The Science Behind Reading- Part 1 {Word Recognition}

WOW! I feel like I haven't blogged in a really long time! I have been VERY busy trying to produce pals! I am glad that I decided to take a day to get back to the core of teaching!

Several weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a training offered by the state of Tennessee. The leaders of the early literacy group were phenomenal, and I learned so much about the the skills needed in order to become a strong and skilled reader. This information was great for me (since I am teaching a majority of my kiddos these skills), but it is also great for those looking for what skills to focus on during reading intervention.

I want to begin by showing an illustration of what skills are needed in order to become a skilled reader.

In order to become a skilled reader, a student needs all of these parts of the rope. If any one part of the rope is missing, the rope becomes weaker. Our leader explained the seriousness of having each skill like a multiplication problem. Let's take a look at the word recognition part of the rope:

Let's pretend we are using a rubric of 3 for each one of the skills in word recognition. A 3 means you have mastered the skill, a 0 means you have no mastery of the skill. Let's look at what you would score if you had reached mastery in all 3 skill areas:


(You received a 3 in phonological awareness, a 3 in decoding, and a 3 in sight recognition)
A 27 is a perfect score. Now let's see what would happen if you had a problem recognizing sight words. So, instead of a 3, you scored a 1.


Whoa! So, the fact that you could not recall sight words diminished your over all word recognition score from a 27 to a 9! I can NOT stress the importance of having each of these skills when learning to read.

In this post, we are going to be solely focusing on WORD RECOGNITION.

First. lets take a look at each of the parts of the word recognition portion of the reading rope.

  1. Phonological awareness- Can the students HEAR the sounds in a word? Can your students hear rhyme, syllables, and phonemes? This is the important step that needs to be taken before decoding can be effectively taught.
  2. Decoding- Do the students understand that there is a relationship between the written word and the spoken word? Do they understand that each letter corresponds to a specific sound? We spend A LOT of time on this in kindergarten!
  3. Sight recognition- Can the students recall sight words quickly or do they try to sound out all their words? If you want a game that helps students work on sight word recognition, take a look at this fun way to work on quick recall here.
As you can see in the picture above, these pieces of the rope are braided. They are braided because you need EACH part in order to build firm word recognition skills. If you only have 2 pieces of the rope, can the rope be braided?

Knowing all of these parts of the word recognition rope, I now have a plan of how I am going to teach reading come the fall. Last year, many of my kiddos struggled with hearing all the sounds in a word. I would often see students' written work where they skipped over entire syllables. I have decided that this year, I am going to spend the first SEVERAL weeks just working on phonological awareness. That means I am going to teach letter sounds without teaching them the letter that goes with that letter sound. I really want to focus on having them HEAR the sounds and breaking words down into parts. I think spending more time on breaking words down in the front end will help them to be able to put words together with greater success and ease! How am I going to do this? That is the exciting part!

At the training, our presenters talked about a phonics program called Zoo Phonics. Our county already has a phonics program, but I thought that I might supplement it with Zoo Phonics. In this program, students first learn that there are sounds in words. Each sound, or phoneme, is represented by an animal (remember, no relationship between letters and sounds has been made at this point). I will teach them all the animals and sounds in the first 2 full weeks of school. Once the students have learned each sound, they can start building words with the phonemes that they know. I am planning on using beanie babies to have students build words.

Let's start with CVC words.

I will always use these 3 colors to signify beginning, middle, and end. We will begin by "stretching the word," and then I will let them use the beanie babies to create words. This example shows how the students spelled the word "cap."

This next picture shows onset and rime. It shows students how there is a beginning sound and an ending sound. This is how we begin to show our students the importance of word families.

I think it is great that students can begin to see the relationships between words! When the students start learning about word families, they will begin to see the relationships between those words! They will probably shout out that the ending 2 phonemes are the same!

I love how to teach the silent "e" at the end.

Excuse the lack of an elephant! :) I have not found an elephant beanie baby yet. Also, when a vowel uses the long sound (as in cape) I will put a little hard hat on the animal (probably from a construction stuffed animal) because it has to work twice as hard to say 2 sounds.

As the students show mastery of word building, we can begin to trade out the beanie babies for letters with the animal transposed on top of it.

I believe that this method can help students to learn to listen for each sound in a word. I am excited about using this method to teach reading, and this method helps there to be a seamless transition between phonemic awareness and decoding. When looking at the reading rope graphic, I see how the rope begins at the top with phonemic awareness, then decoding, then sight word recognition. Each skill requires the other skills in order to be skilled in word recognition. It is of vital importance to build each part of the rope. I realized that I spent a lot of time on decoding and sight word recognition, and I spent very little time on phonological awareness. I can't wait to use some of these strategies to help integrate more phonological based lessons in my classroom.

We will continue next week with the Language Comprehension part of the reading rope!

