15 11, 2015

Tips for Increasing Vocabulary and a Free Sample

By | November 15th, 2015|Reading, Vocabulary|0 Comments

Tips for Increasing Vocabulary and a Free Sample

Hi everyone! Today, I am going to share some tips on how to increase vocabulary during reading. Vocabulary is so important for deepening reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. It is an essential ingredient for improving student literacy. I once read while working on my master’s degree that students were not performing as well on fourth grade state tests as they did on third grade state tests because of the vocabulary. To me, this did not seem fair to students and teachers because the needed vocabulary development to be successful on those state tests started long before fourth grade. The fact is if we are going to increase literacy in the classroom, we need to be very intentional with vocabulary instruction long before that. With that said, I have some tips to increase vocabulary for first through third grade.

Research Tip about vocabulary strategies

1. Vocabulary instruction should include both direct instruction of words AND vocabulary strategies. This is actually research-based. The professional development book I was reading cited What Really Matters in Vocabulary: Research-Based Practices Across the Curriculum by Patricia Cunningham. It can be easy to teach the direct instruction part. We pull out those vocabulary lists alongside the spelling lists each week, and we read some authentic literature while putting a focus on those new vocabulary words from the book. It is often the other half, vocabulary strategies that does not get a whole lot of needed attention. Sure, there is the occasional lesson on context clues, but it is not enough to get students intentional everyday as they read. All along, students are reading books and being exposed to SO MANY new words that they might not be exposed to very much within their own homes, and those moments to learn those new words are lost if students are not fully equipped to apply vocabulary strategies to crack the code to those unknown words. Now, some might think that vocabulary strategies are simply context clues. However, vocabulary strategies include other strategies besides context clues. They are like a bag of tools students can pull out to crack open those unknown words.
Vocabulary strategies Next Step Tip

2. If we are going to improve student performance, we have got to realize that vocabulary strategies are the next step in teaching reading after word decoding. Think about it. Once students know how to phonetically open each word or use other decoding skills to read known words, the next step to being a good reader is to be able to interpret those unrecognizable words that they now have the ability to sound out.

 Vocabulary Strategies Means to Cracking Open New Words Tip
3. Vocabulary strategies are the means to gaining the skills needed to crack open new words during reading. Students should be applying vocabulary strategies during guided reading and independent reading. If you do a reading workshop format, you can actually incorporate the vocabulary strategies there too. What is great about this is you are potentially tapping into their natural curiosity as they stumble across unknown words while reading. This is such an authentic, relevant way to learn new vocabulary. Not only that, but they are going to have a deeper understanding of what they are reading. It’s a two-for-one deal that you can’t beat. 😉
 Vocabulary Strategies encompass more than just context clues

4. Vocabulary strategies include primarily context clues, but they encompass more than that.  Vocabulary strategies are like a tool bag that students can pull out and apply, so they can determine the meaning of unknown words. It includes starting from the basics of just paying attention to those unknown words on up to using dictionaries and online resources. Of course, some strategies are more appropriate for first grade, and some are more appropriate for third grade.

Vocabulary Strategies Tip to Break Down Context Clues

5. Break down how to use context clues, so they can know how apply them appropriately. There is more than one type of context clue, and students need time to let each type of context clue sink in and be applied. An example of a strategy that breaks things down is named “The Case of the Appearing Rabbit”. With this strategy, students are taught the strategy, which is, “Poof! It may appear as an example.” Then a tip is given for students to look for specific word clues, such as “for example” and “such as”, that are signals that an example may be present.
 Vocabulary Strategies Prompt Tip
Vocabulary Strategies Cards in Black and White
7. Give students visual prompts of the vocabulary strategies. If students only employ vocabulary strategies when they are reading to you, they are not practicing them enough. They need to be using vocabulary strategies when they are doing independent reading. Visuals are great reminders!
 Vocabulary Tip to Show Thinking on Paper

8. Have students show their thinking on paper. Not only does this give some accountability, but it creates an environment for more critical thinking and gives room for the meaning to resonate more with them.

Vocabulary Strategies Journal Tip
9. Use a vocabulary journal. Vocabulary words are meant to be reused and recognized when seen again. Otherwise, the words are useless to them. A vocabulary journal is a great tool for this purpose.
Vocabulary Strategies Extension Tip

10. Give extension activities for students to apply the words they gleaned from using vocabulary strategies. This way, students can revisit those words later down the road. This actually ties in with tip number nine. You want students reusing those vocabulary words, so have them break out their vocabulary journal for some extension activities.


