Home » Working With Words
Category Archives: Working With Words
Get out your scissors, moms and dads. Here’s a trick straight from the classroom that will make it easier for you to teach your child to read. Give your young reader a special bookmark called a word window.
My daughter Jenna has just turned five-years old and is chugging along at a first grade reading level. She can read between 75 and 100 words but still get easily frustrated. Too many words on a page overwhelms her.
An easy solution for this is using a word window. A word window is a bookmark with a hole cut out in the middle. In the past I’ve made fancy ones out of construction paper and clear tape. But simple word windows made out of plain white paper work well too.
Eventually my daughter will outgrow word windows, but right now they are extremely helpful.
P.S. Got an older kid with reading issues? Word windows work for third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders too, especially if they have ADHD.
One of the “I’m-a-mean-mom” Christmas presents I gave my son last year was The Giggly Guide to Grammar by Cathy Campbell. My eight-year-old would have much preferred another Lego kit, but I had my eye on the Common Core. I know Bruce’s teacher does a lot with grammar at school, and I’d like to support that at home.
I can see why The Giggly Guide to Grammar gets great reviews. It has fun drawings and even funnier sentences. Here’s an example from page 107: “Aunt Sylvia believes Elvis lives because she thinks that she saw him on a commercial for Levis.” (That’s a complex sentence with an anagram, btw.)
Unfortunately, I was hoping this book would be a good fit for Afterschooling, but it really isn’t. The Giggly Guide to Grammar would be great for public school, and it would be awesome for homeschoolers, but for an Afterschooling family it requires too much paper and pencil practice. That would be fine if we were using it during the summer, but for the school year it’s too much work. My goal with Afterschooling is not to load my kids up with extra duties, but rather to encourage them with fun enrichment.
A more passive approach to grammar would be the Royal Fireworks Press book Sentence Island by Michael Clay Thompson.
That being said, I keep finding The Giggly Guide to Grammar all over the house. On the kitchen table, laying in the hallway, in the bathroom (yuck); Bruce is clearly reading this book for enjoyment.
I’m not exactly sure how much Bruce is learning. I asked him about the book and he said he likes reading the funny sentences. I guess that’s why the full title is “The Giggly Guide to Grammar, Serious Grammar with a Sense of Humor”.
Two years ago I began 2012 with the goal of blogging with one new word a day, the entire year. (I gave up around April.) But my family did keep learning new words, thanks to our 365 New Words-a-Year 2014 Page-A-Day Calendar.
By 2013 we were burnt out on vocabulary, so we took a year off. Now it’s a fresh new year and we’re ready to roll. Plus, all of the 2014 calendars are on sale.
The way I use my calendar to help my kids get an early start on the SAT is by sneaking in new words into ordinary conversation.
Here’s an example using the beginning words from 2014:
“Wow! The weather is really yucky today. Is that snow or is that graupel? I hope it’s snow because grainy snow pellets aren’t much fun to play in. If I was a zillionaire, I’d take us on vacation to Hawaii. Then we could gambol about the beach, skipping and frolicking in the ocean water.
It’s just as well that we’re stuck at home. So-an-so is coming down with a cold. I hope he uses a tissue because I don’t want to find coughed up phlegm all over the place.”
Okay, that’s not the best example. It’s better to only use one word at a time. The trouble is coming up with words to use in the first place. That’s where the calendar comes in handy.
I’m still getting a handle on the Teaching My Baby To Read FB page, but maybe that’s a way where I can share words, and help moms and dads like me remember to use them.
Ab initio, from the beginning, (of January); here we go!
When your child is in the crucial stage between knowing her sounds and being able to make the cognitive jump and start sounding out consonant vowel consonant (CVC) words, one of the easiest things you can do to help is make CVC Flip Books.
They’re free, easy, and fun.
(Okay, they’re only kind-of fun. Just be sure to keep the activity to five minutes or less.)
Here’s an example of CVC flip book I made last year, which has been one of my most popular Pinterest pins ever:
When I was a teacher, I made flip books for students all the way up to third grade. They can become increasingly more complex as you go along.
If you are working with a really young learner like Jenna, make sure to write everything in lower case letters except for B/D/P/and Q. Those letters are really confusing in lower case form.
That’s one one of my blog’s original posts almost two years ago. Back then, my son Bruce was in Kindergarten independently cranking through Magic Tree House books. Part of that success was due to his solid understanding of phonics, and the confidence he gained by reading Bob Books, by Bobby Lynn Maslen.
It’s not rocket science; it’s just phonics.
Fast forward to the present and my daughter Jenna is now 3.5 and beginning her own Bob Books adventure. The original games I made for her brother are a bit dog-eared, but sill in working order.
This is how they work:
This is the envelope I made to go with Set 1, Book 8, Muff and Ruff. Inside the envelope are all of the letters you need to make every word in the book. Vowels get their own color. The sight-word “for” gets its own color too.
The envelope is not a game piece! It is just to remind me of the words my daughter needs to spell.
This is how you play:
Find the letter that says “ttttt”.
Find the letter that says “uh”.
Find the letter that says “gggg”.
