Strategically Teaching Alphabet Letters Through Alphabet Immersion

Immersing your students in the alphabet is a great way to work on letter or sound recognition. Engage your students with alphabet songs, chants, and books. Play alphabet games and review letters with flashcards every day. Trace and write letters of the alphabet every week.  Form letters with commercial or homemade handwriting sticks and use other manipulatives for hands-on practice with letters. Address the alphabet in a variety of ways to keep students interested and involved.

If you’re looking for a high-interest manipulative for hands-on alphabet practice, check out Alpha-Bots (available at Lakeshore)

These alphabet transformers are popular with girls and boys of all ages.  Try using them in the following ways:
  1. Have students choose a letter to name or write, and then transform. 
  2. Place them around the room for an Alphabet Hunt - when the student finds a letter, he/she writes the letter, then transforms it into a robot. The next student can transform it back into a letter, and then write that letter. 
  3. Let one student quietly transform the Alpha-Bots while waiting to be the next student that you assess.
Continue the list with ideas of your own.  Alpha-Bots are versatile and can be used independently or with a volunteer helper. 

Learning the alphabet helps develop a foundation for reading. The key to success is surrounding your students with the alphabet using a variety of approaches. For more ideas and supporting materials, check out the following products:

Rhyme Away!

When students are familiar with a few nursery rhymes, you can help them develop a greater awareness of rhymes by having them complete a well known line. For instance, start the first line of Jack and Jill, then pause to have the students name the missing rhyming word: Jack and Jill went up the _________. By highlighting the rhyming words of familiar rhymes, students will tune in more to the word play of rhymes.

As students continue to develop a better sense of rhymes, they need opportunities to match rhymes. Games can provide the practice needed to help students move from matching to producing rhymes. As students master the production stage of rhyming, they can then focus on reading rhymes within word families.

Rhymes help develop the foundation for reading. Capitalize on the “fun” of rhymes through books, songs, and games to help your students progress through the stages of rhyming. For games, activities, and supporting materials, check out these products.


Increase Student's Assessment Scores Quickly: RTI at its Finest!

Power Pocket Instruction & Practice Cards only $2.00
Are you looking for an easy way to quickly increase rote knowledge of important early skills that are used in Dibels testing and others? Try “Power Pockets!” I have used pockets of this type for about 20 years now, and I have found they provide excellent results. Simply construct, laminate (if desired), cut slits in the pockets, and use.

This product offers instructions for constructions, number circles and title cards, as well as 30 plus pages of practice cards for Alphabet Letter Naming, Segmenting, Sight Words (over 100 to choose from, including Wonders Words), and Numbers 0-20. Instructions for easily making new practice cards of your choosing is included.

The students love these “Power Pockets” and need no additional reward than the accomplishment of learning! Yes, I have found these pockets to be RTI at its finest. The folders and the pockets are available at amazon here: Pockets, Folders.

Find a place to store the pockets that is easy to grab.
I have used Avery Labels and simply layered over time, but recently I have begun using these labels that simply peel off when a new student is ready for the pocket.

I have had this "Power Pocket" for about 20 years and it is still in perfect shape!

Fall - Autumn Thematic Units For Early Learners

Fall is in the air, and it is time for some Developmentally Appropriate, Thematic Teaching!

All units are filled with Cross-curriculur activities in varying formats. Everything is there, ready for you: Reading, math, art, music, science, writing, and guided reading! All units are economically priced at $7.00

Apple Thematic Unit

This week we will begin our thematic study of Apples! I LOVE the apple time of year, and I love sharing the excitement of this versatile fruit with my students.

Following is one of my favorite original apple songs. You are welcome to drag off this JPG and print as a poster to use in your own classroom. Warning, the song is contagious! Also, check our our apple and harvest products at the end of this post. You will find the offerings developmentally appropriate, easy to use, linked to academic standards and fun!

Table of Contents

Shared Reading Lessons:
And Apple is its Name Oh: Enjoying Songs & Poetry
Way Up High in the Apple Tree: Enjoying Songs & Poetry
Yummy Apples: Word Substitution
Apple Flashcards

Literacy Activities
ABC Apple Orchard: Identifying Alphabet Letters
Apple Tree Rhymes: Producing Rhyming Words
Eating Apples: Identifying Beginning Sounds
Color Word Worms: Matching and Writing Color Words
ABC Apple Trace: Tracing Alphabet Letters

Math Activities
Willy the Wandering Worm: Identifying Numbers
Apple Number Memory: Matching Numbers
Bobbing For Apples: Working with 5-Frames
Math Journal Sticker: Draw an Apple Story

Apple Wordwall (Beautiful Realistic Photographs)
Apple Parts: Labeling Activity
The Way I Like Apples
Johnny Appleseed

Guided Reading Books
I like Apples
Apples Guided Reading Supports

Apple Report: Scientific Processes
Apple Taste Test: Making Comparisons and Recording Data
Apple Life Cycle: Portfolio Sample

Art Projects
Apple Tree Art
Apple Mosaic
Apple Prints

Eating Apples (Be careful, this one will not leave your brain)
Five Little Apples
Have You Ever Seen An Apple
The Apple Tree

Table of Contents:
1. Apples
2. The Pumpkin Cycle
3. Pumpkin Colors
4. Pumpkin Patch
5. Apple Picking Time

Table of Contents:

Literacy Activities:

Pumpkin Rhymes: Producing Rhyming Words
Harvesting Spuds: Identifying Uppercase Letters
Harvest ABC Train: Letter Identification
The Country Store: Clapping Syllables
Pumpkin Letters: Writing Alphabet Letters

Math Activities:

Ordering Baskets: Ordering objects from least to greatest.
Harvest Sorting: Sorting potatoes or apples into groups
Harvest Balancing: Experimenting with a balance
Number Bingo: Identifying the numbers 0-12
Patterns Worksheet

Writing Prompts/Word Wall

Label-It: Pumpkin
Photo Harvest Word Wall Words

Guided Reading Books
The Pumpkin

Pumpkin Report: Recording Observations

Art Projects
Potato People
Potato Truck Portfolio Page
Construct Pumpkin 
Pumpkin Puppet

One Potato
I Like Potatoes
The Pumpkin Patch

Inappropriate Worksheets Are Making Me Crazy!

Now, it is no secret that my forum is one of developmentally appropriate practices, so it should come as no surprise that the worksheets I “must do” with my kiddos make me crazy. Why?

Young children learn best through real experiences, through concrete activities with manipulative materials. The abstractness and one-brained method of worksheets prohibit me from differentiating instructions for students in my class, who range from a working level of 18 months to that of a 6 year-old. Watching the thirteen “below benchmark” students in my classroom simply scribble on the sheet is frustrating at best. But the curriculum has a fix for that....another worksheet.

Worksheets are the easy way out. A concept should be taught with multi-levels of experimentation, direction, and differentiation. This takes time. Lots and lots of time. A worksheet simply takes a walk to the copy machine or a simple "rip" from a workbook.

To the other side of the coin, worksheets do not promote nor encourage higher level thinking skills, discovery, experimentation or out of the box thinking. As worksheets generally have one-way of doing, the most the high kids can do is color the worksheet to expand their learning.

Worksheets teach a program, not a child. Seriously? Do “Big Box Curriculum Companies” really think all 21 of my students are at the same place in the learning continuum? Well, if they do, I wish they could have experienced D’s tears today as they poured upon his worksheet.

Worksheets typically have only one right answer. If the concept is taught in a play-based environment, the students are able to take risks and to experiment, and learn from experiencing. 

Now, I will admit that an occasional worksheet is beneficial. There are many pages that ask student’s to manipulate, cut, organize, practice handwriting, or make comparisons. Worksheets such as these, purposeful worksheets, if you will, can be used in moderation. 

So as I go back tomorrow and pass out that next math worksheet, I will try not to look D. in the eyes, and quietly promise myself that I will teach him using appropriate methods “how to do the concept” at Learning Center time.

Developing Fine Motor Skills and the Use of Glue Bottles

Developed fine motor skills are not only essential to complete everyday tasks such as eating, zipping, buttoning, and tying shoes, they are also necessary for the academic life of a early learner. Strong fine-motor skills are necessary for writing and cutting, and it is the job of educators to develop these skills.

One way to allow fine motor skills to develop is to use glue straight from the bottle. (Yes, I am anti glue sponges). Teaching students to use glue as glue should be used allows opportunity for independence, develops patience, and provides important strengthening of crucial fine motor skills that are imperative to hand strengthening and development. With little practice, young children can actually become effective and efficient glue bottle users. And, all of the benefits that come with using that glue bottle increases as hands develop and project advancement occurs. So, even though glue sponges may be less messy, (and in vogue), are these sponges helping in the development of young children? 

This product contains gluing, scissor and pencil practice for the young learner. It is great for glue bottle practice of "Just a Dot!"

Building Number Sense

A child's development of number sense is of utmost importance. Not only does it predict a student's future success in mathematics, it may also predict future success in literacy. Because of it's importance, early Number Sense should be one of the primary focuses of any kindergarten program. 

My students are loving these Multi-Approach NO-PREP worksheets, and are developing a focused grasped on number sense along the way! This product currently features the numbers 1-10, but will be updated to include the numbers 0 and 11-20. 
These pages can be ran double sided to optimize use of paper

Read more about the importance of number sense: