Monday, December 9, 2013

Importance of Rhyming in Kindergarten

What is rhyming?
Yes, I’m sure all of you already know that rhyming words sound the same at the end!  :)  It’s a phonemic awareness skill, meaning that it’s all about manipulating oral language.  Rhyming is just a part of phonemic awareness . . . of working with language, sounds within language, and playing with language.
Why is teaching rhyming important?
Oh, teaching rhyming is important for so many reasons!  To begin with, a multitude of research has shown a correlation between rhyming mastery and eventual reading preparedness.  Now, if your child isn’t a rhyming machine right now, please don’t freak out!  This doesn’t mean she’s going to be a below-average reader when she’s older.  It just means that you can incorporate more rhyming activities into your day.  I’ll be touching on that later on this week, so keep an eye out.
On top of that, rhyming helps kids improve their oral language skills overall.  It helps them to playfully manipulate their language, which gives them a kind of “permission” to manipulate language in other ways.  Children have more ownership over their language when they’re encouraged to change it and play with how they speak.
As previously mentioned, rhyming is an aspect of phonemic awareness (awareness of how to listen to, identify, and change around the sounds in spoken language).  Phonemic awareness lays the groundwork for written language.  Rhyming is a precursor to learning how to read and write.

Ms. Nora

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Strategies for Teaching Writing in Kindergarten

Kindergarten students enter the school year with varying levels of ability, especially when it comes to writing. As a kindergarten teacher, I’ve seen a range of writing, from scribbling to writing sentences. The key is to begin with where they are. We all know that kindergartners are full of thoughts and ideas. They just don’t know how to express what they’re thinking in writing.

After students are comfortable with the writing process, I begin to introduce them to the mechanics of writing simple sentences. When teaching students about writing, I explain to them that writing is like telling a story on paper. I begin by showing them what their thoughts look like. For example, I have them share an idea while I write it on the chart. In the beginning I emphasize the content of the writing rather than grammatical correctness.

At the beginning of the school year, I introduce my students to writing simple sentences. I like to begin the sentence and have my students finish it. Some starters I use are "I am," "I like," "I can," and "I want." After several weeks of using sentence starters, many of my students are confident and ready to begin writing their own sentences.

Once my students have mastered writing simple sentences, I encourage them to add a little sparkle to their work. For example, if a student writes “I like dogs,” have them explain what types of dogs they like. Continue by guiding them through the creation of a new sentence. For example: “I like brown dogs with curly hair.”

I also like to use this expanding sentence activity when teaching my students to add descriptive words. I model this activity with my students several times to help them understand and master the concept.

Writing is a skill that requires daily practice. Each day my students begin their morning by writing in their journals. Students are free to write about a topic of their choice. Journal writing is a great way for your students to practice articulating their thoughts. Journals encourage students to retell or create their own stories as well as to practice fine motor skills and letter formation. Journals can also help teacher’s measure progress and find out more about their students' interests.



Nora Sierra

Early Childhood Coordinator


Monday, November 11, 2013

10 Reading Readiness Skills for Kindergarten Kids

Today's parents are often shocked when they come to school for orientation and see what's on the docket when it comes to reading. What happened to a full day of crayons? What happened to unlimited time in the sand box?
Without a doubt, the skills taught in kindergarten today look more like the skills taught in first grade a decade or two ago, especially when it comes to reading.  But fret not, because these high reading expectations for young students are accompanied by very strategic teaching methods, and a meticulous progression of skills that build upon one another. Your child can meet the reading goals set by his teacher, especially if he's on track when he first enters kindergarten. So, is he?
While every teacher and school has their own set of “prerequisites,” there's a set of general reading expectations that most teachers share, when it comes to kids entering kindergarten. Before entering kindergarten, a student well prepared for reading should be able to:
1.    Read her name
2.    Recite the alphabet
3.    Recognize some or all of the letters in the alphabet
4.    Correspond some or all letters with their correct sound
5.    Make rhymes
6.    Hold a book right side up with the spine on the left, front cover showing
7.    Recognize that the progression of text is left to right, top to bottom
8.    Echo simple text that is read to them
9.    Recognize that text holds meaning
10. Re-tell a favorite story
If your child is not quite steady in all of these areas, don't panic! Every child enters kindergarten at a different level and teachers expect a huge variation in the skills each student brings. They're trained to optimize success for each individual, no matter what. According to Lesley M. Morrow, Ph.D. and Distinguished Professor of Literacy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, one of the main reasons kindergarten reading is taught in small groups, is so teachers can easily cater to different levels of reading readiness. More advanced readers can be taught in a way that limits boredom, and more beginning readers at a pace that minimizes frustration.

