Showing posts with label phonics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label phonics. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Activities For Your LeapFrog TAG Reading System

Do you own a LeapFrog TAG Reading System?  If not, I highly recommend it! This system comes with a "pen" that when placed on top of words or markers in TAG specific books will read the word or story aloud to a child.  I love both of the TAG systems: The TAG (which allows the child to read a whole page/portion of text, or will read word by word), and the TAG Jr. (which has simpler features for a younger child).

I also like that I can incorporate activities to go along with our TAG system, such as:
  • I will put a sticky note on the page with the number of the words "the" on the page and have LoLo find them.  I will do this same activity for every sight word we have previously worked on.  Then, I just leave the notes in the book so he can play again later.
  • I will say a word to LoLo and have him use the TAG word to find it.  Since he is a very early reader, I choose an easy consonant-vowel-consonant word like 'cat' and have him find it with his eyes and check his answer with his TAG pen.
  • I will ask him questions about the story and have him find the answer with his TAG pen.  This works best for one-word answers that are specific in the text.  An example would be "who found the bone?" and he points the TAG pen to the word Scooby.
If you do not yet have a TAG pen and books, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Benefits of Books on CD

Wow! Things have been so busy around here that I have hardly had time to post.  So sorry, there is more to come so keep posted.  Today's reading tip is about the benefits of listening to books on CD.
Recently the kids got two new CDs on tape and I thought about how much listening to these helps build their phonemic awareness which in turns build their reading skills.  Books on tape are great to listen to anywhere and do not have to accompany the book to be beneficial to children.  Most people listen to them at home along with using the book, and this is a great way to teach your child good fluency as they listen to the reader speak, as well as show the visual connection of the word to the spoken word.
One way we like to listen to our books on CD is in the car.  For example, right now we have Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in the car.

The children know that it is a book, but they do not realize that by listening to the story they are building their phonemic awareness skills.  The CD helps to promote good reading skills by giving an example of good fluency (speed/accuracy of the reader), rhyming, pronunciation, tone of voice, and in the case of this story-repetition.  Then at night when we read the book, the children are able to put all of these skills to use.  They don't even realize that they know all the words on the page until I point to them as they read to me!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Work Those Word Families

Once your preschooler has mastered his letter sounds it might be time to consider teaching word families. 

Word families are groupings of 2-3 letters that are commonly found in many words throughout the English language, such as:

There are too many to list, but try these great lists on Enchanted Learning

Once your child has learned his word families well he will begin to recognize them as one set of sounds and will not have to sound out every letter individually.  Even some of my older students who read letter-by-letter benefit from re-learning their word families to aid in better fluency (rate and accuracy of reading.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Must Have Book-Making Words

If you were to go into any teacher's classroom at my school, you would likely find the Making Words Book by Patricia Cunning.  I first discovered this book while in my credential program at San Diego State University, though I did not realize it's full potential until I became a Reading Specialist.

This book gives you activities to use with students in grades (K-3, though I have used it up to 6th with struggling readers) to help build their phonics and spelling skills.  There are no other additional products you need to buy, you simply create them yourself.  If your child is an early reader or a fluent reader with some difficulty spelling or deciphering new words, then this is the book for you.  It helps your child learn to build words by pieces and helps them to see the connection between short base words and words with prefixes and suffixes.

This series also comes in Making Big Words for students who are more advanced (3rd and up):

As well as Making More Words which is an additional supplement to Making Words:

Disclosure: None.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Sing BINGO To Remember Names

In our house I help my kids learn how to remember names by singing the song B-I-N-G-O.  Of course this works best with 5 letter words, but can be adapted to work with others as well.  My son and daughter both have 5 letters in their names and we used this song to teach them at an early age (2.5) how to spell their names.  My youngest son has 4 letters in his name and we just sang the song by spelling his name and then adding in his name for the 5th letter (which works well since it is one syllable).

