Word Study using a fun game

The Fun Way to Ace Spelling: Playing a spelling game using “Reading Rods”

Hey there, word wizards and spelling enthusiasts! 

Today, I want to share a super fun and effective way to improve your student’s spelling skills, especially those tricky high-frequency words we use every day. Using this game is a great way to get your students spelling. I find my students are asking me “Is this a word?” when creating different words so they still need practice identifying words. 

Why Spelling High-Frequency Words Matters

High-frequency words are the building blocks of our daily communication. Getting these words right is crucial because:

  1. They enhance readability: Misspelled high-frequency words can make your writing hard to understand.
  2. They build confidence: Mastering these common words boosts your overall confidence in writing.
  3. They improve literacy: Strong spelling skills contribute to better reading and comprehension.

But let’s face it—drilling spelling words can be a bore. That’s where using “Reading Rods” comes in! Using “Reading Rods”  is a game designed to make spelling practice both fun and interactive. The game can be played solo or with friends, and it’s perfect for classrooms or at-home learning. Here’s how it works:

The Basics

  1. Materials Needed:
  •     The actual game which comes with snap cubes for: vowels, consonants, common word endings (ex: ing, in, le, ed…) and common word beginnings (ex: sh, ch, th, sn…)
  • Paper to write down the words they created on with a spot for the score on the bottom
  1. Set Up:
  •    Provide students with a few cubes from each category

How to Play

  1. Students create words using different combinations of cubes for example:
    1. Round 1- Create as many words as you can using the green word beginning cubes and the yellow word ending cubes (set timer for one minute)
    2. Round 2- Create as many words as you can using the red vowel cubes, the consonant cubes, and the word ending cubes (set timer for two minutes)
    3. Any combination of the above 
    4. Students pass their paper to me at the end and I count up their score (one point for each word)
    5. I always make sure I have students who are the same level playing at the same time so nobody is spelling 100 words where their friend has spelt three.

Why this game works

Not only are you getting your daily word work in for the day in your literacy program, this game isn’t just about fun—it’s rooted in educational benefits:

  • Engagement: Turning spelling into a game keeps you engaged and motivated.
  •  Hands-On Learning: Using blocks adds a tactile element that can help with memory retention.
  • Competition: Friendly competition (even with yourself) encourages quick thinking and reinforces learning.

Feel free to share your word work experiences or any other fun spelling games you love in the comments below. Let’s make spelling fun together!


MVP of 2023

Every new year, I start a writing assignment where students have to brainstorm to decide who their MVP of 2023 will be. We generate lists based on possible categories such as:

  • Actors
  • Musicians
  • Athletes
  • Educators
  • Political Figures
  • Doctors
  • Youtubers
  • Citizens
  • Environmentalists

Then, I teach my students how to write a five paragraph essay. They start off by identifying the three main reasons that they think their person had an incredible year. This is usually a challenge as some of the main ideas are based around the same reasons such as they are generous, kind and charitable. We then talk about how our three main ideas should be very different from each other. I then approve the three main ideas before students start to research their person.

Students are encouraged to search through various sources to find quotes to prove their point- why their person should be the MVP of last year. They are encoruaged to find relevant, recent ideas that would make their person a stand out citizen. Then, they work on explaining their proof with their own ideas. I created an essay organizer which they filled out during their research stage to help with organization and flow. After that, they could start to type their first draft.

So many of my students were excited to see how long their first essay was. They were so excited to be able to write about a role model of their choosing and were excited to share their choice with the class. They also learned about proper citation format as well as thesis writing. Many of my students are in grade eight so this is something that they will be doing lots of this time next year. One of my old students came to me halfway through his grade nine English course and reminded me of how important the MVP assignment is that we did last year because it teaches all the necessary skills needed for high school English. I was very glad to hear this as I know it helped prepare him.

