Friday, September 30, 2011

Learning to Read

There are many components in building the foundation for fluent readers.  I try to touch on as many of them as possible, as much as possible.  :-)    

We went fishing for sight words.  K. did enjoy this and we did this activity multiple times.  Sometimes with cards to match and other times without cards but with the fish upside down.   An "oldie" but a favorite.  I simple created fish with the sight words to review and added a paper clip.  The fishing pole is a ruler with yarn and a magnet at the bottom.

Word Family Homes Book
I provided strips with 5 pictures to a strip, one not belonging to the family.  This was SUCH good practice for K.  To say the words and figure out which one sounds differently.  Then she cut them apart and glued the remaining four into the windows.
We stapled these together with a front page that showed her family in the windows of this house pattern.  She wrote her last name on the front page also.  She is ready to move onto learning to write her last name as well so it was an introduction of sorts.  I tend to introduce word families with our own family's last name connecting that all our family members belong together.    Then I move to these words that have the last sounds that all belong together in what we call a "word family".  Just a reminder that it is more prevalent now for families to have members with more than one last name.   Use your own judgement whether or not this connection will work for you.  In this situation, I introduced it with our own family, and then did use the child's last name but did not get specific about who she put in her windows...and what their last names were.  Know your children and their families well before you add the My Family page!

Vocabulary Cards
With each focus letter, I use word wall cards that I've printed from (made them smaller to fit our smaller space).  For each set we use our clap cards.  They are simple a picture of two hands clapping.  1, 2, and 3.  She says the word, claps it out and sorts the cards to how many syllables are in the word.  We then find all the focus letters in the cards and then place them up on our wall under the correct letter.  This way we can interact with them frequently.  The way I am planning this year is similar to the "letter of the week" which I've never been real fond of.  And research has agreed with me.  However, I don't feel I fall into the typical habit of teachers that use this approach.  We do interact with all the letters frequently.  We don't just do a letter and then not do anything with it again.  That was one reason why I disagreed with this approach because that is exactly what happened with many of the teachers I have observed.  The other thing that's different is that I am not going from A-Z.  That is so silly to me.  Not meaningful at all.  Please, think about the order in which you are teaching your children the alphabet.  If your focus is reading...then go the order of the most used letters first.  That way you can immediately start putting the letters together to make words.  Much more meaningful.  But if your focus is handwriting (which mine is this year, since letter names and sounds are not a struggle) then go the route of what letters are easiest to write and build upon that.  I focus on only capital letters with my young PreK student and I add a lowercase component with my older PreK student as she has a more developed fine motor foundation.  One benefit to having a small group!  I do a LOT with individualization.  My goal is not to bring them all up to one standard but to meet each of the children's needs/desires individually and that means finding out where they are and taking steps forward from there.  Side note:  If anyone has ideas for games and activities to go with vocabulary cards...I'd love to hear them!

E Egg
A Apple
I really don't know where I got these puzzles from.  I'd like to if anyone can clue me in?  I did a quick search through the blog and didn't see that I had mentioned these puzzles so included the A-apple picture also. I simply colored, printed, laminated and added magnets to the back of the pieces.  We then do the puzzle on a dollar store baking sheet.  Keeps the pieces from moving all over the place. This time, she realized she was going to have to sound the words out to figure out where these pieces go.  The first go around she was just guessing...and it wasn't working.  Anyway, these vowel puzzles are nice to reinforce the vowel sounds as well as the concept of sounding out simple words. 

Number Words
Some of the first words they work with in Kindergarten are color and number words.  So I do quite a bit with them, often have them written under the colors or numbers in my own teacher-made activities and displays.  Here is an activity from that I printed for K. to work on. It's called Train Identify and Stamp

I like that they also include zero.  Sometimes we assume the children understand the concept of zero but perhaps they don't.  So, we were able to reinforce that zero means nothing so she wouldn't stamp anything on that page.  (numbers 0-10, included).
Something we started this week on our Elmo day...
A simple alphabet book with Sesame Street Characters.  I printed these coloring sheets from My goal for this week was to have her glue on all the letters in alphabetical order and then next week we'll begin working on creating a collage page from pictures and print from magazines.  I decided to bind the book together because I'm known for misplacing things I'm saving.  So this will keep it all together, but it will also give her a visual of where to glue the pictures too as often they'll glue them where I need to bind if there isn't a visual.  A long term project.  These are good for children to experience!

Quite a week!  Preschoolwise-it went just fine.  Personally...I'm glad to see this week end and start fresh next week!  :-) 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

E is for...

E is for Elmer the Elephant

Here's our Elmer's Day Parade.  Unfortunately, we are missing a couple here.  One child wanted to take his home and another was absent today so won't get it done until tomorrow.  But they did turn out cute.  We used oil pastels and tempera cakes.  I think I like oil pastels for toddler better than crayons!  Definitely kept his interest longer since they were easier to work with and bolder in color with just gentle markings.  Not sure what the expense would be though, to use them all the time with toddlers!  The Elmer's pattern can be found at

 Paper Plate Elephant
This is the two year old's end result.  Cute!  :-)  It was definitely a process thing.  He ended up with the mixing plates painted on both sides.  Side note:  I let them mix their own white and black to make gray so each are a different shade of gray.    I had planned this to be our main scissors activity but when I printed the pattern it was for a small plate vs. a big plate and younger than school-age children would not be very successful in cutting out the pieces.   FYI...I did not help T. put the pieces on other then gluing in the appropriate spots and handing them to him.  Note his ears are on either side of the head.  I give credit to "mat man".  Typically a two year old would put them on randomly.  Oh, speaking about mat child put a small curve on the blue rectangle body and told me that he was putting intestines there.  LOL

ABC Twiggles
Parents:  These have not been going home, as I'm sure you noticed, as I'll bind them together as a book when we get through the alphabet.

E is for Elmo
Working at the easel, we had read the book Elmo and Dorthy: Friends Forever.  This was one of the pieces of work.  Book Journal comment:  4 year old drew a picture of herself and brother and dictated to me "Friends Forever."  She included a little more but that was so sweet!   

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Activity Mom: Sticky Sensory Table

The Activity Mom: Sticky Sensory Table: How to Make a Sticky Table: Cover a table or small area with contact paper, stick side up. Tape the sides down and explore with different ...
I can't make comments again, for whatever the reason so maybe I'll "repost" this with an activity idea I did a couple years back that was a hit.  Anyone know why I can't post comments on others or my own account?  The error reads that my account doesn't have access to that page.  Whatever that means.  It gives me the options to try a new account but I only have one.  So....hmmm. 

Fall Tree
I made a paper tree trunk for the wall and the tree top was actually the contact paper, sticky side out. Then I provided the foam leaves from Oriental Trading. They would stick them up on the tree but the best part was that the leaves would eventually fall down on their own! Just like nature. :-) So then they were back at it, waiting for the leaves to fall.

I'm also remembering a favorite time for myself. I had cut shape out of contact paper and taped them to the floor sticky side up for a group of toddlers. I didn't "introduce" the activity. Just let them figure out it was there on their own. How funny! They all reacted so differently to this sticky stuff!

We also sorted craft foam shapes onto the corresponding shape of contact paper.

Been awhile since I've done contact paper activities...will have to keep that in mind for the near future!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

E is for...

First off, I wanted to say that we officially started our Postcard Exchange, set up through TeachPreschool!  We are SO excited!  We pulled the map and globe down to see where our post cards were going.  We had Indiana, New York, Texas, Montana and one to the UK for this month.  What fun!  We'll start coloring in a map and learn a bit about each state as we receive post cards. 

E is for Engine!
We read The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper this morning.  And one of the following activities today was to talk about needs and wants.   (We also pulled in our post cards and I asked about whether we could take the train to all the places.  Of course, we "could" to all but the UK because then we'd have to cross the Atlantic Ocean.  Oh!  This is going to be such a great learning process!) 
I find that these conversations are very important with this generation of children.  They really have it "easy" in some regards and do NOT understand the difference between a need and a want.  So I always teach the three basic needs are food, shelter, and clothing and the rest are wants.  There are times we get into the details of each....especially with older PreK students and school agers.  We need healthy food but not necessarily mac 'n' cheese or steak dinner.  We need basic clothing but not necessarily Armani, Gucci, Adias (or whatever brand that pops into your head).  We need shelter but that doesn't mean we need a mansion or some fancy place (and as much as we've "grown out" of this house we can still live here...we don't NEED a new house...we want one.)  So important to have those conversations. 

KidsSoup had a compound word Train that was right up my alley.  :-)  I just printed, laminated, and added velcro and ta-da, finished.  No reason to recreate the wheel!  We had a set of 9 compound words/cars.  Good practice.  Reminder, if your child is having difficulty blending sounds together to make a word (you saying /c/ /u/ /p/ and they answer with cup) then go back a step to compound words.  This definitely helps.  Blending sounds together is a necessity in being able to read.

We ordered our wooden number magnet trains from 1-10 and the other train from 10-1. 

We tried something "new" today for art.  I used a train paper plate stencil from  and allowed them to paint as they wished.
The child on the left was trying her hardest to use every color...definitely more interested in the "new" tempera cake tray.  The child on the right had a plan.  He also told me that "The sun is just a really big star".  :-)

And my biggest smiles came from our shape train activity from  I showed them what the train looked like originally and then let them go.  I do not require them to make it exactly like the picture unless it's a following the direction activity and then I go about it differently.  But just letting them go with the shapes all spread out on a tray allows for a bit of creativity.   My big smile came in when one child began singing a song we have on our Cars, Trucks, Trains CD and then wanted his dictation sentence to be "Chug chug, clickety clack, over the mountains and over the fairies."  :-)  He even told me the fairies had wings. ;-P  And the other child said, "Ms. Amber, I wrote "look"."  And sure enough, there it was on her paper.  She then said she wanted to write "Look, I see a train."  Oh wow!  The best part was that SHE wanted to write it, not have me write the rest of the sentence.  BIG SMILES!!!  So, I could use some ideas...I feel the reason why she knows "look" so well is that I created eyeballs in the oo when I first introduced the word.  And if you  look closely, she wrote the word more than once after the initial one for the sentence and they all have dots in the center of the oo's.  Yesterday, she wanted to watch Dr. Seuss ABC and "Living Books" come up at the beginning.  She put her hands around the word Books and said, "'s like look."  Yeah!  Anyway...I'd like to have some other pictorial ways of introducing other sight words...which is proving to be difficult.  Any suggestions out there?  Thanks ahead of time!

We used E is for... magnet sheets also from  When a child isn't here full time, they do definitely miss out on lessons and there are always reasons why I do what I do...there is always a process that is in place due to my own experience with children and their development.  Anyway...since this little one is not here all the time, it's been hard for him to grasp the "leapfrog" concept of these letters.  But today when he was putting the magnet chips on the letter E (their task was to choose one magnet card to do first then they were welcome to explore with the magnets) he was all excited when he told me "I did it!  I leapfrogged up!" and he showed me with his finger how he did it.  :-)  A step in the right direction!  So proud of him!

Better let this be all for now.  Lots to do in the 30 minutes or so...then it's K.'s "reading time"! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

E is for....

Do you ever have mornings where time flies?  Most of my mornings do but today especially so.  I looked at the clock and saw it was 20 minutes to 11 and I about had a heart attack!  :-D  Until I saw we were almost done.  Actually, we finished at 11:01 AM.  We're getting this timing thing down without having to that's good!   We try to be done with our center rotation by 11A so that we get cleaned up, lunch prepared and eaten and cleaned up again to go outside.  Not a big deal today since it's pouring out but boy oh boy...time flew!

E is for egg!
Of course, Humpty Dumpty must be included.  So we did a little dice/drawing game from  A lot of laughs with this little game!  I like dice games because learning how the dots are formed to symbolize each number, instead of counting each dot individual every time we roll the dice, is a good skill to learn. 

We must always hammer eggshells or the children wouldn't forgive me.  :-)  Well, that might be an exaggeration but hammering eggshells is always a favorite.  So I dyed some eggshells (rubbing alcohol and food coloring) and dyed my hands in the process when the bag had a leak, oops!  :-) And I provided a small wooden hammer.  They also cut out a cardstock egg shape, cutting across the center for a "crack" and then glued the eggshells on top.  

We did a short e and long ee word sort.  Each picture was placed into a plastic egg.  Note that I put the eggs inside of an egg carton.  This allows for review or introduction to the term "dozen".   Not sure if you can find these egg cartons anymore...the ones I have are really old but what I like about them is that it allows for practice in counting from left to right and top to bottom.  A regular egg carton does the same but with only two rows.  I also created color pairs to reinforce the term "pair" and "couple".  And since we read Eggs and Legs: Counting by Twos by Michel Dahl I also incorporated the skip counting concept with this activity.  Side note:  One journal page today read "Look, 6 eggs and 12 legs" and "maybe little falcons" were coming out of the eggs.  Cool beans!  I was expecting something like "chicks".  :-P 

We made sets of 12 by placing one item in each space (1:1) in the egg carton.  I was sure to have more than 12 manipulatives in each cup.  I also was watching for left to right movement while placing the items in as well as they were counting.  I was also listening to how they were counting.

I've found some very nice printables at recently.   After watching ABC Twiggles E-What's in the egg? online story, we talked about what other things come from an eggs.  Here is one of the printables I used from the above site, titled Animals That Hatch From Eggs.  The original is a full sheet for each picture.  I printed 4 to a sheet and cut around them to display.

 Tree?  What does that have to do with eggs?   They definitely don't hatch for eggs.  Ha!  Well, I'm trying to incorporate the season and slowly but surely our leaves are starting to change.  So when I came across a recent blog from Teach Preschool I knew it would fit right into our day because they used bottom of egg cartons for the leaves.  We made one big tree, they made individual trees.  I showed the trunk because I wanted to just mention that this activity could be used as a letter T formation activity if you desired.  That wasn't our focus today so we didn't but we did incorporate vocabulary, texture, shades, culture, skin color names, vertical and horizontal lines.  Turned out pretty cute!  Here's her site with the original idea...I do recommend the cardboard egg cartons vs. the foam.

Have a lovely week!

Friday, September 23, 2011

F is for...

Here are a few end product pictures.

F is for feet!
Planned on putting a poem on the right side, that's why it's off center but I really couldn't find one that I liked that would fit in the space left and not look tacky so...if you all know of any great poems that would go along with a project like this...please let me know!  K. Sponge painted the white cardstock to make it look like sand.  Idea came from  It's the site where  I got most of my monthly handprint project ideas last year, where I put the child's picture on one side and we printed the handprint on the other.

F is for frog!
Which really ended up being a "toad"...which we have a few around here each summer in our sand box.  This idea was initially from The Mailbox preschool publication but I was reminded of it from Stacy at Share & Remember,  Thanks Stacy! 

F is for Fold.
Ha!  Today is "Free Friday" where we finish up projects (I only have two children here besides my own on a regular basis on Friday), switch toys, do the things we didn't get to, etc.  I don't plan any new activities.  I have a habit of doing towels last and then leave them in the dryer until I do the next round of laundry.  Well, I emptied the towels from the dryer onto my bed and did my round of laundry for that day ending with towels.  We never got to the towels on the bed so I ended up putting them back into the dryer with the other load.  So I said to K. today, since she was really just following me around instead of playing, if she wanted to help me fold some towels, since F is for fold.  She got all excited and said "Yes!  I know how to fold towels!"  So she came with me and I grab the first armful to take it to the couch.  She walked in behind me and put her hands on her head and made a big exclamation when she saw how many towels there were!  My husband and I enjoyed that one!  She sure does know how to fold though! 

Last week we did mixing color pages throughout the week.  So we did L is for Lizard, L is for Lion, L is for Lollipop.  Here's the simple book (love my new binding machine!  Been keeping work here just so I can bind them in a book to send home!)
Front Cover:  They colored the paint brush their favorite color and cut the paint palette out if they were able.

2nd page:  the song we sing

3rd-6th pages are the two colors and the mixed color on the L picture we were focused on that day.  When we do activities like this I always allow for free exploration with the paints when they are completed with the task I asked them to do. 

 Have a good weekend!  Next week we move to the letter E.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

F is for...

F is for Fish!

A listening activity we did today...
After exploring with the instruments (these are very familiar with the children enrolled now, we do quite a bit of rhythm instrument play) each child gets a school of fish that has a picture of an instrument.  I ran out of time so we didn't use the blue felt we normally do to make a sea for the fish.  :-)  I gather the instruments that are shown in the pictures and we go through each one talking about them and their sound (a lot of opportunities for vocabulary building).  Then I choose one of instruments, and without showing them the instrument I play the instrument and they guess which instrument it is.  This sounds like a really easy activity but I find it's more of a challenge for the preschool children then one would think! 

 Upper-Lowercase Letters
Three times a year I do an assessment.  The first two weeks we matched shapes- upper to upper and lower to lower case letters. I was able to see which letters they remembered from last year, if they knew their sound and if they could give me a word that began with that sound.  I had planned to use the shapes again, doing the upper-lower case but they had lost interest so I decided to wait until today and pull out this activity I printed from  Simply, they took the lower case letter square and placed it next to the capital letter on the fish.  I had never gotten around to using velcro with this activity, though that is what was the directions, I just used sticky tack.  However, I will say that using velcro adds a component of interest, especially when it comes to taking the letters off for the next child.  I've not met a student once that doesn't like to work with velcro!

Handwriting Without Tears
We'll be using this tool each week to reinforce the letters we have learned or are learning.  I also try to incorporate a little simple sign language because it's great for developing those small muscles in their hands. Can be quite a challenge as we can see in the second picture...but that's just fine.  It's where he is at.  Though they'll attend Kindergarten the same year...there are months between them as well as varied experiences and gender plays a role also.   One thing I will say though, with the 15 years I've been in this field, I would definitely be an advocate for our State's Kindergarten cut off date to be moved to Sept 1.  Or even a bit earlier in the summer.  Those few months make a BIG difference in a child's school readiness.  There are some exceptions, I agree, but in general, children that are well into year 5 have a much better success rate then those just turning or will turn during the fall.  A lot of it boils down to social emotional and fine motor readiness.  Again, my opinion.  Take it or leave it!  :-)

Fine Motor
I made this fish last year and they were very excited to see it out again.  And, for those who notice, T. has the bowl on the right side of the tray for a reason.  :-P  He's left handed and I really wanted to encourage crossing the midline.  The other children had their bowl on the left.  FYI:  a 1/4 teaspoon is perfect for transferring a marble. 

ABC Twiggles
As I mentioned last week with our L is for Llama, we are creating an alphabet book that uses the patterns from Kidssoup/ABC Twiggles.  Children cut the sticks/curves and glue onto the paper to create an object that starts with that particular letter.  I also encourage them to write the letter in our simple ____ is for ______. sentence and find all the letters in that sentence.  You'll see a lot with capital letters, I do use lower case letters also, but for letter formation I'm following the Handwriting Without Tears  program and their research shows that children can create the capital letters easier (and I agree or I wouldn't be following the program).  However, with reading, the majority of the letters are lowercase so that's where we do our lowercase work...with reading/letter recognition activities.

Hope your week went well!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

F is for...

F is for Frogs!

One of our favorite types of books are "Sing and Read" Storybooks.  These are the books where an individual has illustrated a very common-popular song.  They love it when I sit down and play it on the piano also.   And I'll see them take the book and open it to the last page of the book where the notes are and pretend to play it at the piano. Always brings a big smile to my face!
So today our book was a Sing and Read storybook titled Five Green and Speckled Frogs beautifully illustrated (very entertaining) by Constanza Basaluzzo.

