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English Language Arts

over 2 years ago

Also, see our STAR English Language Arts Newsletter attached to the STAR's Home page!

Spelling FUN (Grades 1 - 4)

Spelling words can be very fun to practice! Spelling can actually increase your child’s reading skills. Here are some exciting, multi-sensory activities that you can do with your child to help practice their spelling words. Enjoy!


-Write each spelling word in shaving cream, lotion, or soap

-Use play-dough to form each word

-Use magnetic letters on a cookie sheet

-Form the words using Wikki Stix

-Write spelling words in sand

-Use Popsicle sticks to form each spelling word

-Use different colors to trace each spelling word to create RAINBOW WORDS

-Spelling City: Try out motivating activities at

-SkyWriting: “Write” each spelling word in the air


Written by your Spelling Strategy Team,

Kristen Graveline, Special Educator and Holly White, Special Educator

Building the Foundation of Reading: Phonemic Awareness

(Grades K - 2)


What is phonemic awareness? Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in words. Children must first understand that words are made up of separate speech sounds that can be blended together to make words before they can make sense of using the alphabet to read and write. Research has identified phonemic awareness and letter knowledge as the best two indicators of how well a child will learn to read during the first two years of school (National Reading Panel 2000). Children who develop strong phonemic awareness skills at an early age are more likely to become fluent readers and better spellers than children who do not.


Here are some phonemic awareness activities to support the development of these skills at home:

-Identify whether words rhyme (hat, mat; sun, bug)

-Provide a word that rhymes with another (“Tell me a word that rhymes with sun?”)

-Blend syllables into a word (cup-cake “cupcake”; m-a-p – “map”)

-Clap or count syllables in a 1 to 3 syllable word

-Segment sounds in a 2-3 phoneme word (“Tell me the sounds in ‘hat’. Child: /h/ /a/ /t/)


How can I help my child develop good rhyming skills?

-Read books and poems that focus on the rhythm of language and rhyme. Books such as “Hop on Pop” or “Sheep in a Jeep” help children pay attention to sounds in words.

-Give your child a noisemaker (such as a whistle). Tell your child to make noise if you say two words that rhyme (cat, cup; sit, mitt)

-Play word games such as “Guess My Word.” “I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with_________? Can you guess my word?”


Other phonemic skills to work can be - clapping out syllables (parts of words) and identifying the sounds in beginning, middle and end of words (remember not the letter name, have them provide the sound that they hear).


Written by your Phonemic Awareness Team, 

Angela Consigli, Former Speech and Language Pathologist,

Michelle Goldberg, Speech and Language Pathologist and

Holly White, Special Educator



Diary/Journal: Spark interest in writing by having your child keep a  journal or diary. Your child can write about his or her fun and exciting experiences. After writing, have your child illustrate their journal entry.  


Book Reviews: After reading a book, your child can write a book review and share their thoughts about the book. Your child can write about their favorite characters or parts of the story.


Keep a Scrapbook: Scrapbook new adventures and experiences, near or far. Did you try the new ice cream shop down the road? Did you go to the zoo and learn about new animals? Did you try a new sport or activity? After visiting new places, have your child write reviews of their adventures and create a summer scrapbook. Encourage your child to record their thoughts and experiences. Kids can add things like menus, ticket stubs, museum tour maps, autographs and hiking trail maps to accompany their reviews. If you have a digital camera and printer, your child can include photos as well. Many scrapbook materials can be found at a local craft store.


Encourage your child to read. From reading to your child, listening to books on tape, or reading at the beach, your child can increase their reading skills.  Here are some ways to engage your child in reading:

  • Go to your Local Library: Encourage your child to browse through the library to find interesting books to read. While you are at the library, ask your librarian about special events, educational videos, and audio books available. 
  • Start a Neighbourhood Book Club: This is a great way to get your child involved in reading.  Get together a group of your child’s friends and find a book that they can all read together. Set-up meeting times where children can discuss their reading.  As an added bonus, warm weather can inspire some fun meeting places too: a tent, a park, or picnic blanket in the backyard. This is a valuable activity that encourages great discussions and supports critical thinking skills. 
  • Integrate reading into everyday activities:  (1) watching TV with the sound off and closed captioning on, (2) reading directions for how to play a new game, or (3) helping with meals by writing up a grocery list, finding things in the grocery store, and reading the recipe aloud for mom or dad during cooking time, (4) read the back of the cereal box during breakfast.

