I love doing something extra special in our Sunday School class to celebrate Easter.  We spend several weeks talking about the Christian Easter Story of Jesus' death and resurrection and even the 3-year-olds learn on their level about what Jesus did for us.  Giving them a craft or activity to take home gives them a chance to talk to Mom and Dad about the Easter story, too!

Here is my collection of my 5 favorite Easter story crafts and activities to do at church on Easter Sunday or at home as a family during the week of Easter!

Easter Bean Bag Toss Game

Print and lay out the sin cards in a cross shape.  Kids take turns naming a sin they are going to try to land on.  Then, they will toss the bean bag to see if the land on the correct one.  (Another way to play is to give a clue about a sin like, "Toss the bean bag on what we call the sin of taking things that aren't yours.")  

After the bag lands on a sin, ask, "Did Jesus die on the cross to save people from the sin of ____?" YES!  Jesus came to Earth, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross for ALL of our sins.

Find the materials for this game here and read more about how to play in this post.

Stained Glass Cross Activity

I LOVE stained glass and Easter seems like the perfect time to do this activity.

This one is as simple as it looks. Color in the pieces to create the look of stained glass.  

Since this printout has the Bible verse with it, I like to read and practice the Bible verse as we color.  For this one, we picked a crayon and colored in pieces as we said the Bible verse.  We would say the Bible verse 3 times and then change colors.  The kids would color in as many pieces (neatly) as they could during that time.

This kept our stained glass cross from having only 2 or 3 colors! ...And it was a great way to memorize scripture.  Even if you are the only once saying the verse and they are listening as they color...they are hearing God's Word over and over!

Grab this kindergarten printable here and read more about this Easter Sunday activity in this post.

Handprint Easter Resurrection Craft

This is one of the first Easter Sunday crafts I did years ago and it's still one of my very favorites.  I'm a sucker for handprint crafts. :)

I've done one with the handprint and ordering the Bible verse.  You can read more about that one at the bottom of this post.

And I've done this lots of ways over the years.  I've done this printout version with a handprint and filling in Jesus' tomb with lima beans.  You can read more about this one here and find the printout in this preschool Easter unit.

Crucifixion Bracelet Craft

Did you make salvation bracelets as a kid?  These Easter crucifixion bracelets are very similar but in the shape of a cross.

This first grade craft is perfect for this age group (they love making jewelry at this age--even the boys!).  Adding beads is great fine motor practice.

But more importantly, this is a reminder that they can wear of Jesus blood sacrifice (red beads) that washed our sins clean and white as snow (white beads). It's a fun reminder for them, and an easy tool for sharing the gospel with their friends.  

This activity is included in this 1st grade Easter Story unit and you can read more details on how to make them in this blog post.

Easter Basket Retelling Craft

This is another oldie, but goodie.  It's part of this early prek Easter story unit, so I go ahead and precut the baskets and sometimes the eggs depending on my kids.  

We order and glue the eggs together and then they spend the rest of the time coloring the basket and eggs while I help one kid at a time hot glue easter grass to the bottom of their basket.

You can find this craft in this preschool Easter Story unit.

Easter Egg Story Devotional Activities

I love doing an Easter countdown devotional at home with our kids, but I've also used this as Easter lessons in church as well.

At home, we start 9 days before Easter and read one part of the Easter story and open up an Egg that has a clue to the story we read.

Then, we make the craft and add it to the banner (or I have premade banners you can just color).  

We love having an advent devotional at Christmas time, and this pennant banner Easter countdown serves the same purpose for our family during the Easter season.

You can read about all the details in this post and find this pennant set separately here.

Decodable is the new buzz word of literacy thanks to the Science of Reading.  Decodable texts are any kind of text (lists, passages, books...) where at least 90% of the words are decodable with the focus sound or sounds previously learned.

I first fell back in love with decodable texts 4 years ago when I was doing a maternity leave in kindergarten.  Kids were using their decoding skills to read, making connections to new phonics skills they learned, and searching for heart words in their texts.  But most importantly, they were GROWING readers.  By leaps and bounds.  In 12 weeks, I saw growth like I'd never seen in 10 years of teaching first grade because it was so widespread with so many kids making amazing progress.

But decodable isn't just a buzz word.  It's a must have in your primary classroom.  If you want your reading instruction to be aligned to the Science of Reading, then you better invest in decodable texts.  And once you get started, you'll find there are SO many ways to use them in your classroom.  Let's talk about just 5 ways to use decodable texts in your primary classroom.

