Friday, October 29, 2010

Best Halloween Book: Haunted House!

This book highlights most of the six ready to read skills . Visally, the book is appealing because of the shiny orange colour on the cover. The cover is also covered in a fuzzy purple material, which makes it fun to touch. The story itself is written in rhyme and features many favourite Halloween spooks. In the end, children will be surprised by a shrieking witch! Don't worry though, it's not scary.

Find it at your local public library or check in out in a bookstore this weekend!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Perfect Read Alouds for Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner! Yesterday I mentioned some ideas to incorporate literacy into Halloween celebrations from ABC Life Literacy Canada. Below, I have listed some Halloween books that build literacy skills.

Winnie the Witch by Korky Paul and Valerie Thomas: This story is very funny. Winnie the Witch has a problem. Everything in her house is black, including her cat. She is always tripping on her cat, so she decides to wave her wand and make him a different colour. This book offers lots of opportunities to develop vocabulary by discussing colours and how to think of solutions to problems.

Boo! by Robert Munsch: This is a funny story about a boy who paints his face instead of wearing a costume for Halloween, but his face is too scary! This story has lots of repetition which will help your child develop their narrative skills.

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro: Find out why an old lady would swallow a bat. This silly story will help children develop their narrative skills and vocabulary!

The Three Bears' Halloween by Kathy Duval: This story is a spin off of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It is a great story for retelling because of the repetition. Compare it to the original classic story with your child.

Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler: This story is about a skeleton with hiccups. Skeleton's friend Ghost helps him get rid of his hiccups using a very creative solution that will give children a laugh.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda White: This is a spectacular spooky story with lots of repetition and actions for children to follow along with.

Are there any other great Halloween books you have read lately?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Literacy Fun

Last Friday, ABC Life Literacy Canada released an article with tips to incorporate literacy into Halloween celebrations. Here are their suggested tricks and treats to practice literacy skills:

1.Tell ghost stories on Halloween night. Make up your own stories or read a classic scary book together.

2.Have a costume party and write your own unique invitations. Once guests have arrived, why not play a word game using only Halloween-related words!

3.Organize Halloween candy in different ways. Organize by shape, size, candy name, or even candy type, and then trade! This activity helps to reinforce the importance of math in everyday life.

4.Bake a pumpkin pie. Following recipes is a great way to improve both reading and math skills. Children can read the instructions out loud to help measure the ingredients when making a treat for the family.

5.Research the history of Halloween, and share spooky statistics!

SOURCE: Life Literacy Canada

What other ways can you bring integrate literacy in your Halloween celebrations?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Free Resources at Wintergreen

Go to Wintergreen's website for free printable teaching resources. Most seem to apply to school-aged children, but maybe you will find something worthwhile.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Halloween is just around the corner. If you celebrate Halloween, and even if you don't I would like to suggest the book Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley as a read aloud to your child.

Go Away,Big Green Monster! is a book of cut-out pages that page by page reveal a monster and then page by page make it disappear. The simple cuts and the bold colors appeal to both young children and old. It is as much of a delight to read to groups of children as it is to just one child snuggled up on your lap.

You can get a free printable pattern here that you can use to make pieces for a craft, or to create your own feltboard story. See craft example below.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Telling stories to children helps them to be ready to learn to read at school. Children need lots of experience listening to stories of many different varieties. Stories can be made up or true. They can be written down to told orally. Either way, they are a valuable component of early literacy development. They help children learn to:

- concentrate and focus their attention
- make predictions and comparisons - how does this story compare to other stories your child has heard or their real life experiences?
- use their imagination - they may need to picture the story in their mind if there are no props
- recognize new words - build vocabulary

Here are some tips you can use to keep your child's interest while you're reading:

- be enthusiastic
- use facial expressions
- give voices to characters
- change the tone in your voice (quiet, loud)
- use gestures
- add dramatic sounds ("and the door shut, BANG!"
- pause for effect
- ask your child to help you tell the story by filling in spots or making sounds
- add a surpirse to the ending
- keep it short
- make the story about your child or something they are interested in

Here is the story of The Gingerbread Boy. It is a perfect story for oral storytelling!

SOURCE: Macaulay Child Development Centre, Lullabies to Literacy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hearing Individual Sounds in Words

I recently recieved an email from one of my readers:

"I am noticing that my students often know the beginning sounds and end sounds of words but nothing in do you develop this skill?"

Becoming aware of individual sounds in words is the most difficult level of phonological awareness. However, it is also the area of phonological awareness that research infdicates is the most predictive of success in using sound knowledge in reading.

Here are some activities I suggest:

1) Word of the day/week. As an oral activity, ask children to listen to a simple work. For example, sat. Say listen to each sound /s/ /a/ /t/. How many sounds do you hear? (3)

2) Using Songs
For example, “If you know my Word” to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”

The sounds in my word are /f/ /i/ /sh/, /f/ /i/ /sh/, /f/ /i/ /sh/,
The sounds in my word are /f/ /i/ /sh/
Do you know my word?

3) Say It Slow, Say It Fast game

Choose three letter words (e.g., cat). Show your child a picture that represents the word so that they have a visual. Have your child say the word with you, normally. Then say, “I’m going to say his word slowly. I’m going to break it apart.” Slow down and say each sound in the word. Ask your child to repeat after you e.g. /c/ /a/ /t/). Once they say it slowly, ask them to speed up the word and say it normally again. Once they succeed, give them the picture to hold onto as a reward.

4) Penny Push Directions
During the activity the children say, hear and push a penny for each sound they hear in a word. There are no symbols or letters involved. Research shows that the more senses you use to teach something, the more likely it is that the learner will grasp the concept.

Follow this link to a video that gives an example of how to segment words into individual sounds.

Here is a video of a child using coloured tiles to represent sounds in words.

Does anyone have any additional suggestions?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Growing Vegetable Soup

Fall is the time of year where we harvest food. Once the weather starts to cool down, it's natural to grab for a sweater and start up a pot of soup for warmth. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert presents the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that we naturally do at this time of year. Children benefit by learning from relevant events in their lives. Read this book with your child. There are SO MANY ways that you can extend this book into so much more than it is alone. You can develop vocabulary by talking about the names of vegetables, develop tastebuds by sampling different kinds of vegetables, develop narrative skills and numeracy skills by making a pot of soup, and so on.

More information on skills addressed in this book:

Print motivation – at the end of the story there is a recipe for vegetable soup (shows children practical use of books – they show us how to do things)

Print awareness – not all sentences finish on the same page they started on. This could start up conversations on how we know when a sentence is done (along with other aspects of punctuation) with older children.

Vocabulary – vegetables, gardening tools and kitchen supplies are labeled throughout the book, including when they are seeds

Narrative skills – tells children the process of making vegetable soup from seeds.

Here is an activity you can do with this book:

From the Garden to Soup

o Create vegetables using craft foam.

o Place vegetables in some dirt you may have left over from your garden. You can also use a blanket to simulate earth.

o Invite one child to be a “sounder” and another to be a “matcher”. Have the sounder secretly choose an item from the “dirt” and say the first sound of the item. For example, say “C-c-c” for carrot. Depending on your children’s ability level, you should be the sounder for the first few times that you model the game.

o Once the sound has been heard, the matcher finds an item in the “dirt” that starts with the same sound. If that item is not the item the sounder has chosen, you can help the matcher by giving clues. Continue until the matcher holds up the correct item. When the matcher selects the correct item, he can put it into a soup pot. Play again using another set of children as a sounder and a matcher.

o This activity can help younger children label things that grow in a garden. If you are working with younger children, you could ask them to find colours, “Can you please find me the white onion, orange carrot, red tomato…..

o You could also add some foam alphabet letters to the soup to work on letter recognition. Say, “Can anyone find me a letter “A” and or the letter that starts with the sound /a/ to add to our soup?”

What else would you do with this book?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Grouchy Ladybug

This Eric Carle book is about an arrogant ladybug who challenges another ladybug to a fight over some aphids. Then, he decides his opponent isn't large enough to be worth fighting, so the ladybug travels around the world looking for larger animals to fight. Eventually, he encounters a blue whale, who slaps him with his tail and sends him flying back to where he started. The ladybug decides to be nice and share the aphids with the fellow ladybug.

Throughout the book, the size of the pages starts small and get bigger as the size of the animals increase. Also, the blue whale's tail takes up a page in itself and turning it is meant to represent the slapping motion. The time of day is also shown at the side of each page. Note: Many children will not be prepared to graps the complex concept of time until they are approximately 7-10 years old.

Here is a link if you would like to browse the inside of the book.

The ladybug above was made using black and red felt. First, I cut out a body, then, the wings, then the spots. The wings were secured on using hot glue. Here are two ways you can use the ladybug:

1) Phonemic Awareness: At age fix to six years children can identify different sounds at the beginnings of words (rock, sock), as well as different sounds at the ends of words (stem, step). Give each child a black dot. Say a word that begins or ends with a letter (e.g., the letter “g”). If they hear the /g/ in the beginning of the word, they put their dot on one half of the ladybug. If they hear the /g/ at the end of the word, they put the dot on the other half of the ladybug. When each child has had a turn, they can remove the dots and listen for a sound in another word.

2) Mathematics: Between age two and three years children know that when one candy is taken away from two candies, one candy is left. Similarly, they know that when one candy is added to two candies, there should be three candies altogether. Roll a number cube with your child and have them match the number of spot on ladybug to the number of spots on the cube. This will help them build a foundation for 1:1 correspondance of numbers.


Let's Talk about the Grouchy Ladybug

Website full of resources and ideas to use with this book

Ideas for Using the Grouchy Ladybug in the Classroom

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Introducing Wonderopolis...the National Centre for Family Literacy's (NCFL) latest contribution to family literacy. Wonderopolis is a place where parents nurture a brighter world for their children through discovery, creativity, learning and imagination.

Wonderopolis is new website that offers families a Wonder of the Day. Each day. Every day. Educational success comes from a little learning every day. And now, NCFL helps bring learning into the home on a daily basis in bite-size bits that fit into everyday life.