Comprehension Trick: Braidy       

(Grades 1 - 4)

Comprehension of a story is as important to reading as decoding. One tool that we use to help our students retell a story and check for comprehension is Braidy. The students enjoy using Braidy to retell a story. See the Resource section of the STAR's home page for an attachement of a bookmark of Braidy that you can cut out and use with your child to help him/her retell stories at home. 


The parts of Braidy and specific questions you can ask your child are as follows:



Braidy’s head represents the main characters of the story and at least one character trait (what are they like?) for each.  Who is the main character in the story?  Who are the supporting characters?


The star represents for the setting of the storyWhere and when does the story take place?


The sneaker represents the story kick-off.  What is the problem in the story? What event put the story in motion? 


The heart represents how the main characters were feeling about the kick-off.  How does the character feel about the problem?


The hand represents the character’s plan to solve the problem.  What is the character’s plan to resolve the problem?


The beads stand for each event in the story.  You may have more events than beads but not too many more.


What happened in the story?


Explain using first, then, next, and finally.


The bow represents the wrap-up or the solution of the story. 

How did the character resolve the problem?


The heart represents the characters feelings at the end of the story and the colorful ribbons represent the possible themes/lesson of the story.  How does the character feel at the end of the story? Themes: What did the character learn? What could we all learn from the story?



Braidy Tips by your Comprehension Team, Amy Kindl, Former South Special Educator and Keri Rooney, Special Educator

Literature Question Prompts

Questions to ASK within, about, and beyond the text

(Also see the Resource section of the STAR home page for an easy print version.) 


Thinking Within the Text

What was the problem in the story?

What did _____ do to solve the problem?

What happened in the story? How did the story end?



Thinking Beyond the Text

Tell me some ways ___and ___ are alike/different.

 Tell me how ____ felt when ___. Why?

 Why is it important for___?

 How does ____ change?

What does ___ learn?

 How do you think ____ felt when (or about) _____?

 Why do you think _____? Can you give an example from the book?


 Make a prediction about ____. How


 do you know something is going to happen here?


 What does the writer say that makes you think that?

 What is a question you still have about ____?

 What lesson did ____ learn?

 What was the value of ____ to _____?


Thinking About the Text

Is this a good title for this story? Why (not)?

What makes the title, ____ a good one for this book?

What did ____ learn? How do you know this?

Why do you think the writer said ____?

What did the writer mean by ______?

How did the writer help you understand _____?

How did the writer make this book interesting?

What is the significance of___?

Why do you think the writer wrote this book in 1st (or 3rd) person?

What genre did the writer use? What makes you think that?

Look at the way the writer ended the book. Do you think this is a good way to end? Why or why not?

Give an example of a description the writer used to show what ____ was like.

What was the most important part of the story and why?

Find the part in the story where _____.

What did the writer mean when s/he said _____?

What was the writer’s message?

The writer used specific words/phrases to describe _____. Can you give examples?

How did the writer let you know that something exciting was going to happen (foreshadowing)? Find examples from the text.

Look back at the text and find some powerful descriptive words. Explain what they mean.

Occupational Therapy

over 2 years ago

Proximal Stability Equals Distal Mobility

In order to have adequate fine motor control, children need to have adequate stability (strength and control) in their trunk and shoulders. This is known as Proximal Stability, which is developed through weight bearing activities such as crawling, being on hands and knees, or animal walks and movements against gravity/resistance. Proximal stability, core strength, and gross motor skills are necessary for high level fine motor skill development. Remember that play is the best way to strengthen these skills!


