When God says No...

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Let's face it...we are wired from birth to despise the word NO.  Toddlers are the perfect example of this....that one word can turn a toddlers world upside down and ruin a young mom's day.   It's amazing how such a tiny little word can cause so much....pain, drama, sadness, anger, disappointment and discouragement.

Hearing no from God is hard....a closed door on a relationship, a closed door on a dream, a no to extending a love ones life even....it's harsh and can take years to recover from the pain involved.
I've heard no from God several times in my life...
I've fought back on some of those nos and I've leaned in on others. 
 The leaning in ones...well those are the ones that bring a real sweetness to your relationship with the Lord.  The ones that have thrown me into fits of denial and heartache well, those are the ones I fought Him on ultimately.

Leaning into the nos from the Lord - let's talk about that.  It's hard y'all!  Really hard!  
But, over the years in my walk with the Lord I've learned that there are hidden treasures & rewards in leaning into those and not fighting back.

Let's go way back....40 ish years or so...I know I'm aging myself a bit. 👵  I started swimming back then, I fell in love with the sport and I was well --- very good at it. 🏊 Coaches called me a natural on my first swim team..in fact the Southern California Coaches Association named me the Most Promising Up and Coming Swimmer at the ripe ol' age of 11.  A prestigious award that I remember not quite understanding the implications of at the time.  At age 12 I broke a record held by 5 time Olympian Dara Torres. 

early swim team days

Ha ~ didn't even have a cap on for that swim a thon.  That  must have been very early on like maybe a few months/weeks into swimming.

swim team early days

As time went on, I got better, more dedicated, more focused on this passion God had stirred within me.  He gave me this talent and I was using it to my full potential.  I swam before and after school, spent summers at the best training camps in the nation and had private stroke lessons by some of the best in the field both locally and nationally.

Doc Councilman swim camp

When I was in middle school I started receiving college interest letters and was competiting at the national level.  I had Seoul/Barcelona on my mind to be honest.  My swim journals are filled with words like: 
My Goal is Seoul, No Pain/No Gain, No Pain No Spain.  Swimming was my lifeline, my heart!

Guess what took 2nd ...yep...God.  Church was no longer a thing ( for my dad and I  ) as I had swim meets every weekend all over the state.  Mom stayed behind and took the rest of the family to church each week.  Prayers were conveniently lifted up just before I took the blocks before a race, and well...not too often after that.  At times late at night as I lay awake the Holy Spirit would convict me and stir my heart a bit and I would pray but my focus was all about swimming and not a whole lot else.

swim team

I swam and swam and swam.... I broke records, hit major milestones - qualifying for different levels of nationals and ranked high in my age group on many levels.  I missed football games, sleepovers and parties due to my swimming career.   But somehow it was always worth it to me.  

swim team

swim pic

Well let's take a peek at Christmas Break of 1986...I was 15 and was hoping to drop some time and qualify for senior nationals within the year.  I was training hard, in fact my coach at the time called Winter Break - Black Christmas.  He called it that for a few reasons - when we arrived at the pool in the am it was dark out and when we got out at night for our second workout of the day it was dark.  Not to mention the amount of yardage we put in was PAINFUL - therefore could be considered a bit dark. 😂

It was smack dab in the middle of that break and hard training that I got...sick.  My parents thought I had bronchitits.  I was barking like a seal in the middle of the night with coughing fits.  When I swam I felt like I had a piano on my back and couldn't get enough air.  It was strange - I had never felt uncomfortable in the water like this - I was certain I was 1/2 mermaid so this felt peculiar.

I took a day or so off ( which was very unusual as well ) and I wasn't getting better.  I remember at one practice in particular I pulled myself out of my lane and laid on the cold deck coughing uncontrollably.  My lungs had completely closed up and there didn't seem to be any air coming in at all.

We decided to visit a dr and take more time off which sent me into a panic as I knew a huge meet was coming up in January that I was training for...I couldn't afford to take time off. One doctor appointment led to another to another and I'll never forget ending up in South Torrance sitting across from a 'specialist' that had the gall to tell me that I wouldn't be able to swim to the caliber I was use to anymore.  Well, one thing you may not know about me - if you tell me I can't do something I push even harder to prove you wrong.  That didn't go so well for me this time around. 😢

They had run a battery of tests over a course of a few days, blood work, running around the building, up stairs, oxygen levels, breathing machines and in December of 1986 I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma.  
My first thought was how can someone GROW into asthma, how can a conditioned, regimented athlete have asthma, this can't be right!!!!

I was devastated, crushed, beyond hope...I was sad, angry....wrecked.  My mom told  me that for months after 'quitting' swimming she would hear me crying in the middle of the night in my room.  

I didn't know what to do with myself....I had SO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS.  I was use to a 5 am wake up call and swimming until 8 pm after school.  I submerged myself into a social life I hadn't had so much before, I got involved with ASB and clubs on campus and tried to fill the voids that way.

I missed my teammates, I missed competitions and I even missed training.  Ironically, I really was a fish out of water.