Whole Group Reading

This is how I first started using them during my 12 week job in Kinder!  At the end of our phonics lesson on Wednesday, I pulled out one of our decodable books that focused on the sound we were learning.  I read the book aloud to the kids on the carpet using our ELMO projector.  

Then, we reviewed the expectations.  They were to read their book one time.  Then, go back and highlight the focus sound and circle the sight words listed on the front of the book.  Then, they were to read the book two more times.  

When they finished this routine (read, highlight, circle, read, read), then they could illustrate their pictures. 

While the kids were working, I circled around to each table and listened in on as many kids as I could read the text.  I had a class list with the title of the book and I recorded how the kids were reading that I had listened to on this recording sheet

TEACHER TIP:  If I was listening to a kid who was just copying how the friend beside her was reading, I would ask her to start back at the beginning or a previous page for me. :)

When our time was finished (this took about 15-20 total minutes), the kids would put the booklets in their book boxes to read when they finished other work early.  

Targeted Reading Groups

The nice thing about doing the on grade level decodable book as a whole group is I could quickly see who was thriving or struggling with the on grade level text.   At the end of our reading time, I quickly analyzed the running records and wrote notes for who needed what.

I used our Wednesday small group time to pull kids that were struggling.  Sometimes, we did some extra word work using making words with the focus sound.  

Sometimes, we practice our heart words.  

Depending on what my running record showed they were struggling with.  Depending on the amount of strugglers and the reasons the struggled, I might have 1-3 groups of kids to meet with.

We start with some skill practice (making words or sight words) for 5 minutes or less.  Then, we get our same booklet and reread together.  Then, I let them independently read by stagger starting them and listen in as they each read.  

For kids that read the decodable reader with at least 95% accuracy, but maybe weren't fluent, I would note that during our whole group time and pull them to reread and practice fluency.  For kids who were fluent, I might try the matching passage that is the same text as the book, but in a passage form without pictures!

Each reading group would be 10-15 minutes.  Short and targeted so that I could meet with as many kids as possible.  I was almost always able to meet with all of my kids to reinforce our focus skill, or work on fluency or even comprehension for higher kids.

RTI/Intervention Time

You might be thinking.... isn't that what you just described for small groups?  

And, yes, it is!

But that was just for the on grade level focus sound for that week.

Other days of the week, my small group time is spent filling decoding gaps or extending kids as needed.  I pull kids that maybe are still struggling on last week's skill....or the first week of school's skill.... IYKYK... :)  I keep all of our decodable books close to our reading group area so I can get to the book I need quickly and with little prep!

So how did I keep up with who needed what and how often and who I met with and didn't meet with and, and, and...???  That's all in detail in this nuts and bolts blog post.  

How do I figure all of the groups and their focuses out?   By ASSESSING!!  And that's the next way I use decodable texts in the classroom!

Assessing Decoding and Phonics Skills

Assessing is key to getting the most out of your small group or intervention time.  And if we want to know the decoding holes or gaps students have, then we have to use decoding assessments.

My favorite decoding assessments are these screeners.  I love that they are quick and easy to see the exact phonics skills kids are doing well, and the holes we need to fill.

I also assess our current focus skill on Fridays during small group time using these decodable checkups that come with each set of decodable readers.

Take Home Reading

The last way (I'm chatting about in this post anyway!) to use decodable readers in the classroom is to send them out of the classroom....HOME!

I've sent books home for parents to read after reading with them in class or in a group so that parents can stay involved.  

And I've also heard from many teachers who love sending the books or passages or wordlists home to parents who are asking for extra work!

So where can you find a TON of targeted decodable readers for kindergarten through second grade?  Shop all of the individual sets here!

If we want kids to read and spell fluently, then we need to give our K-2 students adequate time for word building during phonics instruction.  The large body of research for the Science of Reading tells us that kids need repetition with word building for a focus sound so that they can map the spelling and sounds in their brain. 

One of my favorite first grade phonics activities to do is making words.  (And it is a must-do activity for kindergarten and second grade too!)

Making words is a word chaining activity which targets a specific phonics skill or sound.  During a making words lesson, kids are building and manipulating words by changing one sound at a time.  For CVC words, they might start by spelling bat and then change one sound to make the word sat.  

This makes word building accessible to all learners because you are just changing one sound at time.  It's less overwhelming and it allows us to really focus in on that target sound or sounds.

I LOVE using making words in my classroom.  The routines stay the same and the sounds change to make the activity feel like more of a game.  Let's chat about 3 low prep ways to implement making words in your kindergarten, first grade, or second grade classroom.

Print Mats & Magnetic Letters

My first year teaching was in 2006, which doesn't seem like long ago at all, but it does when I remember that an overhead projector was the highest form of technology in my classroom. :)

Anyone besides me remember these pretty things???

"It's a beaut, Clark!" :)

Anyways... when I first started teaching, we used magnetic letters or letter cards for word building.

The GREAT thing about magnetic letters with our printable word building mats is that it is very tactile.  It gives kids something to hold, manipulate, and move.  And that is SUPER important.

The downside to letter cards or magnetic letters is time!  I ended up doing word building like this in small groups only because the time it took to pass out letters was about as long as the lesson itself!  

In small groups, I had baggies with the correct letter cards for each lesson with the coordinating mat and that definitely minimized the passout time, but it also took up some extra space!

Print Mats & Dry Erase Markers

The second way I've done making words is with dry erase markers.  This was the main way I did making words when I first started teaching because it took very little pass out time.  There are no letters to pass out.  Kids just have to grab their dry erase markers and a mat and they were good to go!

These printable mats already have the corresponding letters for the lesson on them with the correct number of Elknonin sound boxes so it's ready to go.

But while these printable making words mats are nice and cute, they aren't necessary!  I've used dry erase boards only in a pinch and had kids make lines for the number of sounds in each word!

Digital Mats & Google Classroom

Eventually, the overhead projectors went into the storage closets and the Smartboards were installed.  And then came Google Classroom.

And suddenly, making words was an EASY way to do word work with absolutely zero prep!

Now, kids can open the digital making words mat that corresponds with our lesson and focus sound on an iPad or on a laptop in Google Classroom and they can immediately build words.

Or, we can pull up the digital making words mat on our smart board and do the word building lesson together as a whole group by clicking and dragging letters into the Elknonin sound boxes.

I LOVE this way because it takes so little prep and cleanup time!

Whether you want to save prep and cleanup time and go digital with making words, or you want to pull out the tactile magnetic letters and go old school, word building is a must-do in your primary classroom to help kids map words permanently in their brains!

I get messages all the time asking me what assessments I use since making the switch to the Science of Reading.  But first, let's take a second to back up and track how we got to this point, shall we?

I taught first grade for 10 years back with Fountas & Pinnell weren't bad words, levelized readers were the norm, and phonics was boring and not given much thought.  After 10 years in the classroom, I took a Mom break to stay home with my littles.  

Soon after I left the classroom, the Science of Reading movement began in our state.  I went through the same training my teacher friends did here to keep up my license.  

Then, I took 2 long-term sub positions when my oldest started kindergarten. I got to try out SoR in resource and in kindergarten.  That's when I officially said goodbye to guided reading, DRA assessment kits, and levelized readers.  That's also when I really got to test out what works best for small group instruction in an SoR classroom.  I started using our SoR aligned assessments to form groups and my kinders were making HUGE strides.  Like nothing I had ever seen in my F&P classroom before.

Since then, I've adopted twins to keep me busy at home for a bit longer, while getting LETRS certified and working hard on learning more about what the Science of Reading looks like in the K-2 classroom.

PHEW!  Lots of background info to say, these are my most favorite assessments I've used to help guide my Science of Reading instruction.  (HINT:  They're simple, about 10 times faster and OH sooooo mcuh smaller than the big old DRA kit! #iykyk  And most of them you can get for FREE!)

Use PAST To Assess Phonemic Awareness

PAST stands for Phonological Awareness Screening Test.  I discovered this one when I was teaching kinder and QUICKLY fell in love with it.  It's fast.  It's simple.  And it tells sooooo much about kids and what they know about sounds.  I even used this on my 2nd grade the year we homeschooled during CoVid.

What Is It? In a nutshell, PAST is like using Heggerty exercises to assess kids.  If you are not familiar with Heggerty, (and you totally should be because it's the BEST way to teach Phonemic Awareness in primary grades), the PAST assesses kids by asking them to repeat words and then change them in some way: delete a sound, replace a sound, etc...

Why I Love It? The easiest part of PAST is that the teacher script is right there in front of you and it's two pages.  I print my two to a page so it's all on one side. :)

But the BEST part of this test is it's FREE.  Yep, 100% free.  Just go right here and download the test and all the directions.  So when ya'll have messaged me asking if I have a good PA assessment, I say no.  Because this one is just so stinkin' good and it's FREE.  #winning

How I Use It? Once I have assessed kids on PAST, I start recording where they fall on these recording sheets from my small groups teacher binder.  Then, I can pull small groups to target their common Phonemic Awareness holes.  In this example below, I would pull Justin & Whitney to work on PAST level K1 (deleting the second part of a blend).  I would pull Cooper to work on level J (substituting middle short/long vowel sounds).  And I would pull back Knox & Evelyn to work on level H1 (deleting beginning sounds).

Use DIBELS/Acadience to Assess Phonics

I've gotta tell ya'll.  There was a time in my teaching career when I was in the throws of Fountas & Pinnell that I absolutely hated DIBELS.  Like literally loathed it.  It was a state mandated test for screening all kids and then tracking those below grade level every two weeks.  I turned in the data on the state website every so often and never did another thing with it.  

I think I disliked DIBELS so much because it was just another assessment on top of DRA and others we were already using to levelize kids and I didn't know how to use the data.

Fast forward to my immersion in the Science of Reading a few years ago and I started seeing real value in this assessment in kindergarten and beyond.

What Is It?  Acadience (formally DIBELS) is a series of quick, 1 minute tests that assess letter naming fluency, segmenting sounds, blending nonsense sounds/words, and oral reading fluency.  Acadience even gives you a little teacher booklet to organize all of your data. :) 

Why I Love It?  I love how fast Acadience is.  In less than 5 minutes I can assess a kid in all the areas needed at that time of the year.  I also love that it's easy to train a paraprofessional to do this testing in a pinch.  (Although, I'm the weird teacher that loves to assess my own kids because I think it builds so much rapport and I learn so much more about them doing it myself.) 

How I Use Is It?  In kindergarten, I used this to help me pull groups of kids for letter naming.  I kept track of when kids could ID uppercase and lowercase letters using our own school assessments for that.  So, kids who knew uppers and lowers, but hit below the benchmark for letter naming fluency needed to be pulled to work on naming letters faster.

I also used this data to pull kids who were like this one in the example below.  They could say the sounds of during the nonsense word fluency test, but they weren't really blending them to read them as whole words.  So with these kids I would use small group time to target blending VC and then CVC words (real and nonsense.) 

You can find the teacher booklets and student pages all here for free if you sign up.

Use Decoding Passages to Assess Phonics

When I was trying out all of these Science of Reading assessments during my kinder long-term sub job, what I found was missing was some way to identify how well kids could actually read once they knew letters and sounds.  The district assessments (PAST and Acadience/DIBELS) were mostly for phonemic awareness and segmenting and blending.

Those are SUPER important.  Don't get me wrong.  But at the end of the day, we want kids to read words in context.  And we need to meet them where they are.  So, as I started creating decodable booklets and passages to use for extra practice during small groups, I also added a decoding assessment for each decoding skill.

What Is It?  Decoding checkups are like running records for decodables.  They assess kid's ability to decode using a specific phonics skill (short a, r-blends, -ing words, etc...)  It ask kids to decode words in isolation, decode a short sentence, and decode a longer paragraph.

Why I Love It?  I love that I can hear kids decode in isolation and in context.  In the example below, Cooper is able to read individual words, but when those CVCe long a words are put in a longer context, his decoding skills decrease.  

While Acadience does have an oral reading component, the words are just "grade level" and it is not written to hone in on a specific phonics skill.  And that difference is a huge game changer when pulling groups.  Acadience tells me if they are reading on grade level.  Decoding checkups tell me what phonics sound is tripping them up so I can fill that gap. 

How I Use Is It?  So, I record their data on these recording sheets and fill the gaps that I find.  I use these assessments as I teach our sounds whole group.  If they pass that sound, great.  If not, they get pulled with other kiddos to work on decoding that skill.  And I recheck them every week or every other week to see how they are doing with that skill.  

In this way, we worked through our phonics instruction, and I was assessing kids as we went through the phonics curriculum.  I have also created this quick and easy phonics screener so you can screen your kids at the beginning of the year to get an idea of what sound to start practicing in groups.  This would be helpful to get a quick handle on kids who are struggling from day 1 and how to help them quickly.

I also use this data to help kids color in their phonics level as they go on this thermometer.  Kids keep this in their reading folder and it gives them a visual for what skills they are working on and helps us set goals on what to work on next. 

Use Oral Interviews to Assess K-2 Comprehension

The biggest shift from DRA testing to Science of Reading testing is comprehension.  The research from the Science of Reading tells us that if we want kids to comprehend what they read, they must first comprehend what they hear.  So for primary students, oral comprehension comes first.  

