Saturday, April 10, 2021

8 Letter Recognition Activities for Toddlers

I began exposing my son to his letters at around 2.5 years old. He isn't the biggest fan of "learning" so I try to make it fun for him so that he doesn't realize he's learning. Today I’m sharing 8 fun toddler-approved activities that helped my son with learning and identifying his letters. The best thing about them are that they are all easy to do and very low prep!

In the very beginning, we just worked on letter matching. This process is important in allowing toddlers to differentiate that letters look different from one another, some have curved shapes and some have straight lines. As he got the hang of matching letters, I began telling him the name for each letter and had him repeat it back to me. For every match he makes, he is now required to say the letter name. We use this same structure for most of the activities below. 

Materials Needed: 

Magnetic dry erase board

Magnetic Letters

Dry erase marker

For this one, just write random letters on the dry erase board. Place magnetic letters along the bottom of the board. As your toddler chooses a letter, tell them the letter name and encourage them to find the matching letter on the board. Have them place the magnetic letter over the written letters.

*Try to stay away from using letters that look the same in the beginning (b/d, p/q).

Once your kiddo is done, you can start all over with new letters :)


My son is obsessed with dinosaurs, so I created this printable to encourage him to work on learning his letters. 

Materials Needed:

Flat dish

Rice (you could substitute with oatmeal)
Dinosaur letter cards
Dinosaur letter mat

I had my son dig through the rice to uncover letters. He pulled the letter out, I told him the letter name, had him repeat, then he found the match on the board. We continued this process. We’ve also switched it up by letting him use a paintbrush to brush away the rice. 

This one was definitely a hit! I stocked up on a TON of Easter Eggs one year after Easter was done and got them for like 10 cents a bag (or something crazy cheap like that). So I have eggs on hand all the time and use them for tons of activities.

I filled the eggs up with the dino letter cards (same as the above activity) and hid them around the house. Little man went hunting for one egg at a time, opened it, then placed it on the letter board.

As always, as he opened the egg,  he was required to say the letter name and then place it on the board.  For the letters he wasn't sure of, or if he made a mistake, I would just tell him. 

Grab a paper towel roll, write letters randomly throughout the roll. Get the dot stickers (purchased here from Amazon) and write the corresponding letter. Have them match it up by placing the sticker over the letter on the roll. You could also extend this (and all other activities) by having them match the lower case with upper case letters. As you can see- this is one our earlier activities.

It's also great for their fine motor skills, peeling off those stickers can be tricky!

This specific one was to help him learn the letters in his name. I just printed out giant letters on cardstock paper and taped them to the wall.

I used letter stickers that I already had and also hand wrote a bunch of the letters for his name on the dot sticker sheets. I cut off a section of the dot stickers and hand them to him, he uses what he has and matches up the letters on the stickers to the letters in his name.

In this video, we were practicing the letters in his name but it could be used to work on any letter of the alphabet! Whatever you choose to work on, us sidewalk chalk to write the letters out. Call out a letter and have your child shoot the letter with a water gun. 

I also showed my son how to shuffle, so had him practice that as well lol.

Another obsession of my little on is CARS. He has a million little cars and can play with them for hours. I used the same Amazon dot stickers and wrote letters on each car. I picked up this painting roll paper from TJ Maxx, but they have them here on Amazon, too. I drew out little rectangular garages and wrote the letters of the alphabet. I used construction paper to make little roads. 

I threw all of the cars into a bin and left this out for him to discover. As soon as he laid his eyes on it he immediately ran over. He picked up his cars, noticed the letters on them and began looking at the mat. I told him that they were "letter garages" and he had to find the right garage for each car and park the car in there.

Little man had a total blast driving his cars down the road and parking them in the garage.

I have my son trace the letters on each sheet before starting. Then, I read him the "secret mission". I remind him that he will be looking for the big and little letters.

My son is working on coloring in the lines, so I have him color in the squares. If your child is a little younger, they could also use stickers to cover each letter.

As he finds the letter, he will color it and say the letter name out loud. This helps him to remember what each letter looks like as well as the name associated with that letter.

Once my son has completed the mission, we will take out a toy animal (if we have it) or he will use his fingers and walk along the path he just colored. We do this to make sure that it is a "complete" path and that he has successfully completed the mission.

Finally, I will have him count how many "steps" it took to get the animal to where it needed to go.

If you want to follow along on my little man's learning journey, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I'm always posting stories about the learning activities my son and I do together. You can also catch old activities on my highlight reel #teachatoddler!

I hope that you were able to find something fun for your little one to help them learn their letters. If you try any of these activities, I'd love if you share with me by tagging me on Instagram @teachinginparadise

{Affiliate Links were used in this blog post}


Monday, February 22, 2021

How to Teach Division to Your 3rd Graders

Does anyone else remember division being SO CONFUSING as a child?!

My teacher always used to ask questions like "How many times does 8 go into 48?".

I often found myself thinking, like what does that even mean?!

When I became a teacher, I "relearned" math from how I was taught so that I could better teach my students. I didn't want for my students to ever be confused and wonder "what the heck?!" like I often did as a child.

Every teacher knows that the teaching of division is no joke. But the great news is that it doesn’t have to be difficult. By using consistent language and making learning relevant, your students can learn division like that (audible snap).

I always begin my division instruction by asking students if they’ve had experiences where they’ve had to share something with a sibling, cousin, friend, etc. Inevitably, their answer is yes.

I then proceed to ask them if their parents would allow them to give their friend only 2 cookies but give themselves 5.


This usually gets an astounding "NO", when I ask why, they tell me "because it's not fair!". We talk about the concept of fairness and I have the kids explain it to me. I then take that explanation and tell them that since they understand the concept of sharing and fairness (sharing equally), they already understand the concept of division!

I then jump into a read-aloud with the wonderful children’s book The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins.

This classic book tells a story that perfectly pairs with the concept of division, and the kids love it! While Sam and Victoria are waiting to devour hot, chewy chocolate chip cookies, some friends stop by. As the doorbell keeps ringing from more and more visitors, their hopes of eating lots of the cookies continue to dwindle.

Once we’ve finished reading and discussing the book, I hand out paper cookies to the students. We use these cookies to illustrate division problems from the book. Math concepts are so much easier when manipulatives are involved.

Since I know that many of you are currently using a distance learning model, I have also created a digital resource to go along with this book and lesson idea. Simply have your students complete the same activity by physically manipulating and moving the cookies to represent the division problems.

Emphasizing the connection between multiplication and division is so necessary to get kids to become proficient with this skill. Anytime students are required to figure out the quotient, I always ask them 8 times what equals 40? This gets students always thinking about division in this way so that they can quickly and easily figure out the answer. 

Continue to provide guided practice to students as they are just learning this concept by using the I do, We do, You do model. The goal of doing this is so that you know students are ready to go off on their own to practice independently. You DO NOT want students to practice the concept the wrong way and get that way stuck in their heads.

As you are practicing, ask your kids questions and begin to release the responsibility of modeling off to your students.

As you are ready to connect to division word problems, it's essential to practice alongside other word problems (at least multiplication, too) so that students are forced to think about the context of the problem and not just assume every answer will be division.

I love having task cards on hand to be able to provide my students with a variety of word problems at any moment. These multiplication and division task cards are perfect for providing your student guided practice and then following up as center rotation or independent work.

If you're interested in more ideas on how to use task cards in the classroom, check out this post

Literature is a great add-on to math instruction, and manipulatives always help make the learning stick. Whether 3-D manipulatives or online, young math students benefit greatly by using them. I hope that these tips for teaching division help both you and your students.

If you enjoyed the ideas in this post, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I will update you there when new posts are released :)

{Affiliate Links were used in this blog post}

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Supporting Your Struggling Readers- The What, Why and How of Reading Fluency

Everyone who knows about teaching reading knows about The Big Five - Comprehension, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Vocabulary. These five components are critical for effective reading instruction. One of The Big Five, fluency, is sometimes misunderstood as being less important than the other four, and perhaps even merely aesthetic. Not true! Let’s dig into the concept of fluency and learn more about its critical role in the comprehension process.

Last week, I shared with you how to dive deeper to determine a specific intervention focus for a student that may be struggling to comprehend. You can check that post out here.

Today we will be focusing specifically on Reading Fluency. 

What Exactly IS Reading Fluency?

The chart below shows the elements of Reading Fluency. All of these elements combined are what makes a reader fluent. It is important to remember that fluent reading is NOT fast reading.
Le'ts take a deeper dive into each of these components.

ACCURACY- this is the ability for students to read words correctly. Without accuracy, the reader will not have access to the author's intended meaning. If a student is reading with an accuracy rate below 90% this means that the text is at the student's frustration level.

AUTOMATICITY- is quick, effortless, and accurate word recognition.

RATE- refers to how quickly and automatically one reads connected text. Slow laborious reading of the text taxes the reader's capacity to construct ongoing meaning of the text.

PROSODY- is when a student can read with expression (pitch, tone, volume, emphasis). Poor prosody can lead to an inappropriate grouping of words or applications of expressions.

Children can gain fluency by practicing reading until the process becomes automatic, engage in repeated oral reading, and engage in modeled fluent reading.

Why is Fluency Important?

The brain only has so much energy. Like a frazzled classroom teacher or an overwhelmed mother, it will try to do everything but won’t end up doing it very well.

Take reading, for example. The reader opens the book, says the word in his brain, and BOOM - understands the text - right? Not quite.

For an early or struggling reader, things are not so simple. The struggling reader must first when looking at the words on the page, figure out each sound. This is called decoding. 

When the brain puts all its energy towards decoding words, it doesn’t have much energy left to work on the natural phrasing and expression which are part of fluency. All of that decoding energy also means the reader isn’t looking for connections with his or her background knowledge.

‘Who cares about phrasing?’ one might ask. Well, it turns out your brain cares about phrasing, and cannot efficiently construct meaning without it. Further, if you think making text connections is ‘no big deal’, you’re missing the boat! Comprehension is the whole point of reading. Anything that detracts from comprehension must be addressed and fixed.

How do I implement a Fluency Intervention?

Now that you understand the what and why of fluency, I'm going to share with you a simple fluency intervention that you can most likely implement tomorrow!

The Critical Elements of Fluency Instruction:
1. Explicit modeling of fluent reading.
2. Repeated reading
3. Corrective Feedback.
4. Performance Criteria

If you plan to deliver daily fluency interventions such as the one I am going to outline below, I suggest using a passage that is at the child's instructional level. 

Below is a general daily fluency schedule that you could follow for your fluency intervention. The main objective is to model fluent reading for your students and allow them multiple practice opportunities while receiving immediate corrective feedback. 

By the end of the week, the goal for your student is to have a 30% rate increase from their cold read. Utilizing a graph is a great visual representation for your students to see and celebrate their growth and progress. 

Another fun idea is to utilize Fligrid. for your students to record their cold and hot reads. I have students watch their cold read and self assess what they need to focus on for the week. By the end of the week, the students can tell a difference in their reading and are very proud of themselves! What's nice about this is that it becomes almost like a digital portfolio. You can truly see the growth of each child from the very start of administering these interventions to the very end. 

If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!!

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Deep Dive into The Big Five: How to Determine Reading Interventions

Last week, I shared with you all about The Big Five. Today we will take a deeper dive into WHY knowing and understanding The Big 5 is important in supporting your struggling readers.

Let's pretend that Henry is in the 3rd grade and he is struggling with reading comprehension. This might be your focus for intervention and small groups, right??

We need to take a deeper dive into WHY he is struggling with comprehension. Knowing about The Big Five will help you to determine specific interventions that your students may need.  Let's take a look at this example:

These are prompts we typically use with our students right? Can YOU tell me about what you just read? For many of our students, this is what the text is like when they are reading! It could be either due to the fact that they are unable to decode the word or possibly that they simply just don't know what the word means. Both of these issues lead to a breakdown in understanding. 