Well if you would've told me back then that I would've ended up at a very small christian college several years later I would've said you were crazy.  But, that's exactly what happened and to top it off - guess what!?!?!  There wasn't even a pool on campus. 😮🙀

My freshman year is when I first heard from the Lord regarding swimming.  It was a quiet moment in the parking lot of my college sitting in my turquoise bug when I heard the Lord gently speak to me.  He told me I was just where He wanted me and that I had made swimming my idol and He had to take it away.  I cried and cried in that lot....3 years after I quit.  I loved my college and knew it was where I was suppose to be but missed the pool still.  In fact, the 1988 Olympics came around my senior year in high school and I sat in front of my TV and bawled my eyes out as I watched it.  I was feeling a mixture of happiness for Janet Evans and others and a great sadness for me.

Fast forward..3 years later ( my junior year in college ) something phenomenal happened at that small college where 'I wasn't suppose to be.' ( in my mind of course )
I was sitting in chapel that we had to attend 3x's a week...just a normal day in chapel when something extraordinary happened.  A gentleman ~ the speaker we had that day caught my attention.  He talked about his ministry to athletes at the Olympic Games...offering chapel services and prayer for athletes and their families, witnessing to spectators and a host of other incredible ministry opportunities he had. 
 I sat in awe, I was listening so intently and I felt like the ONLY person in the room that was easily filled with over 1,000 students.

It was one of those GOD MOMENTS and yes that gentleman was there FOR ME!  
He flew from Texas to meet a So Cal girl at APU ~~~ that's the truth my friends!  I went up to him after chapel, he had a small line of kids waiting to talk to him.  
I introduced myself and my heart was racing, it was as if I knew God was doing something inconceivable right before my eyes.  

My hand was shaking as I reached it out and I said, "Hi, my name is Vicky McGarvey and I'm a swimmer."  He took my hand in both of his; looked me square in the eye and said, "well Vicky - I have an entire team in Texas that prayed I would meet a swimmer out here....looks like you're my girl."  WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!  ( He took former athletes on his ministry teams to the Olympics and was looking to finish up his team with a swimmer ) 

He wasn't even shook by this, he had a gentle, sweet spirit and said, "I knew God would come through, how would you like to join me and our ministry team in Barcelona this summer?"  No joke, within 48 hours I had a ticket to Barcelona to be a part of his ministry team Lay Witnesses for Christ.  

Y'all did you see what God did there!?!?!?  
He turned a NO,  way back in 1986 into a BIG FAT YES in 1992.  
All my life I wanted to swim in the Olympics or get to the Olympic Trials at least...it was a HUGE dream God laid on my heart at a young age.  

Well instead of swimming for TEAM USA, I got to go to the Olympics on God's TEAM.  
What an honor....what a faithful God we serve.  He took a dream of mine, in a situation where I wasn't honoring Him or glorifying Him - and turned it into something beautiful that I never could've imagined.    

Sometimes God says NO and that's that...we may never see the reasons behind it...like losing my mom to cancer within 6 months; time and time again I was on my knees begging God to give her more time with me and my kids.  Other times he says No...not now or not how you think it will happen.  

God's plans are ALWAYS higher and so much BETTER than ours my friends.  
If God has said or is saying no to you....don't lose heart.  You may have a remarkable experience later based on His no....or you may not have an answer ever.  But either way....I can promise you since (I've lived with both scenarios) ~~~ He is faithful and will provide just what you need every step of the way, even if you resist and don't lean into the NO you hear from Him.  Be  patient and trusting of your Abba Father....for He has great plans for you and isn't finished with you yet....Jer 29:11.

BTW I've continued to be a swimmer all these years and had my first meet in 32 years in January 2019.  I qualified for nationals in the 2 events I swam and captured a 1st place and a 2nd.  It was amazing!  I currently swim unattached for Masters Swimming.

masters swimming

Also My Swim Pro did a story on me, you can read more about it here.

Never give up....

Be blessed dear ones,

Fluency practice for the littles

Monday, February 8, 2021
Welcome to.... 

on a Monday due to the TPT sale!  Don't forget to shop 2/9 - 2/10 and get these packs at a discount!

Fluency is tricky for the young ones, mostly because they are so busy decoding and making those sound letter connections that fluency seems a bit... well unfitting.  First off, let's define fluency:  it is the ability to read 'like you speak',  to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression.

fluency practice for early readers

Reading fluency is composed of some important elements:

* accurately reading the text - the ability to read words within the text automatically

* rate - the speed a student reads

* prosody - the stress, intonation, pauses and rhythm of their reading.

These work together to provide the bridge between word recognition and comprehending the text.  It's important to note that fluency doesn't assure comprehension but without fluency comprehension is difficult.  When students are having to stop, decode and figure out unknown words, the meaning is usually lost and the focus is all on the decoding.  The reading becomes laborious and the meaning piece is often lacking.

As students become more fluent and confident readers they can put their focus and energy on the meaning of the text and comprehending it, rather than the hard work of decoding.  At that point they can work on inferring, finding the main idea, answering more complex questions, analzying and interpreting the text and more.

Even though young readers are often working on the sound symbol connection, decoding and building their phonemic awareness they can still have some success with fluency.

There are several ways to build your early reader's fluency:

ECHO read with them.....read aloud with your child/student.  Read a sentence aloud with expression paying close attention to punctuation - then have them read it just like you!  They love this!  This can also be done with sentence strips, it doesn't have to be a picture book at their level.  Write short phrases down with sight words they know, read it and have them echo you.

Set them up with a Buddy Reader - either a friend, neighbor or often times at school a child a couple grades higher than them.  Show the older child how to model reading fluency with great expression and have the younger child watch, listen and try to read a section of the book in a similiar manner...they look up to peers just a few years older so this is perfect!

Re - read favorite books with them.  We all have books we love, I can remember several picture books that I almost had memorized as a child.  Use their familiarity with the story to get them to read it with expression to you.  Since they are already so acquainted with the story this activity lends itself to perfect fluency practice.

I also love to give my students these activities that I know they can be successful with because they are either cvc words they already know or sight words they have mastered.  They feel a sense of accomplishment in these not only because they aren't getting tripped up on the words but because they can be fluent as well as answer questions about the text.

fluency work for early readers

As you can see the passage is simple, lots of cvc and sight words to scaffold them.  I have 2 packs that are differentiated to meets your students needs. 

fluency practice for early readers

fluency practice for young readers

If you think this is something your students would love you can find them here:

This other option is great for those few minutes you have at the end of a reading group ( or as a warm up ) , to give to a parent helper or as an independent center to get your students reading sight words more fluently.  

sight word fluency

You can grab that here.

If you are looking for a center that is super engaging for them this is perfect.  I've also used this during small group instruction.

fluency center

You can grab this here.

Lastly, your little learners may need some visual scaffolding that you can refer to in small groups.  These fluency posters focus on key concepts and reminders to keep even your youngest readers on track. I hung these behind my reading table for years.

fluency posters for the classroom

I've included both posters as well as miniature cards that you can put on a ring and pull out during reading group instruction as well if you don't have the wall space.

Grab these here.

I hope these ideas can give you the scaffolding and support you need to accomodate your young and developing readers. 

Happy teaching!


Do you hunger for God?

Sunday, January 31, 2021
I  can remember going to camp as a kid or retreats in college where we had all the time in the world to just focus on our relationship with the Lord.  It was always amazing!  A time of growth, worship, fellowship and developing a deeper relationship with Christ. ♰⛪

mountain  moments with God

We all have seasons in our life ~ seasons of friendships, relationships, jobs/trials...you name it. {{ Just as it says in Ecclesiastes 3. }}  Some seasons my quiet time is spot on and consistent, daily and I feel a real closeness with the Lord.  Other times, due to my lack of commitment to spending time in the word or prayer ... not so much.  I always find my way back and feel the Holy Spirit prodding me gently to open my Bible or start my morning in prayer instead of rushing off to my day thankfully.

We have a pug... a crazy pug might I add.  She has had tons of energy since she was a puppy and rescued off the street.  As she's gotten older she has slowed down but still has a lot of energy for a 14.5 year old.  The reason I'm bringing up my pug in the midst of a blog post on feeling close with the Lord is this:

Every morning my pug wakes up ( usually early of course ) and she's hungry and roaring to go...me not so much.  Yes, I'm a morning person - I swim before I teach and definitely need my morning coffee afterward to function however, but she is often up before I'm ready. 

When I go out to the garage to get her food, something magical happens...okay maybe not magical but she is overcome with incredible joy.  I mean COMPLETE, unwavering JOY.  She jumps, scratches at the door if I'm too slow and literally jumps as she walks.  She smiles, she really does.  She looks at the bag of food I carry from the garage fridge with so much love and happiness.  As she walks with me to where she eats she has all those feels the  entire time I'm walking with her.

Every.single.time it reminds me of walking closely with Jesus.  This is exactly the response the Lord wants from us in regards to our walk with Him.  He is waiting for us to call to Him in the morning, pray, talk to Him, worship Him and spend time with Him.  He wants us as giddy as my crazy pug when it comes to our walk with Him.  

It's literally a daily reminder to me from my Creator to talk to Him and joyfully look to Him before my day unfolds.  Walking with Jesus - ahhh, there's really not anything better than that...to be in close fellowship with Him brings joy in the midst of trials.  I've been there, I've gone through extremely tough times.  Losing my mom to cancer within 6 months of diagnosis being at the top of that list.  But, God gently encouraged me and sent me reminders of His love and faithfulness throughout those 6 months and beyond.  As hard as it was 
( and I wouldn't wish it on anyone ) - there was a sweetness to the place the Lord had me at.  I felt like I was in His loving arms the ENTIRE time.  People often ask me how I got  through that time...only because of God!  

If you don't have a crazy pet showing as much excitement for food as we should for our time with Jesus, what helps keep you motivated to dive into the Word and spend time with Jesus?  I'd love to hear your stories - find me on Instagram or Facebook.

Oh and just for fun cuz I know I'll get asked....here's a picture of Miss Bella.

Be blessed my friends,

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!