Learning to Talk and Learning to Read – Part 2

Learning to read is a process that involves both visual and auditory input.  Children must learn to match symbols to sounds and then connect those symbols to make words.  Some children have difficulty remembering the symbols if too many are taught at once.  Reading can be made easier by teaching only a few sound-symbols at a time and then using them to practice decoding simple words.  Students should practice reading short stories using the same words they are learning to decode.


Learning to Talk & Learning to Read – Part 1

Some educators in the past have postulated that learning to read happens easily and naturally and is just like learning to talk. But is this theory true?  If so, why is virtually everyone who can hear able to speak, but not everyone can read easily and with little effort?  Why is reading so difficult for many children?

Children learn to talk by listening to speech. The process of learning to read is actually quite different than the process of learning to talk. Reading involves visually matching written symbols to speech sounds and then learning to decode those symbols. This is the first of two charts that show you the steps involved in each process.  Part 2 will be posted next week.



Teaching Children to Share

CheetahsRecently I watched some younger parents teaching their young children to share their toys and cooperate in activities.  Threes and fours sometimes find it a little bit difficult to share because they now know the difference between what is “mine” and what is “yours.”  They even may be a little concerned that sharing something means losing it.

It is easier to share when there are two of something and you can have one and I can have one. It is a little harder when we have to share one of something. Most of us can remember having to divide a cookie or other treat and wanting to be sure the dividing was fair so our sibling wouldn’t get the bigger piece.

Sharing does not mean that one child always gives up something for the other child. It means that both children get something in turn. “First, you can play with this; then I can play with it.  Next time, I can play with it first, and then you can have it after me.”

My sister and I used to “play house” when we were little and she was always the mom (she was older so she made the rules) and I had to be the dad.  Eventually I wanted to be the mom, but she did not want to be the dad.  So we both pretended to be moms and the dads were gone to work.  We both got what we wanted. Win—win.

The children I was observing needed a little pep talk because there was only one toy that they both wanted to play with.  It was a simple puzzle and might have been constructed together except that one child had not had much practice with putting puzzles together.  They were encouraged to share by letting one child put the puzzle together, then take it apart, and let the other child take a turn putting it together. Eventually one child helped the other child begin to learn how to match up and connect the pieces. Win—win.

Why is it important to teach children to share?  What difference does it make if they learn to share or not?

Not only does learning to share benefit young children immediately by building happy and cooperative relationships with their peers, it will also benefit them for the rest of their lives. In order to share, you have to put the other person first at least half of the time.  You have to understand that their desire to have or play with something you want is very much like yours.

Friends holding hands

A child who does not learn to share becomes selfish and will not make a good mate in the future.  The negotiating and communication skills that children learn from their parents and the give and take that enables them to share their toys as children, will help them listen to and strive to understand another person as an adult.

Sharing is a very important skill to teach our children when we look at the long term benefit. Learning to negotiate and share during play helps children overcome their initial self-centered thinking, so that their relationships as adults can have the goal of “I win and you win,” rather than “I win and you lose.”  Teach your children to share. It’s a win—win.

Beginning to Write – Journal Prompts

This is the fourth and last blog in this series about beginning writing and as the weather changes, we are beginning to think about spring and summer activities. I have discussed how providing pictures for younger students can help them think about topics to write about.

A series of pictures can help young writers expand on their topic and think about the time order in which things occur.  You can find free clip art on websites such as  or in old magazines. Print or clip the pictures and paste them onto lined paper for your students.  Ask them to write about what happens first, next, and last.


Here are some additional writing prompts you can give your students:

What I like about spring is…

The earliest thing in my life that I remember is…

The most fun thing I do with my family is…

My favorite things to do alone are…

What I like best about my family is…

The thing that I like most about summer is…

When I take a walk in my neighborhood I see…

The thing I like best to learn about is…

I feel very thankful for…

I really like my favorite teacher because…

I have fun with my friend because…


Beginning to Write – Using Pictures to Tell a Story

SnipBlog94aIn previous blogs we have discussed how pictures can help children to write or journal when they are having trouble thinking of something to write about. Last week I gave you a writing prompt for first graders.  This week (again, using pictures to help jumpstart their thinking,) I am providing a different kind of writing prompt for students.

This one page story prompt is for students who are in second or third grade—depending on the child’s reading and writing ability.

You can print the story prompt here.


Beginning to Write – Observe, Think, and Describe

SnipBlog93aChildren often find it difficult to think of something to write about when asked to journal.  Using a picture can help younger children think about what to write. It may encourage them to write more or longer sentences than they would write without the visual cue.

Find a cute and simple picture (use free clip art from the web or pictures from magazines) and paste it on a page.  Add some lines below the picture to write on. Ask students to write a sentence or two about the picture. You can easily make many more of these on your own.

Here is an easy writing prompt for your first graders to get you started.

Look at the picture and answer these questions:

  • What is it?
  • What does it look like?
  • What is it doing?
  • Where is it?
  • When is this happening?

You can print this page here.


Winter Art and Descriptive Writing


Here’s a great way to inspire your kids to write—connect a creative art project to a descriptive writing assignment! Students will enjoy creating a work of art and then writing a little bit about it. 

Make the picture first. For the picture, start with an 8 x 10 piece of cardstock.  Use color pencils to wash the paper in shades of blue and green or even purple and pink.  Then take a piece of plain white paper and use scissors to cut out some tree branches.  Children can try to cut a tree shape in a single piece—or they can cut lots of long and short pieces.  

Next, use a glue stick to glue the pieces onto your colored paper to make a tree and its branches.  Imperfect shapes will work best, just as tree branches are not uniformly shaped. If you want mounds of snow, cut mounded shapes out of your white paper and add them to the picture.

This is a project that kids of all ages can do.  You will need to do the paper cutting for 3-4 year-olds, but they can learn to use a glue stick at this age with some help.  Most children at this age will not be able to write yet, so the younger set may only be creating the picture. Some might be able to copy the letter “S” onto their paper.

Next is the writing assignment. Some preschoolers with good small motor skills might be able to copy the word “SNOW” to label their picture.  5-6 year-olds may be able to write a sentence or two if they are beginning to read and write, and you can help them by writing out the sentence they dictate and then letting them copy the words onto their own paper. Older students may write an entire paragraph or more without help.

A few weeks ago I wrote about learning to describe what you hear, see, smell, taste, or touch—and writing about each of the senses in a separate assignment. That exercise will help your students learn how to describe things in writing. You can print out the graphic organizer from the blog that follows that one here:  Helping Students Think About Descriptive Writing.

Time to do a fun winter art project and write about it!


Teaching Children and Working Together

SnipBlog91Do you have a child that wants to be beside you at all times?  It can be a little crazy-making, but this is a child who really needs some extra attention.  Instead of telling him to go play and leave you alone so you can get things done—why not show him how to help you with the household chores?  Now your child is being included and is getting the attention that he craves, and you are getting your work done.

It may seem like it takes longer to teach your child how to help do chores, but it is an investment in two different ways.  Your child is being emotionally cared for and included now—and he is learning how to do things.  Learning life skills pays off in the future. You might actually get more done by including your child than by spending a lot of time trying to get him involved in a solitary activity before you do the chores.

Being with you and involved in what you do gives your child an emotional boost that will actually help him feel included and needed right now, and to be more independent in the future.  It also gives him the opportunity to learn how to do things that contribute to the family.

Some things young children can help you with are:  loading laundry into the washing machine, folding clean dish towels, matching up socks, mopping the kitchen floor, hand washing plastic food storage containers, feeding a pet, vacuuming part of a room, dusting the coffee table, etc.

One of my favorite 3-year-old youngsters likes to wash his hands and then help me unload the dishwasher—and I do have to be right there to quickly receive the dishes as he pulls them out of the dishwasher.  He also wants to stand on a chair and help clean up the countertop with a dishrag. He is just so happy to be allowed to help!

Including your children in your daily activities is worth all the time it takes, because years later,  your older child just may start clearing off the table after dinner and loading the dishes for you every day without ever being asked, while you relax. That is such a great reward for your early teaching!

How Important is it for Children to Have Time for Independent Play?

SnipBlog 90How many of us, as children, had hours of time to make things out of wood, toss a ball in the air and catch it over and over, pretend all sorts of adventures, climb trees, pick food out of a garden and eat it on the spot, or ride a little red wagon down what we thought was a really steep hill in the backyard? We learned to plan, to create, to enjoy small moments, what we were capable of doing, and what our limits were.  How many of our own children have lots of unstructured time to get to do these sorts of things? 

Schools are increasing the amount of testing and homework they require and they are reducing or elimination opportunities in art, music, woodshop, and some schools have even eliminated recess.  Many people have expressed concerns about the lack of physical exercise for children. The lack of mental stimulation for children in the form of free time for play and creative activities is also of concern. 

Peter Gray, a psychologist and research professor at Boston College wrote about how important it is for children to have time to play in his article, The Play Deficit.  It is a lengthy article, but well worth the time it takes to read it–and you just might decide to make some changes that will benefit your kids.

Read the article here:

Five Ways to Help Children Do Their Chores and Homework

SnipBlog 89

1.  Make a list so your child can cross items off when they are done.

Some kids really can’t remember a list of things to do—and they aren’t trying to annoy you!   Make your life—and theirs—easier by writing down the things they need to accomplish.  If your child is too young to read the list, you can use pictures or only give them one thing to do at a time.  I had a job chart with pictures of jobs and the kids could instantly see what they were supposed to do.  Change the jobs around every so often so children get a chance to learn new things.

2.  Get down on your child’s level when speaking to him/her.

It is amazing how well kids respond and get things done when we have their full attention–and when they also have our full attention.

3.  Speak more quietly and always face-to-face.

Sometimes we think our kids will listen better if we speak louder, but that is usually just irritating to everyone, and produces children who learn to tune us out instead of listening and responding.

4.  Create a reward system for finishing things in a timely manner.

Examples of rewards:

  • A star on a job chart when a chore is finished.
  • A healthy snack.
  • A coupon system  (if your child is old enough to wait longer for things).  A pre-determined number of coupons for completed tasks can then be exchanged for a popcorn/movie night, books, or experiences such as going out for ice cream.  (It’s not ideal to buy toys as rewards.)

5.  Set a timer and race to get things done.

It is often more fun to see how fast you can get something done, than to just do it with no goal in mind.  We can harness a healthy competitiveness in our kids to accomplish a lot.  One important reminder for the kids—they still need to do the job right and not get sloppy in their haste.