phonemic awareness · teaching thoughts

Phonics and Phonemic Awareness

As I continue my series on topics for parents, today I will explain a few terms that are tossed around, especially when children are beginning to learn to read and/or struggling to learn to read.

Phonics is the connection between the printed letters and the sounds they make. Children need to have strong phonics skills to decode words. Typically they will learn that short vowel and consonant sounds first. Then they will move on to learn about long vowels, digraphs (th, sh, ch, wh, ck etc), vowel pairs and so much more. But, the thing to understand is that phonics is connecting the sound to print. This is reading and writing! This is key, but it is not all!

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate phonemes (sounds). This is rhyming, blending onset and rime, syllables and more. Children need to be able to play with phoneme they hear, note these skills do not involve print! This is playing with sounds. Singing songs, manipulating rhymes, poetry, breaking words apart and putting them together… but out loud.

Here is the thing… strong phonemic awareness is the precursor to strong phonic skills. When children develop the skills and confidence in the ability to play with letters and sounds. The ability to isolate the sounds they hear and manipulate them to make changes, then the understanding of phonics becomes sooo much easier.

To give an example. When children develop an understanding of rhyme they know that they can remove the beginning sound of one word, replace it with a new sounds and the create a new word (real or nonsense). This is word families. Cake, bake, make, take, rake… word family… words that rhyme. Now, if I have a firm understanding of rhyming words and I learn to read one word in a word family, I can use my understanding of rhyming words to create new words to read and write.

Another phonemic awareness skill is blending words. This can be done with onset and rime (/b/ /asket/= basket) as well as with individual sounds (/f/ /l/ /a/ /t/ = flat). When you can take the sounds you hear and push them together in your mind and hear a whole word, it makes it easier to sound out the words and then hold them together to make a word. Sounding out words is just what I did, but reading the printed letters instead of just hearing them aloud.

So, if your child is just starting to read and write, or struggling to learn to read and write, you might want to step back and play with sounds. Build their phonemic awareness skills first… then the phonics will fall into place smoother.

teaching thoughts · writing

Writing vs penmanship

Today I continue my series on my thoughts on education. Today’s topic is writing vs penmanship. Often times when people think about young children writing is has more to do with penmanship than actual writing. When we discuss writing in education it is not the process of putting words on paper… it is the process of putting thoughts on paper. Read that again!

We teach children that writing is a powerful way to share thoughts and information. And, if you know anything about children they LOVE to share their thoughts and information.

Writing is a process and has steps. I am not talking about the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing) while we do teach this in school too. I’m talking about the process of learning to write. Learning to put your thoughts on paper in a way that others can understand. I have shared these stages in the past. (click here)

When adults tell children exactly what to write (a dictation) or write it for them (scribing or for copying) we are taking away the power of writing. I would rather my students write one word on their own than copy a paragraph I stated. Now, don’t get me wrong there are times for dictations, scribing and copying, but we can’t confuse this with writing.

Again writing is the process of putting your own thoughts on paper.

When children are young then begin to scribble write or write random letters, numbers and symbols. Often this is not seen as writing, but it is! It is your child writing their thoughts on their own. When we start telling children that the work they do on their own is not good enough, not correct or acceptable…. they don’t want to write. When you make the writing process more about correct letter formation and not about the thoughts behind the writing… they don’t want to write.

We need to empower children. We need to praise the work and listen to the thoughts behind it. We need to challenge them to add more to their work. As they develop more phonics and sight word skills their sentences will expand. Their writing will develop into a more conventional form. But, until them we need to say “Please read me what you wrote”, even if what they wrote was random scribbles… recognize that they are writing.

math · teaching thoughts · topic

Math Monday

This week I am going to write a series for you the parents! I’m giving you my two cents on many learning topics. This is my opinion as a educator as well as a parent. So much of the impact we have on our children’s learning has to do more with how we think than what we do!

Math is NOT scary! read it again Math is NOT scary!

Sadly we still live in a world were people are afraid of math. Math is a set of steps. Math is black and white… right or wrong… for the most part. But there is more than one way to solve a problem. There is more than one way to see how to get to the end result.

