Phonemic Awareness Phonological awareness and more

Thursday, January 21, 2021
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes.  A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound we hear in a word. 

Phonological awareness is under this umbrella ( includes this ) as well as the ability to hear and manipulate larger units of sounds like onset and rimes as well as syllables.

Here is a breakdown of the units of sounds within a word - organized from the largest to the smallest unit of sound.

*  syllables
* onset
* rime
* phonemes

There are actually 44 phonemes in the English language that includes combinations of letters such as /th/.

It's important to know the differences between the two and how they impact instruction in small groups and the way students learn.

Once phonics is introduced it's no longer just about the sounds.  
At that point we are working on a relationship between letters and sounds.  This involves not just listening to the sounds but looking at print too.  I like to say once pictures/letters are introduced it become phonics.  A student on their way to phonemic awareness mastery  can segment a word, spell a word, blend the sounds, read the word.  Additionally if they can change the /p/ in pen to a /t/, they can make a new word ~ ten.  Phonemic awareness training provides students with the necessary skills to read and spell words when they see these sounds in print.   

Jen Jones says it best, Phonological and phonemic awareness can be done in the dark.  Meaning the focus is on sounds, not print.

Many studies have been done on this topic and research shows that if a student lacks phonemic awareness, or the ability to segment and manipulate individual phonemes, that child will not be able to or severely struggle with connecting those sounds to written letters.  That is where the encoding piece comes in.  

In a  book written by David and Meredith Liben this statement is made, " It is NOT an option to skip or short change phonemic awareness!  Children without mastery of it will inevitably struggle."  
I've seen it way too many times in my career and it's very true.  Kids need explicit phonemic awareness instruction in small groups.  The pit many students fall into without it is a feeling that they have to memorize words and they end up seeing words as whole units instead of phonemes that can be broken down, blended, segmented and manipulated.

Phonological awareness is so important because kids need to manipulate and work with sounds.  They need to realize that listening for the sounds and changing a phoneme can create brand new words.  

Here are some simple ways to incorporate phonological awareness and phonics into your small group time.

One way is to work with elkonin boxes.  These are the perfect way to focus on one phoneme at a time.  These help kids build phonological awareness skills by segmenting words into individual sounds.  
The beauty with these is you can make or create your own, you don't need to invest in any expensive kits to do this.  You can turn a white board or white construction paper into elkonin boxes easily with painters tape or washi tape.  Create 3 boxes to start with, you can  even use sticky notes to show your students how you can easily change out letters/sounds to create new words.
elkonin box ideas

Another way you can incorporate a fun lesson with sound boxes or elkonin boxes is using a magnetic wand from amazon with magnetic chips.  Show an image and have your student say the word aloud.  Then, have them push a chip up into each box as they saw each sound when all chips are pushed up have them blend the entire word and swipe their magnetic wand across the boxes to say the word blended.  They LOVE this hands on activity!

elkonin boxes with magnetic wands

Your students will say the word and push a disc up for each sound.  They will say 
/h/ /a/ /t/ and push up the disc for each sound then they will blend the entire word and say /hat/ while swiping the wand across and picking up all the discs at once.

elkonin boxes

elkonin boxes with magnetic wands

If you are interested you can grab a magnetic wand and disc set here.
affiliate link

Another idea is to :
* sort objects/pictures by initial sounds
* highlighting initial sounds
* give students a hand clapper and have them clap the sounds they hear in syllables of a word.  

You can find these here.
affiliate link

Another fun idea is PHONEME JUMPING:
Laminate colored cards, lay them on the ground.  Have students jump to the next color as they say the sound in a word.  They love this!
I hope I've given you some ideas to get started to help meet the needs of your early readers.  If you have some fun, engaging ideas share them below or start a conversation on one of my social media pages.