Other names that worked well for us:
  • Nonna (the kid's grandmother)
  • Poppa (kid's grandfather)
  • Daddy
  • Mommy
  • Brody (our dog)
  • Happy
  • Silly
  • Crazy
  • Clock
  • Dance
You can sing this song by using just the chorus, or for more fun add in your child's name:
  • "There was a Peter who had a word and Nonna was the word-o. N-O-N-N-A, N-O-N-N-A, N-O-N-N-A, and that's how you spell Nonna!"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Constant Exposure To Print

The more your child is exposed to print the more she will take it in.  I suggest doing a room make over and placing print all over the walls.  One great way is to get some wall decals for your child's room.

I love these ones on ETSY:
-For Preschoolers who are just learning letters:
  • This alphabet tree from Decalsmurals on ETSY is really cute and would help with letter recognition.

-For more advanced readers who can build their own words:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Great Digraph Printables-Carl's Corner

If you haven't read my previous post on Carl's Corner, you might not be aware that I love, love, love this site! It has so many great resources for every area of teaching reading. 

I thought that after my last post on digraphs and tongue twisters, you might be interested in more resources to help you teach digraphs.  Carl's Corner had a great page on digraphs (that also includes vowel pair digraphs), with TONS of printable worksheets, rhymes, games and activities.  This resource is free, and is a great place to find everything you will need to successfully teach digraphs to your reader.

-To find out more about digraphs, visit my previous articles on:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Digraphs and Tongue Twisters

One great way to teach digraphs is through tongue twisters.  Even if your child is not yet reading, tongue twisters are a good tool to use for teaching them auditory recognition of digraphs.

For more on what digraphs are revisit my post on them.

Here are some tongue twisters you can use to help teach digraphs:
  • How much wood could Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck, if Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood? If Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood, how much wood could and would Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck? Chuck Woods' woodchuck would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood as any woodchuck would, if a woodchuck could and would chuck wood. (To teach CH)
  • She saw Sherif's shoes on the sofa. But was she so sure she saw Sherif's shoes on the sofa? (To teach SH)
  • Thirty-three thirsty, thundering thoroughbreds thumped Mr. Thurber on Thursday. (To teach TH)
  • Why do you cry, Willy?
    Why do you cry?
    Why, Willy?
    Why, Willy?
    Why, Willy? Why? (To teach WH)
  • Tom threw Tim three thumbtacks. (To teach TH)
  • He threw three free throws. (TH)
  • Chester Cheetah chews a chunk of cheep cheddar cheese. (CH)
  • There those thousand thinkers were thinking
    where did those other three thieves go through. (TH)
  • Thirty-three thousand people think that Thursday is their thirtieth birthday. (TH-good one to use to point out that TH can be at the beginning, middle or end of a word)
  • Fresh fried fish,
    Fish fresh fried,
    Fried fish fresh,
    Fish fried fresh. (SH)
  • If two witches would watch two watches, which witch would watch which watch? (CH-also teach the difference between CH and TCH)
  • King Thistle stuck a thousand thistles in the thistle of his thumb.
    A thousand thistles King Thistle stuck in the thistle of his thumb.
    If King Thistle stuck a thousand thistles in the thistle of his thumb,
    How many thistles did King Thistle stick in the thistle of his thumb? (TH)
  • Which witch snitched the stitched switch for which the Swiss witch wished? (TCH)
  • Thirty-three thousand feathers on a thrushes throat. (TH)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sign Language And Phonics-Tip #4

I can not tout the benefits enough of using sign language and phonics, but I also believe it works wonders to teach phonemic awareness.  Remember phonemic awareness is a skill pre-readers need to master in order to begin reading.  It is the realization (and understanding) that spoken words are made up of sets of sounds. 

Example: the word cat is made up of the SOUNDS /c/, /a/, /t/.  This is NOT referring to the letters and their individual sounds, but the sounds heard within a given spoken word.