Activities to facilitate Proximal Stability and Control:

1. Animal walks: have the child pretend they are a crab, bear, elephant, rabbit, etc. They can do this while completing an obstacle course or playing a game.

2. Scooter board activities: have the child lie on their stomach on the scooter board and complete different tasks. Here's a link for some ideas (

3. Pushing toys such as shopping carts or baby carriages; add heavier toys for resistance (ex: bean bags, books).

4. Positioning: have child lay on their stomach and lean on elbows while playing, reading, or completing a task.

5. Drawing/erasing on a chalk board. You can also use squirt bottles to spray the board to work on hand strengthening as well.

6. Wheelbarrow walks.

7. Building with large blocks - adding beans to the inside of blocks to increase the weight.

8. Play while seated or on stomach over exercise ball - always supervise for safety.

9. Superman - have the child lay on their stomach and reach out arms and legs to lift them off the ground like they are flying.


over 2 years ago

Also, see our mathematics STAR Newsletters attached to the STAR Home page!

Free Math Web Resources For All Grades (K-4)

Looking for motivating and engaging ways to practice math facts and skills?
Use these fun and free websites to keep your kids skills fresh in their minds.

Click on the PINK titles to get started!!!
1. Mr. Nussbaum’s Math Page: This website has some incredibly fun interactive math games for kids of all ages andability levels.My class’s favorite game is Treasure Cliff!
2. Estimation 180: Estimation 180 gives students something to estimate for each of the 180 days of
3. Xtra Math: This free website is an excellent place for students to practice their fact fluency in a
systematic way!
4. Math Playground: This is a fantastic website to explore. Loaded with fun and engaging math games.
5. Cool Math: This website contains both games and help with various mathematical topics.
6. Bedtime Math: Math stories leveled for little kids or big kids for use by both teachers and families at home.

Memorizing Math Facts! (Grades K - 4)

Research shows that using a multi-modal learning approach helps to make things go into our long term memory. In education we use the 5 senses for a multi-model learning approach: hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. Learning our math facts is extremely important. Math is a scaffolding subject, as it builds every year on the previous year. A child that doesn’t know all of the math facts is at a disadvantage as the curriculum increases in difficulty.

Here are some ideas of how you can make learning the math facts (whether addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division) multi-modal and fun!

1) Have your child write the facts on a rug, carpet, or felt with their finger. Say each fact (including the answer) aloud while writing it.

2) Have your child write the facts on sandpaper, bulletin board, or shaving cream with their finger. Say each fact (including the answer) aloud while writing it.

3) Put gel in a ziplock bag and have your child trace the facts on the bag with their finger while saying each aloud.

4) Sing the facts to the tune of a familiar song: “Twinkle, Twinkle”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, etc.

5) Create movements to the facts. Maybe for the fives tables have your child do jumping jacks or hop on one foot.

6) Make your own flash cards. Then use the cards to play games like War, Go Fish, or Memory.

7) Use online websites that have math games. Many of the websites are free. Just go to Google. Be creative! Brainstorm ideas with your child for ways to memorize the facts.

It is so important for everyone to learn their facts but we can make it fun too. Good luck!

Written by Amy Kindl, Former South Special Education Teacher


It’s also important to keep your child’s math skills sharp.

Here are fun, and engaging ways to practice math skills.

Math Facts Practice:  Fluency with math facts is a key math skill. Try these fun and engaging ways for children to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

(1) Create movements to the facts.

(2) Have your child do jumping jacks or hop on one foot.

(3)  Make your own flash cards.  Then use the cards to play games like War, Go Fish, or Memory.

(4) Have your child write the facts on sandpaper, bulletin board, or shaving cream with their finger.  Say each fact (including the answer) aloud while writing it.

5 Fun Activities for Number Recognition

 (Grades K – 1)


Here are some fun activities for your child to practice and solidify number recognition:

1. Rock, Paper, Number!: You play this just like “Rock, Papers, Scissors!” You need two players, paper, and a pencil. You say “Rock, Paper, Number” and each player holds up as many fingers as they want. Then, you count all the fingers and point to the correct number written on the sheet of paper.

2. Ladybug Math: Draw 10 ladybugs on a piece of paper and number them 1-10. Using blueberries or chocolate chips, put the correct number into each ladybug. Then, eat them!

3. Block Towers: Build towers of blocks on a number mat with the correct number of blocks on each number.

4. Duplo Number Tunnel: Make tunnels using Duplo Blocks, and put numbers above the tunnels. Roll a ball into the tunnel and identify the number.

5. Parking Lot Numbers: Write numbers and parking spaces on a piece of paper. Say a number and drive the car to the parking space with that number.

Fun Facts by Holly White, Special Education Teacher

The C.U.B.E.S.  Method: A Problem Solving Strategy           

(Grades 2 – 4)


Math word problems can be difficult for students to solve. Why? With so many words and numbers, it may be hard for students to figure out the strategies needed to solve a problem. But there is hope! Using problem solving strategies provide students with an organized way to be successful with word problems. An effective word problem strategy that we teach students is called the C.U.B.E.S. Strategy. The C.U.B.E.S. Strategy helps students focus their attention on the important information and get to the heart of what the problem really is asking. This is a universal strategy that can be used to solve any math word problem.

C.U.B.E.S. is an acronym that stands for the following word problem solving steps:

  • Circle the numbers
  • Underline important words
  • Box the question
  • Eliminate unnecessary information
  • Solve and check 

See the Resource section accessed from the STAR's home page for an attachement of a C.U.B.E.S. Strategy Bookmark!

C.U.B.E.S strategy tip by 

Kristen Graveline, Special Education Teacher

Social Emotional

over 2 years ago


 (Grades K – 4)

Learn by Doing: One thing that tends to go unnoticed in child development is simply learning by doing. Bring your child to potentially social situations to simply expose them to these environments. There are several no cost options that can be very stimulating in a social manner for children: any playground, the library, some museums, the beach, walking trails, etc.

Offer Assistance: Once you introduce social opportunities to your child(ren), you also may need to offer them some “hurdle help” to begin their interactions with other children. This can be as simple as a car ride conversation, “When we go to the park, you might see a new friend there. What do you think you could say to that person? Hi my name is ____; would you like to play?” Or for some children, you may need to get more involved and actually coach them through the interaction as it takes place.

Playdates/ Get-Togethers: This can be a scary experience for everyone involved, including adults, if your child has trouble interacting with others. If you or your child has identified someone they feel comfortable socializing with outside of school, try to meet at a neutral location for the first meeting, such as a playground or the library. You should also keep the meeting relatively brief, about an hour, so as to let the children enjoy each other’s company, but not go too far that they sour on each other or get bored. You want to keep the experience positive. If this goes well, you can alternate the next few play dates at the two children’s houses, again keeping the time relatively short so as not to reach the tipping point. In these first few interactions, you and the other parent may want to plan an activity that each parent could help facilitate to make sure the play time goes smoothly. Good examples of this would be a board game, an arts and crafts activity, or helping playing ball outside. After this structured time, you could offer some “free time.” Try to limit the choices during this time so as not to overwhelm the children.

Socialization Tips by Josh Lechter, Former South Behavior Specialist/School Counselor

Always remember, the ratio of positive to negative feedback should be a 4 to 1 ratio. 

Children should receive more genuine, positive feedback than negative. 

Something to always keep in mind!

Relaxation Glitter Bottle

Relaxation Glitter bottles are an excellent calming strategy.

They are great for kids who are bored, fidgety in the car, anxious or struggling with sensory overload.

They are easy to make and kids love them!



1. Empty, clear water bottles

2. Shiny glitter

3. Tiny objects if desired

4. Water

5. Corn syrup

6. Superglue or hot glue gun

7. Duct tape


1. Place glitter and shiny confetti into empty water bottle

2. Nearly fill water bottle with water (about 4/5)

3. Add a little bit of corn syrup (this slows the glitter a bit when you shake it up to make it drop slowly and more interestingly

4. Use hot glue gun or superglue to glue cover on-duct tape closed

See the Resource Section from the STAR's home page for a SMART Chart of making a Relexation Glitter Bottle!

This fun activity is from Leslie Paterson, Behavior Intervention Specialist


Standing over a child while talking with them can be scary and intimidating for a child, especially if you are upset.  Get down to their level and look them in the eyes, or get below their eye level.  Voice tone should also be low.  

Not only does this subconsciously tell the nervous system there is no threat, it helps the student focus and it lets them know that you are talking with them, not at them.  It shows respect, too.  Remember to have these interactions privately, so as not to embarrass or humiliate.  Fear and humiliation are not appropriate forms of teaching.  They are short lived, and do not teach self-control.  Respect and understanding allow a child to truly develop skills.  This is true for social emotional skills as much as for academic domains.  It’s easier to remember to bend your legs (or sit) when you are upset, then to recall all the reasons eye level and private conversations are important. 

“When your top’s about to blow - get low!”   

This tip is from Leslie Paterson, Behavior Intervention Specialist

Self-Regulation Skills

You often hear people say to children, “you need to calm down” but many children do not possess the skills to calm themselves. Here are 3 tips that you can use to help your child learn self-regulation.

1. Teach your child to identify emotions.

2. Teach self-calming strategies such as, deep breathing, reading a book, drawing or other art work, listening to music and yoga (stretching exercises).

3. Practice self-calming strategies with your child and discuss day to day social interactions that your child encountered. 

This tip is from Leslie Paterson, Behavior Intervention Specialist

Organizational Strategies/Homework Hints

over 2 years ago

Also, see our Organization/Study skills and Summer Regression

STAR Newsletters attached to the STAR's home page!

Please check out a wonderful strategy called the "SMART chart" under the folder called RESOURCES.


The "SMART chart" is a tool that helps students complete tasks with more than one step.

We should always "begin with the end in mind", of have a visual of where we are headed (in the red box). 

The next step is to come up with a list of materials and strategies (in the yellow box). 

The next step is to outline steps of the project/task (in the green box).  This can be tied to time, days, or can be completed in one setting. 

10 Helpful Homework Habits:

(See STAR Newsletter- Organization/Study Skills Edition, April 2015 for further details)


1)      Set a regular study time and routine

2)      Know the teacher’s weekly homework schedule

3)      Plan ahead for nights out of the house

4)      Make a comfortable study spot

5)      Take quick breaks during difficult or longer assignments

6)      Don’t argue with your kids about homework or do it for them

7)      Have a homework return folder

8)      Homework immediately goes into the backpack

9)      Have one spot to place all school stuff

10)    Read on days that there is no homework

Tips to help Organize Long-Term Projects

(Grades 2 – 4)


Organizing a schedule to complete projects can be daunting. We can organize a task by using a timeline or we can use a system to organize our thoughts and materials.  To accomplish this, at school we often use a system called a “smart chart”.  Here are some great tips to organize and complete tasks using a “smart chart”.  *See the resource folder for a blank smart chart and completed smart chart!


  • Remember to always “begin with the end in mind”.  Your child should be able to show you what is expected as the outcome.  This insures that he/she has a good idea of what is expected. This might be referred to as the “done”, or redphase of a “smart chart” (often used in school)


  • Your child should have a clear visual image of what the end product will look like.  Help

              your child figure it out if they don’t.  This might mean:

      • Get samples of completed items for them to see
      • Draw out a sample
      • Get a photograph of an end product for your child to see


  • Be sure you both know the due date.  (What is the firm deadline of when it must be completed/brought into school? There should be no “wiggle room” in this deadline- this will help your child organize future projects and timelines more efficiently.)


  • Help your child come up with a list of necessary supplies needed to complete the project.  This can be referred to as the“get ready”, or yellow, piece of the “smart chart”.  List and gather all the materials you will need to work on the project.


  • Now break the task, or project into specific steps, the “do”, or green portion, of the “smart chart”.  You can use steps tied to time, or pieces of the task, or step-by-step directions to be completed.  Use a clock to help define this for short term projects.    


  • For longer term projects, use sticky notes on a large calendar so you and your child can plan what can be completed on particular days.  Be sure to add in outside activities that are taking up time on those days as well.  This will help your child plan and see how much he can get done on any given day.  It will also help him/her to see if they are “piling up” too many activities on a given day.  Take the sticky notes off the calendar as tasks are completed.  J  This is motivating!  Long-term projects can be managed more readily using this approach. 


  • If your child is having difficulty managing time, be sure to use an analog clock so they see the sweep of time.  Use dry erase marker to mark out time deadlines.  Use notes and deadlines on calendars for long-term projects.  Discuss “time robbers” if your child does not show appropriate use of time.  Help work with them to figure out what is “stealing their time” when working.  Try to help them keep the “time robbers” away.  This might mean a change of room, a snack before homework, breaks built in, or prompts to the time/clock. 


  Project Organizational Tips by Leslie Paterson, Behavior Support Coordinator

Backpack Organization

(Grades K - 4)


Having trouble with helping your child organize his or her backpack? Here are some quick tips that will make backpack organization easier.


1. Start with an empty backpack (it doesn’t have to be new, just empty it- shake the crumbs out to start fresh!)

2. Depending on the age of your child, you need to take some responsibility for helping with organizing, and routinely reorganizing.  (The younger your child is, the more often you will have to help him/her reorganize.)  Most 8 year-olds, up to 10 years old will continue to need help with this.   

3. Leave the backpack in a specific spot every day, open wide and help build a routine to “empty it”.  Leave lunch box, books, and folders in the same place each day.  That will make it easy to find them.  This might be a hook, shelf, or cubby (whatever works for you – just be consistent!)

4. As soon as homework is complete, or papers are ready for return to school, immediately place them into the backpack for safe keeping.   

5. The main compartment will hold bigger items, such as binder, folders, and books.  You might also place a lunch box here.  Try to limit the “clutter” in this main compartment.

6. Use smaller compartments to hold pencils, and smaller items that will get lost in the bigger compartment.

7. Practice “filling” the backpack. 

8. Take a photo of what the inside of the backpack looks like when packed for school (unzip as far as possible and take a photo).  You can also make a list. 

      a) Use a luggage tag, baseball cardholder, laminate, or book tape over the photo to put onto the top loop of the backpack, using a hole punch and metal key ring or zip tie to attach. 

      b) Attach the photo to one side and the list to the other.  Place it in a visible spot on the zipper area of the backpack.  


Backpack Organization by Leslie Paterson, Behavior Support Coordinator

Speech and Language

over 2 years ago

Building the Foundation of Reading:  Phonemic Awareness

 (Grades K-2)

Phonemic awareness is the aiblity to distinguish the structure, phonologically, of words and sounds that make up our language.  It is the beginning of a continuum of skills in learning to read.  Phonemic awareness is understanding that speech is a series of individual sounds and that these sounds may be manipulated to help in the decoding of words.  Phonemic awareness differs from phonics in that phonics uses letter sounds and rules in decoding.  Success in the area of phonemic awareness has been shown to be a good predictor of reading success in school.  Children who develop strong phonemic awareness skills at an early age are more likely to become fluent readers and better spellers than children who do not.


Here are some activities for supporting phonemic awareness at home:

* Identify whether words rhyme (hat, mat; sun, bug)

* Provide a word that rhymes with another (“Tell me a word that rhymes with sun.”)

* Read books and poems that focus on the rhythm of language and rhyme.  Books such as, “Hop on Pop” or “Sheep in a Jeep” help children pay attention to sounds in words.

* Play word games such as “Guess My Word.”  “I am thinking of a word that rhymes with _____________.”  Can you guess my word?


Written by your phonemic awareness team,

Angela Consigli, Former Speech and Language Pathologist

Holly White, Special Educator

Hayley Doucette, Former Speech/Language Pathology Assistant

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