3 Ways to Maximize Learning for Busy Kids

Getting kids moving helps them learn!  If your students are like mine, it is best to keep them active so they can use up all the energy they seem to have in endless supply.  I have so many kids that seem to be in perpetual motion. So rather than working against that. I have found a way to embrace it.

Get students up and moving to maximize learning.  Let them move by having them read and write the room, use flexible seating options and brain breaks.

Click the image above to visit Hojo's Teaching Adventures Blog where I am guest blogging. You will find 3 strategies I use in my classroom to maximize learning while keeping my students active.

Until next time,

How to Use Data to Drive Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Are you looking for ways to use assessment data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction?  If so, then read on to find out how to gather that data and how to look closely at the data for opportunities to group students.   I am also sharing a few ideas of what to do in small and whole group settings to address those skills.

Learn how to use data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction.  First assess and then use a no prep resource to teach the identified skills.


This is my second post in a series about Phonemic Awareness.  You can find post number one {HERE} where I differentiate between phonemic and phonological awareness.  In this post, I am going to help you decide what to do with the data you collect.

First off, how do you collect data?  If you read my previous post you'll know I use a screening tool to figure out where my students are at in their phonemic awareness development.  You can grab that screener for FREE by clicking on the picture below.

Grab this easy to use and free screening tool to assess your students phonemic awareness skills.


Once you have a detailed status of the class list it is time to start planning instruction.  Take a look at the filled out class list below.

Use the FREE status of the class recording sheet to record your students scores in order to beginning planning your phonemic awareness instruction.


Here are a few things you should look for:

  • Is a small group of students all struggling with a particular skill? On this list, there is a group of 5 students working on rhyme production, for example.
  • Where do most of the students start to struggle? On this list, it is syllable deletion.  This is what you want to focus on for your whole class instruction.  
I use the class list and sort my students into small groups depending on where they are having struggles.  If they do not fall into neat grouping then I look at the cluster of skills.  To understand what I am talking about see the class list and group notes below.

Start to create groupings based on the data you record from the screener about your entire class.


How do I target those groups? 


My students who are struggling with phonemic awareness are not ready for a traditional guided reading group, so their guided group time focuses on the identified skills they are lacking.  A typical guided group time would include:
  • Word List warm-ups: Using my Phonemic Awareness in 5 Minutes cards I target a particular skill.  In this instance, it would have to do with rhyme as this is an area a small group of students struggles with. 

Phonemic Awareness in 5 minutes cards are perfect for teaching phonemic awareness skills - no prep, fully scripted and easy to use anywhere when you have a few minutes.

  • Oral Games for practice: A favorite for producing rhymes is Rhyme Around the Table.  I say a word we are going to generate rhyming words for and then I go around the table and we see how many real and nonsense words we can come up with.  

  • Hands-On activities: I always incorporate hands-on activities like puzzles and clip cards. 
Use rhyming centers to give students time to practice in guided groups or during independent center times.


How do I target the whole class with the skills they need?


Once I know what skill most of my students need to work on I try to find ways to weave it into my daily instruction.  Some of the ways I do this are: 

  • Weaving it into our shared reading time. 
  • Using the word lists as a warm-up activity at the carpet before language lessons.  
  • Teaching in small chunks -  I have my word lists hanging by the door and we use them every time we line up. I call out a word and students get a turn to manipulate the word, depending on the skill.  

Phonemic Awareness in 5 minutes cards are perfect for teaching phonemic awareness skills - no prep, fully scripted and easy to use anywhere when you have a few minutes.

  • Using word lists at transitions time to make the most of that lost time waiting.  I pull out my word lists whenever I have a spare 5 minutes of time to fill.  


The most important thing to remember when teaching phonemic awareness skills is that the skill is ORAL.  You don't need your students to see letters to develop those skills. That is why using word lists is a really powerful way to teach these skills. They are easy to use, are perfect for short periods of time and require no prep.  

I hope this post was helpful.  Don't forget to grab your screener freebie to add to your teacher toolkit. Don't forget to pin this image so you can revisit this post later.



Until next time,  


Phonological and Phonemic Awareness. What is the difference?



Phonological and phonemic awareness are often confused by teachers, and rightly so.  They are so intertwined it is difficult to determine which skills fall under which term.  Hopefully, this post will clear some of the confusion up. 

A blog post outlining the difference between phonemic and phonological awareness with a free screening tool to get started.


Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that encompasses phonemic awareness.  However, you will most often hear the term phonemic awareness and most often it is used to refer to all the skills which are a part of phonemic and phonological awareness.   To avoid confusion and to follow common practice I will also refer to all of these skills as phonemic awareness.  However, let's consider what distinguishes one from the other first. 

What is Phonemic Awareness?


It is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds or phonemes in spoken words.   It is also the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds.  All words are a series of phonemes blended together.   Phonemic awareness does not involve print. It is an auditory skill.  For instance:  a child without phonemic awareness many not be able to hear that sun and sit start with the same sound.  They may not be able to blend together sounds into words like mmmm aaaaa nnnn is man. 


What is Phonological Awareness? 


It encompasses the many ways sounds/phonemes function in words.  It goes beyond just the phoneme level and delves into syllable, rhyme, and onset/rime.  For instance, a child without phonological awareness would have difficulty with the following skills:  counting the syllables in cup-cake, creating rhyming words for sing or recognizing the onset and rime in c-ake. 


How is Phonemic Awareness different than Phonological Awareness? 


Phonemic awareness is all about the phonemes -  the sounds in spoken language and how we manipulate them to make words. It involves isolating phonemes - the first sound in cat  is /c/ as well as manipulating phonemes:  change the /c/ to /b/ in cat.  Phonological awareness expands that skill beyond just the phoneme to include explicit teaching around onset/rime: c-at, syllables: cat has 1 syllable, and rhyming: cat, mat, bat, hat... 


When should you teach Phonemic Awareness? 


Phonemic awareness is a precursor to reading.  Children must be able to hear the phonemes (or sounds) in spoken language.   Ideally, children coming from kindergarten will have had lots of phonemic awareness instruction and have sold phonemic awareness skills.  However, we all know that children progress at different rates in their learning.  For this reason, as a first grade teacher, you should be prepared to teach phonemic awareness right from the start of the school year.  Second and Third grade teachers who have students who are struggling to read should also assess their student’s phonemic awareness to see if there are still gaps that are holding their students back. 

How do I know where to start? 


Using a screener is an effective way to identify where your student is at in terms of his/her phonemic awareness development.  Screening your students does take time but it is time well spent to inform your individualized and whole group instruction. 


Grab this free screening tool to assess your students phonemic awareness skills.


Keep an eye on your inbox for this screener and information about how to use the screener and what to do once you have data on your students.  I have a few more blog posts to planned to help you once you have gathered data on your students and are ready to start.

  • Using assessment data to drive your phonemic awareness instruction
  • Using centers to provide independent practice with phonemic awareness skills.


Check back soon for the follow up posts and in the mean time grab your freebie and assess your students.

Take a moment to pin this post so you can refer back to it later.

A blog post outlining the difference between phonemic and phonological awareness with a free screening tool to get started.


Are you ready for some ideas about to do with that data? Hop over to my next blog post for a few ideas. Click the image below to head to the next post.  


Until next time,

Guided Reading: How to get students excited about it!


Guided Reading is an important part of the day in a primary classroom and you want to make sure your students are excited to meet during small group. To keep your kids engaged and to make it a productive and successful guided reading time you need to be prepared.  Today I am sharing 4 things that that will get students excited about guided reading and participating in small group lessons. These tips will help keep your students motivated, excited and engaged during guide reading time.
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