Vocabulary Strategies Incentive Tip

11. To keep students motivated with practicing those vocabulary strategies, offer incentives. You know how we all can get off track at times with goals we are working towards, so use a student tracker for them to track and celebrate their progress along the way.  Reward them for their accomplishments. Make it a big deal. Incentives need not cost a lot of money. The main ingredient is to make them feel special and to cheer them on. I also like to think this helps students to become mature adults who work toward goals and can self-monitor their progress to stay motivated.

Vocabulary Strategies Engagement Tip
12. Make it fun. Engage them from the start. Remember, they will always remember how we made them feel more than what we said (my paraphrase of Dr. Maya Angelou).  I set-up a fun intro where I get into character as I introduce students to the unit with a fun script and visuals. It is a sure way to make them laugh some and ultimately, get their interest in learning those vocabulary strategies.
Engage students with a fun detective introduction

Finally, make learning vocabulary a life long adventure with vocabulary strategies. Unlike direct instruction that is limited to the words being taught, vocabulary strategies transcend into skills that can be used throughout life. These are skills that students can carry from grade to grade, and this will enable students to succeed in leaps and bounds in their educational journey.

There you have it, some helpful tips for increasing vocabulary, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills.   If you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share, feel free to comment below!
Vocabulary Strategies Resource Overview
PS. I have created this unit that will save you a ton of time and catch the interest of students! You can click on the image above or click here to link to the resource. You can also try out the free sample I have to see if this unit is a right fit for you by clicking the image below.
Vocabulary Strategies Free Sample
                                          Click on the picture or click here to link
Thanks for stopping by the Candy Class!
new logo 2-01Jolene 🙂
12 04, 2015

Oa, Oe, Ow, Oa, Oe The Vowel Teams

By | April 12th, 2015|hands-on, Interactive Notebooks, phonics, Reading|0 Comments

(Sing title to the tune of a famous boy band song from quite a few decades ago. I won’t say which one, but it you get if right, you got the right stuff, lol!)

Vowel Teams Oa Oe 2

You know you see all the cute cvc activities, and then students get to other phonics activities and suddenly…bam, the availability of hands-on centers are too often replaced with worksheets galore.

Vowel Teams Oa Oe 1

One of my wise college professors use to say, “If you can turn it into a game, do it!”Then she would go on to explain how they will learn more because if it is interesting to them, it is engaging to them. If they are engaged, they are learning!

Vowel Teams Oa Oe 4
 Relevancy is just important! What we view as relevant and what a young child views as relevant is two different things. Most often, they are not thinking about that math they will need when they are 25 to balance the checkbook. Nor are they thinking about how they need to become fluent writers to become a celebrity spy one day, I mean journalist. Nope. Yes, they need plenty of writing opportunities. My point is, they are not usually thinking they need to improve all their skills, so they can do grown up tasks. However, games, yup, that is relevant.
Vowel Teams Oa Oe 3
Enjoying putting puzzles together with their friends. Relevant.
Vowel Teams Oa Oe 5
Participating in class discussions with interactive anchor charts. Relevant.


Hands-on word work activities that tie into what they are learning to read. Relevant.

 Doing fun things like feeding sharks and gators as a word work activity in an interactive notebook. Yup, you guessed it. Relevant.
Adding some laughs to learning with some fun puns doesn’t hurt the learning process either. 😉  After all, research shows the connection of our memories with emotional experiences (and I have no research paper to point to on that one. It is researched based though. I recall reading up on it many times in my college days. You’ve probably heard that before too).
 Now, I know, I know, I know. No prep printables have their place. Sometimes, you need something for a quick review, homework, for a filler, etc. I get it. I am not saying those don’t have their place, but I am just trying to say its important kids get plenty of kinesthetic, relevent opportunities to master important phonics skills like vowel teams. The main point I am trying to make is worksheets should be kept in moderation, and children need more than just worksheets.
Vocabulary cards are also very handy. They can be used for self-checking and more. Some other ideas include putting them in alphabetical order, games like go fish and memory, matching rhyming words, and whatever else you can dream up. Cards like this are just handy and versatile. 🙂
Now this unit is HUGE. It is over 500 pages! Here is some organization inspiration. Baggies are my best friend, for real. I write on each bag what is inside to keep my sanity. 🙂 I like to keep it all in one spot (in the large coral container, minus the dice. When I plan on using these, I place them in a smaller bin like the shoe box container, and the reading center is ready to rock and roll.
If we want students to become fluent readers and writers, giving them relevant hands-on word work experiences, then we got to keep it relevant to young learners. That is what my vowel team bundled unit is all about. Making it relevant. Engaging. And ultimately, giving students a firm foundation in phonics to enable them to be fluent readers and writers. 
Vowel Team Pin
 You can find these in the store as a big bundle ( 20% off) or you can buy them individually.

