Almost 6 months ago, my then 4 and a half year old had almost his entire 5th birthday party planned.

"Momma, all I want is for my friends to bring their bikes and cars and ride up and down our street with me!  Let's call it, 'Go Cooper Go!'"

And with that, a cars party was born (in the church parking lot, not our busy street!) Here's a look at this fun party day for our sweet {almost} 5 year old!
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When I say Cooper planned almost all of the details for his party, I really mean it!  Right down to which cars should go together in the thank you favors... sitting with me while we designed his birthday invitations.  "Mommy, let's make a big 5 that looks like a road!"

And when it came time to prepping this week, he loved picking out which cars we would use for the food signs...

...and making the traffic light Rice Krispies!

Party day turned out fabulous...despite the windy day that made us need to move the food table inside! :)

The pennant banners were made from scrapbook paper and cardstock triangles! And I printed 7 inch circles with the words in the middle and cut outside of the edge to make some stop light banners too!

Cooper picked out his menu too!  And he made sure each of his friends knew not to accidentally swallow the toothpicks!

We saw this idea on Pinterest and Cooper could not stop talking about it!  Daddy came to the rescue and turned these {brand new} gas cans into drink stations!

We had the thank you favors on the drink table too!  You can grab these thank you cards with versions for valentine's day and more gift tags here.

The kids table was my favorite!  The cars in the plates were necessary in the wind! :)  We used race car napkins all unfolded to make placemats and taped down the corners to make them wind proof.  The road table runners on all of the tables were just made out of black and white felt I had around the house {yay for free decorations!}

Have I mentioned the wind yet?  Because it completely hijacked our blowing out candles situation.  Cooper really wanted 5 individual candles to blow out.  Getting all 5 lit without the wind killing the flames was impossible...even with hands blocking the wind and whatever else we tried.  So, we finally settled for blowing out the lighter! LOL! #whateverworks

We set up a road with traffic signs for the kids to ride on.  And if you look closely enough you can see the railroad tracks Cooper taped down for the railroad!  You can find this set of adorable traffic signs here {affiliate link}.  I LOVE that they were super easy to put together, great quality and all the pieces go back into a box that's super easy to store!

Cooper lined up all the vehicles we brought {not all from our house!} for the party... #thecutest

And then off they went!  I absolutely loved watching this kid and his friends do exactly what he's been dreaming about doing for almost 6 months now!

I say this every year, but truely this may have been my favorite party yet.  Just simple kid fun celebrating our miracle!

My four year old is obsessed with magnetiles and I have yet to meet a kiddo who doesn't love them.  
You can find the set we own at home here.  They are perfect for STEM exploration, 3D shapes, 2D shapes, composing and decomposing shapes....ANNNNNNDDD, reading intervention! :)

Yep, you read that right.  When I was tutoring this summer, I used these magnetiles to help with sight word recognition and early reading skills.  Let's chat about using these awesome manipulatives in reading!
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The first thing I do to prep my Magnetiles for intervention is to write one word on each magnetile to make a sentence.  I use sight words we work on for the reading level my group/intervention kid is on and then fill in with CVC words or other words I know they can sound out phonetically.  
Tip: I use the same color tile for the entire sentence for two reasons.  One, I just like color coding and if I have two sets of kids in my guided reading group working on sentence puzzles, we can keep track of whose is whose!  The second reason I use the same color is to eliminate the problem of the kids focusing on color as important in reading.  I basically want the colors to disappear so the kids are only focused on the visual appearance of the words!

Once, I've finished the sentence, we spread out all of the tiles and read each word on the tile in random order.  This is to practice decoding and sight word skills.

Then, the kids go to town ordering the words into a sentence.  There are a TON of skills they are using for this: decoding, syntax, language skills, and attending to punctuation and capitals!  Plus, they love that the magnetiles just CLICK together!

After we are finished, I just wipe off the magnetiles with a tissue!  And they can go right in their STEM bin!

If I want to use these longer than just for an intervention group, then I write the words with a sharpie and then go over the words with a dry erase marker and then wipe off!  Watch how I clean off the sharpie marker and the entire process in this video!

If you want to find my entire collection of sentence puzzles leveled for reading levels A-K, you can find them here!

Do you do sentence puzzles in your primary classroom?  This is one of my favorite ways to reinforce fluency and language skills for all primary kiddos, especially ELLS, in productive group work, literacy stations or centers, and as a guided reading warmup.   Here is the routine for how I used these in my first grade classroom.

How Do We Do Sentence Puzzles?

The goal of sentence puzzles is simple: Put words in order to make a complete sentence.

The first thing I always have kids do is read each of the words to practice fluency.  We do this together if we are using it as a guided reading warmup.  Or they read them on their own if they are doing in in literacy stations or group work.

Next, kids simply order the words to make a sentence.

Last, I ask kids to reread the sentence to self-check.  This forces them to practice the "Does it make sense?" reading strategy and gives ELL kids an opportunity to hear our language structure.

Once they have checked their sentence, they record it on our recording sheet for group work or literacy stations.

If we are doing this as a guided reading warmup, we either skip out on the writing portion for time, or I just have them write the sentence quickly on their dry erase board.

In productive groups, I love doing a carousel activity with these.  Where we choose "on grade level puzzles" and put a different puzzle at each station.  Then groups of 2-4 kids rotate through each station for 2 minutes each and order the puzzles and record them on their recording sheet.  Anything where we are up moving around and practicing literacy skills is a win! :)

Why Do We Do Sentence Puzzles?

With this one activity I can reach all of my kiddos:
-My good readers who need to practice fluency with high frequency and decodable words.
-My readers who struggle with errors for meaning (Does it make sense?)
-My ELL sweethearts who struggle with our language structure and need practice with grammar and syntax.

Cooper begged to try one out for me this afternoon while I was prepping the materials.  And although he could read most of the words, he struggled putting them in order.  It was difficult for him to hear that his sentence didn't make sentence grammatically!  And he's not even an ELL kiddo.

On top of sentence puzzles challenging all of my kids academically, it's also engaging for kids.

Whether it is a reinforcement or review activity or a language sequencing exercise, my kiddos LOVE these puzzles!  They are engaging, they are fun and they are easy to self-check!

But what about those emerging and non-readers?  Level A and B sentence puzzles are the same patterned sentence for each level.  So that kids can just practice concepts of print (think: What is a word? What is a sentence? Where is the beginning and end?) and one-to-one correspondence.

Plus, there is picture support to make reading the content words a breeze!

You can do your own sentence puzzles using index cards or Magnetiles, which you can read about in an upcoming blog post...or you can snag this pre-made differentiated packet of sentence puzzles that are leveled, color coded and ready to go here!

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