At the end of the essay assignment, students are able to read their peer’s essays and review them with our success criteria. Students are assessed based on:

  • developing ideas
  • organizing ideas
  • voice
  • word choice
  • revisions

After marking all of their essays this year, I was very proud to say that everyone excelled at developing and organizing ideas. I am wishing I had done a word choice lesson with similes, etc. before the writing process started as that was the area students needed to work on.

We also had a bracket tournament where everyone’s MVP was listed on the board. Students had to read their thesis for the competition so classmates could vote for the MVP of 2023. The final two canditates were one of the student’s moms vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. The winner for this year was…”My Mom” as it is hard to compete with a mom.

I look forward to doing this assignment again in the future as their are many present and future applications for it and students get to look for role models and reflect why they are important to them and to our world.

Picture by C-B studio

The Art of Cursive Writing: A Valuable Journey.

In the bustling world of elementary education, where the focus often lies on specific subjects and foundational skills, including cursive writing might seem like a quaint notion. However, delving into the art of beautiful writing from an early age brings forth many benefits.

Alright, picture this: little ones in elementary school getting into the groove of cursive writing. You might think, “Wait, isn’t that more for grown-ups?” Introducing cursive writing to the kiddos early on is like unlocking a treasure trove of skills that go way beyond just pretty handwriting.

Primarily, cursive writing serves as a nuanced exercise in fine motor skill development. The meticulous movements required to craft elegant strokes with a pen or brush contribute significantly to the refinement of hand-eye coordination. As students navigate the intricacies of cursive writing lettering, they concurrently enhance their motor control, laying the groundwork for improved dexterity in various academic and extracurricular activities.

Moreover, cursive writing imparts invaluable lessons in patience and focus. The deliberate and measured approach demanded by the art form instills a sense of meticulousness in young learners. In an era characterized by constant stimuli and distractions, instilling the ability to concentrate on a singular task becomes a transferable skill that can positively impact a student’s overall academic experience.

But it’s not all serious business. Cursive writing is a way for kids to show off their personality. Scribbling becomes an art form, a canvas for expressing feelings and ideas. That creative outlet isn’t just about making pretty letters; it’s about feeling proud of what they create and boosting their confidence.

Within the language arts domain, cursive writing uniquely combines visual and verbal communication. As students engage with this art form, they naturally develop an enhanced appreciation for the aesthetic aspects of language. This heightened sensitivity to the visual nuances of letters and words can elevate their understanding and enthusiasm for written expression, transforming language arts into a more captivating and enjoyable subject.

The advantages of learning cursive writing extend beyond the academic sphere, reaching into the realm of mindfulness and well-being. This art form’s deliberate, meditative nature gives students a serene space to explore creativity. In navigating the rhythmic flow of ink on paper, students can cultivate mindfulness, offering a valuable respite from the frenetic pace of contemporary life.

The integration of cursive writing into elementary education transcends the mere enhancement of penmanship. It represents an investment in the holistic development of students, fostering skills that span from refined motor control and patience to enhanced creativity and an enriched appreciation for language arts. The early introduction of cursive writing catalyzes comprehensive student growth, leaving an enduring impact on their academic journey.

Word Study meets Novel Study

My students just recently took a trip down to our learning commons to select a novel that they will read for the next month or so. With their novel, I like to do many activities that relate to reading such as comprehension, word study and fluency. 

In the past, I have put a few questions on the board that students can connect to such as:

  • Connect the part you just read in your novel to your own life. How was it similar or different?
  • How does the part in your novel that you just read contribute to the overall storyline?
  • Summarize what just happened in your novel 
  • Why does the author spend so much time describing certain parts of the text?
  • Identify a time in today’s reading that you had to use imagery
  • Why do you think the author selected the title for your story? Use evidence to support your answer
  • How would your story be different if a specific character was changed in some way?

These questions I would have my students answer in their language book or sometimes orally in a small group. 

However, since our annual plan and school focus is on small group instruction with a focus on decoding, I am incorporating the word study from the new language curriculum into my novel study this year. I will save the comprehension for when students have finished their novel. 

This week, I worked with students in groups of six and had them read a specific section of their book to me. I told students that we would be focused on suffixes today. I had them guess what a suffix is which few knew. Then, I asked students to bring their whiteboards and to copy this chart on them:

ed ing ly s

These are some of the most common suffixes I explained. Then, students were asked to find words in the page of their novel that they had just read and fill them in on the chart. Students found many words and were able to do this. However, when asked to underline the root word, many students find this part challenging as some words that they put under “s” were words that ended in yes but did not have a suffix (ex: yes, us, his). They then found out that the “s” was added to singular words. They did not have as much trouble with the other three prefixes. 

Next lesson, we will try prefixes. Once again, this lesson and related concepts are from the resource from our reading specialist team that I will cite again here:

“Teaching phonics & word study in the intermediate grades” by Wiley Blevins.

Intermediate Reading- Part One

This year, myself as well as the other intermediate teachers in my school will be taking place in a three-part reading school sponsored professional development. We will be looking at phonics and its place in the intermediate classroom. I look forward to blogging about these three sessions.

For these sessions, Kate and Ashley (our consultants) came in to lead us through our reading PD. We had our first session last week with the focus on what everyone’s current literacy block looks like and how much time we are devoting to word studyfocus on the right to read report. To start our PD session, we looked at our different students and what their current needs are. We know that some of our students are starting to read, reading with some understanding or reading with a good knowledge of what they are learning about. We want to focus on assisting each student at where they are at.

We were introduced/re-reminded of what a literacy block should look like:

Literacy Block

  1. Whole group oral language and knowledge building- 30 minutes
  2. Whole group word study- 20 minutes
  3. Small group instruction- 20 minutes
  4. Reading and writing- 20 minutes 

Our focus for our first PD would be whole group word study and how we can incorporate that into our language lessons. Recently, our school support staff helped complete a CORE phonics assessment for our students. The data showed where students were at and what their needs were. Some examples of needs were: reading  multisyllabic words and di & trigraphs. The lessons we use in our class should be based on our core phonics reading data and the gaps displayed in that data. 

Our focus and curriculum expectation for our the lesson we would be co-creating would be:

Grade 7:

B2.1- use generalized knowledge of the meanings of words and morphemes (i.e., bases, prefixes, and suffixes) to read and spell complex words with accuracy and automaticity

B2.2-  demonstrate an understanding of a wide variety of words, acquire and use explicitly taught vocabulary flexibly in various contexts, including other subject areas, and use generalized morphological knowledge to analyze and understand new words in context

B2.3- read a variety of complex texts fluently, with accuracy and appropriate pacing, to support comprehension, and when reading aloud, adjust expression and intonation according to the purpose of reading

Grade 8:

B2.1- use consolidated knowledge of the meanings of words and morphemes (i.e., bases, prefixes, and suffixes) to read and spell complex words with accuracy and automaticity

B2.2- demonstrate an understanding of a wide variety of words, acquire and use explicitly taught vocabulary flexibly in various contexts, including other subject areas, and use consolidated morphological knowledge to analyze and understand new words in context

B2.3- read a variety of complex texts fluently, with accuracy and appropriate pacing, to support comprehension, and when reading aloud, adjust expression and intonation according to the purpose of reading


Throughout our PD, we looked at how to teach our students these important skills and how they could be integrated into our other subjects. Some strategies include:

  • Using the vocabulary from our science units 
    • Break up the syllables, read, identify consonants and vowels
  • Using the vocabulary from Nelson literacy texts
    • Break up the syllables, read, identify consonants and vowels

Our school provided us with a book that would help us teach this new learning. The book is:

“Teaching phonics & word study in the intermediate grades” by Wiley Blevins. I have already tried one lesson from this book and my students had a great time. This lesson was designed with Kate & Ashley with other intermediate teachers.

