Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Integrating Technology during RTI: Whizzimo

Last year, I blogged about my favorite app to use during my small group instruction time. (Check out my old post here.) Let me tell you, it is so much more than just your usual app! This is an instructional tool to help you diversify the way you teach and save time. This app will save you time while engaging your students in meaningful instruction. I'll admit, I am a hard sell when it comes to apps. I tend to shy away overall. But Whizzimo is such an amazing resource, even the most timid techies out there should give it a try! 

When working with beginning readers and struggling readers, the research points to systematic, sequential phonics. Not every reading program in our schools has this (to the extent that my kiddos need.) When you are working with your intervention groups, these kids need plenty of opportunities to build, read, spell, and manipulate words. They need you to have a plan, specifically a sequential phonics program. Whizzimo has 300 pre-built workbooks filled with common phonics concepts that your kids need to master (CVC words, digraphs, blends, open syllables, closed syllables, silent e...)  


I haven't tried everything there is to offer with this app, but I'm going to share with you what I have been using. I plan on blogging more about this app as I explore it more so stay tuned! :) 

1. Teaching Tools 
First, I'll talk about the many activities you can do with this app.

The first thing I tried was the Workbook Tiles. I always include building and manipulating words into my small group lessons. It's such great practice for students and a great informal assessment for me. I have made my own letter tiles and still use those, but sometimes I don't want to deal with the mess and the time it takes to pass out the tiles and get them ready. Time saving tip #1 with Whizzimo: These tiles are ready to go with no set up or clean up required. If I'm low on time (which happens a lot,) I can just get this started with my small group. (On my own time, I can customize the color of the tiles and decide which tiles I want, but I'll talk about that later in this post.) 



Watch this 14 second video to see how easy it is!


Another activity you can use with Whizzimo is the flashcards. This is awesome because how much time and money have we spent making flashcards. These are unique in that you can change them! You can see the full word, break it up by onset and rime (pictured,) or break it up by sound. I especially love this with multi syllable words because you can break it up by syllable!!

Watch this three second video to see what I mean:



Whizzimo also provides word cards. Here, I'm working on triple blends. These word cards were already made for me, (although if I wanted to, I could create my own list as well.) Easy peasy word sorting. 


You could also do this with the word cards:




Did I mention the many ways that Whizzimo is customizable. I can go on and on about that. Here is  one way. I can decide how many word cards I want on the screen. 


Whizzimo also offers a little spelling quiz. Notice how it is still triple blends. That's because I am using one of the many Work Books that they have to offer. I want my students to be practicing triple blends with short vowels only. Whizzimo has this READY for me to use! Talk about a time saver! Here your students will push the button to hear the word, then they will build it. At the end, Whizzimo gives you a score. Awesome!




2. Word Lists
Just wait, it gets better. Word lists. How many times have you spend way too much time sitting around thinking of words? Too much! Now I just use Whizzimo. I'm telling you all- endless word lists at your fingertips! I finally took some time to sit down and see how this worked. I was surprised at how simple it was. I'm planning on doing another blog post just about these word lists because they are that awesome, but I'll give you a little peek. 
There are all sorts of filters to help you get just the list you are looking for. 



Once you've selected all the filters you need, Whizzimo comes up with a HUGE list. I was looking for two syllable words and look at this list I got!!! This is beyond time saving. No amount of time would help me come up with a list like this. 




3. Getting Started: Created and Managing your "Courses" 
So basically, if you really want to dive in, you can create courses. I think of these as my different reading groups. In this picture, you can see my courses to the right. 
The little picture shows what I see after I click on one of my courses. The picture below compares two different courses. For my 3rd grade group, I want to have workbooks focusing on multi-syllable words. My 1st grade group will only have workbooks with single syllable words.  


If I click on the workbook that says, "Closed syllable with 3 sounds including digraphs," I'm going to be provided with word lists and letter tiles  that match that. I won't have tiles with ea, wr, or anything like that. My word lists won't contain any words that will be beyond what is described. I LOVE this feature! It saves me time and focuses my instruction exactly how I need it. 



I will be blogging more about Whizzimo as I use it. I'll try to have shorter posts that focus on one particular aspect of this program. In the meantime, dive in! 

Check out the website, watch some videos, and give it a try!
Want a  10% discount? Enter Sarah during signup! 


Monday, February 15, 2016

Short Vowel Activities

Hi everyone! I spent my weekend doing some much needed organizing. I have spent the past three or four years organizing my short vowel materials in plastic gallon zip bags filled with smaller plastic bags. It serviced its purpose. I always knew where to find it. They were all together- short o in  a big bag, short a in another... I'd just grab the bag when I needed it and sift through what I wanted. Like I said, it worked. It started to drive me crazy though because I had so many materials and it was getting harder to sift through things.  Some things were also getting crunched. Worse of all was when my teacher friends would ask to borrow some materials and I had to politely ask them to close their eyes as I took things out of the baggies. Ha! I was motivated to organize this once and for all when my sweet kindergarten teacher at my school asked to look through some of my things. She is new to our school and she is amazing and wonderful. Of course I want to share! But wait, my stuff isn't other-teacher-besides-me-user-friendly. Thanks to her, I am now super happily organized. Now she can just grab a binder to look through things and grab what she needs. And I can do the same! I added the binder spine to my short o and I will be adding it to all the other short vowel packs today. I used a 1 1/2 inch binder to fit all this in. 


