Category: Ideas

Contraction Surgery

IMG_0407I’ve been noticing with my 1st graders we’ve been having a lot of troubles while reading when we come to contractions.  Students say, “it is” when we see “it’s” or “do not” when we see “didn’t”.  Sometimes we’ll even get something a little more wonky like “didn’t not”.  I’ve done some word work with contractions, but it hasn’t really stuck.  I decided to do something with these 1st graders that I did with my 1st graders about 6 years ago–contraction surgery.

IMG_0419Students each got their own surgical mask, gloves, and “scalpel” AKA scissors.  We turned words into contractions by taking out the letters we didn’t need, “stitching them back up” (gluing them to the paper), and giving them a “surgery scar” (AKA the apostrophe).

We did a couple of examples together and then students were able to do 5 of them at their own pace with my support as needed.  They LOVED this and I think it helped because I haven’t noticed as much of the issues when reading as I have previously noticed.

They were extra excited because they got to keep all of their surgical gear AND I called each of them doctor. 🙂



Social Stories

IMG_0394It’s getting to be that time of the year when friends are going a little stir crazy and patience for each other can sometimes be low.  I’ve noticed in 1st grade especially patience for dealing with peers has been a challenge for students.  We took this as a learning opportunity.

I had the students read Calming Down and The Rude Robot to learn about ways we could practice patience and kindness to each other.

In Calming Down students learned that it’s ok to get angry, but to channel that anger into something positive and find ways to calm down.  Once we finished reading the story, we created a group anchor chart of ways we could calm down at school to help us stay positive and on task.  Each student then received a pocket-sized version of our chart to keep in their book box as a bookmark to use when they found themselves getting upset with another classmate.

IMG_0395We also read The Rude Robot about a boy who gets a robot for a birthday present, but the robot is rude to everyone so the boy has to teach it manners so his friends will want to come back and play.  When we finished reading the book we came up with a list of ways we could be more kind to each other in the classroom.  They also got a pocket-sized version of this anchor chart to keep in their book boxes as continual reminders on how even when we get mad at someone in the class we can still be kind to them.

I was impressed with all the great ideas students had.

Nerf Sight Words

IMG_3082I’ve been trying to get a little more creative in ways I can get students applying sight words they need to know along with movement and fun.  I saw on a teacher webpage advertisement the idea to use Nerf to sling darts at sight words.  This has been a HUGE hit.  The kids have been begging to play.  I call out a sight word they are still a little shaky on and they have to use the laser pointer to aim at the sight word and then try and get it.  Only a few darts have bounced off and hit Ms. Acuff! 🙂


img_0371I came across this awesome ipad app called Whack-A-Word and thought it was the cutest thing ever.  I don’t have ipad for all of my kiddos so I tweaked what I saw on the app and created my own using sheets for ABCs, blends and digraphs, and Jolly Phonics.  (If you want any of my materials, let me know!)  My teammate also found some stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers, but we created our own to match with what we wanted.

I took a pool noodle and cut them into about 2 inch wide slices and inserted jumbo craft sticks into a slit I made with scissors.  img_0372

The kids LOVED THIS!!! “Ms. Acuff, why haven’t we played this before?  This game is AWESOME!”  The way it works is you tell them something to find and they have to locate it and “whack the word” or in this case–the sound.  “Whack the sound that says ch-ch-ch.”  This has been a great way to reinforce letter identification and word parts for the Kindergarten kiddos who have needed some extra practice without it being so “skill and drill” with them.img_0373

AWESOME BOOK: Forest Friends

IMG_0096I have to give a big shout-out to a book our Kindergarten team used they found on Teachers Pay Teachers from Ashley Watson called Forest Friends Go To School.  If you are a teacher then you have at some point had at least one book destroyed at home by one of your kiddos.  It’s frustrating and expensive and the kids always feel bad, but at the end of the day, it still is one more book you need to replace.

