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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blending Help

 Had a friend ask for some blending help with her child so I thought I'd post some activities because I'm sure some others need it!

From Reading Rockets' website:
When beginning readers sound out words, they slowly say each sound in a word (c-a-t), and then say the sounds quickly together to "read" the word (cat). In reading, teachers call this blending because sounds are being blended together. Blending (combining sounds) and segmenting (separating sounds) are skills that are necessary for learning to read.

Here are a few activities to help master this skill...

 Cut out some pictures from magazines or use pictures in books you have laying around the house. Tell your child you are going to say a word in the pictures using "Robot Talk" a slow way of saying words (e.g., /ssssssuuuuuunnnnn/). They have to look at the pictures and guess the word you are saying.

The following activity (see Yopp, M., 1992) is to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands."
If you think you know this word, shout it out!
If you think you know this word, shout it out!
If you think you know this word,
Then tell me what you've heard,
If you think you know this word, shout it out!
After singing, say a segmented word such as /k/ /a/ /t/ and your child provides the blended word "cat."

Here is a great book to help reinforce these concepts...

Love good ol' Shel, but this book really hits on manipulating phonemes.  All the beginning sounds are reversed.  Your child will have fun trying to read it, but will also be learning how different letters create different sounds.

What other activities have you tried?

Monday, March 18, 2013


A friend recently introduced me to the greatest invention ever- indestructible books.  Have you heard of these? 
From their website:

Indestructibles™ introduces a revolutionary new baby book invented by a mother of triplets who wanted to share books with her babies, hassle-free. They are water-proof, tear-resistant, and baby-durable, making them the perfect books for babies who "read" with their little hands and mouths.
They are literally the BEST for young babes.  I have so many nice hardback books that are getting demolished by Gentry's little hands. Bath-time has been revolutionized!  Another great thing about them is that they're wordless.  I loved to give my students wordless books and have them tell the story.  With Gentry, I make up a different story everyday, so that it's not monotonous like other children's books.  For older kids, have them create the story.  See how different each telling can be, or have them draw an extra page to the book and tell that story.
Gentry is getting her first tooth and she asked not to be photographed until it came completely through ;)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fill in the blank

Again I had another idea before giving you more apps.  I was thinking of ways to help Gentry make sounds and I caught myself talking jibberish, but making parts of word sounds.  I thought this could be a great way to teach young kids how to blend phonemes... remember that word?

If you have picture cards, magazines, newpapers, stickers or anything with pictures of multisyllabic words works.  Play a game holding up the picture and saying the first syllable of the word.  Have your child finish the last syllable.
So for this, you would say "TUR" and your child would say "TLE."  You could even take turns saying the first syllable (although with younger children, they don't always know the picture).

For more advanced learners, try 3 syllable words- Your child says the first syllable, you say the second and he/she says the third.

I realize this isn't breaking down each phoneme individually, but it's a start to teaching kids there are different sound sections in words.

Here are some printables (although not all with 2-syllable words)

Go to the Phoneme Flashcards... some other great printables for more advanced learners...

Basically any Google search for alphabet flashcards will get you some free printables.  Any other great phonemic awareness sites out there you can share?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superbowl Sunday

I know I said I'd do a series on Apps, but Miss G has been sick and it's super, SUPER Sunday.  So back at the apps this week. 
Who's going to be the big winner today?

That's the question of the day!  Gentry certainly has no idea...

Have a few suggestions for the Superbowl watching to do with your kids...

During the commercials (the appropriate ones at least!)
  • Pick a letter before each commercial break.  See if your child can find any commercials for products that begin with that letter.  More advanced?  Try finding words in the commercial beginning with it.  Less advanced?  Try to pick out letters written in commercials (text, signs, etc.)
  • Have your child pick one word said in the first commercial.  By the end of the next commercial, see how many rhyming words he/she can come up with. 
  • Have them watch a commercial, then act out their own rendition of it.
  • Do some good old fashioned reading while commercials are playing.  See how many books you can get through each commercial break.  Try to beat the last break!
During the game
  • Keep score by using tally marks on a markerboard or sheet of paper.
  • Have your child practice writing the team's name that scores each touchdown.  Write it using shaving cream, markers, colored pens, Twizzlers, anything fun!
  • Make your own football field (make sure to include the #'s on each yard line).  Write one letter on each yard line.  Have your child move toys, Cheerios, anything along as they follow the teams' moves.  Whatever letter they land on, they must go find something in the house that starts with that letter.
Hope you enjoy the Superbowl!  Gentry says if you do these activities, you'll have this much fun:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I think I'm the only human being alive without an iPad.  I hope that changes, especially once Gentry gets older and we can start using some of the fun apps out there.  I've been using some with students I tutor and I thought I'd share my FAVES

Montessori Crosswords: It is $2.99 but VERY worth it.

I love it for 3-7 year olds because it sounds out each letter as you touch it.  For example, in the picture above, the app is making the "n" sound as the person is touching it.  This is key for the ability to blend, segment and manipulate phonemes.  

Don't know the word phonemes?  They are the smallest units of sound, not necessarily letters.  For example, SUN has three phonemes /s/ /u/ and /n/, but so does CHIP with /ch/ /i/ and /p/.  Students who struggle with learning to read often find it difficult to blend these sounds together.  So, if I said /s/ /u/ /n/ very slowly, they couldn't process the individual sounds and blend them into SUN.  They also have a hard time manipulating the sounds, or changing the /s/ in front of SUN to an /f/ to make FUN.  But enough of a lesson, back to the apps.

Sentence Maker: Teaches word order, sentence structure and is even customizable to your child's ability level.  You can add your own text and sound to make funny and personal sentences.  And we all know how making things relevant to your child's life will usually make the concept stick!

Bug Brained:  This is a company with a whole line of apps specific to your child's level.  Here is a first grade one having kids swat the uppercase letters.
And here is a Kindergarten leveled one where your child can touch the picture for the letter sound.

I'm going to do more apps over the next few weeks.  So stay tuned for more.  Gentry's napping and my long to-do list only give me time for three today. Anyone have any great ones out there to share?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wikki Stix

Fancy Nancy... do you know her?  If you have a daughter you need to!  Boys can definitely befriend her as well!  Here Gentry's reading Fancy Nancy's Christmas book with Wikki Stix in hand. (PS- her shirt says "i heart girls' days with mommy" in case you were curious)

Wikki Stix?!

From their website: Wikki Stix are made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline food-grade, non-toxic wax, the kind used in bubble gum and lipstick. They do not contain latex, gluten, nor peanut or other nut oils or byproducts which makes them an ideal creative activity toy for children with allergies.   Simply stated…they stick! No glue, no paste, no mess. Just press them down with light fingertip pressure and they will adhere to almost any smooth surface. They are also easy to peel up and reposition so “mistakes” virtually disappear, which helps build self-confidence. There is no preparation, no clean-up, no mess. Press ‘em down, peel ‘em off… it’s that simple! **


I used to always get my students to underline words in text with them.  We'd search for all the short e words, -ock family words, adjectives, etc.

You can do the same thing depending on your child's reading ability.

Reading ability?!

Try looking for:

  • specific letters
  • letters in your child's name
  • capital versus lowercase letters
  • punctuation
  • words that start with a certain letter or sound
  •  specific word families (-ack, -ock, etc.)
  • funny words
  • challenging words (great for having your child read independently and come back to you for help with later)
Any other suggestions?!  I tried to show you what it looks like to underline a sentence (upside-down), but Gentry just wanted to highlight the pretty pictures.  Baby steps!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Good use for old boxes

Reduce, reuse and recycle right?! This book is perfect for getting that point across. It also proves how kids often trump us in the imagination category. It's about how a child views an empty box versus an adult. Read this to your child and then see how many different "boxes" your child can imagine!

Gentry only missed a few words reading today ;) Her "box" is a motorcycle with her sidekick Macon. Someone should have told her to keep her eyes on the road!  Tell me what your child makes with a blank canvas like this!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Snow Day!

It finally stopped raining and there's a coating of snow on the ground.  Not a better ending to a dreary, cold week!  Most of the kiddos are home from school today playing in the snow.  Do some writing in the snow.  Write names, letters, even funny messages.  Instead of a regular snowball fight, challenge your kids to an educational match.  Take their homework folders and find something they're learning in school (spelling words, math, geography quiz) and ask them questions pertaining to that subject.  For each answer they get right, they get to throw a snowball at you.  For everyone they get wrong, you get to throw one at them.  Hopefully, for your sake, they don't get them ALL right!

Snowball Fight

For the younger ones, this may not be the best idea.  Gentry took her token "first snow" picture, but I doubt she'll want to hang out in it all day (especially since I had her looking like the Michelin Man).  Instead, we are going to make up imaginary stories with her toys.  Too often parents only read to children.  Well, let your children tell you the story.  Pick some of their favorite toys and have them act out a scene or two.  This is great for developing your child's imagination (as if that needs help) but also for understanding plots.  Try to help your child figure out a problem/solution scenario, like most fictional stories.

If you could only hear the story Gentry came up with this morning...

For the REAL young ones, you do the story telling with their toys.  Modeling for them at this young age will only help them as they learn to do it on their own!  Gentry told me to knock of the story telling and just get to playing...  Have a great Friday!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rain, rain go away... No seriously

Yep it's still raining here. I can't imagine having a mobile kid in this situation but my mobile dog is certainly hating this/driving me CRAZY!

I thought of some more movement activities for today because we all need movement this winter! Using blocks, stickers or even letters cut from newspapers/magazines, "hide" each letter around the house next to an object that starts with that. For example, hide the R underneath the rug, or the T next to the TV.  Let your child try to find them all.

For the younger babes, go on a texture scavenger hunt. Your baby is probably loving reaching out and touching everything.  And with the flu going around, you're probably trying to stop that at all costs.  Well your house is (hopefully) less germy than public places, so let him/her explore there.  Find all cold things, hot things, soft, hard, squishy, prickly, smooth, rough.... make sure you group alike textures together and repeat the adjective that describes them.  Sounds silly, but your child is taking in more than you think!

Hope everyone is having a great week.  The weekend is ALMOST HERE!  Anyone doing anything fun with or without the kiddos?

Of course I have to leave you with a baby picture or this wouldn't be a complete post.  Gentry only wanted to spell HER name and work with those letters this morning.  But, she sat up for a few minutes on her own for the first time so I let it roll.

She scolded me for showing you a work in progress.  Here is her finished product:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rainy Day Fun

Why is it STILL raining?  We are on Day 3 of rain and it is really not ending until Friday.  At least tomorrow night we may get some snow.  I don't know about you but cold rain is the WORST!

I'm sure most of you moms are going crazy not being able to get out much, whether you're here or somewhere else experiencing this weather.  Gentry and I went on a scavenger hunt this morning with her toys that I thought some of you with older kids could easily do.  Instead of just playing with toys today, why don't you go around the house and try to find objects that start with the same sound.  Here Gentry took her snowman and matched it up to a sofa.  Yup, she did it all by herself.

Other variations...

  • Find objects that end the same as the toys
  • Find objects that end the same as the toy's beginning (snowman and pants) or vice verse (snowman and nail polish)
  • Collect small objects that start the same/end the same or rhyme.  Just make sure these things are SMALL and then play "Race the Clock" to clean up the collected items before the clock runs out.
Hope everyone finds some good, educational indoor fun today!  If you do, PLEASE share!

The dog even found something fun to do... Gentry lost this tug-of-war.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Busy Moms or Far away Grandparents

You've probably seen these around

Recordable Storybooks.  My parents get the grandkids these every Christmas.  You can find them here:

OR here:

My mom gets them straight from the Hallmark store.  They are GREAT, not only for Gentry to hear my parents' voices any old time she wants (because she is very demanding), but for those late afternoons when frankly you are just too tired to get words out!  We are very fortunate to have BOTH sets of grandparents in town, so technically Gentry can have them read to her whenever.  But, those of you across the country from your parents, this is screaming your name!

Here's a quick clip to show you how they work...

You see why board books were invented for kids?  I'm a little weary of giving G some of the nicer paper books she's been given!

Other suggestions for these books:

  • Have an older sibling record for a younger

  • YOU record

  • For older kiddos, have them record for themselves

  • For readers, YOU record, but mess up a word or sentence.  Have your child listen to it to figure out what is wrong.  This could turn into a fun" I Spy" game.

  • For non-readers that may have memorized the book, do the same thing above and see if your child can pinpoint where the story deviates from the original.  

Don't fear repetition.   In fact, children learn better by hearing the same stories over and over and over and over.  I know how boring it gets to reread the same story.  I realize you probably start to have nightmares with the characters in those stories your child just can't put down.  Well this book give YOU a break!

Repetitive reading helps non-readers recognize patterns, learn directionality, rhymes, sentence structure and a whole lot more.  It helps readers with fluency- the rate of reading- and expression.  The intonation you use when reading happens without you realizing it, but your child needs to learn how to do that.  Whether they're hearing your perfect reading over and over again, or learning the words themselves so they can then practice expressions, it's helping!



Sunday, January 13, 2013

Edible Books

Gentry wants to put EVERYTHING in her mouth.  I guess this is her way of showing interest. I love chocolate and I can't seem to keep that out of my mouth so maybe she loves books?! A friend of ours gave us some soft books that she can chew on and she LOVES them.  If you can't get your young one to sit still listening to a story then try these.  It may not seem like a literacy activity, but it's getting your child acquainted with books.  And, maybe like osmosis, by "eating" words, your child may learn them?
Of course when I try to capture her on film eating the book she won't, but instead she decided to read it to you.  Hoping her holding skills progress in the future...

I found some of these online:

They all claim to be vinyl-free.  Most of the bath books out there are made from vinyl.  I'm sure it's fine for the little amount of time kids actually have it in their mouths, but I'm trying to be as chemical free as possible with the little one.

Anyone with any other recommendations for edible books? 

What's something you do to get your kids excited to read?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's been awhile!  In fact, it's been another school year, a pregnancy and a baby later!  You didn't miss much ;)

I wanted to give this blog another go, especially now that I have my own little one that I'm already attempting to inundate with books- we're almost through the entire Fancy Nancy series at age 5 months.  Just waiting for Daddy to clear us to go buy some more!  I am a certified reading specialist, but I'm currently staying at home with the babe.  I don't promise a perfect post every time.  In fact, between chasing the dog around and changing diapers, I'll be surprised if I spell anything right!  I really don't see how some of you manage multiple children!  But, I do know that I'm a huge sucker for books.  All my friends and relatives will tell you that their kids have ONLY received books from me for birthdays and Christmases.  I think I have more fun in the kid section at Barnes & Noble than they do.  I'd love to share what I'm doing with Gentry (the daughter), but I'd rather hear what YOU are doing with little ones at home or even in the classroom.

**If you're new, check out some of the older posts (can't believe it's been a few years since I wrote them).  For now, I just wanted to reintroduce myself and leave you with one tiny thing we've been working on over here:

Gentry is very close to reading her first word (joke).  In the meantime, I am working on concepts of print with her.  She grabs EVERYTHING, so I let her grab books and try to help her turn pages in the right direction.  This is quite a challenge as Gentry would rather just rip up the pages and put them in her mouth; but, never too early to start, right?!  I also try to follow the words with my finger as I read them so she sees the direction of the words.  Rarely a success, but if I catch her in just the right mood I think she actually sees me point to 2 or 3 words.  Two out of 100 some words, I'll take it for now.
I'll finish with this because the baby is currently "singing" to me from her crib!  Gentry opening a Fancy Nancy book for Christmas with Daddy...