Tag Archives: Reading

Summer Reading Blog {how and why to start one with your class}

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed.

 Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

We all want our students to stay mentally active over the long summer months, and summer reading is a tried-and-true way to achieve this. But, to banish the negative associations of the dreaded “required summer reading” list, while not create a class blog that shares fun reading options and book recommendations?

Various teachers, the school media specialist, and even older students can all post on the blog, sharing ideas and reading recommendations.

How To Get Started

  1. Set up a blog through a free blog hosting company, like WordPress.com or Blogger.com.
  2. Write your first post. You can upload pictures, book cover images, etc., and free templates are also available for blogs from places like The Cutest Blog on the Block (if you want to get cutesy).
  3. Create a summer schedule of who will post when. For example, assign each participating teacher, student and librarian a specific date to post their entry. Two posts on the blog per week would be ideal, but even one per week would be fine. So, if you have five participating teachers, each could post twice during the summer. That’s not too time consuming! If students post, you could potentially have a new post every day or every-other day, depending on the number of students.

What to Post About

Include blog posts about books students might be interested in, such as books by local authors, and books in a series by authors your students have already read. Be sure to create good tags or descriptions so that your students can look up what type of books they may interest in. Many book stores offer summer book clubs, book signings or other literary events; those would make great posts, as well.

What Students Should Post About

Allow students to post comments on the book summaries, or list how many books they have read themselves over the summer. Encourage them to submit recommendations of books they are loving (or hating!). A little instruction may be necessary to teach students how to write a book review/recommendation without spoiling the ending.

Motivate Participation

Incentives: Of course, you could work with next year’s teachers to require your students to participate with the blog. You (and next year’s teachers) could also incentivize: students who post a thoughtful blog entry could receive an automatic 10 bonus points toward a test or assignment during the upcoming year, or they could earn a special reward on the first day of school (a candybar, privilege, homework pass, etc.).

Polls: Generate more activity on the blog by including polls. Include poll questions like: What genre do you like best? (mystery/suspense, historical fiction, biography, fiction, science fiction, etc.)

Pictures: Liven up the blog with frequent pictures, such as covers of the books you mention in postings, as well as photos taken at the library. Consider adding activities to the blog suggesting fun activities such as a scavenger hunt at the library, or a competition where students submit photos of them dressed like their favorite characters. Allow younger students to draw pictures of their favorite scene from the book, and post the pictures online too.

Security Settings

Make sure you (and a fellow teacher or two) approve all students posts before they go live. And consider using private settings on the blog, too, to ensure that only approved people have access.

Some Interesting Blogs to Check Out
To get inspired, check out these reading blogs:

GreenBeanTeenQueen. A librarian blogger who provides reviews on teen and tween literature.

MotherReader. This mom writes fun and interesting posts mostly featuring picture books.

Happy summer blogging!


1 Comment

Filed under Academic Success, Home Schooling, Reading, Summer Learning

More Pinterest Classroom Finds!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. (Who couldn’t use that?)

Once spring break is over, it’s a mad dash to the finish of the school year. But it’s also a great opportunity to make a lasting impact in your students’ memories with relevant, hands-on activities. Here are two of our faves–found via Pinterest. (Yes, we’re addicted, too.)

Very Hungry Caterpillar Printables!

We love this idea from Teaching Heart Blog of making a Very Hungry Caterpillar paper bag and then using the provided printables to “feed” the caterpillar. So cute! It would make a dandy spring activity, and it has some good center possibilities, too. Think of what else your students could categorize, count, and feed to that hungry caterpillar: cotton balls, paperclips, small manipulatives. Or, search “snacks” or “food” on Google images, like we did here, and then print an array of snackies for your students to cut out and feed to the caterpillar!

Fingerprint Tree

We love any idea that’s both aesthetic and artful. Here’s a beauty! This could have two purposes: 1) What a fabulous Mother’s Day gift idea for students to make for their mamas! And 2) You could make one as a class, and then reproduce it for each student to keep, as an end-of-the-year keepsake.

The idea originally came from Carolina Pad products. All you’d need are paints and a heavy duty piece of paper or canvas (one per class if it’s a class keepsake or one per child, if it’s for Mother’s Day). For Mother’s Day, each student would repeatedly make their own fingerprints to cover their trees. For a class keepsake, every child in the class would add their fingerprints to one class tree. Either way, this idea is preciousness!