Here is a little manipulative I created about 6+ years ago.  The "log" has held up well.  It was an aluminum foil tube I'm pretty sure.  The frogs started out like the ones in front but over time they have fallen off and have gotten misplaced.  So this morning when I pulled it out of our frog theme tub, we just decided to tape on our wooden frog manipulatives.  They are taped onto wooden spoons.  I like to have the subtraction problem on a little card so they can start to connect what a formal subtraction problem looks like.  So 5-1= and they'll tell me 4.  4-1= and they'll tell me 3 and so on.

Making Learning Fun website: is a site I'm surprised I don't see more of a reference to on other's blogs.  They have a great many printables in so many themes!  Today we did a few of their fly count cards.  I like these types of cards as they add a nice fine motor component as we clip clothespins to the correct answer.  One challenge about these specific cards is that the flies are randomly above the frog, which makes the cards more visually appealing but makes it more difficult for a preschooler to count because they can't really go from left to right and top to bottom. 

We also did a color matching activity.  I find that I tend to just skim over colors for various reasons but I'm coming to see that there are some colors they just don't really know very well.  I tend to take the rule for sight word knowledge and use it for other basic concepts such as shapes, letters, numbers, colors and that is they should be able to tell you the answer within 4 seconds.  I find that it takes quite awhile for a few of them to come up with an answer so I'm being more diligent in slipping in simple color recognition activities throughout each week.  Here she is also matching the color word and then she used letter tiles to spell red, blue and yellow as those are the 3 colors on the pre primer sight word list.

In sensory, I provided some simple foam lily pads and our jumping frogs as an addition to water play.  I know I did water play the first week of school and this is only the third week but they've been asking and it goes very well with frogs and fish (tomorrow's theme).  The little banana split bowls came from a dollar store that was going out of business so a nice clearance buy.  T. was calling them his boats!  :-P

All for now!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

F is for...

F is for Fire!

Today started with smile (well, by the time the kids woke up) and the morning ended with a smile.  It was a lovely morning!  Of course, part of it is finding a "theme" that the children really are interested in and anything with fire, firetrucks, firemen, etc is always a hit.  As you know, this year I'm doing theme days in accordance to the focus letter of the week.  There is one downfall though...I often can't fit into one day what I could in a week!  Oh, well, we'll just see how it goes.  Perhaps we'll find the "middle place" in it all. 

Well, what to share.   Hmmm.  All of it?  Probably not.  But I'll start and see where I get.  Here's a little rhyme I found last week.  And for the life of me, I can't find the site where I found it.  Anyway...if anyone knows where they've seen something similar, please let me know so I can give proper credit!  Thanks.
The children took to this rhyme very quickly!
Rhyming, left to right progression, words vs. pictures and more!

I had a doll house out for dramatic play this week and so I also brought out the Ryan's Room Fire Station and put it across the room.  Cut out a few foam flames (which we also added to our water play, with spray bottles and plastic fire hats) and they, of course, stuck them to the house and the fire truck rushed over to put out the fire.  Great addition!  Lovely conversations taking place!

We started out with blow painting red and yellow watered down paint, for art, but then ended with a small paintbrush as we were having a bit of trouble having success.  :-)  The saliva was starting to win!  LOL

  Our Lakeshore Transportation manipulatives are always a favorite and you don't have to use them just for counting and sorting.  Here we created Ls and Fs because those are the two main letters we worked on but here you can see that K made a zero, and was quite proud of it.  They naturally pattern and sort though, because that's what we've done in the past.  Like most activities, I have a small "task" and then they have free exploration of the materials.  That's what happened here also.

Here's a cute little idea I found today!  Wish I had thought of it earlier (or found it earlier) but that's fine, I'll make something similar for the other transportation manipulatives that we have.
Other great ideas their also!

Scissors:  cutting out the hydrant.  Great conversation here also!  Idea was from

Love the purple hydrant!  Also, encouraging a dictation sentence is always beneficial in helping with learning print concepts.

I guess I better stop here as time is a-flying!  Hope your morning ran smoothly!