I'm not a fan of homework.  I think I've mentioned that a time or two in this space! :)  But I do like giving parents tools to feel like they are helping their child learn in school.  Sight word folders are just that:  an option for parents to use to work on at home.  Here's a look at how I use them in my classroom.

What Are Sight Word Folders?

Sight word folders are just like they sound: manilla folders with sight word lists inside.  Each student get his/her own folder.  I staple the first 100 list on the inside.

And I staple the parent note (in English or Spanish) on the outside.  The parent note explains what the folder is and how to use it at home.  It also has a place for parents to sign when their child knows the entire list of sight words.

What's the Routine for Sight Word Folders?

All first graders take home sight word folders within the first few days of school.  Parents are told that it is a work at your own pace way to help their students read.  I have several suggestions that I send home in my newsletter on working on sight words.  You can read about those here or share this link with your parents.

When parents feel like their child knows all of the sight words for the first 100 list, they sign next to the 1 on the parent note cover and return the folder to school.

Then, a parent volunteer or I test the child within the next 1-3 days.  We highlight the words the student reads correctly and leave the missed words unhighlighted.  (I do tend to test the kids from left to right or backwards to make sure they haven't memorized the order!)

My personal rule is that if they miss 4 or fewer, they can move to the next list.  I staple the 200 list on top of the first 100 list and then write in the words they missed on the 200 list for them to continue working on.

I also initial the front cover so parents know their child has been assessed.

If they miss more than 4 words, I send the folder home with a note to keep working!

I continue this same pattern until students know all 500 sight words!  I keep track of our sight words and when students pass 500 words, they get a popsicle to eat at recess that day!

Where Can I Find These Sight Word Folders?

The parent notes and student lists are in this sight word list bundle.  This bundle also has an activity to do with each list and flash cards to use at school at a sight word station.

I love talking about family in Sunday School!  It's developmentally appropriate for preschoolers because it's about them and easily relatable.  Here's a look at some of the activities I use to engage preschoolers about families of the Bible.

We study 5 families from the bible and learn something about our own families from each of them.  I absolutely love the interactive charts we have for each unit.  I love that they make it easy to review what we've learned each week and are available for students to explore before Bible story time.

Exploration stations are our favorite.  And this is one of our all-time favs!  I know because we did this unit almost a year ago and my kids still try to sneak out the family house to play with it! :)

In our first lesson, we talk about people God chooses to put in our family and build our own family.

The other option is this handprint craft.  Sometimes I do one or the other.  This past year, I did both.  The cut and paste version at the beginning of the unit and the handprint at the end of the unit.  We use our handprints to show our own family tree.  Then, I write the names of people in their families in sharpie.

You can find this unit here.  Or save on the bundle here.

We have been talking second grade science!  Specifically, we'll chat about the Next Gen standards on landforms and how to implement hands on activities, science labs, and STEM challenges while learning about Earth's surface.  You can catch up on all of the blog posts here:

Maybe it's because it's summer here right now.  Maybe it's because I haven't been to the beach in five years.  Or maybe it's because the kid in me just loves sandcastles.

No matter what the reason, I knew this sandcastle stem project had to be a part of our landforms unit as soon as I discovered this book by Robert Munsch during my research!

Here's a closer look into our sandcastle erosion STEM challenge for 2nd graders!
(This post contains affiliate links to help  fund my chocolate addiction and support this corner of cyber space)

What's the Problem?

We start by reading The Tide Is Coming In.  This is a simple book with great vocabulary and frames the sandcastle problem perfectly!  The ending is very open ended and leaves a good opportunity for students to hypothesize about what happened to the sandcastle!

Then, I read the scenario on our problem slide we use for our STEM projects and challenges.

We brainstorm ideas within our partners or groups for how to solve Pat's problem.  Then, it's time to make a plan!

Planning the Solution

During the planning phase, we work to talk out our solution.  What will it look like? Why do you think it will work?  How will you build it?  Will there be any problems with it?  

Our guiding questions are on our plan slide along with pictures of materials to spark their thinking and ideas.

Once they have talked through their plan, they come get the planning page.  Here they will write down how their plan will protect the sandcastle.  They will list out the materials they need and sketch a picture of their solution.
NOTE: I tried this out with my almost 6 year old, so his answers are obviously simpler than most second grade answers or written responses would be! :)

Build the Solution

On the second day of this Sandcastle STEM Challenge, students will collect the materials they need and begin building their solution.

To prep for this day, you will want to put a "sandcastle" (a cup of sand) in a foil pan with some sand around it.  Students will be building their solution in relation to the sandcastle inside their foil pan.

While they are building, you will need to actively walk around and continue asking the planning questions to keep them on track and focused on solving the problem.

I would definitely recommend setting a timer for this to keep them focused and to make sure too much instruction time isn't lost here.

Share and Publish

The third day is all about sharing their solution and testing them out to see if they work.  Because the solutions are all in foil pans, students can easily bring their pan in front of the class and talk through their solution.  The share slide gives the questions students will answer during their presentation: How does your plan protect Pat's sandcastle?  How did you build it? Does your plan work?  

When it's time for the last question, it's time to test out the solution!  I get a pitcher of water and fill the pan with "ocean water."  Then, the group sloshes the water to mimic ocean waves.  They must slosh it 10 times.  After 10 times, they stop and we observe to see if their solution worked and talk about why it did or didn't work.

During our writing time, we publish our solution and reflect on how well our solution worked, how we could improve it and by drawing our final solution.

