Language Arts

Jan Richardson's Book, The Next Step in Guided Reading, has been an invaluable tool for me in Kindergarten.


Many of the activities we do in class come directly from her book and have been instrumental in helping my students blossom into young readers and writers.  The following categories describe how you can help your children practice certain skills in reading and writing and many of them have been derived from Jan Richardson's book.  I'm learning now that Blogger gives you a limit on the number of pages you create, so I am posting all of the activities on this same post but I am color coding the sections to make it a little more easier to navigate through the information.

If you have any other activities that you have done at home that have been effective for your child that are not mentioned below, I would love to hear what they are! Feel free to post them below. 

**Important Notes Before BeginningAll of the following activities should be repeated by a quick writing exercise.  Your child can either trace the letter on their or your back, write the letter in the ‘sky’, on the table or on the floor, on a whiteboard, piece of paper, or all of the above.  Using body movements or large strokes to do the writing is effective for memory retention.  In addition to these exercises, see the “Trace Everywhere” activity under “Letters” for some extra ways to practice writing names.  Also, after your child has mastered their first name, they can move on to their last name, family members’ or friends’ names, pet names or any other name that is significant to them.  Letter recognition begins with names and the more meaningful the letters are to them, the more likely they are to remember them.  Some questions you may want to ask while doing the activities are for them to point to the first/last letters, capital/lowercase letters, specific letters or letters that are alike, count the letters, make the sounds of each letter or have them find the letter of the sound that you are making, and say the letter names.  If you notice that your child is writing some of the letters backwards, you may want to have a model of the child’s name or alphabet chart handy so you can ask them to make sure that the letters on those sheets match the letters they wrote. 

Rainbow Writing:  place your child’s name in a sheet protector and have them trace over it with every dry eraser color in the rainbow.  Have them say the names of the letters as they are tracing them.  Next, have them erase the marker with their finger for a tactile experience.  If you do not have the dry erase markers handy, you can always use a regular sheet of paper and crayons, colored pencils, or markers.  Finger paint would work great too.  The example below shows a student tracing her name with one color and then using her finger to erase it.  This offers students a tactile experience to help them 'feel' the letters and help with memory retention.



Name Sorts:  use a set of magnetic letters to sort letters that are in/not in their name.  Begin by writing your child’s name on an index card and then use some sort of sorting materials for your child to use.  You could make circles with yarn or rope or even use placemats, hula hoops, or squares of paper for this part.  Next have your child place a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ card at the top of their groups (on top of the inside of the yarn circles, hula hoops, or whatever material you chose to use for your child).  They will place the letters that are in their name in the ‘yes’ group and those that are not in the ‘no’ group.  This activity helps with letter recognition and features as well. 


Magnetic Letters:  You may have your child build their name with magnetic letters.  You can begin by mixing up a pile of the letters that are in their name and seeing if they can put the letters back together.  If this is too difficult for them, you may try giving them a piece of paper with their name on it for extra support.  When they are able to do this task, up the rigor by giving them a pile of magnetic letters that are and are not in their name and see if they can pick the right letters out of the pile and maneuver them.


Name Puzzles:  For this activity, you may write your child’s name on a small strip of paper or cardboard and an envelope.  Next, you may cut the name into either syllables or letters and have them try to put the name back together by matching their name to the envelope.  The matching is helping them to practice one to one correspondence which will later be important in reading (tracking print- the ability to point to one word at a time while reading it or evidence that the child is able to connect the groups of letters as symbols for spoken words).  Once they are proficient at the matching, challenge them by having them try to put it back together without the puzzle.


Wordel:  Wordel is an awesome, free website that allows you to type in text and then see it printed in a variety of different ways.  Your child can practice typing their name over and over again and can then see it amplified in the Wordel formats.  The only drawback is that it doesn’t allow you to save your work, so if you would like to keep your child’s creation, you will have to print it immediately. 


**Important Notes Before Beginning:

**Be sure to check out the ‘sounds’ section also to find other activities that you can use for letters as letters and the sounds they make go hand in hand.
**When introducing letters, it is best to start with letters in a child’s name since they are already familiar with these.  As a rule of thumb, begin with consonants before vowels.
**Magnetic letters work best for the following activities since a child can ‘feel’ the way the letter is formed.  It is best to use letters that are all the same color in order to make sure that children are attending to the letters themselves and not color patterns.
**If your child has difficulty placing letter/sounds you can support them by using an alphabet chart.  The following link has a chart that we use in class:

Trace an Alphabet Book:  if your child is struggling with letter recognition, have them trace an alphabet book every day.  It doesn’t take long, and it can be extremely effective for helping your child build their letter bank.  A rule of thumb is to make sure that your child is tracing the letters from left to right and top to bottom.  Also, be sure each page has a picture paired with the letter in order for your child to begin to associate the letter with its specific sound.  For this reason, I would also continuously use the same book.  That way, when they encounter an unknown word that begins with a certain letter they will be able to think about the picture that they normally see with that letter and it will help them to produce the sound.


