Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tips and Activities for Phonemic Awareness

This post is long overdue! It's been brewing for a while. :) Phonemic awareness is a huge part of my kindergarten curriculum. I wanted to share with you some things I do with my students to strengthen their phonemic awareness. 

My introduction to phonemic awareness:

I don't want to be too long-winded but I have to start with a short  not so short story. When I was a new teacher, I used to tutor over the summer for a little extra cash. Little did I know that the value of tutoring was going to be far greater than the money. I learned so much from each student I tutored and having that opportunity to work one-on-one allowed me to really concentrate on each individual reader. The greatest lesson was early on, thankfully! I was tutoring a student who was going to be in first grade. She had finished kindergarten knowing all of her letters and sounds, but not yet blending words together. Her teacher had said she just wasn't ready. But then I found out that her birthday was actually early in the year, which meant that she was on the older end, not a younger student for incoming first grade. I sat down with her and after five minutes, I started sweating! I had my handy dandy magnetic letters ready to go. I put out three letters to make a CVC word. Here's what I got: "/c/ /aaaaa/ /t/.... tap!" Huh? Okay, let's try this again. I sounded it out with her. Still no cat. So I tried another and another. Then I tried just two sounds. She would give me words that were close and sometimes words that weren't even in the ballpark. I'm pretty sure I got turtle for rat. I remember thinking What the heck?! Afterward, I went straight to a mentor of mine. She said, It sounds like she's lacking phonemic awareness.  Of course. Yeah. Phonemic something. I totally paid attention to that when we studied that in teacher school. I dug out everything I had on the topic. It all came back to me. When I was learning about phonemic awareness, I didn't have that personal experience yet so it really didn't sink in. Learn your letters and sounds then start sounding out words. That's how we read, right? It was time for a wake-up call! Since then, I've been so interested in learning more. I've had several students since then with similar issues, with varying levels of ability. Here's the thing though. If we wait until first grade to tackle these phonemic awareness issues, it really puts our students at a disadvantage. I think nowadays we are more aware, so phonological awareness is being emphasized more. It is SO important. A lack of phonological awareness is one of those key indicators that there may be a reading problem later on. We need to be working with our kinders (and even before that) to make sure they have strong phonological awareness. Letter recognition and phonological awareness need to come first, before phonics instruction can begin! (Side note: This post is about phonemic awareness, which is a under the umbrella of phonological awareness.)

Another Personal Story: (You can skip this if you want to get to the goods)
Today I'm going to focus on phonemic awareness. You have all seen my son on this blog before. He often tries things out for me now. Last year, I was so excited to start teaching him to read. He mastered his letters and sounds super early so I thought reading would be easy for him. Nope. He so easily memorized letters when he was 2 and sight words when he was four. I didn't want to push him before he was ready, but he seemed ready because of these things. So I jumped right into CVC words. He really couldn't do it. So I stopped and waited. He was young, so there was no need to push. His little brain could memorize words but not blend sounds together. Still, it was early. But then we were playing a game with his little brother when I discovered he could not even rhyme! He had just turned five. Now I was worried. Rhyming is supposed to be one of the earlier phonological skills. How did I miss this?! I realized he did in fact lack phonological awareness. I guess I thought he'd get it naturally. We've read to him since birth and we have our fair share of Dr. Seuss books. Then I remembered that, for many children, phonological awareness needs to be explicitly taught. Nice job reading teacher mommy. I totally took for granted that he was solid in other areas. He is good at things that involve visual and spacial ability, BUT phonological awareness is all about sounds in words. To wrap up my long story, I got to work. I did rhyming songs and books and games. We did rhyming silly stories in the car every day. He got it. I am lucky because it didn't take too long. We moved into phonemic awareness activities next. Still I did not focus on phonics yet. Just sounds in words. After he developed that phonemic awareness, he was ready to sound out words. It came easy after that. He had the two components: letter knowledge and phonemic awareness to actually blend the words. We need to do this for our students too. Make sure they have the phonemic awareness first- then move to phonics. 

Oh my word! This is the longest post. If you've made  it this far, thank you!

Humor me here. I want this post to be fully informative, so I'll be including details that you may not  need. Just in case, here we go:

Now onto the goods. Here are some activities that we enjoyed doing together. 
Fun Phonemic Awareness Activities:

I do this with my kindergarten small groups every day. There are three ways we do this:
1. I use the slinky to stretch a word and they guess the word (they are blending sounds)
2. I give them a word and they stretch the sounds with the slinky (they are segmenting)
3. Make it a game: One student gets a picture card. They segment the word with the slinky and the group guesses the word. Here a little video for you:

Right after this, I call on a classmate to guess his word. This game never gets old! 

I have all these trains and tracks since I have two boys. I'm putting them to use! LOL!

In this video, I'm showing you different ways to use this track:
1. Isolating sounds
2. Segmenting Sounds
3. Manipulating Sounds 


I know what you're thinking. Sarah, these are the same activities just with different manipulatives. Yep, you got it. Repetition for our students is good. They think they are doing something different when you put something new in their hands.

I use this one the most. You've seen it before. You can use anything to push the sounds: pennies, pom-poms, math counters, etc. Make it interesting. I've even used acorns.

I like to change it up with different seasonal clip art, but you wouldn't have to. Again, I'm sort of tricking my kids into thinking it's new and different. :) I have a weird desire to make everything seasonal. I'm working on a set of seasonal phonological awareness activities for those of you who like to shake it up too. 
This is a favorite! Get a favorite stuffed animal or little puppet. I got this idea from this amazing teacher I worked with years ago in North Carolina. She taught me pretty much everything I know. Get your little puppet or stuffy. Tell your students that he speaks a funny slow language and you need help figuring out what he is saying. Ask questions like, "what is your favorite color?" Have your puppet answer, "/r/ /e/ /d/". Act really dramatic with the kids. A little dramatic flare gets their attention. Ha, ha. "What?! I can't understand you! Say it again." Have your puppet do it again. Then call on a student to "translate" for you. 

I already blogged about this a few days ago, but I wanted to include it here too.  


SitSpots are the best! You can use them in your classroom to hop out the sounds of a word! Sorry this video is so blurry!


Coming VERY soon:
I made a little "take-home" kit for some of the parents at my school. I ended up using these in my own classroom.  I printed the cards on colored card stock to make it prettier. :) The cards have ideas for parents and teachers on each card.  You'll only need to add a few extras to go with this.

This Phonemic Awareness Intervention Kit can be used in your class with small groups or you can make it into a take-home kit for parents. I use it for both! You can use these activities with any words. I included a few picture cards and a wish list to get you started. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter Literacy Activities for Centers or Small Group Instruction

Hello again! I updated my Winter Literacy pack from last year. I added to several centers to allow for differentiation. I use these activities with my kindergarten and first grade groups mostly, but there are a few activities that I use with my second grade students (that you could use with advanced first grade students). Every class is different, so I wanted to give you options for each activity in this pack. If you bought this last year, make sure you go and check out the additions. 

This is the same as last year, but one of my favorite activities to use with my kindergarten students during our reading group. 

This is a new one. My kinders are starting to sound out words but they need those picture clues to help them. For this activity, they sound out the word card, then try to find the matching picture. 

Doesn't everyone love to play games?! This is a simple game but great for practicing onset and rime. There are two versions of this: long and short vowels. 

You can use this with your 2nd grade students or advanced 1st grade students. 

I also added a short and long vowel version for this activity. This can be a center, small group activity, or a whole class activity. The 2nd picture shows this activity being used with a bigger group. I put magnetic dots on the back of the word cards. Students come up and match the onset and rime. 

This also has short and long vowel version. 

This next activity actually has three options. There is the option to match onset and rime again with short and long vowels. This picture below shows matching two syllable words. I included several words with an open syllable for the first syllable and several with a closed syllable for the 1st syllable. 

Click the picture below to see a video showing how I use this during small groups:

The Snowy Word Fill has two versions. For first grade students, there is a silent e to drop in each word. Students will read it and determine if it makes a real word with or without the silent e. The second version below shows short vowel being filled in. 

This hot cocoa activity is another sorting activity. This time, students will sort by word family. There is also a long and short vowel option. 

I added a picture version of the syllable sort. There was already a syllable sort with words. This version has only pictures.

These cards are all about ending blends. I find that ending blends can be tricky for my students!

There are three other centers that I didn't have picture of! If you are looking for winter-themed literacy activities to use with your students, this might be just right for you. For my students, repetition is so important. I love to give them several opportunities to practice these phonics skills. They are basically doing the same thing over and over but they feel like they are doing something new and different every day because each activity looks unique. Keeps me from getting bored too! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Letter Beads and Pipe Cleaners: ABCs, Phonemic Awareness, and Phonics

Hi everyone! Today I want to share with you a simple idea that is low-prep but loads of fun. I've used pipe cleaners to practice sight words, but this year I started using them in a few other ways. 

With my kinders, we use pipe cleaners and letter beads to practice our letters and sounds. I put on letters they know and a letter(s) they are working on. They put the beads on, making the sound or saying the letter name as they do. When they are all on, they practice the letters a few more times by moving the beads. They can mix up the order by taking the beads off and on again. It's like a fluency strip that moves! Ha! You can get letter beads on Amazon (tons of choices here) or at a craft store, like Joannes or Michaels. 

You can also use them when your students are just starting to sound out words. I start with just two beads: a vowel and a consonant. I stretch the vowel sound as I move it toward the consonant. "/aaaaaaaaa/ /t/ Say the consonant sound when the vowel touches it. 

When your kids are ready, add another consonant to make CVC words. Start with just one word family and change up the initial consonant.

Let's back it up a bit! You don't even have to use letters. This is a great way to practice phonemic awareness. Put different color beads on the pipe cleaner. Start with two, then add on the third when your students can proficiently blend two sounds. I love this because your students don't have to know a stinkin' letter to do this activity but it is SO valuable. They need to develop their phonemic awareness! To do this,  you would say a word with two or three sounds: "at" and your students will move the beads as they say the sounds, "/a/ /t/". You can do it the other way, where you point to the beads and say /a/ /t/ and they copy you then blend the sounds to guess the word.

Do you use pipe cleaners? Tell me how you use them! It can be for anything- arts and crafts too. I have an overload of pipe cleaners and I'm itching to use them! :) 

Here's a little page to use for some follow-up in your classroom. 

Click on the picture to get these pages. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sound Boxes: Breaking up a word by its phonemes

Hello! Just a quick post from me today. I've had this one sitting here for a while unpublished. Not sure why.. Maybe I wanted to add something spectacular to it. Well, let's just get this baby published. It truly is a little "snippet". I mean, really, how often do I give you a true "snippet." I'm too long-winded for that! Ha! So here we are. An actual snippet. :)

Do you use sound boxes (otherwise known as Elkonin boxes)? I'm a big fan. I use them with my kinders to improve their phonemic awareness and I use them with my first and second graders to help them with their spelling of phonetic words. I blogged about  it here.  If you want to leaner more about what they are and how to use them, check out this post. :) You can get a little freebie there, too!

I love these stamps! You can get them here. They make it easy to use sound boxes during small group instruction.  There are two, three, and four squares as options!

If your kids need help breaking up the word, sometimes having those little circles there to "push" into the boxes helps.  

I use this with my beginning readers and writers and with my first grade students who are struggling with spelling. If you have a student who is having a hard time with the spelling part of writing, this may help. Pull a small group and practice sounding out words with this activity. You may also identify sounds that students are consistently having trouble with. I also like to do this when we introduce digraphs. It is great for all kinders who are just learning to stretch out sounds. When I taught first grade, I used these with the whole class for at least the first few months and longer as needed. :) Then I continued to work with them in small groups. Later, I brought them back when it was time for vowel pairs. 

If you want ideas about how to do this with the whole class, read my old post. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

January Literacy Centers for Kindergarten

I spent some time over the weekend printing and laminating my January literacy centers for kindergarten. I'm raffling this off tonight at the Northern California PK1 Blogger Fiesta. Since I'm not in the classroom anymore, I don't use these the same way. I use these with my guided reading groups. I use every single thing here! It's actually perfect for my reading groups. So, take a look and see if they would work for your literacy centers or your guided reading groups or both! I thought it would be fun to give away a copy here too! You can win this here or on my Facebook page. As you can see, there is a lot included in this pack!

I've blogged about this before, but just in case, here it is again. :) 
How to use these as centers: 

 If you would like to win a copy of this, comment here with your email OR head on over to my Facebook page to enter. 

You can get this at my TPT store:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Favorite Author Study for Winter: A Jan Brett Unit

My all time favorite children's author is Jan Brett, so naturally it is my also my favorite author study. I started small my first year teaching first grade. Then each year I slowly read different books and focused on different comprehension skills. Jan Brett books lend themselves to so many teachable moments. A few years ago, I sat down and put it all together. There are "ready to go" resources and center-type activities. 

Here is a picture I posted on Instagram showing some of the centers:

Here are the "ready-to-go" activities: 

Here is a little sample of this unit:


Click on the pictures to download. 

You can get this unit here: