Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sound Wall | Science of Reading

Sound Wall - Science of Reading | Apples to Applique

I've been busy making the shift to the science of reading this summer, from prepping task cards with Elkonin boxes to adapting sight word resources to align with the heart words strategy. I knew there was one more resource I needed to prepare before the new school year started: a sound wall! The science of reading suggests that sound walls are more useful to students than word walls, as students reference the phonemes and corresponding graphemes.

There are various sound walls out there, but my favorites have real photographs of people articulating sounds. It was important to me that my sound wall have these photographs, and that these photographs feature diverse people.


Sound Wall - Science of Reading | Apples to Applique

The included grapheme cards also include photographs of familiar objects for each sound, to assist students in using the wall as a reference for their reading and writing.

Sound Wall - Science of Reading | Apples to Applique

These pictures show the completed vowel and consonant displays with all of the grapheme cards, but I wouldn't recommend starting the display with all of the cards; it would be far too overwhelming for students. Build the display a little at a time as you introduce the phonemes and graphemes to your class. This will familiarize them with the display and better enable them to use it in a meaningful manner.

I hope you are as excited as I am to implement more researched-based reading instruction in your  classroom! You can get a copy of this sound wall here in my store or here in my TPT shop.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Shifting from Sight Words to Heart Words


Shifting from Sight Words to Heart Words | Apples to Applique
I mentioned in my last post that I am taking time this summer to really delve into the science of reading, making plans to adapt my instruction this fall to better reflect what research shows about how children learn to read. 

One big shift when aligning instruction with the science of reading is in the area of sight words or high frequency words. Many of us have been told that these words are not decodable and that students simply need to memorize them, leading to well-intentioned drilling with flash cards, fun activities like rainbow writing, and other strategies that are only quasi-helpful. These things work fine for higher learners, but they typically leave struggling readers floundering.

Enter heart words! This shift is based on the premise that the majority of high frequency words are, actually, largely decodable. For example, the words and, big, in and many others are completely decodable, following phonics rules without any deviation. Students can simply apply letter-sound correspondence to decode these words, which takes so much pressure off of kids trying to memorize these words in isolation.

Many other high frequency words, such as have and said, are largely decodable, as most of the letters actually follow the letter-sound rules that students have already been taught. This means that they only have to really memorize the irregular part of the word, which significantly cuts down on the memorization students have to do, and simultaneously helps them learn to rely on the letter-sound correspondence they have learned.

Shifting from Sight Words to Heart Words | Apples to Applique

For example, analyzing the word said, there are 3 phonemes: /s/, /e/, /d/. The /s/ and /d/ are both easily decodable, as they are represented by the letters s and d, respectfully, just as students have been taught. That means there is only one phoneme left for students to memorize, which is the /e/. In the word said, the /e/ is represented by the letters ai; as this does not follow any phonics rule, it is marked with a heart. These letters are the ones students need to learn by heart, hence the term "heart words".

The good news is that shifting from the idea of sight words to heart words is easy! You can use whatever sight word list you are already using or is required by your district. My district uses Fry's, and I am required to keep track of how many sight words each student knows each quarter. I have an entire system I designed for use in my classroom which helps students track their own progress and facilitates communication with families. I believe it is a good system, but I knew the implementation needed updated to reflect science of reading principles.

Shifting from Sight Words to Heart Words | Apples to Applique

Adapting instruction is simple! The system is already set up to send home a sheet of flash cards with students at their individual paces. Now, I will utilize small group time to have students mark the heart words on their flash cards before sending them home. I could mark the words myself before making copies, but I want the students to mark the letters themselves as we discuss it to help them cement that knowledge. 

Shifting from Sight Words to Heart Words | Apples to Applique


Another component of my classroom system is having students check out a class set of flash cards; on these, which are laminated, I will have students mark them with dry erase markers. Again, this will be completed during small group time so that I can oversee the process and we can analyze the phonemes and graphemes together.

I hope this inspires you to make the shift away from drilling sight words to using heart words in your classroom; it's a simple move with a big payoff for your students!

If you are interested in my whole class sight word system, which has been updated to include tips on heart words and a parent letter about heart words, you can find it here in my store or here on TPT.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Phonemic Awareness Task Cards with Elkonin Boxes

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on my  links, I receive a small commission at no cost to you! Thanks for your support!

I spend so much of every summer learning and planning for the next year, reflecting on what has gone well and where I have room for improvement. While I try to improve in lots of areas, I usually pick one area to focus on more intently. Last year, my focus was on small groups, which was greatly aided by this small group system.

This year, I am focused on improving reading instruction and have been learning about the science of reading. It is fascinating stuff, and it is astounding how many of the things we were taught as teachers do not actually align with how research shows children learn to read. As I learn, I am working on creating and updating resources to better reflect these principles--after all, when we know better, we do better. 