Match Letters to an ABC Chart:   use magnetic letters and have your child match them to an ABC chart (you can find one of these at: or you can work with your child to create their own ).  Encourage your child to try to do it even faster than they did the previous time- they love being challenged in this way J  Make sure they are saying the names of the letters as they match them.  You could also do this for an upper/lowercase matching game.  If you don’t have magnetic letters available, you could always write the letters on small squares of paper.


Tap and Touch:  You may also have your child practice tapping letters on a piece of paper/mat while saying the names of the letters.  You can again challenge them to do it more and more quickly to build their fluency and strengthen their recognition.


Letter Cards:  print or write the letters of the alphabet on paper or cardstock (one giant letter per sheet or one large capital and lowercase letter per sheet).  Next, have your child trace the letter from top to bottom and from left to write with glue.  Then paste yarn, glitter, cornmeal, or any other substance with a gritty texture on top of the glue.  When the letter cards are dry, your child can use them for tracing the letters over and over while saying their name and making their sound(s).  This will serve as a tactile (hands-on) experience that will help with memory retention. **They could also do the same activity with play-doh or clay.

Trace Everywhere:  some other effective ways of giving your children a tactile experience with the letters are by having them trace the letters in sand, salt, shaving cream, gel bags (fill a Ziploc bag with hair gel from the dollar store and mix in glitter and food coloring), cornmeal, or any other place where they can easily see and feel the imprints of the letters.

Over-teach:  If your child seems to be confusing two letters, you can try ‘over-teaching’ one of them.  What this means is giving your child an abundance of practice with one of the letters so that when it is placed by a letter they are unsure of they will always recognize the one they have been ‘over-taught’ and will easily distinguish it from the unfamiliar one.  The following websites have some great tips for helping children with the common b/d confusion:


Letter Grab:  write letters on cards and place them into a container.  Take turns pulling letters out.  When a player takes out a letter, they have to say the letter’s name and make its sound. If they can do this, they can keep the letter.  If not, they have to place the letter back in the container.  If a player pulls out a ‘count the letters’ card, the game stops and players count how many letters are in their piles.  The player with the most cards wins.  I’ve seen this played with cookie cards with letters on them and a cookie monster card for the counting, apple cards for the letters and worms for the counting cards, and yellow bananas for the letters and green ‘rotten’ bananas for the counting cards.

Letter Line-up:  Have your child take out a ziploc filled with their known letters and practice lining them up and naming them as fast as they can.  As they learn new letters, add them to the bag and have your child practice with them too.


Letter Sorts:  use a set of magnetic letters to sort letters into different categories.  You may try sorting letters that have curves, straight lines, or both, capital and lowercase, letters with and without a ‘tail’ or ‘hook’, etc.  You could even see what neat sorts your little one can come up with all on their own.  You could make venn diagrams with yarn or rope for the sorts or even use placemat or squares of paper to separate the letter groups.


Environmental Print:  One way of building a child’s confidence in reading and letter recognition is by showing them all of the words that they already can read.  You and your child can make an alphabet book by using logos they are already familiar with.  You can take pictures, cut logos out of advertisements, or save wrappers and/or food boxes.  After gluing the labels with the letters, your child can help ‘read’ the book back to you (i.e., ‘A’ Applebees, ‘B’  Burger King, ‘C’ Crest, etc.). 

G is for Goldfish...

Tic-Tac-Toe:  use different letters in the alphabet to play tic-tac-toe, particularly those that your child is struggling with identifying.  Make sure your child says the names of the letters while they are creating them (ex.:  use ‘a’ for ‘x’ and ‘t’ for ‘o’).


Letter Hunt:  Have your child search for letters in magazines, newspapers, grocery lists, menus, junk mail, and other items around the house.  They can then cut these out and glue them into their homemade ABC book. They could take their own picture of a 'scavenger hunt' they take around the neighborhood or during your next car ride together too.


Letter Hunt 2:  Another way you can have your child search for letters is by finding them in books they are reading.  In the picture below, we used highlighter tape (you can find this in the office supply section of most chain stores) but you may also have your child do the same activity with wax sticks, pencils, or another other items you have handy.

ABC concentration:  write the alphabet letters on index cards (cut the card in half and write the same letter on both halves).  You can then play the matching game with them (or they can play with a friend or sibling).   In order to keep a match, they must be able to read the letters on the cards.  You can also do this to practice matching upper and lower case letters.

Letter Bingo:  Bingo is an easy and enjoyable game to practice letters, letter sounds, names, and even sight words with your little one.  DLTK has an awesome, free BINGO card maker that you can access at their sight and make a variety of custom cards that are just right for what you are practicing at home with your child.  You could always, of course, create them by writing on paper too.  Click on the picture below to access the DLTK website:

Upper and Lowercase Pairs:  You and your child can practice matching upper and lowercase letters using a fish tackle box, egg cartons, or another type of tray similar to the one shown in the video below.  Simply write an uppercase letter in the bottom of the container sections and have your child match a magnetic lowercase letter (or written on a card, etc.) to the appropriate capital.