Sunday, November 3, 2013



Young children can and do write. They want to show others what they know. Children

move through three states of scribbling for writing according to Clay (1975). In the first stage

they scribble for pleasure. In the second stage children acquire the knowledge that written

symbols convey meaning and they believe adults can read their writing. The third stage includes

mock letters and beginning letter sounds. The children describe their messages by what they

hope they have written.

Along with writing, children draw. Drawing is one of the primary ways children

communicate. There are also stages of drawing. These stages include: scribbling, preschematic,

schematic, gang, pseudo- naturalistic and the period of decision (Lowenfeld 1987) Kindergarten

students are typically in the preschematic or schematic stage. The preschematic stage is

characterized by symbols constantly changing. The schematic stage is characterized by objects

sitting on a baseline and child’s active knowledge of the subject. The amount and quality of

detail also progresses from a minimal stage to increasing attention to more specificity working its

way towards greater elaboration and patterning (Carroll 2003).

According to Karnowski (1986) young writers use drawing to explain their writing and

they use it as a prewriting strategy. Drawing helps children plan and organize the written text.

Often students will draw first in order to get their thoughts on paper. After the thoughts are

drawn the children can use their picture to remember their story and write it down. Vygotsky

(1978) stated that children’s drawings capitalize on the narrative impulse that emerges in their

earliest drawings, on their tendency to create story drawings and on the talk that surrounds and

supplements the drawing events.

There is a correlation between children’s drawing levels and writing readiness because

both are grounded in making shapes, lines and symbolic representation (Carroll 2003). As

writing progresses, so does children’s reading readiness. Children learn to read and write most

easily when they encounter texts that they themselves have authored (Sidelnick, Svoboda 2000 p

175) Teachers must capitalize on this knowledge to help create great readers and writers.

Teachers of these young students must remember several guidelines when allowing

students to write. Teachers need to know what their students understand about communication

and writing upon entering school. With this knowledge teachers can help foster writing in their

class. Teachers need to redefine their idea of writing. Writing in the early years takes many

forms and all must be valued and encouraged if a teacher wants to see growth in all their

children. Teachers must also understand that children use everything they know about

communication in oral language, art, music and drama to make sense of the writing process. The

children use familiar communication systems to add depth and meaning to their newly acquired

skill of writing (Karnowski 1986).

Children will make progress with their drawing and writing if they are provided with

time, materials, information, and freedom to invent meaningful language (Hayes 1990).

Children need to be immersed in a literacy focused environment in order to foster their writing


Children in an environment that fosters writing should be given different occasions to

write. These opportunities will provide students with extending their writing knowledge.

Children should at times use a sketchbook/journal where they can freely write and draw what

they want to. They also should attempt drawing by diction. It requires another level of

processing skills. A third type of drawing is drawing by request. A topic is given to the children

and they must write or draw about it. All of these help children to become great writers.

Great writers use certain qualities when they write. These qualities have become known

as traits. 6 Trait writing is a “hot button” topic in schools throughout the world.


What is 6 Trait Writing?

6 Trait Writing began in 1983 when a school in Oregon wanted to assess student writing as well as teach writing. They wanted an instrument that would provide accurate, reliable

feedback to students and teachers that would help guide instruction. In order to understand what


good writing was a group of teachers read hundreds of papers written by students. They agreed

upon six qualities that demonstrate great writing. The qualities, now known as traits are,

· Ideas (details, development, focus)

· Organization (internal structure)

· Voice (tone, style, purpose, and audience)

· Word choice (precise language and phrasing)

· Sentence fluency (correctness, rhythm, and cadence)

· Conventions (mechanical correctness)

· And another has now been added. . .presentation (handwriting, formatting, layout)

These traits became the foundation for the descriptive criteria used to define qualities of

good writing at different levels of achievement. Rubrics were created to assess the writing done

by students.