Happy Teaching,

The Snowy Day Activities for home or school

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
The Snowy Day is such a fun, sweet perfect picture book for a read aloud in the Winter.
There are endless ideas you can use with this delightful story! ❄☃❆❅

The Snowy Day activities

Depending on the age:  Here is a breakdown of ideas you can use for a sensory bin:

* use pictures in your sensory bin for preschoolers and kindergartners.  Kids love seeing their pictures and pictures of their friends or at home - they will love picking out family members and saying their names!  ** BE sure to SUPERVISE toddlers or only use items in the sensory bin that can not be choked on etc. **

Another idea:  Use as a Sunday School teacher - you could put Bible characters in the bin and have kids recognize them.

* use numbers / letters for your early TK - Kinder learners.  This will help them recognize important symbols to help them learn.

* use sight words for K/1 kiddos - have them practice their sight words and build recognition and fluency.

sensory bin ideas The Snowy Day

As you can see on the top picture with the purple sensory bin, I added some clipart to the tongs.  It just makes it more thematic and cute - I told the kids Peter ( from the story ) was helping them with the sensory bin.

***NOTE*** be sure to include tongs in your bin to assist in building their fine motor skills with any of the ages above.  Even first graders sometimes have trouble with the basic pencil grip so this can still be beneficial.

sensory bin idea

SHAVING cream is so much fun as well for your young ones!  The tactile experience is just too good to pass up.  They will be thrilled to touch, squeeze and have the cream ooze between their fingers.  Put it on top of a wintery picture/placemat or again numbers and letters.  As they move the shaving cream around they can say the letters aloud.

hands on shaving cream idea for The Snowy Day

You can also find more ideas here:

The Snowy Day Ideas art and more

Also, I made a super fun, digital game that is based around The Snowy Day, it's very engaging and editable!  You can grab it here

The Snowy Day game

For this game, you hide Peter behind the snowball of your choice.  Kids either on ZOOM, on a device or a smartboard will say a word and click on it to see if Peter is behind it.  Keep playing until someone finds Peter.  You can change where you put him each time. 

I hope you have fun implementing some of these fun ideas...for more fun ideas tune in  each Wednesday with me here on the blog!


The Mitten activities

Friday, January 1, 2021
The Mitten is such a fun book to read in the Winter and there are so many fun, engaging activities that you can accompany this with...

The Mitten ideas and activities

There are so many FUN things you can do as an extension to the adorable story: The Mitten by Jan Brett.  I have included game ideas, sensory bin ideas, printables and more!

These ideas are geared mostly to your younger learners with tracing practice, pin art, letter/sounds, rhyming and sight word activities and more. 

To  meet the all important fine motor skill needs of your students I've included a sensory bin with tongs as a pincher, as well as tracing pages which students love doing.  

To make the sensory bin even more challenging you can have your students wear mittens 
( or gloves ) while using the tongs to pick up the letter/word cards.

The mitten fine  motor skill activities

The Mitten story response pages

The Mitten craft and game ideas

The extension ideas to go along with this fun book are endless, you can spend a week or more on activities to go along with this cute story.

I've even included a snack idea that you can  do with it.  When I taught preschool and a kindergarten summer school class they loved snacks!  I tried to include them often but just kept aware of any allergies in my classes.

The Mitten Snack Idea

There are also story sequencing pages, printable little puppets and more, I hope you can incoporate this fun packet into your winter this year ~~ your students would love it!

Grab it here!

Happy Teaching friends...stay healthy~


Eat a Book | Book Tastings

Sunday, December 20, 2020
Back in the day....waayyy back circa 2003ish we would do rotations among our first grade team that we called EAT A BOOK.  Sounds a little crazy right!?!?  Well think of today's version of book tastings and it's kinda similar but with a twist.  Who knew we pioneered this idea back in the day. 😜  Well I think the book tastings that are done today are more in depth and done in one classroom ~ think of ours like a speed dating version of one. 😂

book tasting ideas

We would decide which teacher would take which story at one of our grade level meetings   ( before we called them PLC's ) and then we would plan a snack and activity based on the story.  We would read the story x amount of times ( let's say we had 5 first grade classes ) so 5 times and prepare enough snacks and activities for 5 classes to rotate through our room.

