Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Clapping Rhymes

A Sailor Went to Sea
A sailor went to
Sea, sea, sea
To see what he could
See, see, see.

But all that he could
See, see, see.
Was the bottom of the deep blue
Sea, sea, sea.

How to clap:
A— Clap your own hands
sai—clap right hands with a partner
lor—Clap your own hands
went —clap left hands with partner
to—clap your own hands
sea—clap your partner’s hands three times…
Repeat movements

I Had a little Sister

I had a little sister,
Her name was Sally Sue.
I put her in the bathtub
To see what she would do.

She drank up all the water.
She ate up all the soap.
She tried to eat the bathtub,
But it wouldn’t fit down her throat.

I called the doctor.
I called the nurse.
I called the lady
With the alligator purse.

“Mumps” said the doctor.
“Measles” said the nurse.
“Pizza” said the lady
With the alligator purse.

How to clap:
I—clap own hands
had—clap right hand with partner
a—clap own hands
lit—clap left hand with partner
tle—clap own hands
sis—clap partner’s hands
ter—clap own hands
Pause—clap won hands behind back
Repeat movements

Monday, June 28, 2010

25 Ways to Use Magnetic Letters at Home

Here are some suggestions on how you can use magnetic letters at home (or in child care). Enjoy!


1. LETTER PLAY Encourage children to play with the magnetic letters on the refrigerator or on a table. Playing with letters allows children to learn more about how they look.

2. MAKING NAMES A child’s name is their most important word. Have children make their names several times, mixing up the letters, making their names and checking them with their names written on a card.

3. LETTER MATCH Invite children to find other letters that look exactly the same as a letter in their name (e.g., place an m on the refrigerator and have the child find all the ones that look like it). They don’t need to know the letter name.

4. NAME GAME Have children make names of friends or family. Have them make the name, mix the letters, and make the names several times.

5. MAKING WORDS Make a simple word like mom or dad or sun and have your child make the same word by matching each letter below the model (sun – s-u-n).

6. ALPHABET TRAIN Have your child put the lowercase magnetic letters in the order of the alphabet. Then they can point to them and sing the alphabet son. Have them repeat the process with uppercase letters.

7. CONSONANT/VOWEL SORT Have children sort the consonant letters and the vowel letters.

8. FEATURE SORT Have children sort letters in a variety of ways – e.g., letters with long sticks and letters with short sticks, letters with circles and letters with no circles, letters with tunnels and letters with dots, letters with slanted sticks and letters with straight sticks.

9. COLOR SORT Have children sort all the red, blue, green, yellow letters.

10. UPPERCASE/LOWERCASE MATCH Have children match the uppercase letters with the lowercase form.

11. WRITING LETTERS Have children select ten different letters and write each letter on a paper. They can use the magnetic letter as a model.

12. WRITING WORDS Have children make five simple words (such as dog, fun, big, hat, like, sit)and then write them on a sheet of paper.

13. MAKING FOOD WORDS Make some words that identify food – e.g., bun, corn, rice. Have children draw pictures of each, mix the letters, and make the words again.

14. MAKING COLOR WORDS Give children a list of color words with an item made in that coloras a picture support (for example, a red ball). Have children make the color word with magnetic letters using the model, mix the letters, and make it again several times.

15. MAKING NUMBER WORDS Give children a list of numerals with the number word next to each. Have children make the word and mix the letters two or three times.

16. LETTER NAMES Specify a color and have children take one colored letter at a time and say the letter name.

17. MAGAZINE MATCH Look through a magazine or newspaper with children, cutting out some larger print simple words (such as man, box, boy). Glue them on a sheet of paper with plenty of space below each. Have children make each word below the printed one.

18. FIND THE LETTER Make a set of alphabet letters, upper-or lowercase, on a set of index cards. Shuffle the “deck” and take turns drawing a card and finding the magnetic letter that corresponds to it.

19. LETTER IN THE CIRCLE Draw two circles and place an h in one and an o in the other. Have children put letters in the h circle and say how they are like the h. Do the same with the o. This activity will help children learn to look at features of letters. Vary the letters in the circles; accept their explanations about what they are noticing.

20. CHANGE THE WORD Build several simple words and show the children how to change, add, or take away a letter to make a new word. Examples are: me, he, we; me, my: at, hat, sat. After the demonstration put the needed letters in a special place in an empty container for them to practice.

21. ALPHABET SEQUENCE Place the letter a on the table and have the child find the next letter (b)and place the letter c next to the b and have the child look for the next letter (d). Continue through the alphabet with lowercase letters. Repeat the uppercase letters.

22. LETTER SORT Place a pile of magnetic letters on the table for the child to spread out. Have the child put all letters that are the same together in a pile. Then if appropriate, have the child give the letter name for each pile.

23. LETTER CHAINS Make a five letter chain (for example, pfrmo). Have children find the sameletters and make the same chain below your model. Then have the children make a chain that you copy.

24. LETTER BINGO Make two cards with a grid of three boxes across and three down. Trace one lowercase letter in each box. Put a pile of magnetic letters that are representing the letters on the cards and some that are not in a plastic bowl. Play a Letter Bingo game. Take turns taking a letter, saying its name, and then placing the letter in the box if there is a match. If there is not match, put the letter back in the bowl. The first to fill three boxes across, down, or diagonally says, “Bingo” and wins the game.Play the same game with uppercase letters.

25. RHYMING PAIRS Use a magnetic cookie sheet. Make a simple three letter word such as dog, but, cat, fan, can, hot, man, net, pan, rat, sit. Say the word and then say a second word that rhymes (dog-log, bug-mug, cat-fat, fan-man). Ask the child to make the rhyming word below each.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Forest of Reading

Even though this year's program wrapped dup in April, I'd like to take some time to talk about the Forest of Reading program. Each year, the Ontario Library Association offers 7 reading programs that encourage people of all ages in their love of reading. All Ontarians/Canadians are invited to participate via their local public or school library. More than 250,000 readers across Canada, mainly Ontario, participate each year. The culmination of the program is an amazing two-day awards event attended by more than 8,000 guests and all of the nominated authors/illustrators called the ‘Festival of Trees™’.

Here are the reading programs:

For younger readers:
Blue Spruce™Awards Reading Program (primary–grade 2 picture books)
Silver Birch® Awards Reading Program (grades 3–6 fiction, non-fiction)
Silver Birch Express™ Awards Reading Program (grades 3–4 fiction, non-fiction)
Red Maple™ Awards Reading Program (grades 7–8 fiction, non-fiction)
White Pine™ Awards Reading Program (high school fiction)
Le Prix Tamarack™ (french fiction, non-fiction grades 3–6)

For Adults:
Golden Oak™ Awards Reading Program (adults learning to read; ESL, fiction)
Evergreen™ Award Reading Program (adults of any age, fiction)

For each program, readers are encouraged to read all or a selection of the books, and then vote on their favourite.

How are books chosen for the 'Forest of Reading'?

This program celebrates Canadian books and author/illustrators. Titles selects must be written by a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant. They must be commercially available in Canada. Books are available from participating school and public libraries.

Here is a link to the Blue Spruce (Kindergarten-Grade 2) books that were nominated for 2010:

Boo Hoo Bird by Jeremy Tankard was the 2010 Blue Spruce winner.

For more information, go to

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stories and Summer Solstice

Say that 10 times fast!

Yesterday, June 21, was the summer solstice. For many of the ancients, the summer solstice was essential to their well-being. Associated with agriculture, the summer solstice was a reminder that a turning point in the growing season had been reached. As a modern day parent, you can use this analogy to think of it as a turning point in the way you nurture your child's growth. Starting today, try to do one thing each day to prepare your child for later reading achievement.

Oral language is the basis of literacy. This summer, encourage your child to develop and grow their oral language through storytelling with you. Think of all the great things you do together in the summer that they can tell stories about, like going to the beach, picking berries, visiting relatives, riding bicycles, and so on. There are lots of new experiences your child will enjoy talking about. Research tells us that preschool children will tell their best stories about personal experiences. Storytelling gives your child the opportunity to both tell and hear stories, which encourages them to develop active speaking and listening skills. It fuels the imagination and allows your child to develop their own mental images of the story.

Here’s what you can do to help your child become a successful storyteller:

- Find time to have a good conversation with your child, every day. Storytelling requires us to explore or elaborate on each event rather than jumping from one topic to another. It requires a good description of all the small details.
- Talk with your child about things that happened in the past (i.e., earlier today, yesterday, last week).
- Tell stories that have a sequence of events so that there is a clear beginning, middle and end. Fairy tales are great for this! Talk about the sequence of special events or even daily routines. Use words like: first, then and after. (i.e., First we will wake up, and then eat breakfast. After we will get dressed.)
- Read stories with simple plots aloud to your child.
- Talk about the things your child wants to talk about. Follow their lead!

Great summer stories to read with your child:

Fun Dog, Sun Dog by Deborah Heiligman
10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle
Spot Goes to the Beach by Eric Hill

Monday, June 21, 2010

Initial Sound Clothesline Activity

A couple weeks ago, I co-facilitated another make and take workshop. This month's theme was CAMPING! Camping is a fun family activity. Many children enjoy using it as a theme for their pretend play. Here is an idea for an activity you can make at home. If you would like an electronic copy of the colour pictures, please just post a message and I will get back to you.

Here are the necessary supplies:
- 18 colour picture cards
- 18 clothespins
- permanent marker
- mac tac
- scissors
- construction paper
- glue


1. Cut out the colour picture cards.

2. Create a template t-shirt. You could also make pants, but I was trying to keep it simple.

3. Using your template cut out 18 t-shirts from the contruction paper. I fit 4 onto each piece of construction paper.

4. Glue the colour pictures onto the t-shirts.

5. Use mac tac to help improve the life span of your activity.

6. Using your permanent marker, write letters onto the end of the clothespin that opens (see picture below).

To play, your child needs to match the initial sound of the word with the corresponding picture. Once they have made a match, they can hang the shirts on a clotheslines (I made mine with a piece of yarn). Remember to keep this activity developmentally appropriate. Children tend to be able to do this type of activity when they around five- and six-years-old.

You can increase the level of difficulty of this game by having more letters available then necessary for your child to choose from. You can also have them mix up the beginning letter and say the new word.

"If your put the letter W on bug (instead of B), it says WUG!"

You can decrease the level of difficulty by using only one letter sound at a time to reinforce a particular sound.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Looking for a holistic resource on children's language and literacy development?

Check out the website listed above. It focuses on children birth to 60 months, discussing language and literacy development around topics such as hearing, computers, children's literature, narrative, numeracy, reading, social emotional development, speech-language, spelling, writing, vision and vocabulary.

Please feel free to leave any comments about the website.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

10 Ways To Promote Phonological Awareness

Talk to your child. Hearing words that rhyme helps your child learn that words are made up of smaller parts. Draw you child’s attention to sounds that represent objects and animals.

Play listening games such as “I Spy” and “Simon Says”.

Emphasize rhyming and beginning sounds.

Sing songs and teach nursery rhymes. Songs have a different note for each syllable, which will help you child break down words.

Sing, rhyme and clap out the syllables of songs and chants.

Read aloud poems and books that have predictable sound patterns.

Make sound shakers with empty containers filled with beads, cut up straws, etc. Shake them as you chant or sing.

Model how to find words that rhyme and encourage children to play along.

Encourage children to invent their own poems and silly words that rhyme.

Recite tongue twisters.

What are some fun tongue twisters your child enjoys?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Phonological Awareness Develops

Age three to five years

• Children can hear rhymes.
mail, pail, sail

• Children can hear alliteration.
fee, fie, fo, fum

Age five to six years

• Children can segment words they hear into chunks called syllables.

• Children can segment words they hear into chunks called onsets and rimes.
/b/oat, /g/oat; /d/ock, /l/ock

• Children can identify different sounds at the beginnings of words.
rock, sock

• Children can identify different sounds at the ends of words.
stem, step

• Children can hear different sounds in the middle of words.
dig, dog

Age six to seven years

• Children can hear, segment, and say phonemes in a word separately.

• Children can hear, delete, and move phonemes in a word.

What do you think of the information above? Are you surprised at the ages children acquire new skills?

Tomorrow: different ways you can promote phonological awareness.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Phonological Awareness

Children who know more about nursery rhymes at age 3 are more highly developed in general phonological awareness at age 4 and in phonemic awareness at age 6.

What is Phonological Awareness?

The ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words. Recognizing that words are made of smaller sounds leads to reading success.

Early experience with nursery rhymes can help children begin to notice and think about the sounds in words.

Provide activities that increase children’s awareness of the sounds in language. These activities include playing games and listening to stories, poems and songs that involve:

Identifying words that end with the same sound (e.g., Jack and Jill went up the hill);

Recognizing when several words begin with the same sound (e.g., Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers);

Sound matching
Deciding which of several words begin with a specific sound (e.g., show a child pictures of a bird, a dog, and a cat and ask which one starts with the /d/ sound).

Come back tomorrow to see the order in which these smaller tasks develop!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Magnetic Doodling Boards

The Magna Doodle is a good educational tool for children because it allows children to practice their letters, write messages, and also create original works of art (with no mess!) Parents and caregivers can also use a magna doodle to teach shapes and numbers.

There are lots of versions of the magna doodle in stores, not just the brand name mentioned. The one pictured below was bought at a toy store for $3. It is small, which makes it a nice size for going along in the car.

How would you use a magnetic doodling board with a child?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Went Walking props

Last week I wrote an entry on the book "I Went Walking" by Sue Williams. I listed some ideas on how you can help your child retell the story using props (i.e., making a feltboard and using a farm set). I have a couple other suggestions on props you can use to help your child get involved in telling the story.

Ask your child to give you the correct flashcard as each animal comes up in the story.

Allow your child to play an active part in the story by asking them the sound each animal makes as you read the story. They can use the puppet to dramatize the noises.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Letter Knowledge Tip: Playdough Cutters

Whip up a batch of home made play dough and provide your child with alphabet playdough cutters. There are lots of activities you can do with the playdough.

Your child can:
- free play with the cutters
- cut their name into the playdough
- match objects they cut out with the first letter/sound of the object's name
- build larger letters by rolling the playdough into snakes. Depending on your child's developmental level, you may choose to give them an outline of the letters or they may prefer to make them free hand.

Playdough is not only useful in learning letters! It can improve hand strength, dexterity, and motor skills. Recent research also shows that using your fingers and hands actually stimulates your brain and increases the number of neural connections it makes.

What Can You Do With Playdough???

Talk about it
Encourage language development. Say, "Roll the playdough" and "Pat it!" Talk about the colour, cutters, how it feels. Ask your child what they are making and join them in their dramatic play.

Scent it
Add some nontoxic scents (such as vanilla, almond, peppermint, or orange) to your homemade play dough to create a new sensory experience. Encourage your child to describe the smells with words.

Make impressions in the play dough
When the dough is smooth and flat, encourage your child to press small objects with different shapes and textures (fork, buttons, dried pasta, seashells) into the dough to make imprints and create an interesting pattern.

Make snakes or worms
Show your child how to make a long dough snake or worm by using the flat of his hand to roll a lump of play dough back and forth on a flat surface.

Cut it
Learning to use scissors can be a challenge for many kids because it's difficult for them to hold and cut floppy paper. Playdough, on the otherhand, cuts easily! Using child-safe scissors, encourage your child to snip the playdough into small pieces.

Does anyone have any great home made play dough recipes to share?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Now I Know My ABCs...

According to cognitive and developmental psychologist, Marilyn Jager Adams, “The two best predictors of early reading success are alphabet recognition (letter knowledge) and phonemic awareness”.

Letter knowledge is knowing that letters are different from each other, and that they have different names and sounds.

Most children enter school being able to say the alphabet. Many children will learn this skill by about age four. However, being able to say the names of the letters is not the same as “knowing” the letters. Children learn the alphabet best through the active exploration of the relationships between letter names, the sounds of the letter names, their visual characteristics and the motor movement involved in their formation. Set up alphabet activities where children can both see and touch letters.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to help your children learn their ABCs. Instead, here are some ideas that you can use to make your own games that promote letter knowledge.

Using a die cutter

Queen's University has an Ellison machine (or die cutter) that can be used by the public. A die cutter is a hand-operated machine that uses steel rule die shapes to cut through a wide range of materials quickly and easily. It's basically like using a cookie cutter. Die cutters work much better than scissors. using scissors takes time and patience. However, die-cutting allows you to quickly replicate the same perfect shape over and over again. You can make these for little to no cost - purchase your materials you wish to cut at the dollar store to save on costs.

Here's a video on how to use an Ellison machine

Note: Some scrapbooking stores make die cutters available to customers as well.

**Create a Letter Sensory Bin**
Provide different textures of letters in a sensory bin.
Textures you can use:
- sand paper
- foam
- felt
- scrap fabric/old clean clothing
- paper
- sponges
- faux fur
- cardboard from cereal boxes

**Create Lacing Letters**
Using a strong and sturdy material, cut a 4" set of the alphabet. Punch holes along the outline of each letter. Cut out 26 one-foot pieces of yarn. Put tape around one end of each piece of string to form a point (this will be the head of a “needle”). Tape each “needle and thread” to one end of every letter of the alphabet. Set the ‘lacing letters’ on a tray for children to explore.

**Sandpaper Letter Chart**
Use sandpaper to and 2' letters to create a complete sandpaper alphabet. Glue the letters onto a piece of bristol/poster board. Hang the chart at children’s eye level on the wall or set it on a small table/the floor for exploration. Talk to children about the shapes of the letters and the letter names.

**Sorting Letters**
To help young children learn letters, have them sort letters by various features such as those that have a stick, a circle, a dot, a hump, a hook (tail) or a slant. Use magnetic or foam letters at first so children can feel the shape of the letter. You could also use letters on printed cards. Have older children sort letters based on their attributes. Talk with children about how some letters may have more than one feature. For example, both sticks and circles in “d,b,p,q”.

Here are some links that may be helpful to you:
Ellison website:

Ellison Machine information at Queen's University:

Queen's Education library's hours:

More suggestions to come tomorrow!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Went Walking

I Went Walking by Sue Williams is a great story for young children. It's rhythm is similar to the classic book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle. It's got lots of rhyme and repetition, which are also essential components of an awesome children's book. Children love using felt boards to tell stories. It gives them something to hold in their hands and encourages participation.

Below are some feltboard pieces I made to use with the the story I Went Walking. I traced the outlines of the animals onto non-fusable interfacing (from Fabricland) using a thin Sharpie marker. I coloured the pieces using pencil crayons. The patterns come from Liz and Dick Wilmes' 2's Experience Felt Board Fun.

I have searched high and low on the internet and I have been unable to find the EXACT feltboard story pattern for you to print. Instead, you can either trace the animals out of the story book or trace farm animals out of a colouring book.

It's handy to have a set of felt board farm animals because they can be used in so many ways. If you don't have time to do this, simply use toys if you have access to a farm set - it will have the same effect. Only you will notice if you don't have the exact pieces that match the story!

Here are a couple of songs I have used with the felt board farm animals I made. I have left the links to the lyrics below the songs.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

We're On Our Way to Grandpa's Farm

Are there any other great farm songs readers can add to their repertoire?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reading is as easy as ABC

One of the best predictors of early reading success is alphabet recognition. Alphabet books are a great way to talk about letters with your child. Many alphabet books centre on child-friendly themes or concepts, such as animals or places.

Alphabet books are a fun way to help your child:
Learn the letter sequence of the alphabet
Connect the printed letters with letter sounds
Develop vocabulary and stimulate language use

The first time you read an alphabet book with your child, read it without pausing so they can enjoy the language and illustrations. Next time you read it, talk about the names of the letters and the sounds the letters make.

Focus on sounds that are important to your child. For example, if your child’s name is Melissa, talk about how the letter M makes the sound ‘Mmm’ like “Mmm...muffins!”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Active"ate Your Baby’s Brain Development

Active songs and rhymes can help your baby’s brain build strong pathways and connections! Use active songs and rhymes to nurture your motor development, language development, and social attachment.

Motor Development
— help with motor development and muscle control

Language Development
— brain patterns are created to speak, listen, read and write

Social Attachment
— fun for both you and your baby

Your baby will begin to imitate you and communicate more effectively using gestures. Also, their memory will improve.

Here are some rhymes for you to try at home:

Jack and Jill

Hold your baby up and then bring them down when you say those words in the nursery rhyme.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Jack in the Box
Hold your baby close as you whisper this poem. When you get to the words, "yes he will!" gently make your baby 'jump' up from your lap.

Jack in the Box
Sit so still;
Will he come out?
Yes he will!

Can you think of any other rhymes or songs that can be active for infants or young children?