Now with that clarified, here are some helpful hints to using signs to teach phonemic awareness:
  • As you are teaching segmenting, it works well to teach each sound with a handsign.  For this I would use one sign for each sound.  So for example, for the word cat you would say /c/, /a/, /t/, and use each ASL handsign for each letter.  It is important to use one sign for every sound to help your child better understand that each sound is unique and individual.
  • When you are teaching blending, I suggest using the same handsigns (as you did for segmenting) but now stretch them out from left to right as you blend the sounds. For example, say the word cat slowly with the letter sounds connecting.  As you speak, do the hand signs from left to right changing them as the sound changes.  This will help your child begin to understand that sounds can be connected together to make a word, and that words go from left to right (later helping with reading).
Do you have questions about how to implement this? Ask away-I will answer!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sign Language And Phonics-Tip #3

I had mentioned before that when I am teaching sign language with phonics I do it in conjunction with the Houghton Mifflin Sound Spelling Cards.  Here is a link to see what the cards look like.  You will notice that this is a pdf file that was created by another school district which shows recreated Sound Spelling Cards.  That is because you are not able to reproduce the actual materials from Houghton Mifflin (HM).  You can buy them for $139 if you like!

When you look at the cards you will see that there is a picture for each card, and the various spellings for each sound.  I like that these cards show you ALL the variations for how the sound can be spelled, unlike other letter cards that just show a picture and the letter.  This is another reason why when I teach the sign for each card I use the picture, not the letter handsign. 

For example, look at the letter C card.  It is a picture of a cat.  I would have the card hanging on the wall and say "C as in cat says /c/, /c/"  and sign the word cat as I am saying this.  Then, I would stop and explain that C can say /c/ on its own, or the best friends CK can also say /c/, but only at the end or middle of a word.

I would usually teach about one sound/spelling card every 3 days or so until it was mastered.  Then as I add in new ones to teach, I always end the lesson with a review of all the cards I have done.  I would suggest that you align your lessons with the language arts adoption that your child will be using in his elementary school.  If you are not sure which program they use, just call the school and ask.  You can always create your own too, but why not give them a head start!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sign Language and Phonics-Tip #1

In my previous post on sign language and phonics I talked about the benefits of connecting phonics and sign language.  In this post I bring you a great resource that can teach you quickly and easily the various signs you might need.  This website, called, gives you an online dictionary that shows videos of people signing rather than other ones that show pictures. After all, sign language can not be shown accurately through words since it is a visual language. 

I suggest that you use the ASL dictionary portion of the website. You just choose the word you want, click play, and watch the video which shows how to create the sign for your word. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sign Language and Phonics-A Winning Combination

When I was getting my degree in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University, I knew choosing a foreign language would be an easy decision.  I had tried French and Spanish previously and knew that I was NOT an auditory learner.  Therefore, I chose a minor in Communicative Disorders with my foreign language being American Sign Language (ASL).  Little did I know that this choice would work wonders for me in my career years later!

Flash forward (well, I won't say how many years), and I have used sign language to teach students with severe reading problems how to read.  The key was adding a kinesthetic approach to a skill that is visual!  Teaching reading has always consisted of a teacher who teaches a skill to a student (with a visual guide and an auditory example), and the student applying this skill through the same modalities. 

I decided to experiment with adding ASL in the classroom and see how it would work.  I began with my pre-readers and taught them the letter-sound correspondence with an ASL sign for each.  You could use the letter hand sign for each letter of the alphabet, or you could use the sign for the picture that corresponds to the letter card.  For example, we use the Houghton Mifflin Language Arts program in our school and I use ASL signs that correspond to the pictures.
There were 2 reasons I choose this approach over hand signs for the letters.
  1. My kindergarten students had a very difficult time with the fine motor skills it takes to form the hand signs for each of the letters.  It was much easier to sign the picture words (ex. apple, cat, fish), which tend to use larger motions of the hands and arms.
  2. It connected their signs (kinesthetic) with the pictures (visual) and therefore helped them remember the sound (ex. if they remembered cat they could hear the initial sound in the word).  If I just taught the hand sign for the letter they would remember the visual letter, but NOT necessarily the sound that it makes.
I really suggest that anyone who is teaching a child their letter sounds that they incorporate ASL.  I use it with my own kids (ages 4 and 3), and they just love it! 

Keep following for more tips and ideas on how to use ASL to teach reading.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Make Any Wall Your Whiteboard!

I have been thinking about making a magnetic whiteboard on one of the walls in my kid's room for a long time.  After reading reviews of other people who have done this I think I am going to go with the following products. 
First I will apply the magnetic primer:

Then I will apply the whiteboard paint:

I can't wait to try it out and use all the magnetic letters I have from my classroom to help LoLo work on creating CVC words.  I will also take photos of family members and glue them on to magnetic sheets you can buy at Walmart. Then you just cut around the person (or object) and have a personalized magnet to play with. 

I will update when I get a chance to put it up.

Have other suggestions?
Want to try your own?
Have you done this before; how did it work out?
Leave me a comment and let me know.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Parent of a preschooler? YOU can teach your child to read!

Do you have a preschooler who is showing signs that he is ready to read, but you have no idea where to start?

My Reading Specialist offers consulting for parents to train YOU how to teach your child to read. 

Here is what it consists of:
  1. First meeting-I assess the student to make sure he is ready to read and see what skills he might already know.  I review the assessments with you and give you feedback.  These assessments are then used to create individualized lessons for your child. (usually takes about 1 hour total)
  2. Second meeting-I will bring various lessons, games, and activities (for you to keep) based upon what skills your child needs to become a reader.  These lessons will be individualized based upon his previous assessments. I will TRAIN you (the parent/caregiver) how to administer these lessons and offer suggested timetables for application. (usually takes about 1 hour total)
  3. Third meeting-This meeting usually takes place after the majority of the lessons have been covered.  I will administer follow-up assessments and see which skills were retained successfully and can be applied by your student, and what skills may need to be recovered.  I will offer advice and additional consulting if new lessons are needed (but that is not usually the case). (usually takes about 1 hour total)
I offer consulting either in person (San Diego area), or via webcam (lessons will be mailed).  Please contact me if you have any questions via my "email me" link on my sidebar, or comment below.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Making CVC Words On Your Word Wall

Last post I talked about introducing your child to sight words with the use of your word wall.  In addition to teaching sight words, you should also be introducing a few new CVC words every few days. Remember that CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant.

If you really want to keep the cost down you could write the letters you need on index cards for each word; however, I really like the ease and style of font found in this card set of letters.  You also have multiples of letters, vowels printed in different colors, and digraphs, blends, and vowel pairs for later more advanced lessons.  This product can be found at by clicking HERE.

When you are picking CVC words to put up on the wall, remember that they should be spelled with the short vowel sound (ie. CAT, SIP, TAN, PAT).  These words are most appropriate for early readers because they can be sounded out letter-by-letter, as opposed to having to know advanced skills that make vowels sound long.  Remember long vowels are those that "say their name," such as in the word BAY (the letter a says /ay/).

If you are still not sure what words to use, I really like the lists on  They have a few CVC lists which are divided up by medial sound (vowel sound in the middle).  Scroll down to the middle of this link to find the lists by clicking HERE.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sight Word Cards For Your Word Wall

Now that your Word Wall is set up, you will need to start introducing some sight words along with your CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.  This card set by Smethport is a good one with the words printed on colored cards that are easy to read in ball-and-stick font which is used in most public schools today (Denelian font used to be used-otherwise known as fancy font).

I suggest introducing only 2 sight words at a time, then when those are mastered move on to two more.  Make sure that you always review the words you have taught before.  

