Saturday, June 15, 2019

Helping Kids Make Connections while Learning the First 100 Fry Words

I think we'd all agree, learning high frequency words is essential for beginning readers. I think we'd also agree, developing decoding skills is a very high priority. 

I'm here to say. . .  I really believe that it's best for kids if they are not kept separate! 

The Fry words are commonly used as high frequency words. I'm thankful to have this list. It's great to know which words occur most frequently in print. But, these word lists were not designed as an instructional sequence. When these words are introduced in order (by frequency within text), it takes away our opportunity to show kids the connections among words. Reading is all about making connections - and there are so many connections that can be made as kids learn these important words! 

I've been playing with various ways to organize these words in a way which can help kids develop phonics skills - and understand the relationships among these words - while also focusing on high frequency words.  

Do you have a moment to take a look?   

The first page of this file includes only short vowel words which are on the 1st 100 Fry word list. I'd recommend starting with these basic short vowel words. (There are digraphs included and a few consonant blends. Those are words to provide a bit more support with.) 

The second page is a bit unique.  It includes all the short vowel words with phonetic spellings - and also irregularly spelled words with the vowel sound. I recommend introducing this page after kids have become comfortable reading the first set, which included only short vowel words with standard spelling. 

  • Under short a, I've added the word have (even though there's a silent e.) 
  • Under short e, I've included words with the short e sound: been, said and many. This a great time to introduce the idea that letter sounds are very helpful for reading words, but there are some exceptions to every rule.   
  • Under short i, the words which, into and little are added.  
  • The short o words remain the same!
  • Under short u, I've added another column - words with the schwa sound. Once kids learn to use the short u sound (with the umbrella at the top as a key), it's much easier for them to remember the vowel sound and read these words. 
The third page, with long vowel sounds, includes just a few words that need some extra explanation.  They, there and their are included under long a - according to their vowel sound. You and your are included under long u. (This could be debated, but I find that kids pick up on it quickly!)

The fourth, and final page, was a lot of fun to create. My goal was to give kids supports that would help them read these words (once they have been introduced). So - I went with sets of rhyming words whenever possible - with a key word at the top. The few words left are grouped by vowel sound (first, her and were) or by concept (number words: one, two). 

There are definitely other ways these words could be arranged.  To me, the important thing is that we arrange them in a way (any way) which helps kids make connections. 

These word charts are available, for free, at my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  Click here or on any of the pictures to download the set.  

Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a look!   I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 

:) Anne Gardner (NBCT, Literacy)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Guided Reading (RtI) Lesson - Level C

One thing I've always enjoyed, but didn't often get to do, was to watch other teachers present lessons. I just came across this guided reading video. Each of the kids' families gave me permission to use it on this teaching blog. So - I decided to share it in hopes that it might be a conversation starter. 

I think these kids are just great and I hope you enjoy watching them read, build words and talk about books! (Sorry the resolution isn't better.  I had to compress it three times to get it small enough to load here.)

This is a 20 minute guided reading lesson. Watching the video, I thought of ten questions (below) that I'd consider while evaluating this lesson. If you'd like a copy of these questions, click here.

If you have other ideas for questions to ask ourselves as we complete lessons, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

If anyone else wants to join in and share a lesson, just let me know. I would be happy to add your video here! (Imagine having a collection of videos to watch? As much as I have an aversion to seeing myself on film, it seems worth sharing a lesson with all my cyberfriends.) 

 Thanks for stopping by and taking a look!    :) Anne Gardner

Monday, August 14, 2017

Very First Growth Mindset

What could be better than helping kids switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

Helping them start school with a growth mindset!

Students with a growth mindset are able to understand and celebrate the importance of problem solving, perseverance and learning from their mistakes. 

Introducing and discussing growth mindset can help our youngest students take pride in doing their personal best, accepting new challenges and learning to recognize mistakes as learning opportunities. 
Here's a simple way to help kids develop a growth mindset: Discuss, display and then revisit these Very First Growth Mindset posters.   

Introduce just one poster a day. With the goal of developing the classroom community, ask students if they can think of a time when a classmate acted like a superhero by displaying that trait.  (Have an example in mind just in case students don't come up with ideas.)

When a student exhibits a growth mindset trait, put a sticky note up by the poster with their name and celebrate what you've noticed.  (The best thing is when kids start to naturally notice and celebrate as one another exhibit these traits!)
Click here or on the picture above if you'd like to download this free set of Growth Mindset Posters from my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. 

Kindness, honesty and caring will always be essential traits to notice and celebrate!  

These Kindness Counts posters are a handy way to introduce and discuss these essential qualities.  Click here or on the picture above to download this set.  

Finally, if you'd like a banner to top off a bulletin board, here's a free and simple banner saying, "What's Your Superpower?"  This banner is now included with the Kindness Counts posters at my shop.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I hope you find these materials useful.  

:) Anne Gardner

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dots and Boxes!

Do you remember using dot paper as a kid?  It was always one of my favorite things! My grandmother used to carefully draw the dots by hand. Times sure have changed, but I find my primary students are just as enamored with activities using dot paper as I was.   

Dot paper and a die are great tools to help kids develop number sense.  A student can roll a die, draw a shape around that many dots and write the number in the shape.  (Kids can play with a partner or on their own.  A wipe-off plastic sleeve is handy for this activity.) 

The next step ~ Offer either a ten-sided die or two dice to roll.  When using two dice, it's easy to differentiate by deciding whether each student is best served by writing just the number or an equation inside the shape. 

My kids always love this simple counting and number writing game.  The first person circles one dot and writes the number one.  The second person draws a shape around two dots and writes the number two, . . .   The only rule is that a player may not cross a line.  

Early in the year, I like to show kids how to play the classic Dots and Boxes game. Kids take turns connecting two dots, either vertically or horizontally. Players write their initial in each box they complete.   

Later in the year, I put sight words inside the boxes. When a student completes a box, he/she reads, traces and writes the sight word. You can add your own words to dot paper. (To try a sample of this game and also download simple dot paper, click here.)  

I always felt like I was missing a piece - kids just love these games so much that there must be a way to add more . . .   

Then I met Linda Nelson of Primary Inspiration.  Linda shared her Spring into Summer math games with me.  I was AMAZED! This set includes 30 unique games and every one involves a creative twist that makes it especially engaging. These are games that students beg to play, even during inside recess. As they play, they practice essential math skills while also learning to plan ahead and use a variety of strategies. What a combination! 

Since I just love Dots and Boxes games, Linda's Fireflies game really jumped out at me! Linda had put numbers inside the dots. Brilliant! It was the exact twist I had been looking for.  

My son, Keith, was studying Computer Science in college and had just written a variation of a Dots and Boxes app. When we saw Fireflies, our eyes grew oh so big! We touched base with Linda, and she said go ahead and use the idea in an app. THANKS, LINDA!

Here's the app on iTunes.  It's called Addition and Subtraction Boxes. The following levels are included: 
  • Counting within Five (Free)
  • Counting within Ten
  • Addition within Five (Free)
  • Subtraction within Five
  • Addition within Ten 
  • Subtraction within Ten
  • Addition within Twenty
  • Adding with Three Addends
  • Subtraction within Twenty (Free)
The game can be played either with a partner or in one player mode. (In single player mode, an image is uncovered as the player completes the boxes.)

We've had fun creating this game and would love to hear your feedback if you have a chance to take a look. 


If you're looking for fun and engaging games and activities, I highly recommend exploring Primary Inspiration by Linda Nelson. She puts such a fun twist on rock-solid content!

Here are just a few of her fabulous free games and activities: 

I played these games just for fun (repeatedly) 

as soon as I downloaded the file! 

Another fun twist on a Dots and Boxes game!

So versatile and kids love them!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I'd love to hear about your experiences with any of these activities or other variations on dots activities.  

:)  Anne Gardner 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pick Up Sticks with Straws ~ How fun!

I'd like to share a game my kids have always loved - Pick Up Sticks with Straws. 

To play, just pick up a box of straws. These were 99 cents at Price Chopper. Cut the straws into sections. I used a ruler and cut pieces of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 inches long. 

Then, play just like the traditional game of Pick Up Sticks. One player holds the sticks vertically in his or hand with the bottom of each straw touching the table (or floor). The straws scatter as they are released.  Players take turns trying to pick up a straw without moving any other straw.  If any other straw moves, that straw is returned to the pile. 

I love to use this game for measurement and estimation! Players can be challenged to pick a straw and then estimate its length. Either nonstandard units (such as paper clips) or standard units (such as inches can be used). If the player estimates within one unit of the actual length, he/she keeps the straw. If not, the straw is put back into the pile and play continues. Variations include playing until all straws have been picked, or playing until a player's straws can form a straight line from one end of the table to the other.  

Looking for a quicker game? One player can hold a collection of straws of a variety of lengths. Straws up to five inches long generally work best for this. The player conceals the bottom of the straws within their hands and let's the top show. The other players take turns picking a straw. Options include:
  • Pick one straw each. Player with the longest straw wins, if he/she can tell how long the straw is. 
  • Pick several straws each. Players measure their straws and add the length. Player with the greatest length wins. 
  • Pick two straws each.Player with total length closest to 5 units wins. 
  • Pick two straws each. Find the difference between the lengths of the two straws. The player with the greatest difference wins.
Kids often have so much fun with these games that they don't even realize they are practicing important math skills.  

Do you have favorite, easy to make, inexpensive math games?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Thanks for stopping by!   :) Anne Gardner

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reading Comprehension Passages and iPad Apps by Guided Reading Level

Hi,  Thanks so much for stopping by!  As my sons were growing up, I started writing stories about the topics they were most interested in.  For the past three years, I’ve been turning these into a series of Leveled Reading Comprehension Passages with text-based questions.  These passages are currently available for Guided Reading Levels C - N.   

If you'd like to see teachers' feedback on the reading comprehension passages (paper version), click here. 
My son, Keith, has been studying Computer Science and is now an iOS app developer.  He took an interest in these materials and has been creating iPad apps based on these passages.

We currently have apps listed for Guided Reading Levels C, D, E, F, G/H and I/J.  

Students can read the passages on their own, or can click a speaker button to hear sections of text read. Instant feedback is provided as students answer the multiple choice questions.

If you’d like to see these apps in the app store, click here or on either of the images above.  For each Guided Reading Level, there is a  free trial version with one passage and questions.  

Keith and I were thrilled when Binghamton University recently shared an article about our work.  

If you have any questions about these apps, please feel free to contact me. My email address is and I'd love to hear from you! 

:) Anne Gardner (NBCT, Literacy)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Clothespin Shapes ~ How fun!

Ever notice how satisfying it is to work with wood? My kids love anything that uses clothespins. I stopped by the Dollar Tree last night and they had lots of bags for $1. Irresistible!

I made these little clothespin shapes and wanted to share them.   

My son and I had fun building shapes.    

But, it seemed like something was missing. So, I created these simple shape cards that students can build around. (The file is not in color. These are printed on colored cardstock.)

To download a copy of these shape cards, just click here or on any of the pictures. If you have any trouble getting the file to download, email me at and I'll be happy to send the file right out to you. 

** Getting the last clothespin into a shape is a little like closing the last side of a box . . .   

Thanks for stopping by!

:) Anne