Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Now Available: Beginning Consonant Blends Mega-Pack

The Beginning Consonant Blends MegaPack: Bingo, Stories, Poems, Sorts, & Much More! is now available in the Tally Tales TPT store. I intended to share details about this product a couple of months ago, when I actually finished it, but that didn't quite happen. This blends mega pack is the biggest product I have created so far, and I am excited to share a few details about it here.

In all, it contains activities that include s-blends, r-blends, l-blends, w-blends, and trigraphs (you may refer to them as clusters). All of the activities within the product range in difficulty, so the entire packet would be useful, whether you are working with beginning readers who are just starting to learn about blends, or with more advanced readers who need extended practice or review. I really wanted to create a product that would provide options for use with a variety of age groups or learning styles. I intend to use it myself, and since I work with students of all ages, I need products that are easily adaptable or differentiated.

Here are details and preview images of some of the activities available within this product.
  • Word list reference guides for each blend type as well as flashcards with images and text blends beneath each image
  •  Bingo games for each blend type with materials (spinners and game cards) for up to four players
  • Picture cards for a blend matching activity that may be used with either clothespins or dry-erase markers (if laminated) 
  •  Cut-and-paste practice pages
  • Sorting activities and tree map organizers on which students can record results from the sorts.
  •  Differentiated reading passages that feature each blend type.
I think I am most pleased with the reading passages. I composed them all myself, and once again, they are differentiated to meet the needs of readers at various stages of development. Short poetry samples are included for younger or more dependent readers, while longer reading passages are more suitable for intermediate readers. I also included drill word cards that correspond to each reading passage. This is intended to provide an opportunity for students to practice fluency with beginning blends within a reading context, thereby extending application slightly beyond isolated blend activities.

If interested, you can access this entire packet here! As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to share those with me. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

2 Months Already!?!

Ambree Kate is now two months old! I can't believe it. It's strange, because in a way, it seems like it was so long ago that we brought her home, but at the same time, it seems as though there is no way she could possibly be two months old already. Having a baby has been quite a life-altering experience, but I would expect nothing less of such a sweet little miracle. Here are a few updates on our sweet baby girl and her second month of life here.

The weather has been surprisingly wintery here in northeast Mississippi this year. We have had multiple snowy/icy days around here. I did not bundle Ambree Kate up to take her out in the cold, but she did watch the snow fall from inside the warm house.

We have enjoyed some sweet cuddle time. I cannot believe my maternity leave is almost over. I don't know how I'll manage a whole workday without being about to kiss this sweet girl.

This girl loves her bath time. She just looks around and enjoys that warm water. I like bundling her up in her towel afterward… such sweet moments!

I think she is already a daddy's girl, and I wouldn't have it any other way! It is such a sweet thing to see your husband as a father. Russ is incredible with Ambree Kate, and some of my most priceless moments have been spent watching him tend to her.

Braxton has adjusted well to having Ambree Kate at home. He watches over her and checks on her when she cries. I think they will be good buddies in the not-so-distant future.

Now, this is my favorite part of the update. Do you see the start of this chubby little leg roll? This is a recent development. After having so much trouble with baby reflux, transitioning to formula (we had to use a soy formula), and struggling with weight gain, I am proud to share that Ambree Kate is finally beginning to gain a little weight! We are on our last pack of newborn diapers, and we have actually had to put away some of the newborn outfits because they have gotten too snug. Needless to say, I am pretty proud of that chubby little leg!

All in all, this little girl is full of life- wiggles, kicks, smiles, and all! Happy 2-month birthday, sweet girl!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Whole Brain Teaching: Air Punctuation

In a recent training, I learned about air punctuation and how to use it to help enrich your students' experience with print. It fits wonderfully into my multi-sensory teaching techniques, but any teacher can incorporate these simple (but highly effective) concepts into daily classroom instruction.

It's pretty difficult to describe how to use air punctuation in print. So I've included the same videos here that were shared at our training session. It's pretty self-explanatory, and I hope you'll take a few minutes to view these videos and learn more about air punctuation if it's new to you.

In this video, teachers explain and demonstrate various components of air punctuation.

In this precious video, first grade students use these concepts of air punctuation to compose an oral essay. I love this video, because you can see the energy and enthusiasm that air punctuation brings to the classroom for these students. 

I have always incorporated various components of Whole Brain Teaching into my daily instruction, but air punctuation was new for me. After our training session, I immediately carried these concepts back to my classroom. My students loved it immediately. We use air punctuation each time we work on our sentence anagrams, and it provides such a rich opportunity for them to experience print.

What do you think? Can you use air punctuation with your students?

For more information about other aspects of whole brain teaching, go to

Monday, March 2, 2015

Because Even the Quiet Changes with Time...

