This month's featured website is especially for all my special education and speech teacher friends. This website is full of clipart and symbols for teaching students who can benefit from extra visual supports. There are over 21,000 images created by special educators available to choose from. These are great for making worksheets, visual schedules, posters and more.
The founder of this website, Barbara Fernandes, is a a licensed speech-language pathologist. She saw a need for quality images to support visual learners and Smarty Symbols was born. Smarty Symbols is a subscription-based website with membership options for personal and commercial use. I love how you can search for images based on speech sounds in the initial, medial, and final positions or search by keyword or category. You can search by whole word or a phrase that includes a specific keyword. There are lots of options!
Watch the short video below for a quick overview of the site as Barbara walks you through how to use the different features of the website.
*This blog post contains affiliate links.
I wanted to create a freebie for all of you so you can get an idea of what the images are like so I made these "Wh" questions bookmarks using Smarty Symbols! Barbara has also generously offered a one-year subscription for a personal use membership (or you can opt to have a one month commercial use license) for me to give away to one of my readers! Enter the giveaway below.
*One year paid subscription is for personal use or you can opt to have a one month commercial use subscription instead.
This post contains a hidden gem (freebie)! See if you can find it. :)
Do your students struggle with ABC order (arranging words in alphabetical order)? It may seem like a straightforward concept but it can actually be quite challenging for some students. Here are a few simple tips to help students master ABC order. These may seem pretty obvious if you just skim them but I challenge you read them carefully and you may just learn something new!
1. Start small - to introduce the concept start small with only two words that start with different letters (i.e. like, said). Once students understand the basic concept you can move on to three and four words to order. Make sure all your words start with different letters (i.e. like, said, ball, down) until students master the concept. Then the next step would be to compare two words that start with the same letter (i.e. like, look) where you teach students to look at the next letter in the word to determine which one comes first. Continue by adding three or four words, some that start with the same letter and some that do not (i.e. like, look, down, said). Once students begin to grasp the concept, you can move on to comparing more words.
2. Include a LOWERCASE alphabet for students to reference while they work - it is really important for your visual learners to have an alphabet in front of them to look at while they work. When I first started teaching my own children how to do ABC order I gave them an uppercase alphabet to reference. My daughter would always write her words with all capital letters and I kept getting after her to use lowercase since you're not supposed to capitalize every letter of a word. Then I realized I was giving her an uppercase alphabet to reference so why would I expect her to use lowercase letters? So, I suggest using a lowercase alphabet if you want your students to write their words using lowercase letters. It is also important to match the alphabet case to that of the written words. It also makes sense to use a lowercase alphabet if the words students are arranging are written in lowercase letters (which I assume most are) as to not cause any confusion.
3. Teach them how to use the alphabet while they work - for students who really struggle with ABC order, have them go through each letter of the alphabet crossing out letters as they go. So for example, they start with the letter A and ask, "Do any of my words start with the letter A?" If the answer is no they cross out the letter A and move on to the letter B. If the answer is yes, they write that word down (assuming no other words start with A) and cross out the A and move on to B. Continue going through the entire alphabet until all words have been put in the correct order. Now where this gets a little tricky is with words that start with the same letter and you have to move on to the second letter in each word and start over with the alphabet. In this case I would have students use two different colored pencils to cross out the letters. Tell them to lightly cross out the letters so that if they have to go back through the alphabet a second time they can still read the alphabet. Then they can use a different color to cross letters out the second time through. Each time they have to go back through the alphabet have them use a different color or if that is too confusing just give them a new copy of the alphabet to use each time.
Let's try it!
In the example below, we begin by crossing out letters using a red colored pencil until we get to the words "like" and "let". Since both words start with the letter "L" we have to look at the next letter in each word (I suggest circling these letters to help students remember which letters they're comparing). Since we have to start at the beginning of the alphabet again to determine which word comes first (like or let), we will use a different color (blue) and cross out letters until we get to the letter "E" in the word "let". Once we figure out that "let" comes next in our ABC order we can also conclude that "like" follows "let". If we had more than one word left to order, we would continue on using our red colored pencil once again to cross off letters beginning at "L" and continue working through our list.
4. Write the words on cards (or popsicle sticks) so students can physically arrange them - being able to physically rearrange words into alphabetical order is extremely important for several reasons. First, it makes the activity hands-on which is great for kinesthetic learners. Second, it cuts down on the frustration of having to erase and rewrite words if a student missed a letter along the way causing all their words to be out of order! I suggest having your student write out the words you want them to order (such as a few of their spelling words) on small cards, pieces of paper or popsicle sticks. Then have them arrange the words in ABC order. Once they have the correct order they can glue the words in place or rewrite them for additional spelling practice.
