Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Letters For Building Words - Free Download

Just a quick post to share the letters my students use when we Build Words. The vowels and consonants print on separate sheets so you can copy them on colored paper, if you wish. I usually use colored paper for vowels, since it helps us make sure our words always contain a vowel. Enjoy!
Click here to download for free from Google Drive!
There are many ways to use these - I usually keep a few laminated sets at my small group table. They are handy to pull out and demonstrate a concept quickly with a small group.

Another way I use them is as an accommodation for students with disabilities. I have had several students with reduced muscle tone, so I try to modify assignments that involve cutting for their benefit. My problem? They loved to Build a Mystery Word. My solution? They have their own set of letters in their pencil pouch, and when we Build a Mystery Word, they can participate without stressing over the cutting.

I'm sure you can think of other uses for these cards! Have an excellent rest of the week, y'all!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sometimes, $45 Buys Peace of Mind...





I'm a teacher. I know teachers don't make much; I knew it when I began teaching in '98. I never got into teaching for the paycheck. I want to make it clear that I am *not* complaining. I am a very fortunate person with a family who makes me laugh every day.  :)  I feel a huge gratitude to have a job that helps me feel as though I am making a difference in the world. Teachers have lean times like everyone else, and we have times that we are overcome by the goodness that comes from the world. That being said, today I want to tell you what a relief to be able to walk into a grocery store and spend an unbudgeted $45 without guilt. By the way, I know unbudgeted is not a word, but you know what I meant.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, here’s my journey to that $45: it is 3 weeks until Christmas, and the only people I've been shopping for are my kiddos. I have a little health issue, so I'm working half-time this year. The budget is key to keep away from the credit cards, since I've already given Citibank and Chase enough money. I took today off to attend health appointments. I was going to go to an appointment, then visit my own kiddos for lunch before the second appointment. I was pretty happy at the prospect of a day to myself, to tell the truth.

Instead, one kiddo was picked up sick from school yesterday, so she stayed home today. This morning, we ran out of oatmeal and peanut butter, aka little guy’s breakfast and lunch. No problem; grocery trip done after the appointment. Splurge and get a couple of foodie treats, spend extra $. An hour later, I have the unexpected someone-just-puked-and-it’s-cold-and-flu-season trip to the store. The kind of trip when the grocery store clerk asks, "What happened?"

There’s the $45. We never know when we will need it, but it bought me peace of mind knowing that I am able to walk in the grocery store and know that I’m able to buy whatever I needed without guilt. I don't feel like I should have spent it on new tires, or my health insurance, or a visit to my therapist. Even better, I didn't feel any post-purchase remorse for my morning splurges. Nutella is essential, right? After taking a sick day (which I feel fortunate to have), visiting the doctor, buying essentials, and $45 bucks worth of carpet cleaner and disinfecting wipes, I still don’t have to worry about the grocery budget. I am one of the lucky ones. 

In our house, it seems that unexpected expenses are usually around $50, $200, and $400. It might be paying the deductible for an emergency room visit, or repairing the dryer (with a ton of help from Hubby and Dad!). Today, I feel thankful to have a job and a business that helps to absorb bumps in the road, and let me take the time I need to take care of my family, to disinfect the house – ick! and to take care of myself.

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. My depression was back, and I’ve spent the last month getting everything back on track. I’ve got additional support in place – including a light therapy machine! I am enjoying it so far, and it definitely isn’t hurting anything. I’ll fill you in another time. Thanks for listening, y’all.

Just a little more, then I'm through - promise. I wanted to give a huge hug to the teacher-blogging community. I'm feeling the love, and it helps so much to connect with all of you, both near and far. I'm already planning for Vegas in July, to see y'all again with a ton of hugs! <3  Thanks!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bright Ideas - A Round Up!

Welcome to the November edition of the Bright Ideas Link-Up! This one is a special one! Over the past 10 months, we have shared thousands of great ideas through our monthly Bright Ideas event. This month, we’re re-capping all of those great ideas, just in case you missed any!


Back in August, I wrote about ways to use classroom magazines effectively, which you can read all about here:

In July, I shared my most popular Bright Ideas post, all about my Brain Booster Box:

In May, I shared Bright Ideas for Word Work. I was so happy to share the little tricks I use to keep Word Work fun and organized!

Back in April, I shared my eco-friendly Reminder Bracelets! This tip saves me so much time, and is a great way to keep the lines of communication active between home and school.


March was Cheap Ways to Tame the Clutter: (And what teacher doesn't have stacks of clutter everywhere?? I can't be the only one!)

Last, but my favorite, is from last February - Use Pinterest for Transitions!


