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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fun Ways to Practice Writing Letters

Children need to enter kindergarten able to write their letters, or at least most of them.

Many parents teach their children to write their name in capital letters.  This is one of the hardest habits to break for little ones once they enter school and are expected to write their name the traditional way.

Teach your child to write their name with the first letter in uppercase and the remaining letters in lower case.  Also, make sure you teach your child how to write their full first name, not just a nickname.  This will help you child have an easier adjustment to kindergarten and teacher expectations. 

Your child will have an easier time learning to write if you teach the child to write from top to bottom as well.  This motions is less tiresome for little hands too.

Now...the fun ways to practice letter writing or name writing.

  1. Spread shaving cream on a cookie sheet and let them write the letters with their pointer finger.  Shaving cream is just soap, so your child will have clean hands when he or she done.  The cookie sheet cleans up easy too!
  2. Finger paint also works well, but a little messier.
  3. If you don't mind playing with food, pudding on a plate or cookie sheet work well.
  4. Writing on a dry erase board is also lots of fun for kids too.
The goal here is having fun while practicing writing and learning the letters of the alphabet.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Alphabet practice with Alpha-bits Cereal

    A fun activity to do with your preschooler is to buy Alpha-bits cereal and have them sort a handful of letters. 

    You will need to make is a chart that has one letter of the alphabet in each box.  You do this buy just drawing lines on a piece of paper to make the squares and write one letter in each square.  I like to write both the upper and lower case letter in each square and I place it in the corner of the square so the child can put the letters in the square and not cover up the written letters.  Once your paper is ready you can begin.

    First, give your child a small cup of Alphabits cereal. 

    Then, show your child that the cereal is made into letters.

    Then, ask your child to say the letter and show your child how to match the letters to the letters on the sheet. 

    Next, let them do one or two on their own while you watch.  Make sure they say the letter and put in in the correct box with the corresponding letter on their paper.

    Explain that some cereal pieces are broken and you can't see the letter so we put them to the side or eat them.

    When your child is done, check each box to see if they put the correct letters in the box, if not talk about the letter and show your child where it goes and let them place it in the correct square.

    After, eat the cereal as a snack.


    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Phonemic Awareness Activity: Zippity Do Da

    Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear sounds in words.


    A fun activity to do with children is to sing different versions of the Disney classic Zippity Do Da...however, you change the first letter using a letter (specifically a consonant, not a vowel) to make a silly song.

    I have my little one tell me a letter and I sing the silly version...then we end with "What sound did the "letter used" make?

    My child says "T"


    Tippity To Ta, Tippity Tay,
    My oh my what a wonderful day,
    Plenty of sunshine coming my way,
    Tippity To Ta, Tippity Tay.

    What sound does a "t" make?

    Then I ask for another letter

    My child says "P"

    Pippity Pop Pa, Pippity Pay,
    My oh my what a wonderful day,
    Plenty of sunshine coming my way,
    Pippity Poo Pa, Pippity Pay.

    What sound does a "p" make?

    We sing this in the car, at bed time, while going on the swing or almost anywhere.  My daughter loves to sing and singing silly songs make it even more fun.

    Give it a try...it may end up one of your child's favorite songs or activity...Remember its okay to be silly!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    More Great Books to teach Phonemic Awareness Using Rhythm and Rhyme

    Here are some books with rhythm and rhyme:

    Green Eggs and Ham
    Fox In Socks
    The Cat in the Hat
    Down by the Cool of the Pool
    Commotion in the Ocean
    Llama Llama Red Pajama
    Llama Llama Misses Mama
    Gobble Gobble Crash! A Barnyard Counting Bash
    Giraffes Can't Dance
    We're Going On A Bear Hunt
    Goodnight Moon
    The Lady with the Alligator Purse
    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
    Miss Mary Mack 
    Cock-A-Doodle-Do! Barnyard Hullabaloo
    Rumble in the Jungle
    K is for Kissing A Cool Kangaroo
    Silly Tilly
    The Grumpy Morning
    Mrs. Wishy-Washy's Farm
    Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin
    Henny Penny

    Phonemic Awareness: List of Books to Read With Your Child

    Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear sounds in words.  Children need to learn that words are made up of letters, of which each one has one or more sounds.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to isolate the sounds that make up a word.  Learning this skill prepares children to read and write.

    What can parents do at home? Read books with rhythm and rhyme.  Children love these books too because they are playful and sometimes silly.  Below is a list of books that are great for building phonemic awareness from site: Readingtarget.com


    Pass the Peas, Please by Dina Anastasio
    Which Witch is Which? by Judi Barrett
    My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch by Graeme Base
    How Big is a Pig? by Clare Beaton
    Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

    Tiny Tim Collection by Jill Bennett
    Honk! Toot! Beep! by Samantha Berger
    Nana's Hog by Larry Dane Brimner
    I Love You, Good Night by Jon Buller
    Altoona Baboona by Janie Bynum

    Mrs. McTats and her Houseful of Cats by Alyssa Capucilli
    I Saw the Sea and the Sea Saw Me by Megan Montague Cash
    Who is Tapping at my Window? by Alhambra Deming
    Sing a Song of Popcorn by Beatrice deRegniers
    A Dragon in a Wagon by Lynley Dodd

    Casey Jones by Allan Drummond
    Rub a Dub Dub by Kin Eagle
    Top Cat by Lois Ehlert
    10 in a Bed by Anne Geddes
    Stop that Noise! by Paul Geraghty

    Mole in a Hole by Rita Golden
    Six Sleepy Sheep by Jeffie Gordon
    Skunks by David Greenberg
    Nora's Room by Jessica Harper
    A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hobermann

    Scat Cats by Joan Holub
    Surprises Collection by Lee Bennett Hopkins
    Miss Spider Series by David Kirk
    Bus Stop, Bus Go! by Daniel Kirk
    I Can Fly and The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss

    A Frog Went a Courtin' by John Langstaff
    When the Dark Comes Dancing by Nancy Larrick
    Chugga-chugga Choo-choo by Kevin Lewis
    Mice Twice by Joseph Low
    Nathaniel Willy Scared Silly by Judith Mathews

    A Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
    Messy Bessy by Pat McKissack
    The Cat Barked by Lydia Monks
    Dinosaur Chase by Carolyn Otto
    The Helen Oxenbury Nursey Story Book by Helen Oxenbury

    Pickles in My Soup by Mary Pearson
    Splat! by Mary Margaret Perez-Mercado
    Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky
    There Was an Old Witch by Howard Reeves
    The Best Storybook Ever by Richard Scarry

    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    A Giraffe and a Half and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    The Three Wishes by Judith Stamper
    I Love Trains by Philemon Sturges
    Green Eggs and Ham and Cat in a Hat by Dr. Suess

    Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash by Sarah Weeks
    Finders Keepers by Will and Nicolas
    Dumpy LaRue by Elizabeth Winthrop
    Clara Ann Cookie, Go To Bed by Harriet Ziefert

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Books for Teens and Tweens: Scholastic.com suggestions

    Popular Series for Teens and Tweens


    Whether your child's a hipster, dreamer, or history buff, these popular boredom busters offer plenty of appeal.

    Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Explore freshman year's heartbreaks and horrors with the witty and wonderful Alice.

    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
    Your dreamer will find plenty of "scope for her imagination" in this historical Canadian series.

    Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    As the last in a line of criminal masterminds, a 12-year-old boy-genius plans to build his family fortune by holding a fairy for ransom.

    The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland
    Live the legend with these captivating medieval tales.

    The Bluford Series by Anne Schraff and Paul Langan
    Follow the lives of the Bluford High students as they suffer growing pains of life in an inner city in school and at home.
    The Brian Books by Gary Paulsen
    Dive into gripping survival stories about a teen in the Canadian wilderness.

    Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
    Adventure, enchantment, and an epic quest make these good-versus-evil tales tough to put down.

    Dear America by various authors
    Step into the lives of kids throughout history in this award-winning journal series.

    His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
    An unforgettable trilogy about children who cross worlds to fulfill their destinies.

    The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    These long-heralded classics are newly hip with the release of the blockbuster movies.

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
    The son of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, battles monsters and other fields from mythology in modern-day Manhattan.

    The Pigman Books by Paul Zindel
    Two teens meet a strange local man and get much more than they bargained for.

    The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
    Devour these funny diaries about a New York teen who has to learn to get control of her hair, her crushes, and an entire country!

    The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
    Battles between good and evil abound in these thrilling stories starring animals.

    Sammy Keyes by Wendelin Van Draanen
    Move over Nancy Drew — there's a new no-nonsense girl detective who stumbles onto mysteries that she never fails to solve.
    A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
    Has your child outgrown "happily ever after?" Give her a taste of these gothic parodies where "nothing good ever happens!"
    The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
    Descendants of the Brothers Grimm, Sabrina and Daphne, learn learn their ancestors' fairy tales are case files of magical events.

    The Tillerman Family Cycle by Cynthia Voigt
    Eloquent stories about a family struggling to survive the world — and each other.

    The Time Quartet by Madeline L'Engle
    Sci-fi at its best with these award-winning books about an extraordinary family.

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Books by L. Frank Baum
    Go over the rainbow for these continuing tales from Oz.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Getting Teens and Tweens to Read By Eleanor Wolf

    Here is a great article to help you with your teens and tweens.  Keeping them reading can be a challenge.  I'm not quite sure why some children love to read when they learn, but lose the passion in the tweens or teens.  Hope this gives you some good ideas to keep your child reading.

     Getting Teens and Tweens to Read 


     By Eleanor Wolf

    Any child who can read and chooses not to is at a serious disadvantage. My grandmother was right when she said, “Reading is good for you. People who read know more.”


    Stephen Krashen, author of The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research, supports Grandmother. According to Krashen, research shows that voluntary free reading has more power in teaching language skills than direct school instruction. Required school reading is not the same as choosing a book of your own to read for fun. Children who are hooked on books have better vocabularies. Even comic books use more advanced words than most television shows. Since reading challenges memory and imagination, habitual readers develop better thinking skills.

    The good news is more Americans can read than ever before in the history of the United States. The bad news is, they just don’t read as much as they used to. This is ironic since there is an increased demand for literacy in even the most routine jobs. Krashen says, “We have taught our children how to read but have forgotten to teach them to want to read.”

    Reluctant Readers
    Aliterates, who say reading is boring, have not found the right books. The “you can’t make me read” aliterate teens in my acquaintance have recently discovered and devoured Christopher Poalini’s book Eragon. They now eagerly await the publication of the sequel and, while waiting, have actually begun opening other books.
    Harry Potter has taught us that the right books attract readers, young and old. Marc, an Hispanic sixth grader I know, told me he has read all the Harry Potter books twice. What Marc doesn’t realize is that his love of reading improves his English grammar without any conscious effort on his part.
    The more children read, the better readers they become and the more they enjoy it. Reading magazines, newspapers, comic books, graphic novels, and teen romances leads to other more difficult reading. If you’re not sure what to recommend to your reluctant reader, consult a librarian. They’re experts at helping kids find the right book, be it sci-fi, adventure, or fantasy.

    The “Three Bs” of Reading
    Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, offers the three Bs as a way to encourage the reading habit:

    Book ownership. There is something special about owning a copy of a favorite book, reading it over and over, and not having to share it. Megabookstores and your neighborhood bookshop have staff who will gladly help parents find the perfect book for a birthday gift.

    Book rack. Trelease says magazines on a book rack in the bathroom encourage the whole family to read.

    Bed lamp. If a child is big enough to have a real bed, they are big enough to read in bed.

    Parents, Foster the Reading Habit by:

    Providing reading materials. A home with books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers is essential because when there are things to read, more reading is done. Teens who always have a paperback in their backpack probably grew up in a house filled with reading materials.

    Reading yourselves. Parents will make their children readers by showing them, not by telling them. If kids see their parents making time to read books, magazines, and newspapers, they can see it is something adults do for enjoyment. Parents who have gotten out of the habit will find it is fun to read again.
    Allowing children to read in bed. Bed is a nice quiet comfortable place to read. My mother allowed us to stay up a half hour past bedtime if we were reading.

    Getting a library card for everyone. In regular unhurried visits, parents can teach their kids how to use the library, look up references and find their own books.

    Being a book buddy. Oprah has taught us that one of the best parts of reading is sharing books. Parents who read and discuss books recommended by their teen show the teens that their opinions matter.

    Reading aloud. Even teens like to hear an article from the paper or a funny story their parent liked. Trelease says, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

    Listening to books on tape. A good book can be savored and debated on a car trip or at home. Our family just enjoyed a riveting mystery while putting a fresh coat of paint on the bedroom walls.
    Reading for fun does not guarantee a child’s entrance into Stanford University. However, reading, being read to, having books around, seeing parents reading for fun, and talking about what has been read will, as Grandmother promised, make children smarter. So, read, read, read!

    As Director of a Teen Parent Program, Eleanor Wolf has taught and worked with teenagers, their babies, and their parents for over fifteen years. She has raised two children of her own and is a freelance writer and a professional speaker. She would enjoy hearing from you at ruppwolf@pacbell.net.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Teaching Resources...www.lauracandler.com

    Here is a link to a wonderful teachers resource.  I had the pleasure to meet Laura recently and she shared her wonderful site with me and I encourage you to check it out.  There are some great resources for teachers, homeschoolers, and parents.

    Here is the link to Laura's File Cabinet of free resourses:

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Finding the Right Books...Helping Children Enjoy Reading

    Some children love to read and don't need a lot of prodding and some children choose other activities when they have free time.  For your child to succeed in school and later in college, they need to develop strong reading skills.  So, how do I get my child interested in reading?


    First, just like other activities your child chooses, you need to find books that interest your child.  Does your child love science, motorcycles, or is he or she a blossoming artist.  Try to find books that interest your child.  This may take time, so don't give up.

    Often when you find a book your child likes, there may be others in the series or ask the librarian for other books that are similar.  In time, your child will start broadening their interests and expand the type of books he or she will read.

    What is most important?  The most important time your child can spend is reading.

    Encourage your child to read daily for at least 15 minutes a day.  I have a saying, "Fifteen minutes a day and then you can play!"  This will help your child continue to maintain their current reading skills and build on the new reading skills they are learning.

    When the child is a solid reader, they are still learning.  Your child will go from learning to read, to reading to learn.  They will learn more about the world they live in and learn new vocabulary as well.

    Remember to continue reading to your children even when they can read on their own!

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Caldecott Medal Honor Book Review: What Do You Do With A Tail Like This

    What Do You Do with A Tail Like This by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page is a wonderful non-fiction book about animals that focuses on the special job of the animal's nose, ears, tail, eyes, mouth and feet.  The story encourages prediction and encourages children to listen to find out more about the partial pictures they see. 


    This is also a Caldecott Medal Winner which honors artists of children's books.  The medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

    Click here for more Caldecott Medal Books.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Visiting the Public Library

    Many of us forget how easy it is to get FREE books to read to our children...

    All it takes is a visit to your local library.  Many libraries even hold literacy events or story hours for families.  Taking a trip to the local library can be an enjoyable time for children of all ages.  Not only do libraries have a large selection of books, but also DVDs and CDs as well.  They also have computers for you and your family to use to seach information and play educational games too.

    Make it a habit.  Each week or every two weeks, pencil a visit to the library in on your calendar.  Doing this will make it a priority and you will try to schedule around it once you see how much your children enjoy the visit.

    How to make it a successful trip...Here are a few tips:

    1.  Bring a bag to take home your books.  Choose a bag your child will recognize as the library book bag.  It will help you to stay organized as well.  I usually keep the the list of books I checked out of the library in this bag to help me know which books we need to return or you may want to post the book list on the refrigerator to remind you to return the books.

    2.  At the library, be open to all kinds of books.  Let your children lead this journey.

    3.  Read a few books at the library!  Still take them home if they are ones your child enjoys.

    4.  Return your books on time to avoid fines.  That is why I like to schedule it on my calendar...then we get new books as well.

    5.  Watch for interesting events at your library.  Sometimes there will be storytellers or authors.  These are usually free events for the public to enjoy.

    Most of all...Read to your children of all ages, even when they can read themselves!