Friday, July 24, 2015

Technology: Friend or Enemy?

I went through my usual summer morning routine today...put my hair in a high bun, drank my coffee, and watched the news. After a while, I opened my iPad and started scrolling through Facebook. My eyes stopped at a video link posted by one of my past student's mothers. The video was short, but eye-opening (video is at the end of this post).

Having taught for a full decade, I can say that I have absolutely noticed a change in the students that I work with on a daily basis. Over the last couple of years, I have noticed students coming to me with extremely poor handwriting and underdeveloped fine motor skills. Some of these students also seemed to lack creativity and social skills. I have spent a good chunk of time on teaching kids how to appropriately participate in group discussions, how to be active listeners, and how to engage their peers in conversations and activities. What once was something learned on a playground, is now part of the curriculum. Are video games and the over-use of technology to blame?

There is no doubt that this is quickly becoming a technology-driven society and the skills that our students need to have will largely relate to how they can navigate this digital world. Teaching keyboarding, online safety, and how to evaluate validity of information are all things that we are responsible for making sure our kids master. Ignoring this matter would only be an injustice to them. With that being said, I do not want to see a world where people would rather form relationships with machines than other human beings.

On a positive note, my own teaching has transformed due to the available technology today. It has helped me reach students on a whole new level. It has made my lessons more interactive and engaging. Online videos, live cameras, and virtual trips have helped my students see parts of the world that they may never have had the opportunity to see in person. 

I am not a parent myself. I have no idea how chaotic a normal day in the lives of moms and dads can be. What I do know, is that there are days I can barely keep my head above water on my own. Juggling a husband, chocolate Labrador, teaching career, and city apartment can often be enough to make me want to throw in the towel from time to time. I only imagine that parenthood is that feeling on steroids. With that being said, my final thought on this matter can be summed up in old saying...everything in moderation. Kids are only kids for so long. Take the time to enjoy them. Teach them things. The people they will become are largely influenced by how they live now. 

Here is the video for your viewing pleasure...

Peace, Love, and Enjoying Nature, 
Mary Korty @ Teaching Takes the Cake

Friday, July 17, 2015


Vinyl records. 

A fresh box of unused crayons. 

Sharpie markers of every color. 


These are a few of my favorite things! 

Head over to my TPT store to download my new B&W SHORT A DECODABLE BOOK! 

Happy Friday!!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Phonemic Awareness Giveaway!!!


Two words.

Without it, children may face challenges in learning how to read and write.

With it, children have a greater chance of reading and writing success.


According to the University of Oregon, PHONEMIC AWARENESS (PA) is:

  • the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds
  • essential to learning to read in an alphabetic writing system, because letters represent sounds or phonemes. Without phonemic awareness, phonics makes little sense. 
  • fundamental to mapping speech to print. If a child cannot hear that "man" and "moon" begin with the same sound or cannot blend the sounds /rrrrrruuuuuunnnnn/ into the word "run", he or she may have great difficulty connecting sounds with their written symbols or blending sounds to make a word. 
  • a strong predictor of children who experience early reading success. 

Children can be at different levels of development. The image below shows a continuum of PA development in children. More information regarding this image can be found here --> Reading First

There are many assessments and activities available to teachers and districts. I have created a product and uploaded it to my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook stores.

To celebrate this new product, I am running a Teacher's Notebook Giveaway!

Not done yet...

I am also giving away this product to 5 lucky winners that have visited this blog!!! This product is valued at $10 and includes over 100 printable pages of assessments and activities covering phonemic awareness areas.


Enter the giveaway below starting on July 14th and be sure to share with your friends and colleagues! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Peace, Love, and Giveaways,
Mary Korty

Lucky Find Monday!

Who doesn't love discounts and freebies?!

I came across a website recently called BOOKBUB.

BOOKBUB is a site that will find the best daily deals on digital books. It doesn't cost anything to sign up and you are able to search for books by category. The site allows you to personalize your preferences as well.

There are great finds for children, preteens, and adults alike!!!

Peace, Love, & Summer Reading, 
Mary Korty 
Teaching Takes the Cake

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vocabulary in the Common Core Era

Vocabulary is one of the essential components of literacy. It is not single-discipline focused and will be needed for our students to comprehend just about everything they will encounter in life from having conversations with future bosses, becoming entrepreneurs, finding their way around a new city, learning about "what to expect when they're expecting", and so on.

It is important for students to be mindful of when they encounter new words and how to derive meaning from unknown words. Current research shows that:

  • Vocabulary learning is effective when it entails active engagement that goes beyond knowledge of just dictionary definitions. By knowing the word in their own terms, students can use it in multiple contexts and make connections between concepts and other words. 
  • Both teachers AND students should be involved in choosing vocabulary words. Teachers have a responsibility to expose students to words that they will need in school and in life (also considered Tier 2 words) while students must also choose words that will further their own comprehension of specific material. 
  • Vocabulary growth happens slowly over time and students need multiple exposures to words. Each time we experience the same word, we learn more about how it is used, what it means, and the different forms it can take. We are always adding on new information about words. It can be helpful for students to understand how they learn new words through progression. 
  • Greater gains are shown in student progress when they are included in tracking their own learning and growth on academic tasks (including vocabulary acquisition)
Vocabulary rating scales are a useful tool in getting students to be active participants in their own word learning. This can be done before, during, and after reading. Words can be chosen by students or teachers. Before reading, students can skim through the text or teachers can select Tier 2 words from the text to show students. Using the scale below, student can assess their knowledge of the words. 