There are so many Bright Ideas out there! I hope that you found an idea (or a few ideas!) that you can use in your own classroom. Be sure to check out the link up below for tons more fabulous ideas from my bloggy friends! Have a great day!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Make and Take Literacy Night = Fun Parent Involvement

The ultimate goal of literacy is to help students become life-long readers, so they can be educated citizens. The child's first and most influential teacher is their parent and/or guardian. With that in mind, it is crucial to give families the tools they need to help this child, as well as other children in the household. When families play together, it helps their social skills, critical thinking skills, and focus their attention on an activity that doesn't involve a computer screen. {Here's a link to an article from The Atlantic: How Family Game Night Makes Kids Into Better Students} Since my focus is on Literacy, I love to invite families to school for Literacy Night. I've helped organize, prepare, and lead Literacy Nights for over 8 years over the course of my teaching career, and I plan to continue this for years to come. Here are my tips for a successful Literacy Night in Upper Elementary classrooms.

Make and Take for Literacy Night, grades 3-5


At a recent Literacy Night at my school, the parents met in the gym to see a quick presentation. The students went to the media center to watch a video, learn how to do the 3 activities, and prepare to teach their parents.



We learned how to play Boggle {one of my favorite games to teach students to reinforce many essential skills}. We used a document camera to project my Boggle game, and we spent about 5 minutes learning how to play, then moved off to the next activity.

Click here to see Boggle on my affiliate link from Amazon.
Remember Cootie Catchers? Or did you call them Fortune Tellers? Either way, they are fun! We used them for comprehension activities for the families to take home. We practiced using a familiar story.

Note: I used Jack and the Beanstalk. I didn't read the book, we just reviewed it as a group:
Mrs. Sykes: Raise your hand if you've heard of the story Jack and the Beanstalk.
Hands shoot up all around. 5 excited kiddos start calling out. Pandemonium might break out any minute.
Mrs. Sykes: Great! We have so many people who know the story. Turn to someone and tell them about the story.
Excited talking. Some jumping up and down. After 15 seconds, I get everyone's attention.
Mrs. Sykes: Let's just review it together. Let's start: Jack and the Beanstalk is a story about a boy named... pause
Kiddos: Jack!
Mrs. Sykes: Jack trades his cow for a pile of... pause
Kiddos: Beans!
This continues for about less than a minute, and we all know the basics of the story. Then, I model using the Cootie Catcher with the story, and we practice a couple of times, using the document camera so everyone can see.

 Next, we practiced "Read it Like..." which is a fun and quick way to work on fluency with repeated readings. We practiced saying the name of the school and our teacher's names using silly voices. {Like a buzzy bee, like you are underwater, and like a pirate - AARGH!} We were silly, and had a few laughs while practicing.


Finally, the parents arrived. We told the students it was their job to show their parents how to do the activities, and showed them quickly to the parents. Teachers circulated to answer any questions, and the families circulated to collect the materials. After about 20 minutes, it was time for everyone to go. We thanked them for coming, and everyone went home. The only prep work was printing/copying the take home activities, and trimming the paper for the Cootie Catchers to make them easier to fold.

Interested in hosting a low-prep Make & Take Literacy Night? Click the picture below to see them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, to see if it might meet the needs for  your school community. How do you support family literacy in your classroom?



Monday, October 20, 2014

Mystery Word of the Week ~ October Deal!

Y'all know I love my Mystery Word of the Week sets, right? It's not just me - my students *love* this, and we are linking unknown words to known words, using definitions, visual cues, synonyms, antonyms, and context clues. I have seen the effect this has on the vocabulary (and test scores!) of the struggling readers I have worked with in grades 2-6 over the years. Here's an opportunity to get 60 weeks at a deal!

The bundle was 40 weeks, and now it includes 60 weeks! And the price didn't go up... actually, it went down (for the rest of October.) I know it doesn't make much business sense for me to lower my price when I add more content, but hear me out.

I decided to add all 12 existing sets (including the science sets) of the Mystery Word of the Week to the 40 week bundle.Now includes all 12 Mystery Word of the Week sets!! That's 60 weeks of Mystery Words (a $48 value) for the SALE price of $20.00 through the month of October. The price will increase Nov. 1 to $35. At least 6 more sets will be added to this bundle during the 2014-2015 school year, and the price will rise as more content is added. Purchase the bundle in October to get all future Mystery Word of the Week sets for this super-low price, then come back and download the updated sets from your purchases.

Want to see more? Click on the picture below to view this bundle in my TPT store, and check out the *huge* preview to try the Mystery Word of the Week in your class tomorrow.

60 weeks for $20 - Ends 10/31/2014
Print, post, discuss.  Enjoy!

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