Finding things that work in First Grade

It's the little things that can make all the difference.  Lately in class the students have provided me with some great ideas. Simple little things that I add to the things we are doing that increases their engagement. Let's face it, they let you know when something isn't working and when something does.
Here are some great little ideas that have had BIG results in my student engagement.

Word Family Anchor Charts

I have been doing word families on chart paper since September and one day a student asked me to do it in a house because that is where families live. So we did and just the simple act of drawing a house helped increase the engagement of the students. They were excited to come up with words and see where in the house I was going to put them. Each day since then, we have come up with different ideas to place our word families. 

Circular Cushions

I saw these in the Scholastic's Catalogue and thought.... How can I use them in my classroom?  After spending about 15 minutes of brainstorming, I decided how can I not make use of them in my classroom. They will be great for centres, math, partner and group work, games, reading, the uses for these cushions are endless. So I used what points I had of scholastic money and paid out of pocket for the rest. 
They are fantastic. A purchase that was well worth it. Not only do they work for all the things listed above, but they work to keep their bottoms in place, which for me is simply wonderful. :)

Apple pointers

I have been working with small groups and large groups for guided reading. My class this year is still not reading past a first level book A, or benchmark 1. I needed something that would have the students focus on one word at a time and using their own finger just wasn't working. I placed a pointer in their hand and voila! They had something to use to point to one word at a time. 

Magnifying glasses

These were my independent reading saviors. Like I already mentioned my students don't read just yet and we are in the beginning of November. We have been working very hard on letter sounds, letter recognition, putting sounds together, sight words, anything and everything to speed along the reading process. I needed independent reading time to be able to pull students individually and to pull groups. I found that pulling students during centre time was very distracting for the group I was working with. (The centres are so much fun, they kept looking at what their friends were working on).
So, since they can't read, what do they do with books during independent reading??? 
I came up with the idea of them being detectives. They were to look for clues in the pictures and in the words. Look for sounds, letters, blends, and try and make sense of the words they see. I gave each one of my students a magnifying glass from the dollar store and it worked like a dream. During independent reading, the students kept a book a lot longer. They had their noses in the books and not at what their classmates were doing. They even began figuring out words by looking for clues.  We made detective hats to wear as well, but use those more for drama activities and finding words around the room. The hats became a distraction. (Sometimes you can go too far).

Those are just some of the great ideas that have really helped with how my students are staying engaged and learning. Hope they help you as much as they have helped me. 

Have a great weekend!