You can also repeat the same activity without a container, having your child match the upper and lowercase letters between those that they already know.  As they learn new letters, you may slowly introduce them to their sorts.


You can even further the above activity by including sounds as well:


Guess the letter:  trace a letter on your child’s back or palm and see if they can guess the one you wrote.  You can extend this activity by having them make the sounds.


Alphabet soup:  write letters on small cards and have your child match the letters from an alphabet soup mix to the cards.  This same activity can be done with any type of letters.  Be sure to have your child read the letter before and after they match another one to it. 
Click on the photo below to go directly to, where you can buy a bag of the soup for only $0.89!

You can also find alphabet pretzels at HEB that will work just as well and your child can enjoy snacking on them afterwards!

Sort Similar Fonts:  use a variety of fonts (by printing them off of the computer, handwriting them, cutting them out of magazines, or whatever else is easiest for you) to have your child sort them into piles of the same letter.  This activity will help them to recognize the letters in all of the formats they can be seen in.


ABC Arc:  use a paper mat to have your child place the letters of the alphabet in alphabetical order and practice naming them orally.


Hopscotch Letters:  write the letters your child is struggling with in your driveway or empty parking lot.  Name a letter and have your child hop to the one you mention. You could also do this with capital/lowercase letters:  have your child hop between the letters by hopping from each letter’s capital/lowercase.

Letter Snack:  have your child ‘frost’ a graham cracker with peanut butter, jam, cream cheese, or frosting.  Then, tell them the name of a letter.  If they are able to find that letter from a box of alphabet cereal and ‘stick’ it to their cracker, they may eat it. 

Grocery Store Letters:  The next time you go shopping, have your youngster look for words that start/end with a certain letter or even have that letter somewhere in the word.  They could do this same activity with letter sounds, capital/lowercase letters, or number of letters.  You can even have them bring a clipboard and a marker with them to write some of the words down if you are feeling spontaneous!

Cleaning Sorts:  The next time you are doing your spring cleaning, you can grab a few old shoeboxes and empty bins and have your little one place the toys or other odds and ends around the house that begin with a certain letter or sound into the specified containers.

Photo Album:  Find an old unused photo album or pick-up one from the dollar or thrift store.  Place pictures of your child’s family members or friends inside and write the name of each person in the album on an index card.  I usually purchase the albums that have one slot on the top and one on the bottom, that way I can place the picture of the person on the top and the card with their name on it in the slot directly below them.  Take another index card and re-write each person’s name on it and cut it apart into individual letters or syllables.  Have your child re-build the names by matching the cut-up letters or syllables to the names beside the pictures.  You could also have your child sort family photos into syllable categories:  names that have 2 syllables, 3 syllables, etc.

Wordel:  Wordel is an awesome, free website that allows you to type in text and then see it printed in a variety of different ways.  Your child can practice typing letters and can then see them amplified in the Wordel formats.  The only drawback is that it doesn’t allow you to save your work, so if you would like to keep your child’s creation, you will have to print it immediately. 

Sight Words:
Jan Richardson
In Jan Richardson’s lesson model, she suggests playing two sight word games in a row after reading a book that has the sight word in it to help with memory retention.  The first game you play is called, “What’s Missing”.  The way you play is by first building the word with magnetic letters and then taking away a letter without your child looking and seeing if they can tell you what’s missing.  Next, mix up the letters from the sight word and see if your child can put the letter back together.  This is called, “Mix and Fix”.  The next step is to have the child write the sight word with their finger and a writing utensil.  I always follow this up with having them find the word in the book they just read too in order to make sure that they are connecting the word with meaning and written print.  After a few days of working with the word, your child can write a sentence from or similar to one in the book that includes the sight word in it.  See the “After Reading” activities in the “Reading Books” sections to find a more detailed description of how the writing portion can be done.  This sounds like a lot, but, believe it or not, it only takes a few minutes.  Watch the video below to get a better idea of what this would like:


Some other variations that you can try with the above method are:
Build the word with magnetic letters, say the word, divide the word into syllables or sounds (ex.:  b-a-th), look for spelling patterns or known words inside the word (ex.  –ay in day, may, hay or ‘in’ in ‘spin’), pronounce the sounds slowly then quickly (when phonetic like c-a-t), chant sing or whisper the letters, think of a word that starts/ends the same as or rhymes with the word, write the word in your ‘brain’, write the word in the air, write the word on the table, write the word with a pen or a dry erase marker, and make a silly sentence using the word.

*To follow are some sight word games that don’t necessarily have to be done in unison with reading a book:
***In addition to the exercises below, see the “Trace Everywhere” activity under “Letters” for some extra ways to practice writing sight words.

Scavenger Hunt:  Have your child search for known sight words in magazines, newspapers, letters, or posters around your home.  They can then cut them out and make a word book.

Sight word concentration:  write your child’s sight words on index cards (cut the card in half and write the same word on both halves).  You can then play the matching game with them (or they can play with a friend or sibling).   In order to keep a match, they must be able to read the words on the cards.

Alphabet soup:  write your child’s sight words on small cards and have your child build the words with letters from an alphabet soup mix.  This same activity can be done with any type of letters.  Be sure to have your child read the word before and after they build it.  I also make sure that students are saying the names of the letters as they move them.

Click on the photo below to go directly to, where you can buy a bag of the soup for only $0.89!

You can also find alphabet pretzels at HEB that will work just as well and your child can enjoy snacking on them afterwards!

Word Sorts:  use a set of magnetic letters to sort letters that are in/not in words.  Begin by writing your child’s sight words on index cards and then use some sort of sorting materials for your child to use.  You could make circles with yarn or rope or even use placemats, hula hoops, or squares of paper for this part.  Next have your child place a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ card at the top of their groups (on top of the inside of the yarn circles, hula hoops, or whatever material you chose to use for your child).  They will place the letters that are in the word in the ‘yes’ group and those that are not in the ‘no’ group.  This activity helps with letter recognition and features as well. 


Hopscotch Words:  write your child’s sight words with chalk in your driveway or empty parking lot.  Name a word and have your child hop to the one you mention.  You could also have them hop to each letter at a time to orally spell the word as they hop (c-a-n, for instance).

Play-doh (these activities are great for tactile experiences that will help with memory recognition):  have your child build their sight words with playdoh, and say the letters as they build each one.  If your child needs more support, they can trace the letter on top of a letter you write on a card.  Dry erase markers will erase off of most plastic surfaces, including tables with a laminate top.  You may try tracing the letters on one of these surfaces for your child to work with their play-doh on.

Word Snack:  have your child ‘frost’ a graham cracker with peanut butter, jam, cream cheese, or frosting.  Then, have them use letters from alphabet cereal to write out a sight word and ‘stick’ it to the peanut butter.  They can eat a cracker for each word they build.

Word Grab:  write sight words on cards and place them into a container.  Take turns pulling words out.  When a player takes out a word, they have to read it and spell the letters. If they can do this, they can keep the word.  If not, they have to place the word back in the container.  If a player pulls out a ‘count the words’ card, the game stops and players count how many words are in their piles.  The player with the most cards wins.  I’ve seen this played with cookie cards with words on them and a cookie monster card for the counting, apple cards for the words and worms for the counting cards, and yellow bananas for the words and green ‘rotten’ bananas for the counting cards.

Graph:  Have your child create a word graph by graphing the words according to the number of letters in each.

Compare and order:  have your child order their sight words from longest to shortest and vice versa (most letters to least letters and vice versa).

Word Hunts:  Have your child find the sight words they are learning in magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, books they are reading, and any other forms of literature you have available.  I would only work with one sight word at a time, to avoid your child becoming overwhelmed.  For instance, instead of having them find 'the' and 'can' at the same time, I would choose only word for them to look for during the activity.

Wordel:  Wordel is an awesome, free website that allows you to type in text and then see it printed in a variety of different ways.  Your child can practice typing their sight words and can then see them amplified in the Wordel formats.  The only drawback is that it doesn’t allow you to save your work, so if you would like to keep your child’s creation, you will have to print it immediately. 

Picture Sorts:  There is a multitude of ways that you can practice sounds at home.  One of the curriculums we use in Spring Branch is called “Words Their Way”, and they use different sorts with picture and letter cards.  We usually start with letters that are in a child’s name or with 2 consonants that make sounds that are not easily confusable (ex.:  m and j but NOT m and n).  We put a card with each letter at the top of the table and then sort picture cards that belong with each sound.  For example, if I would pick up a card with a picture of a ‘jar’ on it, I would say the name of the picture while emphasizing the first sound:  ‘j-j-jar’.  Then I would read the letter cards at the top of the table:  ‘J-j-j-[jay]’, ‘M-m-m-[em]’.  I would then place the picture of the jar under the letter ‘j’ and would continue sorting the rest of the cards.  When your child has mastered the consonants, you may move on to vowel sorts (long then short) and word beginnings (such as –ch, -sh:  cheese and shirt) followed by endings such as –st (nest, rest) and –sk (mask, desk).  This same activity can be done with objects around the house or home-made letter/sound cards (those shown in the example are from Words Their Way).

The following websites have some excellent pre-made sort cards that you can print out and use:

Toy Sorts:  You can repeat the same activity as the one above by having your child sort toys or other objects around the house:


ABC Chart Match:  cut out pictures from magazines, old food containers, or clip-art from online and have your child match them to the letter on the ABC chart that they start with.  Depending on your child’s ability level, you may even try this with blends/digraphs as well (ie, “ch”/”th” words).  Or you may try the opposite- making the sounds and having your child locate the letter on the chart.  See the video below for an example:


Clapping Syllables:  an easy, no-prep activity that you can do with your child whether at home or on the go is simply clapping the syllables in various words.  You can do this with the words of your child’s favorite song, family names, color words, words from their ABC chart, pictures of superheroes or your child's favorite cartoon characters, or any other words that are relevant to them.

Rhyming Toys:  Take a toy out of your child’s toy chest and have them find another toy that rhymes with the one you pulled.  You could also try this with picture cards, food, or other items around the house.

Rhyming Ears:  Another super simple activity is to practice rhyming words by giving your child two words and asking them if they rhyme.  For instance, you can tell them the words ‘cat’ and ‘mat’ and if they rhyme, your child can make ‘moose ears’ by putting their palms at the top of their head.  If you give them two words that don’t rhyme, ‘fan’ and ‘hat’ for instance, then they won’t show you their moose ears.  This is a great game for long road trips too J

Word Families:
Scavenger Hunt:  Fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise to make a t-chart.  Write a different word ending on each half of the paper (-ook on one side and –up on the other).  Have your child hunt through old books, newspapers, and magazines for words that have these endings.  They can either cut out and glue the words to their paper or write them in the appropriate column.

Sorting Word 'Chunks':  word chunks are the letters in words that, when together, make a brand new sound (-or, for example, has the sound like the middle of the word corn, versus each letter making its individual sound).  Your child can sort words with different chunks into categories with pictures that represent the sound they hear when they pronounce the chunk.  They can they practice reading the words, checking the whole word with their finger (making one sound at a time and producing a chunk as a single sound versus individual letter sounds).  Watch the video below to get a better idea of what this means:


Word Building:  One of the most effective activities for familiarizing children with spelling patterns in words is by creating them.  A simple way to do this is to grab a small magnetic dry erase board, cookie sheet, the door of the refrigerator or any other magnetic surface and a set of magnetic letters.  Pull out the letters that your child will be using to make the words and review the sound of each letter pulled with them (for instance, if you will be building ‘hop, pop, cop, top, mop’ you would pull out the ‘o, p, h, c, t, and m).  Next, ask your child to build one of the words making the sounds.  If this is difficult for your child, you may want to draw boxes or spaces to show them how many letters there are to help them distinguish the number of sounds in the word.  After making the boxes if it is still too difficult for your child, make the first word for them and then tell them to take off only the first or last letter to make the other words.  When a child builds a word, we always ‘push’ the sounds together in order to build the connection between the letters and the sounds.  Then I will tell them to build another word from the word family I have selected.  Some children may already be able to do this by just telling them the word, however, others may need more support or clues as to which letters or sounds to change so you can vary your support accordingly.  Jan Richardson suggests beginning with 3 letter CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant like ‘dog, hog, fog’, etc.) and having your child change the first or last letter to make new words.  After your child has mastered this skill, you can have them change the beginning, middle, and final sounds.  Next you will move up to digraphs (like sh, ch:  chop, shop, mash, etc.).  After your little one is proficient in all of these tasks, you can begin working on word endings such as –ing, -ed, and –s (i.e., looking, looks, looked) and contractions (I’m, we’re, she’s, etc.).  You may also do this with letters written on cards if you don’t have the magnetic letters.  Watch the videos to below to get an idea of what this looks like at different levels (the first group is working with beginning, middle, and ending sounds as well as digraphs, while the second group is working with 2 letter words):



Sentence Building
Word Cards:  write your child’s sight words, family names, or other useful familiar words on post-its (one word per sheet).  Allow them to mix the post-its around on the wall to make different sentences.  You could do this same activity by purchasing a roll of magnet tape (usually between $3-5 at Wal-mart by the craft supplies) and having your child do this on the refrigerator or a cookie sheet.

Reading Books:
Library Books:  Library books offer children a unique opportunity for authentic experiences with literature.  The books they bring home will most likely not be at their reading level and, therefore, the expectation is not that they can read these books independently.  The way that children can make meaning out of these texts is by creating their own story to go with the pictures.  Being able to use the pictures to interpret story events is in important skill that will support their decoding abilities as well as their capacity to recognize and make meaning out of story elements.  Of course, another one of the best things you can do for your child as far as promoting their literacy development is reading to and with them every single day.  When you are doing this, you are modeling to your child what good readers do and how they think and interact with text.  You are also showing them that literature is valued and hopefully will instill a love for reading in them as well.  Reading is part of all content areas and reading skills will greatly determine your child’s success for the remainder of your child’s educational career. 