5. Make it fun - ABC order does not have to be a daunting task! Simply supplying the right tools (i.e. an alphabet, words on cards, etc.) can greatly increase the enjoyment of it. However, you don't have to stop there! Use engaging worksheets like these adorable and wacky animals for an added element of fun. Bonus! These are completely editable so you can use them with any word list!
Even though these tips may seem pretty simple, I hope you were able to glean some new ideas to implement with your students. Let me know in the comments below which one(s) you plan to try or if there are other strategies you have found success with in your classroom. Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to enter the January giveaway if you haven't already!
This post contains a hidden gem (freebie)! See if you can find it. :)
Teach them How to Write
*Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post for your convenience.
1. Establish hand dominance - this one might seem pretty obvious but it is also important in the early stages of writing. I once observed a student, upon the request of his teacher, who was struggling with some fine motor skills (including writing). One of the things I was looking for during my observation was to determine his hand dominance. I noted which hand he used to color, which hand he raised to answer questions, which hand he used for cutting, eating, and so on. We determined that this student used his left hand for the majority of the tasks he performed. We got him a left-handed scissors and encouraged him to use his left hand to write and soon we began to see improvements in his fine motor skills.
The first time I tried to teach my 4 year old how to write numbers, I had him use his right hand. As he sat on my lap, I drew a number on the mini white board and then had him write it. At first I thought he was trying to be funny or that I had my work cut out for me because his numbers looked nothing like mine; in fact, they were completely illegible! Then I had him try writing with his left hand and immediately saw a 70% improvement! I then created some fun monster math number writing mats for him to practice writing his numbers more.
2. Take it slow - students can quickly become frustrated when writing is laborious and hard for them. It's important to take it slow at the beginning until they begin to get the hang of it. One program I really love to use for students who struggle with writing is Handwriting Without Tears. I love how this program gives students wooden pieces to learn how to build and form the letters correctly before transferring that knowledge to paper. It is great for the kinesthetic learners or those that just need more concrete examples.
3. Supply them with the right tools - a student with cerebral palsy whose hand shakes while writing may need a weighted pencil. Other students may benefit from different types of pencil grips. Checklists can be helpful for students who struggle remembering all the mechanics of writing. Some students may need to use a computer or other device with spell check. To foster a love of writing it is essential that you equip your students with the tools they need to be successful!
Show them What and Why to Write
4. Give them something to write about - find a topic that your students are interested in to write about. If your students struggle to come up with ideas for writing use writing prompts like my Build-A-Story Writing Center or use one of these picture prompts from my Pinterest writing prompts board.
5. Set goals and don't worry about the rest (for now) - decide what it is you want your students to focus on in regards to their writing. Do your students dislike writing because they struggle with letter reversals? Then spend time learning tricks or songs to help them remember the correct way to form each letter. Do your students lack creativity in their writing? Then spend time brainstorming ideas or searching for writing prompts. If the mechanics of writing are bogging them down, spend time mastering one area (such as punctuation) at a time. Have students dress up like mechanics and fix up some broken down sentences (see my Greasy Grammar Writing Mechanics blog post here).
6. Make it a "get to" not a "have to" - writing should not be a chore even if it is difficult for your students. Check your own attitude toward writing. Are you stuck in a rut doing the same writing activities each day or rushing through your writing time so you can get on to some other subject area that is more fun to teach or easier for your students to learn? If you don't enjoy writing, your students will quickly pick up on that and it may affect their attitude toward writing. Did you ever have a teacher that was extremely passionate about the subject area that you were not particularly fond of? Did her love for that subject area inspire you to think twice about it? A big step in fostering a love of writing in your students is to first develop a love for the subject yourself! How?...
7. Make it FUN and meaningful - besides picking topics of interest for your students to write about, there are many ways you can make writing more fun. Start by using fun decorative papers for students to write on or find an object to use as a writing surface instead! Make signs or posters that actually mean something/are useful. Have students write a letter to their favorite singer or actor. Write out a recipe and then make it. Give writing a purpose!
8. Reward them (with writing-related rewards) - add to the fun by rewarding your students when they make progress toward their writing goals. Gather a stash of colorful or wacky pencils, mini erasers, pencil grips, stationary paper, and/or other writing-related rewards. They will be excited to receive a reward and just as excited to use it the next time they "get to" write!
I hope you find these writing tips helpful! Sign up for my newsletter for more teaching tips and freebies each month.
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