Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FREE Clip Art - Summer Fun in the Sun FREE :)

Are you as ready for summer as I am?  I can hardly contain my JOY!

When I think about summer, my mind immediately goes to a beautiful beach, the smell of coconut suntan lotion and the feel of the warm sun on my face.

Summer Fun Clip Art - Apple Tree Learning

I am definitely NOT an expert at clip art, but I love to dabble... It is so much fun and I am learning so much about creating my own artwork.

I would love to share a clip art FREEBIE with you ~ 

Summer Clip Art - www.appletreelearning.blogspot.com

Some ideas for using the summer clip art:
  • Use for end of school year awards
  • Add to literacy and math stations
  • Use to dress up summer packets to keep your students practicing this summer
  • Make cute bookmarks to keep excited about reading
  • Create a summer reading list for families

I would LOVE to hear your ideas for using Summer Fun in the Sun clip art?  

If you use my clip art on something that you do for your students, or on a product you sell on Teachers Pay Teachers, I would love to share it for you on my blog!

Encouraging a LOVE of learning and thinking.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Vocabulary Tutorial #2: Brain Buddies & Partner Talk FREEBIE!

Vocabulary Strategies - Apple Tree Learning

Educators have known for years that deep vocabulary knowledge must come from much more interaction than just looking up words in the dictionary. Ahhh... memories of 1982.  :)

In fact, research has proven that classrooms and students should create their own definitions to truly learn in-depth meanings.

AcademicVocabulary - create definitions

One of the best strategies for students to gain academic vocabulary knowledge is to SIMPLY TALK!

I like to incorporate this strategy with BRAIN BUDDIES.  This strategy can be used with just about any subject area, topic or student expectation.  

Brain Buddies with academic vocabulary words works like this:

  • Buddy up students (I like for students to keep the same buddy for about 2 weeks ~ just enough time for them to really feel comfortable, but not too comfortable)
  • Students should be sitting beside each other (I prefer to have them sit on the carpet)
  • Share the academic vocabulary word on a large card that you will keep on display throughout
    Vocabulary Instruction
    the following weeks
  • Ask students to think about what they know about the meaning of the word
  • After having some think time, tell students to whisper to their partner what they believe the word means
  • Take suggestions aloud from the Brain Buddies and discuss
  • Next, draw an illustration of the word
  • Have students explain to their partner how the illustration represents or connects to the academic vocabulary word
  • You will want to give your students numerous opportunities to share and practice the words with their partners.... draw pictures, act them out, use them in sentences, etc.

Brain Buddies is one of my most used strategies.  You can use Brain Buddies for just about anything.

My teacher friend, Mrs. Lott, is an amazing Kinder - 5th grade Title 1 Reading teacher on my elementary campus.  She shared a handout with me, "Ways We Can Partner Talk" that she found on Pinterest.  Trying to give credit where credit is due, I tried to locate the original author of Partner Talk.  

I found the same thing on Pinterest in about 20 different ways...from about 20 different people.  I did retype the sheet because it was a little fuzzy, had a typo, and I wanted to change it up just a tad.  

Improve vocabulary instruction

Here is a FREE link to the document:  Ways We Can Partner Talk FREEBIE.
Ways We Can Partner Talk
How do you encourage students to practice and discuss new academic vocabulary words?  I would LOVE to hear from you.

Encouraging a LOVE of learning and thinking.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Academic Vocabulary Mini Tutorial #1

Academic Vocabulary 

My definition of academic vocabulary is as follows, the words that students MUST KNOW BY HEART to be able to understand what is being taught to them.  Academic vocabulary words can be used across the content areas.  

Academic vocabulary definition

A few good examples of academic vocabulary words:

  • infer
  • determine
  • summarize
  • compare
  • main idea
  • contrast
  • parallel
  • represent

Students use the academic vocabulary word compare in the areas of reading, math, science, social studies, language arts and writing. Students need to have a good understanding of the word compare to be able to comprehend what is being taught in each of these subject areas. 

When teaching academic vocabulary words, consider the following:

  • Don't teach too many words at one time. 3 to 5 words per week is usually appropriate.
  • Provide your students with direct instruction over the academic vocabulary terms.
  • Teach the word multiple times in multiple ways.  Reviewing the word on one occasion will not be enough!

What academic vocabulary strategies or activities do you use with your students?

Encouraging students to love learning and thinking!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Size Does NOT Fit ALL ~ in Guided Reading! FREEBIE Forms!

