Thank God It's First Grade!
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Diving Deeper into Characters - My Favorite Read Alouds

Looking at how characters change throughout a story. Comparing characters. Completing a character study. These are some of my favorite skills to teach in my first grade classroom! I wanted to share some of my go-to read aloud books for teaching these skills!

When I teach character changes I love using:

Julius, The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes:
This story is about a young mouse, Lily, who gets a new younger brother. I have my students really pay attention to how Lily acts and feels at the beginning of the story and we watch her feelings and actions evolve as the story continues. This story takes a turn when someone else says mean things about baby Julius. Your young students will clearly see how Lily responds and they will use their inferring skills to determine how her feelings have changed.

My Sister Gracie by Gillian Johnson:
This was a newer book to me, but I found it at my school one day and it ended up being just perfect for character changes. It is very similar to Julius, The Baby of the World in its story line. In this story, a dog, Fabio, gets his world turned upside down when his parents adopt another puppy. Fabio, had all sorts of hopes and expectations before he met his new sibling and my students love to watch his feelings change as the story goes on. Since the plot of this story and Julius are so similar, they are great to compare and contrast with one another at the end!

When teaching character comparisons, there are 2 classic books I love to use:

Frog & Toad Together by Arnold Lobel:
This collection of short stories is a must have in any primary classroom. The two main characters play off one another and compliment one another really well. They both react differently in all sorts of situations and their friendship is something special! You can really use any of the short stories in this collection to compare and contrast the two characters. I will usually start by describing all the character traits of Frog and then repeating the same with Toad. We then have a lengthy discussion about if we believe Frog and Toad's character traits allow them to have a good friendship.

Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie:
This is another classic story which has many follow up stories after their original adventure. Toot and Puddle have many different interests and in this story they actually are very far away from one another throughout most of the story. As we read about their separate adventures, we discuss what their interests say about them as characters and compare their thoughts, actions, feelings and dialogue. I also love to ask my students to dig deeper and compare themselves to the characters. We discuss which character we think we are more alike and give evidence from the text to support our opinions.

After I have taught character changes and character comparisons, I like to have a complete character study of a main character in a story. We talk about who the character is, all their inner and outer traits. We discuss the character's personality (their thoughts and actions) and we discuss the ways a character may or may not develop throughout a story. Do they grow? Do they change?

My favorite character study books are:

Brave Irene by William Steig:
This story is about a young girl who completes and errand for her mother even when it is very, very difficult to do so. As we read this story we have great discussions about why Irene is doing what she is doing and what is says about her as a character. Irene is very persistent and we can see if she evolves throughout her enduring process. We also like to discuss if Irene's mother's opinion changes of her daughter as well.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox:
This sweet book is about a koala whose mother loves her very much but as Koala Lou gets older she seeks her mom's attention even more. She comes up with a plan to get her mother's attention and as we read we study her thoughts and actions to see how they change throughout the story. *Spoiler alert* at the end of this book Koala Lou loses the games she had been training for and it teaches her a valuable lesson. This is a great opportunity to teach your students the lesson of losing gracefully and that sometimes you will try your hardest and do your best and still lose.

You can grab any of the above books on Amazon here:

I also created  COMPLETE read aloud lessons and response sheets for all of the above books (and more). If you want to check those out, just click the image below and you can try a FREE lesson:

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Phonics Games!

I am always on the hunt for new, fun phonics games! Teaching the same phonics patterns and skills over and over can be difficult for both my students and for me as the teacher to try and have students practice these skills without getting bored.

Before we play phonics games, there is always a direct teaching lesson where I explain the phonics rules and sounds and some manipulation of the words as well. Often, I will use letter tiles to build the words and then change out the pattern for a new pattern. I have my students read both real and nonsense words with the pattern I have taught.

It is only after that explicit instruction that I introduce different phonics games. I believe that the game portion is to help students with fluency. When they are learning to read and decode new words, it is only through practice and repetition that students gain the fluency and ability to read the words quickly.

I recently came out with a ton of print and play math games for different skills in the classroom which was designed to help students with the same thing -  fluency! Since creating those games, I knew I wanted to do the same for different phonics patterns so students could have many different options and activities to practice their fluency.

All the games only require dice, crayons, cubes, a paperclip, and a pencil! They are designed for ease! I wanted teachers to be able to quickly print out a game from their computer and teach it so they can get back to efficiently teaching the other students in their classroom. The directions on the games are simple for students to understand and many of the same game-playing concepts are seen throughout all the games.

I have created six games for each of the different phonics skills:
- short vowels (CVC words)
- long vowels with silent e (CVCe words)
- long vowel teams
- consonant blends
- digraphs
- r-controlled vowels

I thought I would take a minute to share some examples of the games.