Comments Off on More Pinterest Classroom Finds!

Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Holidays, Reading

Creative Dr. Seuss Birthday Ideas {It’s March 2!}

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 gift card from The School Box

One of my favorite sayings comes from my children’s favorite author. Seriously. Consider the wisdom of Theodor Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Truth, plain and simple.

Every March 2, libraries and schools around the country celebrate the birthday of this beloved childhood muse. So why not go beyond simply reading his timless tales and bring them to life? Here are some creative ideas to take you from snack time to craft time to recess.

Fun with Food

With a smidgen of creativity, Dr. Seuss’s books become veritable cookbooks! Favorite yum-o ideas:

  • Create a stack of pancakes with strawberry filling to look like the hat of The Cat In the Hat
  • Eat cake in the bathtub at home, like the cat does in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (do it while holding an open umbrella, if you’re truly talented)
  • Hand out multicolored Goldfish crackers to illustrate One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Drink pink ink (strawberry Quik-flavored milk) like the “pink yink ink” in One Fish, Two Fish
  • Of course there’s green eggs and ham. Of course.
  • And check out these adorable Thing One Thing Two cupcakes, shown right, from Go Graham Go!

Dress Up, Seuss-style

Keep the fun going by helping kids dress like their favorite (or original!) Seuss character.

  • Look for tall pipe-like hats at the craft store and decorate them with red and white stripes (or make your own from poster board).
  • Wear socks on your hands and feet to resemble Fox in Socks.
  •  And if your dress-up box is a bit more on the wild side, let children layer on the funny furs, feather boas, ears and snouts to create their own silly Seuss-like character! Older children can then write rhyming stories about their original character to share with a younger class.

Tim Tebow Storytime

View the animated webcast recording of football phenom Tim Tebow reading Green Eggs and Ham. Great reading role model! Just click “watch now” and then enter the little information it asks for (city, state, etc.). The video is adorable.

Cat-y Crafts!

Looking for something to do? How about some help from Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Let kids create two paper bag hand puppets of the Things with this adorable template from obSEUSSed.com. In addition to a printout for each student (provided on the site), you’ll need two red paper bags (or white bags colored red), scissors, glue/double-sided tape and crayons or markers. So stinkin’ cute!

Get Movin’

Balance Silliness: Recreate some of the fun from the Cat in the Hat by letting children try their hand at carrying and balancing a variety of items, cat-style, while walking across the room: balance a book on a child’s head, hold a stack of books with a ball on top, and hang a curved-handled umbrella over the crook of the child’s arm. Make it into a contest: Have every child in your class try walking with the same items. Mark each child’s stopping point (how far they get before things topple) on tape on the rug, labeled with their names. The child who walks the farthest wins!

Kite Race: Recreate another activity from the Cat in the Hat by letting kids race kites outside or in the gym at school. Keep things safe by spacing children at least 10 feet apart from each other and shortening their kite strings to under 10 feet. They’ll end up dragging the kites the whole way, but it is hysterical!

Lego Cat Hat: Looking for a simple activity? Have kids sort out red and white Lego blocks and see who can build the tallest ‘Cat Hat’ quickest. Make sure to have a timer and ruler ready to see who wins!

After a Seusstacular day, your students will be saying, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”


Filed under Activities, Art, creative writing, Games, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Writing

Eight Superior Author Sites

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. :)

Introduce your students to the masterminds behind their favorite stories. Since (sadly) not all author sites are created equal, here are our faves that are especially interactive, clever and click-worthy. Bookmark these on your computer or print them out for your students to take to the computer lab. Some (Avi) even have instructions for setting up live Skype calls between your class and the author!

Mo Willems 

Shel Silverstein

Seussville (of course!)

Avi (great for 4th-8th grade readers)

Beverly Cleary

Brian Jacques (Redwall author)

Chris Van Allsburg (his site is just as artful as you’d expect)

Kevin Henkes

Comments Off on Eight Superior Author Sites

Filed under Reading, technology

Live History: A Creative Project

by S. Parbhoo

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Comment winners are randomly drawn and announced every month.

Teachers, you all know that teaching history can be a challenge. After all, with Facebook and reality TV in kids’ lives, history just seems so…yesterday! Nothing can bore a kid faster than the idea of textbooks, note-taking and unit tests. But, there is a better way!

Here is a research project that will not only foster kids’ creativity, but will also put them into the driver’s seat of their own learning about the past. It’s called the Multigenre Research Project, and while I designed it for Middle School, it could easily be adapted for upper elementary or high school, as well. Here are the steps to complete the project:

Read a Historical Novel or Biography

Students should choose a book that is set in the historical period that the project should cover (as decided by you, the teacher). Both historical fiction and biographies cover “real life” historical issues that people lived through. It’s important that kids begin their historical journey by walking in someone else’s shoes; they’ll need that perspective later in the project.

Choose a Topic

After reading, kids should choose an important topic or social issue covered in their book: What important facts jumped out? What struggles did the main character go through? For example, was the book about children during the Civil War? Was the book about soldiers who fought during the Revolutionary war? Keep the topic narrow.

Explore the Past

Now is the time to find out all there is to know about the topic. Use the Internet to find articles, videos and pictures about the topic. The more knowledge kids have about their chosen idea, the better they will do in the next step.

Become a Historical Character

Here comes the really fun part! Let kids jump into the time machine of their own minds and create four to five creative original pieces. Kids should write (or draw or sing or act) from the point of view of someone in their historical era. Some ideas for them to think about:

• Write a poem or short story as an historical character

• Create a timeline of the era

• Record a video or original song as a character from the era

• Create an original magazine from the era

• Write a letter to a prominent figure of the era

• Draw a picture of a historical person from the era

Package It Up

Finally, kids will package up their work in a super creative way that fits the topic. For example, if the project was on American Soldiers during World War II, creatively package the pieces in a knapsack or backpack. If the topic was on families during the Great Depression, kids can frame drawings, poems and letters like family portraits on a display board. And Marie Antoinette findings, for example, could be fittingly collected in a jewelry box (or cake box!). The ideas are as endless as a student’s imagination!



Filed under Academic Success, Activities, creative writing, History, Reading, Teacher Inspiration, technology, Writing

Instilling a LOVE for Reading

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

Any child who says he or she does not like reading simply has not been introduced to the right book. Everyone loves stories, and reading provides infinite access to innumerable stories. Even the toughest little nut sitting in your class (or living under your roof) will learn to love and enjoy reading with some positive encouragement.

Here’s how:

1. Get caught “read” handed. Make sure that you–the adult role model–is seen reading on a regular basis. Research shows that children who grow up with parents who read magazines are more likely to reach higher levels of education than their peers with non-magazine-reading parents. Children are more likely to do as you do, not as you say.

2. Let there be light (reading). Don’t insist on a certain type or genre of reading material. For regular pleasure reading, let your children select their own materials depending on their interest and comfort level, even if it’s “lighter” than what you’d prefer. Even comic books have been shown to significantly broaden student vocabulary (Holy Toledo, Bat Man!).

3. Pay up. In addition to whatever regular allowance your child may receive, allow them also to earn a “book allowance.” So many hours of reading per week can earn money toward either a purchase of their choice– or toward a new book or magazine. You can decide the stipulations, but either way, you’re encouraging reading the same way you encourage responsibility.

4. Establish ownership. Kids buy into activities when they feel a sense of ownership and independence. To establish ownership with reading:

  • Allow your child tosubscribe to a children’s magazine of their choice. They will enjoy getting something in the mail just for them.
  • Help your child design a reading corner in her bedroom with her favorite books organized on shelves or in inexpensive bins and baskets. Add a comfy floor pillow or blanket, a poster on the wall, a favorite stuffed animal: whatever makes the space feel like her own.
  • Have your child write his name in his books–again, signifying ownership.

