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

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Letters pudding = Letter Writing

A fun way to practice writing letters is to make some pudding.  Put the cooled pudding in a ziplock bag and then put it in a second ziplock bag to prevent leakage.  Show your children how they can use the bag to practice writing letters.  

This is great for kids who have tough control with a pencil.  They use their finger to write the letters.  It's helpful to show the child how to write the letter first, then let the child try.  

Stay with your child so you can keep modeling to encourage correct letter formation.  Remember it is best to start from the top of the letter to the bottom of the letter.

Children often want to start at the bottom to write the letter, but this actually takes more energy than writing from the top to bottom on the paper.  

Also encourage writing from left to write when the child makes letters that go across the paper like the letter "E". 

This activity can also be done with children's paint in a ziplock bag or you can use shaving cream on a cookie sheet.  These are all tactile ways to practice making letters.  

Don't worry about writing correctly on lines until until Kindergarten/First Grade . It takes a lot of fine motor control to be able to write on lines with control and correct letter formation.

What Does Invented Spelling Look Like?

What is invented spelling?  

Invented spelling is an attempted spelling of words using the   sounds the child hears in a word.

How do I teach my child to write using invented spelling?

Ask your child to say the word slowly, like the word is being put through a stretching machine.  You may need to stretch the word out for your child at first.  Eventually they will learn to do this through practice. As you stretch the word, saying the sounds slowly...Ask your child to write what letter he or she hears.  Then the next letter or letters.  Keep doing this until the end of the word.  It's okay if they don't hear all the sounds.  This is developmental and will progress with time and practice. 

When children begin to use invented spelling, they will often start with just the first letter focusing on the beginning sound.  For the word cat...the child may write "c".

Then they will often hear the last letter.  In the example above, look at the word bear..."br". 

As a child's understanding of sounds and letter patterns you will begin to see vowels and consonants in the middle.  Sometimes the child will write the correct letters and sometimes other letters that sound similar to the child.  

Above, look at the word brother...the child hear "bro...v...er".  The child is confusing the "v" with "th" because the child doesn't understand how the "th" blend together.

It is important to encourage any attempts at spelling a word.  The child is demonstrating that they understand that words are made up of sounds and trying to write the word using the sounds they hear.  

As the child learns more about sounds and letter patterns, the child's spelling will gradually migrate closer to conventional spelling or correct spelling. 

Remember the goal is to encourage your child to write.  This will further their understanding of letters, sounds, words and language.  Have fun with it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Best Guess or Invented Spelling Using Fun Shaped Thick Crayons


Getting children to enjoy writing and sharing their ideas first begins with building a love for writing. 

To help your child develop this love and build their fine motor skills, encourage your child to draw pictures of things they enjoy.  This can be their family, favorite animals or places, or anything the child wants to share.  

The above crayons are chunky and fun.  They are easy to hold which makes little ones enjoy writing or drawing even more.  You can also use the thick toddler crayons you find at your local store. 

When your child draws a picture, ask him to tell you about the picture.  If your child is learning or knows letter sounds, encourage the child to listen to the beginning sound of the word that they drew on the paper.

For example, if the picture is of a flower.  Ask the child what letter does flower begin with.  You may need to say the word slowly and stress the beginning sound.  In flower, you would slowly say the "f" sound as you say the word.  Then encourage your child to write the letter "f" on the paper.  

You can help your child spell flower using "best guess or invented spelling" by saying the word slowly and asking the child what sounds they hear and then encourage them to write the letters for those sounds.  

Your child's version will not always have the correct letters.  That is OK!!!  The goal hear is to start writing ideas.  Later, with practice the child will get closer and closer to convention spelling.  

To see your child's progress, date the drawings and compare the words they write over the next few months.  

***Most importantly encourage anything your child writes, even if it is just scribbles.  Scribbling is the first stage of writing.  It shows that your child understands that the black squiggly lines on paper are words and have meaning.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blog: Fun Hand and Print Art with Poems / Songs too



Here is a great site with fun ideas on how to use a child's hand or footprint to make art.  There are ways to make animals, plants, and other memorable gifts.  The site also has poems to go along with some of them to tie in literacy.  Your child's art will be fun to display and use as a source of fun reading practice too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Building Words with Bottle Cap Magnets

Here is a fun summer project to do with the kids that will reinforce reading.  Use the directions from Family Fun Magazine to make magnets, however, add letters to the inside so your child can build words.  

