Color the Gingerbread House

This is one of the first phonemic awareness activities I am posting for pre-readers.  If you try to introduce this activity and your little one is not quite getting it, go back to some of the earlier reading posts on the “getting started” page and practice more activities similar to the earlier skills because your little one may need more time playing with words before he/she is ready to listen for the beginning sounds in words. 

Listening for beginning sounds, generating beginning sounds, and identifying which letter makes that sound are three SEPARATE skills.   So today, we are going to start with the basics of introducing phonemic awareness (which is the awareness that words are made up of sounds).

I created an activity in which you will talk about all the objects in the picture so that you can label the objects with your child BEFORE attempting to listen for the sounds that the words start with.  Once children are able to “play” with words enough to hear sounds.  They usually hear the beginning sound first, then the ending sound, and then the middle sound(s) eventually.  It takes A LOT of practice listening for the beginning sound before a child can hear and distinguish other sounds within a word. 

But this is a great place to start: 

Click on the link below, print it, read the directions and let your child choose what they want to color with -crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc.

Color the Sound

If you dont have a printer, free-hand this picture on a blank sheet of paper 🙂

Math on my Fingers

In the last math post “Math Stories” I talked about the importance of hands-on activities when introducing and practicing new skills.  And in the post “What’s in a number?” I talked about children needing to see number sets represented in many ways.  Today, we are going to combine those two important concepts in a counting activity using their fingers.

Search around your house for something that can fit on your child’s fingers (rings, finger puppets, those Halloween fake finger tips, cubes/blocks that are open on one side, etc.)

Make a group of ten finger-sized manipulatives and ask your child to help you count them out.  Then explain to your little one that you want to play a game where you will call out a number and they will place that many cubes on their fingers (one on each finger) using both hands.  Then you will ask them to show you that same number of cubes in a different way.

Before you play the game you have to show the child on your OWN fingers.  This is important because in EVERY lesson, game, or activity you cant just tell your child what you are going to do…you have to 1) SHOW them.  Then, you will 2) play it WITH them.  Then you will just 3) TELL them.

This is the “I do”, “WE do”, then “YOU do” method to teaching that is really beneficial for the learner.

So, if I were playing this with my child, I would explain the game.  Then I would tell them that if I said the number “3” out loud I would place the cubes on my “right hand thumb, left hand thumb, and left hand pointer finger”  while I counted aloud: “One, two, Three” and then I would say “Now watch! I can put three cubes on my fingers in a different way…maybe I can put one on my right hand tall finger, stack one on top of that, and then put the other on my left hand ring finger.  Do you have an idea of how I can place these three cubes in a different way on my hands?  Show me!  Can you show me on your fingers next?  Let’s try a new number and we can both put that many cubes on our fingers and surprise each other to see if it looks the same or different.  Okay! Now it is your turn to try it by yourself while I call out a number…..”

If you have any questions about this activity or any activity for that matter….







Shared Writing

If you read the post “Read the Playroom” you sat back and learned from your child’s abilities to “write.” Today, you are going to do the writing while your little one dictates/tells you what to write. This process is called shared writing and teachers use this all the time to model handwriting and introduce concepts of writing.

Put a poster on the wall at your child’s eye level and tell him/her that you want to make up a recipe together, maybe even one you could pretend to cook after.  You need the titles Ingredients and Directions:  Let your little one come up with the ingredients and the directions as you write them  out.  But the key here is to TEACH while you write.  You are displaying their words for the household to see so you have that platform to teach while you model the writing process. 

Teach them:

1)      To start writing on the top, left side so that you will not run out of room.  A lot of times I ask my students before I start writing “Should I start on this side (pointing to the right side)?  What about down here?   Why not?” to get them thinking about why we start writing at the top left.

2)     To write one word at a time, leaving nice-size spaces between words.

3)     To listen for the sound at the beginning of the words.

Each time you do a writing activity like this with your child, it instills a foundation of print concepts and extends their understandings each time.  

I will talk about more print concepts to teach for the writing process in a future writing post.

Write a Letter

There are so many different ways you can write with purpose: lists (grocery list, wish list, checklist, etc.), postcards and letters, journals, menus, signs (traffic, household, labels), and many more.
After years of exposure to all these different written language, adults written form looks clear and organized whereas a beginner’s written understandings may look like zigzags, horizontal lines, and swirls because they view writing in a linear way, and I am writing about this today so you understand that that is OKAY….it is all part of the process. Children’s writing process looks like this:






Children have to experiment with writing in many ways before they start to learn what it is all about. So, today I want you to let your child write a letter on the template provided. Don’t pay attention to any details (letters fitting on the lines, or really letters in general). Let them scribble out the letter if they want. You can keep a notepad next to you and write down everything they said afterwards, but for now let them get carried away! You can learn a lot about what your child does understand from just listening and watching. Does your child make letter-like forms? Does your child try to incorporate letters? Does your child try to sound out words? But do try to observe how your child holds their pencil and what hand they are writing with. They should hold their pencil with their thumb and middle finger, with top-support from the pointer, and bottom-support from the ring-finger.

Letter Template
Have fun!

Chunks, syllables, and sounds…what’s the difference?

There are soooo many things that I will share about teaching your child to read, but I have to start with the basic pre-reading info to give you a well-rounded understanding of how reading skills are acquired.

So for now, I am going to introduce a new aspect of reading development which also has to do with hearing chunks (word parts) within words….

The more you play with words the more children will get the idea that a word is made up of sounds, the more they will be listening for those sounds.  This gives children experience putting sounds together to make a word.  So, eventually you will be able to say the sounds /c//a//t/ and they will finally hear the word “cat”.  But there are several things we have to establish first, and one of them is parts of a word.

A beginner reader needs to know that some words have chunks in them where they could hear a word (or words) inside of a word.  For example, “cupcake” has the word “cup” and “cake” in it and “bedroom” has “bed” and “room” in it.  As adults, we just label these words compound words, but to children this can open their eyes to what a word can be made up of.

A syllable on the other hand is a way for a child to count how many groups of sounds are in their name or other words.  One way you might teach your child they have syllables (or parts) in their name is by clapping while simultaneously saying the sound “jess (clap)- i (clap) – ca (clap)” and let your child hold up a finger every time you clap and then ask “How many parts are there?”

Then of course there are sounds…every spoken consonant, vowel, or blend like “sh”, “ch”, etc.

I will post more on all of this soon, but for now, here is an activity to help your child start hearing words within words:

compound pictures



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