Blending, Chunking, Segmenting, OH MY!

Learning to read can be frustrating. Letters can make multiple sounds. Some letters don’t make any sounds in certain words. Words can look the same but have different meanings. Words can look different but sound the same and mean something different. Reading can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes the only way to know a word is to memorize it; however, as beginning readers, decoding words is easier and often times it can be more fun! Today I am going to list three different methods of “decoding” words that young children can use as they begin to read: blending, chunking, and segmenting.

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  • I’m going to start with segmenting first. Segmenting is the idea that a word can be divided into segments. For instance, in the word “cat” we would say there are three sounds: /c/ /a/ /t/. It’s one of the most basic ways to read a word: sounding out each letter sound. I met a kindergartener today who taught me to use my arm as a way to segment a word. Starting with the top of my arm, I would say /c/, then I would move to the inner elbow to say /a/, and then I would touch my wrist to say /t/. The arm has no real importance except that it gives children a place to touch as they break apart the word. It’s similar to using the Eyes on Words popsicle stick.

 

  • Next comes blending. Blending is putting those letter sounds back together to form words. So once we have split up /c/ /a/ /t/, we can then put them back together to form “cat.”

 

  • Our final skill is chunking. Chunking is using prior knowledge of letter sounds and words to identify parts of a word we might already know. For instance, the word “stop.” This could be chunked two different ways.
    • I know the chunk “st,” so I just need to figure out what “op” is. Once we have done that, we can blend them back together to form “stop.”
    • I know the word “top,” so I just need to blend it with the /s/ sound to make “stop.”

We use these skills on a daily basis without realizing the fancy names for them. The fancy names aren’t important. The important part is to use the skills. This blog has some great ideas on how to work with your child: MakeTakeTeach. These skills can be used while reading sight word books, nonfiction books about a favorite topic, or a favorite picture book.

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Homemade Monday: Eyes on Words

wiggle wandHere is a fun craft to help children concentrate on one word at a time as they read. It is so easy to get distracted when we read. There are other toys to play with. There are other books to read. There may be other people in the room. Even the wallpaper can be distracting. Those are bad things. It just means we have to work a little harder to focus on the task at hand. And today, that is reading and pointing to the words as we read. Thanks to this blog, I found a cute way to help make this a little easier: the Googley Eyed Pointers.

To make you just need a jumbo craft stick, glue, and googley eyes. I recommend either using craft glue or a glue gun (if using a glue gun, I don’t recommend your child making this one). Glue the eyes on–they can be the same sized eyes, different sized, one, two or even three!

wiggle wand 2Pointing to words helps us focus on what we are reading, not what we are going to read. Pointing to words helps us focus on the letters and sounds in the word we are currently reading. It is especially helpful for children who are beginning readers. And while using your finger is just as good as using a Googly-Eyed Pointer, it’s not nearly as fun!

Three Great iPad Apps for Children

There are so many great educational apps out there for children to use, but there are also many not-so-great educational apps out there for children to use. So I spent the last week, testing app after app trying to find the best ones for you and your child. I’ve narrowed it down to my top three favorites; however, they are just that–my top three favorites. I’m hoping you’ll help test out these apps and let me know what you like and what you didn’t like.

play1231. Play 123 by CJ Educations
Ages: 3 to 5
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches shapes, colors, and numbers. Allows children to PLAY by matching and spinning colors and shapes, STUDY by understanding the basic shapes, colors, and numbers, and THINK through activities that help develop creativity and imagination. The simple music in the background helps keep children focused as a narrator explains what to do. Children can draw shapes, build towers and othe ojects with shapes, build and break walls, mix colors, break down walls to create more shapes and more through 10 different games.

Learn-with-Homer-Logo2. Learn with Homer by Homer
Ages: 3 to 5
Cost: FREE! (with ability to make in-app purchases for more games)
Purpose: Teaches early reading. Children can hear stories and poems or read themselves, play alphabet games that test their knowledge of letter sounds and shapes, discover a world of non-fiction through stories about animals, and use their imagination through drawing and recording sounds. Parents can create an account to gain access to tracking tools, printable activities and crafts, and their children’s drawing and recordings. There are many free things to do in this game. Purchasing packages gives more access, but it is not necessary.

1333-1-feel-electric!3. Feel Electric by Sesame Street
Ages: 5 and up
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches children feeling and emotions. This game teaches chidlren the meaning of words like surprised, stressed, annoyed, happy, ecstatic, and thrilled. Through different games, children can match emotion words to pictures that depict that feeling or write stories by choosing certain words (think MadLibs). There are six different ways to play but even more options once you choose a game. Created by Sesame Street, it’s an extension of the Electric Company.

