Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Classic Post: Ways to Make Learning the Alphabet Fun

Posted by Greg Smedley on Aug 28, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Today, we bring you a guest blog post from Greg Smedley with fun kindergarten activities for letter learning. It was originally published in June 2013. For more from Greg, click here for his other posts and be sure to check out his blog!

Letter Hunt

At the beginning of kindergarten, one of our first learning goals is to learn the letters of the alphabet. There are many ways we do this such as music, art, and of course, just quick letter recognition flashcard activities. One of my students’ favorite activities is going on a letter hunt in the sand! 

letter hunt

To prepare for the activity you will need a large plastic dish tub. These can be found for $1 at most stores. You will need sand, which you can get at most home improvement stories in small bags. And finally you will need a set of magnetic letters*. I also use Letter Buddies Letter Books from Hameray Publishing Group.

letter buddy books

Pour the sand into the dish tub and bury the letters in the sand. Have your students sit in a circle around the tub. We sing the Alphabet Song once or twice to get our brains ready for letters. I choose one student to go on a letter hunt. They dig through the sand (yes, it gets a little messy but my motto is "messy = successful learning!") and pull out one (just one!) letter.

letter hunt 2

They identify the letter and place it on the board. We say the name of the letter. After we name the letter, we find our Letter Buddy book for that letter and we name all of the pictures that begin with that letter.

letter buddyhunting letters

We continue until we have found all 26 letters of the alphabet.

You can modify this activity in many ways. You can identify sounds of the letters and name words that start with that sound. You can mix in upper case and lowercase letters and have students identify the letter and decide if it is an uppercase or lowercase letter. You can even replace the letters with numbers to make this a math lesson!

As a closing activity and to get a quick informal observation piece, the students return to their tables and practice writing the letters of the alphabet.

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

If you'd like to learn more about the Letter Buddies Letter Books used in this activity, you can download the series highlights below!

New Call-to-Action

* Hameray offers magnetic letters here.

Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Alphabet Books, Kindergarten

Classic Post: Letter Learning Made Fun with Silly Hats

Posted by Greg Smedley on Aug 19, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Today, we bring you a guest blog post from Greg Smedley with fun kindergarten activities for letter learning. It was originally published in July 2013. For more from Greg click here for his other posts and be sure to check out his blog!

Silly Hats!

One of the first academic skills my students learn every year is their letters. I always set a goal that a majority of my students will know all of their letters and most of their sounds by the end of October. I am always pleased at the end of October when my students have met this challenge. Of course, there will be students who need more time and practice with their letters and that’s OK!  I make sure they get plenty of small-group practice, one-on-one practice, and independent practice in centers!

We use art, music, and some flash-card-type drills to learn our letters. Now, I must admit I don’t do anything in a traditional way. I’m what some people would call eccentric! So, for our daily letter review I use a PowerPoint. All upper- and lowercase letters are included and are mixed in a random order that I change every day. I add in a fun sound effect, and we quickly run through the PowerPoint. This is a quick and different way to go over our letters every day. 

When introducing a new letter or sound, I have another trick up my sleeve. This is something that myself and my students have become quite famous for. When we learn a new letter or sound, we always kick off our learning with a silly hat! Yes, you heard me! A silly hat!

hat collage

Here’s how our silly hat lesson works:

hippo hat resized 600Let’s say we are introducing the letter H. H stands for hippopotamus, so we will be making a hippopotamus hat. To get my students thinking in terms of H, we start the lesson with a circle map.  In the middle of the circle I write Hh. The students then turn to each other and brainstorm words that begin with H. After two minutes or so of sharing, they turn back to the chart and we share our H words. After we have shared our words, we use our Letter Buddies book for H to see if we missed any H words.  We add any missing words to our chart. The great thing about the Letter Buddies books is that they often trigger the students to think of more words for our letter! I always make sure that we include the word for our hat! For example, on our H chart, I want to make sure we have the word hippopotamus!

After we complete our chart, I model to the students how to color and assemble their hat. And then the highlight of the morning: I step behind the curtain and slip on my completed hat! I make a big production of revealing our hat! My students love seeing the letter hat on the teacher. And yes, I wear my hat all day! Talk about motivating students! As they get to work on their hat, I can start pulling small groups. The hats serve as a great hook to get students excited about the letter and sound you want them to focus on. The hats act as a great conversation starter when the students are out and about in the building. This allows them the opportunity to share why they have hippo hats on their heads and allows them an opportunity to explain their learning, which is an integral part of the Common Core! These hats are a quick, fun and silly way to introduce letters and sounds to your students!

describe the image  describe the image describe the image

Z for Zipper                                    Y for Yak!                                N for nest!

 

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

If you'd like to learn about our Letter Buddies Letter Books that partially inspired this activity, you can download the series highlights below!

 

New Call-to-Action
Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Common Core, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Alphabet Books, Kindergarten, Creative Activities

A Kindergarten Literacy Routine from Greg Smedley!

Posted by Greg Smedley on Oct 14, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Greg SmedleyToday, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

A Kindergarten Literacy Routine!

Today I want to share part of my literacy block routine. I have used this routine for three years without much tweaking, and I credit this routine for a big part of my success in teaching students to read. This is one of the questions I get most often: what do you do to help your kids read so well? So, here's part of the answer!

Our day starts at 7:45 with arrival. Arrival lasts until 8:00. Announcements last until 8:05. Morning Meeting lasts from 8:05 until 8:20 (give or take!). After morning meeting, we sing four songs. As soon as we finish our songs, we begin our literacy block. Our literacy block lasts from 8:20–10:10 and then 11:10–12:10 is literacy with a writing focus. Today I want to share our literacy kick-off routine!

Our letter and sound routine goes like this:

I point to a picture. They say the letter, the picture, and the sound. Remember the Alphardy song (Dr. Jean, btw!)? That is where our letter and sound chart comes from. For example: "A apple /a/, B bounce /b/," and so on. Early in the year, we do them in order. After we get good at the routine, I switch it up and we do them in random order. I also switch between whole group and individual turns. This is key to our strong foundations in reading. They are exposed to every letter and every sound every day!

literacy routine 1 500

After letters and sounds, we move to sight words. We talk about sights being everywhere, and if we want to be good readers, we must learn our sight words. We are using a new sight-word routine this year, and already, I have seen a huge difference in sight-word recognition. I will do a much more detailed post on sight words later, but it looks like this: read the word, spell the word, decode the word (if possible), and use it in a sentence. Tuesday and Wednesday's focus is on reading the word and using the word in a sentence. On Thursday, I present a grid that we read and color. The grid goes home to practice. Friday's task is a game or graphing activity.

literacy routine 2 200

After sight words, we read our poem. Each week we have a poem that is tied to our theme or letter. I find poems online and use those—I do not re-invent the wheel. This week we are reading a short "five senses" poem. Last week the poem was about a pig who wouldn't let me watch television. I try to find poems that are easy to read and poems that are funny! Monday we do echo reading. Tuesday we do a mix of echo reading and choral reading. Wednesday we do choral reading, and on Thursday and Friday they are reading the poem by themselves (unless it's a more difficult poem). I give this part of our literacy block big props for helping my student develop better fluency! They get to hear fluent reading daily, and they practice fluent reading daily. Sometimes we even incorporate different voices into our reading!

After our poem, we read an emergent reader (you can find various emergent-leveled readers here and here). The emergent readers are generally sight-word based, and tie into our theme and topic. I am trying to incorporate more science and social studies into our emergent readers! We follow the same routine as with the poem. Thursday night the emergent reader goes home for homework, and Friday is when I ask for volunteers to read the book to the class! This is a perfect time for some very short mini-lessons on using sounds to help us read the words, on concepts of print, and on using pictures to help us understand what we're reading.

literacy routine 3 200

Following the emergent reader, we focus on our sound of the week and our language focus of the week. For example, today we brainstormed /t/ words. We also counted syllables in words and identified rhyming words. This changes weekly or bi-weekly depending on the language skills we're focusing on. The sound changes weekly.

And now we are ready for our story and comprehension.

That is a lot. But guess what? It's rapid fire and quick. This all takes about fifteen to twenty minutes (except the story and comprehension). It's just quick, well-practiced routines. Monday  usually takes a bit longer, because it's a new poem and emergent reader. But generally, fifteen to twenty minutes is a good time frame for foundation building that reaps major rewards.

So that is what the first twenty minutes of my literacy block look like. I hope that gives you some ideas for your own classroom and answers some questions you may have had!

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

Want some fun, colorful emergent-leveled readers to use in your own literacy routine? We've got great literature and informational text series! Click the images below to explore key features!

New Call-to-Action New Call-to-Action New Call-to-Action

New Call-to-ActionNew Call-to-Action New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Greg Smedley, Early Childhood

Improving Letter and Sound Skills in Struggling Students

Posted by Greg Smedley on Sep 20, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Greg SmedleyToday, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

Hi! It’s Mr. Greg from Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten!

Today I want to share a little about how I’m using the Letter Buddies books to help my struggling students improve their letter and beginning sound skills!

These books feature one letter per book with pictures of objects that begin with that letter sound. On the front cover is a tactile letter that students can trace. This is something that I appreciate about these books! I have two students who are struggling to learn their letters, so this tactile experience is key to their success!

I call my student back to my table, and we use the Letter Buddies book for the sound that we are working on for that week. For example, this week is “T-riffic T Week,” so we pull out the T book.

The first thing we do is trace the letter and name the letter. We do this two or three times before we move on to reading.

letter buddies over

After we trace the letters, we review the letter sound. We say the sound and make the motion for the sound.

Then we open our book and begin reading. Each page features a picture of an object and the word. I love that these objects are easily recognizable by my students, and not only are we learning to read, but we’re building vocabulary.

letter buddies vocabulary

The student points to the word and uses the picture to help. We read the word (name the object) and then say the sound of the word. We do this for each page.

At the end of the book is a page with pictures of each object from the book and a picture that doesn’t belong. I do two things with this page: I ask them to point to specific objects and tell me the sound, and I ask them to find the picture that doesn’t make the sound we’re learning.

IMG 9170 250IMG 9178 250

This routine takes about five minutes per child. I am working with two students, so I can do this in about ten minutes. I have been so impressed with how much this has helped them. Prior to starting this routine, they were struggling to learn any sounds. Now these students have a firm grasp on the sounds that we have used the Letter Buddies books to practice with!

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

For more information on the Letter Buddies Letter Books, click the image below to download an information sheet.

New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Struggling Students

Guided Reading with One-Word Readers by Greg Smedley

Posted by Greg Smedley on Sep 6, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Today, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

Hi! It’s Mr. Greg from Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten! Today I want to share a successful tool in my guided reading toolbox.

Greg SmedleyI am a huge advocate for differentiation. I believe that my instruction should meet the needs of every child. I work with my students in whole group, small groups, and one on one. We are fortunate to have small class sizes (fifteen students), an extended day, and a very kindergarten-friendly schedule. This all combines to allow me to read with every child every day. That’s right! I am able to read one on one with every child every single day! I cannot begin to tell you how huge that is for my students!

Today was our first official day of guided reading. We’ve been working in centers while Mr. Greg pulls groups and students to work at his table. This has all been practice leading up to our guided reading kickoff! I was able to read with every child today. And I was able to provide them with books that were on their level and books that they could be successful at reading. I am also a huge believer in building the confidence of my students. I believe that every child should have a book to read when they are at guided reading. Here’s how I meet the needs of the students who are still working on learning their letters.

reading one word readers 250

 I created a set of one word readers that I use with my students who need the most help during guided reading. What I love about these books is that they are simple word and picture books that are written so the students can be successful the first time they pick up the book. This allows every child to begin building a library of books on their level. No one is left out or feels different because they don’t have books in their bag!

one word readers 250

We talk about pointing to the words when we read; we talk about the letters and sounds as we read. But most importantly we read the book. There is nothing more thrilling that watching a child read an entire book by themselves and seeing their reaction when you call them a reader!

 pointing to words 250

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

 For an example of some readers that contain only one word per page, check out our Letter Buddies Letter Books by clicking here and flipping through the sample below.

Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Greg Smedley, Guided Reading

Teaching Letters & Sounds with Greg Smedley

Posted by Greg Smedley on Aug 20, 2013 8:00:00 AM

greg smedleyToday, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

Hi! It’s Mr. Greg from Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten!

On the first day for a new sound (which is usually Monday), I introduce the sound only—no letter just yet. I make the sound and then have the students make the sound. We talk about what our mouth is doing, and we take turns making the sound.

Next we listen for the sound to see if we can distinguish between sounds. I say a word and if it has our focus sound we raise our hand. For example, if our sound is /m/ I might say “money” and the students raise their hand. If I were to say “sun” they would not raise their hand.