We bought one of those fancy baby monitors that sounds an alarm if movement goes undetected for an extended period of time. We even managed to make it work in the moses basket, because of course I am not letting this baby sleep in her crib yet. That is a whole room away… No, she sleeps beside our bed, where I can hear her while she sleeps. When I drift off, I sleep better knowing that I will hear that alarm sound if anything, God forbid, goes very wrong in the night.

The new-mommy me has learned a lot about listening- even while I sleep.

I listen for sounds from baby girl -sweet coos, hungry cries, painful whimpers… I listen for it all. I listen  to the doctor's orders. I listen to advice from mommy friends who often tell me more than any specialist or book ever could. I listen to my mom, probably more now than I ever have in my life.

But in those quiet, middle-of-the-night moments when it's just me and baby girl, or those precious periods of rest, I listen with all my heart and soul for a breath of heaven, leading me on through all this newness of mommy life.

Christians are notorious for referring to our "quiet time." It means different things to different people, I suppose, but I think it really has become a catch phrase for one's time spend alone in the Word, studying and meditating. I have struggled with the whole notion of a "quiet time" since I have had a newborn in the house.

I have struggled with the time, and I have certainly struggled with the quiet.

But I am gradually beginning to learn something about these so-called "quiet times." My own quiet time looks completely different these days. So different, in fact, that I thought I was failing here. I thought I was abandoning my time with my savior.

But then I realized something… those verses on the refrigerator or scribbled on a notepad have helped me read the Word in a completely new, altogether dependent way. Those sleepy hours of whispered prayers for comfort or direction or peace from this new-mom anxiety have been pleas from the depth of my soul. And all that listening? Well, all that listening comes from some of the most precious moments of quiet I have ever experienced.

It's true - even the quiet has changed for me. Even the silence is different. But it is this silence - this quiet- that is changing me the most. 

Of course, I don't mean to discredit those free hours of Bible study. Uninterrupted time spend in the Word was a sweet thing for me, and at times I have longed for the privilege of a typical "quiet time" again. But I am learning that you grow differently at different stages of life, and this kind of quiet, allotted sparingly to me now, is my saving grace.

After all, God can redeem even the smallest of moments for His glory and our gain.

So I continue listening for anything that may awaken my heart to a crucial moment - be it an alarm or a whisper in the night. I will listen, and I will let any sweet sound carry me now, until the quiet changes - and changes me - once again.

"Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me…" ~John 11:41-42

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Using Anagrams to Construct and Develop Sentences

In a recent LETRS training, our instructor shared a wonderful activity for helping students develop their awareness of word order in constructing sentences. She introduced the idea of sentence anagrams, an activity in which students examine words and rearrange them in a logical order to create a sentence. I have begun using this exercise with my students, and while it proves to be challenging at times, they love it. I simply write the words on small notecards (I usually cut the cards to conserve paper) and place the words on the table in a random order. They immediately begin playing with the words and possible word orders. It's amazing how intensely they focus on this sentence-building exercise.

I always use words within the sentences that reflect the current phonics skill we are studying for reading/spelling. The wonderful part about this activity is that it provides fluency with reading and application of the particular phonics pattern, without any anxiety that struggling writers may experience in a standard dictation exercise. I still use dictation regularly, but it is used in conjunction with sentence anagrams as well.

Here are two images of sentences from different grade level classes. This shows how even basic sentences can be used as anagrams with younger students compared to more complex sentences for older students.

I take these anagrams one step further by providing students with blank notecards, on which they write a word they would add to the sentence. Sometimes I specify which part of speech I would like for them to add, (adjective, adverb, etc.) while at other times I give them complete freedom to experiment. Again, they love this. Not only does it help personalize the activity for them, but they have so much fun combining their ideas to create silly -but still grammatically sensible- sentences.

I usually give my students markers with which to write their words, and we note the fact that their descriptive words make the sentence more colorful. In the images below, you can see how a few students began to expand the original sentences with their colorful words.

You can easily incorporate this concept into your daily instruction with small groups! It takes little preparation, and once you establish the routine of the activity, most of the "work" is done by the students.

For those of you who teach younger children, I have a pre-made option available in the Tally Tales TPT store that could be used as a center or independent learning activity for young readers and writers. This activity pack, "Sentence Building and Using Details to Write Stronger Sentences" builds upon the concept of sentence anagrams, but is particularly appropriate for use with smaller children.

This product contains a variety of colorful pictures with corresponding word cards for building a sentence. While not necessary when working with older students, the pictures are particularly supportive for young learners who are in the foundational stages of writing and constructing meaning through print.
These are all ready to print, cut, and laminate for a center full of sentence anagrams! Of course, you could also pull them to use as a tool in small group instruction.
In addition, I have provided a word bank to which students may refer when writing their own sentences.
 I also included posters for "I can" statements that correspond to this activity.
I hope this post will be helpful to you! I would love to hear about your experience with sentence anagrams, should you choose to incorporate them into your daily instruction. Good luck! :)