Each Wonder of the Day sparks parents to ignite their child’s curiosity and love of learning.
• Have you ever wondered why flamingos are pink?
• Have you ever wondered what ice cream headaches are really all about?
• Have you ever wondered why bees buzz?

Visit to find out!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Old Lady is Indulging Again...

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson is a cumulative book that mirrors the story I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. This book differs in that it is centred around the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Remember to explain the rich vocabulary offered along with the rich foods in this story to your child.

Here is a video of a boy reading the story.

Here is a link to the words in the story so you can recite it without the book.

Enjoy the long weekend! Don't eat as much as the old lady!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Terrific Turkey Book

10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston isn't really a Thanksgiving book in itself, but I am featuring it this week because many families will sit down and enjoy a tasty turkey feast this weekend. This simple subtraction book counts down from 10 to 0 turkeys with funny rhyming text and playful illustrations.

Here is an example of a kit created to link math and literature which uses this book:

If you are looking for some additional activities to accompany this book, try these:

Do the turkey pokey - Sing the Hokey Pokey like normal, but then the last line goes as follows: "You do the Turkey Pokey and you gobble all around, that's what it's all about."

Handprint Turkey with Poem

Interesting Turkey Facts

Turkey Cut-Out Pattern - can be used with some of the rhymes below or to help retell the story. I would resize them to 1/2 the size of the paper.

Songs and Rhymes

One little, two little, three little turkeys
Four little, five little, six little turkeys
Seven little, eight little, nine little turkeys
Out in the barnyard.

Gobble, gobble, little turkeys
Gobble, gobble, little turkeys,
Gobble, gobble, little turkeys.
Out in the barnyard.
by Jean Warren

TURKEY, TURKEY (A Number & Color Rhyme)
Turkey, turkey number one
Strutting under the yellow sun.

Turkey, turkey number two
Strutting under skies of blue.

Turkey, turkey number three
Strutting under a big green tree.

Turkey, turkey number four
Strutting past the red barn door.
by Jean Warren

Mr. Turkey's tail is big and wide. (spread hands)
He swings it when he walks. (swing hands)
His neck is long, his chin is red. (point)
He gobbles when he talks. (open and close hand like a mouth)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grateful for great books!

Lately, I spent some time reviewing my collection of Thanksgiving books. Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. Here's why:

- families get together
- there is no gift giving expectation
- fantastic fall weather
- delicious food

The book Thanks for Thanksgiving by Heather Patterson really captures the beauty of Thanksgiving, which is really just being mindful of all simple things that bring us pleasure at this wonderful time of year.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Thanks for the warm fall sun.

Thanks for the outdoor fun.

Thanks for the blue fall sky

and the sound of the birds' good-bye.

Thanks for the golden trees.

Thanks for the crunch of leaves.

Borrow it from your local public library and share it with your child today :)

Does anyone have any other great suggestions for Thanksgiving books?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

I Know an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly is a great song/poem for children. It is super silly with plenty of repetition for children to join in. All the talking that children do during songs helps prepare them develop their oral language skills, which in turn help them become amazing readers.

I made the resource below using a felt board story pattern I found on the Preschool Printables website. I modified it a bit though. Instead of making a felt board story, I turned it into more of a puppet. I photocopied the patterns onto thick cardstock and coloured them with markers. Then I coloured them in and laminated all the pieces. I changed the old lady by enlarging then cutting her roughly in half where her arms fall. I taped half of a milk bag to her upper half and lower half to make a stomach (it is a bit hard to see with the glare). Children can feed the old lady as they sing the song!

Thanks for this great idea, Peggy! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Something from Nothing

Recently, I have started a storytime at Indigo Books for children birth to six years old. Our first story together was Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman.

For those of you who arent' familiar with the's the retelling of a Jewish folktale. A boy recieves a blanket from his grandfather when he is born. Eventually, it starts to wear so grandpa fixes it by making it into a jacket. When the jacket gets worn it becomes a vest, then a tie, then a handkerchief, and finally a button. One day Joseph loses his button. He is so sad. Even his amazing grandfather can't make something from nothing. The next day Joseph goes to school and writes a story (presumably about his blanket and its many transformations).

It is a truly a beautiful story with plenty of repetition for youngsters to join in. To make my storytime interesting, I tried to provide many opportunities for children to interact with the book. I brought a measuring tape for them to touch (just like the one on the grandfather's neck on the cover of the book and related the book to their lives by asking if they have something special like Joseph's blanket.

I used feltboard pieces to help tell the story and encourage children to fill in the blanks, "There's just enough material here to make...a wonderful jacket".

After the story, I made a connection to the book Owen by Kevin Henkes, but we did not have time to read it. This book is somewhat similar because both have a blanket that carry a lot of sentiment. It differs in that Owen is not allowed to bring his blanet to school because he is too old. The resolution is that they make a handkerchief for him to keep in his pocket.

Before leaving, I pulled out a bunch of items I am recycling (a tin can, mesh from oranges, a piece of cardboard) and asked the children if they could make "something from nothing". There were some very creative ideas! The CCCF handout Creating Toys and Activities for Children from Beautiful Junk was given to parents to give suggestions that can be used at home.

Here is a suggestion on how you can use this story in big book format to teach.