This also sets a purpose for students before reading. They now know what words to be "on the lookout" for as they read. They can practice using context clues to figure out meaning, they can utilize technology to find the meaning, or they can discuss new words with peers and adults as they encounter them. 

Students can record this information in notebooks or in the graphic organizers shown below. This way, students are able to refer back to them before and after reading to see how much more they have grown. 

Individual Student Vocabulary Knowledge Rating Scale

Individual Student Vocabulary Knowledge Evidence

Individual Student Vocabulary Knowledge B-D-A Organizer

As previously mentioned, students show greater gains when they are included in keeping records of their progress. I plan to use vocabulary graphs with my students throughout the year. There are different ways that these can be used. 

Students can color grid squares... 
  • for each word they learned based on summative assessment data
  • for each new word that they have used 
  • for each word they have shown progress with based on their rating scale data (a word going from a 1 to a 3)
Individual Student Vocabulary Graph 
If you really like this strategy, please visit my TPT store to check it out by clicking on the link beneath the image!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others

I truly feel that teachers have a duty...not just to teach kids how to write, read, and solve problems, but to find a way to be a contributing member to society. Teachers have the unique opportunity to instill character and compassion in the students they serve for 180 school days.

In the past, I organized an after-school group with the purpose of raising awareness of and money for local animal rescue groups. These types of organizations have always been something of a passion of mine and I wanted to share that with the children I had the privilege to work with everyday. We baked and sold pet treats after sending home order forms. First mistake! We had THOUSANDS of orders placed - great for the cause...not so much on our ability to mass produce perishable pet treats. I had my grandmother, neighbors, friends, and mother baking for days!!! I laugh looking back at it now, but it sure wasn't so funny when we were all covered in flour and peanut butter! Needless to say, we raised over $800 for our local group based out of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. 

Having loved the feeling that came with making that kind of donation, I wanted to tackle the project again with my new students at my new school. The past three years, my students have thoroughly enjoyed learning how to bake and sell dog treats. It is always funny and pretty impressive to see how they are able to come up with marketing ideas for selling our goodies. 

This past June was definitely the best experience we have had to date. After reading stories about therapy animals and shelter pets, my class decided that they wanted to join in on our 3rd annual sale. I researched local rescue groups and showed the class the websites for each one. My class voted to help a local group called, One Love Animal Rescue. Now it was time for the hard work to begin!

                                                  (parent permission granted to use photos)

                                                        (permission granted to use photos)

The students in my class used their measurement and multiplication skills to figure out how to double and triple recipes. They had to set a goal regarding how many treats they wanted to sell and then decide how many batches would need to be made, how many treats would have to be baked, and how much potential money that could make for our donation. They got gooey, sticky, messy, and dirty and couldn't have been happier! 

I know what you are thinking...what kind of crazy lunatic takes twenty-four 8 and 9 year old kids to a Home Economics room that has hot ovens, wooden rolling pins, and sharp objects?! I DO! It is days like these that kids can truly shine!!! With expectations set and responsibility placed on their tiny shoulders, you would be amazed at what they can do! We made 28 batches of dough...hundreds of treats...and hundreds of dollars! 

                                               (parent permission given for use of photos)

We were able to present One Love with a check for $240!!! They were so thankful for the donation that they wanted to show up in person to tell the kids how grateful they really were. Sherri Smith and Dawn Hulings brought a furry friend by the name of Zuzu to our school. They taught the children how to safely and appropriately approach an unknown dog. Each student had a chance to spend some quality time with the beloved Zuzu. We even made the local news which can be found on One Love's FB album --> Watch Us Here!!!! 

                                                     (permission granted for use of photos)

I am reminded at the end of this project each year that it is worth every ounce of stress and organization that goes into making this happen! Seeing their smiling faces, tears in their eyes, and newly found passion for helping animals is nothing short of a day maker. 

Writing this post was not easy. It was difficult to describe something that felt so amazing. There are truly no words I can use to get your mind or heart where mine were on this day.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back-to-School Motivation

The final countdown has begun. In a few short weeks we will be back in our classrooms...smiles on, energy high, coffee full, and ready for anything. We have had the summer to take deep breaths, refocus, recharge, and plan for a "full steam ahead" moment come school day numero uno.

Each year, I like to start with this video that I found a few years ago. It still gives me goosebumps and fills my eyes with tears each and every August. Don't let anyone tell you that teaching is easy...that it is a day full of coloring, tying shoelaces, and correcting papers. Remember why you became a teacher. Remember the teachers that made a difference in you. The next time you are criticized or a victim of a blanket "teachers have it easy" statement, refer to this video.