Preschoolers can practice learning the letters and spelling their names and some other simple words like cat, dog, mom, dad, and beginner preprimer sight words such as: can, like, and other preprimer words on the Dolch List.  Click on the word Dolch List and it will take you to a listing of all the most frequent words children learn as beginning readers.  

Older children can practice higher level words on the Dolch list as well as build word families.  Common words families include: -an, -ad, ed,-en, -it, -in, -op, -ot, -un.  For a full list click on : Word Family Lists

The goal is for the kids to have fun with making the words!

Keep It Under Your Cap...by Family Fun Magazine


 From FamilyFun Magazine
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Total Time Needed:
1-2 Hours
Think small! These tiny, jewel-like bottle-cap magnets will look fabulous on your fridge door.
  • Paper
  • Clear packing tape
  • Quarter
  • Tacky glue
  • Bottle cap
  • Sequins, rhinestones, beads, googly eyes, and other small decorations
  • Clear sealant
  • Hot glue
  • 1/2-inch-wide magnet
  1. Start by choosing a piece of paper for the collage base. Cover both sides of the paper with clear packing tape (the liquid sealant you'll use later might discolor it otherwise). Using a quarter as a template, cut a circle from the covered paper and use tacky glue to affix it to the inside of a bottle cap.
  2. Now, add sequins, rhinestones, beads, googly eyes — anything that's fairly flat and small — with glue. Let the glue dry, then brush on a generous coat of clear sealant. (In our tests, DecoArt Triple Thick gave us the glossy finish we wanted.)
  3. When the sealant is dry, use hot glue to attach a strong 1/2-inch-wide magnet to the back of the cap.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Building Words and Phoneme Segmentation

If your child can identify the letters of the alphabet and state their corresponding sounds, you can then play with rhyming words.  When you child has a good grasp of rhyming and can give you a rhyming word for any words you give them, your child is ready to play with words in a new way.

***The new game involves segmenting words or breaking words into pieces.  With this exercise, you are segmenting the beginning sound from the remainder of the word.

For example, my word begins with b (say the b sound) and it ends with -ug when we put it together we have b-ug...bug.

If your child doesn't get it at first, don't worry, just keep trying stressing the beginning sound first then the word ending.

Word families are great for this exercise.  More examples include:

c and at ...cat
f and an...fan
b and all...ball
b and ed...bed
s and it...sit
p and in...pin

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stages of Reading: Memorization of books

Do your children ever pick up a book that you have read many times and read it like they know the words on the page.  Many say its just memorization...but that's one of the first steps of learning to read.  

Children need to learn that books and stories have a structure and that stories have a sequence of events.  They also have learned that pictures help tell the story and they use that knowledge later when they are reading and they get stuck on a word.  Children will often look at the picture to see if it gives them a clue as to what the unknown word is.  

So, next time your child is reading a book, praise them for doing a great job and you will be encouraging your child to keep picking up books...which are the key to learning!  

Watching you read is just as important, so make sure your children see you read the newspaper, magazines, and restaurant menus.  You are your child's first model, so model reading regularly!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Washington Learning Systems: Literacy Resources: Language is Key

Washington Learning Systems has more literacy resources available to teachers and parents.   Here is the link to Language is Key.  This video talks about language and its connection to learning to read and write. 

 Here is the link to the video: http://www.walearning.com/products/language-is-the-key/

Here is another link to more resources:
Washington Learning Systems: literacy resources

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preschool: A Child Become A Reader (Link and Printable Pdf booklet): Reading Readiness

Below is a link to a very good parent/teacher resource about preparing preschool children with the reading readiness skills needed to learn to read once they are in elementary school.  

