Giving you the tools and skills to help you develop into a stronger teacher of literacy!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Going on a Picture Walk

Before reading a story with your children, always take time to look at some of the pictures.  This helps children to better comprehend the story and also learn new vocabulary.


First, introduce the title of the story as well as the author and illustrator.

Second, Look at some pictures in the story.  Talk about the pictures.  You may find it a great time to teach your child a new word.  Maybe there is a new animal on the page or new action word.

Third, you might ask your child a question about what he or she thinks is going to happen in the story.  Making a prediction helps your child to remember the events in the story, since they are listening to see if their prediction comes true.

Finally, check your child's prediction and talk about what happened in the story.  This is not a drill, just a subtle conversation about the book, which over time will increase your child's ability to comprehend, or understand the story.

*You should continue to read to children even after they can read themselves.*
Why?  Because when you read books that are higher than your child's reading level you are building their vocabulary and listening comprehension, which will help your child to build on their current reading skillls.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fun with Pasta or Wikki Stix: Making Words

So, dinner is over and what to do with the left over spaghetti noodles?  Well, how about practicing spelling or sight words with them.  Many children are tactile in learning, that means they learn well when they get to touch or manipulate objects as well as move things.  Have your child use spaghetti noodles or wikky stix to spell words they are learning.  Then have them trace the letters with their finger as they say the letters and read the word at the end. To reinforce the learning, encourage your child to write the words after making them.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, is a wonderful story for children 3-8.  I especially love this story because it gives children a way to reassure themselves when they are away from their family.  It is perfect for the first day of school or any time families are separated.

In the story, Chester, a young raccoon, needs to go to school when he would prefer to stay at home with his mom.  To reassure her son, Mrs. Raccoon tells her son a secret that will make his time away at school feel better.  She kisses Chester's palm and he feels the kiss go right from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart.  She tells Chester, whenever you are lonely, just press your hand to your cheek and you feel my kiss and know I love you.

I do this with my little girl when she goes to sleep at night.  I kiss her palm and we put her palm on her face in different spots as kisses and she says, "Mama loves me" each time her palm touches her face.  It's something special between the two of us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Preschoolers: Most Important 15 Minutes You Spend A Day: Reading to Your Child

Parents often ask what they can do to help their children prepare for school.  The first thing I always tell them is to read to their children.  Take 15-20 minutes each day and read books to their children and talk to their children about things in the books.  Talk about the pictures in the book, name objects on the page and tell what they do, ask the child what he/she sees, or even ask a few simple questions about the story.

Let your child lead the book reading activity.  Letting children choose books helps you learn about things they are interested in.  They may choose to read the same book for many nights.  You may get bored with the book, but they don't.   

Reading the same book over and over has many benefits:

First, it helps your child learn new vocabulary.  Children need to hear words many times before they retain and fully understand them.

Second, it helps them learn about story structure.  They learn that there is an order to the story, such as a beginning, middle and end.

Third, they learn about the characters in the story, how they act and what makes up that character.  To change things up when you read the story, try to focus on something different each time.

For example:
The first time you read a book, talk about the title and the author (the person who writes the book) and the illustrator (the person who draws, paints or made the pictures in the story).  Read the story and talk about a few pictures in the story.

The second time you read, talk about the pictures and see if your child remembers a new vocabulary word they may have heard the first time you read the book.  To do this, point to the object and ask if they know what it is.  Then talk about something else in the story that would help your child learn about the world we live in.

The third time, bring your child's attention to something different in the story.  You can even tie in math with counting things on the page...maybe there are apples on a tree.  You can talk about apples: their colors, where they grow, that it is a fruit, you can count them on the tree, or maybe even give your child an apple as a snack after the book.

Have fun with the story...play with your voice too.  This can make the reading more interesting and fun for your child.  This is the perfect time to be silly and really engage with your child.  Let you inner child out!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Word Wall Words: Using Rhythm, Rhyme & Songs

As you can see the recent posts have focused around word wall or sight word learning activities.  Here is another one that I like to use.  Some children respond well to rhythm and rhyme or songs.  So, whenever possible I try to have some fun with a word using rhythm, rhyme and songs.  My littlest one just turned three and she is up to five sight words that she knows pretty well is recognizing them in emergent reader books.  This method works well with her since she loves singing.  These methods also worked well in the classroom.  Again, I am trying to reach different learning styles with the different activities I use to teach sight words.

my....m-y spells my , m-y spells my, m-y spells my, my my my
can...c-a-nnnnn, can , c-a-nnnnn, can, c-a-nnnnn, can, can can can
stop...s-t-o-p, stop, the hold our hands up to say stop. repeat
see... s-e-e, see (hold our hands like we are looking through them, repeat.

To practice the words, we sing them in the car, during breakfast, whenever she see the word cards on our refrigerator she reads them.  The words cards are ones you can buy on amazon or other stores. You can even make them at home using the dolch list.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Word Wall Activity: Magnetic Letters

One way to help children learn to read and spell words it to manipulate the letters to make the words.  This can be done with magnetic letters on a metal file cabinet, on cookie sheets, or at home on the refrigerator.


1.  Give the child cards with the words you want them to learn.
2.  Ask the child to say the word first.
3.  Next, have the child use the magnetic letters to spell the word.
4.  Then ask the child to say the letters that spelled the word, then read the world.
5.  You may also ask the child to write the words on their own cards to read later.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Word Wall Aerobics

Science shows that most children learn with movement,  moving the body stimulates the brain.  So, one of the activities I do with my students each week is word wall aerobics.  We always do the five words that are going to be added to the word wall and I let the students pick a few more.  You can also do this with spelling words for the week as a center activity once your children know the aerobics routine.

How do you do word wall aerobics:  
1.  Have everyone stand up to start.
2.  Look at the word and notice if it has tall letters (like t or l).  Tall letters are written from the top line to the bottom line.  For tall letters, you put your arms over your head and stretch your body reaching for the sky.
3.  Next look for short letters, letters that start at the dashed line on writing paper and go to the bottom line (like a or o).  For short letters you crouch your body down half way with your hands on your hips.
4.  Then look for letters that go into the basement (like g or y).  These letters go below the bottom line when you write them.  For basement letters, you crouch down with your hands on your hips and go down as low as you can go.

So, for the word "they":
Stand up tall with your arms over your head and say T
Stay up tall and move your arms down then back up and say H
Then crouch down half way with your hands on your hips and say E
Then crouch down all the way with your hands on your hips and say Y
Then pop back up to standing position and say "they"

The children love to do this and it helps them get their wiggles out too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Word Wall: It Starts with Names

You may have heard about having a word wall in your classroom or home.

What is a word wall?  A word wall is a area where you display words your children need to learn to read and use commonly in their writing.

Why should I have a word wall?  A word wall becomes a resource for your children when they are learning to read and write words that are used often.

What types of words do I put on my word wall?  At the beginning of the school year, I always start with the names of the student in my class.  This does a few things.  It helps the students to learn each others names as well as how to spell them when they are writing to or about their friends in their journals.  Then I add 3-5 words per week.  For kindergarten or special needs classes start with 3 words per week.  For grades 1-6 add 5 per week.  Choose words that are high frequency words from the dolch list or words that help your children with spelling patters they are learning, or vocabulary from their reading or content areas lessons.

Tomorrow we will add activities to do with your word wall.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The New School Year Has Started...Where do I begin?

One of the first things teachers in the primary grades can do to begin the school year is label the room.  Use your computer to generate labels for common classroom items, such as chalkboard, pencil sharpener, books, centers, art supplies, crayons, glue, etc.  When you label the items, you may also want to highlight the configuration of the letters.  Some children learn to read words on site with the help of the letter configuration.   This is when the teacher either draws around the letters or cuts around the letters to highlight tall letters and letters that go into the basement (or below the line).

Why should you do this....because for your youngest children, then begin to learn that those squiggly marks have meaning and eventually they will read those words.  For your readers, these words become are an added resource as they explore writing.

I always had a rule in my classroom that if the word was on our word wall or on one of the charts we are reading in class, then they must spell the word correctly when they wrote in their journals.  There would be many days that children would get up out of their seats and find the word they needed to spell, so you need to be open to an active classroom.

Some teachers may say that it will stop their flow of creativity.  I found that they only needed to get up a few times and they usually could recall how to spell it or they would look back in their journals to find the spelling.  The children were proud of their work and learned to spell high frequency words without too much trouble.

Welcome to Your Literacy Coach

I personally want to welcome you to "Your Literacy Coach", a blog to share with you literacy strategies, activities, book reviews, and assessments to help you develop stronger literacy skills to use in your classroom. I am a certified Reading Specialist who has taught K-4 in the elementary school, remedial reading and math, as well as teaching literacy and curriculum courses in the Education Department at the college level. I have worked with current teachers as well as pre-service teachers, mentoring them and helping them to build a strong literacy background. I welcome the opportunity to help you also broaden your literacy teaching skills and making a difference in your classroom as you try applying some of the literacy teaching practices you find her on my site.