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The Editable, Incredible Sight Word Mastery System-Ball Words (and a Freebie)

It has been the number one, most asked request from my readers, and finally, I took the time to get it done for you!  I present . . .The Editable . . . Incredible . . . Ball Word Sight Word Mastery System!  That’s right folks!  I said “EDITABLE.”

Now not only can you get your students motivated and engaged mastering their sight words, but you can customize the balls to fit your needs, your word lists and your school’s requirements.  
I’m so excited to share these with you, a little freebie and some special tricks and tips to help you with your own ball words.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, if you aren’t familiar with ball words, let me give you a brief introduction.
I originally created ball words because I had a very very boy heavy class that needed something to engage them in learning their sight words.  This class ranged from students who knew zero words to students who had mastered 30-40 words or more before they entered my doors. I knew I needed to challenge everyone at their own level of ability or I would have huge behavior issues. I didn’t want boredom from the advanced students nor did I want frustration from those that were struggling. So, by placing the different level of sight words (there are 11 Dolch Word lists) on different balls, everyone could be doing the same activity at their own level of readiness. 
What I got as a bonus in all this is that my students began to work with each other.  I never had to ask them to study their ball words.  Anytime they had a free moment, they were grabbing a friend and a set of words and practicing.  And they were cheering each other on . . . my heart was full.  When someone passed a level, no matter what that level was, we all cheered, high fived and, quite often, hugged.  We had a bunch of hugging going on.  It was fun, it was exciting, and it was working and still is . . .
In fact, this year in my class of 21 kids, (My smallest class ever by the way. Last year I had 28!)  I am ending the year with 17 having passed all 220 sight words and all of my  kids have passed at least the first 4 list for a total of 80 words.  But over the years, more and more teachers have asked that I make these packets edible as they are obligated to follow a different list, the Fry list or a list generated by their district.  I totally get how you’d want to be able to motive reluctant sight word readers, so I finally made these editable.  You can add any words you would like or change only a few.  It’s completely up to you. 
If you’d like to see more about the activities and items that are included in every one of the 11 packets, go ahead and click on the picture below and you can get some information on how these are used in my class.

I also have a letter mastery system, Top Bananas, that can be used before tackling sight words and a sight word phrase fluency (also editable) system, Speed Readers, that you can use after your students have passed their ball words.  
If you need a parent letter to explain Ball Words to your students’ families, you can get it by clicking on the link HERE or on the picture below:
Just click on the titles above to find out more about how I use those units in conjunction with Ball Words.

The second most asked question I get from users of Ball Words is, ‘how do you organize all your ball word supplies and rings?” 

I have always found that using a peg board to house my rings works best for me.  Students can easily see and manipulate this system and they actually take care of it by themselves and make sure it’s organized.  
As for the take home lists,games and certificates that also go with the packets, I use this 10 drawer rolling cart.  Granted, there are 11 sets, but I just double up the last two into one drawer and it works just fine.  This is where students can ‘help themselves’ to new lists or extra lists to take home if they’ve lost one.  I don’t hand out lists, that a privilege I leave for them. They are very excited to be able to move onto a new drawer.  It’s kind of a ‘right of passage’ to be able to grab a new list.
These little labels fit the drawers perfectly and make it easy for my students to find what they need.  If you would like a copy for your own drawers, just click on the picture below to get the google doc for yourself.  I included a couple of options for each unit.
This 10 drawer cart has also been a perfect place to store ball word I-spy bottles.  Students can easily grab them and go.
Oh, and here’s a little tip when making your own bottles, bend the little balls ever so slightly to keep them from getting piled up on top of each other.  (It works! Trust me!)
Here’s another little thing I’ve learned for making ball words easier on you.  My pal, Holly Joy, gave me a heads up that if you purchase a 3 inch circle cutter, you can make pretty short work of cutting all those balls out.
I’ve always been fortunate to find parents to volunteer, but I had to try her suggestion.  It’s easy and the circles are so neat. It’s a little smaller than the balls so you could get a 3 and 1/2 if you prefer.
Just laminate your balls and cut them apart, line them up by looking at the bottom of the cutter and punch.   You can find one HERE if you’re interested.
On of the best parts of Ball Words is finding fun ways to celebrate when your class passes a level.  Personally, I believe in celebrating  . . . A TON!  So for my own classroom we do it up big.
When the entire class passes top bananas or a level of ball words, we party!  This year, I’ve been able to secure some reasonably priced piñatas. 
Breaking that piñata was the highlight of their celebration.  I mean who doesn’t like to beat a ball full of goodies with a bat?
Luckily, my own boys don’t eat candy much at all.  So this is the one tub of candy left over from summer parades and Halloween.  I’m not a huge pusher of candy, but it was nice to be able to add a few sweet treats to each piñata along with some stickers, tattoos and other small trinkets I collected.
I am even able to get some help from the boys when it’s time to do the stuffing . . . 
I think they might actually think it’s fun.
And I know my students love it!
When they’ve worked as hard as they have to get all their friends past a level, they deserve a little something extra!
Wouldn’t you agree?

If you’re thinking about ball words as a way to build enthusiasm for sight word mastery in your own classroom, go ahead and click on the picture below.  If you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’m always happy to help if I can.

If you already are a ball word user, I’d love to hear your success stories so, leave me a comment and let me know who your year went.  I also want to let you know, that there is also now a companion set of hands-on Ball Words Building Sets if you are interested in including hands-on practice in your literacy stations.  Students use materials from your classroom to build their ball words. 

These hands-on activities make it so fun to practice words and build fine motor at the same time. There are so many ways to practice in each set. Just click on the picture below to see more.

Marsha Moffit McGuire

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