Guest Blogger #1: Teacher Idea Factory - Queen of the First Grade Jungle

Guest Blogger #1: Teacher Idea Factory

When the one and only Katie King asked me to be a guest blogger, I darn near passed out.  I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be here today! With this said, I have been rackin' my brain to come up with a sure fire way to please her sweet crowd.  Here's what I've got for ya . . . FUN WITH PHONICS!  

In good old Room 13 way up in Nor Cal, we are all about playing with sounds and really experiencing them.  Yes, we read phonics decodables.  Yes, we spell on the tables.  Yes, we practice sorting, practice sorting, and practice sorting some more.  However, it's those special "emotional" lessons that really drive it home for my kids.  My goal is to create meaningful activities that involve "hidden" practice.  It's learning disguised as play if you will.  And, I have found that it's these lessons that drive emotion, thus turning those short-term moments into long-term learning!  Here's just a little sample . . . 

Sure, I could have my kids practice spelling on boring old paper.  OR, I could break out the yarn and index cards to create a whole different experience - short e necklaces.  (Ironically, this always seems to help with behavior management as well . . . engaged kids = well behaved kids.)

This little sweetie finished his early and jumped in to help his classmate!
Here's how this one rolls . . . 
  1. Prep a class set of index cards (I cut mine in half hot dog style) and hole punch one of the ends. **Each child needs 5-6 cards depending on how many words you want them to work on.
  2. Have your students write one short e word on each card and draw a corresponding picture on the back.
  3. When finished, let your students pick two pieces of yarn to "braid" together. (My kids couldn't braid, so I showed them how to cheat by twisting two strings together).  
  4. Knot the yarn pieces together at one end, tape this to a table, and let 'em "braid" (see photos).  The teamwork that will materialize before your eyes will be oh-so magical!
  5. When students finish, knot the loose ends together and invite your kiddos to string their cards on their necklace.
  6. Tie the two ends together and let your kiddos wear these puppies home!

Sometimes you just have to have your babes sort and spell.  However, when you do, why not switch it up a bit from time to time??  Try Post-IT Sorting.  It's simple.  It's novel.  It's fun!

I assign my kids numbers . . . hence the lack of names.
I am a huge Rick Morris fan (more on this in the future).

I was lucky enough to score these awesome little pouches with lined stickies at a conference a year or so ago.  However, I was thinking of splitting regular yellow Post-It stacks into thirds this year.  I'll give each kid their own mini-set and they can write their name/number on the back.  

Here's how this one works . . . 

  1. Have them pull off two or three stickies and place them side by side on their desk (see photo).
  2. At the top of each sticky they write one of the word families you are working on at the top (i.e. ot, -op, -og).
  3. I like to use this during a whole-class brainstorm session.  I ask for a specific word family and volunteers give me words.
  4. Your students copy these words on the right word family sticky (I draw out stickies and do this on the board with them).
  5. To get the most out of this activity I also ask for the volunteers to use the words in detailed oral sentences and name the word's part of speech.  (This gives your slower workers time to catch up as well).

This is a great short vowel culminating activity!  All you need is for your local grocery store to donate a class set of bags (or you can tell your bagger "paper please" for the next month) and run copies of the little template below.

If you wanna try this one . . . 
  1. To start the activity, cut up one side of the bag for the opening of the vest.  Next, cut a circle out of the bottom of the bag (neck slot - see photo).  Finally, cut holes in each side by cutting a large oval roughly 2/3 up the side of the bag (arm holes - see photo).  **I like to do activity on a day when our big buddies come, but I have done it step-by-step as a whole class activity.**
  2. Students then write one or more (it's your call) words corresponding with the short vowel listed on each card.  I also had my kids draw a picture of each word.    
  3. Finally, these are cut apart and glued down the front of the vest as "patches".  Students can decorate up the rest of the bag using markers and scraps of paper.
  4. They LOVE to wear these home!
CLICK HERE to snatch up the "patches" template!
(I didn't forget short u . . .  promise!  It's on a hidden page.)
Well, that's it today my friends - thanks for taking the time to read my little "posty-post!"  I tried to give you a handful of fun phonics ideas that require little prep. A HUGE thank you to my dear bloggy buddy, Katie, for this amazing opportunity! Have a great day and I'll see you around :)  

your photo name


  1. Kelley!! I love your ideas for teaching short vowels! I know my students would enjoy making necklaces for that....and the vests are so creative. I am pinning this for sure!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  2. Love the short vowel vest! Absolutely adorable! Phonics is one of the things that I really need to get better at teaching.. love these ideas and pinned them. Thank you!

    Reaching for the TOP!

  3. Those vests are the cutest things I have ever seen in my LIFE!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  4. My students would love that! Such a cute, cute, cute idea!!!
    First Grade Found Me

  5. I love your blog! I am your newest follower! What wonderful ideas you have!


    Sprinkles to Kindergarten

  6. Love these ideas, Kelley! Adorable and memorable for the kiddos!

  7. Lovely! i love your ideas!....keep it up....
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