This STEM challenge and tons more can be found in this Next Gen Landforms unit.
We have been talking second grade science!  Specifically, we'll chat about the Next Gen standards on landforms and how to implement hands on activities, science labs, and STEM challenges while learning about Earth's surface.  You can catch up on all of the blog posts here:

I love when creativity and science meet and become friends!  And that's why I love this STEM project so much!
(This post contains affiliate links to help  fund my chocolate addiction and support this corner of cyber space)

Before we get started talking about this challenge, can we just all agree to play "Islands in the Stream" while our students build their perfect island.  Yes? Good.  I knew we were good friends! #thesongthatneverends

For my STEM projects and challenges in my Next Gen units, I like to use my "Invent Me" anchor chart to help primary kids understand the steps to solving a problem.  I first started using this with my first graders and it made inventions and problem/solution projects SOOOO much easier!

What's the Problem?

First, I pull up our problem slide and read the problem scenario to the kids.  We discuss what our ideal island is and why.  And we use our new vocabulary to talk about what landforms and bodies of water it will have.

Plan the Idea

The rest of the first day is spent planning their ideal island.  We pull up their questions on the Plan slide and talk about what materials they might use to build the island.

Then, they work with a partner to draw and illustrate their island.  They will draw a map of the island from a bird's eye view. and use the checklist to make sure they have the landforms and water bodies they need.

Build the Island

On the second day, partners will work to build their island on a paper plate.  They can use play-doh for this or you can use this homemade salt dough recipe.

Once the island forms are built, it's time to label the landforms.  Use toothpicks and post-it flags to label.  Write on the labels first before wrapping around the toothpicks.

Then, leave the islands to dry overnight.

Share and Publish the Island

On the third day, students can paint the island (no need to do this if you use play-doh) and then share.  If you build the island first thing in the morning on day two, you might be able to quickly paint at the end of the day to organize your time better.

For share time, the partners will pair up with another set of partners to compare their islands.  They will listen to each other talk about their island.  They will observe and tell whats the same and what's different.  They will work together to fill out the Venn Diagram to compare and contrast their ideal islands.

Publish the island models with the planning sheets!

This STEM project and much more can be found in this Next Gen Landforms unit!

The best thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

The worst thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

In light of recent public school tragedies, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on peer pressure I know gets stronger every day, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on the lack of play because of the pressure to perform on standardized tests, I'm terrified of public schools.

Most importantly, based on the lack of Jesus in public schools, I'm terrified of public schools.

But that lack of Jesus is one of the main reasons I'm sending my kid to public school kindergarten anyways.

We chose to keep Cooper at home for the first 5 years and 11 months of his life.  And that was intentional.  Research tells us that 80% of the brain is fully developed BEFORE entering kindergarten.  80%, ya'll.  As a teacher, I realized that meant that parents were truly the first teachers.

And as a parent, I realized that meant I had to decide how I was going to fill that 80%.  Was it academics? Play? Or something else?

In the end, the decision to keep our son home instead of sending him to formal preschool was a decision made out of conviction.

Because the fact is that I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what public school wouldn't fill the other 20% with (despite many Christian teachers who desperately wish they could do more).

I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what I felt mattered most:  Jesus.

So, from his earliest years, to the last 2 years I've been out of the classroom at home with him all day everyday, that's just what we've been doing.

We've helped Cooper form the habit of having his own personal Bible and prayer time in the mornings and family devotions at night.  And we've had the best conversations about God, eternity and the big--important--questions about life.  Questions that he'll be challenged with and asked in public schools.

We've listened to Bible songs, Christian radio, and worship songs in the car together.  We've sung hymns together at nap time.  Because we believe that "meaty" Christian songs--both old and new--are mobile theology for our child.  So, when he is playing legos in his room, and I hear him burst out in a worship song, my heart just melts.  Because, that's Biblical Truth that he can carry with him in his heart to public schools.

We've disciplined him using the Bible as our guidebook.  We've shared scriptures with him to help build a strong foundation with him as to why we discipline the way we do.  We've intentionally given him the why from God's Word because we believe it will not return void.  We believe that it's a light to his paths.  He's even asks to post some of the verses on his bathroom mirror like we do to read every day.

We've looked for hands on ways to serve others in our community.  We've trained him to use his eyes to look for needy people and then use his heart and his hands to love and serve those people.  And we've counseled him to do those things anonymously, without bragging, and with a humble spirit--so that only God gets the glory.

And while we would've done this regardless of our choice about preschool, having him home all the time has given us more time to instill Truth in him and strengthen his foundation.  It's allowed us to be 100% responsible for the 80% of brain development that is "on us" anyway.  Because my husband and I are the ones that will be held accountable for our son at the end of this life.  Not a preschool teacher.  Not a babysitter.  Not a grandparent.  But us--mom and dad.

So, why?  Why is it so important to us to build a strong foundation built on the Truth of Jesus before he starts kindergarten?

Because I'm terrified of public schools.

Yes, I realize my child could "get more Jesus" (or not...) if we sent him to private school or homeschooled.  But that's not our heart.   Because when Jesus was faced with where to go, he didn't choose people just like him to hang out with.  He didn't choose to just stay home.  He chose to go out and seek out the ones who needed him the most.

So, we've sent our baby boy into public schools terrified and excited all in one.

Terrified that he will be met with resistance for his beliefs and pressure to conform to others' morals.

But excited because we've spent the last 5 years and 11 months preparing him for this day and covering him in prayer.  We believe that his strong foundation in Jesus will continue to transform him to be the hands and feet of Jesus in public school.  To reach out and be a friend the lonely kid on the playground, to encourage the sad friend in the corner, and to pray with the hurting kids around him.

In short, we have purposefully wired 80% of his brain to be a light in the public schools mission field.  We are sending him out and have prepared him to GO.

So, GO, sweet boy.

Go and shine your light for Jesus in the darkness like we know you will!  We cannot wait to watch you shine bright for Him!

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