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Ideas for Using Word Banks

"How do you spell cow?"... "How do you spell horse?" ..."How do you spell barn?"...

If you're a teacher, chances are you have spelled a LOT of words. You've probably said "sound it out" and "stretch it out" and "what sound do you hear first" and "what words do you know like that word" until you thought you were going crazy! Kudos to you if you used those cues, but sometimes it is very, very, very helpful to have a word bank!

Kids love word banks! Word banks encourage them to write new vocabulary words they may not have used before. They give kids the confidence to write words they could not spell on their own. They include words with phonics and spelling patterns you may not have introduced yet. Word banks also allow them to begin editing their work by checking their spelling.

Teachers love word banks! Word banks allow you to focus on your small group without leaving your independent kids flailing in deep end of the writing pool. Providing word banks introduces kids to a strategy for checking the spelling of unknown words (like how I text myself to see if I am mispelling something). Word banks also provide inspiration for students who struggle with a topic or details.

With my little ones, I like to use word banks that have pictures to match every word. With young writers, there is a good chance that if they can't spell it, they might not be able read it in a list of words. Pictures help them find the word and support them when they are illustrating.

Here are some of the ways teachers are using word banks in their classroom.

Classroom Posters
You can create beautiful anchor charts for your classroom. These posters can be permanent displays or they can be updated with changing seasons and themes. They are perfect for Read the Room activities too!

Writer's Notebooks
You can glue word banks into your students' writing notebooks. This provides them with support as they are writing about new topics. They can always go back to the word bank to practice reading words or spelling words.

Classroom Word Book
A classroom word book is a simple and effective way to keep all of your word banks organized and ready for kids! Just put each page into a page projector and then put them in a binder. Kids can flip through the pages to find the words that need. You can glue ribbons to the back of the binder to create page markers.

You can keep your Classroom Word Book at your writing center. Some teachers choose to make several copies for their classroom so fewer students have to share.

Writing Center
Setting up a new writing center has never been easier! Simply choose a topic for your little writers and add the matching word bank! You can attach the word banks to a bulletin board, put them inside clear plastic frames, or glue them on the outside of a folder.

If you want to add something special, you can dress up your center with decorations, pencils from the Dollar Spot, or cute papers. Here are some of my favorite writing centers:

Word Folders
Word folders are portable word banks. Writers can grab the folder they need, take it to their seat for writing, and then return it when they are finished. You can get this Family Word Bank for free here.

Here are a few more examples of word banks for your classroom!

3 Ways to Help Kids Do Their Best

Did you ever say something totally unplanned while teaching that really stuck with your kids? For me it was the expression "stick figures in a hurricane!" I have used those words again and again, year after year, but here is how it started....
I was talking to my class about doing their personal best work, taking their time, making their pictures match their words, yada yada yada. To emphasize my point, I was modeling how carelessly some of them were working. "If I only look at your picture, it looks like you are writing about stick figures in a hurricane!" I quickly drew a stick figure and scribbled all over it. They all giggled and insisted they NEVER do that, but the example stuck with them.  I made a big X over the picture and hung it on the board. Eventually there was a whole collection of stick figures in hurricanes hanging on that board.  During inside recess, the kids would crack themselves up as they would draw them and then beg me to add them to the board.
They were being silly at recess, but the expression worked. When they were illustrating their work, I could sometimes hear them say "NO stick figures in a hurricane!" They would concentrate on making a meaningful pictures, adding details, and coloring carefully.

Here are 3 simple tricks to avoid having stick figures in hurricanes:

I have found that you really have to TEACH kids how to do their personal best work. Each year I make best work anchor charts with my class. We talk about the characteristics of our best work. I like using I can statements because it emphasizes the fact that they CAN do it! This one is for illustrations:

We spend a lot of time practicing how to do our best work. Spending time practicing our personal best is just as important as practicing any other classroom routine! You can get the anchor chart and all of the practice pages here.

I will model how to do our personal best throughout the year. One of my favorite ways is to make an example and a non-example right in front of the kids. Before I pass out a paper to my kiddos, I will hang two of the papers on the board.  I will carefully write and color on one of them. I work at the speed I would really work if I needed to turn the sample into someone, which is actually rather slow. (You don't have to finish it, just do enough so they get the idea.) I will write and scribble on the other really quickly. Be prepared for giggles- it's so funny to watch a teacher be messy!
I take a step back and ask the kiddos which one is my personal best. Of course, they will all point to the neat paper. "But I got done first with this one! What is wrong with it?" I will say as I point to the non-example. Be prepared for the world's most brutal critics! They will tell you how it looks terrible, how you didn't even try, how you were rushing, and how it's the messiest thing they ever saw in their whole entire 6 years of life.

3. LIE
What??? That's right- sometimes a little lie can work wonders! I usually use these fibs when I am trying to encourage  my kiddos to do their best. Here are two of my favorite best work lies that work like a charm:

I was talking to my friend Mrs. B, who teaches 6th grade, and she saw your work on your desks. She said it is better than some 6th grade work! Can you believe it???

Can I take a picture of  you working?  I save pictures of kids doing their personal best in a special album... No sorry, you can't see it right now. It's at my house.

What do I do with all those beautiful papers I get? I put them in the Best Work Basket! I keep in on my counter. When I see someone who has done their personal best, I let them put their paper in the basket. At the end of the week I pull out 3 or 4 papers and those kids get to eat lunch in the classroom with me! You can grab the basket labels for free here.

I Solemnly Swear Your Class Can Listen!

Teaching is tough! Some days it feels like you say the same thing again and again and again...and yet again! Does anyone in this room even know I am up here talking??

I have a little secret that I have been using for years! It works like a charm when you have an important message to deliver that you need every pair of ears to hear. Part of the magic of this trick is humor and part of the magic is novelty. (It's like my favorite teacher t-shirt, I LOVE it but I'm not going to wear it every day- it will get worn out fast!)

This trick requires no preparation, no prizes, and no shouting over 24 voices. Here is an easy step-by-step guide to get your entire class to really listen at the same time!

Step 1: Face your class and have everyone stand up
Step 2: Tell kids to raise their right hands. (Say "no other right hand" "Switch hands" "That's still your left")
Step 3: Turn around and model which one is the right hand
Step 4: Tell your students "Repeat after me."
Step 5: Begin with "I, first grader" or "I, third grader" or whatever
Step 6:  Add "do solemnly swear..."
Step 7: Finish with exactly what you want them to do. Remember to break the direction into pieces so they can repeat you!

I also discuss with my class about what it means to take an oath. An oath is a promise so by repeating the oath they are agreeing to follow the direction. We talk about the consequence if someone does not follow the oath. So if you still get covered in mud because you were not following the line, there will be a consequence. #dontruinmyrug Every once in a while, I just make the oath funny. They love it, and it ensures that they want to listen each time I start a new oath.
Am I a proud that I make kids take a oath to bring me Snickers every October? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have kids in 5th grade who still bring me Snickers the day after trick or treat! I solemnly swear that I will love them forever!

So if you're tired of shouting or you feel like half of your class isn't listening, try making them take an oath! Let me know if try it out and how it goes!

A Giveaway to Make You Smile

Get ready to smile teacher friends! I am partnering with Scholastic Printables for an amazing teacher giveaway!

When I first discovered Scholastic Printables, I didn't know if the resources would match my teaching style. Engagement has always been essential in my classroom. I like to see kids playing and creating and involved in their learning. I am not a cookie-cutter-worksheet kinda teacher, but I found that Scholastic Printables has fabulous resources for teachers and kids! I wanted to share some of my favorite things I found.

February is Dental Health month so I began by searching for some activities for teeth. You will not believe all of the amazing ideas and resources I discovered. Seriously, there are so many fabulous things so I'll just share a few.
How adorable is this A Mouthful of Math activity? I put my printable in a page protector and added a dry erase marker. The teeth are made with mini marshmallows. Kiddos can practice addition by adding the number of "teeth" on the top and the number of "teeth" on the bottom. You could also do subtraction, by pulling out the "teeth!" Future dentists everywhere will go crazy for this activity!