At the end of the day our students would be exposed to some awesome children's books and have a full tummy and fun memories. ** FYI:  I do remember we did account for allergies as needed and made adjustments for those kids. **

Here are some of the fun snacks and ideas we had over the years and I've added some that I thought of more recently too:

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:  do a circle story activity and eat  small bite sized chocolate chip cookies

Blueberries for Sal:  eat some blueberries and work on the reflection page.

If you Give a Pig a Pancake:  eat tiny pancakes - can provide whip cream if you like 

Dog a Donut - mini donuts

The Doorbell Rang ~ chocolate chip cookies

 If you Give a Moose a Muffin ~ mini muffins

 Chocolatina ~ Hershey Kisses 

The Carrot Seed ~ mini carrot sticks

 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ~ mini meatballs or any item from the story ~ lots of options with this story of course.

 Bread and Jam for Frances – toast or bread and jam , melba toast pieces if that makes it easier.

The Giving Tree ~ apple slices 

Piggy Pie – mini hot dogs

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – anything from the story 

Pancakes, Pancakes – pancakes of course

The Rainbow Fish - Goldfish crackers

We had just enough time to read the story /discuss and eat a snack, I think we also sent home a little something to go with our session, a bookmark, or quick art project/activity we were able to squeeze in as well.

If you want to try this version of a book tasting you can find out more here.

book tasting activities pack

Enjoy ~ I hope you are able to incorporate this idea!

Sight Word Games and Activities for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
The holidays are just around the corner and I've been teaching virtually since March.  Whether you are virtual or in person I have a few games that will keep your students engaged and asking for more when it comes to practicing sight words. 

holiday games and activities to use with sight words

No more BORING flash cards....ugh!  We live in a day and age of BOOM Cards, Interactive Google Slides and even good old fashioned games from when I was a kid.

We have played plenty of online digital games regarding building our sight word fluency and recognition.  In fact, here are few you might love:

digital sight word game

I have several more like this in my store:  some google slide activities, some powerpoint games and more.

But tomorrow we are going OLD SCHOOL and playing a matching game under the doc cam.  I also updated my December sensory bin so next week we will be Digging for Sight Words.  Kids are looking forward to Winter Break and I want to keep them  engaged up until the last day/minute/second.  Let's be honest, most of the kids I service are at least a year behind grade level ( especially with COVID and not having the support of in person learning ) so...if I can keep them learning ( and sneaking in fun ) up until  the final hour...well sign me up!

Here are some pics of our activites we will  be doing:

A matching game can EASILY be played under your doc cam if you are virtual or in person ( maybe save for later if you are in person - due to 6 ft restrictions and not sitting together at the reading table etc. )

Sight Word Matching Game

How it looks on ZOOM to my students:

sight word matching game

I hope these are just some reminders that you aren't as limited as you think  when it comes to virtual teaching!  There's A LOT you can still do that you did in the classroom - just transfer it to ZOOM.  The kids will respond the same and still enjoy it and ask to play again and again!

Another activity that I have found great success with on line is a sensory bin...YEP you heard me right - don't look at me funny! 😜
You can put the sensory bin under the doc cam and pick words out and call on kids to say them aloud or say them together as they are pulled.  Of course it doesn't have the same effect, but they still get a kick out of it and I think it makes them feel a little 'normal' since they are familiar with sensory bins.

Holiday sight word sensory bin

TEACHER HACK:  If you can't find any cute tongs ~ like the ones I have been trying to find at HOBBY LOBBY that look like cute can  tape an image on them (  like the reindeer clipart below ) I also have a winter kid taped on one from last year with my snowflake sensory bin.

Christmas Sensory Bin

If you want ideas on what you can fill your sensory bins with - I have an entire blog post dedicated to that here to get your creative juices flowing.