*Remember sight words are words you recognize by SIGHT. They are not to be sounded out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Setting Up Your Word Wall

I have a little center set up in my son's room that we call his 'word wall.' Each night we spend about 15 minutes reviewing his words from our previous lessons, and learning a new one (which I add about every 3rd night). In order to start your own word wall, you will need to find some wide open wall space that is about eye level to your child.  Then set up a pocket chart.  I really like this one:

Note that it does NOT come with the pocket addition at the bottom.  I suggest you get this add on pocket to keep your letter cards in when teaching. Here it is:
The next thing you will need is to get a letter set that has all the consonants, vowels, digraphs, etc. that you will be teaching.  It is best (and easiest) to buy a set so that you have multiples of letters you will use most often, as well as to make sure you cover every phonetic skill.  Here is my favorite set from Lakeshore Learning:
I love how this set covers every phonics skill, and has each one in a different color.  Even if you don't point out that the vowels are red, and the digraphs are green, your child will still notice the differences and recognize them more as chunks which will help when blending.

Stay tuned for Part #2 in which I will tell you how to teach beginning reading skills to your child using your word wall.

*Thanks Norine for suggesting this post!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Super Why Game Is Super Cute!

If you are like me and like to have your kids watching educational TV shows, you probably watch Super Why! I just love the graphics, the characters, and the different reading skills it teaches (and correctly as well-unlike other shows out there).  So when I was picking out toys for LoLo's 4th birthday I just knew that this game would be a hit. 

I really like how it is simple enough for young players to play (around 4 years and up), and does not have too many rules.  You simply roll the dice, move to the appropriate spot, then pick a card that matches the character you are on.  I would read the card to LoLo and he would do the appropriate action. 

For example:
Alpha Pig with Alphabet Power: Players point to the uppercase letter on the board that matches the lowercase letter on the card.

Wonder Red with Word Power: Players read the words or look at the pictures on the card and say another word or words that rhyme.

Princess Presto with Spelling Power: Players say the word pictured on the card, then point to the first letter or fist two letters of that word on the center of the board.

Super Why with the Power to Read: Players point to the word on the board that should replace the underlined word on the card to make the silly sentence make sense. 

The first player to reach the finish with all 4 different character cards is the winner.

*Makes a great birthday gift!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where did this cutesy baby talk come from?

LoLo just turned 4 on March 2nd, and with this birthday I really held out hope that he would become more mature and responsible. Then bam, he starts in with the baby talk! What?! He has decided that it is funny to add little endings to words, such as: "schooley"-for school, "pickie"-for pickle.  I know that he is just doing this to be funny and get attention, but after awhile it just became annoying and I felt like others were thinking he wasn't as smart as he really is.  I talked to him about it, yet he still is doing it so I decided to try and go with it for now.  I realize that there is a positive side to this issue as well, and I am trying to remind myself of that every time he does it.  The positive side: as he begins to experiment with changing words (like adding 'ie' to the end of words) it shows me that he is starting to understand that words can be changed and still retain their base meaning.  This skill is a very advanced concept for young kids, and shows that they are starting to realize that words are made up of parts (onsets and rimes, base words, suffixes and prefixes, etc.).  Eventhough his understanding is very primitave, it is still there....and this is what I am going to tell myself everytime he says 'cutie-wootie!' Ugh!

I want to know what your little ones are saying? Any cute baby talk that is driving you nuts? Don't forget to include your child's age.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Segmenting and Blending Tips

Segementing and blending is a critical skill which early readers need to master in order to sound out words.  I often encourage parents to work on this skill at home as part of their nightly-reading ritual. First off, let me explain what segmenting and blending are.
Segmenting is when words are divided into different phonemes (or letter sounds).  For early readers this would consist of 1-letter at a time (either a consonant or a vowel).  I would recommend using only words that are spelled with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (3 letters).  Make sure when choosing a word, that it is spelled phonetically-just the way it sounds (ex: cat, bat, pan, fit).
Blending is when the letter sounds are read together, thus creating a single word.  It is important when teaching blending that you make sure the child knows all the letter sounds, then as they begin to connect them together they should make their voice "carry-over" from one letter to the next. 
Segmenting and blending should be taught together, eventhough they are separate skills, they rely on one another.
Here are some games to play to work on segmenting and blending: