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Listening [Building Blocks of Phonological Awareness]

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this series of posts. As early childhood educators,  teaching phonological awareness is so important! Children are stronger readers and spellers when they have a solid foundation of phonological awareness.

I'm kicking off this series on the Building Blocks of Phonological Awareness with Listening. Before we get into listening, let's talk about phonological awareness in general.  

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is the ability to think about, recognize, and manipulate the sounds in spoken language.  Phonological awareness activities work with rhymes, words, syllables, and onset rimes--all without the use of print.  The last stage of phonological awareness is actually phoneme awareness: blending, segmenting, and manipulating phonemes (sounds). Phonological awareness skills generally develop along a continuum ranging from simple to more complex.

Why is phonological awareness important?

Research suggests that phonemic awareness is the single best predictor of reading success. Because the skills develop along a continuum, we can't just start with phonemes! We must start at the beginning, ensuring children have a solid foundation in all phonological awareness skills. 

How do you teach phonological awareness? 

I've found the key to building phonological awareness skills in your little scholars and making them stick is to use kinesthetic motions and pictures--this way they are hearing, seeing, and moving! I    also gradually release responsibility with the "I do, we do, you do" model, giving my little scholars lots of opportunities to practice and receive feedback.

So, let's get on to listening.


When it comes to phonological awareness, listening is more than just hearing. Listening is being able to "tune-in" to sounds in the environment and sounds that are spoken. For example, a child with strong listening skills will be able to listen to a series of sounds and name them in the correct order. For example, the child might hear audio clips of a sheep, cow, and horse. The child with strong listening skills will be able to select pictures in the order she heard the sounds. She'd pick up the sheep first, cow next, and horse last. 

Listening Activities 


One of my favorite activities to develop listening skills is playing bingo! Children are each given a bingo game board with a variety of pictures on it. You can make the sound or play audio clips as your little scholars identify the animal or object that makes the sound. You can download the Farm Sounds Bingo pictured below for free in my Listening Activities printables. I've included audio clips that can be accessed by scanning the QR codes. If you are unable to scan the QR codes, you can always just make the animal sounds yourself.

Left Out

For this activity, place two or three animal pictures on the table. Make all but one of the animal noises and then ask, "Which animal did not make a sound?" Your little scholars should be able to identify the animal that was left out. I've included pictures of farm animals that can be used for this activity in my Listening Activities printables. Download it for free! 

Freeze Dance

Get those wiggles out and strengthen listening skills at the same time! Tell your little scholars that when the music is on they can dance, wiggle, and move but when the music is off they stop moving. Turn on some kid-friendly music and pause it intermittently as the song plays. This game is always a favorite in my classroom! 

1, 2, 3 Listen to Me

Give children 2 or 3 step directions and encourage them to follow them in order. Start with two step directions until your little scholars have the hang of it. You might say, "Clap your hands. Touch your head. Jump up and down." This is a great activity to do during transition times! 

Instruments in Order

Set children's musical instruments on the table. Ask your little scholars to close their eyes. Play 2 or 3 musical instruments one at a time. Ask them to open their eyes and play those instruments in the correct order. I have these musical instruments and they are a hit!

If you haven't already, be sure to download my FREE Listening Activities printables!
The next post in this series is about rhyme and alliteration. Until then, join our Facebook group for more ideas!

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Making Your Books Indestructible

As teachers we know how critical reading to children is for their literacy development, but did you know that more than half of low-income families do not have children's books in their homes? One way we can help bring books into children's homes is establishing a lending library in our classrooms.    High quality books can be expensive to replace so I wanted to share a way to make the books in your lending library virtually indestructible--tear proof and easy to clean!

What You'll Need:
[I've included Amazon links for your shopping ease. If you make a purchase using my link, Amazon credits me a very small percentage. But don't worry, it doesn't cost you any extra!] 
paperback books
staple remover
paper cutter
laminating pouches
binding machine and coils or binder rings and 3-hole punch


1. Disassemble the book by removing the staples on the spine.

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!

2. Cut the cover and pages in half. 

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!

3. Laminate the pages and trim the excess, but be sure to leave enough lamination on the left side for the binding. [I used to buy the Scotch laminating pouches until I discovered Amazon sells other brands for much cheaper. The quality is just as good and they are sometimes nearly half the price!] 

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!  

4. Punch holes using a book binding machine or 3-hole punch. I purchased this binding machine several years ago and use it quite frequently! It comes in handy for projects like this. If you don't have a binding machine, binder rings and a 3-hole punch will work just as well! 

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!

5. Cut off the excess coil. [Skip this step if you're using a 3-hole punch and binder rings.] 

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!

6. Bind the cover and pages. 

Make your books indestructible by using these simple steps!

You can send home high-quality books without worry this way! Your little scholars will love having a rotation of books to read with their families. 

For more ideas,  join us in the Teaching the Littlest Scholars Facebook group.

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Teaching the Joy of Gift Giving with Pretzel Presents and a Poem

Teaching children about the joy one feels when giving gifts is sometimes hard to do! One of my favorite ways of spreading holiday cheer is by making candy coated pretzels. These are easy to prepare and let your little scholars experience for themselves how good it feels to do something kind for someone else during the holiday season.

What You'll Need 
[I've included Amazon links for your shopping ease. If you make a purchase using my link, Amazon credits me a very small percentage. But don't worry, it doesn't cost you any extra!] 
pretzels (I like using both mini pretzels and pretzel rods) 
holiday sprinkles
baking sheet(s) 

1. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet or two depending on how many pretzels you are making. 
2. Melt your candy coating per the directions on the packaging. I melt the candy coating in a deep bowl because it is much easier to dip them that way! 
3. Dip the pretzels about 1/2 - 3/4 of the way into the candy coating and swirl off the excess candy coating. 
4. Place the candy coated pretzel on the parchment paper and cover it with sprinkles before the candy coating hardens. I like to use a variety of fun holiday sprinkles! 
5. After the baking sheet is full, place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to let the candy coating harden. 
6. Remove pretzels from freezer. 

Schools have different policies on having and preparing food in the classroom so your little scholars may be able to help with all the steps. I prefer to make the pretzels at home and bring them in a big covered tray to school. I create a list of every adult in the school and assign a different teacher or support staff (or two) to each little scholar in my class. They then get to choose the pretzels for the teacher or support staff they will be giving them to and we put them in the plastic treat bags. My little scholars also pick the ribbon we use to tie the bag and they color and sign their own poems. Once we've got everything assembled, we head out to deliver the treats! We walk through the hallways and my little scholars personally deliver the treats. The teachers and support staff are so gracious and give my little scholars the biggest hugs! When we get back to the classroom we discuss how it makes our hearts feel happy to do something nice for others. Some children may not have the opportunity to buy or make a gift for someone else, so this is an experience they will not forget!

You can download the poems [here]. I've included a Christmas poem and a winter themed poem so you can choose which suits your needs best!

The holidays this year have come and gone, so pin an image from this post so you'll know where to find this next holiday season!

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Math and Literacy Activities using Scraps of Wrapping Paper [Freebie]

Today I was wrapping presents and as much as I tried to measure the paper to fit the gift perfectly, I inevitably had to cut strips of the wrapping paper off to wrap them just right. I was cleaning up the table and this pile of wrapping paper strips was staring at me. I couldn't let this cute wrapping paper go to waste! So I thought of a few fun literacy and math activities using scrap pieces of wrapping paper you have lying around.

Fun literacy and math activities using scrap pieces of wrapping paper you have lying around. Easy and low-prep!

I wrote letters on these strips of wrapping paper to practice letter name and letter sound fluency. It's about that time of year for another round of DIBELS or AIMSweb assessments and this would make practice fun! I wrote letters on several strips of paper and put them in the cute Santa bag. During small group, my little scholars can pull out a strip and say the letter names or letter sounds as quickly as they can. 
Write letters on several strips of scrap wrapping paper and put them in a cute holiday bag. Students can pull out a strip and say the letter names or letter sounds as quickly as they can.

I wrote numbers on the scrap wrapping paper strips to practice number identification fluency. As a warm-up before small group math, my little scholars can choose a wrapping paper strip from the bag and identify the numbers as quickly as possible. 

Write numbers on scraps of wrapping paper. Students choose a strip of paper and identify the numbers as quickly as they can. Perfect for AIMSweb!

I also wanted to use the scrap of wrapping paper to make a center my little scholars could do independently. I wrote a series of letters on each small strip with a missing letter. My little scholars will say the letters, identify the letter that is missing, and record the series of letters on the recording sheet. I placed the strips in a stocking for a little novelty--I know they'll love it! 

Write a series of letters on scrap pieces of wrapping paper. Students say the letters, identify the letter that is missing, and record the series of letters on the recording sheet. I placed the strips in a stocking for a little novelty--I know they'll love it!

I did the same thing except using numbers for this next center idea. My little scholars will pull a wrapping paper strip out of the stocking, says the numbers, identify the number that is missing, and write the series of numbers on the recording sheet. 

Students pull a wrapping paper strip out of the stocking, says the numbers, identify the number that is missing, and write the series of numbers on the recording sheet. So fun and so little prep!

I love including a recording sheet for accountability and you can download one to use by clicking the picture below.

Free recording sheet for a center using scraps of wrapping paper! Easy and so fun!

I also want to share about a fun giveaway that I'm participating in! Enter to win a $30 Amazon gift card and a total of $20 in Teachers Pay Teachers to store credit. Just click the picture below to enter the giveaway! 

Hope you have a great week! 

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What's On Your Wishlist?

It's that time of year again! Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Cyber Monday and Tuesday sale.  I am excited to finally purchase those resources that have been sitting on my Wishlist! Between teaching resources and clip art I have 57 items to purchase--thank goodness for those TPT credits. I'm linking up with my friend Jen from Teaching in the Tongass to share the teaching resources from my TPT shop that have been most frequently wishlisted by other teachers like you!

Click the picture to see the resource!

My All About the Alphabet Interactive Listening Center Bundle [Part 1] has made it on a whopping 929 Wishlists! This resource is one of my favorites because I saw firsthand what an impact it made on my little scholars mastery of letters and sounds. The download includes a printable booklet and audio file for each letter A-M (letters N-Z are in the All About the Alphabet Interactive Listening Center Bundle Part 2). The beauty of this resource is that the audio file actually does the teaching for you! I also use this resource to reinforce learning at home--my little scholars just take home the printable booklet and a CD player home for extra practice. This is especially helpful for those that might not have support at home or your English Language Learners. You can download the Letter Aa Interactive Listening Center [here] for free to give it a try!  I recently added a full-page version of each printable booklet to the download to make prep even easier! No laminating and cutting--just place each page in a sheet protector and use a binder ring to keep all the pages together! If you aren't the most tech-savvy and would rather have the audio files mailed to you on a CD, you can add that to your cart with your purchase [here]. Take advantage of the sale and purchase the bundle for 28% off.

Click the picture to see the resource!
The next most Wishlisted item from my TPT shop one of my first resources I created, my CVC Word Mega Pack. This resource is on 589 teachers wishlists! This resource is 133 pages of CVC word fun--from center or station activities, printables, games, and pocket chart activities this download has everything you need for teaching your little scholars to read those CVC words. You can download a few pages of this unit for free [here] to see if it's something that suits your fancy. :)

Click the picture to see the resource!
Rounding out the Top 3 Wishlisted Items from my TPT shop is my Teach Me Sight Words Primer Bundle Part 1. After seeing the impact my All About the Alphabet Interactive Listening Center had on my little scholars letters and sounds mastery, I created a version for sight words! This download includes a printable booklet and audio file that actually teaches the sight words. While your little scholars are interacting with the audio file and printable booklet, they are listening to the sight word being spelled and read over 26 times! This resource also teaches the sight word in the context of a sentence, which research indicates leads to greater mastery of sight words. Set this up as a listening center in your classroom, change out the sight words as you teach them according to your own scope and sequence, and you can just sit back and watch your little scholars learn to read, spell, and write those sight words! Just like my All About the Alphabet Interactive Listening Center, you can print the booklets and send a CD player home to give your struggling scholars more practice! You can download the Teach Me Sight Words Sampler to try it out for free [here]. If you aren't the most tech-savvy and would rather have the audio files mailed to you on a CD, you can add that to your cart with your purchase [here]. I have bundles for Dolch and Fry words as well as each sight word listed individually. Grab all my Teach Me Sight Words resources during the Cyber Monday and Tuesday sale for 28% off the already reduced bundle price!

Click the picture to start shopping! 
I cannot wait for Monday so I can clear out my own Teachers Pay Teachers Wishlist! Happy Shopping, friends! :)

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Sight Words and Word Walls

Word walls are such a powerful tool to have in your classroom! They help little scholars build spelling and phonics skills as well as serve as an amazing reference during literacy activities. Don't remember how to spell the word "said?" Check the word wall!

I begin each year with a pretty blank word wall--with just the letters on it (vowels are a different color than consonants) as well as initial sound pictures. The first week of school I add my little scholars' names to the word wall. This is when I begin teaching how use the word wall. What better way to teach the purpose of a word wall than with the most important word to a child--their name! A word wall is just a decoration on the wall unless we teach our little scholars how to use it!

Here are two examples of word walls from my classroom: one from kindergarten and one from PreK. I read this post about Debbie Diller's suggestions for word walls which influenced why I chose this specific word wall design. 
(Pardon the poor photo quality, iPhone cameras weren't as great back in 2011!)

This was a few weeks into school in Pre-K. We had to follow a letter of the week curriculum so we had already introduced Aa, Ee, Hh, and Kk. 

In kindergarten, as I introduced sight words or high frequency words I added them to the word wall. The word wall in my kindergarten classroom was on a whiteboard so I was able to use a piece of magnetic tape to affix the words to the whiteboard. I loved the magnet tape because if one of my little scholars needed to borrow a word during Writer's Workshop it came off the word wall easily. Download the word wall words by clicking either of the pictures below. 


In Pre-K as we learned a new letter name and sound I added initial sound pictures from my Beginning Sounds Bonanza unit.

Around March once all my little Pre-K scholars had learned letter names and sounds, I took most of the initial sound pictures down and added a few sight words. When I added the sight words, I indicated the sight word list it was on with a small colored circle in the corner. You can read more about how I organize sight words [here].

Using real photographs instead of clipart supports the shift towards nonfiction text so I've created a set of initial sound photographs for you to use on your word wall if you'd prefer--just click the picture to below to download them!

For more about how I teach and organize sight words, check out this post!

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Now I Know My ABCs!

I am thrilled to share with you a few strategies to teach letters and sounds that have been very effective in my classroom. We know that young children use their senses to learn--they need to see it, hear it, and touch it--so here are some of my favorite ideas!

Tactile Letters

I found an ancient textured wallpaper book in a dusty cabinet and decided to make tactile letters using the textured wallpaper.

I used a die-cut machine to cut the letters and then glued them on cardstock. Voila!

How's that for recycling? :) 

Interactive Alphabet Listening Center 

Another one of my letter sound must-haves is my All About the Alphabet Interactive Listening Center. This center also allows students to hear, see, and touch the letters. There are 26 booklets and 26 audio files included in the downloads. The students listen to the audio file while following along in the book. I created this listening center activity out of sheer necessity. My students needed additional explicit instruction with letters and sounds but there were TONS many other things I needed to teach, so this interactive listening center was born. Once I began using it in my classroom last year, I saw results immediately. 100% of my Pre-K students mastered letters and sounds and I give this resource much of the credit! I even sent home a portable CD player and some booklets home with my students who struggled for a little extra practice! 

Here's a sneak peek at how you can use this center activity in your classroom to teach letters and sounds. I created this video to show you how it works! 

You can download the Letter A printable booklet and audio file for FREE [here] to give it a try in your classroom. 

You can purchase the bundle in my shop [here] and [here]. This resource has over 176 4.0 ratings! Be sure to scroll down to the feedback to read why other teachers love this resource. 

Teaching Letter Sounds using Gestures

I have been teaching hand motions along with letter sounds since I began teaching. Using gestures to teach letter sounds allows children to hear the letter sound, see the letter in print (as long as you have it displayed), and move their bodies! This strategy is truly effective and I'll often see some of my former students in the hallway and although they are now in 3rd of 4th grade, they can still demonstrate the gesture for each letter sound. Movements really help anchor those sounds in our little scholars' brains!

Here's a video of me demonstrating the gestures I use in my classroom. Enjoy!

I'm linking up with Abby from The Inspired Apple. Be sure to check out her post for lots of great alphabet ideas! 

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