Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teaching Short a words & Free Short a Mini Books

It is such a fun experience teaching my daughter, A, to read. She gets excited reading simple words and laughs so much for silly pictures that go along with them. In our family, when we teach our kids to read, we do it a little differently.

Most people teach children to sound out each sound and then blend them all together like, for the word,


/p/, /a/, /t/ = pat

The child sounds out three sounds and then says them faster and then all together to form a word.

My mother has taught all her grandchildren to say the first two letters together, so,


/pa/ /t/ = pat

The child sounds out the pa and then the ending /t/ sound. She has found that they learn to read faster because of this. She learned this way of teaching children to read from how they teach children to read in Spanish. They teach them to read the words by syllables. When children try to pronounce each letter sound individually, they tend to say the beginning sound with an "uh" sound like "puh" instead of only the "p" sound alone. So they end up saying /pu/ /a/ /t/ instead of /p/ /a/ /t/. We avoid this by combining the vowel with the beginning sound like /pa/.

We practice short "a" syllables to get fluency. So we have a list of short "a" combinations like ca, fa, da, la, ta, ga, ma, na, etc. After they can quickly say all of these with the short "a" sound, then we add the ending consonants like taking the ca and adding t to make cat.

This makes the sounds blend because you can elongate a vowel easily. So they can say "caaaaa t" and it still sounds like cat.

I have enjoyed teaching my daughter in this way and I think she has caught on faster than if she had to sound out each little sound in a word.

I have been looking for books online and plan to buy BOB books. I have not bought any of these easy readers yet, but my mom created some simple ones that A actually gets a big kick out of. I will post them here. You can fold them in fourths like a greeting card and it becomes a mini-book. Enjoy!

Dad Sat

Sal Sat

I just made up a cute mini book for short i and o for my daughter today. I will post those another day.

If you download these, please leave us a comment. If we get some response, we can post more.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Morning Devotional

Something I started doing while my children were attending school in France was during breakfast we had morning devotional. I was missing the precious time I had to teach my children and I wanted to use each moment we had together. In France I used that time to work on teaching my children the primary songs in French to help them acclimate and feel at home during primary. In the process of doing this I discovered how fun it is to teach the primary songs and how gospel filled they are. For my primary song devotionals I prepare picture versions of each song. I print these out twice. Then we will spend a week on each verse of the song. Here's an example of one weeks devotionals with the example following in italics for the primary song for March: My Eternal Family.

DAY 1: I usually find a story or scripture to help illustrate the gospel theme of the song to introduce the song and sing the song with the pictures.

I took a picture of our family and various other tools (including a flashlight) and showed it to our children and talked a little about each member of the family. Then I chose one child to leave the room and hid the picture and turned off the lights. Inviting the child back in I asked them to find the picture of our family. Tell the child there are people to help him and giving the flashlight to another child have them shine the way to the picture. Explain that just like we needed to use a tool (the flashlight) to find our family there are many other tools we can use to help us build our family. Tell them to listen to the song and see if they can figure out other tools we use to build our family.

DAY 2: We go through each line of the song as I explain vocabulary/concepts/pictures

The vocabulary and concepts are fairly basic in this song so on this day I set out all the pictures on the table along with other 'real' tools (ruler, hammer, screwdiver, level etc..) As we sang through the song the children took turns choosing a tool to represent a part of the song and attached a picture.

DAY 3: We play various games with the songs/pictures

Games: using the two of each picture play memory. When someone finds a match they have to sing the matching line of the song as well.

Set out all the pictures and then have once child close their eyes and another child remove one or two pictures. Then the other child has to figure out what was removed.

Set out the pictures face down in a stack. Flip the top pictures over and whoever remembers that line of the song first raises their hand, sings it and wins that picture.

DAY 4: Either play more games for learning the song or plan another activity to help teach understanding of the song.
Attach each picture to a lego or other building block, also attach each family members name to a block. Build a pyramid or tower together and talk about how each family member is important to the building.

DAY5: We have a recital where every person takes a turn singing the song

I will often do our Family Home Evening on the same theme because there are so many fun ideas and activities to reinforce the lessons in the songs.

For this FHE we read several scriptures about building families and discussed them and then built a family pyramid. To make it even more fun we used the camera timer and tried to catch a photo.

At the end of the week I print out the picture-song with words onto one landscape sheet of paper(see example at beginning of post) and put it into my children's primary picture song book and they like to look at it during Sacrament meeting.

I enjoy putting together my own picture-songs but if you would like to implement something similar without much work there are flip-charts and teaching ideas galore for primary songs at

New Spanish Teaching Blog!

We have decided to make a new blog dedicated to Spanish Teaching. We want it to be easier for you to find general topics of homeschooling here on this blog.

We will continue to update this blog with homeschooling ideas. We plan on sharing ideas for teaching your children to read, doing history theme study units and more. Please check back soon for a give-away.

Please visit our new blog about Spanish Teaching at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Letter Games

It has been a long time since we last posted. First of all, I had a wonderful Christmas vacation and was able to see all of my siblings. I always learn so much from them and their parenting. They give me great ideas of things I should try with my kids.

My sisters who are also contributors to this blog are pros at homeschooling and I wish they could post more in this blog, but they are busy homeschooling their kids. So you are stuck with suggestions from me :)

What do we do with these flash cards and pictures to learn letter sounds? Do we just drill our kids with the flash cards? Not at all!

We play "letter games." My 2 year old, T, loves it so much that she asks me to do letter games every day. My mom has a talent with making up fun games that children love. I will share some games that she has shown me and some other games I use. I hope they are not confusing. If you don't understand them, just comment and ask me to explain better.

*Silly Commands- Lay out 4 cards (with pictures showing or just letters showing, depending on how well they know the letter sounds). Tell them to do silly things with one card. For example, Can you find a monkey toy in your room and put it on the /m/ card? Can you give the /i/ a kiss? Can you sit on /t/? Can you jump on /l/? Kids love this one the sillier you make the commands.

*Run & Get It- Have your child place 4 letter cards at the end of a hallway and you sit on the opposite side of the long hallway. After your child placed the cards at the end of the hallway, she comes back to you. You whisper to your child, "run and get me the /p/" She runs all the way down the hall, picks up the /p/ card and brings it back to you. You have to cheer and shout and tell her to run as fast as you can. My kids always want to play this game.

*Fill up the envelope- This is a great one for them to understand that there are both lower case and capital letters. Get two envelopes (or make simple envelopes) and write both lower and upper case letters on each one (like P and p on one envelope and J and j on the other envelope). Tape each envelope to a different chair (preferably across the room.) Cut out smaller pieces of papers with lots of P, p, J and j's. Put these smaller papers in a small bag or box. Have your child draw a letter out of the bag or box and run and place it in the right envelope. Make sure to say the letter sound many times or ask them what sound that letter makes.

*Musical Letter Sounds- Place 6-8 letter cards in a circle. Put on some music and walk around while stepping on the letter cards. When the music stops, each person has to make the sound the letter they are standing on makes.

Let me know if you use these games and how it goes! Maybe I will post some more!