Monday, July 29, 2013

My First Attempt at Clip Art = FREEBIE 4 YOU!

I just purchased the Wacom Bamboo and I love playing around with it!  I made some shapely pumpkins to go along with the story Spookley.  I hope you like them:)  Grab your FREE clip art by clicking the picture below:

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Monday, July 22, 2013

Letter Recognition/Letter Sounds and the MVP (Most Valuable Product) Award!

Our daughter is four years old and attends preschool five days a week for two hours and forty-five minutes.  Our primary purpose for placing her in preschool was for her to socialize.  As an only child, it is hard to expose her to children her age on a regular basis; preschool serves that purpose while introducing her to many skills she will need when she enters Kindergarten.  As a teacher, I admit it is very hard to "pull in the reigns" and not play school all day with her:)  I think I manage to have a good balance.  My focus right now is on letter recognition and beginning phonics.  She can identify all of the capital letters and the majority of the lower case letters.  I don't push sounds too hard because she is learning so much from preschool and through songs and rhymes.  I am actually beginning to teach her sight words, but that will be another post ;)

I introduce the letters in a specific sequence.  I begin with the letters that look identical as capital and lowercase (i.e. Cc, Kk, Mm, Oo, Pp, Ss, Uu, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, Zz).  I always introduce capital letters first.  I like to introduce everything with a story. We use AlphaTales by Scholastic.  

These cute little animal tales are a fun way to introduce each letter in context.  They also come with reproducible mini-books that the child can keep and use to reread or circle the letter.  Once we have read the story we focus on identifying the letter.  The next two resources are FREEBIES!  The first one is from and it is a simple block letter with circles to be used for stickers or Do-a-Dot daubers.  I use this one for stickers. You can use round Avery stickers or circular alphabet stickers.  I purchased my alphabet stickers at The Dollar Tree.  

The next thing we do is put all different stickers on a large blank letter to create a collage.  I downloaded my large blank letter from a preschool curriculum we are using called God's Little Explorers.  It is an awesome curriculum and I believe she has many things available for FREE!  You can purchase the curriculum as one download if you prefer.  However, you can find large letters all over the web.  Our daughter loves doing this activity because she is obsessed with stickers right now:)

Now comes fine motor work, but not writing/tracing.  I may as well state here that I do not have our daughter trace letters at home.  She receives Occupational Therapy and I do not want to push her and turn her off to writing by constantly reminding her to hold her pencil correctly.   I expose her using more sensory experiences like the sandpaper letters, play-doh and writing in a salt box.  She really enjoys Do-a-Dot and that is what we do with our Do-a-Dot page from  

Another terrific resource is Animal ABCs from  These are just so cool and appealing to preschoolers!
Before we move on to the sound for the letter, I have our daughter do a page that I created to work on visual discrimination and differentiating between the capital and lower case of the letter.  We also count how many of each and record it.  I use a very easily readable print font at this stage.  I am working on something for her with the letter being presented in a variety of fonts, but at this stage it is essential for her to have a strong foundation.  If you would like to check out this product you can click on the picture to download a FREE page in my TpT store.  

Moving on to the letter sound!  Here come some more FABULOUS FREEBIES!  This is another one from  These are Letter Hunts with a simple story focusing on one letter.  In this case it was Xx.  We read it and then she dots the letter Xx ~ you can have your child or students circle the letters or highlight them too.  These can be found by clicking the picture below:)

Now a poem: A FREE printable from  We read it together and though the directions say to circle the letter...we use little star stickers.  I absolutely LOVE these because they use classic nursery rhymes!

 The rest of the resources are products from Teachers Pay Teacher.  The first two were created by yours truly;)  The one below is called Preschool Playlist.  It depicts an MP3 player and has objects that have the beginning sound of a given letter.  This is straightforward and simple on purpose.  When introducing letters and sounds you do not want to bombard a learner ~ exposure is essential at the beginning.  This is just good practice and allows for gradual release of responsibility.  Before they can select which one is NOT the sound they must be proficient with words that HAVE the sound.  If you are interested in checking out my product, just click on the picture below. 

