CVC Word Cards Phonics Activity for the Primary Classroom

Hello, fellow educators!

I’m back with another set of phonics and vocabulary center activities.  For this week’s activities, I chose four different ones each day, all of which were from the activity packets that I created..  The latest activity is a card game, called “CVC Girls Word Cards.”  The goal is for them to practice forming and reading words with CVC pattern.

This packet consists of the following:

  • activity directions
  • 42 word cards
  • 4 sets of vowel letters
  • answer key

CVC Girls Word Cards

The sample set of word cards is shown below:

CVC Girls Word Cards-set 1

CVC Girls Word Cards- Set 2

The packet includes an Answer Key, which the teacher can give to the leader of each group.  This is to make sure that students will know if the words they formed make sense or not.

CVC Girls Word Cards Answer Key

This is how I arranged my phonics and vocabulary center for this game:

CVC Girls Word Cards at the Phonics and Vocabulary Center

1st Graders playing the CVC Girls Word Card Game

 I realized that the letter cards were too small when I printed them, so I had to make some modifications.  I did not have a chance to laminate them (This is summer school, remember…), but I sure will when the new school year starts.

Here’s the link to my CVC Word Cards.  Please try this game in your class.  I’m sure your kids will love this, as mine did!

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Vocabulary Center Sentence-Building Activities

Hello, everyone!  I suddenly, found the inspiration to create my sentence-building activities using some of the high-frequency words for my Vocabulary Center.  Of course, this is something that I love to share with you!

Vocabulary Center Sentence-Building Activities

One of the activities is called “Build a Sentence with Word Squares.”  I tried this with my 1st graders this Summer, so I know this is something they could do with some teacher support for those that are below-grade level.  As long as you give the directions clearly and you model an answer for them, they will be able to complete this task in collaboration with their group members.

Build a Sentence with Word Squares

The next activity is called “Connect the Strips.”  I created strips with group of words that they have to connect in order to build a sentence.  This will keep them a little busy because they have to cut the strips and then glue it in the boxes provided for the sentences.  Again, BGL kids might have difficulty building the sentences on their own, but with a little help from you and from their group members, they will be able to complete this task.

Connect the Strips and Build a Sentence

The last two activities, which I called “Pick a Stick and Rainbow-Write It” are inspired by the so many available activities on rainbow writing and using craft sticks to read and write sight words. There is one blog post in particular that I really love from  Click on the link to see how she uses craft sticks to teach dolch words.  What I did was combine these two strategies so that my kids could have double the fun with their sight words.

Pick a Stick and Rainbow-Write It-template 1

Pick a Stick and Rainbow-Write It-II

My 1st graders in the Vocabulary Center

(My 1st Graders at the Vocabulary Center)

My activity packet would not look as bright and colorful without the border graphic design by the3amteacher.  She has a lot of free graphics that are really helpful to newbies like me!

I hope that you find these activities useful for your vocabulary center.  You may download the entire packet here.  Please feel free to share this post and like it!

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Five Powerful Ways Students Can Become Independent Learners

We are at an era in teaching where as teachers, we aim to become more effective facilitators of learning rather than just be a mere source of knowledge to our students.  Student seats are no longer arranged by rows where the teacher is always expected to be in front, but in groups that encourage open discussion and collaboration among them.  We design our activities so that they can truly become more independent learners who are able to monitor their own learning.

Taking into consideration that these types of goal require thoughtful planning and organizing, I have listed some ways by which our kids can take charge of their own learning in the classroom:

1.  Establish a set of expectations as well as routines and procedures for all your day-to-day activities in the classroom, such as: whole group discussions, read-alouds, learning stations or centers, carpet sharing, use of technology, bathroom use, etc.  These expectations should be clearly explained starting on day one and every time you introduce a new structure in class.  For exa,mple, students rotating in centers are one of the hardest to manage, which is why it is important to carefully plan each activity in the centers by providing simple but clear directions as well as model answers.  I typically would direct my students’ attention to each center while I explain the procedures for each activity before we begin with group rotation in centers.  Once students have gotten used to the routines and the structure, they become self-driven, independent, and more accountable for their behavior in class.

2.  Assign a team leader for each of your learning groups.  By doing this, you  deliberately pass on some of your managerial duties to selected students who you know have leadership qualities, which will then enable you to take care of other important aspects of your job rather than having to constantly tell them what to do or what not to do.  Students generally love to be given responsibilities in the classroom and lead their classmates.  I usually would have different team leaders every week so that everybody gets the chance to be a leader.  You would be surprised at how much this means to the kids, especially the younger ones who would love to do anything to please their teachers.