Put them together “t-u-g”.
What does that spell?
We do this for each word on the list. Once I know that my daughter can read all of the words from the story, then we get out the book.
I’m showing envelope #8 here because that was the cleanest. (I did say they were a bit dog-eared, right?) But right now, Jenna is still on book #4.
Here’s where it gets really interesting.
On the back of some of the envelopes I wrote when Bruce had read each book!
I know it’s wrong to compare your children, but I’m finding this really fascinating. This tells me that Bruce read book #6 when he had just turned four years old. Meaning, he and his sister are roughly on the same track, even though they keep reaching different milestones at different points.
This is important information, because it shows me that my methods are working!
Yeah for Bob Books!
Here’s a game three-year-old Jenna has enjoyed playing this past week. The monster asks her for a word. She hands him a word and he eats it. Then at the end, the monster up-chucks all of the words back. (The key is to be very dramatic with this last part.)
On the back of the words are bones. Right now we are playing bones-down, but eventually we will play bones-up. Meaning right now I say “Give me the word that says rat.” But eventually I’ll say “Turn the bone over. What is that word?”
I got this idea from the All About Reading Level 1 Blast off to Reading Activity Book. I don’t have the teacher’s guide, so I’m not sure if we are playing “The Monster Game” the way AAR wants us to or not. But it doesn’t really matter, because Jenna LOVES this game and is learning a ton. For us, it has been a good supplement.
For a road-map of free ideas to help teach young children to read, be sure to check out my Where to Start page.
I’m not above resorting to bribery.
My daughter Jenna is almost three and a half years old. We’ve been doing a lot of activities recently to support her burgeoning knowledge of sounding out words. Here is one more.
The Candy Game
Before we start, I count out twenty five chocolate chips and mini marshmallows in the cup. It’s really not that much candy, but enough to be super motivating. Then I grab the deck of words we are currently working with. I made this deck from our All About Reading level 1 activity book.
Then we just go for it. Old-school, flash card quizzing. Every card Jenna sounds out earns her a a small piece of candy. We play the game for no more six minutes.
My son Bruce was able to do this type of activity when he little too. So now I’m completely jaded and this seems normal. But the teacher in me remembers working with five, six, and even seven year olds to accomplish this same learning objective.
There is definitely a huge range for when a child will developmentally be able to sound out three letter words. But I think that there are probably loads of children out there who could be reading before they entered Kindergarten, if parents had more guidance in how to help teach their children at home. That’s the whole mission of my blog!
Jenna and Bruce have been working with letters, sounds, and words since they were each eighteen months old. Almost all of this is documented on my Where to Start page. Most of my ideas are free. All of them are child-centered.
The bottom line is you can teach your child a tremendous amount before Kindergarten, especially if you know where to start!
My daughter Jenna is almost three and a half. I’ve been teaching her about letters and sounds since she was about 18 months old.
I used the same methods with her older brother, and by the time he was three he was reading Bob Books. But every kid is different, and that’s okay.
Jenna knows all of her letters and sounds, and can sound out several words on her own. More importantly, Jenna is super excited to “do reading”. She’s pulling out materials, and asking to practice on a regular basis.
Here are some of the things we have been doing:
Modified Ziggy games
I’ve previously mentioned how I bought the Ziggy game book from All About Reading, even though we aren’t actually using AAR. At this point, the learning goals of the games are way too easy for her, but Jenna still really loves Ziggy. So I’m bringing out the file folders and also pulling out some word cards.
The way we play the game is that I hide the game pieces under high-frequency words that can be sounded out. “Ziggy” asks Jenna to hand him the word that says _____. Underneath the word is a game piece. Jenna picks up the appropriate word, gives the card to me, and gives the game piece to Ziggy. Simple? Yes! But for some reason Jenna loves this.
I have been pulling cards from this deck of words I already own. It says “sight words”, but we have only been using the words that are decodable, like: but, and, cut, man etc. Then I realized that I could be making my own flashcards from the AAR activity book I purchased a while back.
Blast Off to Reading book
I purchased the AAR level 1 activity book because I was curious. I’m a former Kindergarten teacher and I don’t believe that you need to buy a special program to teach kids to read. That’s the whole purpose of my blog! But I love All About Spelling, and so I really wanted to see a little bit of what All About Reading was like. Plus (full disclaimer) I’m an AAL affiliate.
Anyhow, yada, yada, yada, AAR appears to be just as good as AAS. If you really want a program to hold your hand through the whole teaching process, then AAR would be a really good choice. I’m not personally going to use the full AAR program, but the activity book dovetails into what I’m already doing.
Leap Frog Easy Reader Phonics Kit
We have a really old Leap Pad kit that I had purchased for Jenna’s brother a long time ago for $30 at Fred Meyer. Jenna’s the perfect level for it now, and thankfully it still works! It uses the same characters as the Leap Frog Talking Words Factory videos, which is cool.
Please note, I’m including the links to Amazon for this kit at the bottom of the post, but that’s just so you can see what they look like. I bought all three kits for $30! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that deal on Amazon. I bet there are people selling these on Ebay though. Once again, they are called “Leap Frog Easy Reader Phonics Kits”.
