my struggling students.

At the beginning of the year I would always be really good about a schedule and sticking to it with centers. By about December though, I was burned out. I loathed planning new activities, finding the resources, and then hoping my students would enjoy the activities, while also staying focused on learning. It was a battle from December to May. Then one day, about a month before I was quitting (I know perfect timing) I came up with my {Language Arts Grab and Go Centers} idea. I would plan, write, and create centers for each day for the Entire year! Currently I have September-December Language Arts Grab and Go finished and January centers are almost finished. When I post a new Grab and Go center in my store, it is 50% off for the first 24 hours!

Each Product comes with 64 center task cards with accompanying worksheets and activities. Skills such as reading, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, figurative language, and more are covered. The format is the same each month, with varying topics and activities. Included are also pages and pictures on how I would use this in a classroom and how I set up centers. Honestly, it is a lifesaver! I have a {FREEBIE} in my TPT store to sample what centers are like. Go check it out today!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Patterns, Patterns, Everywhere!

Hi everyone, it is Jane checking in with a few ideas for teaching patterns in math.  I just moved down to grade two from grade five so it has been a bit of an adjustment. A nice one though!  One of the pros of moving to grade two has been all the hugs you receive in the run of the day but one of the cons is that I am now battling a cold.  Not only am I teaching about patterns but also how to cover our mouths when we sneeze.  Anyway back to patterns and a few ideas I found for teaching them that I hope may help your students.

1.  BrainPop Jr.

If you are a subscriber to BrainPop Jr. there is a great introductory video about patterns you can show to introduce patterns.   

2.  Anchor charts

I don't know about you but I love looking on Pinterest for ideas for my anchor charts.  Here are two great ones you can use to help design your own chart.  I used the first one to introduce repeating patterns and the second one to tell about attributes.

3.  Games

My students loved playing "Pattern Whackers".  I divided the class into two teams and gave each team a fly swatter that I had purchased at the local dollar store.  On my whiteboard I had the following pattern cards and when I described the pattern using letters (for example ABBC) the first student to whack the corresponding picture pattern won a point for their team.  It was a great way to get all students engaged and looking for the picture cards.  When I am feeling better I will add them to my TPT store here.
Pattern Whackers
 Another great game is to hide pattern cards around your class and then put your students in groups of two to "Solve the Room".  You can get a blank solve the room recording sheet here.

4.  Fast Finishers

For my students who finished their work early I made them blank pattern booklets for them to create their own patterns using the knowledge we had learned throughout the week.  To get a copy of this freebie click here.

My Pattern Book
If you have any pattern activities that you have used with your students I would love to hear about them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fabulous Field Trips

Hey there!  It's Alison from Ms. Lilypad's Primary Pond.  It's feeling more like fall every day where I live, and fall always makes me think of...FIELD TRIPS!

I'm a reading specialist now, so I don't have the privilege of accompanying kiddos on field trips anymore.  I definitely miss the annual pumpkin farm trip with my Kinders, but I don't miss the stress of keeping track of the little ones all day long!  I was always so exhausted afterward!

If you are planning field trips for this school year, you may want to get started now!  I always found that things book up quickly (especially the pumpkin farm trip), so I tried to plan in advance.  Here are some tips for planning a successful field trip:

- Plan ahead.  Decide (preferably at the beginning of the school year) where and when you want to go.  Think about your curriculum and what units you will teach when, as well as the weather and how much funding (if any) you will receive for your trips.

- Be creative with funding!  Many PTAs will sponsor field trips.  If this is not an option, go out into your community.  Ask the farm, zoo, or wherever you want to go if they will cover the cost of your trip.  They may be more willing to do so if you are at a low income school.  Ask (with your principal's permission) businesses in the community if they would be willing to sponsor a trip.  Hey, it never hurts to ask, right?!

- When you are planning, write everything down!  Make sure you write down the names of the people you talk to, times, rules about bus parking, if you can bring sack lunches, etc.  I always think I will remember things...and then I don't.  Write it down just to be safe!

- Call a week or two before the trip to confirm!  Businesses close, employees leave, you name it - it can happen.

- Be clear about the rules when asking parents to volunteer.  I always had my parents sign an agreement.  Depending upon your school, you may need to consider things like whether or not they are allowed to purchase things for their child while they are there, sharing food with children who are not their own, etc.

- Prepare an emergency backpack/bag.  Your school nurse may have Epi pens or other medication that you will need to take with you.  You may also want to bring hand sanitizer, bandaids, break-and-use ice packs, plastic baggies, sunscreen, water, emergency phone numbers, paper and pen, or other items with you.  Make the bag in advance...I am so guilty of throwing everything together the morning of the trip!

What great tips do you have for planning fabulous field trips?  Comment below!  And if you'd like a free field trip planning packet (with planning sheets, printable name tags, parent letters, and more), click on the picture to download for free.  Happy field tripping!

Friday, September 19, 2014

To snack or not to snack..that is the question!

Hello!  It's me again, Hilary from Second Grade is Out of This World!  
So, do you have snack time at your school?  In our building it is up to us whether to have a snack time or not.  In second grade, we all do. We always ask for "healthy" snacks.  Each person has a different interpretation of "healthy" though,  so I had kiddos bringing in cookies, candy bars, and even entire meals! Being the snack police got old really fast!  Not to mention dealing with the backlash if I didn't let the kiddos have their particular snack for the day.  So, this year I implemented a Fruit or Vegetable only snack.  I do allow for fruit cups and/or applesauce.  This has made my snack time a much happier time in my classroom as the kiddos know if it not a fruit or veggie they can't have it at snack time!   This also has helped with allergy worries.  At first I was very reluctant, but I haven't had any issues! Hurrah! What do you do at your school? Here is a freebie snack note if you are interested!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Week

One of my favorite weeks during the school year is my apple week unit.

1. Because peanut butter and apple slices are one of my favorite snacks.
2. I love anything APPLE scented. If you send me apple candles or bake me an apple pie, I just might be your BFF. :-)

Quickly, here are a few of my favorite activities.

First, I gotta to have my famous apple tree bulletin board.

We count how many apples tall we are and graph the results. 

We conducted the "Germy Apple" experiment and draw the daily observations. This was a neat freebie I found on TpT. 

Here is an apple week freebie for you!

Want to hear more about my classroom shenanigans and apple goodness? Visit me at