The book is designed for children birth to preschool.  Below is a link to the information:


You can also find the actual printable PDF version of the book at:


(Look under 2006 for "A Child Becomes A Reader")

Monday, February 14, 2011

Preschool Language and Literacy: Video Link to How to Interactive Shared Reading


The Best Valentine's Day gift for your child is your time...spending 15-20 minutes a day reading with your child is a gift that will last a life time!  Here is another video to show you how to make story time more interactive with your child or class.  Reading to your child is great, but add in talking to your child during the reading of the story is even greater.  You are your child's first teacher...here are some tools to help you on your journey with your child.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Preschool Language and Literacy: Video Link to How to Teach Phonoglogical Awareness

Here is a link to video that teaches what phonological awareness is and how to teach it to your class or your own children. 


I encourage you to watch the video to learn how to help prepare your children for school so they can successfully learn to read once they get there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Learning Letters and Letter Sounds: Alphabet puzzles


Alphabet puzzles are a wonderful toy for children.  Be sure to buy one that has both upper case and lower case letters.  

This type of puzzle is a great one for an adult to do with the child.  

As your child picks up letters to place in the puzzle, talk about the letter and the picture that begins with the later.  Do this each time you do the puzzle together.  

Once your child can tell you almost all the letters, you can start focusing on the sound each letter makes.  Talk about the words that begin with that sound.  Both letters usually have a pictures of an object that begins with the letters sound.  Isolate the sound so your child can hear the letter sound, then say the objects name again.  

For example:  The pictures are of a wagon and watch.  Ask your child what the pictures are of where the W or w would go.  Then say the word wagon...then the "w" sound...ask your child to repeat the sound.  Then say the name of the object again...wagon or watch.  

Monday, January 31, 2011

February is Dental Health Month: Books to Read to Your Child

February is dental health month!  It's a great time to read books to your child about going to the dentist.  If your child has not been to the dentist, age 3 is a good time to start.  Find a family friendly or pediatric dentist.  They can make your child's dental experience a good one.

Here are some good books to read about dental health:

Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist

The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist




Saturday, January 22, 2011

More with Poems: Color Poems


Poems are fun to read with children.  Here are some color poems to read with your child.  You can even extend the activity by making your own or collecting things in your home that are the color of the poem. 

Point to the words as you read the poem.  By doing this you are modeling what is called "voice to print matching".  This shows your child that every time you move your finger to a new group of letters (actually a word) you say a word; when you are done saying that word you move your finger to a new word.  Children learn that the black squiggly lines, or letters, make up words you can read.

  Here is a poem about the color red:

Red is an apple 
Red is a rose 
Red is the color of 
My frozen, icy nose!

Here is one I wrote with my preschooler:

Red is a heart
Red is a strawberry
Red is the color of
the stop sign.

Here is another poem about the color blue:

Blue is the ocean
Blue are my eyes
Blue is the sky where
The lonely eagle flies.

Brown is the mud
Brown is the bear
Brown is the color
Of my brother's hair.
 (poem from: http://www.songs4teachers.com/colorpoems.htm )


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Phonemic Awareness: Using Songs... Apples and Bananas

Here is a fun song to sing with kids that allows children to play with sounds. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear sounds in words.  Teaching this can be tricky, but here is one fun song that can be used.  

I like to put the words on a chart so I can point to the words as we sing.  This helps children to learn that the letters on the paper make words that we can read or sing.  

It will also help your child learn common sight words they will later read in books.  In this song, the sight words include: I, like, to, and the word and.  

Sight words are words that are frequently found in books or text that children need to learn to read on sight.  They should not stop to sound out these words.  Here is a list of sight words your child will need to learn to read.

Apples and Bananas

This song is available, along with extension activities, is available on
Music Mania: A Complete Early Childhood Curriculum

 This traditional song is a classic for drawing children's attention to awareness.

I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas 
I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas 

I like to ate, ate, ate ay-ples and ba-nay-nays
I like to ate, ate, ate ay-ples and ba-nay-nays

I like to eat, eat, eat ee-ples and bee-nee-nees
I like to eat, eat, eat ee-ples and bee-nee-nees

I like to ite, ite, ite i-ples and by-ny-nys
I like to ite, ite, ite i-ples and by-ny-nys

I like to ote, ote, ote oh-ples and bo-no-nos
I like to ote, ote, ote oh-ples and bo-no-nos

I like to oot, oot, oot oo-ples and boo-noo-noos
I like to oot, oot, oot oo-ples and boo-noo-noos

Monday, January 10, 2011

Phonemic Awareness: Playing with Beginning Sounds

Learning to identify letters and their sounds is another step toward reading readiness.  Starting in preschool, children start to learn about letters and words.  As children begin to recognize the different letters of the alphabet, the next step is to teach your child the sound or sounds the each letter makes.

You don't have to think of teaching your child letter sounds as a job...it's more of an extended experience with books, pictures in books and other items in your home.

Here are some things you can do to help your child learn the sounds for each letter:

1.  Read ABC books together and talk about the pictures that begin with the same beginning sound.  Don't try to talk in detail about all 26 letters in one day.  Pick a few each time you read the story.  Remember it's a good thing to reread the same books to your child.  Talking about the pictures will also help build your child's vocabulary at the same time.

2.  Beginning Sound Game:  Talk to your child about things you see at the grocery store, while driving, or at a park.  After identifying an object, talk about the letter the item begins with and then say the beginning sound slowly with the rest of the word so you child can hear you isolate the sound for them.

For example: wagon....."w sound" then "agon", then put it together...wagon.

Ask what sound wagon begin with...after a while your child will try to imitate the sound.  If they don't know it, tell them and ask the child to say the sound.  Praise the child for the great job he or she is doing.  Make it a game and soon your child will ask you what sound does... begin with?

3.  Collect a basket or bowl of every day items around your home.  Play the beginning sound game with these items.  Then add to the bowl or basket more items that begin with the same sound so the child can match objects that begin with the same sound.  For example: a pen and a pencil, or a lollipop and a lemon

4.  I love the song from the dvd: Letter Factory by Leap Frog...
Children quickly learn the song and it helps them to remember the sounds of the letters.  Just remember the l doesn't say "ull" it says "l" and the r doesn't say "er" it say "r".  It also teaches the short vowel sounds, so later, once your child knows these sounds well, you can add the long vowel sounds.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Environmental Print...Beginning Stages of Reading

Has your child ever the seen the golden arches with the word McDonalds and said "McDonalds" or maybe the Walmart sign and said Walmart?  


Children learn to recognize and "read" signs they see everyday in their environment, called environmental print.  This is one of the beginning stages of reading.  Children begin to learn that the string of letters make up a word and the word they see they know from their life experience.

Encourage your child to read words that they know from day to day life.  Even cut these words out and put them on the refrigerator for them to practice reading.

When young children begin to see themselves as readers, they want to learn more about the black squiggly lines called letters and how when they are grouped together make words that adults read.

Children will become more observant about print they say and may begin asking you what the word says.  These are all great discussion to have about letters and how letters make up words.

Things to do with environmental print:
1.  Collect the words your child knows: cereal names, store names, candy bar names, etc.
2.  Place the words in a bag for your child to practice reading.
3.  Collect two of each word to match together or play memory with them where you glue the words on cards and turn them over and your child tries to flip two over at a time to see if they match.
4.  Have your child read environmental print when you are out running errands.  This will give them educational busy time during the drive.
5.  Write simple sentences using the enviromental print.  Ex.  I like __word__ . (Glue the environmental print on a card in the sentence.  Then help your child to read the simple sentences.  Point to each word as you read the sentence to help you child learn the concept of a word and how you say one word each time your move your finger.  This is called voice to print matching.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Best New Years Resolution...Reading to your Child

Happy New Year!  This is the time of year we make resolutions for the new year.  The best resolution you can have is to read to your child 15-20 minutes a day.  This includes your elementary aged children as well.  Just because your child can read does not mean you should stop reading to them.

Children should independently read books they enjoy at their reading level.  Here is a website with leveled reading lists:  http://home.comcast.net/~ngiansante/

You should read aloud books to your child that are higher than their reading level.  You can choose any books that interests your child or pick from from higher grade levels on the leveled reading list.  It is best to read books that are only two or three levels above your child's reading level to ensure your child is comprehending or understanding the story or text.

This does two things.  First, you are building your child's listening comprehension, this is their ability to listen and understand what they are hearing.  When your child's listening comprehension increases, so does the level of the books they can read on their own.  Reading to your child higher level books also builds your child's vocabulary and interests as well.

Strategies to Improve Elementary Listening Comprehension can be found at: