Empowering Parents to Teach- Sentence Making

Sentence Making


Do you have a beginning reader?  When your little one recognizes enough sight words to read simple books, he or she may enjoy this activity.  It helps young readers reinforce words they already know, practice new words, and understand the concept of a sentence.


My son is a beginning reader and he just started routinely reading out loud to me every night before bed.  This routine was started by him mainly to  put off going to bed, but I went with it.  Now that he is motivated to read, I began this activity using sentences that he was capable of reading from his nightly books.  Like any learning activity, I only do it if he enjoys it and is motivated.  If he isn’t interested, I don’t push him.  He actually asks to do things like this because he wants to ” do homework” just like his older brother!  This activity is one that he enjoys.


Here’s what we did:


1. He found a book that he wanted to read.  He could read some of the book independently and I helped him with the words he did not know.  He picked I Like Crabgrass from an early reader set.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Reading Sentences


2. The next day, I picked out a sentence that he was able to read all on his own without my help. In this case the sentence read, “It did not like to be cut at all!”.  I wrote the sentence on a sentence strip.    Teaching Tip:  I purposefully chose a sentence that he could easily read on his own so he would be successful in this activity.  I can always increase the difficulty if need be, but at this early stage I want him to feel capable of reading.  


3. I showed him the cover and asked him if he remembered the book.  I opened the book and showed him the page with the sentence I chose.  I pointed to it and asked him to read the sentence.  He did this easily.  Teaching Tip:  By showing him the book and page where the sentence came from, I was reminding him of the context of the sentence.


4.  I drew his attention to the sentence on the strip of paper.  I told him that he was going to build the sentence that he just read.  In the small cup was each word of the sentence.  He took out one word at a time and matched it to the sentence.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Sentence Making

I kept the book on the tray to remind of us of the sentence’s context.


5.  After he was done, he read the sentence that he created to make sure it was correct.  We also looked to see that each word matched visually.


6.  After this, I took away the sentence on the strip and jumbled up the words on the tray.  I spoke the sentence one word at a time and he searched for the word I said.  I brought out the sentence strip at the end so that he could check his work.   Teaching Tip:  This is a little more difficult because the visual cue of the sentence on the strip was removed.  


Empowering Parents to Teach- Sentence Making


Empowering Parents to Teach- Sentence Making

Checking his work.


7.  After this, my little one wanted to dictate the sentence to me and see if I could make the sentence.  He was now the teacher!


8.  Lastly, you can have your child build the sentence once more, completely on his or her own.  Jumble up the words once again, and have the child build the sentence without the sentence strip or the parent dictation.  We did not do this step because my little seemed ready to be done.  However, the fact that he was able to dictate the sentence to me earlier indicates to me that he probably would have been able to do this if asked.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Sentence Making


9.  Once he was done, I put the sentence into a chart that is designed to hold sentence strips.  I hung this where he would easily see it on a regular basis.  This allows him to read the sentence any time he wants to.  As we read more books, I can pull more sentences for him to practice making and add them to his chart.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Sentence Chart


Why did I do the activity this way?

  • First of all, I structured the activity to have a lot of support in the beginning and gradually took away the support.  If he had trouble on any step, I could stay on that level of support.
  • I took the sentence from a book he chose. I did not have to prod or offer incentives for him to read.  He likes this book so he has a desire to learn how to read it.
  • It was a real sentence from a real book, which provided context for the words he was reading.
  • This sentence has a lot of commonly used words in it.  So even though he was practicing one sentence from one book, the word recognition from this sentence can help him read many other stories.
  • I included the punctuation mark because I wanted to show the structure of a sentence as well.


We kept it short and sweet so the learning activity ended on a fun positive note!  We can repeat this activity with different sentences from other books he reads and add them to our chart.  The more words a child can read by sight, the better his or her reading fluency will become!



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Empowering Parents to Teach- Letter E hiding

Alphabet Eggs


 The Bunnies’ Alphabet Eggs by Lisa Bassett inspired us to make our own alphabet eggs just like the little bunnies in the story.


Empowering Parents to Teach- The Bunnies' Alphabet Eggs


In the story, the Easter Bunny’s eggs are ruined the day before Easter.  Mr. Rabbit was watering his garden and did not realize the water was soaking through the ground and spilling into the Easter Bunny’s burrow.  Noticing all the color has washed off of the eggs, the Easter Bunny begins to worry that he does not have time to make new eggs in time for the morning.  Mr. Rabbit suggested that his ten children could help him make more.


While the Easter Bunny really wanted beautifully crafted eggs, the kids had another idea.  They painted letters on the eggs.  With very little time left, the Easter Bunny let the children paint as they pleased.  In the morning he was still nervous that the children would be disappointed with the eggs since they would be expecting finely decorated ones.  Instead, the children were very happy to find the letter eggs and they started spelling words with the eggs too!


Inspired by this, we decided to make some letter eggs to hide too!  I made alphabet eggs simply using glitter glue on hard boiled eggs.


Glitter glue

Glitter glue


Squeezing that glue bottle took a lot of hand and finger strength!  It made me realize that making the letters on the eggs are a wonderful fine motor skill for kids that can make the eggs themselves.  To help, you can write the letter on the egg for them with a marker and they can trace over the letter with the glue.


Letter A egg

Letter A egg


Time to hide the eggs and find them!


Empowering Parents to Teach- Letter E hiding


There are so many ways to use the eggs:

  • Find all the eggs and put them in alphabetical order
  • Spell words with the letter eggs
  • Sort them into vowels and consonants once they are found
  • Group them together into words and hide them as a word unit
  • Instead of writing letters on the eggs, write sight words!
  • If you write words on them- create sentences or phrases
  • Try some hands on math when you’re done- add, subtract, compare quantities, etc
  • Have your child trace the glue letter with his or her finger.


The possibilities are endless.  Like the Easter Bunny in the story- follow the children’s lead!  Their ideas may surprise you!


Following my boys’ lead, they wanted to smash the eggs when they were done. They smashed half of them and left the other half to do experiments- my 3 year old loves making up his own experiments.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Egg smashing


Empowering Parents to Teach- Smashed Eggs


Smashing the eggs, squishing them, and peeling them is a great fine motor activity and sensory experience!  They even started hitting the eggs like baseballs with the carton as a bat!  You never know where this activity can lead you :)




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Empowering Parents To Teach- Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web- Reading Activities

We just finished reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. My boys really enjoyed the story! A couple of extension activities came to my mind as we were reading that I’d love to share.


Message Web

Just as Charlotte loving wove her web for Wilbur and wrote flattering messages, you can do the same for your children!




When I was a kid, my mother taught me how to make Dreamcatchers.  It’s been quite a while since I made one, so I needed a refresher.  I found a great tutorial on wikiHow.  Using Dreamcatchers as my webs, I added a word to each one that describes my little ones and hung it outside their bedroom doors as they slept- just as Charlotte made her web for Wilbur late into the night!


Warning, I am about to get sentimental and cheesy.  But, as I was making these webs for my boys I couldn’t help but feel the kind of love that Charlotte was feeling when she made hers.  All of my thoughts were of my love for my kids as I was making these.  Taking the time to do this,  just to let my boys know I love them, really made this project feel special.  I did warn you about the cheesiness. Moving on…


To make a Dreamcatcher:  Make-a-Dreamcatcher

Some modifications I made to the above tutorial:

  • I did not make my own hoop, I bought two hoops from the craft store
  • I used different material on the outside of the hoop. Many materials can work on the outside of the hoop, a little trial and error helps me find the one I like the best.
  • I left out the attached feather, because I wanted it to resemble a web.


My finished products:



Rarely (ok, never)  do my crafts look like they belong in a magazine, but they are definitely made with love :)

Here they are hung over the doorway for a surprise in the morning:



Webs in the doorways!


To extend this even further:  I invited my kids to find words in a magazine or in the environment for me to add to their siblings web, just as Templeton found words for Charlotte to use.  At night I would put the found words into their brother’s web so they have new words to wake up to. What I also like about this is how it bonds the boys.  They are finding positive words about their sibling, making them focus on the good qualities of each other. They also have the satisfaction of knowing they did something nice for their brother.


If your kids are old enough and have the motor skills, they could even make the web themselves.  They could surprise a sibling, parent, or friend with a message web.  They will really get the feeling for the time it takes to make something like this,  therefore better understanding Charlotte’s devotion!


Some Boy (or Girl)



Another activity to extend your child’s experience with the book is to make a poster of themselves with positive words that describe them.  Just as Templeton searched for words in the dump to help Charlotte with her web, your kids can search through magazines for positive words for their posters!  This is something they can do on their own.


The steps:

  • Using Clip art, print out a web. Or, if your child is a good artist have them draw a web.
  • Write Some Boy or Some Girl on the web.
  • Attach it to a corner of the page.
  • Have the child draw a picture or paste a picture of him or herself.
  • Have the child go through magazines to find positive words that describe him or herself.



  • Have a sibling or other students find the positive words to put on the bottom.
  • Have children only find adjectives to teach the concept of adjectives.



Not only do activities like these help reinforce understanding of the story,  they also help kids focus on the positive qualities of themselves and others.



Linked to: Montessori Monday!

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To purchase the book on Amazon, click on the book cover:


Empowering Parents to Teach- Weather craft

Weather Book and Craft


Spring is often a time when we think about the changing weather.  Pairing this craft and book will help your child learn about weather, foster reading comprehension, and learn to support ideas with evidence!


My son came home from preschool with an adorable craft which went along perfectly with a book we got from the library!


Craft idea:


Weather craft







They used a strong paper plate as the base, cotton for clouds, and cut- out shapes for a rain drop, the sun, and the kite.  The kite string is made out of ribbon.  The arrow is movable so you can turn it to whatever the weather may be each day.  What a great idea!


Pair this craft with the book, What Will Weather Be Like Today by Paul Rogers and you have a fun way to reinforce weather concepts for little learners.  The text is simple and focuses on one type of weather per page.


While reading the book, I would ask questions to my preschooler about clues that we see in the pictures to increase comprehension.  For example, the first type of weather mentioned is wind.  The author writes, “Will it be windy?”.   I asked my son what clues do we see in the picture that lets us know that it is windy outside.  At first, he did not have a response.  After giving him enough time to think I said, “Oh look, I see a clue, look at how the tree branches are tilted to one side.  That must be because the wind is pushing on it.”  You can even have the child recall a time when they saw tree leaves moving in the wind.  After hearing my example he pointed to the background where we see smoke being pushed in the wind and said, “I see a clue!”  We continued to find all the windy clues that we could.


We did this for the different types of weather.  We noticed people bundled up in the cold weather and people swimming and wearing shorts in the warm weather.  Dark, gray clouds and lightning let us know it was stormy.  Again, when possible relate this to the child’s own personal experiences with the weather mentioned. Have you ever been in a storm?  Were the clouds dark?  Does your child like to swim in the summer time to cool off?  All of these questions help children relate the information to their own experiences which fosters comprehension.


Each day, use the craft to show what the current weather is.  Don’t just state the weather, support it with evidence! How do you know it’s windy?  Have the child tell you the clues (evidence).  They will be thinking like a scientist :)




an word family tray

Learning to Read: Word Families

Decoding: Word Families

Recognizing common letter and sound patterns in word families can help children figure out new words when they read. Instead of trying to sound out each letter one by one, they can identify larger groups of letters. 


Are you helping your child learn to read at home? Reading is made up of so many elements. My goal is to give information and ideas in all areas of reading. That would be a very long post if I did it all of it in one! Today I am going to focus on one aspect– word families. Some children pick up the phonological patterns in word families naturally and do not need to be taught this skill. However, some degree of phonics instruction can be helpful for all readers. Phonics instruction has been shown to be especially helpful for struggling readers. Remember, this is just one piece of the reading puzzle!


What are word families?

Basically, word families are a group of words that have the same pattern and sound at the end. For example, the -an family would have can, fan, man, van, etc. in it’s family. As you can see they rhyme. The -an part of the word is called the rime. It is the same for all of the words in the group. The initial consonant that can be changed to create new words is called the onset.


Is your child ready to learn word families?

Can your child:

  • Recognize all the letters of the alphabet?
  • Identify all of the letter sounds individually?
  • Hear rhyming in a story?
  • Rhyme a word that’s given? (For example, if you say “hat”, can they give you a word that rhymes?)
  • Begin to spell simple words?

These are some general guidelines to figure out if this is a good step for your child in their reading practice. Typically, word families are taught in first grade and even some kindergartens. But since every child develops at their own pace, I advise parents to follow your child’s lead instead what they “should” be doing at certain ages. Like any learning activity, if your child is not into it, don’t force it! You don’t want them to lose their love of learning!


Activity #1: Make the Word and Match the Picture

Bring the tray to where you are working with your child. I like using a tray for the work materials because it helps the child focus on the task. The tray is set up so you see “an” in the middle. In the small cup on the left are the letters- m,v,c,r,p,f. On the right hand side there is a pile of pictures of- man, van, can, ran, pan, fan. The pictures are not in any particular order.

Empowering Parents to Teach- an word family tray


If you do not have letters at home, you can easily make paper letters by typing them into a Word document and cutting out each letter.

The cards look like this:



Empowering Parents to Teach- an word family cards

I made these cards using clip art pictures from Microsoft Word and printed them on card stock.

  1. If your child does not yet recognize the word “an”, explain to him or her that when the letters “a” and “n” are together they sound like “an”.
  2. Tell him or her that by using “an” we can make all kinds of new words that have the “an” sound at the end.
  3. Have your child pick a letter out of the cup. For example, they may pick up the “m”. Ask them what sound the “m” makes.
  4. Put the “m” in front of the “an” and say the “m” sound plus the “an” sound to demonstrate how you can add the sounds together to make the word, “man”.
  5. Show your child the pictures and ask him or her to match the picture to the word. This is helping your child connect the printed word to its meaning.
  6. Take away the onset, in this example it is the “m”, and leave the rime, “an”.
  7. Encourage your child to try the next letter in the bowl on his or her own. Have him or her say the new letter sound and add it to the “an” to make a new word.  Again, match the picture to the word.
  8. If it is a little bit difficult, you can model how to put the sounds together and match the picture. If they can understand what you are doing as you do it, they are learning from your modeling. If it is very difficult for him or her, then s/he may not be ready for this yet. Continue reading rhyming books until your child becomes more familiar with hearing rhyming patterns.

Empowering Parents to Teach-  an word family- man



Activity #2: Match the Word and Picture

For this activity, the child will match the word with the picture. The first activity has the child constructing the words. This second activity encourages the child to recognize the written word.

The tray is set up with all six words visible- man, van, can, ran, fan, pan. The picture cards are placed in a cup on the right hand side.


Empowering Parents to Teach- an word family matching setup


This activity is simple. You can do it one of two ways:

  1. Have the child pick a picture, say the word out loud and match the picture the corresponding word. OR
  2. Have the child read the word and then find the matching picture.

Empowering Parents to Teach- matching an words


If you choose to do both activities, I would do the first activity on one day and the second activity on the next day. You could do them both in one day, but I personally like splitting them into two days so that the child has time to reflect on the first lesson before doing the next one. You do not necessarily have to do them in a certain order. Every child is different, sometimes building the word helps them recognize the word and sometimes recognizing the word helps them build the word.


Activity #3: Easy Reader Book with -an Family

I found a fantastic website for FREE printable easy reader books: Twisty Noodle–  www.twistynoodle.com

They have an easy reader book for the -an family: Twisty Noodle’s -an book

For very beginning readers, this book has short sentences with a repeating pattern. Your child can read the book to you and s/he can even underline the “an” word in each sentence. This can be reread anytime!


Other ways to help with word families:

  1. When you are reading to your child point out words that rhyme.
  2. Have your child find the rhyming words in stories.
  3. Go on a word hunt in a book to see how many “an” words you can find! You can change this for any word family.
  4. As always, keep reading lots of books! While these activities isolated the words, hearing them in context reinforces understanding!


The more words your child learns to read by sight, the less “effort” reading becomes! By learning these common word structures they can quickly add more words into their sight recognition!

You can use these activities for any word family! If you want to teach your child more word families: List of the 37 most common word families

All of these activities only take a couple of minutes to do. I like to keep direct teaching at home brief! 

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