These photo storage boxes are just the right size for these task cards!

One of the products I've revamped is my phonemic awareness task cards. The idea of phonemic awareness is one with which I was already familiar, and something I have long implemented in my classroom. I was glad (read: relieved) to hear teaching phonemic awareness is aligned with the science of reading. The touch points I have been using with my students, one per sound, are exactly in line with the phonemic awareness principles of SOR. 


While the basic premise of the task cards remains the same, the update now includes Elkonin boxes on the back of each card with the answer. This seemingly small change makes a world of difference in helping students associate the sounds in the word with the graphemes representing those sounds.

Each set of phonics cards still has a fun tracking system, where students earn pictures to place on their scene as they master each new skill. This mastery focus is also aligned with the science of reading, as each student moves at his or her own pace and does not move forward until he or she is ready.

I hope these task cards are helpful for you and your learners! You can find individual skills here in my store, or buy the bundle here to save!

Keep teaching with knowledge and passion!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Selling on TPT 101: Listing Your First Item

Selling on TPT 101: Listing Your First Item | Apples to Applique

Welcome to TPT 101: Part 10, the final installment. (Click on these links to find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9).

It's the moment you've been waiting for! Time to go live with your first resource!

When you list your product, you'll have to put in a product title and description. Do not try to make your product title something cute and catchy. Think of what a teacher might search to find your product, something like "sight word activities", and go from that. Keep it simple and searchable; keep the cutesy names for your cover image. 

The description should give an overview of your resource, what's included, and how it will make a teacher's life easier or address a classroom need. Work some keywords into the description naturally, especially in the first few lines. Do NOT keyword stuff, meaning, do not put a list of related keywords into your description. That can actually hurt you in the search results, as TPT says their algorithms penalize keyword stuffing by putting those listings further down in the list of results.

Along this same line, avoid adding to your title or description in the hopes of getting extra sales. For example, during the holiday season, don't just add the word "Christmas" to your titles and descriptions unless they are actually Christmas-specific products. It's a shady practice and buyers see through it, plus it muddies the search results for people actually searching for Christmas activities.

You will probably want to add your terms of use to your description so that buyers know any restrictions before they purchase.

Before you can list your product, you will also need to select keywords, product types, and grade levels from TPT's menus. This helps buyers to find relevant products.

This sounds like a lot to do for every product every time, doesn't it? Well, thankfully, I've got a trick to help make this process faster. Once you list that first product, you can use it as a starting point for future products. On the TPT site, click on your name, then "My Product Listings" in the drop-down menu. When your list of products comes up, you will see each one has an option underneath labeled "Quick Edit". Select that, and then scroll down to "Create a Similar Listing". This will essentially copy the listing, allowing you to change anything you need without having to retype all of the tedious parts each time. Just make sure you change all of the product files and thumbnails!

Once you have written your description and uploaded your product file, preview file, and cover and thumbnail images, YOU ARE FINISHED! Click that publish button and wait for sales to start coming in!

Congratulations on becoming a TPT Author! I wish you and your store all the greatest success!

Keep teaching (and creating) with heart and passion!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Selling on TPT 101: Product Previews

Selling on TPT 101: Product Previews | Apples to Applique

Welcome to TPT 101: Part 9! (Click on these links to find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8).

You've made it to the final step before listing your product: creating a preview! A preview differs from thumbnails in that it gives buyers a more in-depth look at your product. 

Often, sellers choose to show their entire product in the preview; I typically do this for most of my resources unless the product is too large. This helps buyers know exactly what they are getting and prevents any surprises. I know I hesitate to purchase products for use in my own classroom if I can't see enough of it to know whether it will meet the needs of my students.

When sellers hear recommendations to show their entire product, they often get nervous about their work getting stolen. Why would people pay for something they can get for free? This is a valid concern, but there are steps to take to safeguard against this. First of all, watermark your products. I put "©Apples to Applique" multiple times across the page in large, semi-transparent text. If you're using AdobePro to flatten and secure your products, the watermark step is easily added into this process. AdobePro also gives the option to not allow printing, which is what I select for my previews. 

If you take those two steps, there is little reason to fear people will steal your resources. Most people are not going to take the time to copy your product when they can just spend a few dollars to purchase it. Not to mention it is difficult to replicate clip art, fonts, and design. 

Of course, there is always an exception or two. For example, I wouldn't recommend showing your entire resource if it is something like a reading passage that a buyer could conceivably use without having to print the product. Otherwise, show off your hard work! Resources with good previews generate more sales than resources without them.

We are almost to the end of TPT 101! Just one more post to come, all about finally listing that product!

Keep teaching (and creating) with heart and passion!