Archives For preschool

How do you engage your baby, ages one to three, in reading? My answer, create a personalized wordbook of objects that interest your child.

2015 07 14 Personalized Workbook all.jpg

Bella’s Wordbook

Your child’s workbook should include words that you hear your child say or that you know are favorite objects, such as a favorite stuffed animal.

For example, your daughter might love saying spoon and bowl. (Mine did.) Glue photos of the actual objects that interest your baby to cardstock pages. Write below each photo the word to identify each object. You should include a personalized sentence. Underline the identifying word.  For my daughter I wrote, “This is Bella’s bowl” and underlined the word “bowl”.  To baby proof your baby’s book, slide each word page into a plastic sheet protector. Tape shut each sheet protector along the top and put the pages in a plastic binder.

Start with just 10 words!

Read the book to your baby several times a day. After a month, add ten more word pages with photos.

As your baby begins to read the words in her book, you can make a game of labeling with sticky notes the actual objects around your home, for example, high chair, toothbrush, and hairbrush. In our home, we labeled our dog. The key is to include words that interest your child.

As your child reads her book with you, she will begin to understand that written words have meaning. You can further emphasize this by touching each word individually as you read the sentence that goes with each word. This teaches your baby not only the directionality of reading from left to right, but also that each word has its own meaning and individual pronunciation.

Have fun making your child’s own personalized wordbook that she will want to read again and again. My daughter, who is nine, still looks at her wordbook from when she was a baby and enjoys knowing what she was interested in when she was so little.

How do you document your baby’s first words?

At this time of year, parents of my students starting kindergarten or first grade always ask me,

“What should my child practice over the summer?”

“Practice handwriting!” is my answer.

letter in the house detailKindergarten and first grade teachers emphasize handwriting. If your child grasps how to form letters, handwriting will come much easier. Schedule a set time each day to practice writing letters.

To help motivate your child, you might say something like, “We can go swimming after you trace and then write your letters for 15 minutes.” Then set a timer for the allotted time.

Given the teaching pace in kindergarten and first grade these days, your child will have a great advantage with a strong foundation for forming letters.

For strategies to help your child master handwriting, please click here to read my previous blog about handwriting. Link to Your Child: Letter Writing Master.

How do you motivate your child to practice academic skills over the summer? What strategies do you use to keep the practice going?

Remembering sight words is a big part of your child learning to read. The words “was” and “you” are examples of sight words. Sight words appear frequently when reading and often times do not follow phonetic rules – your child will not be able to sound them out. Memorization is the best approach to mastering sight word reading and spelling.

2015 04 28 sight word listYour child can memorize sight words with a personalized word book. My students make their own sight word books. Their books contain only the words that they need to master.

Use a sight word checklist to decide which words to include in your child’s word book. The checklist contains the most often used sight words. Have your child quickly go through the list. Check the words that she can read quickly on sight. Add the words that she cannot read into her sight word book.

The sight word book is a blank book with pages big enough for your child to write an individual word at the top and then below to write a sentence and/or draw a picture to help explain the word’s meaning. For example if the word is “where”, your child could write a short sentence under the word like, “Where is my bike?” She could draw a picture of her bike with a question mark as a cue to help her remember that “where” is a “question” word.

2015 04 28 sight word bookStart with 25 words in your child’s sight word book. Add 25 more words after she masters these. This activity is effective because your child creates her own individualized meaning cues for the word through her sentence and picture. By creating the sentence and picture herself, she will remember better the word when she reads and spells it. This is particularly helpful when your child is working to remember homophones – words that sound the same but have different meaning, like “by” and “buy”. The picture and sentence trigger visual memory clues that your child can use later.

My students really enjoy creating and using their own books of sight words and sentences and pictures. What are ways you help your child remember sight words?

Finally, I have found a great use for my daughter’s old toddler-size Legos – a game that helps your child recognize words that are part of the same word family, like lap, cap and map. On each Lego block is a word. Your child “wins” by putting together the Lego blocks with words in the same family.

To make the game, write examples of each word family on individual blocks using a permanent marker like a Sharpie. I used three blocks and words per family. Bad, dad, and had are examples of the ad word family. Write one word per a block on both its front and back. I made blocks of word families to practice the short sounds of all vowels – a, e, i, o and u. For example, the short a word families includes three word blocks for each of the ad, at, ap and ag word families – a total of twelve words for the short vowel a.2015 02 24 Lego Word Blocks

Before starting the game with your child, begin by explaining how to play. Begin with one of the word families, for example at. Have your child break apart the family of three at-word blocks and ask, “What is the same about all of these blocks?” Help your child arrive at the answer, “All of the words have the same at ending.” With that understanding, your child is ready to play.

To start the game, mix the blocks for your child to sort into individual word family groups. To organize this, break apart all of your blocks. Keep out one base block for each word family word: ap, at, ad and ag. Put the remaining blocks in a bag for your child to pick one word block at a time. Have your child read and then match the block to the base, word-family block.

The game is a great way to find out if your child really understands word families. It helps them read the base word and then connect what they read to the next word – recognizing that the next word is like the last with a different first letter and sound. “Oh! If I change the first letter in cat to the letter h, the word says hat.”

My children love building and sorting word blocks. My younger kiddos start with one group of three short vowel word blocks. My older, more independent readers use a mix of short vowel groupings – for example short o and short e words. Regardless of skill level, both start with a base word block for each word family and put the remaining separated blocks in a bag or bin to pick, read, match and build.

Your child will love this game while learning to recognize word patterns that strengthen reading and spelling skills. Hope you enjoy!

What are ways you have used building materials like blocks to reinforce spelling or reading games?

Last week, I shared my Read and Spell game for your older preschooler or elementary-age child to practice spelling words or word families.

This week’s game is for your younger child. My Letter Name and Sound game is perfect for your preschooler or older child who needs extra practice recalling the names and sounds of letters. It can help prepare your preschooler for kindergarten by creating a strong foundation of letter recognition and sound mastery.

Like last week’s Read and Spell game, make the game from a sheet of poster board. Draw a track on the board and separate it into boxes. Make the track shorter for your younger child – no more than 30 boxes to help sustain attention. Label each box with an L (for naming a letter) or an S (for saying the sound of the letter). Make the game more interesting by adding extra turn spaces to the board, or spaces that direct your child to “go back” or “go ahead”. Laminate the board for durability.2015 01 13 S and L Board

Make the board game as elaborate as your child wants. For example, if your child loves trains, make the path into railroad tracks. To increase the fun, let your child decorate her game board with stickers or drawings. Personalizing the game can be a fun indoor day activity that will allow your child to make it her own.

In addition, you will need a foam dice, up to five small toy figurines, a dry erase board, markers and an eraser. I use a large foam die to keep down the noise when my children are rolling on a table. The sides of the die should be numbered or marked with dots from 1 through 6.

You can play this game with up to five kids. Have each player pick a figurine and have one roll the die. If your child lands on an L, write a letter on your dry erase board and ask her to name it. If she lands on an S ask her to say the sound of the letter.board_game_board_1_dice board_game_board_1_playing_pieces

The kids I teach love playing this game. I love this game because I can modify it easily for each child’s individual level. Check out last week’s blog to learn about my Read and Spell game – a great way to help your older child practice spelling words or word families.

How do you use games to practice letter name and sound recall with your child?

Based on a blog originally published February 19, 2014.

Your child can learn to spell by using my game called Word Builder. Word Builder makes seeing spelling patterns fun for your child. Simply, it is a nine box checkerboard with consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) word patterns.

2014 12 08 Word Builder 1When your child plays Word Builder, her job is to build as many words as possible with the given letters. The only rule is she cannot jump over any letter to make a word. However, she can build any word by placing letters forwards, backwards, horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

Through the game, your child can learn word patterns and families – such as the “an” or “am” word families. She can learn how to use specific sounds to build words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example, she can learn that she can make the word “meet” by changing the “ea” in the word “meat” to “ee”.

If your child is a younger emergent reader, limit the number of words for her to find to five. Draw three blanks for each word to emphasize the difference between beginning, middle, and ending sounds. Also, differentiate vowels from consonants letters in the checkerboard by writing the vowels in red and the consonants in black.

If your child is an older student, use this game to help teach letter pairs that have the same sound, such as “ee” and “ea”. Talk about tricks to remember homonyms such as “meet” and “meat”, for example, “The meat that you eat.” My older students love the challenge of seeing how many words they can spell in a certain timeframe. “How many real words can you build in five minutes?”

2014 12 08 Word Builder 2Kids love Word Builder because it is a puzzle. They are motivated to find or build as many words as they can.

With this game, your child can master her consonant-vowel-consonant words (cvc). The game will help your child recognize word families, and patterns of letters within words – making spelling easier.

What are fun ways your child likes to practice her spelling words?

Reading Focus

Julie Haden —  : Oct 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

Often times my parents will tell me that their children are having a hard time focusing when reading – especially the parents of kids just beginning to read independently. Here are a few techniques to try with your child to help increase their reading focus, fluency and comprehension.2014 10 28 focus

First, when your child is reading aloud, track each word for her with your finger as she reads. If she misreads a word or makes a mistake, keep your finger on that word so she is aware of her mistake until you teach her the correct word or help her focus on the skipped words.

Another way to increase focus while your child is reading aloud is to ask questions periodically about the context of the text or story to insure she understands what she is reading. Help bring her focus to the main idea and specific details about the story.

