Thursday, August 28, 2014

Does Spelling Matter?

According to my mother, "Yes, because for accurate communication you need to know how to spell, and if you can't spell you get frustrated because you can't put what you want to say into words." Wise woman!

There are three methodologies when it comes to spelling~
1. Phonemic Spelling (understanding the relationship between letters and sounds)
2. Whole Word Approach (not all words in the English language
can be spelled correctly using letter-sound correspondence)
3. Morphemic Spelling (writing phonetically)

Learning to read and spell is not natural. Written language has only been in existence for 10,000 years. Teaching spelling should be explicit and intentional because (to a certain extent) some spelling in the English language follows patterns and these patterns can be learned.

The most common problems in spelling according to Dr. Louisa Moats (1996), are
• Consonant blends
• Short vowel representation
• Vowel + r, vowel + l
• Nasal sounds after vowels
• Inflectional endings and ending rules
• Spelling of unaccented syllables
• Oddities – words without families

        Before we can tackle spelling successfully, a student has to understand phoneme identity and segmentation. So we must ensure that our students have a strong foundation in phonological awareness--or the sounds letters make.
      English is a deep, alphabetic system—we spell by sound and meaning. This is why students need the explicit teaching of phonics. They need to know how words sound (phonologically), how they look visually, how they can change form and meaning (morphemic), and where our words come from (etymology).         
           In phonics and spelling lessons, teachers help students connect the phonemes in spoken words to the graphemes in written words. Poor phonemic awareness or a lack of knowledge of the letter-sound relationship, leads to a deficit in spelling. If students are not able to accurately count phonemes, then they cannot remember and understand the spellings of words. This would lead a child to try to memorize word spellings, which is a much more arduous task. According to Dr. Moats, “because words are not visually distinctive, it is impossible for children to memorize more than a few dozen words unless they have developed insights into how letters and sounds correspond (Moats, 2005).”  
             One way teachers can apply this knowledge in instruction is to help students understand the etymology, or origin and history of words. Etymological knowledge assists students to remember the consistencies in the many irregularities of the English language, which then help students to spell correctly and with automaticity. An example of this would be to have students sort words such as words that have –ge for the /zh/ sound like the word “beige”, -s for the /z/ sound like the word “trees” and have them decide the etymology of the word.
            Teachers can assist students with strengthening phonics skills by having students be aware of the movements their mouths make when they create sounds. This task would reinforce the phonological working memory to intensify the marriage of letter-sound relationships. We should have students spell by analyzing sounds. If we ask a student to “sound it out” without going to a deeper level we are doing that student a disservice. If the student was unable to correctly identify a sound, we should guide that student to see his or her mouth is moving differently to make the sound using mirrors as a tool. This would lead the student to make less spelling errors because students would develop fluency with the code. According to Ehri, “To read new words in and out of text, children need to be taught how to decode the words’ spellings” (Ehri, 2004).
            Spelling is a deep process. A student must know and understand word structure, word origin, and word meaning in order to be an effective speller. 

Works Cited

Ehri, L. (2004). Teaching phonemic awareness and phonics. In P. McCardle & V. Chhabra (Eds.), The voice of evidence in reading research (pp. 153–186). Baltimore: Paul Brookes.

Moats, L. (2005).  How spelling supports reading. American Educator, Winter 2005/06, 12-43.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hello Friends!

Hello Darlin’it’s been a loooonnnggg time!

I took a little bloggy break for the soul. 

So what’s up? 

My husband Ben is getting ready to start the school year and I have been his assistant when it comes to getting his classroom ready. 

He had three small sized bulletin boards in his classroom, and three monster sized ones in the hall. Seriously I have never seen any boards this HUGE. So I worked my fairy magic a la Sookie Stackhouse but less dramatic and voila.

 This one we are adding clothespins to display student art work.

This one is still a work in progress.

Harrison also helped decorate daddy's room!

I have also been spending some time becoming a crunchy mama. I always thought granola crunchers were a little eccentricbut over the past year we have slowly made the transition to a healthier lifestyle as a family. This includes making our own whole wheat bread, growing a garden from heirloom seeds, eating more “raw” food, throwing soda and any sugary drinks out the door and making my own shampoo/conditioner. 

As a family, all three of us began to suffer from some health issues. My husband was always an exerciser but he added running to his routine. I began to walk/run but have been a slacker as of late. We really tried hard to get our son to try more new and healthier foods. That has been the biggest challenge. I found one way to do it is to dare him to take one bite. 

Then he usually decides it is delicious and eats more or he decides “no way.” Either way, at least he got a bite of something healthy!

While we focus on healthy and raw foods, of course we have our cheat days. We are only human!

My husband makes whole wheat bread and it tastes soooo different from store bought that it is almost addicting!

The best part is when it is fresh from the oven and butter melts on it.

We also began to make smoothies using Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. When we go to the store we try our best to buy organic and we are also able to supplement with items from our garden.

My husband began gardening about three years ago. He buys heirloom seeds and does not use any chemicals on our plants. I never had food so delicious. And it tastes chemical free like mother nature intended!

He also makes granola for us to sprinkle in our Greek yogurt. We add fresh fruit to it and sometimes organic honey. Yummo!

I have most recently decided to become a “no-pooer” and say bye to store-bought shampoo and conditioner. I thought I was doing alright by using baby shampoo but when I read the ingredient list I decided to go more natural. I saw lots of blog pics of no-pooers and decided to try it. My hair is baby soft, does not smell funky, and is very healthy. I use baking soda with sweet orange essential oil (100% pure) to shampoo my hair and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner rinse. Two years ago when I was getting my Master’s and working non-stop I was very stressed and NOT taking any care of myself as far as healthy choices. My hair was a frizz ball. Now I have no frizz or tangles and I love how it makes my life easier.

Some things we buy like Tom’s of Maine toothpaste (the one without fluoride) and Kiss My Face aluminum-free deodorant. Here is something I notice about the toothpastemy breath stays fresh longer because of the peppermint oil.

Yes, we still use regular soapI don’t feel like taking up soap making just yet!

If I could I would totally have chickens for eggsbut that would be something else to maintain.

I have been making banana/honey facial masks, using organic coconut oil as a moisturizer and apple cider vinegar for a toner. I save a lot of money this way, too. I found a web site that I really like for recipes and health/beauty stuff. It is called Deliciously Ella.

The biggest change we made was giving up soda and juices. We had a BAD addiction. We began by switching to only clear sodas. Then we switched to only water. You can add any kind of flavor or fruit to it. Like I said, we are not obsessive about it so if we go out for a special occasion we still order plain tea or Sprite. I lost a lot of weight by just cutting out soda.

So far I am down 30 lbs. and hubby lost 50 lbs.

           (or at least I try to!)

I am not here to preach and I know some people may see our switches as unorthodoxbut it works for us and is not harming anyone. We are healthier as a family unit and I love it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reading Logs

Sharing some reading log templates a friend sent me. These are not my own creations, but in the spirit of teacher sharing, I share. :) The clip art is from You can download the reading logs HERE. 

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Teacher Talk

Teacher inquiry is a great tool to start off your school 
year on the right foot. I asked myself three questions 
before school started~

1.         What teaching strategies will help my students? 

        I was told one year by an administrator, “We don’t want to say teach to the test, but teach to the test.” 

       Can I tell you a secret? This is when you nod your head. BUT do you really want your students to learn or just know how to pass a test? If they have authentic knowledge and critical thinking skills, they will be able to pass that test no matter what!

       So I say get them ready for life, not for a test.

2.       What is important given where my students are at?
I always tried to see their data from the year before so I could see what areas we 
  would need to review at the beginning of the year.

 I did not want to start off assessing my students the first few weeks of school. That is when they should be adjusting and learning how to navigate their new grade-level IMO. Trust me-- there will be lots of assessment in the future.

3.       What are my priorities for teaching and learning? What are the must-do’s vs. the can-do’s? Prioritizing is very important. I am a type A and OCD person so I want to do it all at once.

I usually just end up exhausting everyone around me. So I had to make a list. What did I think was the most important items I wanted to tackle within the first few weeks? I decided on procedures, but go with what works for you! 

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

RtI-Response to Intervention

Your school may already use the concept of RtI or Response to Intervention, or you may have heard about RtI and wondered what it was.
RtI was developed in the late 1970s by researchers looking for methods to identify students with learning disabilities that did not respond to regular educational methods from those students who were struggling but did not need intensive intervention. RtI became reauthorized in 2004 under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
RtI is a 3 tiered system model. It has expanded in education to be more than just something used to identify certain students and now it is utilized to help identify all students. They fit into the three tiers. Students can move up downward in tiers but we do not want them to go backward. For example, a tier 3 student can move into tier 2.
Educators determine which tier a student fits into based on continual assessments, or progress monitoring.

This is what the RtI model looks like.

Tier 1 students are roughly on grade level or above. Tier 1 students receive the core instructional program (whatever your curriculum is) along with small group instruction/guided reading. This usually means 90-120 minutes daily of reading instruction or activities. These students can be progress monitored about once a month.

Tier 2 students need additional support. These students are often referred to as your “bubble kids” since some of them are near tier 1 but not quite yet ready. I recommend progress monitoring these students every other week. Tier 2 students need the core of 90-120 minutes daily of reading instruction/activities plus an additional 15-30 minutes daily.
Tier 3 students are your students who do not make expected progress through the support of tier 2 interventions, or those that fall way below the benchmark. I would progress monitor these students once a week if possible. Tier 3 students need individualized and intensive interventions. One-on-one time is preferred. Now these students need the 90-120 minutes daily of reading/literacy activities and instruction plus an additional 30-90 minutes on top of that.

I know it sounds like a lot BUT literacy centers, small group, guided reading, silent reading, writing, read-alouds, phonics, etc. all go toward that time. And so does time with an ESL/ELL teacher, Title I teacher, Instructional/Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist. Every little bit counts!!!

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Floor attack

This is day two of me staying at home. Homeschool does not start for a week and a half. Six years ago I was a stay-at-home mom and then I returned to teaching. Now I am staying at home again this year and homeschooling my 4th grader. Today I really set a goal of cleaning our floor. I know it sounds like no big whoop, but our house is 80 percent ceramic tile with grout. The rest of it is wood flooring. And we have pets. So I scrubbed it good, and looked around feeling like I had accomplished nothing since I only had the kitchen done and still had to attack the hall, living room and bathroom. I chugged some bottled water, ended up telling my dog “F being a housewife” and then continued on. Then I got the steam mop (my new bff) out and completed my job of attacking the ceramic flooring. Now my floor is clean enough to eat off of (but why would you?). And hopefully I sweated off a few pounds.
I have never been a domestic goddess. My mom taught me how to cook, clean and I had home ec in school BUT I never got the hang of any of that. I can bake and that is about it. I sew crooked, sometimes use too much bleach in the laundry and I am guilty of vacuuming Legos. J

Tina Winkle

Sunday, August 3, 2014

It's alive!!!

Imagine I just said that in my mad scientist voice. I am so excited! I just posted my first ever freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers!

You can snag it here! 

And please follow my store if you have a TPT account. I am such a dork I had to do a screenshot of course!

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