Saturday’s Sites

Here you go…some great sites I’ve found lately!

  • Shining Our Lights Preschool has a free idea to share for keeping track of your child’s reading skills, especially this summer.  If you do Word Study with your child, based off of Words Their Way, they recommend keeping a Word Study notebook.  We do this at this reading mama’s house and it’s another great way to keep track of what your child knows.
  • Do you have a preschooler at home?  Here’s a wonderful blog called A Mom With a Lesson Plan.  She’s got some great ideas.  I plan on using and posting some of her Letter Activities with NJoy soon!
  • I LOVE Michelle’s post on handwriting WITHOUT pencil and paper!  My favorite thing about this reading mama is that she posts videos for every letter to show you how to do it.  Thanks, Michelle!
  • She did it!  I Can Teach My Child came up with a way to use her toilet paper books into word family practice.  Check it out.

“Every Letter Makes a Sound…”

It seems like everywhere I turn in my home, I can hear this *lovely* song:  “B  says /b/, B says, /b/.  Every letter makes a sound…”  Oh, do I have you singing it now?  I’m so sorry. 🙂  Believe me, I know every verse; as I’m sure you do too, if you have little ones in the home.

Learning letter sounds.  While there’s probably not a “wrong” way to do it  (okay, I guess there could be), I believe there is a more developmentally appropriate way than starting with the /a/ sound and working your way through in order to the /z/ sound.  I like to introduce letter sounds in a different order, which can help to minimize confusion.

Much of the confusion over letter sounds occurs at the point of articulation.  Letter sounds are produced or articulated in different places of the mouth.  For example,  the /m/ sound is produced by placing both lips together (bilabial) while the /k/ sound is made at the back of the throat.  (Hang in there.  I do have  a point in all this jargon.)  Some sounds require the voice to be used /v/, while others do not /f/.  There are continuant sounds, meaning they can be elongated naturally /sssssss/, while there are other letter sounds that cannot be elongated (stops), like the /b/ sound.  Some letters are very similar in their articulation, such as /t/ and /d/.  And because they are so similar, they have the potential to confuse young children if introduced close together. Whew…now, take a deep breath. 

The interesting part about all the above info is that even though I studied a lot of this stuff when getting my M.Ed. in Reading, I initially learned most of it while getting my undergrad in music!  I was a voice major and we had to take five diction classes, learning the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), in order to know how to pronounce words in several different languages.  Little did I know that this information would serve me far beyond singing Clair de Lune!  I think it’s so cool how God prepared me to be a teacher before I even knew it was in His plan!

Here is the order in which I typically introduce consonant letter sounds: (I do not follow this exactly in every situation*)

m, s, r, b, t, g, n, p, c, h, f, d, l, k, j, w, y, z, v, x, & q- (both x and q produce two sounds /ks/ for x and /kw/ for q)

By introducing sounds in this approximate order, the letters that have similar articulation points are separated enough so that confusion is minimal.  And an added bonus: the letters that are similar in print features (b, d, p, & q) are also spaced further apart from each other.


1. If you are introducing the letter sounds to a younger child (for example, NJoy is 2) or a child with speech delays, it may help to adapt the order a bit so that some of the “easier” sounds are introduced first.  Here are two links about articulation development, if you want to read them: Developmental Articulation Chart & full research article.   (Thank you, Tiffany!)

Here’s the main idea of these resources: The letter sounds that have the potential of being more difficult to articulate are generally: /f/, /l/, /r/, /s/, /v/, /y/ & /z/.  It may work best to postpone them, so the order may look more like:

m, b, t, g, n, p, c, h, d, k, w, j, f, y, s, v, z, l, r, x, & q

2. If you are introducing these sounds to an older child (let’s say a Kindergartner), I do not feel it is necessary to get through all 21 consonants before you introduce a short vowel sound (like short a).  If a short vowel is mixed in there, the child can begin working on simple word families and reading words sooner.  You can see how I started doing this with ALuv here.

3. Some reading philosophies (Montessori, for example) choose to teach letter sounds before letter names.  Because of this, the letter order must differ to facilitate reading words.  Here is a post that does a good job explaining this.  (I will post more on this topic at a later time.)


One of the reasons that articulation interests me is that it helps to explain the interesting invented spellings of young children.  What seems like a random spelling begins to make sense.  Take for example, PK for pig.  From an articulation stand-point, k is a great substitution for g because they are both pronounced in a similar spot: a guttural sound in the back of the tongue and throat.  And if a child is stretching out the sounds in a classroom or in a setting where they need to do so quietly, /k/ is the sound that g makes when the voice is not used.  Pretty cool!

And just in case you are just dying for another round, here you go: “D says /d/, D says /d/…” Happy singing!

Saturday's Sites

Here are some literacy-based links I found this week while surfing the web:

  • Homeschool Creations has a great page with phonics printables.  There are mostly ABC printables, but there are also some short and long vowel activities.
  • This craft caught my eye from I Can Teach My Child.  I wonder if I can make a book this way or use it for word families…very creative.
  • Worksheets are not my favorite thing to do with kids, but sometimes, it’s nice to mix in a worksheet or two.  Here is a website that offers free literacy (and math) worksheets.  I found this one on Confessions of a Homeschooler.

"Doing School" with NJoy

NJoy is currently 2 years, 8 months.  And this little boy NJOYS learning.  He is actually borderline obsessive! 🙂  He has walked into our new schoolroom several times since its construction and demanded, “I want to ‘do school’!” (It really sounds more like “do cool”; since he can’t say his s blends very well).

Magnetic letter play

“Mommy, I need the pointer so I can point to letters.” – I hear this at least twice a day.

Sneaking in a quick ABC puzzle with Mr. Lamb before breakfast

Now that he’s taken to it, I’ve realized that I need to be more intentional with him.  While I sometimes still adapt things for him that I do with ALuv, I’ve begun separate lesson plans for him.  The awesome thing is that I’ve got PLENTY of amazing online resources to help me out.  You can visit the other sites and their amazing resources by clicking on the links with each activity.

Letters & Their Letter Sounds

Instead of going through the alphabet in order, I introduce letters and their sounds in more of a developmental order (I am planning to post more specifically about this soon).   Sometimes, I’ll start with the letter of the child’s name, but since we are studying butterflies, I decided to go with B.

Letter B Work:

Play dough Letter B Mat from here

Our letter Bb sound tub

For each object, I placed it on this Bb mat, saying the object’s name like this: /b/-/b/-bread.  For more ideas on using sound tubs, click here and here.

Drawing strings on the balloons- (I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll be a lefty like his daddy)

If splashing in mud puddles is NJoy’s 1st love, drawing strings on balloons has got to be a close 2nd.   So much so, that I have to be careful not to leave writing utensils within his reach because if he sees an o anywhere in the house, he writes a line coming from it and proudly exclaims, “Look mommy!  I made a balloon!”  Since we are studying the letter B, I created this page for him and put it in a sleeve protector so he could erase and draw again and again (and again!).  He requests to do this one several times a day.  You can download it here if you think your little one(s) may enjoy.

butterfly matching

butterfly lacing card

tracing the letter B

Do-a-dot Bb– this was his first time doing the dots in the circles and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he did!

Since ALuv really wanted to do it, I had him trace the upper and lower case B first, using the correct strokes for the formation of the letter.  He then had to do his dots in the same order.  (Gotta integrate that handwriting whenever you can!!!)

The butterfly and letter B activities in the former pictures came from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  This mama is truly amazing…and so are her free printables!

starfall’s letter B show

He also enjoyed the B Power Point show that Carisa created, but I didn’t get a picture of us doing that one.  You have to be a member to view it, but the membership is WELL worth it.  It’s only a one time fee of $15 and she adds new things quite often.

Sing a Song

We sing a lot over here!  Both my boys LOVE to sing.  I use songs to incorporate literacy quite a bit.  One of our favorites with the letter B has been Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee.  Another song we’ve sung for a few days is one that I adapted in my Christian Nursery Rhymes book: Ba, Ba Black Sheep.

NJoy colored the sheep (I only had him color the black, blue, and brown sheep in his first sitting.  I demonstrated how these color names start with B.)

We sang the song, substituting a different color for black each time.  After seeing My Montessori Journey’s February poem on the pocket chart, I decided to put our song on our new pocket chart.  It worked nicely.

Pointing to the B‘s in Ba, Ba

As we continue to “do school” this summer, I’ll keep you posted on the things we do.  Thanks for following this reading mama!

Playing with Phonemes-Part 1

The smallest unit of sound in the spoken language is a phoneme.  Once a child begins to isolate, blend, segment, and manipulate sounds at the phoneme level, her literacy world really begins to explode.  You’ll see how in these next posts.

Phonemic Isolation:

Developmentally speaking, the best way to introduce phonemic isolation is:

  1. initial sound in a word- “What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word?” 
  2. final sound-“What sound do you hear at the end of the word?”
  3. medial sound-“What sound do you hear in the middle of the word?”

