Using Lacing Cards to Promote Fine Motor Skills

Good control of the hand/wrist muscles makes learning to write SO much easier. Kids who struggle with fine motor strength and/or stamina can find it very frustrating to hold their pencil correctly or be able to write and draw. 

When fine motor skills become strong,learners can focus on what they are doing and learning instead of struggling just to hold their pencil or think about being tired. 

There are many ways to have kids work on their fine motor skills, such as cutting, play-dough  painting, picking up small objects, etc. 

I have found that lacing cards are a  fun, engaging and painless route to increasing hand and finger strength, dexterity, and stamina . I have used them in small groups, centers, morning work, rotations and for early finishers. 

Just remember, the goal is not perfect sewing! The goal is fine motor work which is all about process not product. If cards get tangled, find a couple of able helpers to detangle!

The prep is not a lot, but it is prep, (I like to do my cutting and hole punching while I'm sitting on the couch at night!) I have included a note in each of my lacing card sets to send home with parent volunteers to prep for you! When my kids were little, I loved it when their teachers did this, since I was teaching and couldn't go and volunteer in their classrooms. It helps people feel invested and that they are contributing, even if not physically able to come to school.Plus, the kids are SO proud that their parents are helping out!

Here are some activities I have created to promote fine motor skills in fun & engaging ways!

Lacing mats are very calming as well! There is something about sewing that brings a peaceful feeling. Another fringe benefit to adding them to your centers, morning work, 

small groups, or early finishers tub!

Play-dough is another calming activity. So many fine finger muscles are used to form the

dough, rolling in different ways to get the desired shape is fine motor practice at it's finest!

Cutting activities are great for fine motor too, since building content into the activities is

easy and can be purposeful for practice. An example would be our Magazine Numbers
resource. Cutting out numerals to match to quantities builds fine motor skills while working
on number sense!

I hope your are inspired to intentionally add some fine motor building activities! Your kids will love them and they will make great gains in their hand and motor skills. They'll have so much fun they won't even know you're helping them work-out! :o)

Fall is my Favorite!

There's just something about fall... even here in Arizona where the leaves are NOT changing, it is NOT cooling off yet, but.... there's a subtle shift in the sun, it's getting dark much earlier... you can tell it's coming! Enough to make me want to burn a fallish candle and start breaking out the fall decor! I also love all of the fun fall things to do in the classroom!
I've compiled a bunch of ideas on one of my Pinterest boards! If you haven't followed Little Bird on Pinterest yet, go follow! I share new ideas every week!
The ideas below are from my board "October in the Classroom"board.

If you're ready for fall and need a little inspiration to get started, grab this Happy Halloween FREE printable to print and post up in your home or classroom! I hope you are enjoying fall so far!


Winter Close Reading for Little Learners & A Sweet Note

Yesterday I got the sweetest note from a teacher named Ann in New York. She was telling me about how much her kids love my close reads! That made my day! She said they love the "big words" and all of the animal facts...  I do too! I invest lots of time writing passages that are "worthy" with lots of juicy vocabulary, and double-meaning words. I want the passages to be truly interesting so that deep engagement with the text comes naturally and intrinsically! I am excited to write a note back to Ann's class with a fun surprise for them!

Even if you've never tried close reading in your classroom before, I think you'll find my resources fun and easy to teach! I include lots of directions and tips to support you, even if it's new for you!

Ann also told me how she loves the easy prep and even how she used the Polar Bear passage and annotation pages for her formal evaluation! So glad to hear it went great!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me, Ann!

One of the things I love best about doing close reading is how much it helps to grow writing skills. They LOVE annotating!! The passages give them something meaningful to write and report on. The forget about trying so hard and just do it! Soooo fun to watch! :o)

Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a natural time to teach & learn about the meaning of thanksgiving, and what that means and can look like in our everyday lives. Modeling an attitude of gratitude is one of the most important gifts we can bestow upon our littles... learning to deliberately be being thankful for what we have and counting every blessing makes for happier people, and can lead to helping kids how to learn how to live their best life!  It's natural for them to feel it, it's just not always natural for them to say it. Giving them the language to use is vital. Not just to communicate it to others, but for them to identify those feelings within themselves. 
I love the sweet things they think of when they start thinking about what they're thankful for. It catches on quickly and hopefully they go home and share that contagious spirit of thankfulness!

I like to prompt them with questions and sentence frames such as these:

When you think of your family, what are you thankful for?
I am thankful for___________________________________.

When you think of things you need to live, what are you thankful for?
I am thankful for_______________________________________.

It really helps to define an area of life to envision. It breaks it down for them into smaller 
chunks so they can wrap their head around it and make it real. Giving them the opportunity to talk and share with partners is key. They need a chance to practice the language so they can try it out and save it for later too! Finding other times of the day to model this attitude of gratitude will help them see it in the context of other areas too! Even little things such as "It's so cold today! I'm so thankful we have a heated classroom to learn in!" It might seem trivial, but it matters! :o)

Our Thankful Headband is fun and meaningful little craft for your kids to make for Thanksgiving! Littles draw what they are thankful for on the feathers, color and decorate the headband, then attach to make their thankful headband! I love how proud they are of their headbands, and what a great conversation piece to take home and get their families involved with taking an attitude of gratitude!
(They can use their sentence frames to tell about their headbands too!)

Another great way to teach about gratitude is to read about it. It's a wonderful first step and conversation starter.  Here are links to some of my favorite books to teach and spark conversations about being grateful and thankful! (The picture is the link)


November Resource Round Up

November is one of my favorite months of the year to teach! So many kid friendly, naturally engaging things to do! The cooler weather helps my mood too! I just want to do all of the fun fall things! Here's a little round up of quite a few activities and resources that I have created for this season! Hopefully you can find something to have some fun with your kids and save you some time! (All of the pictures are clickable links)

Our Thanksgiving Uncovered is a large resource with LOTs of activities! Close reading, many writing prompts, story of Thanksgiving retelling story sticks, games, centers and more! This is the perfect resource for teaching all about Thanksgiving.

Our Thankful Headband is fun and meaningful little craft for your kids to make for Thanksgiving! They draw what they are thankful for on the feathers, color and decorate the headband, then attach to make their thankful headband! I love how proud they are of their headbands, and what a great conversation piece to take home and get their families involved with taking an attitude of gratitude!
Included in this resource:
•Elements to create a thankful headband
•What I'm thankful for writing prompt (great for early finishers!)

Perfect for using with:
• Instruction
• Literacy Centers
• Math Centers
• Math Stations
• Small Groups
• Sensory Play
• Self regulated work & play 
• Fine motor, busy box, or morning work activities
•Counting practice pages for follow-up, math stations, morning work, assessment
Included in this EASY TO PREP & EASY ON THE INK resource:
•10 Thanksgiving themed Pattern Block Work and Play Kit Cards
•10 Counting Practice Pages- one for each puzzle card
•Pattern Block Cards for playing as a card game OR for stuffing clear pocket stuff-able dice
•Spin It! Game Board for playing with a game spinner OR pencil & paper clip spinner
•“I CAN” statement card for displaying at center or station (2 options, whole sheet and half sizes included)
•Question prompts to engage little learners and promote inquiry and learning

I love to create invitations to play for little learners. It inspires curiosity, engagement and wonder to gather interesting items and place them in and inviting arrangement for littles to discover, play, work, and learn. I love how quiet and thoughtful they are at these stations. You can almost see their little wheels turning in their head. This little inspiration page has several resources, so the photo is not linked, but I'll add links to all of the resources below the picture. Products without links are coming soon! I just love this so much.

Work & Play Cards Sizes & Positional Words
Natural Wonders Work & Play Posters

Close reading is a strategy to help kids engage closely with text. I love using close reading passages. I have written dozens of passages and created hundreds of activities to go with them. The language, vocabulary, stamina, comprehension and text feature skills they solidify from doing close reading are just amazing. When I write my passages I work hard to use interesting vocabulary, and engage little readers! These photos are from my Quarter 2 Close Reading Bundle, there are 6 passages and activities, this is from the Owls passage. They get so much out of annotating the passages! I include lots of tips and directions about this, but in short, you start slowly, doing it together, and they quickly get the hang of it and start finding words to annotate on their own! How cute is the annotation and pictorial representation for "parliament"? (All the heart eyes!!)
The   o w l   letters are from our Work and Play Cards Letters Kit.

Want to read more about Close Reading? Click here!  OR Here!

I love simple little math centers that I can add to my existing stations or add to a small group or
morning work tub. Our Turkeys to 10 Just Right Activities & Centers are so much fun! Simple to prep and easy for kids to play independently, with partners or in small groups. They're just right!

I hope this resource round up is helpful and gives you some ideas for fall!

Pattern Block Work & Play

I remember in my very first classroom one of the only things in my closet was a tub of pattern blocks,
they became the manipulative that I relied on the most and I found so many different ways to use them! I wish I had all of the fun activities to go with them back then! The littles love using them and practice so many skills along the way! They are so hands-on, developmentally appropriate and so good for the growing brain! 

I start out using pattern blocks at the very beginning of the school year, and we use them all year long. 
They provide rich exposure to lots of skills such as shape recognition, patterning, sorting, matching, problem solving, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, differentiation, flexible thinking, and so much more. I change out my math stations regularly so that our theme or the season is integrated with math. 

Our Pattern Block Work & Play Card Kits are perfect for using during each season/theme for an independent activity, small groups ,or centers! Students can practice matching the shapes to fill the card, or play using the included dice,  game cards or spinner versions. Using the game elements makes for such a great partner activity to use for centers, math stations, even morning work! They LOVE it! To add an extra element of challenge you can require them to name the shape the drew, rolled, or spun! I really like using the games for partner activities. They help them learn how to take turns and play a game while working on their skills. Here are some ways they can be used:

• Instruction
• Literacy Centers
• Math Centers
• Math Stations
• Small Groups
• Sensory Play
• Self regulated play 
• Fine motor, busy box, or morning work activities
• Partner games

Teachers Pay Teachers links to resources:

Amazon Affiliate links to companion materials:
(Click on photos for link)


Using Comparative Thinking for Phoneme Mastery

We practice SO much on letters, sounds, phonemes everyday. Why is it that some of our kids still struggle after so many exposures? We know some of them just aren't ready yet. For some developmental reason, it's not clicking... yet. But it will. For others, the reason can be SO simple. They need opportunities to compare and sort sounds. I have found this to be the most solidifying experience for my littles to really master their sounds. Even those who aren't showing they're quite ready yet, may really benefit from this approach.

Let's take a look at the research. Based on the 2007 work of Robert Marzano he "reconfirmed earlier research that asking students to identify similarities and differences through comparative analysis leads to eye-opening gains in student achievement." (Harvey Silver, ASCD)

Although much research has been done on older students, why not use Comparative Thinking Strategies for the littles? It only makes sense. It is such a natural and early function of the brain...
We compare almost from birth, we know our mother/father, vs. not... As we grow we use more and more complex comparative thinking on a daily basis, dozens of times each day.

As Harry Silver's ASCD article outlines, even though our brains are used to making comparisons in our daily life, making the transition to using this type of thinking in school is not always the most natural for most of our kids. If we start early, it can lead not only to letter mastery as were referring to here, but actual pathways and greater metacognition and analytical skills for our learners to use throughout their lives.

I have taught Comparative Thinking practices to my kinder kids for many, many years. Being intentional about it will grow complex thinkers! Silver's article suggests setting distinct instructional goals such as strengthening memory, developing higher order thinking skills as well as other goals.

I find this research fascinating because I feel that it really brings validity to what we teachers already know. When kids compare, they learn. When we use the power of comparison in our classroom instruction, we bring an enriched experience to our learners that equips them well beyond the content we are currently trying to inform.

I have used Comparative Thinking strategies in every content area. Math, reading, writing, science and social studies, in my opinion, there is no more powerful strategy. Although I have been using them I my own classroom for years, I had never made a resource that was quite pretty enough to put in my store until now. Because I feel so strongly about using comparison when teaching sounds, I created a couple of resources that make this an easy, time-saving and super high yield resource that puts into practice the Comparative Thinking strategy for our littles to master sounds. Although what I exposed my littles to wasn't quite as pretty as these, I know they were able to benefit from the proficiency that resulted from comparison as a means of learning. I hope you'll give it a try too!
(I even use this strategy for teaching high frequency sight words, see below!)
*If you use McGraw Hill Wonders, I have created Compare & Sort Resources formatted for Wonders too!

Letter Sounds Compare & Sort Big Review

Fry's First 100 Sight Words Write the Room