After we listen for the sound, we make a circle map of words for that sound. However, we use pictures and not words. Today was the /m/ sound, so we came up with /m/ words. As the students generated the words, I drew pictures on our circle map.

sound circle map 250On day two, I tell the class that yesterday we learned the /m/ sound, and today we are going to learn how to spell the /m/ sound. I tell them that /m/ is spelled with a letter "m". I use this terminology to make the sounds more writing-friendly. I am hopeful that by hearing that we use the letter to spell the sound, this will translate to their writing!

After we discuss how to spell the sound, we go back to our pictures from day one. We name the picture and then we write the word. I ask them how to spell the /m/ sound and they say ”m,” so I write the "m" and then I spell the rest of the word by saying each letter as I write it. For example, if the word is monkey, they say “m” and I write m. Then I would write o and say “o,” write n and say “n,” and so on until the word is spelled.

After we have written our words, I pull out our Letter Buddies book for "M," and we learn some other M-words that we might have missed!

Finally, on day two, the students do a picture-sort where they must find the words that begin with our sound and cut them out and glue them to their paper.

This is a new method that is working well for us thus far. I like that the focus is on the sound initially and then the letter is introduced. I also like that the idea of spelling is introduced as the way to write the sound.

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

To learn more about the Letter Buddies books mentioned in this set of activities, click here to visit the web page, or click the image below to download an information sheet on the series.

New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley

Activities to Teach Reading and Writing Names with Greg Smedley

Posted by Greg Smedley on Aug 8, 2013 8:00:00 AM

greg smedleyToday, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

Hi! It’s Mr. Greg from Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten! Can you believe that we have already started school? My district is on a “balanced calendar” so we start on August 1 and have two-week breaks in October, December, and March. We end the Friday before Memorial Day. That means my school year is in full swing!

I work with low-income students, and one of the biggest challenges facing my students is a limited vocabulary. I work hard to build this vocabulary in a variety of ways, starting with names. I start the year off with a two-week extravaganza focused on learning our names and our friends' names. Today, I want to share some of our favorite name activities!

Sticker Names

This is a simple activity that I have done two different ways. The first and more challenging way is to pour a bunch of foam stickers or magnetic letters on the tables and allow the students to find the letters to make their names. The other way for students who may struggle is to give them a baggie with just the letters needed for their names. When students spell their names with stickers, these can be displayed in the classroom; when they use magnetic letters on a magnetic whiteboard, you can take a picture and display that instead—you can even include the child in the photo!

sticker names 100

 

Name Graph!

We make our name graph after talking about what our names mean and how we got our names. In past years, I have sent home a letter asking parents to share how the child got his or her name. These are some great stories that help you connect with your students. To make our graph, one child comes to the front and tells us his or her name. The child spells the name (if the child needs help, we use our name chart to help), and I write one letter per box. We read the names and count the letters in each name. Then we decide who has the longest name in our class!

name graph 250

 

Highlight Those Names!

Until students master writing their names, I use a highlighter to write each child’s name. The amount of practice they need with their names determines how many times I write the name and ranges from 1–5 times. The child traces the highlighted name and then they write their name from 1–4 times. I like using the highlighter because the child has a bright line to trace, and their pencil marks are still clear, so we can discuss how they’re doing and ways to improve. This is our morning work until they get the hang of it. Once they master their names, these sheets go away, and they receive their morning writing journals!

name highlighting 250

 

Bean Names!

This is one of our favorite name activities! This is great for name recognition and spelling, as well as fine motor skills. Write each child’s name on construction paper, using a black marker. I trace one letter of each name with glue and the student glues beans on the letter. You can also allow students to trace the letters with their glue. Either way works but I have found tracing the letters for them is less messy and faster. These make an awesome classroom display!

 bean names 250

 

Name Circle Map!

Each child stands up during our Morning Meeting and introduces him- or herself. I write the child's name on our circle map and the whole class spells each name.

name circle map 250

 

The Name Game!

This is a fun and quick activity that gets students moving and can be great when you need to fill a few minutes. This activity helps build name recognition. I create a PowerPoint with each child’s name on a separate slide. I play the slide show and the children are instructed to stand up and sit down when they see their name. The first few times we play the name game, I go through the slides slowly. After we have some practice under our belts, I set the slide show to automatic and make it go quick! I want the students to quickly recognize their names, and they love when the slides go fast!

name game 250 

These are some of our favorite name activities! I hope you find something new and useful for your classroom!

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

To purchase magnetic letters and a whiteboard that can be used in the first activity, click the image below to visit our Letter Buddies page!

describe the image

Read More

Topics: Making Learning Fun, K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Kindergarten

Letter Learning with Letter Hunt Activities from Greg Smedley!

Posted by Greg Smedley on Jul 19, 2013 8:00:00 AM

greg smedleyToday, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

Howdy y’all! It’s me…Mr. Greg again! Today I want to share two letter hunt activities that are always a hit with my students at the beginning of the year. The first one is a Stamping Letter Hunt! You will need some letter stamps, ink pads, letter cards, or magnetic letters and a recording sheet. You can download a free copy of the recording sheet used in this activity at the bottom of this page!

You can place the letter cards all around the classroom, or you can place them in a pile, a box, or a bag. I provide students with a recording sheet, stamps, and a stamp pad. To make this easier for the students, the letter stamps and stamp pad can be stored together inside of a plastic pencil box. They can carry their box and paper around the room. When they discover a letter card or choose one from the pile of cards, they identify the letter and find that letter stamp and stamp the letter on their paper. They continue their letter hunt until they have found and stamped all letters.

letter hunt stamp letter hunt card

The second activity is Letter in a Bottle! Students shake a bottle of rice (or sand!) to find letters. Once they find a letter, they color in the bubble for that letter on their paper. You can also have them write the letter on paper using pencils (or using markers to make the activity more colorful).

letter hunt bottleTo make the bottles, you will need dry, empty bottles with caps, colored rice, letter beads, and a recording sheet.

To make colored rice you will need rice, food coloring, rubbing alcohol, and wax paper. Put the rice, several drops of food coloring, and a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol into a plastic bag. Zip the bag closed, and shake it until all the rice is colored. Open the bag and spread the rice on wax paper to dry. Give the rice several hours (overnight is best!) to dry completely. To make the bottles, place some rice in the bottle, then add letter beads. Add more rice. Shake the bottle to mix up the rice and letters. Add more rice and letters until you’ve added ten or so letters (depending on your bottle size). Do not fill the bottle completely or there will be no room for the rice and letters to move. TIP: Glue the lid on the bottle so students cannot open the lid and spill colored rice everywhere. Trust me on this one!

Students choose a bottle. They shake their bottle until they find a letter. They identify the letter and color the letter on their recording sheet.

letter hunt recording bubbles letter hunt filled in recording sheet

To make this activity more challenging, you can have students name the sound of the letter they find and provide a word that starts with that sound. They can also search for words for their letters using Letter Buddies books. More advanced students can keep a list of words starting with a certain letter, using the words in the Letter Buddies books as a starter list, then adding to it. This can be a useful writing extension or a way to differentiate for students who may have already mastered their letters!

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

To download the FREE letter recording sheets used in this activity, click the image below!

New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: Making Learning Fun, K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Early Childhood, Kindergarten

Letter Learning Made Fun! Silly Hats & Greg Smedley

Posted by Greg Smedley on Jul 10, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Today, we bring you a guest blog post from Greg Smedley, whose Teacher Spotlight activity was a big hit! He returns today and next week with more fun kindergarten activities for letter learning. For more from Greg, come back next week, and be sure to check out his blog in the meantime!

Silly Hats!

One of the first academic skills my students learn every year is their letters. I always set a goal that a majority of my students will know all of their letters and most of their sounds by the end of October. I am always pleased at the end of October when my students have met this challenge. Of course, there will be students who need more time and practice with their letters and that’s OK!  I make sure they get plenty of small-group practice, one-on-one practice, and independent practice in centers!

We use art, music, and some flash-card-type drills to learn our letters. Now, I must admit I don’t do anything in a traditional way. I’m what some people would call eccentric! So, for our daily letter review I use a PowerPoint. All upper- and lowercase letters are included and are mixed in a random order that I change every day. I add in a fun sound effect, and we quickly run through the PowerPoint. This is a quick and different way to go over our letters every day. 