Don’t miss out! Sign-up for email on the right.  I post helpful tips, freebies, giveaways, and more!

 Thanks for stopping by The Candy Class.
Jolene 🙂
21 10, 2013

Say What?

By | October 21st, 2013|Interactive Notebooks, Reading|0 Comments





Saturday night, I felt like I was up all night giving birth! Kid you not! And well, I kind of gave birth to an Interactive Reading Notebook for Non-Fiction with cuteness added. Ok, well, not the same…I know, lol, and eating that coconut cream popsicle to keep my eyes opened would make any woman in labor Saturday night probably want to beat me over the head for such a comparison. While I have been laboring with this for the past few weeks with just about every spare moment, I was determined to get this baby out and delivered by Sunday morning, and I thought it would not take that long to finish. Well, one extra hour turned into two as I persisted to finish it, and two into four because I am a perfectionist….until it was 8:30 am and the little interactive reading notebook was finally smiling back at me on the screen…. literally that little penguin was smiling as she held her composition reading journal in her little penguin hands.
Every page is truly interactive! Each page has a moving part. Your child or class can revisit them like an archive throughout the year for review. These journals make learning relevant, kinesthetic (hands-on), visual, and fun, fun, fun! 
 Don’t overlook the fact that it includes 27 blank templates for personal use! And did you see it has some science activities with it! I tried to make the preview above big if you click on it…didn’t work out, but you can download a pdf preview for free that allows you to get a close up look of the items in it in my TPT store. Just click on the image to lead the way.
Includes photographed PowerPoint instructions. That way you can project them in your classroom. A grayscale pdf and color pdf is also included. Oh, and this baby was 156 pages long!
My little bear is loving his interactive reading journal and has a new kind of excitement for reading these days! Makes it well worth the hard work I put into this baby over the last few weeks! (Oh, and so sorry woman who gave birth this past Saturday and congrats!)
Be blessed!

13 10, 2013

Space, Sight Words, a Light Sword, and a Freebie Link

By | October 13th, 2013|Reading|0 Comments

For learning sight words this year, I have flowed with my son’s interests with space. I did not actually make this adorable space word wall set myself, but I did find it as a freebie from another teacher-author. Spoiler alert: I have the freebie link posted later for this word wall set!
We use the space word wall for placing words he has mastered. That makes the word wall a big incentive to master those sight words. We review those here and there with his light sword as a pointer.
He is very eager to master his words and place them on the wall.
All the words he is working on for mastering are placed in a pocket chart that we review daily. If he does not master a word that week, I keep it in the pocket chart until he masters it. His readers during the week also have the newly introduced sight words for the week. I noticed he picks up a lot of his words that are reinforced in the readers because I threw in some other words, and he did not pick those up as fast. BTW I took the pocket chart pics from the first week of school and the word wall pics recently, so my little bear has mastered all those pocket chart words in the picture! Yay!

Details on making this yourself: I used fadeless black paper that I purchased in a roll from a local teacher store. It is jet black with a gloss, so easy to mount the sight words with mounting putty without damaging the paper should anything need to be moved around.  I hung up the paper with the famous Command Strips by placing many of them around the edges. I used the kind for posters.

Space Themed Word Wall was created by Fredia Shumway. She also has some other cute word walls including a pirate, jungle, frog, camping, ocean, western, monster, monkey, bug, and owl themed. She was super generous to provide this space word wall for free. Usually, I am extreme DIY, but I could not resist this cute word wall that has my son hyped up about learning sight words. Click the link below to get to this product. Also, don’t forget to sign-up for email to receive more updated postings from my blog before heading over to her store. I don’t actually ever see your email. In fact, I don’t even see who actually follows my blog, but you will get a nice email saying when I post something new here. And believe me, I love to share, give, and be a blessing to others, so you will not want to miss out on my postings!
Thank you for stopping by The Candy Class!
🙂 Jolene