When you examine kids’ spellings, this is the natural way they spell as they develop in their phonemic awareness.  They start by writing initial consonants; so bed may first be spelled B.  Then they may add the d to spell BD.  And finally, BAD or BED for bed.


Montessori inspired me with her sound tubs, so I created a set of my own for use when I taught public school.  ALuv used them (and we still do from time to time) and I plan on beginning some work on these with NJoy soon.

This is how I know that he is ready to try: at a little over 2 years of age, he knew his letter names-both upper and lower case (he pretty much taught himself)!  These days, you can hear him singing, “B says /b/” or “T says /t/” around the house or asking me, “Mommy, what’s that S  say?”;  so I can tell he’s ready for some work on letter sounds.  (Just a side note: NJoy is ahead of the game.  ALuv didn’t know all his letters until 3.5 years of age and still others do not until they are 4 or 5 years of age.  All of these ages are within the “normal” r ange.  Please do not compare your 2 year old to mine.)

Here are a couple of pictures of my sound tubs (nothing fancy):

I collected 6 objects for each letter of the alphabet.  I had a few extra containers left over, so I also have a tub for ch, sh and th.

Our Gg Tub

Some of my tubs, take for instance by G tub, have objects in which there are blends at the beginning of the word (like glasses or grasshopper); which is probably not ideal, but I’m not too concerned about this.

You can purchase your own set too, but I didn’t want to fork out the money.  It was way cheaper to put them together myself.  I collected objects from around the house and went shopping (craft stores, the $1 store & Goodwill worked very well for me!).


Initial Sound Play: To use these objects, I first start with one sound tub (let’s say B).  I pull out all the objects and say the name of each object like this “/b/, /b/, /b/  ball.”  We do this tub a few days in a row, doing the same thing each day-pull out the objects, naming each one.  I let the child chime in to help when he feels ready.  Once I see that my child feels comfortable with the B tub, I’ll pull out the S tub and do the same thing with it.

After I feel the child has a grasp on those object names and initial letter sounds, I pull out all the objects from both the B and S tub and I mix them up.  I lay out a mat (see picture below) and sort the objects by letter sound, remembering to over emphasize the first sound in the word.  The mat is made with construction paper and permanent marker.  (I “stole” this idea from a Montessori K class I observed.)

B tub-baby, ball, bell, bread, button, & bunny

S tub-snake, stop sign, seal, spider, & stool

I like the sound tubs because the same objects can be used to teach initial, final and middle sound.  I would caution that with the final and middle sounds, I’ve found it’s easier for a child to do when you pick an object that’s only 1 syllable (such as cat, bell, or sock)For example, I can go into my sound tubs and pull out these 6 objects that all end in the letter T and use them to work on sorting objects with the final /t/ sound.

Just recently, I noticed that Nicole @ The Activity Mom has a more efficient way to store her letter objects.  I wish I’d seen her idea 6 years ago!

If you don’t want to make your own sound tubs (I won’t lie…it took some work!), you can use picture cards.

  • I like the picture cards in the back of Words Their Way.  The supplement booklets (this one, too) for kids in this stage of spelling/reading also have pictures sorts already created for you!
  • Florida’s Center for Reading Research also has free activities and picture cards you can download, print off, and use.  Click here and here for those.
  • Here’s an idea I did with ALuv not too long ago with picture cards from Words Their Way in which we sorted pictures by middle sound.

And to keep prep time to zero, you can integrate phonemic isolation into everyday life as you live literacy together.  For example, while getting your child dressed, you can say things like, “/s/ /s/ /s/ sock.  That starts with the /s/ sound, just like your name /s/ /s/ /s/ Sam!”

Ride Over the Word

I had planned on posting today about all the things we did this week to work on short o words, but I needed space to write about our absolute favorite way to play with short o…ALuv called it RIDE OVER THE WORD.

ALuv has recently learned how to ride his bike without training wheels, and to say he’s addicted would be an understatement!

As you can see, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!

So, I wrote some short o words on our driveway and cul-de-sac.

I called out a word and he had to find the word &  ride his bike over it.

I was surprised at how long he stuck with this game.  After I had called out all the words, he begged to do it again…and again!  It’s a good thing we did it early in the morning before the temps were too high!

At first, NJoy ran around finding and jumping on letters; mostly his beloved o.

Then he wanted me to call out words for him, too.  I was shocked when he walked up to the word stop and said, “S-T-O-P.  Mommy, that spells stop.”