So try them out. Let me know what you think. I’ll continue to post updates when I find more free apps for your child to use, so stay tuned!

Creative Questioning

When you think about the activities your child does through a typical day, what comes to mind? Playing, talking, eating, sleeping, running, jumping, making messes, cleaning, watching television, reading, etc. I could keep going, but you get the picture. What about questioning? How many questions do you answer in a day for them? What type of questions do they ask?

Now let’s flip that around. How many questions do you ask them in a day? What type of questions do you ask? Remember this post? Children should hear 30,000 words in a day. Asking questions is a great way to get them talking to you and a great way to get them thinking. But when you ask a question, think about the way you phrase it. What is the difference between asking “How many clouds can you count in the sky?” versus “What does that cloud look like?”

While both questions are great conversation starters, the second gets them using their creativity. We could even ask them “How did those clouds get up into the sky?” We want children at a young age to start thinking creatively. This helps build their critical thinking skills. These skills are essential to their learning as they get older. Check out this article from Scholastic.

So when you start asking questions, think of open-ended questions. These are the kind that don’t have one specific answer. Books are a great way to start conversations. Ask what the main idea is, what is happening on a page, what was the author thinking when they wrote the story, etc. Visit the library for ideas on books that make great conversation starters.

Homemade Monday: Shaving Cream Activities

Wait! I know what you are thinking…first she said to make playdough, and then there was the sand activities, and now she wants us to play with shaving cream! Really, though, there’s a reason. As early learners, children need more tactile activities to help them learn, keep play interesting, and continue their developmental growth. Where’s the data that suggests that? I’m not sure. I’m sure if I did a little research I could find you some numbers that prove this, but really, it comes from my experiences working with children.

So today for Homemade Monday, our topic is shaving cream! For starters, it’s very inexpensive. One can runs just over $1. You’ll want to get the shaving cream without any special fragrance or lotion. You’ll also probably want a paint shirt or smock to cover up their nicer clothes.

shaving cream

One of the easiest ways to use shaving cream for literacy is to just squeeze it on a table or in a large container and let your child have fun with it. Let them squeeze it between their fingers. Let them draw pictures in it. Let them explore its texture. And then let them start drawing letters and words. For older children, you could let them practice spelling words and study questions by drawing the answers in the shaving cream.

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One of my other new favorite shaving cream activities is shaving cream with cornstarch! The recipe is whatever you want it to be–I did about a cup of cornstarch and probably two cups of shaving cream. It’s the funniest texture–I can’t even describe what it is like. I would have to ask that you just try it and report back to me what you think. Children can roll it in their hands, squish and squeeze it, and form shapes with it.

Remember, all of this squishing and squeezing is good for their little hands. It helps develop their fine motor skills, which leads to a better grip on their pencils and hopefully, an easier time with handwriting.

One warning though: You’ll want to do this activity WITH your child. Shaving cream is not an edible item, so you’ll want to make sure they don’t put it in their mouth. I also wouldn’t do this with a child who is less than three years old.

Homemade Monday on a Thursday: Rhyme Time

Today’s Homemade Monday (on a Thursday) post is about singing and rhyming with your child. Remember reading does not always have to involve a toy; sometimes it can just be about the talking and singing. Here are two rhymes that carry no tune, nor do they require any special item to complete. You’ll pick up the beat as you read them and then recite them from memory from having done them so many times.

This rhyme is called Five Autumn Leaves. I like to use a visual aid like paper leaves or even leaves that have fallen from the trees outside, but really, you can just use your hands. These leaves were made from book covers–we always have book covers. Just stop by the children’s desk and ask!

leaves

Five autumn leaves hanging from a tree
hold up five fingers
I wonder if they’ll fall for me
shrug your shoulders
The wind comes blowing wooooosh round and round
big arm movements
And one little leaf comes fluttering down
flutter fingers down to the ground

Continue the rhyme from 5 leaves to no leaves.

 

The next rhyme is about monkeys. You may remember Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed…this one is a twist on that. It’s about five monkeys who tease an alligator; this is called Five Little Monkeys Swinging from the Tree. Once again, using your hands to do this rhyme is perfectly acceptable, but I found clipart in one of our parent-teacher books that I adore!

monkeys

Five little monkeys swinging from the tree
hold up five fingers and swing them back and forth
Teasing Mr. Alligator, “You can’t catch me! You can’t catch me!”
use your hands in a teasing manner
Along comes Mr. Alligator quiet as can be…
whisper this line; put your hands together and allow them to swim in the air
And SNAPPED! that monkey right out of that tree!
clap your hands loudly

Repeat the song counting from 5 to 1 and then no more monkeys swinging on the tree.