Teacher Ponderings

Reward and Behavior Charts! (Motivation Matters)


This is a great alternate chart to use as an individualized behavior “incentive” chart. Negative behaviors are not listed on this chart. Points are not taken away. Only positive things that is attainable for the child to work on, are noted on this chart. Explain to the child the goals. Ask him/her what prize he’d like to earn. It can most likely be a prize that he/she would get anyways, like a new backpack or a new book or toy. This chart has proven successes with many children. I hope it works for your child too! I recommend using it in the classroom and offering it to students’ parents, to use at home, as well. This is how I used it in my Kindergarten classroom. Motivation matters for some!

Follow the link below to find the download:

Click here and it will take you to the page!

Enjoy! -Andrea



New! Lesson Plan BUNDLES for 2015-2016

2015-2016 Lesson Plans!!!!!!!!!!

I now have COMMON CORE aligned lesson plans, available for Kindergarten, Special Education Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten. All are available below. Just click the link and it will take you to my TpT shop. Look at the menu on the left and everything is organized by category. The link is below:

Common Core Lesson Plans – Click Here! Updated 2015-16

TpTLoveTransparent-03K SpEd Full Year Info



Emergent Reader, Printable Books are also included with many of these lesson plans!


Writing Activities are included in lesson plans (see content lists)


Here are just SOME of the Emergent Reader skills that are focused on within the included printable books!


This is one of the Math Workstations (Centers) that is included to help introduce addition.



Rhyme Time with the (-AT) Family


My students absolutely loved this mini-lesson. This is what everything looked like, after I laminated it. The orange “My Cat” book is an easy emergent reader book and is a printable black and white book. It is 8 pages total. This is the teacher copy and it is in color. I printed a black and white paper copy for each child and allowed them to color in the picture on each page.

The featured sight words in this book are: LIKE, MY, HAS, SHE, THIS, IS.


The featured RHYMING words in the “My Cat” book (as shown on the picture cards above) are: CAT, HAT, FAT, RAT, BAT. Vocabulary words shown are: MOM, DOG, BEE.


Word Work Station 1: Directions: Practice together in whole group using magnet or practice letters, or even letter card pages (m, a, t, f, b, c) to form the words: rat, cat, hat, bat.


(Above) Student book!



(Above) Word Work Station 2: Directions: Practice together in small group using letter card pages (m, a, t, f, b, c) to form the words: rat, cat, hat, bat. Use glue next. These are the pages that the child gets to take home or save in his/her portfolio!


(Above) “Cut Apart Sentences” – Directions-As a whole group, read the story and then pass out the word cards one sentence at a time. Decide the correct order of the sentence and then glue it to a sentence strip. Add the matching laminated picture.

(Below) Word work card


There is also more, that I didn’t snap pictures of. I have a parent letter too! You can download the whole Rhyme time kit here:




Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

What is the difference?

The quote below, from the k12reader website explains it perfectly! I couldn’t have said it better myself-so it is a direct quote!


Phonological Awareness is the ability to recognize that words are made up of a variety of sound units. The term encompasses a number of sound related skills necessary for a person to develop as a reader. As a child develops phonological awareness she not only comes to understand that words are made up of small sound units (phonemes). She also learns that words can be segmented into larger sound “chunks” known as syllables and each syllable begin with a sound (onset) and ends with another sound (rime).

Phonological awareness provides the basis for phonics. Phonics, the understanding that sounds and print letters are connected, is the first step towards the act we call reading. 

When measuring a child’s phonological awareness look at his ability to apply several different skills. A child with strong phonological awareness should be able to recognize and use rhyme, break words into syllables, blend phonemes into syllables and words, identify the beginning and ending sounds in a syllable and see smaller words within larger words (ie. “cat” in “catalog”).

Phonemic Awareness  also involves an understanding of the ways that sounds function in words, it deals with only one aspect of sound: the phoneme. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language that holds meaning. Almost all words are made up of a number of phonemes blended together. Consider the word “ball”. It is made up of three phonemes: /b/ /aw/ /l/ . Each of its sounds affects the meaning. Take away the /b/ sound and replace it with /w/ and you have an entirely different word. Change the /aw/ for an /e/ sound and again the meaning changes.

Phonemic awareness is just one aspect of phonological awareness. While phonological awareness encompasses a child’s ability to recognize the many ways sounds function in words, phonemic awareness is only her understanding of the most minute sound units in words. Because phonemic awareness is a sub-skill under the phonological awareness “umbrella” not all of the measures for determining a reader’s skill level are applied when assessing it. A reader with strong phonemic awareness will demonstrate the ability to hear rhyme and alliteration (the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of several different words used in a sentence or paragraph), find the different sound in a set of words (ie. “bat”, “ball”, “wet”) and blend and segment phonemes.”

In order to READ independently and proficiently at a first grade level, a student must have mastery of both phonological and phonemic awareness. 

Next, comes blending phonemes together into more complex one and 2 syllable words. Words with short vowels, then long vowels…next words with th, wh, sl, tr, cl and then end with those sound combinations. 

Finally, students will then learn words ending in silent “e” and words containing specific spelling combinations, such as CVVC (ou, ea, oa).

Mastery of reading at a first grade level is so vital, according to Fountas & Pinnell. Students will then be able to gain the skills needed to move on to reading at a 2nd grade level. 

A Solution to an Everyday Problem with Young Learners


We all have students who have trouble with fine motor skills. Every year, it seems like more and more kids need help opening their snack or milk container, buttoning their coat, and holding a pencil. While some of these students receive services like occupational or physical therapy, there is limited funding to help general education preschool or kindergarteners with these issues. With Common Core Standards shaping the direction of our teaching, something must be done early on to help our students facing these challenges.

The Hands First! Curriculum offers a solution to these problems. Principals, Superintendents, and Directors of Pupil Services support this curriculum as it is a Level 1 Response to Intervention Model and only takes 15 minutes daily for 4 months. Administrators also approve this program because it was written for use with common classroom materials without the need for additional supply purchases.

Created by Professionals, used by teachers and parents alike, “Hands First!” is definitely worth checking out! Even if you have just one student who just can’t seem to grip that pencil correctly or zip up their jacket.
Check out their website and follow their blog: www.handsfirstforlearning.com
Like them on Facebook:

Everything is on sale 25% using WINTER15 code when checking out
Hands First for Learning accepts purchase orders!

hands first logo

Hands First! Fine Motor fun

green bean kindergarten


UPDATE! I love this fine motor curriculum! Why?

1. First of all, it is written by specialist who work in the field with children. These ladies are not just theorists who research what may work best. They actually use these fine motor activities during Occupational Therapy sessions and they oversee teachers who are using them in their Kindergarten classrooms.

2. Next, each fine motor activity in their book is detailed, yet to the point. There is not too much reading and you can easily visualize the activity.

3. Also, beginner, intermediate and advanced activities are presented. This curriculum is perfect for helping students who may not be special education students, but who need extra fine motor help. They may not qualify for Occupational Therapy, but they need some!  On the other hand, the activities WILL benefit students who are already receiving OT services! Everyone wins!

4. The Hands First curriculum…

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The ABC’s of Teaching Letters

The Importance of Letter Names and Sounds

What is the first step in teaching a child to read? Letters and sounds instruction is the key! In simple terms, for a child to learn to read independently and construct meaning from text – he needs to be able to identify words automatically. He can do this after he decodes unknown words. In order to reach this point, children have to first learn the 44 speech sounds of letters and more than 100 spellings that are made. So- first, identify letter names and then, produce letter sounds. Then, he will be prepared to read! The next step is to implement a carefully planned and systematic presentation of explicit letter/sound teaching.

Which Letters Should Be Taught First?

The hardest question for researchers and professionals to answer is – “What order should the letters be taught?” Although there is not one universal answer to this question, there is great data to give professionals guidance in creating and/or implementing the necessary systematic order of instruction.

When deciding the order to teach the letters, please keep in mind what research says.

What Does Research Say?