Short Vowels:
 Roll, Complete, and Color:
In this game students roll the die and they must figure out which word in their column will be complete with the vowel they rolled. The first student to fill in their column wins! This game has two versions. The one shown above has a picture already there (for example f_n with a fan next to it, so students would have to put an a in the middle) and another version without a picture so if a student rolled an "i" they could choose to make the word fin and draw a picture of a fin. I like that it allows for a bit of differentiation!

Long Vowels with Silent e:
 Replace & Race:
In this game students race to be the first to fill their tower. Students roll a die and see if they can put it anywhere in their tower to make a real word. 

Long Vowel Teams:
 Roll, Read, & Draw:
This game has students practicing their understanding of the words they are decoding. Students simply roll 2 dice to find the sum. Then, they read the word aloud to their partner and illustrate to show understanding.

Consonant Blends:
 Roll & Fill:
This game has students reading real and nonsense words. Students roll the die and move their game pieces along the game board. They read the word they land on aloud and determine if it is real or nonsense. If the word is real, they get to write it in their grid. Students race to be the first to fill their grid with real words! There is a gameboard for r-blends (shown above), l-blends, and s-blends.

 Roll, Read & Gather:
In this simple game, students roll a die and find that matching box. That student will read the words in the box and try to find a real word. Once they find one, they can highlight it with their color marker and it is now "their" word. Students continue rolling, reading, and gathering words until all the real words are taken! At the end, students see who gathered the most real words!

R-Controlled Vowels:
 Spin & Find:
Each set of games also has an identification type of game as shown above. In this game, students simply spin the spinner and find a word in the grid that contains that r-controlled vowel. Students can play until all squares are colored then see who colored the most or they can play to be the first the get 5-in-a-row!

If you would like to try a FREE phonics game, just click the image below and download the preview! You can just print and play your game right away!

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Long Vowel Phonics Games!

When I teach phonics in my classroom, it usually has 2 parts. I quickly introduce/review a phonics pattern with the whole group (for example, long vowels with silent e). I will model how to read words and apply the silent e. Then I will have students read aloud real and nonsense words with that phonics pattern on the board.

After the short whole group lesson, we go quickly into phonics games and small group activities.

Most of my students will play a game or complete an activity that goes along with my modeled lesson. While my struggling students will come to me for explicit phonics instruction (building words, blending sounds, etc.) When they come to me, they may or may not be working on the skill of the day. For instance, they will still be exposed to the silent e phonics rule in whole group, but in small group, they may be continuing to work on blending or segmenting CVC words.

My higher students who have already mastered CVCe words will work on whatever skill they have progressed to (vowel teams, r-controlled vowels, etc.).

Since this time of my phonics block can be a lot to juggle with students working on many different skills, I like to use simple, easy to prep, games and activities that students can just take and go.

I recently created a bunch of long vowel print and play games (for silent e and vowel teams) that have students reading real and nonsense words, substituting sounds, practicing fluency and more! I thought I would share a few.

Climb Your Ladder:
This game has students applying vowel teams to the middle of words to try and find enough real worlds to make it to the top of their ladder first! 

 Spin & Reveal:
In this game, students must apply the silent e to CVC words to create a new word. They will find that image in the grid and color it in!

Read & Search:
This game helps with fluency practice as students must roll the die and read the sentence aloud to their opponent. They then must try to find a word that matches the vowel team for the page (in this case, oa/ow). Students take turns trying to find more words than their partner!

These games are fun and EASY to use!
You can see these long vowel games by clicking the image below. 

There are also games for short vowels, digraphs, blends and r-controlled vowels.

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Silent E Fluency Passages

I am so happy to share some brand new, silent e fluency passages I made... and they are FREE! These phonics "read & illustrate" passages are the perfect way to assess students understanding of what they are reading.

phonics passages

There are 2 activities for each of the following phonics skills:

There is a longer paragraph and there is also a sheet with three short sentences so you can choose which sheet to give your students. These types of passages and sentences allow students to build their rate of reading tricky silent e words after they have learned the phonics rule. Students not only show that they know how to decode with these passages, but they also show their ability to comprehend what the passage is saying when they illustrate.

long vowel passages

I like to use passages like these after I already teach the skill (silent e) in isolation. So first, my students practice applying the silent e to different CVCe words. Once my students are able to do that successfully I will generally have them add the silent e to CVC words to make them CVCe (cap to cape, tap to tape, etc.) After they have mastered those two skills is when I will give students fluency passages. These let me assess my students ability to not only decode these words, but understand them in context.

silent e phonics

If you think you'd like to use these fluency passages in your classroom, just click below to join my newsletter! As a subscriber you will receive a monthly email with tips, tricks, updates and an exclusive members-only freebie:

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