A large issue with adults and math is they were forced to memorize facts. You learned that 2+2=4 and that 5*8=40, but you didn’t learn the why. You just learned the fact. When you start to think math, not just memorize it… you will find that it makes more sense.

In schools, we use a lot of manipulatives and manipulation of visuals to help see math. New math is mental math on paper…. or with manipulatives. Take for instance the concept of “Make a 10”. This is teaching children to see the addition fact 6+7 and break it down to 7+3+3… why? Why can’t they just memorize that 6+7 =13? Make a ten is an easy mental math step… I know that 7+3 is 10 and then 10+3 is 13. Seems like more steps, but then do it in your head… hey wait. If those numbers were 17+16 what then? 10+10+7+3+3. This is THINKING math.

I could go on and give more examples, but I won’t.

My thought for you today is play with math. Provide white boards and have your child illustrate problems. Provide counters (Lego, cereal, goldfish, crayons,… anything). Make learning of math fun. Help your child to think math… not memorize it!

Remember this is just my two cents.

story · teaching thoughts · topic


Often times I have parents ask me “What are the best books for me to read to my child?” or “What books should my child be reading?”…. Ok I’m going to give an answer that might shock a lot of teachers… Any book your child is interested in reading is worth reading to/with them! Often times teachers poopoo the reading of stories based on tv shows or movies and such. I say… if your child wants to read it… read it!

Also many teachers have children read “just right books”.

While having your child read books that are really hard is often frustrating for children, if your child wants to read the book and is willing to put in the effort because they like the story/topic/whatever… why would you stop them?

Some people do not want children to read books that are too easy. But, this builds fluency. There is a need to increase both oral fluency as well as silent reading fluency and endurance.

I say… let your child pick books they are interested in reading/having read to them. If they like the book/topic they are more engaged and more interested in listening.

That being said…. I do encourage parents to read aloud even after your child learns to read independently. You should be reading books 2-4 levels above your child’s reading ability. I always encourage kindergarten families to start reading chapter books to your child. When they listen to chapter books they learn to envision the story in their mind. They also learn to hold the story between sittings which will help when they begin reading chapter books on their own.

I leave you one last thought on reading….


Happy New Year

Often times we encourage children to write New Year resolutions. But, lets be honest… does this help anyone? Do we follow through? Will kids??

Here is a different direction to think about. Write goals. Have your child think about a long term goal he/she would like to focus on for the year. It could be “In 2021, I want to learn to read.” “In 2021, I want to learn all my sight words.” “In 2021, I want to learn to add” “In 2021, I want to learn to shoot a basketball.” Or whatever goal they have for him/herself. Now, take and have your child take that goal and make a short term goal to achieve steps towards their bigger goal.

Goal setting is a skill that many schools work on with students. So, having your child learn to set goals early helps they get into that groove.

My goal for 2021 is to blog more on here an on my other food blog Lori-ize it! My short term goal is to post a recipe a week on Lori-ize It! My short term goal for this blog is to pick a January topic and get Mon-Thur posts up each week. I am also aiming to do live streams on My Day in Pre-K facebook every other week!

STEAM · story · topic


Today let’s read a fun holiday story: Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini. Moose wants everything to be “Perfectly perfect” for Christmas, but will he remember EVERYTHING?

Moose forgot the tree! Oh no… what would you do if you forgot to get a Christmas tree? Well you aren’t a moose, so you can’t decorate yourself. Today’s challenge…. create a tree for Moose!

You can use some of the same materials we had yesterday for the Christmas engineering projects or let your child get creative on his/her own. Encourage them to mix materials and think outside the box.

Some ideas: pipe cleaners, construction paper, Lego, popsicle sticks/tongue depressors, a pile of socks?, garland, toys… food…. your imagination is the limit!

Want to add more academics to this fun project? Pick a challenge to add to the creation. Here are some examples: Can you make a tree that stands without support? Can you make a tree that is taller than 10″? Can you make a tree that will hold ornaments? Can you make a symmetrical tree?

Also, have your child plan ahead. What do they think it will look like? What materials do they plan to use? Why?

Encourage multiple attempts, failure is part of the learning process… if that didn’t work, what else could you try?

Then at the end, if not totally exhausted from the process… have your child draw and write about the end result. Write a letter to Moose to go with the tree.


