Learning and Fun

As an elementary school teacher I learned the importance of adding engagement to my lessons. Young students with short attention spans need to move and be actively engaged.. Adding a game can help them stay connected and learn while they are having fun. I am reminded of this quote by Alfred Mercier: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”

There are many ways to help children learn while having fun at the same time. A Dollar Store shower curtain liner provided space to create tic tac toe, Alphabet Bingo, Sight Word Racetrack, and handwriting practice. I used washable markers.

We raised trout in our classroom. A guest speaker brought samples of pond water for students to examine and classify bugs they discovered. We took a field trip to a nearby lake to release them.

Sorting seashells by color, size, shape, then counting how many are in each category is fun.

A cardboard box can be transformed into an airplane.

Use Qtips to learn about bones.

Have students draw a scene from a story you read aloud. They can then write about their drawing.


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What Students Need

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As a University Supervisor I have the task of observing and shaping future teachers. It’s a job I love. I try to pass on advice I’ve gained over the years. My work with both mainstream and students with special needs has shown me that for many students school is the best part of their day. They look to their teacher for validation that they are valued for their unique contribution to the class. It’s imperative that their teacher models enthusiasm, interest and compassion. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do when we have problems at home ourselves. I always tell my future teachers to bring their best self through the door of the classroom. If they have issues they cannot put aside, take a day off. Students need their teacher to be completely present, completely invested in moving students forward, and most importantly, happy about doing so.

So what can a teacher do to bring their best self to class? Get enough sleep. It seems simple enough, but looking at a screen before bed can hinder a good night’s sleep. Another useful tip is to exercise just before bed. Light stretching and deep breathing gets your body into a relaxed state. Reading a book before bed is another way to get your eyes tired enough that they close. Many times I have to reread passages not realizing that I was dozing off. Last but not least, say a prayer for everyone you know, especially the students who are in your classroom.

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New Vocabulary Words for Children

Did you know:

•Students must learn 3,000 words per year by 3rd grade. 

•Only 400 words a year are directly taught by teachers. 

•Students do not learn vocabulary words based on their age or their grade. 

•They learn words based on their experiences , (Beck, et al, 2002) 

•Academic demands are high

•Everyday speech consists of only 5,000- 7,000 words. 

Parents and teachers have a role to play in expanding a child’s vocabulary. The more children read and hear books read aloud, as well as listen and engage in conversations, the more they are exposed to new words. When a child asks, “What does that mean?” they should be told an accurate and appropriate definition based on their age and cognitive ability to make meaning of the word.

Children learn new words through experiences, therefore science experiments, videos, art, movement,  fieldtrips, guest speaker are important. Engaging in conversations allows a child to hear and practice new words. Visuals are particularly valuable to expand vocabulary, as most children are visual learners. Using multi-sensory activities helps place new learning into longterm memory. It’s important for new words to be presented in kid-friendly terms.

Here are examples of Common Core State Standards for vocabulary acquisition for Grade 2 (this is only a sampling, check out the full list online :

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 2 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.

Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

Determine the meaning of the new word formed when a known prefix is added to a known word (e.g., happy/unhappy, tell/retell).

Use a known root word as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word with the same root (e.g., addition, additional).

This is a great way to show “shades of meaning.” Teach synonyms in a visual manner. Paint strips can be found at Walmart and hardware stores.

Great Resource

Remember that children acquire vocabulary primarily from experiences. MAKE IT FUN.

In order to teach vocabulary, you must be aware of the three different types or tiers. Tier 1 vocabulary can be classified as everyday vocabulary that we use in life around us. This type of vocabulary is often learned orally at a young age, reading, and daily experiences. 

Tier 2 vocabulary is high utility words found in cross curricular texts. 

• They are academic words that are general enough to be used across all domains, yet are not part of students’ everyday social language. 

Example:  students know “happy,” but may not know, “contented.” 

Tier 2 words need to be taught because they are not used daily and it increases a student’s vocabulary to know synonyms. 

Tier 3 vocabulary is domain or content specific. For example, if teaching about circles, the word circumference or radius would need to be taught. Or if you are doing an ancient civilizations unit on Egypt, the word hieroglyphics would need to be explained. Students’ academic success comes when specific instruction of both Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary is taught.

Have students create their own Vocabulary Journal.

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Learning Apps

Due to the pandemic, teachers and parents are scrambling to provide educational opportunities to children. I compiled a list of great learning apps. It is my hope that they help during this difficult time.

I compiled a list of great learning apps:

Learn With Homer


Price: Free 

Grade level: Pre-K, K 

Skill: Comprehension, Phonics 

Device: iPad 

A learn-to-read app for kids ages 3 to 6 that incorporates drawing, voice recording, stories, songs, and more, along with more traditional phonics exercises. 

This app can be helpful for kids who have speech production issues and organization of language issues.

Epic provides a plethora of children’s books for all ages. The app asks for parents or teachers to create an account,
and allows for them to create four profiles for children readers. You do need to register an email and a password.
The visuals and music contribute to a fun learning experience.

The Opposites

Grade level: 3rd, 4th, 4th and above 

Skill: Comprehension 

Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch 

The Opposites app helps children learn vocabulary and the corresponding antonyms by challenging them to match up pairs of opposing words in increasingly difficult levels. The game also helps children understand the importance of word context, and is an opportunity for them to think about how the words they use oppose other words. The Opposites consists of 10 different levels, each stage with a corresponding level of vocabulary. The app also offers a dictionary option that provides definitions and antonyms in a kid-friendly format.

Articulation Station

Price: Free 
Grade level: K, 1st, 2nd 
Skill: Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities, Phonics 
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch 
Articulation Station provides speech professionals, teachers, and parents with ways to help kids improve pronunciation and articulation. Using very specific exercises, games, and stories that focus on just one letter sound for 22 English language sounds, this app can improve pronunciation and understanding of how letter sounds form words. With more than 1,000 target words, kids will likely not get bored with this app. Adults have easy ways to track kids’ progress and can track up to six kids at once. Note: To get full use of this app, you have to purchase the Pro version or buy individual letters with an in-app purchase option.

The Following Apps are for older students:

AnswerGarden – useful for brainstorming

The Answer Pad

Coggle – collaborative

Edulastic -Formative assessments FREE

Formative – upload content to ask questions


Google Forms 

GoSoapBox   – for upper grades

Lino – sticky note and photo sharing

Nearpod – interactive formative assessments

Obsurvey  – create surveys

Padlet – Sticky notes for responses

Pear Deck  – active learning, formative

Poll Everywhere  – interactive

The Queue  – online survey tool

Remind -communication with parents

Seesaw -ability to write and reflect, sample activities

Spiral -discussions, interact with video


Triventy – for quizzes

Vocaroo -voice recording

Zoho Survey – create surveys

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