My Initial Sounds Hole Punch cards are our daughter's favorite!  I am thrilled she loves it because it targets hand strength, eye-hand coordination, and visual discrimination all while reinforcing letter recognition and beginning sounds!  The learner has to identify the picture and say what the beginning sound is.  Then he or she hole punches all of the letters for that sound.  You can check it out by clicking the picture below.

Last, but certainly not least, is the MVP AWARD!  Hoooraaayy!  Most of you are no stranger to Annie Moffatt at The Moffatt Girls.  Honestly, EVERY product she has is a MVP in my book!  Her products are creative and fun and appealing to young children.  That being said, one of her most versatile products is her Alphabet Money.
Click on the picture of her product cover above to check out how she uses the Alphabet Money with her little girl.  I like to use mine as positive reinforcement when working with a particular letter.  In a previous post I discussed how we use the money to "shop" for things that begin with a particular sound.  As our daughter is mastering the letter she continues earn money with that letter.  She can use it to "purchase" a little something from a treasure chest I have with trinkets from the dollar store.  

Thank you Annie for this GREAT product!  It is truly a MVP!!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Key to Early Literacy: Concept of Word

You may think that the answer is phonemic awareness; but this is not so.  The most pivotal early literacy skill is Concept of Word.  The National Reading Panel (2000) credits phonemic awareness as instrumental in the development of literacy skill.  However, Morris (1993) demonstrated that Concept of Word precedes and may facilitate phonemic awareness!  So what is Concept of Word?  Gately (2004) defines it as "...a key early literacy skill, or concept, that matches the spoken and written word.  The following skills are present when a reader has Concept of Word:
Most students achieve these milestones without any specialized instruction.  However, students that do not attain Concept of Word are often placed in specialized programs that emphasize phonemic awareness.  Phonemic awareness is essential, however, without Concept of Word, students are unlikely to make progress.  

What can be done to help students that do not demonstrate Concept of Word?  Two very effective methods for intervention are Repeated Reading of predictable and leveled texts and Rebus Reading.  Most of us in education are very familiar with Repeated Reading and use predictable leveled texts on a regular basis.  These texts can easily be created by teachers and individualized to students' interests.  Fountas and Pinnell (1999) suggest that print should be no more than one line per page.  The text structure should be simple, repetitive, predictable, and natural.  Gately (2004) emphasizes that teachers should "...take care that students successfully finger point when they read" as this will help learners "...establish concept of word and sharpen their focus and attention on print."  

Some of the most beloved picture books are predictable and lend themselves to repeated reading:  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  by Bill Martin and Eric Carle is an excellent example of a predictable book.  

Rebus Reading is another powerful strategy for assisting emergent readers with Concept of Word.  This strategy has proven so effective that it " recommended as one that should be found in every classroom with emergent readers (National Center for Technology Innovation, 2004).  Rebus is the combination of pictures with words either in conjunction or in place of the word.  Rebuses are ideal for both emergent readers and struggling readers because they reduce the learning load on the reader (Woodcock, 1968.)  Research conducted by Begy and Cahill (1978) found that the ability of kindergarten children to segment oral language into separate words significantly increased when they had used the Modified Rebus Reading Readiness Program (uses pictorial representatives of words) instead of a traditional reading readiness program.  

The benefits of Rebus Reading and Repeated Reading of predictable text can and should be combined when working with emergent readers.  In an effort to prepare our preschooler for the exciting and complex task of reading, I have created Sight Word Rainbow-Write Rebus Readers.  They utilize predictable text as well as rebus in order to facilitate Concept of Word. Rainbow-writing with a die makes this a highly interactive and multisensory learning experience.  For each new sight word and Rebus Reader we begin by reading it together.  I read it aloud and track each word/picture with my finger.  Next, I draw her attention to the sight word we are focusing on and tell her "The letters a-m spell the word am."  Next, she uses her die and rolls one time for each page.  The die shows her what three colors to rainbow-write.  Last, she colors the pictures.  Finally, she is very excited to show Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and anyone else who is around how she can "READ!"  I always ask her to use her finger to track each word/picture.  If your child or student is struggling with this, you can place small smiley stickers under each word/picture to help slow them down.  Have them touch each sticker as they read each word/picture.  You can gradually fade out the stickers.  