  • Some letters are harder to learn than others: U, Q, V
  • The following letters are most well-known by children, even if they have not been taught them: O, A, B
  • Children are most likely to learn the first letter of a their name more easily and quickly
  • Teach the letters in an order that allows a child to form many words with them (for example: C, M, A, T)
  • Begin with letters that make “simple sounds” that are easiest to stretch out and are easier to blend: M, S, F, R, N, L
  • Teach new sounds in small steps
  • Review previously taught letters and sounds
  • Introduce commonly encountered sounds before the infrequent sounds: For example, “A” occurs more commonly than “Q” or “V.”
  • Teach the letters that occur more frequently in most words. The most commonly occurring letters are: E, T, A, I, N, O, S, H, R, D, L, C
  • Introduce vowels early. A child must know the vowel sounds, in order to make and read words.
  • It is suggested to teach graphemes together, like C and H, C and K, T and H
  • Alphabetic order is not ideal because it does not address the needs listed above
  • Do not pair and teach together letters that are auditorily and/or visually similar: E, I and D, B
  • Introduce some continuous sounds early: M, S
  • One study suggests introducing lower case letters first, unless upper case letters are similar in shape: (Similar: S, s, U, u, W, w; Dissimilar: R, r, T, t, F, f) Note: I have always taught capital and lowercase at the same time: Ss, Rr, Tt, so I do not disagree with this study, I myself and just unfamiliar with its effectiveness
  • Do not teach similar looking letters together: b, d, p, q
  • Introducing letters in isolation may confuse some children about the purpose of letters in relation to words and reading
  • Some letters take longer to visually discriminate: t, a, e, o, s, i

The many resources below provides suggestions for the sequence of teaching letters and sounds.








Free! Sight Word Readers


A great way to encourage daily reading at home, is to send home a “Little Reader” with your students. These Little Readers are about 5 pages each and contain sight words and word family words. These are the types of books that young children should begin reading with. Sight word and word family instruction should precede, though and then through these books, they will practice reading their recently taught and learned words.

These books will be even more meaningful to them, if you read it with them in a small group, before they take it home. Stick it inside a folder and add a “Reading Log” paper, for their parents to sign (that they listened to their child read). When all three of my children were in Kindergarten (one of them, last year) they all brought home little readers. I was able to help them with a tricky word and they were able to show off their reading skills.

Amongst all of my many projects (writing books, updating and completing the Lesson Plans section, and attending to my own Kindergarten classroom) I am creating and adding “Little Reader” books. They contain two pages on a typical 8 1/2 by 11″ page (the white printer paper size). All you have to do is print if off, cut it in half and staple together. Then, you will have a mini-binded book! Some of my previously made “Little Readers” are within the NEW Lesson Plans page of this website. I will work on moving them to here. But for now, here is the latest hot of the press Little Reader book: “He Ate Hay.”

Little Reader Library

Click on the title below, to print


Little Reader – He Ate Hay (-ay words) Sight Word focus: and, has, to, all, and, he

Little Reader – The iPad (-ad words) Sight Word focus: is, too, had, an, was, and, are



Folder Printables

Labels for Little Reader Folder

Note: “He Ate Hay” images are from either Shutterstock, Google or Bing.

Here are the other books-but they are on standard 8 1/2 x 12 paper (no need to cut-just print and staple). You can follow this link to TpT here:

Paycheck! Using Incentives to Encourage Children to Carry Out Responsibilities!

As a mom, I have to write about Chore Monster. Each summer, my three children (ages 6, 8 and 10) struggle with being BORED. I struggle with finding things to keep them busy! Now, they do their chores to keep them busy, amazingly! am sure that Chore Monster could also be used in the classroom. It is like a rewards/incentive chart for children to “digitally” keep track of their responsibilities.

My children log in on their ipad’s and I log in on either my lap top or iphone. We use the free version.

I made them a pay check to reward them (tangibly). I am taking them to the bank, because they chose money as their reward. I want them to get the experience of cashing in their paychecks (which I am giving them once a month).

Here is how it works: You and your child decide which chores to add to their list. You give each chore a point value from 5 to 1000! My 6 year old has his chores as: brush your teeth in the morning and night, make your bed, take dirty clothes to the laundry room and clean your floor. He made about 200 points this month. My 10 year olds chores included: help mom with cooking, fold the clothes and place in correct bedroom, load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, brush your teeth. Not every chore occurs every day, though! Next, the points your child earns can be “cashed in” for rewards. Each reward is worth a certain amount of points (which you decide.) The rewards on their list include: a movie ticket, ice cream, $10.

Check out more information on their website!