FF Mrs. Kinder-hearted

Friday, December 30, 2016

How to Increase Sight-Word Fluency in the Primary Classroom

Many, many people have benefited from my "How to Increase Letter/Sound Fluency" piece that I posted almost two years ago. This was a simple strategy I used, but had no idea others didn't have access to. Now, I'm going to share some ideas I have used to reach the same level of fluency with Sight-Words. This is how I teach sight-word fluency in my classroom and for the past three-years, I’ve found much success with it. I use a combination of kinesthetic movement with phrases and the RAINBOW sight-word system to ensure my students are learning those infamous high-frequency words.

Sight-Word Motions

You may have noticed from my other posts that I am a very kinesthetic person. I like to move and I love to keep my Kinder-babies moving too. It helps them retain knowledge. I know there are tons of research behind this idea, but I don’t need any of it to recognize how effective learning through movement can be. That is why you’ll see that I have motions (mostly self-created, some borrowed from who-knows-where) for everything I teach. Sight-words included.

After realizing how helpful and effective it was to add motions to my letters/sounds I quickly applied the same strategy to my sight-word routine. When I say quickly, I mean that I introduced it mid-year. I’m always concerned about introducing new things after my students already have a routine down, but when I get great ideas, I always take the risk.

The idea behind sight-word motions (from my experience) is that you tie in a motion  that corresponds with a word. When students see that word, they may not recall the actual word itself, but their little bodies (most-of-the-time) can recall the movement that goes with the word. I witness my students recall these motions every-day. It is a natural occurrence.

Sight-Word Phrases

 I not only have motions for words, I also include phrases. I found that the phrase also scaffolds students to recall the word. It seems like a lot, but I pinky promise that it is a tool, not just extra stuff to remember. Sometimes I find that students will look at the word, recall the motion but still can’t get to the correct word without that phrase.  I promise, you’ll see it too when you use this strategy.

See it in action!

In case you are curious (like I always am) of how strategies actually look in the classroom, I had Ms. Kathy film our daily sight-word practice. I take five-minutes to review the color words we are working on every day. At the end of the week, I take an extra ten-minutes to review all former words. My classroom (at the time of this post) is currently on the BLUE list of words. (See more about this below.)

Rainbow Words

A saving grace in my classroom has been a Rainbow Word system that I created. As I mention in the video below, I found the idea on Pinterest. I bet you’ve seen it too. It truly works. If you are thinking about implementing it (even right now, mid-school year), I say GO FOR IT! You will NOT regret it! I implemented it in January my first year teaching and it truly helped motivate my kids.

You don't have to purchase my file! You can definitely create your own system, but I’m compelled to share with you something I’ve worked so hard on the last few weeks. For three years now, I’ve used a PowerPoint file that I created to create my Rainbow Words resources. It takes me hours every year to distribute my word lists through that file and to each resource. Thankfully, I just learned how to create a file that allows me to type my words in one time to appear throughout all the other parts. I AM SO EXCITED! TYPING WITH ALL CAPS AND IN BOLD TEXT DOES NOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPRESS MY HAPPINESS! 

In case you’re new to the idea of Rainbow Words, it is a strategy in which you use colored cards to motivate students to learn their sight words. Each color represents a number of words. (For my system, there are 12 Red, 12 Orange, 12 Yellow, 12 Green, 12 Blue, 16 Purple and 16 Pink. 92-words total.) When a student masters a set of cards, the red for example, they go on to the next set. When my kids reach the top of the Rainbow, they get a certificate and set of Rainbow glasses.

As you can probably imagine, students are super-motivated to learn all their words. Some teachers don’t like data walls (and I understand why), but my district requires them and I find this particular system to be very kid-friendly in Kindergarten. Students are only in competition with the Rainbow itself, not other students.

Easy Assessment, Easy Feedback for Families.

A key advantage to my creation is that it makes assessment time simple and time-efficient. I barely get time to pee at school, so I’m always sure to use my time efficiently. My Rainbow Words Assessment Binder makes this happen.

Inside, I have a master checklist and a tab divider for each kiddo.

In each child's tab, I have their Assessment Log pages.. 

I also keep my Teacher feedback pages and rainbow cards close by for when I’m ready to assess.

I flash the cards, insert the data and complete the appropriate feedback page (pass or fail). I add the next set of cards if that student passed that day. I also allow students to place their picture up to that stripe (if they passed red, they go on the red stripe.) Repeat 26 more times (I have a big class!) and BAM! I’m done. 

Rainbow Display 

This is one of my favorite parts of my colorful classroom. I can also see the satisfaction in the eyes of my Kinder-kids when they get to move their picture up a stripe.

Here are some instructions in case you want to create this in your own classroom. 

Video Demonstration

Sight Word Tips

Here are some things I’ve learned (mostly the difficult way through trial and error) about teaching sight-words. I hope these save you some time and trouble.

-Introduce a few at a time. Don’t overwhelm your class!
-Avoid introducing similar words during the same week. (Like eat and ate.)
-Keep parents informed and use them to practice! (I send home a practice log as homework.)
-Review often. Even your brightest kids can forget words they once knew if they don’t practice them.
-They are still babies! Don’t overwhelm your class with too many words. I knew a Teacher in another district that required her Kindergarten class to know 150 words in order to pass on to First grade. This may work for some, but I personally feel this puts too much pressure on our little ones who aren’t developmentally ready for it.  I do cover 92 words in the school year, but I only require my students to master 80% of those by the end of the year.
-Have students with special learning needs? You can accommodate them by shortening word lists. I have adapted my percentage scores to help my special learners to feel successful. One of my students is only required to recognize 6 of the 12 Red words in order to pass. Same for other colors.
-Make it fun! Use songs, dances, motions OR WHATEVER you need to use to keep them engaged. YouTube has so many free resources available to you!

I hope you've found something helpful here today. That is my main goal of this post and all others. 

God bless you and your little ones! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My BRIGHT Classroom Tour

You know what is sad? Super-duper-can't-believe-I'm-saying-this-kind-of-sad? I worked countless hours in my classroom over the summer preparing it for my Kindergartners... and have been down-right too BUSY to share it with my followers! That is what I call a crying shame. So, here it is, beginning of November (over three-months into school for me) and I'm just now getting around to it. I call that Kindergarten Teacher priorities.

So, here it is, a little too-late.. My fortress. My happy place. My home-away-from-home. My ( depending on the moon phases and student behavior) zoo-house. My classroom.

If you ask me the theme, as many have, I just like to make it simple and call it BRIGHT.  If I saw something bright, I threw it in there somewhere. :)

Here was a clear shot on the first day of school. Because of my deep, deep need to move things around pretty constantly, it actually looks quite different than this now. "Hello, my name is Toni and I like changing the layout of my classroom every few weeks." I know, I'm weird. Thankfully, my classroom helper shares in my strange addiction. :)

Here is one of the MOST IMPORTANT elements of my classroom. THE RULES! I plan to upload a video soon of my rule routine. This little line of posters can make or break my whole school year. This year, reviewing these guidelines is a priority routine. Nothing gets in the way of it and my kids know these rules better than any content I've ever shown them. Sounds like I'm a little crazy? Well, I'm also obsessed with classroom management. You can click HERE or on the image to see my rules on TpT. :)


I love my Whimsy Clips! I wanted to make my room more multi-cultural and these kids did the trick! 


My back wall is a mural and it is huge. And time consuming. Imagine me, locked in my classroom all summer, stenciling this baby on the wall. You were probably resting and enjoying some sweet peace while I was doing all of this. Who is the real winner here? You! hehe.Those are my favorite alphabet posters ever hanging up there. I went through quite a few sets before I finally learned to make my own! You can find a whole blog post about how they changed the Letter/Sound fluency in my classroom. Look right HERE and you can watch a nifty little VIDEO. You can also click on the image below. 

 As if my classroom couldn't get any brighter, I went all crazy with the AstroBrights and made this sight-word data wall. Remind me and I'll give you my whole system for Rainbow Words sometime soon. It was a summer project and it has saved me hours of time this year. P.S. MY KIDS LOVE RAINBOW WORDS! 

Here is a calendar shot from back in September. Yes, this too has changed but some components are still the same. The number posters up at the top have been a real game-changer for my little struggling learners during Math time. The picture and ten-frame combo help them locate numbers easier and apply it to their work. You can find them HERE in my store.


Here is my newest LOVE. Math Works Daily. I promise to have it in my store ASAP. I'm just swamped for now. :( I do promise you though, it will be worth the wait!

Want to add a little color to your classroom on the CHEAP? These banners came from Wal-Mart and they are 97 cents per pack! They add a great dimension to my classroom. They also have polka-dots and other patterns. Momma loves bright-colored CHEVRON! :D :D 

And of course there is the rocking chair that I never get to sit in. Any other Kindergarten Teachers notice how little we actually get to sit down? Only during Read-Aloud and money collection for me.

Then there is the fence that I love so dearly. That the man that I love so dearly so dearly installed for his dear wife. Yep, he works for me over the summer in addition to his own job. Any of your husbands know the feeling? Teacher-husbands need their own support group or something. I love my handy-man. <3 

I'll end with this first-day morning message. I like for those to be colorful too!

I hope you have enjoyed snooping around in my classroom. That is seriously one of my favorite things to do. Call me nosy, but I love stealing ideas. :)

I'll post again soon, promise!

God bless you!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Daily Write-It: Dictated Writing Routine


So, after 18 SNOW DAYS in my district this year, I am doing anything and everything to keep from catching the dreaded CABIN FEVER. (It's spreading around Facebook like crazy. It is REAL!) So, I've been trying to stay motivated and remember that there is life out there beyond the walls of this trailer. I do have 26 little ones that still need to learn when all of this mess melts away. Plus, I've thoroughly enjoying this special time with my 6-month-old. She is a great buddy to be trapped with. :)

So, after contemplating about my students and their needs, this is what I have created. Daily Write-It, a dictated writing routine. This set focuses on Simple Sentences containing only Pre-Primer Sight Words and easily decode-able  CVC words. So, what is Daily Write-It?


 What are some of the benefits I expect for my students:


I love using my SMARTBOARD any time possible, but I also thought about those of you that may not have one. There are actually THREE versions of this product in the download:


One of my FAVORITE aspects is this dandy way to format the Student Response pages. I love laminated file folders for this. So handy, durable and of course, RE-USABLE. I loath print costs! 

Check out this video of me describing the routine. I tried to be quick and to-the-point. If you aren't accustomed to Eastern Kentucky accents, this may be ALARMING in some way. I hate the sound of my own voice but I'm proud of my mountain heritage. :)

 Here are some up-close pictures of some of the aspects described in the video. 

These are the pages you will project on your SmartBoard or Document Camera. I think the picture cue aids visual learners and also makes it a little more visually-appealing (or just down-right CUTE, you could say). 

At the end of the routine, you'll scroll down to this page. There are two versions, one with pre-written sentences for your students to compare their work with AND one without sentences so you can manually write it on the board. 

Don't be too jealous of my beautiful hand-writing and artwork. hehehe!!

This is a peek into the Student Response Folder. I love the sight-word reference sheet here. Students can circle words and compare when spell checking as I did in the video.


Like I explained in the video, this space is on the front of the folder and allows students to close up their sentence when they are finished and illustrate. I LOVE THIS FEATURE. It makes it easy to quickly determine who is finished and who needs more support.  

By the way, don't be too jealous of my beautiful artwork. hehehe!!

 I also love the self-check portion. After a few weeks of this routine, I know sentence revision will be a breeze for my little-bitties.


This product is available now on my TpT store. Just click on any image to check it out. There is a great preview file that gives even more info. 

I can't wait to hear what you think about this! Please share your thoughts with me and any suggestions you have that might improve this resource.

God bless you and yours!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Word Works Daily: See the Reading Skills Routine in action!

(This is a transplant post from my former blog, My Kindergarten Obsession. This was actualy written in July 2014.

 I remember so clearly the incredible sense of fear and happiness I felt when I found out that I was going to be a Kindergarten Teacher. I felt so blessed to be among the few people I graduated with that actually found a job that summer. I also felt a distinct need to grow a beard, obtain a fake passport and fly to a remote island to escape my fears of teaching a grade level I knew nothing about. It was weird. Bipolar moment for sure.


Where am I going with this? Bored of my yapping? Yeah, me too. So, the point I'm trying to make is this: It would have been nice to see some Kindergarten teaching in action. That is why, when I created this resource (WW Daily), I knew I wanted to demonstrate it for those newbies that may not know what in the World to do with something like this.

So, here it is. Me, my deep-mountain accent and six incredible kids that I taught at Summer school this year. This isn't a true representation of a full classroom (I had 27 darlings this past year) but it does show the routine. I definitely could have benefited from this when I first began!
Hope you enjoy! Leave me a comment and tell me what you think! :)  


Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Increase Letter & Sound Fluency in Kindergarten

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! (Effie style, minus the whole Reaping Day thing.) This is my very-first post here in my new blog. I'm crazy-excited! I hope you like it! 

You are probably here to learn how I SIGNIFICANTLY improved my student’s letter/sound fluency this year. Mind you, I did write SIGNIFICANTLY in capital letters for a reason. I’m screaming it at you: SIGNIFICANTLY!!!!!!!!

This great change came after our incredible Reading Specialist suggested that I add motions to our letter/sound practice. She actually told me this last school year but I waited too long to implement it. Sad face. :(  So, I jumped on board head-first this school year. In all honesty, it was the BEST change I've ever made.

After practicing for only two weeks, I noticed that my new Kindergarteners were already latching on and internalizing their letters and sounds! It was amazing, and I’ll never do it any differently ever again.

Watch this video and then I’ll explain a little more later down the page.

 If you are interested in trying this (which I highly recommend with all of my strongest, tingly-est, most heartfelt Kindergarten vibes), I’ll explain my process. (If you have a better way, I’d love to hear about in the comment section. I love new ideas! :D)

First, I created the posters. I actually printed two sets: one for my wall and one for flashing when we practice. You can check them out HERE on my TPT store, or you can easily create your own motions using any set you may already have. 


On the first day of school, I explained to my students that in our classroom, we use a lot of “secret signals.” We are… after-all… super, stealthy Ninja kids. “Even our letters have signals! Isn’t that awesome! Today we will learn a few of them.”

I go on to explain that each letter makes a sound, and we make the sound while we do the signal. “The first letter is A. A makes the /a/ sound.  Our picture for Aa is apple. Have you ever had an apple? What does it look like when you eat it?” (Students demonstrate.) “Perfect! While we pretend to eat an apple, say ‘A, apple, /a/,/a/,/a/. Great! Let’s practice that again!”


Connecting the motion with something students are familiar with really helps them recall them later on. (I’ll explain all of our motions below, in case the video left you wondering what in the World we were doing. hehe) Also, holding a poster with the letter and picture helps students begin to identify the letters in written form. I constantly remind students to focus on the actual letters when we go over them to assist in this identification. 

I went on to teach my students 5 letters/sounds that first day. After teaching each individual letter, I would go back and repeat all preceding letters until all 5 were taught. I did 5 new ones each day (while repeating all previously taught) until we had covered them all. 

After two weeks of daily practice, at least 85% (of my 26 students) already knew the entire alphabet! I felt like it took me months to accomplish this same milestone the year before. It was a great feeling!


We continue to have this as a part of our routine each day even though students have already mastered them all. I notice the more we practice, the quicker they can access this knowledge when decoding and reading words. Plus, they wouldn’t let me forget a day of this practice anyway. They just love this routine!

We also do an extension to this routine with Blends & Digraphs. I will post a video demo of this very soon too. You can find those posters HERE. On a side note, I always add motions to our SIGHT WORD PRACTICE and our CLASS RULES too. You just can’t go wrong with some fun ole’ hand motions.


I hope you found something useful here today! God bless you and yours! <3