Thursday, February 11, 2016


Children can practice "building" words with some of these simple materials. These activities can also be adapted for sight words, vocabulary words, or spelling words.

Alphabet Soup
Place magnetic letters in a bowl. Give children a large soup spoon to
scoop out some letters. Can they make a word with the letters? Have
them write the words that they make.

Letter Tin
Place magnetic letters inside a cookie tin. On the inside cover make three lines with a permanent marker. Have the children take out the letters and place them around the lid. Give children a list of CVC words to make and read.

Unifix Cubes
Place dot stickers on unifix cubes. Write letters on the dots. Children can use these for constructing words.
*Let children play this game with a friend. One child builds a word and the other friend must then read it.
Play Dough Phonics
Let children use play dough to make objects that begin with different letter sounds.
*Use play dough to make two words that rhyme.

Duplo Letters and Words
Here is a photo a teacher sent demonstrating how she integrates blocks with phonics and sight words. She said she asked the parents to donate the Duplo blocks and the children thought they were "playing" instead of "learning."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Knock Knock
Who's there?
Atlas who?
Atlas, it's Valentine’s Day!

Well, it’s not quite Valentine’s Day yet, but I’ve got some jokes and riddles just perfect to share with your class this week.

Note!  If anyone accuses you of "joking around" with "instructional time" you can remind them that you are teaching homonyms, double meanings of words, and phonological awareness!!!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Olive who?
Olive you!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Sherwood who?
Sherwood like to be your Valentine!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Pooch who?
Pooch your arms around me!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Emma who?
Emma hoping you have a happy Valentine’s Day!

What do you call two birds in love?

What do you call a very small valentine?
A valentiny!

What did one pickle say to the other?
"You mean a great dill to me."

What did the elephant say to his girlfriend?
"I love you a ton!"

What do farmers give their wives on Valentine's Day?
Hogs and kisses!

What did the pencil say to the paper?
"I dot my i's on you!"

What is a vampire's sweetheart called?
His ghoul-friend.

What did the boy cat say to the girl cat on Valentine's Day?
You're purrr-fect for me!

What did the boy octopus say to the girl octopus?
Can I hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand?

What did the boy owl say to the girl owl on Valentine's Day?
Owl be yours!

What did the girl squirrel say to the boy squirrel on Valentine’s Day?
I’m nuts about you!

What did the drum say to the other drum on Valentine’s Day?
My heart beats for you!

What did the boy bee say to the girl bee on Valentine’s Day?

You are bee-utiful!
What did the whale say to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day?
Whale you be mine!

What did the boy bear say to the girl bear on Valentine’s Day?
I love you beary much!

What did the rabbit say to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day?
Somebunny loves you!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Phonological awareness is the ability to play with sounds and manipulate sounds. Here are some concrete ways to enable children to "play" with syllables and word families (aka onsets and rimes).

1, 2, 3 Sound Sort
Divide a piece of construction paper into thirds. Write 1, 2, 3 in the different sections. Have picture cards of objects with one, two, or three syllables. Children choose a card and then place it in the correct category.

*You could also let them sort sight words according to syllables.
Hint! Demonstrate how to place your palm gently under your chin. Every syllable has a vowel and when you make a vowel sound your chin will drop. This is a way children can check how many syllables are in words.

Block Rimes
Cut paper the size of square and rectangular unit blocks. Write onsets on the squares and rimes on the rectangles. Children put blocks together and read words.

Rime Eggs
Using plastic eggs, write onsets with a permanent marker on one half of the egg. Write a rime on the other. Children twist the egg and read the words.
*Can they write the words that they make?
I “Tin” Make Words
Place magnetic letters that can be used to make a word family in an empty mint tin. For example: o, p, t, m, h, c, b. Add a list of words that can be made from the letters in the tin. (hop, mop, top, cop, pop, bop) Children reproduce the words on the lid of the tin and read them. You could also ask them to write the words.
Phonics Fingers
You will need 3 pairs of white cloth garden gloves for this project. Cut the
fingers off the gloves. Write a letter on each finger with markers. (Write
consonants in blue and vowels in red.) Children insert glove fingers on
their own fingers to make CVC words. Have them substitute letters to
make new words. 

Monday, February 8, 2016


Here are some "hands-on" activities for learning letters.  They can easily be extended by asking children to write letters.  

Letter Looker
Loop around a pipe cleaner to make a “letter looker.” Children can identify letters in the classroom and in books with their lookers.

Letter Hunt
Place magnetic letters in a sand table or a box of Styrofoam packing. Children reach in, find a letter, and name the letter. Can they write the letter on a clipboard?

Letter Pops
Glue magnetic letters to jumbo craft sticks. Have children choose a letter and then walk around the room and match it up with classroom print.
*Make upper and lowercase letters for them to match.

Letter Man
Letter Man wants to help children learn letters. He’s made from a small swing trash can available at the Dollar Tree. Decorate with googly eyes, pompoms and felt scraps. Children can feed Letter Man letters that they know, letters in their name, make words and feed him, letters in alphabetical order, and so forth.

Letter Puzzles
Write upper and lowercase letters on opposite sides of a paper plate. Cut puzzle designs between the letters. Children will know if they’ve matched upper and lowercase letters correctly because there will be a perfect fit.

Sign Language Center
Sign language is multi-sensory and a perfect vehicle for learning letters and sounds. Go to to download the manual signs for letters and glue them to a pocket folder. Write letters on index cards and insert in the pocket. Children choose a card, match up the letter on the chart, and then try to make the letter sign with their fingers.
*You can also write words on index cards and children can finger spell them.


Sunday, February 7, 2016


These center ideas will help children develop the concept that "letters make words."  They can be adapted for older students to reinforce vocabulary or spelling words.

Name Puzzles
Write children’s names on a sentence strip. Cut between the letters to make a puzzle. Next, write each child’s name and glue their photo to the front of an envelope. Place the puzzle pieces inside. Children can practice putting the puzzles together and reading friends’ names.

*Put sticky dots on unifix cubes. (Use one color for the first letter and same colored dots for the other letters.) Print the letters in children’s names on the dots. Place a class directory with names and pictures so children can practice “building” their friends’ names.

Pull and Read 

Write children’s names or high frequency words on 12” sentence strips. Cut the left end off the envelope and insert sentence strips inside. Pull out one letter at a time to blend sounds and predict what the word might be.
*Use children’s photos or picture cues on the right side of the sentence strip so children can self-check.

Alphabet Beads
Give children alphabet beads and pipe cleaners so they can string on names, words, and so forth.
Clothespin Words
Write words on jumbo craft sticks. Write letters on spring clothespins. Children attach letters to the craft stick to make words.
Letter Bags and Boxes
Save sacks from restaurants or use food boxes for this center. Place foam letters or magnetic letters in a basket. Children pick a letter and then try to match it up with the same letter on a bag or box.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Not only is it important to expose children to a wide variety of literature, you can challenge them to learn the vocabulary for classifying different books that you read.

Select several different types of books (ABC, fiction, fairy tale, poetry, nursery rhyme, cookbook, magazine, etc.) and place them in a cloth shopping bag. Explain that you went to a bookstore and you need help labeling the books. On the front of index cards write: poem, nursery rhyme, fantasy, real, alphabet, etc. Children take the cards and match them up with the appropriate book. Encourage them to explain to a friend how they made their selections.

Fantasy – Real
Give children old magazines, newspapers, scissors, and glue. Fold a piece of paper in half and draw a line down the middle crease to make a T-chart. Write “Fantasy” on one side and “Real” on the other side. Have children cut out pictures of things that are pretend/fantasy and glue on one side. Ask them to cut out pictures of things that are real and glue them to the other side. Can they explain the difference?
*Explain that “fantasy,” “pretend,” and “fiction” all mean the same thing. “Real” and “non-fiction” can also mean the same thing.

Book Club Order Forms
Save those book club order forms for identifying different types of texts. Give children a list and have them cut out books for each category.
     How to
     Your favorite

Author Study
Keep a basket in your classroom library with a variety of books by a specific author. Have the children look through the basket to explore how the books are alike? How are they different? Let them make a “wish list” of the ones they would like to read.

Buddy Reading
Have two copies of leveled books for children to read with a friend. Sitting on the floor facing each other they repeat this chant:
     Eye to eye
     And knee to knee
     I’m so glad
     You can read with me.

After reading encourage them to discuss what type of book it is.  Can they give examples?

Friday, February 5, 2016


Do you feel like your brain is on “pause”? Are you running out of ideas for centers? Are your students rolling their eyes as you hand them another worksheet? Over the few days I’ll try to spark up standards with some simple multi-sensory center ideas.

Note! Many districts now require teachers to display focus goals at centers. Last year Carolyn Kisloski ( helped me create “I Can” standard cards that you can post in your centers.
Go to WWW.DRJEAN.ORG/HTML/MONTHLY_ACT/ACT_2014/07 to download them.

Although every state has variations of standards, the core skills are the same. Standards are based on research, and all states are committed to adhering to the research.


Story House
Fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise. Open. Fold the top two corners down to the crease. Fold the bottom up so it looks like a house. Children can draw the characters on the front of the house and then open to draw the setting.
*Write the author and illustrator on the top flaps and the title on the front. Open and ask children to draw their favorite part of the story.

Play Dough Characters
Give children play dough and let them make their favorite character.
*Let them draw the setting on a sheet of paper and then use the play dough character to talk about the story.

What Can You Find Out?
Collect several non-fiction books on the same topic. Demonstrate how to fold a sheet of paper into fourths to make a book. Ask the children to look through the books to see what they can find out. Have them draw or write notes in their books about what they learned.

Story Telling Center
Puppets are a unique way to integrate art with standards. Children can make stick puppets, lunch sack puppets, paper plate puppets, envelope puppets, etc. of favorite characters from books read. Their “puppet” can then retell the story.
Flannel Board
To make a simple flannel board, staple the sides of a file folder and glue felt to the front. Make characters from felt or copy color photos from the book, cut them out, and attach a piece of Velcro to the back. Model how to retell the story and then invite the children to retell it using the felt pieces.
*Milk filter paper is perfect for flannel board characters. Cut milk filters to
8 ½” x 11” and place in the copy machine. Choose an appropriate page from a book and make a color copy. Cut out and you’ll have realistic pieces to retell a story.