How to Determine the Level of Text Used for Guided Reading

Guided Reading Text Level

10 characteristics you can use to find the level of a text 
~ any text

What exactly is a guided reading level?
Contrary to popular belief, a guided reading level is NOT a score or a number.  The level actually represents a set of student behaviors that are observable to the teacher.  This is so important!   

Each reading level has it's very own set of understandings and behaviors. Teachers must differentiate their instruction and the texts they use with their students.  Please keep reading for the freebie!  :)

Students need to read every day

How often should my students read independently?
This is my very favorite question for teachers to ask!  EVERY DAY, BABY! Your students need to be reading every single day, without a doubt! To become real readers, students have to read texts on their independent level on a daily basis.

Why should students read books on their independent reading level?

Think Goldilocks! ~  

Students read books on their independent level

For students to be able to successfully process the text they are reading, it must be on their independent level.  Hot porridge! ~ If the text is too difficult, then the student will not be able to process it correctly.  Many students will just give up if the text is too hard.  

Cold porridge! ~ If the text is too easy, they will not be able to grow as a reader. When students practice reading on their independent level, they are able to build up their reading skills such as:  fluency, stamina, vocabulary, comprehension, and build interest in topics.

Reading harder guided reading texts

Should I EVER give my students a book above their reading level?
Yes!  This is my second favorite question!  In order to become better readers, students need to read books slightly above their level; known as the instructional level.  

Through a guided reading lesson, you will work with students on a more challenging level of text. You will be right there with your students, guiding them and helping them to process the text.

Work with your students at the guided reading table

How can I tell if a book is on the correct guided reading level?
Everything I have learned about guided reading has been from two of my favorite teacher authors:  Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. They are amazing!  Since authoring their first book, I have tried to read everything I can get my hands on about guided reading.  

In their The Reading Teacher article, Guided Reading:  The Romance and the Reality, they discuss 10 characteristics that they use to determine the level of a piece of text.

Ten Characteristics Used to Determine Text Level:

  1. Genres / forms
  2. Text structure
  3. Content
  4. Themes and ideas
  5. Language and literary features
  6. Sentence complexity
  7. Vocabulary
  8. Words
  9. Illustrations
  10. Book and print features

Text level is more than just words

So, finding text level involves more than just the words?
Determining the appropriate level of a piece of text is so much more than just the word count and difficulty.  We have to move beyond "just the words" and consider what reading behaviors and understandings the text is requiring of the reader.  

When planning a guided reading lesson or determining the text level, ask yourself:  What does the reader have to be able to do to comprehend the text?  

Comprehension is truly what reading is all about!

For more information, please check out my 
FREE printable charts and resources for GUIDED READING text:
  • 10 Characteristics Used to Determine Text Level
  • Checklist: Determine Text Level
  • Guided Reading Correlation Chart (correlate to other forms of tools and assessments)
What are your biggest questions about guided reading or finding the appropriate text level?  
I would LOVE to hear from you.

Encouraging a LOVE of learning and thinking. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

6 Common Symptoms of Dysgraphia

How do I know if My Child or Student Has Dysgraphia?

The National Center for Learning Disabilities defines dysgraphia as follows:  

Dysgraphia definition
"Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills."

What exactly is dysgraphia?
Essentially, dysgraphia makes even the most basic form of writing difficult.  Many students struggle with spelling, getting their thoughts down on paper and basic writing skills.

Writing skills are a struggle for students with dysgraphia

People with dysgraphia have difficulties with processing what their eyes are actually seeing. This is known as visual-spacial difficulty.  

Visual-spacial concerns with dysgraphia

Language processing is another area of concern. Dysgraphia sufferers have trouble making sense of what their own ears are actually hearing.

These issues affect organization, organizing words on a line or page, letters, and even numbers.

Dysgraphic students struggle with writing on lines

What are the symptoms and signs of dysgraphia?

  • Tiring quickly while writing
  • Poor handwriting, sometimes with a mix of print and cursive
  • Trouble thinking of words to write
  • Omitting or not completing words within a sentence
  • Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
  • Large gap between oral spoken language and written expression
*Additional signs and symptoms of dysgraphia can be found on the related paperwork, link here.

Interventions and strategies to address dysgraphia

What interventions and strategies can I do for my child with dysgraphia?

  • Use a pen or pencil that is comfortable for the student; you may need to try several before finding the one that works best
  • Use lined paper when possible
  • Model and practice proper pencil grip; be careful because habits form quickly and early
  • When learning letters, numbers or shapes, use oral sequences to help them memorize the exact formation; for example: letter c: start below the top, go up and touch the top, go around and back up
    Model proper pencil grip
  • Do not give up on practicing handwriting, but try using a computer keyboard or ipad to type
  • Provide students with a checklist of expectations (spelling, neatness, grammar, progression of ideas, etc.)
  • Reduce the amount of copying, especially from the board
  • Break assignments down into smaller steps and tasks
  • When appropriate, give alternate assignments that have a more hands-on approach
  • For writing assignments, allow students to begin by telling a partner what they will write about or drawing a picture before writing

*Additional interventions and strategies can be found on the related paperwork, link here.

