make time to rhyme: rhyme games for bigger kids

rhyme games for bigger kids

make time to rhyme: rhyme games for bigger kidsWe’ve talked about the importance of rhyme many times in the past, but I feel like as Maddy and Owen have gotten older, I’ve really slacked when it’s come to rhyme games with Cora.

After Cora turned five, I hesitated to break out the rhyme games. For some reason, I thought she was too old, too mature, too. . . into jewels and clothes to play with rhyme.

Boy was I wrong.

As we did our huge ‘clean the house’ sweep before school started, I found the happy set of Melissa & Doug Rhyme Cards that Maddy, Owen, and I spent hours upon hours playing with.

And Cora and I have been playing with them almost daily for three weeks now, sometimes playing the same game and other times mixing it up a bit.

Either way is fine, since really, kids can–and should–be playing with rhyme for quite some time.  Rhyme helps with developing phonological awareness, rhyme helps with memory, and rhyme helps with speech.

What. Was. I. Thinking?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Make Time to Rhyme– Rhyme Games for Bigger Kids: By ‘bigger kids’ I mean kids in early elementary school, not toddlers or preschoolers, though the games would definitely work for most preschoolers.

We used Melissa & Doug Rhyme Cards which (sadly!) aren’t manufactured any longer, but you can definitely use any of the following:


rhyme card games

Owen and Maddy are playing Race to Rhyme, and yes. . .

rhyme card games

Maddy was wearing her Communion veil because why wouldn’t she be?

 And each time we played, we did some variation of these super-easy, super-quick rhyme games:

  • Switch Rhyme: All of the cards were turned face down, and we’d take turns flipping a card for the other person.  That person would then search through the pile for the match to the rhyme.

rhyme games for bigger kids

Cora makes a match and then adds an extra rhyme.

  • Rhyme Memory: We’d choose about 10 rhyme pairs, flip them face down, and play Memory, just like the regular game.  The only rule was that each time you flipped, you said the object on the card out loud. The more we repeated rhyme matches and non-matches, the more our ears were tuned to the sounds!
  • Go Fish!: Who knew you could play Go Fish! With picture rhyme cards? We had a blast, creating a ‘fish pond’ and holding five cards in our hand and searching for pairs.  Just like the regular game but with puzzle cards. Fun!

rhyme games for bigger kids

Rhyme & Tally makes rhyming a mathy game!

  • Race to Rhyme: Basically, we’d do just that–race to rhyme.  We’d flip all of the cards over so they were facing up, and we’d speed match. A race against the clock.  Whomever had the most matches won.  Owen. Loved. This. Version.
  • Rhyme & Tally: Basic and easy but adding some of Cora’s happy, new tally-marking skills to the mix.  We flipped all of the cards over and took turns making matches.  And with each match, Cora added a tally mark to the sheet.  We added marks and the highest person won!
  • Third Rhyme: We played the same version of Rhyme & Tally, but the only way a person could earn a tally mark was if he or she could add a third rhyme to the mix.  Plane, train, rain! Would do it, but if you tried Plane, train, ladder. . . well, it wouldn’t cut it. No tally for you.

And that’s about it–just a few of our regular variations on the ole rhyme card game–and we’re adding to the mix as we go.

Want some more rhyming fun? Check out:

Rhyme is super-duper, totally and completely important for our kids.  For so many reasons.

Sure, we need to read with our children–listening to them and reading to them–but a few minutes of rhyme and word play, in conjunction with reading helps kids more than you might think.  According research by Padak and Rasinski as shared in The Reading Teacher, children who engaged in reading and word play with their parents “outperformed in reading achievement and reading- related skill development [as compared to] those classmates whose parents did not engage in these games” which I think makes total sense.

Word games count, big-time. They really do.

The authors also go on to say that parents teaching skills (or playing word games like the rhyme games here) with their children, “were found to be twice as effective as parents listening to children read and six times more effective than parents simply reading to their children” (Padak, N. and Rasinski, T. (2008), The Games Children Play. The Reading Teacher).  Twice as effective and six times more effective than just reading??! Wow.

Let’s start–or keep on–playing!

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, influenced only by my three little rhymers and my experience as a Reading Specialist and parent. Affiliate links are included.

target supports education: grants & programs that ROCK (+ giveaway!)


givewithtarget-eventWe all love Target.

That’s nothing new, right?

The sales rock. The clothes for kids–and adults!–rock. The Dollar Bins rock. The grocery items rock. Those cute brown boots I got last year rock. The toy section rocks.  The household items rock. Their diapers rock. Their little cafe rocks.  Just about everything about Target rocks.

As an local influencer and a mama who’s all up in education, I was recently invited to spend a morning with some friends from Target to get a first-hand look at why another side of Target rocks–the giving, philanthropic side of Target that not everyone knows about.

I had a chance to chat with them about why Target really is all that when it comes to supporting everything reading, education, and our kids.

Target loves education so much that they’re throwing in a sweet $150 gift card for one lucky reader–and we all know that $150 at Target can come in handy, either as a donation to your school or as a way to make the holidays a bit easier for your family.

And yes, that IS Bridget Mendler of Good Luck Charlie and that IS the Target Bullseye Bus and that IS me standing with them both. Woot!

Here’s the skinny, and here’s why we should all totally heart Target. . .

  •  Target Supports Education: Grants & Programs that ROCK: Sure, do remember seeing Target at the National Book Festival last year, with a huge area set aside for families and reading.

And I did write about Target’s Read With Me program a few years back. But since then, I have to admit (gulp!) I don’t recall hearing much about Target, which is why it’s so exciting to share these cool programs with you:

  • Give With Target: $2.5 million to 100 in-need schools–$25,000 to each school.   $2.5 million to schools through a Facebook vote.  That’s $5 million to schools and students.  That’s a lot of cash. That’s a lot of hope.

That’s incredible. Unbelievable. Fabulous and fantastic.

And I was lucky enough to be there at one school in Baltimore on the morning the principal received her $25,000 check.  It was awesome–the children, the staff, the parents, everyone was alive with excitement for education and the promise of success in the year to come.

target supporst education

The morning of the Baltimore #GiveWithTarget event was electric!


Jill talks about this program in the video piece above, and it’s something I am really into. I had no idea that for every purchase you make on your Target REDcard, Target will donate 1% to the eligible school of your choice. That really adds up after time.

In fact, my kids’ school has already received over $6000 from Target, and I had no idea. It’s awesome. It’s like free money, so why wouldn’t you enroll in the program?  $324 million donated since 1997 and $26 million in the most recent payout.

Get. Your. School. Enrolled.

And if you don’t have a child in  school, register your local school, your grandchild’s school, or a school in a low-income area. Why not?

new to me: each Target store can award 3 field trip grants

  • Field Trip Grants: Since 2007, Target has donated $16 million in grants, sending 2 million students on 22,500 field trips.

Each Target store will award three Target Field Trip Grants to K—12 schools nationwide—enabling one in 25 schools throughout the U.S. to send a classroom on a field trip. Each grant is valued up to $700.

Each. Target. Store. Awards. THREE. Field. Trip. Grants.

All teachers have to do is apply.

There’s even a snazzy button, banner, poster, and email that can be used to promote a super field trip spot. Awesome.

Apply in March & April for a September grant notification, so you do need a bit of planning here, but it will be well worth it!

And I didn’t know that Target also supported local art & culture in a ton of cities around the country by providing discounted museum admission or free shows.  Find a free or reduced-price event near you!

  •  Early Childhood Reading Grants: Also $2000 with applications in March & April but with an August notification, these grants are geared toward schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations to support programs such as after-school reading events and weekend book clubs.

Target’s all about fostering a love of reading and encouraging children to read with their families, and I think it’s awesome.


  • Target School Library Makeovers: I had heard that Target was re-doing some school libraries in a major way, but I had no idea that the make0ver included 2,000 new books, new computers, furniture and other things.

I also didn’t know that each student was given a set of books to take home so the whole family can share in the experience. I love it.


Kids must be fed–and healthy–to learn!

  • Meals for Minds: This is totally new-to-me program, but it’s one that I think is so, so, so very important. It’s important because it really shows that we’re talking about the whole child.

It’s education at the most basic level, feeding a child’s physical well-being. In partnership with Feeding America, the Meals for Minds campaign is one that especially hits home this month, September, the Go Orange for Hunger Action Month.  Get involved!

jane o'connor national book festival

Jane O’Connor at last year’s National Book Festival (LOVE her!)

Want more photos from the event? Check out flickr & YouTube!

  • Book Festivals:  I spent a boatload of time last year in Target’s Family Storytelling Stage at the National Book Festival on the Mall here in DC, but I didn’t realize that they were book festival happy.Like happy in a way that they hit book festivals all overthe country kind of happy.Check out the stage lineup and materials for this year’s Family Storytelling Stage at the National Book Festival, and be sure to check out events local to you as well. And don’t despair if you’re not close to a festival; there are tons of materials for you to use and download from home.

Target really is a book festival happy company!

It doesn’t seem to stop with education, either; Target participates in social service programs, crisis relief programs, and military & veteran support programs, and you can also sign up to volunteer with Target as well.  It’s really enough to make me want to dance.

Thanks, Target, for all you do to support education, learning, and families!


this contest is closed, as of 9/21/12. . . many thanks to all who entered and congrats to Elisabeth for her win!

GIVEAWAY: $150 Target gift card

Do you want to win a $150 Target gift card?!  SURE you do!!


All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me which of Target’s programs you think is the most awesome!

For extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a $150 @Target gift card on @teachmama #GiveWithTarget #weteach #giveaway
  • Learn how @Target supports #education on @teachmama #GiveWithTarget
  • Celebrate #backtoschool  win $150 @Target giftcard for your school  #GiveWithTarget
  • Share this poston your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!)
  • Pin this post on Pinterest! (Use ‘pin it!’ button below post!)
  • G+  this post on Google+  (Use the G+ button below post!)

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, September 21, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 9/21/12.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.


fyi: This is an unsponsored post.  As a member of Target’s Inner Circle Program, I was invited to participate in the #GiveWithTarget event and received four backpacks for my school along with a $150 Target gift card to give to one of my readers.  My opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent, educator, and longtime fan of Target.  Some affiliate links are included.

wordless riddles: silly lunchbox notes

wordless riddles: silly lunchbox notes

wordless riddles: silly lunchbox notesWhen I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora what they liked best for their lunchbox notes, I got three different answers.

From Maddy: I want more jokes–not joke, jokes like knock-knocks but more like the riddle jokes. Like the ones that are kind of like a story and you guess what they’re talking about. Like the riddle ones.

From Owen: I like the ones with problems–like math problems.  Or yeah, okay the joke ones.  Or fact ones.

From Cora: I want just like the regular notes, like ‘Have a good day, Cora’ or ‘I love you Cora’ on them. Like just like that. The regular ones.

So I gathered from Cora’s response that she wanted ones she could read–ones with only a few words–and I gathered from Maddy and Owen’s responses that they were up for more of an interactive laugh or challenge, so I thought for a bit.

And then I thought some more.

And I tried to think of something that would fit Maddy, Owen, and Cora while at the same time, try to help Cora feel ‘at home’ in her new school.

So I came up with something new for us–something that so far, the kids–and my husband–really, really love.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Wordless Riddles— Silly Lunchbox Notes: That’s what they are–wordless riddles.

They’re a combination of an ‘I Spy’ game and ‘A Closer Look’, and they really love them.

wordless lunchbox riddles

 Our finished sheet of Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes

All I did was create a simple template with two phrases:

Take a closer look!    and

What am I?

I wanted to use two repeated phrases that Cora could learn with ease and that included a few sight words.

wordless riddle lunchbox notes

Can YOU tell what this object is?

 wordless riddle lunchbox notes

Or maybe this one’s a bit easier?

And then I went around the house, taking super close-up pictures of items familiar to the kids: Brady’s nose, the Wii steering remote, the garage door buttons, door handles, the milk carton, homework stool, you name it.

On each note, I embedded one close-up photo, and we were ready to roll.  I printed three copies of the document on cardstock–six photos each for a total of 18 notes!–cut ’em out, and that’s it!


wordless riddle lunchbox notes

Cora’s lunch: Day 2 — Wordless Riddle ready to go!

The first day I added them to lunchboxes (day two of school!), we chatted on the way home about the day, their friends, recess, and–of course–lunch. 

No one could figure out the picture, so we talked through it as we walked, and together they got it! With Maddy’s idea and Owen’s idea and Cora’s idea, it all came together. It was awesome. It was a super ice-breaker and a great way to move into natural conversation about the day.

The following day, Owen ran out of the building and the very first thing he said to me was Brady’s nose!! It was Brady’s nose!

It took a minute, but then it hit me–he figured it out, and he was psyched. Yay!

A Closer Look Lunchbox Notes : wordless riddle notes (ours)

And that’s it–just a quickie way to show my sweets that I’m thinking of them throughout the day and to (shhhhh!) sneak in a little bit o’ learning and thinking along the way. I have already taken photos for Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes, 2.0 — it’s been so crazy fun.

Do you want to try your hand at Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes? Feel free to download our own Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes (with our photos) or download the Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes Blank Version and create your own–either by adding your own photos to the word doc or by cutting photos and gluing them on! Either way–super fun!

Please, please PUH-lease let me know if you try this and how it works! And I’d LOVE to see yours–feel free to share your own photos on our Facebook page ( Many thanks and happy lunchbox noting!

daniel tiger’s neighborhood: quality programming for preschoolers

daniel tiger pinterest cover

daniel tigers neighborhoodWhen something seems bad, turn it around. . .
                          . . . and find something good.

I like it.

And I know my kids would love it too–and even if they didn’t like it, it would be so engrained in their memories after watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, that most likely it would come to mind when they really needed to ‘find something good’ in a bad situation.

Right? I think so.

That’s the cool thing about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and why I’m so thrilled about this program; it’s a new animated series for children ages 2-4, produced by the Fred Rogers Company.

It’s a new-for-us program that my kiddos totally enjoyed, though they are (wah!) past the preschool age.

I’ve got a lot to say about the awesomeness that is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and I even have a cool giveaway thanks to our friends at PBS Kids!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood–Quality Programming for Preschoolers: I had the pleasure of learning all about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood when I attended the PBS Annual Meeting in Denver last May, so I’m thrilled to share what I know.

Take a quick look:

I’m in awe of the resources available on PBS Kids that support the program, and I’m sure most other parents and teachers will be also.

Be sure to check out:

A few fun facts about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood:

  • the show premiers September 3–Labor Day–with two back-to-back episodes;
  • the series will air daily after the premier.  Find out when you can see the show: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood schedule.
  • The show supports what Fred Rogers believed: ‘social and emotional competencies are the building blocks of doing well in life’.
  • Each show will feature two stories that center on a common early learning theme.
  • Catchy, musical ‘strategies’ will reinforce that theme.
  • Every story has an ‘imagination moment’ where Daniel uses his imagination to better understand a situation.
  • Angela Santomero, of Blue’s Clues & SuperWHY!, and Kevin Morrison, of The Fred Rogers Company, are executive producers of the show.
  • Online resources will be available for parents and teachers to complement each episode (and they’re fabulous!):

Look for:

  • Daniel’s red sweater! (It’s just like Mr. Rogers’ sweater!).
  • Daniel Tiger’s friends–they’re the next generation of characters from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:
    • Daniel’s best friend? O the Owl who lives with his Uncle X;
    • Katerina Kittycat is the daughter of Henrietta Pussycat;
    • Prince Wednesday is the son of King Friday!
  • The red trolley is STILL truckin’ along!

And just for kicks, here’s a few photos of the PBS Annual Meeting in Denver: 


Giveaway is closed! Many thanks for your interest–but we are ALL winners because everyone can catch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS!

GIVEAWAY: A Daniel Tiger fun pack (Daniel Tiger luggage tag, crayons, Daniel Tiger printables, backpack and crayons, pencils, stickers, etc.)

Do you want to win a Daniel Tiger fun pack?!  SURE you do!!

  • All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me what you remember most–and loved–about Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood!

daniel tiger's trolleyFor extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a #DanielTigerPBS Fun Pack on @teachmama @PBSKids #weteach #giveaway
  • Getting psyched for #DanielTigerPBS on @PBSKids — learn more from @teachmama #giveaway
  • Celebrate #backtoschool with #DanielTigerPBS –win a Family Fun Pack  @teachmama
  • Share this post on your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!)
  • Pin this post on Pinterest! (Use ‘pin it!’ button below post!)
  • G+  this post on Google+  (Use the G+ button below post!)

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, September 7, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 9/7/12.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, which I wrote as an advocate of worthwhile programming for kids.  I’m also all for finding fabulous–free!–resources for parents and teachers.  I am a PBS Kids VIP and did attend the PBS Annual Meeting on behalf of PBS; many thanks to PBS for covering travel and lodging.

what to do after kids learn their abc’s: next steps to reading

next steps to reading

next steps to reading

Many parents know that their children need to learn the letters of the alphabet, but what happens next?

You’ve got a ton of alphabet books, you point the ABC’s when you see them, and you do alphabet puzzles with  your kiddos.

You’ve sang the good ole Alphabet Song more times than you care to admit, and you’re pretty sure that your little one can recognize a good number of the letters by himself. 

So now what?

You know that eventually he’s going to need to read, but what could you do–what should you do–to make sure he gets there?  Is it difficult? Is it time consuming? Can you really help?

It’s totally not difficult or time consuming, and you definitely can help.

I’m thrilled to be over at PBS Parents sharing 7 Tips for Early Literacy Learning– From ABC’s to Learning to ReadIt’s a really quick article packed with seven totally manageable things that every parent can do–and should do–to help guide their children toward reading.

Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section–either at PBS Parents or here–letting me know what you do that you’ve found really works toward helping your students or children build a strong foundation of early literacy skills after they know their ABC’s

10 fun ways of helping kids learn the abc’s

help kids learn the abc's

It’s so easy for us to say we want our kids to learn the ABC’s and 123’s before kids hit Kindergarten, but how do we actually do it?

Is there an ideal time to start teaching these all-too-important basics?

What if your kiddo is just not interested in such things? How do you make learning the ABC’s fun?

It’s a lot easier than you may think, and honestly, in my opinion, there’s no time like the present to get rockin’ and rollin’ on helping your kids learn the ABC’s.   So whether your child is 6 or 6 months, I’d say get going. Now.  And have fun with it.

Start singing, stickering, hunting, painting, and spraying your way to either an alphabet-filled summer.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 10 Fun Ways of Helping Kids Learn the ABC’s:

1.  Play ABC Games — Play alphabet board games, play alphabet clothespin games, play alphabet wordo!

2.  Point Out ABC’s EverwhereGo on Alphabet Hunts, hide the ABC’s around your house (then do it again).  Then go on Backyard Alphabet Hunts— so fun, it’s nuts. 

3.  Celebrate the Letters of Kids’ Names — For the little guys, start with their letter–the first letter of his or her name–and go from there. Find the letter on the cereal box, on signs, in books.  Play Family Name Letter Connect.  Once they master that, move onto the other letters of the name and then introduce family names.

4.  Read ABC Books — There are tons of them out there, believe me, but a super-fun fave of ours is Superhero ABC.  Visit my pal, Allie’s awesome post, 50 Fantastic ABC Books for more.

5.  Sort the ABC’s — Separate letters and numbers.  Sort tricky fonts.  Play with those magnetic letters on the fridge and sort the ABC’s on lids.

6.  Spray the ABC’s — You heard me. Spray the ABC’s.


help kids learn abc's


7.  Play ABC Bingo — Play Alphabet Bingo with uppercase letters.  Play it with the letters of your child’s name.  Play it with lowercase letters.  Stamp it or write it.  Just play it.

8.  Sing the ABC Song — Sing that song–c’mon, you know it–same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle and Baa Baa Blacksheep.  Sing it all the time.  Sing it at bath time, bed time, breakfast time.  Sing other songs of course, but make ABC top of the charts. It will help.

9.  Crazy Write the ABC’s — Write the ABC’s with sticky stuff, with paint, with water, or with wiggly wigglies.  Make it different.   Write on windows. Write in the sky.

10.  Move and Groove the ABC’s — Get up and move to the ABC’s with ABC Exercise Cards or get leafy with an Outdoor Alphabet Hunt.


Want more? After checking out the links above, visit our Read Aloud Learning Series for some super-easy tips, then check the right sidebar for other topics you need.  Reading the article, Get Ready to Read: Young Reader Skills, by Marie Faust Evitt, will also give you some important milestones that all parents should know!

Want to share your awesome ways to teach the ABC’s? Please visit we teach and join our Alphabet Group! We’d love to learn from you!

Happy ABC learning!


fyi: This blog post is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom. Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

words 3 ways: learning sight words for kindergarten

words three ways

post contains affiliate links




words three ways  teachmama.comCora is totally into learning how to read, so I am seriously running with it.

She wants to practice the sight words that were included in her kindergarten packet.  She wants to be able to decode the words in her High 5 Magazine and her Weekly Reader.

She wants to read to her dolls, read to Brady, and read to me.

At least most days she does.

Some days, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with reading, and she only wants to dance or sing or paint or play dress-up.  But that’s okay with me because she’s getting closer, and I know it.

So I’ve been exploring some new and exciting ways for her to practice the ‘all-too-important’ kindergarten sight words, and I think we’ve come up with a way that seems to work for her.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Words 3 Ways: Learning Sight Words for Kindergarten: The concept of words three ways is simple– children ‘play’ with words in three basic ways.

It’s similar to Maddy’s Trace, Copy, Recall for beginning work with spelling words, but catered a bit more toward littler ones.  It’s a great way to begin work with sight words.

words three ways can be downloaded here as a pdf if you’d like to let your little one try it at home.

learning sight words for kindergarten

Sometimes I write the words in uppercase letters and sometimes I write them in lowercase; I want her to be familiar with both.

Cora has been using Words 3 Ways for a few weeks now, so she understands how it works, but when I introduced the idea, I said, Okay, Cora, today we’re going to rake a really big step.  You just had Kindergarten Orientation, so I know you’re excited for school to start in the fall, but there are a few things we’ll do between now and then that will help you be really, really ready for all the fun  you’re going to have in Kindergarten.

I know you already know a lot—your letters, numbers, and how to write your name and our family’s names, so we’re moving on to bigger things, now, and I know you’re ready. We’re going to really start playing with sight words.

learning sight words for kindergarten

Sight words are words that you’ll see in almost all of the books you’ll learn to read in Kindergarten—they’re usually small words that you can’t really sound out, so you need to know them by ‘sight’. We got a list of sight words from your Kindergarten teachers, and I put them on flash cards.  We’ll play different games with them, and by the time you start school, you’ll be able to read them all by yourself! How awesome is that??!

So today we’re going to start with Words 3 Ways. It’s a fun way for you to learn five new words.  The words are here (pointing to words in left column).  Let’s read them together. 

Okay, now you get a chance to do three things with each of these words: first you’ll use your finger or a highlighter to trace the word.  Then you’ll form the word, and you can do that by stamping the letters, using letter stickers, or using magnetic letters.  And the last thing you’ll do is write the word. 

So you’ll trace, then you’ll form the word, then you’ll write it.

  • Let’s start with the first word.  I’ll read it, then you read it.  ‘The’.  Cora read it herself.  Great! Now use the highlighter to trace the word. 

She traced it.

I could tell that you were really concentrating on each letter: ‘t’, then the ‘h’, and then the ‘e’. 


learning sight words for kindergarten

Cora’s writing her words. . .

learning sight words for kindergarten

  • Now you get to form the word, or build it.  Do you want to stamp it or use letter stickers?  She chose to stamp the word, and as she hunted for and then stamped each letter, I said the letter name.
  • Finally, you get a chance to write the word all by yourself.  Do you want to use a pencil or the bee pen or a marker to write it?

She used the pencil, just like Owen and Maddy use for their homework, to carefully form each letter.

Fabulous job! I said.

While Maddy and Owen worked on their homework, I talked Cora through the next two words; she finished the last on her own.

And the next few days, she asked me for Words 3 Ways with different words.  Awesome.

Right now, Words 3 Ways has become Cora’s go-to, her favorite ‘homework time’ activity because she’s all about reading. I’m a huge fan, too, because I can really add any words I want into the sheet—family names, color words, number words, sight words, you name it.  And I like that she’s tracing handwritten words; we sometimes forget that kiddos need to learn how to read handwriting and print.

Words 3 Ways gives emerging readers an opportunity to focus on a small number of words, looking closely at them in three different ways–first tracing the word, then building it, and then writing it on their own.

It’s not foolproof, it’s not instantaneous, and it requires foll0w-up, but it’s a start!  Happy sight word learning, little readers!

We’re huge fans of Melissa & Doug’s Alphabet Stamp set because it is a super set for emerging readers to use when building words, playing with names, or creating personalized masterpieces for loved ones.

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

quick & easy grid games: concepts of print

quick and easy grid games - 10

quick & easy grid gamesIt’s been a busy few days for us, but we’re slowly getting back to the routine, and it (gulp!) feels pretty good.

Though boy oh boy do we miss Disney. . .

So this week, I pulled out Cora’s Kindergarten packet (wah!), looked through the ideas, and reminded myself that I really should do some more focused activities with her, even if only a few times a week.

Usually I try to give Cora some major flexibility and choice during work time–that sacred 20-30 minutes after we pick up Owen and Maddy, after snacks, when we all sit down together to cover school work.

If Cora wants to paint, color, or sort, I encourage her to go with it. If she’s up for puzzles or word searches, she does it.  If she wants to freely create a masterpiece, she creates.  But as the days and weeks until my 5-year-old walks into the doors of Kindergarten quickly approach, I’ve tried to narrow her choices a bit.

So I grabbed one of our faves this week–grid games–hoping that they’d be quick, they’d be easy, and they’d be fun for her.  (And secretly give her a chance to practice that ever-important left to right return sweep. . . )

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sunny & Rainy Grid Games–Concepts of Print: These are simple, quick, and allow for some major flexibility in terms of how we use them.

Which is why I really love them.quick & easy grid games

Cora counts out four–which she rolled on the red die–and double-checks her board-covering.

We used our sunny rainy grid games which can be downloaded here and printed if you’d like. 

It was a gorgeous, sunny day, so I thought that though we were blue about our vacation being over, the smiling sunny faces would lift our spirits.   And we used Cheerios to cover our board because it was snacktime.  And we were both hungry.

The concept of Grid Games is simple: cover the board in an organized, left-to-right return sweep fashion, the same pattern we use for reading.

And the goal is to be the first one to cover your board. Simple!

quick & easy grid games


We have used dice–with dots and numbers–flipped playing cards, a handful of beads or beans, and magnetic numbers pulled from a bag as our ‘counters’ and we’ve used a ton of things as our board markers:

  • Cheerios
  • candy hearts
  • stickers
  • beads
  • beans
  • marshmallows
  • stamps
  • a big ‘x’ written with marker

We played several times–first with the smaller boards, with 12 sunshines on the board just so she wasn’t overwhelmed, and the last few times we played with the larger boards, with 40 sunshines and rainclouds on them.  We rotated dice, sometimes using the die with numerals on it and other times using the die with dots.


quick & easy grid games

Grid Game attempt #5 (or 6? or 8?) was a success!

It didn’t matter what we used as our counters because my focus for Cora was more on the literacy end.   I wanted to make sure she was starting at the left and moving toward the right and then returning to the second line and doing the same thing.  The last few times we used Grid Games, she was all over the place, refusing to follow the left-right return sweep, so I was crossing my fingers that she’d go with it this time.

And she did.  Woot!

So while Maddy and Owen finished their work, Cora and I played, and once our boards were covered, we ate our Cheerios.  And we were finished! Just like that–and she had no idea how important this little game was for helping her to read. . . and that’s totally cool with me.

There are a ton of other fun ways of helping kids learn the left to right return sweep, but if you want some more super-fun, super easy Grid Games, check out:

homemade alphabet book: get personal with the abc’s

alphabet book cover

There’s been a ton of little things that we’ve done over here to help Maddy, Owen, and Cora learn the letters of the alphabet, but I have to say that an all-time favorite of theirs has to be their Homemade Alphabet Books.

And really, the Homemade Alphabet Books are not all that crazy, gorgeous, or special.

But they are made exclusively by each kiddo, with photos and pictures chosen by them, with ribbons and colors and everything chosen by them as well. The Homemade Alphabet Books are theirs.

And though Maddy and Owen are long past needing–or reading–their books, they still like to look back at the photos they chose way back when they were ‘so, so little’ and my little Cora keeps adding to her book every few days.

It’s fun–it’s easy, and it’s totally worth your time.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Homemade Alphabet Books: Making these books is super-easy.  Using them is just as important.

Alphabet Books are just that–books that have a page for each letter of the alphabet: one page with the uppercase and lowercase letter and the facing page with child-chosen pictures, drawings, photographs of images that begin with that letter.

I used old printer paper that my mom gave me, but any paper will do.  My kids love watching me make books–though we have a ton of cheapo notebooks in our house, they really seem to like books made ‘especially for them’ or in this case, by them.

We count out 28 sheets of paper–one for each letter of the alphabet and one for a front and back cover.   And the construction of the book is simple:


Creating the skeleton of the book is easy.  But building the book, filling each page, is a work in progress.

It’s not something that can be done in one day, by any means.

When I was tutoring, I’d often make one of these Homemade Alphabet Books with my little guys–especially my struggling readers–and we’d focus on one or two letters each session. And each time we added a new letter or two, we’d first read the previous pages, beginning with the cover and going through each and every page, pointing as we read the words: Colin’s Alphabet Book. .  A, a (we’d say the letter and then the sound), airplane! Apple! Alligator! 

We’d point to each picture that began with that letter as we said the name of each object.  For some kids, this Alphabet Book was literally the only thing they could read, but it was that teeny, tiny piece they needed to grow confidence and build a solid foundation of literacy learning and phonological awareness.

By the time they finished with letters X, Y, and Z, they memorized the first half of the book.  Which is awesome because if they forever remembered D, d, dog! duck! dolphin! donut! –words that began with certain letters–it gave them something.

Those words and those sounds belonged to them.  Finally, they ‘owned’ a little piece of reading.  A small book.  Their book.  And they were one step closer to really being able to put multiple sounds together to read words on a page.

Jewels–among other things–for letter ‘J’. . .

. . . icecream and iceskates for ‘I’. . .

. . . Grandma and Grandpa start off Cora’s ‘G’ page!

One thing I love about this activity is that it can really be child-directed.  There are some weeks when Cora wants to work on finishing her Alphabet Book for three afternoons straight.  And then days–or weeks–pass and she doesn’t pick it up.

But when she finally does, it’s like she’s reunited with an old friend.  Mommy! Remember the day I cut out the pictures of Grandma and Grandpa? They are here on the page for ‘G’!

Some days she’ll just want to cut out pictures and glue them in the next day.  And other days, she’ll pick and choose the letters she wants to do, depending on her mood, the weather, or what she finds in a magazine or photograph.

And other days, she just wants to flip through her Alphabet Book, reading the letters and saying the pictures to herself between playing dress-ups or coloring, and that’s fine, too.  It doesn’t really matter. . . after all, it’s hers!

That’s it–just a teeny, tiny bit of fun alphabet learning. . . with a whole lot of room to move, depending on how old your little ones are.

Alphabet books are generally designed for the “development of phonemic awareness through alliteration and assonance in emergent and beginning readers” and follow a very standard pattern of “a single focal letter and accompanying text with illustrations.”  However, I’m totally psyched about the different ways to expand upon these seemingly simple texts–and I cannot wait to play with them a bit with Maddy, Owen, and Cora over the next few weeks and months.  More to come!

And huge thanks to Evers, A. J., Lang, L. F. and Smith, S. V. (2009), An ABC Literacy Journey: Anchoring in Texts, Bridging Language, and Creating Stories. The Reading Teacher, 62: 461–470. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.6.1 for the quote above and for providing more inspiring Alphabet Book ideas!


quick trick: take reading on the road

read & ride  cover

A few weeks ago, I took the kids to Pennsylvania for the weekend–another solo trip and one I’ve done dozens of times before.

But what I realized is that the packing and prep I once spent hours doing for my solo trips with three little ones has now been cut considerably; however, that’s not to say that I can just jump in the car and go. Especially if I want to stay sane.

I still gather ‘road trip bag’ o’ fun activities, snacks, and music.  Books on CD, poems on CD, you name it.

But this time? I totally forgot the books on CD.  And it’s something that the kids really look forward to.

So this little Quick Trick is something I figured out somewhere after the Maryland line but before York, PA. And it made us.  All. So. Very. Happy.

Here’s the skinny . . .

  • Take Reading on the Road: We are huge LeapFrog fans over here, which is no secret.

I’ve often shared my LeapFrog love, and our LeapFrog Tags, Explorer, and LeapPad are usually all juiced up and ready to go for road trips–especially when it’s just the kids and me.


Tag Reader in. . .

. . . and turned onto Aux in my happy little minivan.


The kids are allowed to use electronics in 30 minute intervals once we get to the highway–about an hour into the trip.  And then everything’s off, we do something different for a while, we stop, stretch our legs, get back on the highway, they switch products, and they can play for 30 more minutes.

But what we realized this last trip is that our sweet LeapFrog Tag doubles as a book on CD if we just plug it into the aux plug.  Seriously! Who knew?! Does everyone know this and our family has just been living under a rock?! OMG! So exciting!!  We were over the moon.  Books we now had, and books we did enjoy.

Both ways–heading to Pennsylvania and then back to Maryland.

Yay! So several times each way, we listened to all of the books that were saved on the Tag ReaderChica Chica Boom Boom, Tangled, Spiderman, Star Wars, Cat in the Hat, The Little Engine that Could, Princess and the Frog.    And the kids dozed and sometimes we chatted about the stories, but really, we just relaxed and listened.

Listened and relaxed.

Sure–download a few books onto your phone, and you’re probably good to go.  Or bring some books on CD.  But this trip? Forgot both. So we were just rolling with it, old-school style, until we plugged in the ole LeapFrog Tag.  Woot.

And maybe most people know this little Quick Trick–perhaps it’s what makes you love LeapFrog even more than you already do.  But it’s new for us, and it’s one of those little happy bits of news we were all excited to share.

Three cheers for taking reading on the road!

fyi: This is a totally unsponsored post, and my opinions are all my own, though I do work with LeapFrog. This post includes affiliate links.

learning during read-alouds: what IS reading?

melissa and doug puzzles cover 1000

learning during read-alouds: what IS reading? So. . . what IS reading?

  • Is it the ability to read a single word on a page?
  • Is it the ability to read every single word on a page?
  • Is it the ability to retell a story?
  • Is it the ability to read fluently, to sound natural while reading?
  • Is it the ability to understand what is being read?
  • Is reading the ability to correctly answer multiple choice questions about a story or text?

Reading seems to be something different to everyone–especially our  little guys who are just now acquiring those all-too important literacy skills. 

For some, reading is being able to pick out his or her name in the class list; for others, reading is being able to decode that very first leveled book.  For others yet, reading is walking through that very first chapter book–solo.

But whether it’s plowing through a chapter book or paging through a magazine, many people active in the world of reading agree that reading IS indeed something important.

Head on over to the Melissa & Doug blog to read a recent post I wrote: What IS reading? and let me know what you think!