A first grade team leader giving a phonics mini-lesson

(A 1st Grade Team Leader Doing a Mini-Lesson on Phonics)

3.  Give them their own “teacher moment” by assigning a group project that will allow them to create an activity or a mini-lesson on a topic that has already been discussed.  For instance, intermediate students can do a Powerpoint or Prezi presentation, create a vocabulary game, or even a quiz for their classmates.  Primary kids can “take over” a learning group to review their phonics lesson or give a spelling bee on sight words or high-frequency words they have learned for the week.  In my first grade class, my kids love to use the mini-whiteboards to quiz each other on our vocabulary list.  When this happens, be assured that it helps a lot to boost their confidence, their social skills, and their oral proficiency.

First grade team leaders give a spelling quiz

(1st Grade Team Leaders Giving a Spelling Quiz)

 4.  Assign a “Teacher for the Week” to a student who has earned privileges to be one.  This “teacher for the week” can check class attendance, distribute and collect papers, take charge of your behavior chart, or oversee a learning station.  This encourages positive behavior among students because they generally want to earn this privilege.

5.  Design center activities or tasks at their appropriate proficiency level.  It is essential to provide directions that are written in clear and simple sentences and that students are able to complete tasks with minimal teacher supervision.  Centers are meant to supplement students’ learning and to work independently but at the same have the opportunity to interact with the group.

Just an added thought:  Always teach with a smile on your face!  Be nice but firm.  Be sweet without being over-friendly.  It may sound like a cliche, but in my years of teaching, I have found that when students like your teaching style and the way you relate with them, they tend to become more motivated to do their work, they have less anxiety in class, and as a result, they take charge of their own learning.

It surely would make you feel good when at the end of the day, a student would come to you and say, “I had so much fun learning today.”

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When Students Become Teachers

As an ESOL teacher teaching multi-grade levels with kids of different abilities, I sometimes have this crazy idea of wanting one or two of my kids to “morph” into me so that there are three of us in the classroom teaching at the same time.

When all strategies fail, don’t we just want to turn into a wonder woman with cool super-powers?  Believe it or not, we have students that will drive us crazy the entire year.  Like Marcus who whines at every little thing.  Or Kyla whose attention span lasts only five minutes or so.  I remember an instance when upon entering the room of a first grade teacher (one who I consider to be one of the best in the building) to pull out my ESOL kids,  I noticed that she was having one of those rough days as her students were behaving like they were from outer space.  And it was uncharacteristic of her to exclaim,  “You’re all giving my grey hair right now!”  To my complete amusement, our principal who happened to pass by overheard her and jokingly reacted, “What’s wrong with grey hair?”  Hint. Hint.  She clearly needed those super-powers that day.

Ok, so going back to wanting to have cool super-powers, I actually felt like I had one when last Thursday, two of my kids volunteered to handle one of my centers.  They turned my reading center into a spelling bee station.  And because I have done spelling bee with them three or four times, they assured me they know what to do.  Here’s what happened:

  •  Kevin and William took charge of the kids in what was supposed to be the Reading station.
  • They handed out mini-whiteboards, dry-erase markers, and mini-erasers.
  • They asked me for a copy of the high-frequency words that was on our list for the week.
  • They quizzed the group on each of the words.

Here’s the most amazing thing that happened:  They actually did it as if they were ME!  They copied the way I would do the spelling bee, even the way I would count from five to zero and say, “Hold up your boards!”

Kevin and William as ME

(Kevin and William as ME)

 And I was free to just be moving around to see what was happening at the other centers.

Isn’t it incredible to have students “morph” into you?

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The Best Day Ever: Activities and Centers that Support Independent Writing

This week my kids learned about autobiography.  You bet it’s a big word to learn especially that most of them are English language learners with beginning reading level.  The first thing I had to do then, was to get them acquainted with the term.  I devised a game, which I dubbed as “Say it Right, Do it right.” The game requires them to say “auto” and “biography” alternately, each with different gesture, and whoever does not say it right with the right gesture during the game gets eliminated and goes back to his/her seat.  I did this, pointing to each kid alternately until everyone else, except one, is back on their seats.

Let me tell you this.  At the end of the game, the word just got stuck in their minds, a few of them were still saying the six-syllable word happily while lining up for dismissal.

My agenda for the day went like this:

Whole Group Activities/discussion

  • Say it Right, Do it Right game
  • Introduction to Autobiography (using an Anchor Chart with definition and short example with focus on use of pronouns I, Me, My)
  • Review of Phonics lesson: short /o/ (which I had to include as part of the summer reading program)


I created three learning stations for my 12 kids with four members in each group:

  • Writing Center – (It is necessary to place the strongest group of kids in this center during the first rotation; they are the ones who need less teacher support.)
  • Phonics/Vocabulary Center
  • Reading Center –  (This is where I am stationed so that I can guide them into reading and comprehending the text that is appropriate for their reading level.  This is also the time I provide more details about an autobiographical text).

To apply their learning, they wrote about their best day ever, just simply titled “The Best Day.”  In the Writing Station, I wrote the instructions and provided the template with an example.  I also have a word bank for them.  The center has markers, crayons, and papers – all they needed to complete the task.

The Best Day writing assignment

The Best Day writing assignment-2

     So far, I am quite satisfied with what they have done.

My kids at the phinis:vocabulary center

My kids at the Phonics/Vocabulary Center

Me at the Reading Station

Me with my kids at The Reading Station

This is Summer school and I just make the most out of the very few resources that are provided to me.  The classroom is bare of any decorations, and it is okay.  It is, after all, Summer.

Happy Summer!

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Love Notes from Summer School

Fact:  If you are a teacher, Summer time is your most favorite season of all.  No papers to grade, no Monday blues, no Common Core lessons to plan – Nothing of these sorts.  Unless you decided against your very own will to teach during the summer.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be all that stressful.  It only takes four to five weeks, you have fewer students, and in most cases, you implement a reading or a math program  that takes less time to prepare.

Sure, you have to contend with being assigned farther away from where you live, with a classroom that looked like the teacher probably sighed (after packing all classroom stuff) at the thought of TGIS.  Whew!  Thank God it’s Summer.  But then again, it’s not all that bad.

Yes, I finally decided to teach Summer School.  After three long years.  I  have rising second graders who need all the help they could get to make it through the next school year.

After just three days of teaching them, I have no regrets of ever having to teach this Summer.

Notes of Love from Summer School

 See?  That’s proof that we’re all having a good time in my class.  In my next blog, I’ll let you know what my kids are learning this Summer.  Stay tuned!

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A Letter to Yonathan

Two years ago, I had the privilege of having Yonathan as a student in my fifth grade ESOL class.  He came from Eritria as a refugee who barely spoke English.  He was, at first, often misunderstood by his classmates and he also did not understand much of the culture in the U.S. classrooms, which was why there were a few instances when he would be involved in a fight, especially during recess.

It was about this same year that I was completing a graduate certificate course in bilingual special education.  In my Immigrant Experience course, I was asked to complete a journal with one entry being to write a letter to one of my immigrant students.  I thought that in writing this letter, I realized that I, and any other teacher of English language learners, have so much to learn from this unique experience of having to teach students like Yonathan.

Below is my letter:

 Dear Yonathan,

         A few weeks ago, you were a mystery that I was trying to solve. Now, as I get to know you everyday, I am very grateful for your presence in my classroom. Your classmates thought at first that your name was misspelled until you told me in your “broken” English that in your language it is spelled correctly. Then one day, when I gave you a world atlas to use as part of our lesson, you excitedly leafed through the page, and showed me where your country, Eritria, is. The truth is, if I had not read your ESOL file, I would not have known it even existed, blaming it to my lack of geographic knowledge.  I had to actually google your country and your language, Tigrinya, which you said is similar to Arabic.  Just like me and the rest of your teachers,  your classmates were also dumbfounded that there is a country named Eritria.  Now they know that it is a small country that is bordered by Ethiopia and Sudan because you pointed it to them in  the world atlas.  Now, we all know that before you came here, you lived in Sudan and Germany as a refugee. And that was how you started to learn English.  

     You told me you are tough, and I believe you. You have seen people die. You have seen kids fight in a war that was not theirs to fight, much less understand. And I could not do anything but listen. You are proud of what you have gone through, and are proud to remain alive. You have every right to feel such.

         Thank you for being my student.  Thank you for sharing your story.  Most of all, thank you for allowing me to learn from you.


                                                                      Your ESOL teacher


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