He then proceeded to decorate the words with his own sidewalk chalk creations.  What fun!

MBug sat in the stroller and as I pushed her around, she cheered for ALuv as he found the words I called.

There are several reasons why this reading mama really like this game:

  • Sidewalk chalk washes off by itself when it rains!  And that’s a good thing because if you don’t have room in your neighborhood, you could do this at a park or low-traffic parking lot.
  • It integrated some great exercise (all except for little MBug).
  • There’s so much flexibility in this game.  You could write the basic ABC’s, numbers, shapes, etc. on the pavement.  Instead of riding a bike, your child could run and jump (like NJoy did) or bounce a ball on top of the object.

I’ve got it in my mind to write some sight words outside soon and let ALuv ride over the word!

Spelling with LEGO Letters

MBug (11 months) gets up many mornings around 4 or 5am to eat, but then goes right back to sleep.  During such a feeding one morning last week, I was contemplating how I could combine ALuv’s obsession with Legos and my love for teaching reading.  As I mulled over how this could be done, an idea popped into my head.

Learning Objective: Child will manipulate Lego pieces to spell words and identify their “shapes”.

Since ALuv has a HUGE bucket of Legos (we easily have over 3,000), I knew he wouldn’t miss a handful of them!

Material Preparation:

1.  I collected the Legos.  My two “helpers” assisted me in pulling out the needed Legos.  Okay, so they really built cars while I did all the work, but good help can be hard to come by these days! 🙂  (If I’d only been as organized as Carisa, this would not have taken so long.)

2.  I sorted the Legos.  The Legos on the left side of this picture are for the short consonants, such as c, m, n, v, etc.  The red Legos in the middle are for vowels, and the Legos on the right side are for tall consonants (b, d, t, l, etc.) or consonants with a “tail” (p, q, j, etc.).

3. I wrote the letters on the Legos.  I placed all the Legos with the bumps facing to the right and wrote with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie (permanent); which I found at Target.  So far, only the q has smudged; the rest have held up very well.

Here’s a picture of my finished blocks in ABC order.  If you’ll notice, I also included a red w and a red y for when they act as vowels.

One awesome thing about this is that the b, d, q, and g will not fit together if they are turned the wrong way, so it helps to limit their confusion.  I did, however, write all the b‘s on yellow blocks, the d‘s on light green, and the p‘s on white; just to solidify their differences.

Lesson Plan:

1.  We sorted the Lego letters by “shape” (short letters, tall letters, letters with “tails”).

2. I modeled how to click them together correctly so that the letters retained their “shape”.

3. I called out Word Wall words (sight words) and he built them.  These are the words he made: and, can, go, look, like, off, is, stop, the & you.

Once we got into the lesson, this reminded me of the Reading Rods I used in the classroom with my Kinders and 1st graders (only cheaper!).

Variation & Extension Ideas:

I knew NJoy would want to be right in there with us, so I made some letter blocks for him out of the Duplo blocks–upper case on one side and lower case on the other.  This way MBug could safely play, too, while ALuv’s smaller Lego pieces stayed on the table.

naming his letters

Worksheets are not my thing, but ALuv enjoyed spelling the words so much that I created a couple of worksheets for him on A to Z Teacher Stuff.  He did this one as independent work the next day.  He totally LOVED doing this!

For the worksheet, he had to: 1) Look at the words at the top, 2) Build the words with Legos & 3) Write the correct word in each word shape puzzle.

Fishing for Letters

I rotate out toys on a weekly basis in our playroom.  It’s an inexpensive way of keeping things fresh.  I got the idea here.  My original idea was that I would rotate things out as a surprise–do it while they were sleeping, but the boys found my “stash” that I thought I had hidden really well.  Now they help me do it each week on Sunday nights while my husband is leading a high school small group.

So, as we are rotating out our LeapFrog magnetic sets, they came across the upper and lower case magnetic sets, as you can see.  ALuv had his eyes on the magnetic letters and NJoy’s were on the colorful ABC foam puzzle (I got free at MOPS–Mothers Of Preschoolers).  ALuv pulled out the fishing pole my husband made me years ago when I taught school and the Pampered Chef collapsible bowl.

They sat there for at least 30 minutes together.  They got all the letters in order first.  While ALuv “fished” out the letters, they would say the name of the letter and NJoy would sort them onto the foam letters, which some occasional help from big brother.  I love it when kids initiate their own learning.  VERY COOL!

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