Talking about Books:  Some questions to pair along with the reading whether your child is inventing the story on their own or you are reading it to them are, “What do you think this book is going to be about?/Why?”, “Who are the characters?”, “What is the setting?”, “What do you think the problem was in this story and how did the characters solve it?”, “Do you think this book is fiction or non-fiction?/Why?”, “What was the most exciting/your favorite part?/Why?”, “Would you recommend this story to a friend?/Why/why not?”, “Does this story remind you of any other stories you have read?/How?”, “What do you think is going to happen next?/Why?”, “How do you think the character felt when ____ happened?/How would you feel if _____ happened to you?/Based on this, what do you think the character will do next?/Why?”, “What is an alternate ending/setting/characters/etc. we could create for this story?”, “What do you think __(character from another story)____ would do in this same situation/why?”, “How is this character/setting/etc. similar to/different from the character/setting/etc. in ___(another book)___?”, “Do you think this character would be friends with (character from another story, yourself, a historical figure studied, etc.)___? /Why/why not?”, etc.  The most effective way of using questions is to try to steer towards more open-ended questions versus ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer types and always make sure you ask your child ‘why’ they think something.  Being able to evaluate a situation, create a unique solution and justify your thinking are some of the greatest and most effective ways of helping your child develop their critical thinking abilities and to become an independent thinker and learner.   

Retelling:  After your child is familiar with a book, have them practice re-telling the story to you, a sibling, or a friend (the friend can even be their favorite stuffed animal J ).  Some ways that we practice this skill in class is by using masks, puppets (shoeboxes make a great stage for them), magnetic boards with events and characters posted to magnets for students to use as props, pictures of pages from the book that students can sequence, or rope/yarn for creating story arcs by adding pictures of characters and story events for them to put in order on the arc.  We do teach story elements in Kindergarten, however, if your child is having difficulty with the vocabulary, you can start off by having them recount the beginning, middle, and end of a story to you. 

Emergent Readers:  Emergent readers are the books that your child will bring home that we expect them to be reading independently.  In general, they are more patterned texts and are useful for students to build their sight word knowledge and practice decoding and building fluency.  Below are links that will take you to some websites that have free, printable readers.  Also note that you can practice making these books with your child at home.  This activity will allow your child to feel some ownership in what they are reading, and make it more personal for them.

Levels:  The videos below will give you a general idea of what the various reading levels look like and what you should be expecting your child to do at each:

Level A:


Level 1:


Level 2:


Level 3:


Level 4:


Level 6:


Before the Reading:  

Before the reading, students practice writing sight words that they already know that they will be encountering in the book.  This helps them to hold onto their prior knowledge and connect it to new texts.  If your child has a sight word bank of 10 or more words, I would review roughly 3 words each day.  If not, I would stick with one word at a time until they have mastered it (are able to read and write it), and then you may gradually add more words, one at a time.


Before reading any book, I always have the students do a ‘picture walk’ to help familiarize them with the vocabulary that will be in the book along with the text features.  First, I will have the child look at the picture on the front cover and make predictions about the book and then as we go through the pages I will ask them to tell me what they see happening.  Some key points that I hit during this time are identifying the parts of the book (front/back cover, spine, title, title page, etc.), differentiating letters from words, noticing and interpreting punctuation, finding words that begin with certain letters/sounds, finding the first/last word on a page, and finding upper/lower case letters.  All of this at once seems overwhelming, but it is really not as complicated as it sounds.  It only takes one minute or less.  I posted videos below at 2 different levels to give you a better idea of what this looks like:



I also take advantage of the time before reading to introduce/review word 'chunks' that students will be encountering as they read the book.  Watch the video below to see what this word work warm-up may look like:


The students and I in this video are working on vowels prior to students encountering them in the reading:


The students love the song below that we use to help them remember the names of the vowels:

During the reading:  Normally, I read the first page of a book with a child and then I tell them that I want to listen to them read the rest of the book to me.  If your child struggles with this task, then you may read the entire book with them.  The purpose of this is to build their reading fluency.  While they are reading, I watch for any struggles/errors they may have made while reading.  Just as important as the errors, is what they decide to do about them.  Our goal is for students to independently notice their mistakes and self correct them.  Some common errors you may notice while your child is reading is that they are not making the sounds of a word and are reading by memory, they are not cross-checking the first sound with the picture, they are not using the picture clues, they are tracking words that they are not reading or are inserting and omitting words, or they are making the beginning/end sounds but are not checking the whole word.  Some strategies that we suggest for rectifying these mistakes are telling students to:  get their mouth ready to make the first sound, check the whole word with their finger, look at the picture and think about what word make sense, re-read the sentence, skip a word and come back to it, find known ‘chunks’ of words inside unknown words to help decode them, and to ask themselves if what they read makes sense and sounds right. We use the bookmark in the picture below for students to refer back to for a list of strategies when they are stuck on a word.

The video below shows the strategy of comparing an unknown word to known words that are similar:

looks like -ook:


This is an example of finding 'chunks' (known parts of words) in unknown words (I tell students that certain letters are 'married' and when they see them together they make a brand new sound- just like married people have new last names):


This is an example of what to do when your child reads a word that doesn't match the sounds that the written letters make.  The prompt we use is, "Does that look right and sound right?":


This video shows the 'skip the word' strategy.  I had the student in this example skip the word she was struggling with and then come back to it after reading to think about what word would make sense there.  You can even cover up the words when doing this to make sure that students are thinking about what would make sense (comprehension) versus solely focusing on decoding the phonics:


When your child encounters a word that they are having difficulty 'blending' the sounds with (putting the individual sounds together to make a word), there are two different strategies you may try.  I often 'lift' the word from the page and place it on a dry erase board and we look for 'chunks', or parts of the word, that we know, such as 'sh, ee, ay', etc.  Next, we check for vowels and/or silent e's and y endings.  

We then either practice saying the separate sounds one at a time, faster and faster until the student is able to hear the sounds together...


...or we 'stretch' the word and say the sounds in slow motion until the student hears the sounds together as one word:


You can then reverse these strategies when having your child write the sounds they hear in words.  **(See the 'After the Reading' section below to get a better idea of what this looks like).

After the reading:  During the reading you were watching to see what your child did well and what areas they are having a little trouble with.  When you are de-breifing from the reading, you want to give them explicit feedback on the things that you saw them do RIGHT.  Then, the next time you read the book, you can prep them before they read on the things that you want to practice with them during the reading.  This would also be the perfect time to ask a comprehension question about the book to your child in order to make sure that they are really focusing on the words and not just memorizing the book’s pattern.  A question example would be like, “What were the things Dad was doing in this book?”  or “What did you see this Dad doing that your Dad also does?”  You can also make the questions more personal, “What would your favorite activity to do be if you were a Dad?”  or “What do you think will be the next thing this Dad does?  Why?”  Also, the reading and writing connection is so powerful in helping students to make meaning out of abstract letter symbols and words that are otherwise irrelevant to them.  Following a book reading is a great time to do a sight word activity and you want to focus on a word that is used frequently in the book you just finished reading.  


After completing that activity, you can practice writing a sentence from the book or create one with a personal twist on it.  Watch the following video to get a better picture of what this would look like:


If writing is still very laborious for your child, you may try making a cut-up sentence for your child or giving the letter blank support as you are writing. 


On the other hand, if your child is already reading level 6 and above texts that have more of a story line, you may begin writing in a question and answer format with them.  This will not only build their fluency in writing, but also continue to give them the support they need as they build their writing skills:


Print all around:  One of the best ways to instill the significance of writing to your little one is by exploring all of the different places where we see writing.  The next time you are in the car together, ask them to point out the letters/writing they see as you go along (billboards, license plates, street signs, storefronts, restaurants, missing animal posters, etc.).  You can also go on a scavenger hunt around the house to discover a multitude of ways writing is used (grocery lists, cookbooks, bills, advertisements, appliance directions, menus, invitations, cards, reminder notes, DVD cases, etc.).  When you are finished with these activities, discuss with your child why they think writing is important.

Opportunities to Write:  When we begin the school year, we talk to children about the different ‘forms’ of writing in order to validate the stage of writing where each particular child is at.  We explain that some people write with squiggles or shapes, others with first sounds, some with first and last sounds, and some with words (we model to the children what this looks like as we go along).  We then follow this, by instilling in our classroom for the remainder of the year, open-ended opportunities for the students to develop their writing skills.  Of course, there are times when assignments are more directed when students are required to write the answer to a question or label the parts of a spider in Science, for instance, but in order to foster a love for writing in children and to allow them to develop their creativity and independence, we fill our Writer’s Workshop time and Writing Center with materials and step back and give them the freedom to generate authentic pieces that are meaningful to them.  This is the most effective way to instill in them the true purpose of writing.  I stock our writing center with picture dictionaries and picture cards, a sight word wall, a word wall relevant to the month or season, stencils, popsicle sticks with the names and faces of students in the classroom, stickers, envelopes, staplers, paper scraps, scissors, yarn, whole punches, paper bags, and an array of writing instruments.  The students can create books (fiction or non-fiction), lists, cards, poems, jokes, signs, tags, plays, labels, comic strips, and the like.  As long as it has writing, it is acceptable.  The way I support children is by encouraging them to perform at their ability level.  For instance, if there is a child that I know can write letters and made a book with only scribbles on it, I will ask that child if they can go back and write letters.  Or if a child reads back a sentence for me and wrote ‘m’ for mom and I know they can write the word ‘mom’, I will ask them to go back and write the word ‘mom’.  The purpose of giving a child freedom is not to lower expectations, but to allow them to create something unique.  This does not mean that the students are not expected to challenge themselves and perform according to their capability, however.   

Journal/Diary:  one way of developing your child’s writing fluency and stamina is by having them keep a daily journal.  They could write down what their favorite part of school was each day when they arrive home or you could even keep one in the car for them to jot down a few of their favorite parts of a special event they attended (Birthday party, visit to Grandma’s, a neighborhood sleepover, etc.).  It is important to be sure, however, that this does not become a laborious, mundane, or forced task for your little one.  If you see that this is too difficult for them or that they are beginning to hate writing, don’t push any further.  At this age, what is most important is for your child to develop a natural love for writing.

Pen Pals:  Does your child have a neighbor, friend, or relative that they could exchange letters with?  Children love the thrill of receiving their own mail and mailing letters, pictures, or post cards back and forth has the added bonus of reinforcing the ways that writing is used in the real world.  There a multitude of different ways you could make this type of writing more exciting too.  For instance, you could have your child mail leaves or acorns from a walk around the block to a family member in another state and ask them to mail some from one of their walks back to you.  This would be a neat way of comparing nature in different places.  If the cost of postage starts to add up, you could try sending e-mails back and forth instead.  This would also be a great way to practice computer skills too.  Also, if you don’t have someone that you feel comfortable letting your child exchange mail with, you could be the pen pal!  You could even create family mailboxes to allow you and your children exchange love or appreciation notes back and forth.  Who knows, maybe your spouse will even make you one too J 

Scrapbooks:  You could have your child start a family photo/album or scrapbook to commemorate special events or moments in your child’s life.  They could create labels or captions for the pictures and then have a blast decorating the pages.  This would be a lasting treasure for them in the years to come as well.

Paper Bag Books:  When I was in college, I used to volunteer for the neatest place in downtown Houston called the “House of Tiny Treasures”.  My school would create literacy nights for homeless families and we would always end the night by giving the children opportunities to create their own books.  We would whole punch paper bags from the grocery store and paper scraps from old advertisements and then tie it all together with yarn.  Then, the children could create their stories inside.  This is an inexpensive way to make books at home too.  You could even use twist ties for the binding instead of yarn and have your children use the backsides of junk mail to do their writing on.

Grocery Lists:  Have  your children help you do the shopping!  One way we do this in class is by having the students cut out pictures from grocery advertisements and glue them to a piece of paper.  Next, they write the name (or beginning/ending sounds- according to their ability level) of the item beside the picture.

Lists Galore:  The next time you are sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office or the DMV, have your child fill up the minutes by creating lists.  The categories you could use for the lists are endless.  They could write, for instance, a list of all the words they know, a list of all of the words that start or end with a certain letter or sound, a list of all of their friends’ names, family member names, fruit/vegetables, words that are associated with a certain holiday, season, or historical figure, animals at the zoo, favorite toys/video games or anything else that you and your child can think of.

Writing with Books:  The next time you and your child are reading together, have your child answer your questions regarding the text by writing a sentence instead of replying orally.  Make sure that as you ask your question, you write down the words so that they can see that your words are connected with what you are saying orally.  Have them do the same as they are writing back to you.

If you notice that your child is having trouble forming their letters or if you notice that they are not forming their letters with top to bottom left to write progression, you may want to try some of the following activities meant to assist them with these skills.
Fine Motor Skills:  One of the greatest factors influencing a child’s ability to form letters appropriately and with ease, is their development of their fine motor skills.  What this means, is their ability to perform activities that require them to grip objects or carry out actions that require precision.  If you notice that your child is unable to hold a pencil correctly or maneuver a pair of scissors, they would benefit from practicing some of the following exercises.  In order to strengthen their grip, you can give your child a pair of tweezers, tongs, or chopsticks and have them practice picking up small objects with the tools.  Towards the beginning of the year, I have the children use these tools to sort items in a junk box.  I’ve also seen other teachers integrate these skills with math activities by having students use the tools to drop a specified number of beans into cups with numbers written on them.  You can also have them hold a thick marker or wide popsicle stick to track print while reading.  Tracing and cutting out shapes or objects is another excellent way to reinforce this skill.  You can use cookie cutters as stencils or even have your child cut out a specific object from an old magazine or newspaper.  Old fashioned letter or number tracing books can also be used, and you could even place these and a dry erase marker in the backseat of the car for road trips.
Letter Formation Poems:  the following websites have some catchy jingles that your child can associate with the letters to help them remember how to form their letters (the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum has been used within our district):

The Magic ‘c’ and Lowercase ‘l’:  Jan Richardson and Handwriting Without Tears both advise introducing letters into 3 groups and teaching them in the following progression: 
Group 1 (letters that start like a ‘c’):  c, o, a, d, g, q
Group 2 (letters that start like a lowercase ‘l’):  l, t, h, k, b, r, n, m, I, j, p
Group 3 (unique letters):  e, f, s, u, v, w, x, y, z
We tell students that many letters have a ‘Magic c’ inside them and can be ,made by creating the ‘c’ first and then adding the individual letter parts.  Next, we help them find the lowercase ‘l’ hiding inside of other letters.  Finally, we introduce the group of letters that do not fit into either of these categories- the ‘unique’ letters.

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