Talking Word Factory Videos
These are the two videos that I really credit teaching my son Bruce how to read. Unfortunately, they weren’t a magic wand for Jenna. But she still does ask to watch them every once in a while. You can probably find these videos for free at your local library.
What really seems to work for Jenna (but what her older brother Bruce was totally uninterested in), is Starfall.com. That’s been a really big help, and we’ve uprgraded to the $35/per year premium level.
Custom books tailor-made for my child? Did I mention they are free? All I have to do is make them myself. Jenna now has over thirty books that tell the story of her life. How awesome is that?
That’s my update for now. Hopefully we will be ready for Bob Books soon!
Croup? Slap cheek? The common cold? What haven’t we had this past month!
That’s why I’m creating a new Pinterest Board. It’s called Mommy Sick Days. The whole board will be about activites you can do with your kids when all you want to do is lay on the couch.
Beep Beep Woo Woo is the perfect game for Mommy Sick Days.
My sister invented it when she was two. All you do is lay on the couch and put your feet up on the coffee table. Then your kids run around the coffee table in circles. When they get to your legs they say “Beep Beep”. You say “Woo Woo” and lift up your legs for them to pass.
It’s ridiculously simple and yet ridicioulsy fun.
Full disclaimer: I am an All About Learning Press Affiliate. You can find out more about how much money my blog makes (yes I share real numbers) here.
For the past week Jenna(3) and I have been playing games from Adventures in Reading with the Zigzag Zebra, a Ziggy Game Book. This is a supplement to the All About Reading program published by the same company as All About Spelling.
I LOVE All About Spelling, and need to get going with it again with Bruce(7) now that school has started again. It is so much better than weekly spelling tests, and really makes a difference. So I’m sure that the complete All About Reading program would be really good too.
I’ve opted not to purchase AAR however, because I have my own free methods which I share on my Where to Start Page. However, if I had a first or second grader who wasn’t reading at grade level, I would probably take a lot of comfort in a program like AAR. Or if I felt unsteady as a teacher to begin with, then a systematic program like AAR would really help hold my hand.
But back to the Ziggy Game Book, it was under $20 and looked like it might be a good fit with what I already do. As a teacher, I was already familiar with the concept of “file folder games”. This means that ahead of time, you rip out the pages from the book and paste them onto file folders. Laminating is optional, but not necessary. I chose not to since I’m just working with one child. In a classroom setting however, laminating would be a must.
The Ziggy Game Book includes 9 games. Almost all of them use the Phonogram Cards, Word Cards, or letter tiles from the AAR kit. These pieces are not included with the activity book and must be purchased separately. But since we already own all of the AAS spelling materials, we were pretty much good to go. We have just been using the AAS cards and tiles instead.
Jenna has been asking to “play Siggy games” every single day since I first brought them out. They are not magically teaching her to read. But they are encouraging her to practice a little bit each day. She still isn’t blending, although she knows all of her letters and sounds. She also definitely understands the difference between vowels and consonants. That’s not bad for a three year old, if I do say so myself. And I do! 🙂
Here’s a easy idea to recreate. Jenna(3) has know all of her letters and sounds for over a year, but is just not ready to blend three letter words yet. Finally, I realized “Duh! Why not try teaching her to blend two letter words first?” I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier!!!
Anyhow, Jenna loves cupcakes and she loves pink and purple. So here you go. This game should be good for five minutes of fun, a few times a week.
Here’s another fun game to try: Put your socks and shoes on.
The great thing about this game is that it is simple and free to make. Just cut out some “socks” out of construction paper and add some “shoes” to go with them. My version is pretty basic, but if you were more artistic you could really jazz this one up.
Laminating would be a must for a classroom or large family, but since it is just Jenna(3) and I playing, our paper is au natural.
Is it gimmicky? You bet! That’s why little kids love it.
Today has been a bit frustrating. We had to rush off to the doctor to get antibiotics because of an owie on Jenna’s hand that has become infected, the comments on my blog are only sometimes working, I found something blue and sticky on my living room couch, and just now when I was adding the Amazon Affiliate link for our latest Leap Frog purchase I noticed that Amazon is only charging $19 for it. I paid $25 at Toys R Us earlier this week! Argh!!!! Okay, I’m taking a deep breath and letting it all go… 🙂
Back to the Scribble and Write, this one is a real winner. There are lots of Leap Frog items out there that are not worth it, but the Scribble and Write is almost as good as the Word Whammer.
The Scribble and Write is like an electronic Magna Doodle. Upper and lower case letters light up and your preschooler traces over it with the stylus. Then you pull the orange tab to erase. There aren’t any corrections offered, so if you write something incorrectly there is no feedback. But I’m okay with that, because 3 year olds don’t need any performance pressure. There are phonics lessons built in to the audio, so when the letter B appears it also gives the sound “buh”.
I’ve seen this toy on the shelf a whole bunch of times this past year but always held off on purchasing it because I’ve been burned on Leap Frog products before. Thankfully, the Scribble and Write seems to have been money well spent.