I used this book with my Reading Recovery kids before I sent a bag of books home with the kids.  The book goes over different “bad scenarios” of things that happen to the book–coloring on the pages, stickers on the pages, dirt/mud on the pages, juice and chocolate on the pages, ripped pages, and pencil on the pages.  And then has the kids think about how we should take care of books while they are using them.

My 1st graders were really upset that this book was ruined (BONUS: you get to be the one to ruin the book.  Mwahaha!) and came up with a lot of good ideas on how to care for the books.

Do I think I won’t have anymore lost or destroyed books?  No, I’m not naïve, but I certainly hope this book comes to mind of the kiddos when they go to read my books at home and take a little better care of them.

You can get the book for only $3.00 from Ashley!  Go buy it, it’s definitely worth the $3.00 plus you are supporting another teacher.


Superhero Strategies

IMG_4473Every year I try to have a “theme” in my room and as you saw in my earlier post this year is Super Hero: Super Reader!

I decided to re-vamp my strategy bookmarks and anchors in my room.  I’m big into super heroes and I’m hoping the change will be something my students enjoy.

IMG_4477My students will get the book mark (on the left) to take back with them to the classroom or to put in their book bags/book boxes and then the photo on the right are the larger ones hanging on my wall as a reference.

As always, if you ever want copies of any of what I use please let me know.  I’m always willing to share.  Cheers to all of you kicking off your new school year.  Here’s to a SUPER 2014-2015 school year.

Fluent Readers

We had some students who were making great progress in their reading levels, but were struggling with fluency.  I had a teacher within the building ask me for what she could do and I thought maybe a short little video might help?  I’m a visual learner and so I had my son make a video with me.  He thought I should put it on my blog because he wants a million hits (Ha! Love him!)   I’ve had lots of students come up to me since seeing the video telling me they are reading more fluently.  Enjoy our silly fluency video!

Donors Choose Groupon

Well hello everyone!  It’s been a while.  It has been an interesting last couple of weeks here in Penthouse B at Lowell.  My son got the stomach flu then my student teacher got the flu and then I got the flu and then my son got sick again.  We are all healthy here again!  It was a little sketchy for a while, but we’re all back!

Another one of my teacher friends clued me in on a great GROUPON!!!  Currently they have a Groupon for Donors Choose.  It is $30 for $10 toward any project.  You can purchase up to 10 of these for yourself and up to 10 of these to give as gifts.  This is a great time to get a bunch of free money for any of your projects or a great holiday gift for any of your teacher friends.

And if you’re so inclined–our project is only $15 away from being fully funded (I bought 3 Groupons–couldn’t help myself!) and would love if you wanted to give Penthouse B an early Christmas gift! (

To purchase the Groupon head to:,+IA,+USA&query=donors%20choose&locale=en_US

Choose Your Adventure

IMG_7907Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year!  I am really excited to be back at Lowell again this year for my 5th year!!!  It was SO wonderful to see so many of my students/former students and other Lowell kiddos at back to school night last night and then again this morning.

This year I really hope to get students fired up about reading (even more than I usually hope to get students fired up)  This year I want students to be able to choose their adventure destination with books!

Please contact me if you need any support in helping your child with reading, with book recommendations, or if you have any concerns about your child’s reading progress this year.  I am here for YOU and your CHILD!  Let’s have a great year and get our “read on”!!!

EvidenceI’m supposed to conference with my 2nd graders every day, but between Iowa Assessments, field trips, and me being sick, that hasn’t happened very regularly the last couple of weeks.

One of the things I’ve been noticing when I go to visit with my 4 boys is that I’m really struggling to get anything kind of lengthy response from them.  They already have a rubric in their response journals on what a score of 1, 2, 3, and 4 needs to be, yet time after time, I come back to journals that have 2 or 3 sentences in it and are usually I was surprised that….or My favorite part was….

Both my student teacher and myself have modeled what a good reader response should look like and we’re still struggling.

I started using this little sheet called “Show me the evidence!”  I’m hoping that some of these examples of connecting words will help us with their responses when they are working independently in the classroom.