Fun Little Finds at Walmart

One of my favorite pastimes is perusing the aisles  at our local dollar stores and the toy sections of Walmart and Meijer for ideas for center activities.  My three children are now in college and instead of spending my time on the soccer fields I’m now spending that time shopping.  Insert HUGE sigh– I really miss my kids and I would go back to those days in a minute.  I’m not adjusting very well to my empty nest.  While shopping at Walmart the other day I stumbled upon the card section in the toy area and found a few relatively inexpensive games that would be a nice addition to your literacy centers.

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The first treasure was the Scrabble Slam! card game.  It’s a great phonemic awareness activity as students use the letter cards in their hand to change the word.  The first player to get rid of all their cards wins the game.  I’m thinking that this activity would be ideal for mid-first grade/ beginning second grade.

I really love the Apples to Apples game.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find activities targeting vocabulary.  A word is provided (green card) and the students choose a picture card from their hand that best matches the word.  They then try to convince the judge as to why their card best describes the word.  This is awesome for oral language development!

I have one more fun find at Walmart.  There are ways to make your own card holders using recycled CDs and plastic lids, but this card holder really wasn’t that expensive so I decided to go ahead and purchase it rather than make my own.  Card holders are very helpful for playing card games as little hands have difficulty holding and fanning the cards.

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Are there games that you find helpful for centers?  Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments.  Enjoy!


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Phonemic Awareness Activities On the Go!

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It’s amazing sometimes where inspiration hits.  A few weeks ago I had to kill about an hour and decided to hop on over to Michael’s Craft Store.  As I was walking through the bead aisle I found this really handy plastic tote.  It was just the right size to fit picture cards!  Many of my teacher friends are constantly on the move and tote is just perfect!

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The phonemic awareness tote contains over 500 colorful pictures for teaching the Syllables, Rhyme, Beginning Sounds, Onset-Rime, Phoneme Isolation and Phoneme Segmentation.  Each skill area contains a common core alignment card, activity card(s) and colorful and engaging pictures.  The borders are color-coded per skill for easy organization.


Although the tote found at Michael’s is perfect, the cards will fit in any similar-sized tote.  You could even store the cards in travel soap boxes (you could find the coordinating colors) or baggies.

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The Make, Take & Teach The Big Box of Phonemic Awareness Activities can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The Big Box of Phonics Activities is also available in my TpT store.  This file contains pictures and activities for working with Short Vowels/Word Families, Blends, Digraphs, Magic e, R-Controlled  Vowels and Common Vowel Teams.


Also included in the download is the template with the labels to fit this tote.  Hoping my friends love the tote as much as I do!



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The Importance of Teaching Rhyme

Before children learn to read, they must first have an understanding of how sounds work within words.  Learning to recognize and produce rhyme  is one of the very first phonological skills that children acquire on their way to becoming proficient readers.  Working with rhyme is an important component of the early childhood curriculum.  Research tells us that most children learn to recognize rhyme by 5 (which words rhyme:  cat, bug, rat) and can provide a rhyming word by 5 1/2.  When children appreciate rhyme and are able to provide rhyming words, they show that they understand that words are made up of individual speech sounds which can be changed to create different words.  That understanding is the basis of reading.  Here’s a graphic explaining the difference between phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and phonics.  For more information, you may wish to visit the Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness and Phonics blog post.


Click the following link to download this handout Phonological-Awareness

There is a developmental sequence for the acquisition of phonological awareness skills.  This handout outlines the steps- it’s a helpful reference for our preschool and kindergarten teachers.


Click the following link to download this handout Developmental Stages of Phonemic Awareness

Teaching students to recognize and produce rhyme is a whole lot of fun.  Using books with rhyme is a great way to introduce this concept.  When you read rhyming books, children are exposed to the rhythm of language.  Using books in this manner also improves oral language development.  Here are a few of my favorite books:


My children are all now in college so digging these books from the depths of the old bookshelves has certainly brought back memories!  I loved reading these books to my own children and just couldn’t bear to part with them.  My all time favorite rhyming book is Jamberry by Bruce Degen.  I can tell that our book was very much loved as the spine is nearly falling apart.  Of course, you can count on Dr. Seuss for all things rhyme.  Green Eggs and Ham and Fox in Socks were two of our favorites.  Although not in my own bookshelf, Is Your Mama a Llama and Sheep in a Jeep were two books that I often used when I was teaching preschool.

Matching games are also ideal for teaching students to recognize and produce rhyme.  I always like to incorporate a holiday or seasonal theme into the activity.  Here’s an example of the mitten match game that we use during the cold months of winter:


The candy corn game is certainly a favorite!  Students beg for this activity way past Halloween!


These activities are just two of seven contained in the Big Bundle of Rhyme Activities.


The Big Bundle of Rhyme Activities is available through my online Teachers Pay Teachers store or within the Make, Take & Teach website.


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Developmental Sequence of Phonological Awareness Skills


Click the following link to download this free handout Developmental Stages of Phonemic Awareness

My good friend, Heidi, who is a Reading Specialist at one of our local elementary buildings, asked if I’d be interested in co-presenting with her at our next year’s district-wide professional development day.  I love working with Heidi so, of course, I jumped at the chance.  Next year Heidi and I will be presenting on the topic of phonological and phonemic awareness.  Our target audience will be preschool and Pre-K teachers.  I developed this handout for the presentation and thought others may find it helpful.  Feel free to download it if you’d like!  Enjoy!


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Rhyming Ice Cream Cones


These rhyming ice cream cones have certainly been a hit with our little preschoolers and kindergarteners!  The activity is easily differentiated as you can choose how many rhyming cones and scoops to use.  For those kiddos just learning the concept of rhyme, you’ll likely want to start with just 2 cones and gradually add more cones as they become proficient with the skill.  For those students who just need added practice, you can use more cones and just place them in an independent work center.  When you download this activity, you’ll receive 18 rhyming cones with 60 rhyming scoops!


The Build An Ice Cream Cone activity is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or through my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.


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Rhyming Caterpillars

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I have such fond memories of reading The Hungry Caterpillar to my own children and to my preschool students.  It was one of my very favorite books.   I use to have a puppet which started as a caterpillar and then flipped inside out to turn into a butterfly.  Now that my preschool-teaching days are long past gone and my own kiddos are now in college, I just couldn’t part ways with that caterpillar and he sits proudly on the shelf above my desk.    Since many of my teacher friends are putting away their St. Patrick’s Day-themed activities and are bringing out their spring activities for small group instruction and centers, I thought creating a few spring-themed activities would be fun.  Here are a few caterpillar-themed activities that I hope you may enjoy.

The Rhyming Caterpillar activity contains 16 colorful leaves with corresponding rhyming caterpillars.  Each rhyming leaf has between 4-5 caterpillars holding pictures.  Now you can certainly just print the activity and cut the leaves and caterpillars along the dotted line and have a ready-made activity, but you may wish to glue those caterpillars on clothespins to add a little fine motor practice as well.


The Make, Take & Teach Rhyming Caterpillar activity is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Since I was in the caterpillar-making activity roll, I updated the Creepy-Crawly Caterpillar activities for beginning sounds and word families.

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The Creepy-Crawly Caterpillar for Beginning Sounds is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The word family activity contains 15 word families!  These activities are ideal for your independent literacy centers.

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The Creepy-Crawly Caterpillar for Word Families is available through the Make, Take & Teach website or in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store.


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