And we know that once they can comprehend a story read aloud AND can decode texts, they will begin weaving those two skills together to comprehend what they read.

What Is It?  Oral interviews for comprehension look exactly as you would expect from the name.  After reading aloud a book to the whole group several times, I pull kids back and ask them to retell the story.  It doesn't even have to be the same day.  In a time crunch, I would read the book on day 1, call back my higher kiddos to retell and then reread the book on day 2 and call some more kids back. 

I use whatever graphic organizer we've been using to retell stories as a visual cue to help them organize their thoughts.  The ice-cream scoop is one of the first ones I use because... who doesn't love ice-cream?  The kids love this one and it's super easy to follow.  

It's important to know that when I'm assessing this, the graphic organizer is in front of them, but I'm not referencing it or pointing to it.  If they struggle, I will go back and give them cues, but then I'm noting that in my data.

Why I Love It?  First, I always love having conversation with kids.  It builds rapport and gives me a small glimpse into their world and how they see it.  But it also tells me a lot about whether kids can sequence events, use transition words, use complete sentences, etc. 

How I Use Is It?  During the interview, I have the graphic organizer in front of the kid and this data recording sheet in front of me.  I simply say, "Tell me about the book we read called, ______." I use this comprehension checklist to help me guide where the strengths and weakness are. 

If they struggle retelling the beginning, middle and end, I stop.  If they do that well on their own, I check off what else they add and then ask them other questions for some of the other skills like, "Who were the characters in the story?" or "What was the moral of this story?"

Once I have their comprehension checklist filled out, I can start using that data to form comprehension groups.

Want the comprehension checklist?  Find it FREE here!

Are you needing fun and engaging ways to talk about character education in your classroom?  Or are you a Christian teacher wanting to use the Fruit of the Spirit to help with classroom management?  Whether you are teaching in a religious or non-religious setting, this interactive bulletin board is great for encouraging positive student behaviors.

The Fruit of the Spirit is one of my favorite units to teach in preschool Sunday School.  Not only is it fun and yummy, but it is so helpful in encouraging appropriate behaviors.  This bulletin board set goes perfectly with this unit (the fruits even match!) and it's so easy to put up.  

Let's talk about 3 things I absolutely love about using this Fruit of the Spirit bulletin board in the classroom!

1. It's An Easy Peezy Set Up (Cut, Trace, Staple)

Having the templates ready to go make this bulletin board display a breeze to set up.  The bulletin board shown in the video above is a 48x36 board and I used the small size template from the bulletin board set and got to cutting and stapling.

After I stapled it up, I colored in the tiny spaces with black marker (dry erase marker is actually my favorite for this task because it's just so dark) to make it seem like I cut out those way teeny tiny spaces even though my fingers couldn't handle it. :)  It blends in so perfectly that not even my find-every-mistake-I-make 9 year old has found it yet! #winning

Next up was the tree.  I just free handed this one.  But ya'll, don't be impressed.  I'm a terrible artist.  Like way bad.  I can doodle and handletter, but drawing? Nope!  All I did was pull up a cute tree clipart picture and drew with pencil so I could erase a bunch of times and then went over it with marker.  It's not perfect, but it's cute enough!

Still don't have confidence in your free hand skills?  Do what I did in the classroom and pull up your favorite tree clipart on your interactive white board, tape the poster board to it, resize the image to the size you need and TRACE.


2. Flexible Wording Options

I have heard from sooooo many of my Christian teacher friends that they want more scripture based bulletin boards that are easy to set up.  But so many of you can't use a Christian based board (or don't want to and that's okay too!)  That's why I'm making each bulletin board in this monthly bundle with lots of wording options.  

There are 3 versions of this bulletin board in this fruits set.  Only one is Christian based.  When finished, it looks like this!

The other 2 are non-religious, Character Ed based like this!

One of the wordings is shown above and the other wording is, "We can bear fruit."

3. It's Interactive!

I love LOVE bulletin boards that I can make interactive with the kids and we can add to or change along the way instead of a bulletin board that's just a wallflower or decoration. :)

This character traits bulletin board set has apples for you to fill out when you see kids showing a specific character trait.  I love using these at the end of the day when we are reflecting on the day.  Maybe we have really focused on one trait a lot, OR maybe we have really struggled with one character trait! So, I will find someone who didn't struggle with that trait and talk about it positively to encourage others to work on that more!

You can find this Character education bulletin board set here and the year of bulletin boards here!

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