Best Vocab-Building Book: Fancy Nancy

I’m obsessed with kids books… especially picture books. I have heard about Fancy Nancy (by Jane O’Connor) for a few years now, but I recently “tested them out” and read through a few of them.

OH. MY. WORD.

They’re awesome! Not only are the illustrations adorable, but the voice in them is full of fun personality, AAAAAND she uses awesome vocabulary!  So, now my toddler has been going around calling purple “fuchsia” and cupcakes “delectable”. (Yeah, what kid under 3 has THAT kind of vocabulary?! Thank you, Fancy Nancy!) Here’s an example:

Most of the beginning reader books have a page of “fancy words” in them. My toddler insists on reading this page too (because it has a cute illustration?) so we get a vocab review at the end of the story and I don’t even have to ask for it! WIN WIN!

Click here to grab a copy for your classroom (and get started expanding your students’ vocabulary without even trying!):


(This is the one I took pictures of above!)


(This is the original Fancy Nancy book.)

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Close Reading Trick – Side Loading Dry Erase Sleeves!

I received free products from Oriental Trading Company in exchange for sharing my thoughts on this blog.

Close reading is all the rage right now. My team and I have read several books about how to make it happen effectively. We specifically focused on the sign posts for close reading book. I recommend this book for 4-6 grade teacher.  After reading about how powerful close reading can be, I wanted to have my students mark up their pages with questions, comments, and symbols. I wasn’t very successful though because writing in textbooks is a big no no! People suggested sheet protectors and all kinds of things, but they don’t work with textbooks unless you rip out the pages.

I have finally found a solution! (Que the applause!!)

SIDE LOADING dry erase sleeves!I found these horizontal sleeves from Oriental Trading Company that slide on SIDEWAYS onto the page.   This is perfect because the kids can do all the marking with a dry erase marker, and then turn in the sleeve so I can look at it later.  It also leaves the textbook in tact and bound. I think this is a major win-win! Click here to check them out.

Please comment below if you’ve got other close reading tips! I’m always on the lookout!

Get to Know Your Reading Buddy/Neighbor

My Neighbor sticker When I was in elementary school, my class was always partnered with another class so we could do “Reading Buddies.” My school always partnered a younger grade class with an upper grade class so we could get together and read each month. This provided us a unique opportunity to read to/listen to another student. Each kid was assigned a kid from the other class and we were partners the whole year. We occasionally did a craft or something with our reading buddies as well. Anyway, it was fun to get to know my partner as the year went on.

My Buddy sticker

This inspired me to make 2 little “get to know you” pages that teachers can use within their own classroom or between classrooms of students in an arrangement like “Reading Buddies.

Click here for the free printable: Get to Know Your Buddy and Get to Know Your Neighbor. Enjoy!

Colorful Balloons – Color Practice

Colorful Balloons stickerColors. I love them! Yup, I love them.

But they’re not just for fun. Most basic color words are kindergarten sight words (check out my free printable list) and being able to recognize color words is important for kids to be able to complete higher level tasks. Here’s my fun, but simple color word recognition:

Click here for the free printable PDF: Colorful balloons

Text Features Graphic Organizer

Check out the text features graphic organizer I made for We Are Teachers:

Text Feature previewClick here to go to the post on We Are Teachers and download the free printable.

Onomatopoeia Game for K-2

Onomatopeia PreviewI’m so thrilled to be blogging over at We Are Teachers! They’ve got tons of great ideas over there. My third post was an onomatopoeia game for grades K-2. It’s a really simple idea, but your kids will love it!

Click here to view my post and get the printable!

Write On Plastic Pocket Charts

Check out this cool idea a reader submitted. It’s simple, but genius!
If you use a pocket chart to hold vocabulary words, you can diagram them right on the pocket! Use an overhead marker or a whiteboard marker to diagram words onto the clear front pocket of the chart! This way, you can leave it up for the week while you’re focusing on a specific principle, and you don’t have to write on the word strip.
pocket charts
Have any other great ideas?  Send them to me (squareheadteachers at gmail dot com) and I’ll post them on this blog! Thanks!
pocket charts 2

Reading Groups Named After Pets

I’ve heard all kinds of debate about whether to name leveled groups using colors, animals, etc. One year, my guided reading groups were all animals, which I didn’t think would be a problem. But I had a fellow teacher criticize my naming of groups because “6th graders are too old for animal groups.”
A friend showed me this idea that I really like. The reading groups were named after pets that the teacher had owned over the years. One of the pets was a dog named coco. The group wasn’t called “the Cocos”, but were called “Coco’s Team”  or “Team Coco” so that the students were team members rather than animals.  (Since the theme was pets, the teacher also chose a weekly “Top Dog Reader” to spotlight good work or improvement.)
Reading Group Names
I thought this would be a clever way to help your students get to know you while helping with the group naming situation. I’m definitely trying this in the future.
Have a great idea? Send it to me (squareheadteachers at gmail dot com) and I’ll post it so other teachers can benefit. Thanks!