Do you have any word recognition strategies/lessons that you use in your classroom? Let me know!

500 IG and Facebook Followers

I am SUPER excited about having 500 Instagram and Facebook followers!! I am going to have a HUGE celebration on my blog, Facebook page, and Instagram page! Make sure to follow me all three ways in order to know about ALL the great giveaways and freebies!

If you would like to donate an item for my giveaway, go ahead and fill out the google form below! I would definitely appreciate any help! 

Thanks, and I hope you are as excited as I am!

One Lovely Blog Award

I honestly cannot believe that I was nominated for the "One Lovely Blog Award." Thank you so much to Chevron and Centers for nominating my blog for this award! Please go and checkout her blog to see some absolutely FABULOUS centers! Her packets make my life as a kindergarten teacher far less stressful!

The blogging community has been phenomenal! I have learned so much from some fantastic teacher bloggers. I also appreciate the enthusiasm that this community has given me in regards to my pals/doodles! I wish I would have started this venture so much sooner! It is always a great experience to learn from teachers outside of your district and outside of your state. Thank you!

Now, here are ten things about me:
1. I was a ballerina for 10 years! I was very serious about dancing!
2. I have type 1 diabetes. I will probably make some special clip art when it is National Diabetes Month!
3. Before I became a teacher, I was working on becoming a Registered Dietitian. When I was completing my Nutrition in Schools class my senior year, I realized that I liked the teaching part of school nutrition more than I liked the science and research portion.
4. I was the Editor-in-Chief of my high school newspaper.
5. I am obsessed with the show, "Boy Meets World."
6.  My husband and I will be celebrating our 4 year wedding anniversary this August!
7. I played Clara in "The Nutcracker" when I was in 6th grade.
8. I took Chorus my entire time in high school, but I am still an awful singer!
9. I helped found a Christian Sorority on my college campus (Sigma Phi Lambda at the University of Tennessee)!
10. I have an unhealthy obsession with Yankee Candle! I only buy two different candles. I buy Pumpkin Spice during the fall and Christmas, and I buy Lilac Blossoms the rest of the year. I buy 4 LARGE candles every two months! I burn candles ALL the time.

Now, I will nominate some other bloggers that inspire me! Please check out their blogs because they are incredible teachers and bloggers!

Kimberly at Love of Teaching 
Laura at Luv My Kinders

Teacher/Pal Calendar Winners!!

Hey guys! I am happy to announce that the following teachers were randomly drawn to be in the 1st Teacher/Pal Calendar! Congratulations to all of you!

August 2015
Amy Lawrence 
from 180 Days of Reading

September 2015
Michelle Hykin
from Teaching Eternity

October 2015
Erin Beers
from Mrs. Beer's Language Arts Class

November 2015 
Wendy McCarty
from 1st Grade Fireworks

December 2015
  Jennifer Hermosillo
from Livin' the Third Grade Dream

Livin’ the Third Grade Dream

January 2016
Charlotte Hollinger
from Charlotte's Web the Blog

Charlottes Web The Blog

 February 2016
Chandra Dills
from Teaching with Crayons and Curls

Teaching with Crayons and Curls

March 2016
Jen Bonner
from Sparkling in Second
Sparkling in Second

 April 2016
Lisa Caughlin
from All Things Special Ed

All Things Special Ed

 May 2016
Stephanie Chambers
from The Learning Chambers
The Learning Chambers

 June 2016
Laura Duinkerken
from I Luv My Kinders
 July 2016
Stephanie Mathy
a 1st Grade Teacher

Congratulations to all of our winners! I will be contacting you in the next week to get your information for the calendar! Thank you so much to everyone who entered! I am SO excited about sharing the talent of other educators while giving y'all a calendar that you can use for the entire year! Please visit some of these blogs to learn more about some of our contest winners!

The release date for this calendar will be:

Thanks for y'all's support! We couldn't do all of these wonderful things without you!

Tips To a Kindergarten Teacher, From a Kindergarten Teacher

I am super excited about this blog post! For those of you who teach kindergarten, you know that is the most tired you will ever be, but it will be the most excited you will ever be. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. I LOVE kindergarten, and their pure joy and excitement for learning is what fuels me to become a better teacher. My job and kiddos rock!

HA! I love this quote! Sometimes it does feel this way!

I decided to link up with Sharing Kindergarten for this post about what tips I would share with other kindergarten teachers about kindergarten. Now, I don't have as much experience as most, but these are the tips that I thought were important to know when teaching kindergarten!

So, here are my tips for kindergarten teachers:

I think it is important to let students know that making a mistake will not be the end of the world. One of the very first things I talk about with my kinders on the first day is our behavior management system. We use the clip chart (they start on green, they can move down to yellow, orange, or red or they can move up to blue or yellow). I let them know that if they are on yellow, that it is not the end of the world. We ALL make mistakes (even Mrs. Ingram...I know...shocking), and it is what we learn from our mistakes that tells me what kind of student you are! If you make a mistake, and then you try to fix it, I will move your clip up. That tells me that you realized you made a mistake, and you are going to try your best not to do it again! I also try to pull a student who has been on yellow (or below) aside and explain to them that tomorrow is a brand new day, and that they are starting fresh! Tomorrow will always be a better day!

This also goes transcends into making mistakes academically. Many of my kiddos get nervous about learning new things (ESPECIALLY writing), and they hit a road block because they are afraid of not  doing something right. I try to make it a point to tell them that they are not going to be perfect readers and writers right away. Those things take time to learn! Just do your very best, and Mrs. Ingram will be so proud! I found that after I explained that concept to my kiddos, they were more creative and free in their writing. Did they make mistakes? Um, duh, of course! But they found joy in writing and reading, and I feel like one of the big things to teach kindergarteners is to love learning! Giving them a safe environment where they know that it is okay to make mistakes will open them up to being more creative!

Okay! These kiddos are five and six! It is okay for us to be silly together! In fact, it keeps us all sane if we have the freedom to be silly every once in a while. Tell a joke (they LOVE telling and hearing jokes), do a cartwheel in class, read books in a funny voice, sing their names like you are in an opera (better yet, have them sing with an opera is hysterical). I know it seems counter-intuitive, but if you have some silly time, they will be better focused during the day. I believe that being silly is therapeutic for them, and it helps to keep anxiety at bay. I also find that it is during those silly moments that you will bond with your kiddos! Silliness is REQUIRED in kindergarten, so have fun with it!

This is a biggie for our kinders because it is going to be much harder to ingrain this in the way they interact with one another if you do not begin this from the very beginning of kindergarten! I always explain to my kiddos at the beginning of the year that we are a family. A family loves and supports one another. We clap and cheer when someone does something well. We cheer people up when they are sad. We play with people when they are lonely. This is not easy to teach these little guys because they live in an egocentric world. One of the things I enjoy watching the most is how they learn to cheer for other people when they are successful. By the end of the year, I hear kids clapping for one another, I see kids telling each other "good job" and "you did awesome," when at the beginning of the year I would get pouts from kiddos when they didn't win. It is of VITAL importance to explicitly teach children what love and support looks like through modeling and pointing out supportive behavior! This is probably what I focus on the most during the year!

I was SO happy to see a few other people mention this as a great tip for kinder teachers, too! This is the MOST important thing we can do for our kiddos and their families! God has given us a gift and an ability to teach these little guys, and we have to remember who the glory goes back to. I find that I often use this as a last ditch effort when I don't know what to do, when this should be the very first thing I do. It is important to continue to pray for our kids to find peace during the school day. Pray that their parents will be everything they need them to be. I pray that God will have me be exactly what these kiddos NEED for me to be, and I pray that I can remain a light for the Kingdom of God in the classroom! We serve a Big God, and he always has a way of putting things in perfect perspective!

Now, head on over to Sharing Kindergarten to read tips from other kindergarten teachers!

Sharing Kindergarten

A cool opportunity... (I'm hoping!)

Hey guys,
I hope a majority of you are enjoying your summers! For those of you who are still anxiously anticipating your summer, I am sending good vibes your way! You are almost there!

So, I have been absolutely thrilled with the turnout of my pals, and I could have NEVER done it without y'all's love and support! I LOVE to draw and teach, so I am so happy that I have gotten the opportunity to pursue both. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! You guys absolutely rock my socks off!

That being said, I wanted to make two announcements in this post!

1.) In a few weeks, I am going to introduce my new clip art package! Drum roll please...


My vision for this clip art set is to have this set be a base package with lots of hair options and outfit options. Then, during major events or holidays (e.g. Christmas, Spring, Thanksgiving, etc.) I will introduce new outfit options and accessories. That way, you can change your pal up whenever you feel like it! I know I often try on a few outfits before I choose one, now your pal can too! Also, do you cut your hair? Um...yes! So now your pal can too! Do you color your hair ( ;) )? Well, now your pal can "not" color his/her hair too! I am SUPER excited about the create a pal package and all the opportunities you all can have to be creative with your pals!

2.) In order to say thank you, and to bring attention to everyone's great work, I wanted to create a calendar (that you can use to keep up with school events and stuff) that showcases a different teacher each month with his/her pal!

I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have other educators featured on this calendar. This was just an example of what the calendar would look like. I will put the calendar on TPT, so that others can learn more about other teachers! If this is something you would be interested in, go ahead and enter in the rafflecopter! I will choose 12 teachers to be featured in this calendar! You need a pal in order to participate (if you have one in the works, that is cool)!

I am SUPER pumped about both of these announcements! Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below! I really value y'all's opinions, and it is always good to get feedback. Thanks, y'all!