“Reggie the Rhyming Raccoon is my name.
Learning to rhyme is my game!
When words rhyme, they have the same ending sound–
You can hear this in the words ground and found.
I’ll teach you to hear and find the rhyme.
With my help, you’ll rhyme on your own in no time!”
Making learning fun brings me great joy. Some of my best teaching memories are when I saw things finally “click” for struggling students. Knowing how hard they work to sometimes make even the simplest connections makes these little successes even better!
Working with students with special needs has been such a rewarding vocation and I am so lucky to have helped so many wonderful students. I also have a special place in my heart for children who are sick or injured and need to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time.
When my oldest son Alec was in kindergarten, he had a complication during his recovery from a tonsillectomy. He was rushed to the hospital in ambulance and spent two days in the hospital recovering because he had lost so much blood. It was a very scary time for us but we were very fortunate that he fully recovered so quickly. Other children, however, need to spend weeks, even months in the hospital. As a mother, my heart broke for those children and families. Our brief stint in the hospital was difficult, but I couldn’t even imagine the challenges and heartache others went through. I knew I wanted to help, but at the time I wasn’t quite sure how.
Recently it dawned on me that I could help make learning fun for the children who attend the hospital school by donating several sets of our Hoo is Ready for School? flash cards. Early learning is critical to future academic success and I knew that our flash cards could help young students learn the alphabet and important phonemic awareness skills even while in the hospital. Parents and teachers could use our materials to provide essential practice in an engaging game-like format.
It was our sincere pleasure to donate several sets of flash cards to two local hospitals; Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Cardon Children’s Medical Center. Thank you to Christine Birnbaum (pictured with us above), Child Life Specialist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, for taking time out of her busy day to tell us about the wonderful programs and services available to children there. We are thrilled that we are able to give back to our community and spark the joy of learning in children who especially need a little happiness and fun in their lives.
“There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.”
–Harry S Truman
After being approached to teach the Spalding Method, I felt trepidation. While very impressed with the program’s research and philosophy, I was worried that my second-grade students would quickly become disengaged with the program’s repetition. I knew that I would need to spark enthusiasm and engagement or my instruction would be mediocre at best. Here are my “magic” tips for creating a successful, engaging phonics instruction block:
- Create a consistent schedule. Right after announcements and calendar, we complete oral and written phonogram review, followed by spelling dictation. I selected this time because students are focused in the morning and it allows tardy students to make it to class without missing valuable instruction. Plus, it is a protected instructional time (i.e., no assemblies planned during this time). Since the schedule is consistent and predictable, students know what to expect and they become comfortable and secure with the consistency.
- Develop an instructional routine. Our Spalding phonics block involves 4 components: oral phonogram review, written phonogram review, guided spelling practice (see below) and spelling dictation (into spelling notebooks). Establishing these procedures and practicing daily reinforces learned skills and promotes mastery. This repetition is critical for all learners, especially those with learning disabilities. Plus all students thrive on a consistent routine.
- Design practice forms and make copies for the year. Each phonics program requires some type of pencil/paper practice. Design (or modify) these forms and copy them for the entire year. This saves hours of planning and prep time; using the same form is also beneficial for students.
- Give phonics instruction a special name. Phonics instruction is a valuable time, why not give it a specific meaningful name? Word Wizards is the name of our phonics block; I selected this name because students have a book of “spells” (a spelling notebook) and they learn specific rules to help them become spelling wizards. It’s much more relevant and engaging than using the name of the program.
- Use props. A wizard wears a pointy hat and carries a magical wand so it’s only appropriate to include these during instruction. I purchased both props at Party City and glued foam phonograms on both. I wear the hat during instruction time (I find it keeps kids focused on me) and I use the wand as a pointer to point to specific words, phonograms or rules.
6. Include active engagement. Every student loves white board practice, so why not customize for phonics instruction? Our class uses Sally Sounding Out Snake to help segment and blend one syllable words and Charlie Chunking Chipmunk to break apart multi-syllabic words. Create these double-sided boards and laminate them for daily practice. Read each animal’s accompanying poem to teach/review strategy and then use as a guided practice tool, just like a white board.
7. Provide positive reinforcement. Be sure to provide plenty of praise and call students up to share their work. I select one Word Wizard each day; this is a student who demonstrated “magical” active participation, listening skills, attention to handwriting focus or other desired behaviors. The Word Wizard is selected at the end of the phonics block and given a special Word Wizard award. I reiterate reason(s) why the student was selected and show his/her work when appropriate. While it might seem like simple reward to us, students view it as a major accomplishment and cherish these colorful awards
8.Have fun! No matter how you plan your phonics instruction, be sure to have fun! Students need consistent daily instruction with opportunities for kinesthetic practice. Include these tips and you will soon see the magic!
Do you have preschoolers getting reading for kindergarten? Did you know that children not only need to know how to name their letters, but also name the sounds, blend sounds together to form words, segment the individual sounds in words, and rhyme words together in kindergarten? Our “Hoo is Ready for School?’ flashcards will prepare your child for school and reading success! Our research-based, teacher created, flashcards are currently on sale for $5.99 on our website.