We need to refer back to The Big Five and think of it as a Hierarchy of Reading Skills. 

The reason why Henry is struggling with Comprehension is likely due to several different factors. For 3rd graders, their beginning of year oral reading fluency assessments can provide a lot of information. If your student's reading rate is way below grade-level expectations and/or their accuracy rate is low, it is highly likely that your student is struggling to decode the text. They are reading slowly (and with many errors) because they are spending most of their cognitive energy trying to figure out what each word is. Since their brain is focused on this, they are unable to comprehend the text. 

Analyzing the errors also helps you to determine what the student needs. Perhaps the student is unable to read-only multi-syllabic words. This tells you that your intervention will need to focus on decoding multi-syllabic words. 

Taking a step back to analyze each component of The Big Five is necessary for truly targeting your students' intervention needs. Continue to move one step back along the hierarchy to determine a starting point for interventions. 

I hope that this post was helpful to you! If you have any questions, I'd love to answer them for you! Send me a DM over on Instagram or Facebook!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Big Five: Essential to Supporting Your Struggling Readers

Back when Response to Intervention (RTI) was a new buzzword in Education and our staff was getting initial PD on what RTI is and what we would be expected to do, I vividly remember asking “will there be training provided for HOW to deliver these research-based intervention strategies?” Not sure about your college program, but I was not trained to teach kids how to read. I taught myself strategies to get by to support my 3rd graders with what they needed to become successful readers. I once had a student that moved from another country and spoke very little English. I found myself spending hours on the internet trying to learn how to teach someone their letters, letter sounds, and how to blend. 

Fast forward a few years - I am in a different role as an instructional coach. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend many amazing PDs on reading. I’m happy to say that since that distant memory, our staff has been trained and now have tools in their belts to support struggling readers. Despite this,  I’m sure that there are many educators out there who are in the same boat I once was, so today I’d like to share with you a bit of what I’ve learned over the years. 


One big thing I learned was The Big Five, which was identified by the National Institute of Health and the National Reading Panel in a 2000 report. The Big Five refers to Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Together, these are the necessary components of quality, comprehensive reading instruction. A child who is competent in each of these aspects will likely be a good reader. 


So what is each of these components about, anyway? Rather than tackling the components alphabetically, let’s discuss The Big Five in terms of chronological order - starting with the component that appears first in a reader.

Phonemic Awareness involves listening. It is the ability to notice, think about, and work with individual sounds (phonemes) that make up words. 

Phonemic awareness develops in children between the ages of two and three. Imagine how much language a child hears in the first few years of life. ALL of this language goes into his or her development as a reader, and it all starts with phonemic awareness. 


This important building block involves listening and manipulating sounds. Although there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, there are a total of forty phonemes (sounds) and two hundred fifty spellings (/f/, /ph/, /gh/). Sometimes it’s a bit tricky.


Some of the other components of phonemic awareness include hearing rhymes, producing rhymes, identifying initial, middle, and end sounds, blending sounds, and orally segmenting and blending words. 


The next component of The Big Five is phonics. So what is the difference between phonics and phonemic awareness? In short, phonemic awareness focuses more on hearing sounds while phonics targets the relationships between letters and sounds. 


In phonics, the reader will learn about consonants and vowels (and their sounds). Further, phonics includes vowel blends (diphthongs) like -oi- as in coin and consonant digraphs such as /th/ and /sh/. Consonant blends like /dr/ and /st/ are also part of phonics.

These terms can often be confusing for upper-grade teachers, so to break it down for you Consonant blends are when two sounds are blended together, each of those sounds can be heard in the blend. Consonant digraphs are when two consonants are together and they make only one sound. Typically, this sound is changed and you cannot hear their original sounds.


Here is a great visual for you from Malia over at Playdough to Plato.  She has this as a FREEBIE over on her blog. Click here to check it out.

Reading should sound like speaking. Many teachers use this simple explanation to describe fluency to their students. 


Fluency is the ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression. Fluency is the bridge from learning to read to reading to learn.

When a reader is fluent, he or she is bound to better comprehend the text. The reason for this is that when a reader is fluent, he or she can focus on the meaning of words rather than decoding every single one. Thus, comprehension improves.


Vocabulary is the key to comprehension. The more words a reader knows and understands, the more he or she will be able to read, thereby learning more new words. An insufficient vocabulary can slow down comprehension significantly. Parents and teachers can build vocabulary in children by talking with them and reading aloud.


The definition of comprehension is ‘intentional thinking during which meaning is constructed during interactions between text and reader’. The ultimate goal of reading comprehension is not possible without the other four components. 


Reading comprehension involves many factors, including background knowledge, vocabulary, working memory, and exposure to language. A good reader is always asking questions internally (‘why did the character do that?’ or ‘who is this new character?’) and makes connections to the text.


Seeing the light bulb go on in the mind of a reader, when he or she is just figuring it out, is the ultimate gift for a teacher. After breaking down the reading process into its building blocks, it’s no wonder that it also seems like a miracle! 


If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!! 

Click here to check out my next post in the series: How to determine reading interventions for your struggling readers.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Distance Learning Resources to Teach Grade 3 Numbers and Operations in Base Ten Standards

All around the world, school districts are currently in conversation about how to resume schools amidst the Corona Virus Pandemic. My school came out with plans this past week. We will be doing a hybrid model where students will come to school on certain days, depending on their last name. When students are NOT in school, they will be doing distance learning at home. 

We have not received any information as far as HOW this is possible or how it will roll out, but, my guess is that it will be left up to the teachers to figure it out. 😡 At my school, teachers will have students 5 days a week during normal school hours. My biggest question is how in the world will teachers be able to plan for distance learning AND in-person instruction?? I mean, planning for a regular school year is hard enough! 

In an effort to help ease the load, I am putting together a list of videos and resources that can be used to teach your NBT standards. My hope is that this post will save you time and we all know that is something that we never have enough of! 

This video uses place value blocks and a number line to demonstrate how to round to the nearest 10. It is a great visual for students.
This video is 2 min. and 20 seconds long.

This is a fun rap for rounding to the nearest 10 and 100. 
It is 3 min. and 30 sec. long.

This is a much longer video at 7 minutes and 23 seconds, however, it is very thorough. He focuses the lesson on rounding to the nearest 10. 

To use while teaching rounding, I also have these Rounding Task Cards available for you.  Included you will get a file to print your own task cards AND  self-grading digital task cards. They are perfect to use during centers, as an exit pass or a quick check for distance learning! For more ideas on how to use task cards in the classroom, check out this post.

Melissa from Marvel Math created these Google Slides that are absolutely perfect for teaching rounding! She has this rounding to the nearest ten resource available for FREE in here TPT Store

Rounding to the nearest 100 follows the same format! You can find it here.

This is another video from the same rounding guy. Again, it is a longer video but he goes through various strategies and makes the connections for students. This video comes in at 8 minutes and 28 sec. long. 

Here is a Khan Academy Video showing how to add 3-digit numbers. This video is only 2 minutes and 25 seconds long. 

This video is another great visual using base-ten blocks for adding 3-digit numbers. This video is 5 minutes and 35 seconds long. 

Here is the subtracting 3-digit number video using base-ten blocks. 

I have these task cards available for in-person instruction and I also have a digital resource available on Google Slides for your distance learning days. You can grab both of these resources in a bundle and save 10%.

Here is another great video for teaching 3NBT3. This video is 7 minutes and 45 seconds long. 

This video is by Khan Academy and runs 3 minutes and 4 seconds long. 

I have some print task cards to practice 3NBT3 during your in-person instruction days. 

You could also send this coloring freebie home as homework or additional practice!

As you are teaching each of these NBT standards, my Quick Checks will work as a great formative assessment! I use these as exit passes at the end of my lesson. This helps me to figure out who needs additional practice or even re-teaching. 

I hope this post has saved you the time from having to search the internet for videos and/or resources! 

If you found this post helpful, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook to be updated when new posts go live!!