5. Get plugged in. Literacy and technology go hand-in-hand. You are, after all, reading this online article at the moment, aren’t you? To encourage reading online, check out some of these sites, recommended by 24/7 Moms as the 2011 Top Learning Websites for Kids:

Discovery Kids http://kids.discovery.com/

National Geographic kids.nationalgeographic.com

Funbrain www.funbrain.com

Cool Math 4 Kids http://www.coolmath4kids.com/

Learning Planet www.learningplanet.com

Kaboose Fun School www. funschool.kaboose.com

e-Learning For Kids www.e-learningforkids.org

The Kidz Page http://thekidzpage.com/learninggames/

Science Made Simple www.sciencemadesimple.com

The Story Place http://www.storyplace.org/

6. Love your library. You can explore books together, check out DVDs, interact on the computer (together :), and–even if your child doesn’t want to take home a book–you can check one out for yourself. There you go, being a good role model again.

The take-away? Reading isn’t a school-time activity; it’s a lifetime gift. By incorporating fun reading attitudes and activities into your child’s world, positive associations with literacy will be built. Even for that toughest nut.

For a wide array of well-priced children’s books for all ages, visit http://www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx

For a selection of floor cushions and loungers perfect for a reading corner (and starting at $18), check out: http://www.schoolbox.com/Search.aspx?Search=floor+cushion&CategoryID=1


Filed under Academic Success, Reading, reluctant readers, Science, technology

Growing Strong Spellers in a TXTNG World.

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card!

Spelling is important. Now, this fact is debatable if you look at the i-gadgets of most tweens and teens (CU L8R), but CTO (that’s “check this out”): Spelling correctly is essential to proper communication and success in life. Misspelled words immediately bring a connotation of lower intelligence, leaving readers wondering if you’re TSTL. (“Too Stupid To Live”…and no, we’re not making up this netlingo.)

So, even if “Spelling Bee Champ” isn’t on a child’s radar, you can still encourage your students to become better spellers (and writers) with just a few simple tips:

1. Show them the importance of spelling.

Spelling correctly isn’t just for writing papers or acing spelling quizzes. Show students real-life (and fun) examples of how people use spelling.

For example, create a list of games or television shows where spelling is important: Scrabble, Wheel of Fortune, Boggle, Word With Friends (a popular iPhone ap game). Depending on your child’s age, you could let him or her watch a few rounds of the national competitions of spelling and geography bees, where students are expected to know (and often DO know) the spelling of obscure words and country names. Mucho impressivo.

2. Publish student writing.

Make your students’ worlds known to other people by publishing their work. Now, publishing used to mean printing and binding, but in our digital age, publishing is as fast (and free) as clicking that mouse.

Consider creating a class website or blog that features their written work. Include stories, journal entries, and graphic projects like comic-strip stories and photo essays (pictures with captions that tell a story or convey an argument or social message). To set up a class blog, just visit www.blogger.com and click through the steps: free and easy!

Writing with an audience in mind provides authentic accountability for spelling and grammar. Be sure to give children a writing/editing checklist (checking for spelling, run-ons, fragments, etc.) to help them proofread their work before hitting “publish” for the world to see!

3. Develop an interest in words.

Implement a “word of the day” segment of class to broaden your students’ vocabulary and spelling prowess. Here are some ways to spice up this idea:

  • Learn the word in a variety of languages. Translate words from English to pretty much any other language in the world (Spanish, French, Tagalog, Swahili) at translate.reference.com. Point out how many Latin-based languages use similar spellings and pronunciations.
  • Share the root word or word of origin.
  • Use a thesaurus and dictionary to find appropriate synonyms and antonyms for the word of the day.
  • Hold a “creativity contest”: the student who can correctly use the new word in the most inventive, creative, humorous or clever sentence is the Word Champ for the day.

4. Relate word spellings to other words.

Use clue words to help students spell other words. For example, if your student knows how to spell the word “telephone” but struggles writing the word “elephant” remind them that the /f/ sound is the same as in the word “telephone.”

5. Read stories aloud.

Studies show that reading aloud to students cultivates more interest in–and positive connotations with–reading and writing. Read aloud to your students, and have them read aloud to you, as well. The result? They’ll gain a better comprehension of and appreciation for the printed word.

In summary, while our world may be increasingly lazy when it comes to spelling, we can still present this necessary skill as relevant. CU L8R.

For a list of innovative spelling projects, posters, and instructional aids, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Diane Burdick, M. Ed. holds a masters in elementary education and a bachelors in history, and is currently pursuing her specialists degree with a concentration in teaching and learning. A homeschooling mother of three, she also enjoys freelancing for online publications.

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.


Filed under creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Phonics, reading aloud, Spelling, Writing

Classroom Makeover Part I: Print-Rich Environment

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are drawn monthly!

Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series will share a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!


Creating a Print-Rich Environment

It’s a researched fact: children exposed to high-quality print in abundance are better readers. But, kids are just like adults: they want things (like books) to be nice, pretty and attractive before they pick them up. So, if your class library is a little less than attractive (read: tattered hand-me-downs wedged onto a spare shelf), check out these tips for creating an effective reading corner that will lure children into literacy.

First: Place Books With Covers Outward

Reading guru Jim Trelease makes the point that grocery stores arrange products with the fronts of packaging–not the spines–facing outward. Why? To attract buyers. But, how do we usually shelve books for children? Like this:

photo from www.trelease-on-reading.com

The solution? Face covers outward. Here are two ways to do just that.

TIP ONE: Install rain gutters!

This one would take some approval (it involves drilling), but look how GREAT this is. Inexpensive rain gutters make incredible, inviting book holders. Jim Trelease shares many success stories on this method on his website. Here are two photos, to show you how cute this is:

TIP TWO: Book baskets

This idea is easier and even less expensive than the gutters. Simply snag a bunch of cheap baskets from your local big-box store. Then, create genre labels for each basket by printing genres (mysteries, historical fiction, picture books, sports books, adventures, etc.) on cardstock, cutting them into small rectangles, laminating them, and attaching the labels to the front of each basket. Place books in baskets, covers facing outward. The books in a basket will overlap and cover each other obviously, but the front cover will face outward invitingly. Line up baskets side-by-side on your shelves, and voila! A colorful, inviting, well-organized library that children will literally run to when they first walk in the door. (The baskets also teach children to search for book by genre…another good literary lesson.)

Second: Comfy seating

Any non-school-looking seating options make for a great reading corner: an old rug, a couple beanbag chairs, a slew of pillows, a stack of carpet squares, a hand-me-down love seat, a futon. My elementary school library even had an old ceramic bathtub filled will pillows! It was THE hot spot in the library, of course. Any way you can set this space apart as fun and different will create positive connotations with literacy for your students.

Third: Fun lighting

A couple small lamps on the top of a bookshelf add a warm, inviting ambiance to your reading corner. Again, it’s all about giving the corner that “Oooh!-effect” when students walk in.

Fourth: Kids’ book reviews

Post a bulletin board above your reading corner that says: “Books We Dig.” You can decorate the bulletin board with a paper bucket and some paper “dirt” at the bottom (coffee grounds glued onto brown construction or bulletin board paper are cute…and smell Starbucks-y :). Tie a real plastic shovel on as an accent. Then, put a stack of colorful note cards nearby, and tell your class that after they read a book in the class library, they can recommend it to their classmates by writing a review for it on a note card, which you can then staple or tack onto the bulletin board. Include a sample card on the board that looks something like this:




Why Was It Good?

Two-Sentence Summary (no spoilers!):

Do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year on how to write an effective book review, using this format. (“No spoilers” is a simple reminder not to give away the ending!)

Then, when your students say, “But I don’t know WHAT to read!”–tell them to read their classmates’ reviews and pick a book.

Fifth: Stock the shelves

To stock your library with children’s books, check out garage sales, ask for donations from parents, and create a Library Wish List to send home (or post at Open House), listing titles your kids are asking for. For a large selection of children’s books at really great prices, check out: www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx.

Another idea: If you have a budget to play with, check out this awesome two-sided library shelf from The School Box (LOVE that store!): double sided library shelf.

Now that your reading corner has been sufficiently spiffed up, give yourself a pat on the back. You just created an inviting print-rich environment!

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.


Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

This fun, small-group activity can be done in one day and works easily in a preschool or early elementary classroom or at home with your own young children.

Assemble Your Mystery Bags

You will need one bag per student (solid colored party favor bags or brown lunch bags work well).