Ms. Nora Sierra


Monday, October 28, 2013

How can I help my child learn to read

Reading books aloud is one of the best ways you can help your child learn to read. This can be fun for you, too. The more excitement you show when you read a book, the more your child will enjoy it. The most important thing to remember is to let your child set her own pace and have fun at whatever she is doing. Do the following when reading to your child:
·         Run your finger under the words as you read to show your child that the print carries the story.
·         Use funny voices and animal noises. Do not be afraid to ham it up! This will help your child get excited about the story.
·         Stop to look at the pictures; ask your child to name things she sees in the pictures. Talk about how the pictures relate to the story.
·         Invite your child to join in whenever there is a repeated phrase in the text.
·         Show your child how events in the book are similar to events in your child's life.
·         If your child asks a question, stop and answer it. The book may help your child express her thoughts and solve her own problems.
·         Keep reading to your child even after she learns to read. A child can listen and understand more difficult stories than she can read on her own.
Listening to your child read aloud
Once your child begins to read, have him read out loud. This can help build your child's confidence in his ability to read and help him enjoy learning new skills. Take turns reading with your child to model more advanced reading skills.
If your child asks for help with a word, give it right away so that he does not lose the meaning of the story. Do not force your child to sound out the word. On the other hand, if your child wants to sound out a word, do not stop him.
If your child substitutes one word for another while reading, see if it makes sense. If your child uses the word "dog" instead of "pup," for example, the meaning is the same. Do not stop the reading to correct him. If your child uses a word that makes no sense (such as "road" for "read"), ask him to read the sentence again because you are not sure you understand what has just been read. Recognize your child's energy limits. Stop each session at or before the earliest signs of fatigue or frustration.
Most of all, make sure you give your child lots of praise! You are your child's first, and most important, teacher. The praise and support you give your child as he learns to read will help him enjoy reading and learning even more.

Ms. Nora Sierra

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mathematics in the Preschool Years

Pre-Number Concepts
Early development of number concepts is critical in developing positive attitudes about mathematics at an early age. Special methods and activities will assist children to develop early numeracy skills. These methods will need to include the use of motivating and engaging concrete materials that children can manipulate. Young children need to experience a lot of 'doing' and 'saying' before written numerals will make sense to them.
As early as 2 years of age, many children will parrot the words 'one', 'two', 'three', 'four', 'five' etc. However, rarely do they understand that the number refers to an item or a set of items. At this stage, children do not have 'number conservation' or 'number correspondence'.
What are these concepts and how can you help?
Engaging children with a variety of measurement concepts is a great beginning. For instance, children enjoy telling us that they are 'bigger' than their sister or brother or 'taller' than the lamp or that they are 'higher' than the dishwasher. Young children will also think that they have 'more' in their cup simply because their cup is taller. This type of language needs to be promoted and children need parental guidance to help with the misconceptions of these concepts through experimentation. The bathtub is a great starting point, using a variety of plastic cylinders/cups and containers. At this age, perception is the child's guide, they do not have any other strategies to guide them in determining which has more or less, is heavier or lighter etc. A parent or day care provider can provide great learning experiences to assist young children’s' misconceptions through play.
Classification is a pre-number concept that children need lots of experimentation and communication with. We classify on a regular basis without even considering what we're actually doing. We look in indexes that are alphabetized or numerically arranged, we purchase groceries in areas of food groups, we classify to sort laundry, we sort our silverware before putting it away. Children can benefit from a variety of classification activities which will also support early numeracy concepts.

Classification Activities
-Use blocks to engaged young children to repeat the, green, orange etc. 
-Ask young children to sort the silverware or the laundry based on color. 
-Use shapes to encourage children to determine what comes next----triangle, square, circle, triangle, etc. 
-Ask children to think of everything they can write with, ride on, that swims, that flies etc. 
-Ask children how many items in the living room are square or round or heavy etc.
-Ask them to tell you how many things are made of wood, plastic, metal etc.
-Extend classification activities to include more than one attribute (heavy and small, or square and smooth etc.)
Before Children Count
Children need to 'match sets' before they will understand 'number conservation' and that counting is actually referring to sets of items. Children are guided by their perceptions and will think that there are more grapefruits than lemons in a pile due to the actual size of the piles. You will need to do one to one matching activities with young children to help them develop conservation of number. The child will move one lemon and you can move the grapefruit. Repeat the process so that the child can see the number of fruits is the same. These experiences will need to be repeated often in a concrete manner which enables the child to manipulate the items and become engaged in the process.
More Pre-Number Activities:
Draw a number of circles (faces) and put down a number of buttons for eyes. Ask the child if there are enough eyes for the faces and how they can find out. Repeat this activity for mouths, noses etc. Speak in terms of more than and less than or as many as and how can we find out.
Use stickers to make patterns on a page or classify them by attributes. Arrange a row of a set number of stickers, arrange a second row with more spaces between the stickers, ask the child if there are the same number of stickers or more or less. Ask how they can find out - DON'T COUNT! Match the stickers one to one.
Arrange items on a tray (toothbrush, comb, spoon etc.) ask the child to look away, rearrange the items to see if they realize the number of items is still the same or if they think it's different.
You will have given young children a great start to Mathematics if you perform the above activity suggestions before introducing them to numbers. It's often difficult to find commercial activities to support classification, one to one matching, number conservation, conservation, as many as/more than/the same as etc. and you will probably need to rely on typical toys and household items. These concepts underlie the important mathematical concepts that children will eventually become involved in when they begin school.
Ms. Nora Sierra
Lower Elementary Coordinator

Sunday, October 6, 2013



One of the best and least expensive gifts that a parent can bestow upon their child is the gift of reading. Reading to your preschool child not only helps lead to success in kindergarten but throughout your child's entire life. In fact, according to the Association of Ohio School, "The single most important thing that influences primary grade reading achievement is having someone read to a child on a regular basis."

Being a good parent requires consistency, support and the ability to set forth a good example for the child to follow (among many other things). Set an example for your child by reading everyday. From a 1998 study by the American Guidance Service, Inc.: "Children who see their parents reading tend to be better readers themselves."

Read to your child at least fifteen minutes each day. It doesn't matter what you read. Chances are good that if you are interested in something, your child will be too. Read the sports page, a gardening magazine, comic strips or even poetry. It is not important so much that your child comprehends what is being read as much as it is for your child to see that you are enjoying the act of reading. If your child observes you not only reading it, but enjoying it, they will likely begin to imitate the act themselves. You may catch them "reading" to their toys or friends. They may even pick up a book or magazine and make up a great story that they "read" to you out loud. Encourage this type of activity in your child. Your child is learning to read in this way, even if they do not yet recognize the words.

Here are some tips to make reading enjoyable for your child:

* Create a quiet, comfortable space with pillows, a favorite blanket and soft lighting.

*Make reading a special time to cuddle and connect with your child.

*Occasionally substitute your child's name for the lead character's name.

*Use funny voices for each character.

*Take trips to the library to pick out books that you'll read together.

*Write a story together and read it often.

*Read advertisements, billboards, license plates, street signs, etc. These activities provide opportunities to share reading skills with your child.

*Act out stories as if they were a play.

*Read a favorite story into a tape recorder so that your child may listen to it often.

*Send letters to your child through the mail or let him/her "read" the junk mail.

As parents, it is our duty to help our children develop a love for reading that will lead to a strong foundation for later success in life. It is so simple, so important and such a wonderful gift to share.

Ms. Nora

Lower Elementary Coordinator


Sunday, September 22, 2013

What is the Four Blocks Literacy Framework?