I found these pencil pouches at Fred Meyer for $1!! I bought like 20 of them. Most of my materials can just fit in the regular plastic sleeve protectors, but I use the pencil pouches for some of the materials that took up more space. 


 In case you are curious, every short vowel pack has pretty much the same materials, which is nice for consistency. You can mix and match or teach separately. I use these hands-on colorful materials with my Printable Phonics Packs. I like to have both options. :) The kids I work with need plenty of opportunities to practice sounding out these words in isolation and in context. I included varying levels of difficulty so you could start with the very beginning readers and move up to kids with experience sounding out words.



















(This will link you to the short o pack. In the description, there are links to the other short vowel packs.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

President's Day Activities

Years ago I create this unit for President's Day. I wanted to give my students some real "meat" during social studies. I was guilty of teaching social studies in a very shallow way. I wanted to help my students really understand what the president does. I wanted to up the rigor a bit too and make it cross-curricular. I recently gave this unit a little facelift (it was originally created in Word-EEK) and it's been a long time since I first blogged about it, so I thought it was time to show it again. My students loved this unit! 




We start by filling out this anticipation guide before reading the book If I Were President.
After reading about this book, we fill out the right side of this page. As the unit progresses, we dive deeper into these questions. 


Then, we get some more general information and organize that information.



To help students understand the duties of a president, use the following activities. 


Balancing the Budget
This is a favorite from the unit. There are two different versions of this: a country version and a classroom version. In both, students are given money and must decide how much to give to each group. Then you can follow up with a writing activity where the students need to articulate why they chose certain groups over others. Opinion writing- Boom!


Appointing other Leaders
Next, students discuss what makes a good leader. There are several options for this activity. The goal is to get kids to think about how the president has to choose other important leaders for our country. The simplest option is to choose a person they know who they believe would make a good leader for their "cabinet" or for another leadership position in the country. 


Another option is to use these character cards. You could use the character cards alone or match them with specific positions that the president appoints. 




Signing or Vetoing Laws
Here, students learn that a president doesn't make the laws in our country. This is always eye-opening for kids because they see the president as the person who can do anything they want. With this activity, they learn that a president has a role to play in creating laws but cannot do it alone. 



Making Speeches
Students will make a "State of the Classroom" speech. A graphic organizer will help guide this speech.



Solving Conflicts

This next activity serves two purposes: to show the president as a diplomat and to exercise their problem solving skills. :)




There are additional learning opportunities as well:



Friday, February 5, 2016

Consonant Blends

Step 1:Building consonant blends and words using letter tiles
When I introduce consonant blends, I usually start with the letter tiles. I build several different consonant blends and model how to read them. I compare them to digraphs by showing them how consonant blends have the two blue tiles, each making a different sound while the digraphs are just one tile because they are two letters that make one sound.  


Next I build words. I model how to "chunk" the word to accurately sound it out. I read, they read.  After several words, I pull back and let them read the words first. After reading several words, they get their own boards with tiles and I say a word for them to build. We practice listening for the blend first to make sure we don't miss a sound. If you don't want to hastle with all those letter tiles, Whizzimo is a great app to use. (More about that app next week!) You can find these letter tiles in my Tutoring Toolkit and/or my short vowel packs. 




You don't have to be fancy though! You can use regular notecards as letter tiles. :)




Step 2: Printable Intervention Books
After a few days of reading, building, and manipulating words with blends, we are ready to move on to our blend books. My students love getting these books! They each get their own during small group instruction. I love it for planning purposes. It's all ready to go to use with multiple groups. 


This unit is packed with activities, giving your students plenty of much needed practice reading and spelling words. You wouldn't need to use every single page in your blend book, but it's nice to have options. Some groups may only need a handful of pages, while others might go through the entire thing before mastering the skill of reading and spelling blends. 





Step 3: Building and reading sentences
For sentence fluency, my students love using this Sentence Spin. Sometimes it makes silly sentences and sometimes it makes real sentences. Either way, they are reading words with consonant blends. I also use it as a mini-comprehension activity. Beginning and struggling readers often end up sounding out words but not thinking about what is being read. When using this activity, I always ask, "Who is the sentence about? What is the character doing?" Sometimes I ask them to describe what they are visualizing. 



Step 4: Increase fluency with short stories
 For the first year I ended up writing short stories on the fly. I'd write them on chart paper so we could practice them together as a shared reading experience. 


I still do that, but now I mix in these story cards too!

Now for my newest resource

 A few months ago, I blogged about my short vowel and long vowel story cards. For some reason, the blend cards took longer to finish! 



There are 20 stories total, all phonetic with a  focus on consonant blends. There are also 4 different versions of these stories:
~There are the original story cards to laminate
~An easier version of the story cards to allow for differentiation
~A printable version with comprehension questions 
~No-color story cards 



I use these cards in my reading groups. The kids love being able to use dry erase markers to interact more with the stories. 



The printable version is nice to use if you wanting to use it with your whole class or send home as a homework assignment.

I also use these mini graphic organizers with the story cards in my small groups.

In case you don't like to print any color, there is also a no-color option. I printed them on bright paper, but you could also print them on white card stock. :)