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Why They Work: Three Reasons for Using Word Walls and Spelling Dictionaries in the Classroom

education-390765_1920-1.jpgLots of things are different from the time I began teaching until now, but there are a few things that I clearly stand by, specifically word walls and spelling dictionaries. Word walls are often displays posted in the classroom of common words, content or unit-specific vocabulary, and easily misspelled words. They’ll look different depending on the classroom and grade, but they’re generally organized in alphabetical order, similarly to the spelling dictionary. Spelling dictionaries are portable word walls, where students have the correct spelling of various words at their seats, with many including blank lines where they can write other words they need to spell (e.g. proper nouns). These can be organized alphabetically or phonetically. What makes these tools so effective? Here are a few reasons why every teacher should continue or develop the regular practice of having students use these tools to strengthen their writing.

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Being Bilingual: More than Just Head Knowledge

hello-1502369_1280.pngWhen I was younger, I was obsessed with learning Spanish and sign language. The former was because I loved the way it sounded in music and wanted to understand the words. The latter was because it was easy for me to understand and I loved being able to communicate with people with hearing difficulties. While I don’t remember as much as I did at the time, what I was doing–unbeknownst to me–was giving myself an advantage that would benefit me for many years to come. Below I share my experience as well as benefits to promoting this in the classroom and beyond.

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Build that Home Library On a Budget!

file000981314557.jpgDid you know that children having a home library is just as important as the parent’s own education level?  That’s what a 20-year longitudinal study by a University of Nevada, Reno, found while studying families in the United States and China, with the astonishing fact that having around 500 books at home has a similar effect to having two college-educated parents1, with kids in both of these situations going at least 3 years more education-wise than compared to other factors in the study. It also shows the impact of having a home library, and so to get ready for those long summer days, holiday breaks, or road trips, I’ll give you some tips on how you can build your very own library at home for your children to enjoy!

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National Poetry Month in the Classroom

We’re in the swing of April, which for 21 years has been known as National Poetry Month. Poets all around the world gather to celebrate the genre, with activities, events, and more. Here at Big Universe, we’ve got you covered, and I want to introduce you to some great ways you could recognize this month using resources we have available.  May this list make your planning easier and lesson more engaging.

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Acing the Test: 7 Tips for Writing Winning Essay Responses

girl-kids-training-school-159782.jpegWhen I was teaching, part of preparing students to succeed on the annual state exam was teaching them how to respond to open-ended essay-style questions.  Unlike some other question types where you can use strategies such as eliminating incorrect answers or comparing similar/opposite responses to the question asked, essay-style questions vary in response depending on the content area asssessed and the requirements one’s answer must meet according to the question.  Here’s some advice for making sure your responses get you the most points possible on these kinds of assessment questions.

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Problems No More: 6 Strategies to Help Decode Math Word Problems

desk-912577_1920.jpgIf I’m really honest, I’ll admit one of the most challenging things I’ve done while teaching elementary math is getting children to conquer the often-dreaded word problem.  I’ll also admit that it’s one of my favorite because I love the joy of seeing the lightbulbs go off in a child’s mind.  May the advice below help you become better at demystifying math word problems for your students.

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Full STEAM Ahead: Six Tips In Planning Effective Lessons

explore-1140431_1920.jpgWhen you look at this picture, what do you see?  This is what STEAM learning means to me, an engaged, problem-solving, and independent learner who explores concepts through planning, creating, testing, observing, and analyzing (among other things).  With some string, straws, balloons, and paper, you can create endless challenges that are fun AND align to the standards for your district.  When planning these STEAM lessons, here’s some tips to keep in mind so your students can have fun and learn fascinating concepts at the same time.

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Building Bridges: The Power of Personal Narratives

fountain-pen-1851096_1920.jpgThis is the last of three articles about building bridges between the school and home/community.  Read the first two posts here and here.

The previous two articles discussed how to build external bridges with families, community leaders, and organizations. Now I’m going to talk about one of the most important “bridges” educators can build, and that’s with students.  One way to do that is through personal narratives.  I’ll share with my experience below.

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Four Fantastic Ways to Make St. Patrick’s Day Memorable in Your Classroom

st-patricks-day-2070200_1920.jpgOne of my favorite school memories was as a young child in preschool.  My speech therapist, Mrs. Patrick (no pun intended), and her assistant, Mrs. Taylor, started the week by getting us to help bake shamrock sugar cookies.  From start to finish, we measured the ingredients, rolled the dough, cut the cookies out and put them onto the baking sheet, and watched the cookies bake in the oven.  Once they were done, we iced them and enjoyed the sweet savory treats.  Although that was about three decades ago, I appreciate the way my teacher incorporated such a fun activity into a holiday often surrounded by rainbows, gold, and lucky three-leaf clovers.  Below are some ways to make this–or any–holiday memorable for your students:

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Phenomenal Women Writers: Commemorating Women’s History Month

people-woman-girl-writing.jpgDid you know that women writers have a significant impact in shaping American history? From Phillis Wheatley’s writings about the Revolutionary War to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, women writers penned many important works that impacted society at large, with many continuing to do so in this present day. For this women’s history month, we at Big Universe want to highlight a few women who’ve used their writing to transform society throughout recent history.

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