"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!


Tuesday’s Teaching Tip

If you have young children at your house, are the hours between 4-6pm somewhat hairy (maybe even extremely hairy) around your house?  It can be over here.  Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real.  I had a MOPS mentor mom who once called them the “arsenic hours”!

Dinner needs to be prepared – “But, I’m hungry now” becomes the mantra – the baby wants to be held (or at the very least, stand in between my legs and whine) – the two big brothers are fighting – everyone is cranky (sometimes even mama) – “But, I’m hungry now” mantra is repeated – daddy’s not home yet – the baby is crying – insert “But, I’m hungry now” mantra – the two big brothers are fighting over the same toy (again) and both of them claim they had it first…the list could go on and on.

Here’s a tip that helps with sanity around this reading mama’s house: give the kids something to do at the kitchen table (or bar area) as you stir the noodles and bake the chicken.

My favorite thing for the boys to do are simple:

  1. crafts
  2. writing activities

Notice I said simple.  The last thing I need is something else to do during this time, so easy is the key.

Here are some CRAFTS my kids like to do:

  • play with with Play-Doh (pull out special cookie cutters & accessories)
  • scissor practice (use old papers or coupons you’re not going to use)

  • play with stickers- I save stickers that they really like and let them decorate a scene with them, like they did with the vehicles seen here
  • play with stamps
  • water color painting-I found two Paint with Water Books at Books-A-Million for $1 each.  I can remember doing these as a child!
  • Carisa @ 1+1+1=1 has some other ideas I use for simple crafts.  But, I do not do anything that has the potential to create a big mess during this time.  The last thing I want is to have to clean up my kitchen right before dinner!

Here are some fun WRITING activities:

  • write on dry erase boards
  • color in a coloring book or page from DLTK’s site
  • Crayola Wonder & Crayola Explosion are great activities because their markers won’t make a mess on walls or chairs if I happen to turn my back on NJoy to stir those noodles!
  • work a simple puzzle like a crossword puzzle, maze, dot-to-dot, or word search.  ALuv really likes the Puzzle Buzz (made by Highlight) activities and I save the magazines for special occasions.

One more thing I sometimes do is utilize the laptop.

  1. I plop MBug in her highchair and let all of them watch a DVD on the laptop.  We get new DVD’s at the public library almost every week.
  2. Internet-You can view some of the sites we like here.
  3. Youtube.com has some great videos including this one, which is one of our all-time favorites.

If you find yourself wanting to pull out your own hair from 4-6pm, I hope that one of these ideas may help you out.  If you have some tricks up your sleeve for the “arsenic hours”, I’d love for you to share themWe could always use a fresh idea!

Our New Schoolroom!

I have been debating for some time over the thought of rearranging our house to create a space for school.  After seeing (and drooling over) Carisa’s schoolroom, I began contemplating my strategy.  My husband took a week’s vacation a couple of weeks ago and we bit the bullet!  It is not complete yet, but I wanted to share with you what we’ve got thus far.

But first, here are the reasons I felt a schoolroom was needed for us:

  1. It keeps our supplies in one area…not scattered all over the house; which was absolutely driving this reading mama CRAZY!!!
  2. It gives the boys a place to work without the distraction of TV or extra toys.
  3. It helps with the mindset of “here is where we do schoolwork”.

Here are some pictures:

This is a wall that my husband built when we first moved into this house.  On the other side is our office area, where I used to tutor students.  The red board above the dry erase board is a 14×14 magnetic dry erase board where I safely keep the dry erase markers (a.k.a. out of reach).

MBug’s book shelf and toys (rotated each week-or when I remember!)

More books, including library books, and a few school supplies in the canvas baskets.  The red basket is “ALuv’s Can Read” basket, where I keep all the books he can read independently.  Above this shelf, are some cork strip to display work.

NJoy’s table (from Ikea for $20…we stained it to match the wood in our house).  I think they still sell the same model.  NJoy uses this to do his work, which consists of teaching “mats” (I adapted the teaching tray idea to teaching mat because we use our carpet sqaures), coloring, puzzles, etc.  It’s getting tough because MBug can pull up to standing at this table and she attempts to put EVERYTHING in her mouth these days, so we have to get creative.