If you have a student or child that is suffering from symptoms of dysgraphia, you may benefit from the Dysgraphia Intervention Kit.  

Dysgraphia Intervention Kit

  • Dysgraphia information sheet
  • Dysgraphia Intervention and Strategy suggestions, complete list
  • Dysgraphia Intervention Checklist (editable and printable) to use with individual children, complete list
  • Dysgraphia Checklist: Ages 12 to Adult (editable and printable)
  • Dysgraphia Checklist: Ages 5 to 12 (editable and printable)
  • Dysgraphia Checklist: Ages Up to 5 (editable and printable)
  • Dysgraphia Student Intervention Log used for documentation and progress monitoring (editable and printable)
Dysgraphia Information

Do you have a child or student that suffers from symptoms of dysgraphia?  What interventions do you use to help them?  I would LOVE to hear from you!

~jen :) 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tutorial: How to Use QR Codes in the Classroom

QR Codes in the Classroom?

QR codes in the classroom

  • Using QR Codes in the classroom is beneficial to you and your students.
  • Learn how to generate your own QR codes to use with your students.

What is a QR code?
QR stands for Quick Response. These codes are very similar to a typical barcode.  You can scan a QR code by using an app with your smartphone, ipad, or your computer.  
The information is linked from the code back to you.  The information can be in the form of a text, website, video, etc.  QR codes have a very large storage capacity and are very quick. 

QR codes to use with students

How can I get started with QR codes in my classroom?
To get started, you will need to download a QR code reader app to your smartphone, ipad, or computer. Each of these items must have a camera for the reader to work correctly.  

For example, if you have an iphone, start by visiting the Apple Store and download a free QR code reader. I prefer using the i-nigma or the scan app

FREE APP - i-nigma 
APP - Scan

What are some ways that I can use QR codes in the classroom?

  • Link to YouTube video clips
  • Link to a ShowMe video
  • Link to a read aloud
  • Link to a book review
  • Link to a website
  • Link to a spelling list
  • Link to a webquest
QR code generator

How can I make my very own QR code?
There are several free online generators where you can create your own QR codes.  One of the most simple sites to use is http://www.qrstuff.com

1.  Go to http://www.qrstuff.com

2.  Select your data type:

  • Website
  • YouTube video
  • iTunes link
  • Plain text
  • Email address
  • Email message
  • SMS message (text message)
  • etc.

3.  Type in the correct content.  For example:  website URL (http://www.....)

4.  Select foreground color.  Most people select black, but this website allows you to choose any color.  FUN!  Look for the QR code to my blog:  Apple Tree Learning. I am really into teal these days, so I made mine teal.  :O) 

5.  Press enter.

6.  Download the QR code.

7.  Save the QR code to your desktop.

8.  Have fun!  :) 

This is a QR code to my TPT Store:  Apple Tree Learning.

Here is a FREE QR CODE handout that you can use to refer back to when using QR codes and for generating your very own QR codes.  It is a link to my Teachers Pay Teachers store - 
Apple Tree Learning.

If you do NOT have a Teachers Pay Teachers account and you would like to, please click here to 

Or, if you will leave me a message, I will email you a copy.

How do you use QR codes in your classroom?  I can't wait to hear from you!

jen :)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why Practicing Syllables Actually Helps Your Students Read and Spell Better!

Who would have known?  Teaching syllables actually improves reading and spelling!

  • Syllable study improves phonics
    • Studying syllables helps students to be better spellers

    Teaching students how to recognize syllables in words will greatly benefit your students and their progress in reading!

    When children are able to correctly recognize syllables in words, reading and spelling make much more since to them!

    Syllable and word study is a MUST for struggling students / RTI and is also useful as a guided reading warmup.  

    You will want to begin by modeling this skill for your students.  Begin by showing them how to say one syllable at a time. Model, model, model.  Modeling is the key!  

    My favorite way to model for students how to recognize syllables is by clapping each time I hear a syllable while saying the word aloud.

    Sometimes for younger students or struggling students, you can also teach them how to break words apart into syllables by putting your hand under your chin.  Say the word aloud and count each time you feel your jaw drop drop.

    Play games with your students!  Students always learn better when they are having fun!  I do too, actually!  

    One of my favorite syllable games is: SYLLABLE SORTER!  Here is how you play:

    Syllable Cards

    Syllable Sorting Game

    • Create a large stack of words with varying numbers of syllables
    • Mix the stack of word cards with the words facing down or place them in a paper bag
    • Draw one word and read it aloud
    • Say the word again, clapping your hands each time you hear a syllable
    • How many syllables does your word have?
    • Place your word in either the 1, 2, or 3 syllable box (to sort the words into syllables)

    Phonics Fun game
    I have a PHONICS FUN!  Word Sort Kit on my Teachers Pay Teachers store, 
    As I always tell teachers, you do NOT have to buy mine.  

    Syllable Sorter

    You can easily make this on your own. But, if you are like most of my teacher friends, you probably don't have time.  In that case, check out my kit:

    If you do purchase my kit, it comes with two center games / activities, 136 syllable word cards, student handouts, a syllable challenge, and a FREE planner - Something to SMILE about... and more! 

    What fun phonics and syllable games do you use with your students? 

    I would love to hear from you! 

    jen :)

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    5 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Writers

    Dealing with Reluctant Writers Can Be a Daunting Task!

     Writing Activity
    Becoming a Writer

    There are just as many excuses as to why students don't want to write as there are topics to write about.

    While many of these reasons are only excuses, there is also a long list of real reasons that may be keeping your students from getting down to the business of becoming REAL WRITERS
    • poor knowledge
    • dyslexia
    • dysgraphia
    • lack of interest
    • lack of practice
    • boredom 

    If we want our students to embrace the process of writing, we MUST inspire them to want to write!

    5 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Writers:

    1. Make writing fun!
    2. Help students find their creative side.
    3. Teach students how to visualize and / or draw a picture before they begin writing.
    4. Allow students to orally tell another student what they are going to write about before they ever pick up a pencil.
    5. Use real photographs to help inspire students to write.
    Writing Strategies

    One of the most simple strategies that you can do with your students is to make it fun!  Use games, activities, puzzles, drawing, posters, etc. to help your students have fun with writing.

    Visualization isn't just for reading!  We all know and LOVE Tanny McGregor for teaching us how to teach our students to use visualization to help them understand what they are reading.  

    Using Visualization to Write

    We should be instructing our students to also use the visualization strategy to assist them in thinking of what they want to write.  Visualization is great for adding details to writing!

    If students are struggling with the process of visualization, we can make it even more simple for them.  Encourage your students to draw a picture first! 

    Writing - Use Drawing as a Strategy

    Many teachers tell their students that they must write their paper first, then, if there is time...they can draw a picture. Encourage your students to draw a detailed illustration first, then write a story about the picture they drew.

    Let students draw before writing a story

    Another writing strategy that is good for all students, but especially good for your ESL students is to have them tell a friend what they are going to write about.  If they can orally tell what they want to say first, it will really help your students get going!

    I saved my favorite writing activity for last!  I have had the pleasure of teaching 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade and 4th grade over the last 17 years.  

    I have had the greatest success with using photographs with my students. Let me say that again.  Using photographs will inspire your students to write! 

    I usually begin by doing this in a whole group setting and then I will transition my students to doing this in a small group, with a partner, or write independently.

    Here is an example of the type of photograph that I use with my students:

    Use photos to inspire writing

    I begin by asking my students the following questions:

    • Where does this photo take place?
    • Who would you imagine this picture is about?
    • What do you notice about the picture?
    • What does the photo make you think about ~ what connections can you make?
    • How does the picture make you feel?
    • What would you do if you were part of this photo?
    • What kind of story can you make out of this photograph?
    I have numerous activities that I have students do with the different photographs.  

    I do have a PICTURE WRITING Kit in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store - 

    The kit includes 7 writing activities, a writing checklist, and 54 colorful, interesting photograph cards.

    You don't have to buy my kit to do this activity in your own classroom! 

    You can easily make one yourself.  

    What do you do to inspire and encourage reluctant writers in your classroom?

    I would love to hear from you!

    jen :) 

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Teachers: Have You Entered? Only 23 Hours Left to Win FREE Products!

     FREE educational products

    You have 23 hours left to win FREE educational products from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Apple Tree Learning.

    Have you entered?  It is sooooo easy!  All you have to do is click on the banner above or click right here.  You will be asked a few short and sweet answers and then you will be all entered to WIN!  

    You will have your pick of ANY of my TPT items totaling $10.  I have been known to add in a few more freebies if you find something you just can't live without.

    Thank you and good luck!

    jen :)