Word Study Lesson


Write the word “fabric” on the board. Have the students count the syllables in the word and divide the syllables with a line. Identify underneath the consonants and vowels in the word. Then, repeat with several other words without saying the word aloud to them. Have students read the word out together after they have broken up the syllables. 


We did this for about 20 minutes as a whole class with multiple words. 


We talked about patterns and how we noticed that the word was broken up in between its consonants. We also talked about what type of words we were reviewing and how they were all closed vowel words.

Other words used:

  • Husband
  • Beverage
  • Jogger
  • Active
  • Package
  • Splendor 

I look forward to trying another lesson from the book during my next language class. 

Holocaust Education Week

In my school, the focus is on small group instruction, specially targeting reading. On a daily basis, I am looking at pulling small groups to focus on a literacy skill. During Holocaust Education Week (November 1-9), I pulled my small groups and we read “My Secret Camera”, an article in the Nelson literacy grade eight text that focuses on making inferences. 

With each small group, students took turns reading the photo essay. I also looked at vocabulary as on each page, students came across words that they were unsure of. So we made sure to define unknown words, especially as for some, this was new learning and a very sensitive topic. Students had some prior knowledge and were able to use that as well as looking at the photos to make inferences. Students were shocked as the photos in this photo essay were quite telling as they painted the picture of the harsh realities during the Holocaust. 

After reading the essay, I gave students a chance to answer orally. We have been doing a lot of written responses and I thought it was a great opportunity (especially seeing as I wanted to be finished with the activity in one class) to answer orally. Students were asked to answer one of the three questions:

  • Do you find it easier to make inferences by viewing the photos or reading the text?
  • How does the author want you to feel after reading this photo essay?
  • What inferences about the Łódź Ghetto can you draw from the photos? 

Students were able to refer to specific parts of the text and certain photos while answering each question. 

I was able to work with each student by the end of the week and felt that everyone learned a lot and were able to give it their all. As many schools have copies of the Nelson Literacy text, I encourage you to have your students read this photo essay as it was a very powerful lesson for my students. 

For more information about Holocaust Education, please visit this ETFO resource page which was featured in our member news on November 8th:https://www.etfo.ca/socialjusticeunion/anti-semitism/resource-links

Additional resources can also be found here: Link


Hume, K., & Ledgerwood, B. (2008). My Secret Camera. In Nelson Literacy (pp. 20–23). essay, Nelson Education.

the vowels of education

Phonemes, morphemes, and graphemes. Oh my!

It is like a linguistic speech, sound, and readapalooza since the new Language curriculum dropped. To celebrate, I wanted to share something creative for everyone who has ever witnessed the incredible joys of learner language acquisition. 

vowels of education

a – attitude, acceptance, alacrity, artful, acknowledgement, allies, activists, reconciliation,
e – enthusiasm, enjoyment, encompassing, equity, empowerment, reconciliation,
i – independence, inspirational, identity, diversity, inclusion, reconciliation,
o – openness, observation, open-mindedness, opportunity, reconciliation,
u – understanding, unafraid, universal design, bullies, truth
y – rhythm, hybrid, psycho-educational assessments, 

vowel sounds of education

ae- vitae, zonae, nebulae, maestra(o)
ai – aim, wait, mosaic, chairs, prevail
ao – aortas, extraordinary, chaos
au – autism, laud, caution, laughter, plateau
ay – essays, always, relay, crayoned, dismays
ea – theatre, measurement, teamwork, tears
ee – greetings, meetings, burpees, redeemed
ei – reintegrate, eight, eighths, neighbours
eo – video, reorganization, geology, neotypes, people
eu – neuroplasticity, scaleup, takeup, euphoria
ey – obey, eyes, they, convey, beyond, surveys
ia – media, piano, social, biases, dialects, diarchy
ie – friendship, grief, tiers, fierce, defies, belief
io – actions, biology, curious, axions, vision
oa – approaches, broadens, coaxes, coaches
oe – heroes, tiptoe, echoes, poetic, oeuvres
oi – voices, doing, choices, noises, heroic
ou – announcements, curious, souls, yours, ours
oy – joyful, envoys, voyages, deployed, toys
ua – gradual, graduates, equally, nuanced
ue – cues, continue, guesses, valued, issues
ui – acuity, anguish, building, guidance, intuition, equity
uo – mellifluous, quotable, virtuous, virtuosos
uy – buys, wiseguys

eau – beautiful, bureaucracy
iou – audacious, anxious, gracious, curiosity,
uai – quaint, acquaintances, reacquaint,

So much goes on behind the scenes in schools whenever a new curriculum is introduced. With the new Language document fresh off the proverbial presses teachers across the province have been working to familiarize themselves with how to integrate fresh expectations into their instructional milieus. I hope the words shared here will encourage everyone who reads them. 

Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship Resources

I love it when a good plan comes together. I’m currently taking my Teacher-Librarian AQ and was recently tasked with creating a Digital Toolkit with resources for Digital Literacy. Considering October marks Media Literacy Week and Digital Citizenship Day, I thought it was serendipitous as it gave me the opportunity to reflect on past tools that I have used with students and consider what else I might use. In this post, I’m sharing the resource and a few other ideas that we might use with students. 

My Digital Toolkit

By no means is this an extensive list. I tried to get a few different types of resources to include in the toolkit – digital, books and a video. I also tried to include information for teachers and students. Click on the image below and you will be able to access a PDF version of the file. The links are live and will take you to the resource. 

Additional Resources

Listed below are a few other resources that I found particularly helpful when reflecting on activities I wanted to try with my students. Please check them out!

TDSB’s Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety Guide – Resources for different panels of students and educators. Many include resources we have access to through the TDSB Virtual Library.

Lego Build and Talk – Great conversation starters for families around Digital Citizenship.  Lego Gloom Busters is an online activity to help children learn about online safety. Lego Doom the Gloom is an interactive experience to build online safety skills.  Lego Smart Dash is an online game to teach children how to make the internet a safer place.

PBS Learning Media – Digital Citizenship Lessons for a variety of grades

Media Smarts – Media Literacy 101 – Simple videos that support students in learning the key concepts of Media Literacy. Videos include a question or challenge at the end for students to consider what they have learned and/or a real-life application. 

While we’re close to saying goodbye to October, there’s an ongoing need for students to further develop their Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship skills. I hope that you may have found something new or useful to use with your students.

P.A. day

Psst. The ‘s’ in P.A. is silent. Well that would be how many outside of education might see these days when staff are at schools while students frolic and faff about with their families. Nothing could be further from that misconception. I wonder if there are any educators left who can recall a time in their careers when these days didn’t exist. A quick search on the interwebs revealed very little information beyond some government pages. After this week’s learning, my full brain was not willing to click on for more.

It was a P.A. day in my school board and, in the spirit of “P.A.” days past, come with their share of work for educators at all phases of their careers. On the day’s menu: attention to countless operational matters, safety videos, wellness/mental health videos, and new curriculum/instructional insights. As anyone who has participated in this day in prior years this year’s “P.A..” day learning lineup seemed much more robust.

At my school, we met in the morning to discuss students at risk, sign off on safety plans, watch important video reminders related to our professional duty and safety. There we were 50+ together, synchronizing our minds on all aspects on so many important pieces to the puzzle picture we call education.

Hours of learning/refreshing our minds plus some prep time later, we were then given a chance to work through some fresh thinking on literacy and math by division. This included some instructional approaches to the new language curriculum, as well as some time to browse board curated math resources. With all the boxes ticked, there was just enough time for some planning during an afternoon prep time which included giving some feedback on an assignment.

It was a full day. As I worked through the day a couple of questions came to mind;
1a. Was this enough time to really allow the flood of content to permeate my cerebral space?
1b. If not, when do I find time to let that happen?
2. What was it like at other schools? How much time was spent in self-directed/exploratory activities around the new approaches in language and math? Was it enough? If there are others like me, when do we find that time to continue with this learning? Is there a life/work imbalance expected then?
3. With so much of the content prescribed from the system level, are there other approaches to consider in order to deliver the mandated compliance pieces while maximizing new learning opportunities?

For many of us, it is impossible to forget the stark differentiation between losing a finger or a toe and loss of limb in the Workplace Injury module, and those dearly departed ladder safety videos. I still wipe the rungs of my ladder because of them, even at home. Even as much of this familiar and important content has evolved, I felt overstimulated and overwhelmed with all of the learning that was prescribed for this “P.A.” day. Was I the only one? Was it the pace?

In the weeks and months to come, there will be more learning added, and I will have to proceed with it at my own pace as a learner. In some cases, it might already mesh with my learning style as I discovered that the suggested strategies for math learning have finally caught up with my teaching style.

I am happy to try out and learn new things, but even when I go to the grocery store and load up for a week or two, I have never cooked everything that was brought home for just one meal. That shared, it will be a couple of weeks before what I started will truly be processed and completed even though we were given a day. I guess this “elephant will be eaten one bite at time” (adapted from Desmond Tutu).


Congratulations, you did it! We all made it through another year and are now on our much deserved summer vacation. This calls for a celebration! Yesterday at my school’s final PA day of the year, we were asked to reflect and share with our table-top the celebrations of the year. Things that have happened that we can positively reflect on. After everyone shared in the small groups, we were asked to share with our entire staff. It’s funny that with 10-12 different table groups, almost everyone shared the same general ideas. I am sure as you read this, hopefully you will also be able to share in the same celebrations. 

Reasons to celebrate the 2022-2023 school year:

  1. Student growth- the common idea amongst us all was that students grew from September to June. Not only with their reading, writing, etc. but their character developed. Behaviours settled down and students matured as the year went on. We were all able to identify a specific student that amazed us, specifically with their personal growth. I shared about a student who found it challenging to come to school last school year but thrived this year in a new classroom environment. Tears came to my eyes sharing about how proud I am of this student as his personal growth inspired me in so many ways.
  2. Writing- teachers shared about how their students could only write a few words at the beginning of the year but by the end, were writing stories by the end of a school day. I can also relate to this as I have so many students who doubled their writing samples by the end of June. 
  3. Reading- our school’s plan this year was small group guided instruction and we especially focused on this in our language classrooms. Many  of us noticed the impact this had on our students, focusing on phonics really allowed our students to grow as readers. Many of the primary  teachers worked with programs that helped their students read. They noticed large gains and were so excited to share the success that the reading specialist and these programs helped them to achieve. We are continuing with this goal next year and I look forward to starting small reading groups in September. My class especially amazed me with their reading abilities, decoding at grade level and making connections to what they read. 
  4. Making good memories- with the year having minimal disruptions, students had a hard time picking just one memory to share that was their favourite. Opportunities were available again for students to make memories and they were all so excited to share during the last few days of school. When my own students shared this was their favourite year of school, I was so happy to hear! I look forward to creating new memories in September. 
  5. Feeling like a family- something that I am personally celebrating is that feeling of togetherness that every educator hopes to achieve with their class. By the end of June, I can fully look back on the year and say we achieved it. With respect, random groupings, positive affirmations and weekly celebrations, I know that everyone felt that our class was a family. This feeling made the final bell especially hard to hear on the last day of school. However, I look forward to next year and hope to achieve that same feeling again. 

As we reflect on our successes from the year, they are probably some things we wish to “leave behind”. Whether it be a project, a mindset or a seating plan style that we didn’t quite like, it’s important that we don’t dwell on the negative, but look at the positives. I encourage you all to make a list of things that you want to celebrate from this year and think about it during your much deserved summer break. See you in September!