Above NJoy’s table

I plan on having some little window treatments made (my talented mom can sew them).  What’s so cool is that as I was organizing the attic, I found the fabric I had used to cover my bulletin boards with in my public school classroom.  There’s plenty of it and it matches beautifully, so we’re going to use it to make some window treatments! 🙂

I wanted a “whole group” area because we have a homeschool group that meets at our house and I needed a space where all the kids could sit.  I have a pocket chart and an Ikea art easel (only $14.99!!).  The great thing about the easel is the other side has a shelf and big books can sit right on that ledge!

The three boxed red shelves have items on my “do not touch” list and some of my teacher books are on the white shelf.  The lime green dry erase square is where I keep ALuv’s new word wall/sight words for the week.  Once the week is over, we put them on the Word Wall.

Above the whole group area is our Word Wall.  I was able to dig through the attic and find the letters I’d used in the classroom; which where already laminated and color coded: blue for consonants and red for vowels; which is a Montessori thing. 

I used the door going out to our garage as our calendar area.  Right now, we keep calendar time very simple, but I plan on adding some stuff to it once September rolls around.  We do calendar first thing every morning, followed by the pledge of allegiance.  I like calendar time because it is an authentic way to work on number concepts.

ALuv’s desk-which he LOVES

Above his desk, my husband created some shelving where I store his bins for work.  Each one is labeled: Writing, Word Study, Reading, Math, Science/SS, Art, & Bible.  I used Jolanthe’s workbox picture cards to help him identify each bin easier.  I haven’t perfected my system (probably never will), but he has 7 bins with 2 activities in almost each bin for the week…so roughly 14 activities total.  We also do other things during the week that aren’t in the bins (such as Mama’s read alouds), but this keeps me organized.  Out of everything I’ve tried, this system has worked the best for us.  Once the fall rolls around, I will add a few more activities to the total.

When he’s finished the work in a bin, we stack them inside one another so he can see what work he has left to do.

A view from the foyer door…ALuv’s desk on the left side with the office around the corner

This tall shelf is beside ALuv’s desk and is my storage shelves for math and literacy manipulatives.  The kids are allowed to touch stuff on the bottom two shelves only.  Beside that, are the drawers where I keep the stuff for my teaching mats.

Around the corner, I’ve also taken over some of the office…hehe.   I needed more secure storage for potential choking hazards, so my husband attached a screen door to the front of this bookshelf.  It can only be opened with a screwdriver.

We also have a playgroup that meets at our house and when they come, I pull my Ikea easel over to this area and place my stop sign on there.  This keeps kids from going into the area where I keep all the manipulatives.

We are thoroughly enjoying our schoolroom.  It’s the first place NJoy goes in the morning…even before getting his beloved cup of milk out of the frig.  I am so thankful to have the space and a supportive husband who not only allowed me to do this, but blessed me by doing so much of the work.  Babe, you are truly amazing!

Saturday's Sites

Passing along more great online literacy resources today…

  • I found an awesome online resource related to a question I posted earlier this week on Facebook: What things do you do with your child to keep her from forgetting what she learned the previous year in school?  This PDF ebook gives MANY  ideas of things to do during the summer months.
  • Annie @ The Moffatt Girls has posted Unit 3 from her Ready2Read series.  Free printables and lesson plans…gotta love that!
  • Michelle @ Beginning Reading Help has a great post with free online stories.  I’ve already checked quite a few of them out and am impressed.  Michelle is right in saying that kids love computer time, so here’s a sneaky way to get some more literature in there!

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

The cool thing about literacy is that you can integrate it with any other content area.  Take, for instance, the caterpillar kit we have from Insect Lore.  As a public school teacher, I did this and the students LOVED it.  I have to admit that I was quite fascinated with it myself. 🙂  Jenae from I Can Teach My Child mentioned it on Facebook and it gave me the push I needed to do it with my own kids!  It took about a week for the caterpillars to arrive in the mail.