Thank you sign for Delivery Drivers

Monday, December 7, 2020
COVID has made our year anything but normal, I think we can all agree on that.  One thing I have done more of this year for sure is online shopping! 🛒🛍
 I have to admit, although I miss the massive Christmas trees filling the malls and the sounds of Christmas music blaring through the speakers 🎄🎅 - I have enjoyed the quietness of perusing online shops from behind my computer screen. 💻

Delivery Driver thank you note for porch

The hustle and bustle of dodging crowds and looking for the all elusive parking spot has been replaced with a blanket across my legs and scrolling through online shops in the warmth of my own home.  🏡

With that being said, I wanted to be sure and thank the delivery drivers bringing me all the goods.  Usually while shopping during the holiday season I make sure to STOP , look the cashier in the eye and with a warm smile thank them for helping me.  I get it, they're tired - working long shifts with some  ( not so nice customers ) at times.  😴🛌

I spent most of my life prior to teaching in the pool - competing, lifeguarding,  teaching swim lessons...however, I did spend a year in retail while I was getting my teaching credential.  Let's just say I didn't love it. 👎

Since, I'm unable to give a smile and some kind words to the hard working retail employees in our current state of lockdowns here in So. Cal, I want to show my appreciation for the delivery drivers dropping off our packages.  🎁🎁

This of course is not a new idea, I've seen it on Pinterest for years and it always warmed my heart knowing this idea has gone viral.  We could all use a little more kindness and a little less harshness right!?!?

So, the idea behind this that ended up going viral a few years ago is to just show your appreciation by leaving some goodies, beverages and a note of appreciation.  If you've had the opportunity to see some of the video responses from the drivers they have been heart warming as well.  Some dancing, singing, thanking the home owners via Ring, it's been awesome!  It just shows what a small act of kindness can do to brighten someone's day! 🌞

delivery driver appreciation note

If you'd like a copy of a note to leave with your goodie basket - you can grab it here.

delivery driver thank you note

If you end up using this, take a picture and share the love so others will join in and bless our hard working drivers.  

Be blessed my friends,

Holiday Ideas for the Classroom

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

holiday ideas for the classroom

Happy hump day friends.... welcome to another edition of...

The holidays are such a magical time of year.  Even if our holiday celebrations look different within our classroom there's no denying the whismy of the bright lights on people's homes and the songs we hear.  For some reason, the month of December has phenomenal feeling about it.

Addressing holidays around the world and offering a special share time for your students in December has always been a highlight.  I love hearing how different students celebrate the holidays and what their family traditions are within their home.  It's always so enlightening to hear and ask about how student's celebrate and what they celebrate.  

One of our favorite crafts in December is my snowman holiday countdown.  I love it because it lends itself to celebrating any holiday or just the countdown to winter break.  Kids love holidays and a break from school usually so why not count down each day?!

You can find this adorable countdown here.

countdown to christmas craft

Another favorite in this month is an extension from a classic folktale:  The Gingerbread Man.  Encouraging retelling of the story is easy with these engaging crafts.  The kids run home to 'retell' the story to their family/loved ones.  

You can grab this fun pack here.

Gingerbread Man Unit

Also, I have a separate retell craft that is fun for kiddos to use as a retell as well, this one only has pictures rather than a space for writing so it's perfect for TK and Kindergarten.

This sweet retell craft is available here.

The Gingerbread Man retell craft

Another favorite for the holidays is reading The Snowy Day - you can culminate the unit by having a snowball fight with plush snowballs.  I got mine at The Dollar Spot at Target.

If you are interested in this fun SNOWY DAY pack - grab it here.

The Snowy Day craft and ideas

I also like to keep their behavior in check during the month of December ~~ there is always such excitement for the upcoming holidays/vacation.  This has been super helpful for that.  Grab a seasonal chair back cover at the Dollar Tree, Santa hat is perfect for December.  Move it around all day for kids that are on task, engaged, being extra kind, etc.  At the end of the day whoever still has it on the back of their chair gets a ticket, prize, etc.  They LOVE this and if I forget to move it they tell me. LOL

Classroom behavior hack

This is just a sweet gift I love to give my students.  It's truly the gift of love and appreciation.  Your class is an extension of your family and I promise they feel the same way about you.  This is just a sweet way to let them know you love them and it won't cost you a thing..even better right!?!?!

Classroom community in December

I hope you can use some of these ideas either this month or stash them away for upcoming years.  Bookmark this page and you'll always be able to find this post when you need it.  Take care, stay healthy and....

happy teaching!