This experiment tests demonstrates what Icky Sticky substances do to teeth. I used marshmallows for my "teeth." For my sticky samples, I used peanut butter, honey, and pieces of gummy candy. For the non-sticky samples, I used carrots, yogurt, and dried fruit. I really like how to experiment asks kids to draw their own conclusions about how sticky foods effect their teeth.

All of the experiments come with a teacher guide, so you know exactly how to get the best results! I love being able to write notes on my plan and file it with the activity pages. This was just one of the science activities in this resource.

My library is lacking a lot of books about teeth so these printable books are perfect. I added post-its to the reading center so kids can write new facts, connections, and their favorite parts. I am going to laminate one complete set so I can keep them in my library all year. These books are ideal to send home too!

The posters and art projects  make an easy and colorful display for the theme! I adore this happy tooth. He would be great at a center or to use after reading a book about teeth!

You can download this Ali Gator money activity for free! It comes with the cutest little poem about the Tooth Fairy! I put an assortment of real coins out so kiddos can match the coins with the teeth. This would be great for guided math or for a center.

Those are just a couple of the awesome activities that I popped up in my search! There are thousands of skills sheets, activities, lesson plans and more. To start your free trial, you can click here.

The best part is that I am teaming up with Scholastic Printables to give away a FREE one year subscription! Just enter below for your chance to win this amazing prize! Just click on the rafflecopter below to enter! Good luck friends!

Delicious Valentines Please

Happy Valentine's Day friends! I've got some quick and delicious ideas for you to share the love with your little ones. Who doesn't LOVE food, right?

One of my best friends asked me to make some Valentine tags for her little guy who started preschool this year. We had a funny conversation about how much pressure parents feel to be sure that their children's Valentine treats are organic, free of artificial dyes, gluten free, dairy free, fun free, blah, blah, blah. Although she's devastated she won't be harvesting her fruit locally and canning it herself, she did decide to go with fruit pouches. If it's on Target's Cartwheel App, it has to be good!

I whipped up some tags for the preschool kids so it's a pretty low prep Valentine idea. You can grab the tags for FREE here. If you're a really rebellious parent, you could even attach them to fruit snacks or apple juice or something else with sugar in it.
Our local newspaper recently contacted me to see what we do to celebrate Valentine's Day with our children. With 3 little ones under 5, we don't get out much. I told the reporter that we usually make heart shaped pizza and a special red dessert at home. The teacher in me creates Valentine's Day activities and crafts and we read oodles of books about hugs and kisses and love. I love these activities because I can still rock my top knot and yoga pants (see pictures from last year for proof).
 A few days later, a photographer from the newspaper came to take pictures of our family enjoying Valentine's Day (in the middle of January). I had a little sorting activity for the kids. The goal was for them to use tongs or spoons to sort conversation hearts and then we could count and tally them. Lanie loved using her little spoon to sort each heart! Rusty must have thought the story was about how many conversation hearts a 4 year old could eat in 10 minutes so he really LOVED this activity! The next day I found him eating what I thought was cereal out of a bowl with a spoon. It was a bowl full of conversation hearts! #oops #hidethecandybetter

You can download the sorting and counting mats for FREE here.

I have one more food inspired Valentine's Day idea for you. At my school, teachers make Valentine boxes or bags with their class. I tried little boxes and bags in the past, but by always ended up being a bit of a mess. They either overflowed or ripped, or kids couldn't fit their valentines into the little openings.

A few years ago, I asked a local pizza restaurant to donate pizza boxes. They generously donated dozens of them. I drew a pizza sign that said "Special Delivery All of my Love." The kids colored the signs and glued them on the lid of each box. They wrote their names on the outside and inside of the lids. When it was time to pass out valentines they just opened their boxes. It was so easy to pass out the valentines, close the lid, and send home those "special deliveries!"

You can get the signs HERE! They work on any pizza box that has a lid larger than 8.5x11 inches. You can glue in on a piece of construction paper or scrapbook paper if you have big boxes to cover.

I hope you have a delicious Valentine's Day!

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