Here’s how this reading mama integrated science and literacy:  I had ALuv make observations daily and when he noted a change in the process, he wrote about it in a journal.  Quite simple, really.  When I told him this is what we were going to do, he replied by excitedly saying, “Oh, I get to use a journal just like Sid the Science Kid!”

Below are just some pictures of the journaled journey from caterpillar to butterfly…I’ll spare you from every entry of his journal.

The caterpillars are black and little. – May 20

The caterpillars are bigger with stripes.  -May 23

They poop green poop.  They are getting fat. -May 24; Mom’s favorite sentence…what can I say?!?

The caterpillars are hanging upside down. -May 26

May 27

And finally…

Now they are butterflies! -June 6

I also had him write about some of the butterfly behaviors he noticed while they were in the habitat.  Here is a really cool picture and one of his entries:

If you look carefully, you can see the proboscis (straw-like tongue) coming out to drink the orange.

They are drinking the orange juice. – June 5

The process of getting him to write: After ALuv would make his daily observations, I asked him to narrow down what he wanted to write about.  He would tell me his sentence, then on my lined dry erase board, he would help me write the words.  (We stretched out the words, listening for sounds & used our Word Wall for sight words.)  Using my handwriting as his guide, he would copy the sentences.  And as you may have noticed, his handwriting is getting MUCH better!!  Yay!

Just a side note: For this assignment, I preferred that his spellings be conventional because this text will be read over and over.  There are other times where invented spellings are perfectly fine, like when he wrote HAPPE BERTHDA (Happy Birthday) to MBug the other day.

We released our butterflies on Monday of this week.  When one of our butterflies came out of his chrysalis, he had  a torn wing and was unable to fly away.

ALuv tried so hard to get the butterfly to fly, but he just couldn’t.

So ALuv decided we should keep him.  His name is officially Flutter and he still lives in our playroom.  He now has some green leaves and flowers from our yard to keep him company.

ALuv wanted to include one last page for Flutter.

I let 4 butterflies go, but not Flutter.  His wing is broken.- June 5

I left him to draw the picture on his own and was very impressed when I returned with the attention to details!  Usually, he draws the bare minimal and refuses to give me any details.  ALuv made a cover for his journal and we put the pages in order (this integrated some math skills as he had to look at the dates and get them in the right order) and we stapled it all together.

He was very proud of his finished product…See How They Grow

Here are a few of the read aloud books we read together during this process, yet another way to integrate literacy:

  • The Polliwog and the Caterpillar by Jack Kent
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • It’s a Butterfly’s Life by Irene Kelly (loads of cool facts in this one)
  • Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell (Monarch butterfly)
  • Butterflies and Moths by Kathryn Knight (Target $1 bin)

Christian Nursery Rhymes

I am so excited to share these Christian Nursery Rhymes with you! 

Please feel free to use this book with your own children and for gift giving purposes only (not to sell or to make a profit).  Please read the copyright & terms of use on the first page before you use it.  Thank you!

You may download my Christian Nursery Rhyme book here.  It may take a few minutes, but I think it will be worth it. 

I have a companion PDF file you can download here.  It will give you gift giving ideas and explain step-by-step (with photos) how I make the front and back cover.

I am contemplating creating some lesson plans/activities to go along with each nursery rhyme.  Please let me know if that would be something  of interest to you.  I’d love to get your feedback.

Disclaimer: If for some reason, these links don’t work, please let me know.  The last time I posted something from 4shared, their server was down and my link didn’t work for much of the day.  Hopefully, we’ll be in business today! 🙂

Enjoy!  And I hope if you haven’t already, you’ll  subscribe to This Reading Mama.


The Role of Nursery Rhymes

I’ve spent all week in phonological/phonemic awareness “land”.  And I told you in the beginning I had something exciting to share with you.  Well hang on; because today I want to recap a few things and talk about the role of nursery rhymes…and reveal my SURPRISE!

Did you know that reciting and learning nursery rhymes with your child can actually help him develop the foundational skills he needs to begin reading?

Why?  Because reading research has long shown that nursery rhymes help to develop phonological and phonemic awareness in young children.  In other words, nursery rhymes (and other kinds of rhyming texts such as Dr. Seuss, poetry, and music) can help kids develop an ear for the sounds and manipulation of those sounds within words.  Just ask any Kindermusik teacher!

Here is a great quote from that Yopp & Yopp article I’ve been referring to all week: 

“…songs, chants, and word-sound games are ideally suited toward developing young children’s sensitivity to the sound structure of language.  Word play, nursery or Dr. Seuss rhymes, and general exposure to storybooks contribute to phonemic awareness.”

Supporting Phonemic Awareness Development in the Classroom by Yopp & Yopp (The Reading Teacher; Vol. 54, No. 2)

When I learned about the benefit of nursery rhymes a few years ago, I decided it was time to start reading some to ALuv.  As I began reading, I was extremely uncomfortable and quite disturbed with the messages many of them sent to my sweet, innocent baby.  I was reading about boughs breaking and babies falling out of trees, an old woman whipping all her kids and sending them to bed, Jack falling down and cracking open his head!

I felt a strong calling to do something about it.  And I did.  I’ve been selling my Christian Nursery Rhyme adaptations ever since.  They’ve been used for birthdays, baby showers, and teachers’ gifts.   But just recently, I created a 2nd edition, adding 5 more rhymes and colored illustrations.  And I’d like to share it with you!

I will be sharing my FREE Ebook (really, it’s just a PDF File) tomorrow as well as a companion PDF file, showing you step-by-step how to assemble one for yourself.  I hope you will enjoy it with your own child and use it to bless others.

For those of you who would like to read more about the role of nursery rhymes,

  • Here is an online article that I think does a great job of giving reasons to teach nursery rhymes as well as some activities to try.
  • Reading Rockets also has an online article about nursery rhymes and poetry and their correlation with early reading.

Playing with Phonemes-Part 3

I am taking a little break from my usual Saturday’s Sites post to continue with my series on phonological & phonemic awareness.  There’s one more day of this series that I’ll post on Monday.  I’ll also be sharing more about my surprise then…I can’t wait to share it with you!

Phonemic Segmentation

There are many ways to work on phonemic segmentation, but I would like to highlight two of my favorite ways: Elkonin boxes & spelling words.


What are Elkonin boxes?  Boxes drawn side-by-side to represent the number of  phonemes or sounds in a word.  (Take note that the number of phonemes and the number of letters in a word may differ!)  Students listen for the individual sounds they hear in a word.  They can either put an object or a letter(s) to represent that sound in each box.

image from http://www.bogglesworldesl.com

For example, sheep has 5 letters, but 3 phonemes.  SH makes one sound /sh/, EE makes one sound /e/ and P makes one sound /p/.  I think Elkonin boxes are a great way to scaffold or support a young speller.

Here are some great online resources for using Elkonin boxes.

  • Mrs. Mc has a great activity with Cheez-It crackers and modified Elkonin boxes for her young learner.
  • Mrs. Kilburn’s Kiddos shows how she uses these boxes with CVC words.
  • Try this website for some Elkonin worksheets containing words with 3 or 4 phonemes (sounds)
  • Reading Rockets has an article and some children’s books you can use with the strategy

Once a child can successfully identify sounds in Elkonin boxes, a way to give him a little more independence in the task would be to say, “I’ve got 6 beans on this table.  I’m going to say a word.  Listen for the sounds you hear in the word and push a bean forward for each sound you hear.”


Another great strategy for developing the ear for phonemic segmentation in early readers is spelling!  And how a young child spells a word clues you in on her level of phonemic awareness.  For example, a child who spells B for bus has less knowledge about how the sounds in words work than a child who spells BOS for bus.

Invented (or phonetic) spelling is a great way to allow kids to stretch their phonemic “wings” and explore sounds in words.  Here is how you can do it:

Child: “Mom, I want to spell getting.”

Mama: “Okay, let’s s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the word and see what sounds we can feel in our mouth.”  Say the word very slowly.  “What sound did you feel/hear at the beginning?”

Child: “A g!”

Mama: “Good, write that down.  Now, let’s say the word again and listen for the next sound you hear/feel.”

The child may or may not be at a word knowledge level where she hears or feels the e and that’s okay.  If she misses the e and goes straight for the t, here are a couple of things you might say (and both work equally well).  It all depends on what you think your child can handle as to which strategy you use.

  1. You can model by saying, “Yes, you did hear a t.  Great job!  But I also heard an e.”  Say getting again and really emphasize the short e sound.  “So, let’s write an e before the t.”
  2. You can praise her efforts, having her write down the t and move on.

Continue doing this with the entire word.  At 5 1/2 years of age, ALuv’s most recent spelling of getting was GETG.

Stretching out the words as he spells makes him more aware of the sounds he feels in his mouth and hears with his ears when he says a word.  To see some of the reasons this reading mama likes spelling, click here.  Reading Rockets also has some great information about invented spelling.

Playing with Phonemes-Part 2

PHONEMIC MANIPULATION: There is A LOT of “meat” when it comes to manipulating phonemes!  This is more of an overview, not a comprehensive list.  If you have specific questions or comments, feel free to email me or comment directly on this post.

Again, I want to reiterate that you model these skills before you ask your child to try them.  Let her hear and see you do them before you set her free to try.  This will help to alleviate frustration on the part of your child (and yours as well!)

Phonemic Blending with Onsets and Rimes: Activities with onsets & rimes are a great way to start with phonemic manipulation.

  • To begin with onset and rime, take some picture cards (or objects from your sound tubs) of single syllable words.  The objects could be: cup, cat, dog, bug, goat.  You as the mama/teacher, say the name of an object by segmenting it into the onset and rime, pausing in between the two  (c-up, c-at, d-og, b-ug, and so on).  The child has to find the object/picture card to which you are referring.
  • We like to do the above activity when reading I Spy books.  ALuv has been fascinated with these books for about a year now.  Instead of saying, “I spy a duck”, sometimes I’ll say, “I spy a d-uck.”  This is another way to live literacy.

Moving from phonemes to phonics with onset & rime:

  • Once your child seems to have a grasp for blending together the onset and rimes, written word family games are fun (if you are using the written symbols, you’ve stepped into the phonics world).
  • To keep it extremely simple, write a rime, such as -at, on an index card.  On other index cards write a few onsets: b, c, f, m, r, and so on.  Place the onsets upside down and as you draw one, add it to -at to make a word.  It will sound like this /b/-/at/: bat!  You could make it silly by placing some onsets in the mix that would not make real words, such as gat.  When you add silly words to the mix, make sure you ask your child, “Is it a real or silly word?”
  • I’ve got more activities on my blog (click on the category Word Families) and you can find MANY more by googling “word families”.  I wanted to link some here, but became overwhelmed at the thought!!  There’s SO much out there!

I will mention one resource.  For some free online activities with onset and rime, check out these games originally from Florida’s Reading Research Center.

Individual Phoneme Blending:

  • Once a child can blend together onset and rime chunks to make words, a good thing to try is blending together individual sounds to make a word.  For example, “Listen to me say this word in a funny way: /d/-/o/-/t/.  [separate each sound].  Can you tell what word I was saying?” (dot)
  • You can also do this with picture cards or objects.  Lay several out in front of your child and say, “Can you find the /h/-/a/-/t/?”
  • I like to do this with our I Spy books, like I mentioned above.  “I spy a /d/-/u/-/k/ (duck).”  This is a great way to model this skill!
  • Check out the awesome blending game I discovered just this week on Stay and Play.  I’ve only seen portions of her blog and already know I’m going to LOVE it!

Live literacy with these skills.  Try them in the van, doctor’s office, anywhere you may have to wait or have some down time.  Make it a game…make it fun!  When you need your child to get a cup for their juice, say, “Can you get a c-up or /k/-/u/-/p/?”

Also, check out Bee Ready to Read’s sections: Blending and Manipulation for more ideas!

Remember to follow me on this phonological awareness journey and I have a surprise for you next week!

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!”

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