I am creating these is a very specific sequence.  Each one is meant to build upon the other.  For example, the one shown above is introduced only after she has mastered the sight word "I".  Once she has mastered the sight word "am" it can be used in another book.   GUESS WHAT?  I have the "I" Sight Word Rainbow Write Rebus Reader for you FREE!  I hope that you enjoy it:)  Just click on the picture below to grab yours at TpT!  If you would like to get it at Teachers Notebook just click HERE:)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Introducing the Letters and Sounds of the Alphabet / God's Little Explorers

Our four year old daughter's last day of preschool was Monday!  I can hardly believe how fast her first year went and I am beyond thankful that she has a second year of PreK because I am not ready to send her to Kindergarten:)  We celebrated the last day of school by going to the movies to see Monsters University!  It was sooo cute!  It was her very first movie theater experience.

I am very excited about starting the God's Little Explorers Preschool Curriculum!  I have not printed out all of the pages yet, but plan to do so and have it spiral bound at Staples like many other folks have done.  It is an A to Z adventure of God's word.  I actually LOVE the fact that the alphabet is not presented in order.  The curriculum begins with letter "Xx" and the theme is God's Word is a Treasure.  So a pirate/explorer theme works great!  The first day I explained to our daughter that we were going to be looking for treasure together and showed her the treasure map I created.

Then we talked about how God's Word ~ the Bible ~ is a treasure map to help us find our way.  Next, we read the Treasure Hunt story in the The Jesus Storybook Bible which is the parable from Matthew 13 about hidden treasure.  On page 255 it states so perfectly that "God's treasure was his children.  It was why Jesus had come into the world.  To find God;s treasure."  Isn't that a perfect picture for little ones?  What better way to make this treasure hunt concrete than to dig for our own treasure!?!  I hid some craft jewels in a bin of corn and she had to dig for her treasure.  We also sorted them by shape and size and then picked out all of the hearts for a special project. 
I explained to her that when people hide treasure they make a map so they can remember where they put it. They use an "X" to mark the spot where their treasure is hidden.  God wants our hearts and he has an "X" to mark the spot of His greatest treasure ~ OUR HEARTS!  We glued the hearts gems to an "X" and I mounted it to a page with the quote from her Storybook Bible.
Speaking of the Letter X ~ I think it is so cool that we started with that letter!  There is not a whole lot out there for poor letter X...everything is xylophone or x-ray, but HEY, you gotta work with what you have:)  Here is what we did for X:
My focus for our daughter is on letter identification and sounds right now.  I am not overly concerned with her writing...especially since she is getting Occupational Therapy at school to address this area.  I do not want her to hate writing, so at home I try to not push her too hard in that area.  Notice I said is really hard as a teacher not to constantly attempt to correct her grip, etc.  You can see from the pictures that we do a lot of Do-a-Dot, dot stickers, highlighting, cutting and pasting, as well as stickers.  By the way ~ the book Jessica's X-Ray is really cute and includes real x-rays of various body parts.  She really enjoyed it!  

I also talked with her about the words hunt, quest, and pursuit since many games utilize these words in the to refer to the same/similar concept.  Of course, we did a ton of scavenger hunts this week!  We did the treasure hunt in the corn that I mentioned earlier, we did an outdoor neighborhood nature hunt, and we played the game Puppy Pursuit by Melissa and Doug.  This is an awesome game for preschoolers that really targets several skills at once while having fun:)  Click on the picture to read about it on Amazon.

I really want to wrap up letter x and move on to the next week.  We had two days when we were not able to work on our plans, so we got a few days behind.  Letter A is sure to be fun!  I had a Caramel Apple Party at the beginning of this school year and have a TON of apple things for us to explore. 

If you are also doing God's Little Explorers and have a blog, please let me know.  I would love to follow your experience!