When introducing a new letter or sound, I have another trick up my sleeve. This is something that myself and my students have become quite famous for. When we learn a new letter or sound, we always kick off our learning with a silly hat! Yes, you heard me! A silly hat!

hat collage

Here’s how our silly hat lesson works:

hippo hat resized 600Let’s say we are introducing the letter H. H stands for hippopotamus, so we will be making a hippopotamus hat. To get my students thinking in terms of H, we start the lesson with a circle map.  In the middle of the circle I write Hh. The students then turn to each other and brainstorm words that begin with H. After two minutes or so of sharing, they turn back to the chart and we share our H words. After we have shared our words, we use our Letter Buddies book for H to see if we missed any H words.  We add any missing words to our chart. The great thing about the Letter Buddies books is that they often trigger the students to think of more words for our letter! I always make sure that we include the word for our hat! For example, on our H chart, I want to make sure we have the word hippopotamus!

After we complete our chart, I model to the students how to color and assemble their hat. And then the highlight of the morning: I step behind the curtain and slip on my completed hat! I make a big production of revealing our hat! My students love seeing the letter hat on the teacher. And yes, I wear my hat all day! Talk about motivating students! As they get to work on their hat, I can start pulling small groups. The hats serve as a great hook to get students excited about the letter and sound you want them to focus on. The hats act as a great conversation starter when the students are out and about in the building. This allows them the opportunity to share why they have hippo hats on their heads and allows them an opportunity to explain their learning, which is an integral part of the Common Core! These hats are a quick, fun and silly way to introduce letters and sounds to your students!

describe the image  describe the image describe the image

Z for Zipper                                    Y for Yak!                                N for nest!

 

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

Greg will be returning with another guest blog post next week! Check back to see what other fun activities he has in store. If you'd like to learn about our Letter Buddies Letter Books that partially inspired this activity, you can download the series highlights below!

 

New Call-to-Action
Read More

Topics: K-2 Literacy, Common Core, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Alphabet Books, Kindergarten, Creative Activities

Teacher Spotlight: Learning the Alphabet with Greg Smedley

Posted by Greg Smedley on Jun 26, 2013 8:00:00 AM

describe the image

gregsmedleyWelcome once again to our Teacher Spotlight, giving recognition (and free books!) to deserving teachers who have great ideas to share. Today's featured teacher is Greg Smedley of Nashville, Tennessee.

Greg writes a colorful blog titled "Smedley's Smorgasbord of Kindergarten" that touches on such interesting topics as art in the Common Core classroom and useful apps for students and teachers. The blog has been running since May 2012, and Greg is very prolific—in just over a year, he has put up 336 creative and enthusiastic posts!

Today, he wants to share his fun kindergarten activity, the Letter Hunt! Below, he'll tell you all about it.

Letter Hunt

At the beginning of kindergarten, one of our first learning goals is to learn the letters of the alphabet. There are many ways we do this such as music, art, and of course, just quick letter recognition flashcard activities. One of my students’ favorite activities is going on a letter hunt in the sand! 

letter hunt

To prepare for the activity you will need a large plastic dish tub. These can be found for $1 at most stores. You will need sand, which you can get at most home improvement stories in small bags. And finally you will need a set of magnetic letters*. I also use Letter Buddies Letter Books from Hameray Publishing Group.

letter buddy books

Pour the sand into the dish tub and bury the letters in the sand. Have your students sit in a circle around the tub. We sing the Alphabet Song once or twice to get our brains ready for letters. I choose one student to go on a letter hunt. They dig through the sand (yes, it gets a little messy but my motto is "messy = successful learning!") and pull out one (just one!) letter.

letter hunt 2

They identify the letter and place it on the board. We say the name of the letter. After we name the letter, we find our Letter Buddy book for that letter and we name all of the pictures that begin with that letter.

letter buddyhunting letters

We continue until we have found all 26 letters of the alphabet.

You can modify this activity in many ways. You can identify sounds of the letters and name words that start with that sound. You can mix in upper case and lowercase letters and have students identify the letter and decide if it is an uppercase or lowercase letter. You can even replace the letters with numbers to make this a math lesson!

As a closing activity and to get a quick informal observation piece, the students return to their tables and practice writing the letters of the alphabet.

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

Greg will be returning with two guest blog posts later this summer! Check back frequently to see what other fun activities he has in store. To nominate yourself or another teacher for the Teacher Spotlight, tell us a little more here. If you'd like to learn more about the Letter Buddies Letter Books used in this activity, you can download the series highlights below!

New Call-to-Action

* Hameray offers magnetic letters here.

Read More

Topics: Teacher Spotlight, K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Greg Smedley, Alphabet Books, Kindergarten

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Follow Me