Finally, bring your child’s attention to words that she misreads aloud. As you track the words while she reads, highlight words that she misreads. So you can review these words with her, copy a chapter at a time as she progresses in the book or text. Then after each chapter, review missed words with your child. This technique also teaches your child to be aware of how many words she skips, since skipping too many words might affect her comprehension of what she reads.

By practicing these three techniques, you are teaching your child how to have greater focus as she begins to read independently.

What helps your child learn to have focus while reading?

Want a fast, fun way to expand your preschooler’s vocabulary and understanding? I found one while working with a student who is an English Language Learner. English Language Learners often have limited exposure to English vocabulary at home. Vocabulary is important to building reading skills and listening comprehension as well as increasing conversational speech.

zoo toobMy new student and I started playing what I call “prop” stories. Prop stories start with small three-dimensional toy figures, or pictures on felt or magnets, that depict animals, people or other realistic or fanciful objects. A blank background can work or you can use a specific background like a zoo theme for example. The key is to focus on your child’s specific interests.

To introduce these prop stories, I model the story first using specific sentences, which I ask my student to repeat. For example in my zoo prop story I might say, “A mother takes her son to the zoo. They see the penguins swimming in the water. They see the elephants swinging their trunks.”

As your child gets more comfortable with vocabulary and sentence structuring, he can begin to create his own stories without your prompting and labeling of words.

zoo feltProp stories are great for children as young as 18 months – 2 years and for older children too. You can find materials for your child’s prop story around your home or can purchase magnetic and felt story sets at teacher school supply stores.

Prop stories are fun. Your child will see them as play and will be motivated by the imaginative interactions with you. As your child plays with you, she expands her vocabulary and language skills as you label the words and create a better grasp on sentence structuring. Your child’s creativity grows too as your child creates and tells stories.

How do you help build your child’s vocabulary through play?

This time of year, my parents ask for ideas to help their children make letter formations.

wilson pageStart your child working on lower case letters before capitals. I can’t emphasize that enough! Your child will see and use mostly lower case letters when she is reading or writing. A question I often get from parents is, “Which letters should we work on together?” The Wilson Reading System provides a fantastic chart that shows which letter formations to teach together.

Tactile tools are great ways for getting letter formations instruction to “stick”. Tools include placing paper over a plastic grid and then having your child use a crayon to make a letter. You can use “house paper”  to help your child place the specific letter in the right space. After your child writes a letter, have her use her finger to feel the bumps impressed in the paper from the crayon going in the direction of the letter formation. The tactile perception will help your child remember how she formed the letter.letter in the house

letter in the house detail

Another tactile teaching tool is to have your child write letters in chalk on fine-grade sandpaper. Have your child trace the chalk letter with her finger. Alternatively use shaving cream. It is messy, but your child will both feel and see in contrast letters as she forms them.

Tracing letters in letter formation workbooks is a good way to reinforce making individual letters. A way to make doing this even more fun is to use colored pieces of acetate. Cut sheets, found in an art store, to the size of your workbook pages. Use dry erase markers and let your child trace and erase each letter. Another tool, a small tablet like a dry erase board can help your child focus on the space and help create a boundary for writing. (I use a 7” x 4 ½” board.)

How your child grasps her pencil is important to mastering letter formation. Try golf pencils, short sticks of chalk or short dry erase markers to encourage your child to practice the three-finger pincer grasp. Your older child will enjoy having many choices of pencil grippers as she masters the three-finger pincer grasp. These are just a few tools and ideas to help your child enjoy and master letter formation. For a link to ideas that will help your young child start strengthening their pincer grip, check out: therapystreetforkids.comgrippersWhat are some tools you use with your child to help with making letters?

For more, see my blog: Reading and Writing Go Hand In Hand!

  1.  Touch each word as you read to your child to emphasize that each is separate and unique. Emphasize that you are reading from left to right to teach directionality.
  2. Put objects that all begin with the same letter sound in a bag or box. Have your child pull them out. Say each object’s name emphasizing its beginning sound.  For example, cat begins with the |c| sound just like cow.  Then let them pull out more objects that make the same sound.
  3. Frequent the library. Help your child pick out books that they are interested in and age appropriate.  This shows them how much you value reading.  Let them see you reading your favorite books too.
  4. Play rhyming games.  This can be great fun on road trips or walking outings together.  For example, you might say, “I saw a cat on a mat with a _____. ” Let them fill in the blank.  There are no wrong answers in this game, except the sillier the better including nonsense words!
  5. When you teach letter names, use letters that are lowercase because this is what they will see in books.  Save capital letters until after they’ve mastered the lowercase.  You can find a set of lowercase letters at a teacher’s supply store.

Use these 5 ideas to start having fun cultivating an early reader!

What are some ideas you’ve used with your child to promote early reading?

Bella and Julie

First published October 3, 2013.