Four Blocks is a balanced-literacy framework created for teaching language arts, based on the premise that all children don't learn in the same way. It integrates four language arts areas into reading instruction. These areas are: guided reading, self-selected reading, writing, and working with words.
The program consists of four teaching models, each presented daily at a time scheduled by the teacher according to classroom needs:

Guided Reading assigns children from all reading levels into small-group sessions called “book-club” groups. The objective is to teach comprehension and mastery of progressively more difficult material through exposure to a wide range of literature.

Self-Selected Reading usually begins with the teacher reading aloud. Next, children read on their own, selecting from a variety of books gathered by the teacher. This block may include a small group reading an easy book with on-level instruction. The block usually ends with one or two children sharing their books with the class in a “reader’s chair” format.

Writing starts with a 10-minute writers' workshop in which the teacher models the writing process. The children write their own stories on topics of their choice. The teacher helps the children revise, edit and publish their writing. The block ends with an “author's chair,” with several students describing work in progress or published books.

Words begins with the “Word Wall,” a 10-minute review of frequently occurring words posted above or below an alphabet (five new words per week). Students practice new and old words daily. Children learn spelling patterns using phonics to read new words and learn the patterns that allow them to decode and spell new words.

At Discovery School, we believe that this teaching framework is for use in regular, heterogeneously constructed classrooms. The framework allows at-risk students to receive specialized programming, such as Reading Recovery, and to benefit from this model as well.

Recent findings from emergent literacy research have demonstrated that children who easily learn to read and write have a variety of experiences with reading and writing that enable them to profit from school literacy experiences (Cunningham & Allington, 1999). Classroom teachers will provide a variety of reading and writing experiences from which all children develop these six critical understandings, which are the "building blocks" of their success.
  • Children learn that reading provides both enjoyment and information, and they develop a desire to learn to read and write.
  • Students also learn many new concepts and add words and meaning to their speaking vocabularies.
  • Children learn print concepts, including how to read from left to write, how to read from top to bottom, etc.
  • Children develop phonemic awareness, including the concept to rhyme.
  • Students learn to read and write some interesting-to-them words, such as
    CVC word, consonant-vowel-consonant. (cat, dog )
  • Students learn some letters and sounds---usually connected to the interesting words they have learned.
         Ms. Nora Sierra
         Lower Elementary Coordinator



Monday, September 16, 2013

Why are Progress Reports important?

A critical element of any student's learning experience is the need for informed and meaningful feedback to those invested in the student's progress.  Reporting on student progress must have a well-defined purpose for it to be meaningful.   It must clearly identify the information needing to be communicated, the audience it is intended for and how that information will be used to improve future or related learning.

Educators believe that there are three primary purposes for reporting student progress:
1.    To communicate student growth to parents and the broader community.
2.   To provide feedback to students for self-evaluation.
3.   To document student progress and the effectiveness of instructional programs.

Discovery School is a school that has a commitment to and believes in supporting the individual learner.  It is critical that each child has a means to recognize and pursue individual interests, unique abilities, and to have his or her personal learning style honored.   The importance of communicating individual student progress to those with a stake in the learner’s growth and performance is of great value.
To fully support our school’s principles of learning, we believe we need to report on student growth in three

Student progress or the performance of each learner is measured in relationship to the shared standards that have been established at our school.

product of student work is best characterized as what a student knows and can do at a particular point in time.  The work a student produces is most typically demonstrated through the completion of ongoing assessments, assignments, presentations and projects.  While teachers will use the quality of a student’s product to assess progress toward meeting the standards, developmentally appropriate criteria and grading will be used to support students in the completion of the work they produce. 

The process each learner uses to enhance his/her achievement is measured by the student’s attitude toward learning, effort, work habits and utilization of developing learning strategies.                

Our school recognizes that students, parents and teachers alike must work together to support student learning.  Effective, meaningful and regular communication of student progress allows for open and constructive dialogue with parents and others; supports student self-evaluation and goal setting; and, provides important documentation for program evaluation and improvement.  Ultimately, our means of grading student progress will support and accentuate a desire for lifelong learning.  

Ms. Nora

April 20, 2018

Wrapping Up the School Year The end of the school year brings the expected joy at finishing another year, and perhaps some sadne...