Prior to the activity, secretly place three items inside of each bag. All of the items will begin with the same letter. Since food is such a hit with any activity, I try to put at least one food item in each bag! Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • M= marshmallows, marker, M&M’s
  • C= chocolate chips, car (small toy or picture of one), Captain Crunch
  • G= gum, gummies, goat (small toy or picture of one)
  • P= popcorn, pencil, pizza (a pizza gummy or just picture of one)
  • B= bear (small toy or picture of one), bouncy ball, brownie
  • S= sunglasses, sucker, snake (rubber toy)

Each student will then take a turn selecting which mystery bag they want, without seeing what’s inside, of course. There shouldn’t be any visible clues about the contents or the related letter.

Let the Guessing Begin!

Next, the students will take everything out of their bags, one-by-one, taking turns so that everyone sees the items in their bag. When they see their items, they will have to determine the common beginning letter. When it is guessed, everyone else will determine if they agree or not by giving a thumbs up.

When everyone has had a turn (but not before!), the students will be allowed to eat their edible items!


  • Allow students to create their own mystery bags! Have them go around the room and find items that could belong in their bag, along with the items they have already received for that particular letter.
  • Have the students decorate the outside of their bags by writing their letter in different colors all over the bag.
  • For a fun way to bridge from letter recognition to early reading skills, check out 101 Ways to Make Your Students Better Decoders and Readers. A great resource!

 Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!


Filed under Games, Phonics, Reading, Writing

Summer Learning Ideas (and GREAT Centers!)

Centers… Revised!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Whether you’re a parent looking for some fun summer learning activities to keep your children’s skills sharp, or an early elementary teacher who wants to breathe new life into your centers next year, this article is for you!

Rhyming Picture Pairs

Create picture cards for your students to match with words that rhyme. For example, print two cards: one with a picture of a house and the word house printed on it, and another with a picture of a mouse and the word mouse printed on it. Make about 10 sets of word-pair cards, and then scramble them in a box or bag for your students to sort through and pair up.

Here are some rhyming word pairs to get you started: (1) mouse, house (2) bear, chair (3) fan, man (4) moon, spoon (5) horn, corn (6) pie, fly (7) box, fox (8) crown, clown (9) snake, cake (10) car, jar (11) hat, cat (12) hose, nose (13) duck, truck (14) bed, sled (15) ant, plant (16) key, tree (17) soap, rope (18) farm, arm (19) zero, hero (20) check, wreck.


Purchase or create word magnets for your students to group into sentences. Don’t forget punctuation! Students can use pie pans, dry erase boards, or even the front of metal teachers’ desks to place their sentences on. When a student creates a sentence, have them record their sentence by writing it down in a Magnet Journal (a binder filled with lined paper that stays in the center with the magnet words).

For a set of 200 sight word magnets, click here.

Poetry Pages

Familiar students with the great poets and poetic language while allowing them to practice their writing skills. Make a binder of poems (one poem per page), and then have students select a poem of their choice to copy onto paper, illustrate, mount on construction paper and display in the classroom (or on the fridge, if you’re doing this at home).

For an online resource of childhood poems, click here.

Now I Know My…

Create ABC cards (one letter per card) and allow students to put their ABC’s in order. You can also create picture cards that go along with each letter. Then, allow students to place the picture cards on the letter that shows their beginning letter. For an extra challenge, they can also group the cards by their ending letter.


Fill a paper lunch back with random things (a paper clip, yo-yo, a small toy car, small toy animals, etc.). Allow students to choose an item from the bag and draw it on their paper. Students should then write sentences about the object. Encourage them to describe their objects using as many adjectives as possible: How would you describe this item to someone from Mars who had never seen it before?


This center is an oldie-but-goodie. What child doesn’t like to sit on a fun pillow or comfy couch and look at books? Set out comfy chairs, stuffed animals, pillows, and of course, books on book shelves or in baskets. This will be the perfect place for students to build positive associations with reading!


You may already use the computer in your center rotation, but have you visited www.starfall.com, yet? It covers early reading skills/phonics and is great for ages 3 through first grade. It’s the perfect way to make learning to read fun and techy.

For more computer programs that balance educational goals with entertainment, click here (for math activities) and here (for reading CDs).

Whether you use these ideas at the kitchen table or in the classroom, hopefully they’ll make learning fun for your little ones!

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a Masters in Education and will begin teaching in a third-grade classroom this fall. Congratulations, Kelli! And thanks for sharing all of your great ideas on A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Centers, Math, Phonics, Reading, Summer Learning, Writing