Blogmas day 6

Three Cats and a Girl tricked me with the title they had on the 6th day of Blogmas… her title is Music or Movie. I jumped right to the thought of which would you give up listening to Christmas music or watching Christmas movies. I was set… I knew my answer! But, nooooo that was not the question. The question is:

It’s actually would you rather star in a hit Christmas single or a popular Christmas movie?

Three Cats and a girl.

Ugh… my original thought was so much easier to answer. Ok. Ok. I’ll play along correctly.

This is tough for me. I love to sing and especially Christmas songs. But, I do like to act and would love to be an extra in a movie. Dang this one is hard. I guess I’ll go with act because I know my voice isn’t as well trained as it would need to be in order for me to sing on the radio… so I’ll sing in my car, in my kitchen and anywhere else music is playing, but I won’t be the voice on the radio.

Which would you pick?

STEAM · teaching thoughts · topic

Christmas Engineering

Today let’s do some engineering! (Engineering at this age means problem solving through design and exploration of an open ended quest) Provide your child with any of the materials listed below and then let them work. When we work on these projects at school, we typically start by letting the children explore their materials. After learning how the materials work together, then provide a challenge. Make the tallest Christmas tree. Make a gift box. Make a candy cane. Make a sleigh. Make an ornament for the tree. Whatever you want your child to create/engineer.

Pick any of these combinations:

  • jingle bells with pipe cleaners
  • jingle bells with playdough
  • gum drops (or other gummy candy) with toothpicks
  • beads and pipe cleaners or string
  • playdough and beads
  • marshmallows with toothpicks
  • toothpicks, straws, tape, string,
  • playdough and candy canes (this can be tough since candy canes aren’t as strong as you’d think)

Ok… here’s a different way to engineer

Build an ornament holder (that suspends an ornament up) using straws, tape, pipe cleaners, ornament holders

Design a new sleigh for Santa use paper, tape, glue, popsicle sticks, egg cartons, Lego blocks or whatever creative items your child wants to use

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You  Started - A Fine Parent

Remember! There is no right or wrong way to work on these STEM projects. Your roll is to ask questions. If you want to participate…. do your own version beside your child. Children often figure out how to do things by struggling through the steps of what not do it… failure is always an option, it is the first step on the way to success.


Blogmas- day 5

The fifth day of Blogmas brought this question for you and me….. (did you head the tune to the 12 days of Christmas while reading that?) from Three Cats and a Girl

Would you rather have gingerbread or candy canes? This is the easiest for me so far… I would very easily give up gingerbread. While I do like a Pepperidge Farms Gingerbread Man from time to time, typically when I teach the Gingerbread Man at school, that is about it for me. I am not a big gingerbread fan. Not the cake, not the cookies, not the smell… yep not for me.

But, I do enjoy candy canes… only the traditional peppermint ones. I love to dunk them in hot chocolate, add them to chocolate cookies, and just eat them as candy canes. While I don’t want a ton of them and wouldn’t want them all year round, I’d much prefer a candy cane to anything gingerbread.

What about you? Your kids?

art · story · topic

Christmas Tree

When we think of Christmas, one image often comes to mind… the Christmas tree. It is believed that this tradition began in 16th century Germany. Trees were originally decorated with foods such as nuts, berries, apples and dates. Beginning in the 18th century, people began adding candles to their trees, but this was not very safe. The first Christmas lights were added to the Christmas 1895.

Let’s read some Christmas tree stories: The Littlest Christmas Tree by Janie Jasin and The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll.

I decided to share this Art for Kids Hub video How to Draw a Christmas Tree… it is a folding surprise picture. I chose it because when the picture is folded, it is a little Christmas tree, but when opened, it is the biggest one.

Let’s work together on a torn paper picture.

  • green sheet of construction paper
  • another color to use as the background
  • glue
  • markers
  1. tear the green paper into smaller pieces. encourage your child to use their pincer grasp to hold and tear the paper (fine motor work!)
  2. arrange the torn paper into the shape of a tree, if struggling draw a rough outline on the background paper
  3. After gluing all the pieces down, pick up the paper and let any that didn’t stick fall off. Glue them back on if needed
  4. use markers (or other colors of construction paper) to add ornaments and other decorations.