How to Encourage Parents to Buy EDUCATIONAL Holiday Gifts for Their Kids- and a Black Friday Promo Code!

How to Encourage Parents Lg
Getting gifts and toys that are educational and that will help kids learn at home is so important, but how is the average parent going to know what to buy unless teachers let them know?  In this post, I am including a downloadable parent letter that you can print, fill out, and send home with children so that parents will know what you recommend that their children have at home to help them learn.  I am also giving you our Black Friday Promo Code for 15% off a bit early this time so that you can also pass that along to the parents of your students to further encourage them to order this weekend as well if you choose!

The promo code is TURKEY14 and it is good for 15% off any order on our website, from now until December 3rd.  Remember to write it ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS, or it won’t work!  :)  There is no minimum purchase.  This will be our last sale before Christmas, so don’t delay!  If you snooze, you lose!

Holiday Letter


So how DO you encourage parents to purchase educational gifts for their children?  Well, JUST REMIND THEM TO DO IT, OF COURSE!  And here are some other tips:

  1. Tell the parents what to purchase specifically, and where to purchase it.
  2. Tell them when to purchase it, and make sure that it is a affordable or on sale.
  3. Consider collecting orders yourself and sending them in on behalf of the parents.  (If you choose to collect orders from your students, I will not charge you shipping for the order, and you can put yours in there with it!  Just call or email the HeidiSongs office and arrange it with us.)  Phone:  (909) 331-2090;  Email:
  4. Tell parents exactly what to do with it when it comes in.
  5. Refer to it when parents conference with you, and thank them for following through on it.
  6. Consider adding a line to the paper that goes home that says, “I would like to donate some extra money to help purchase an extra gift for a needy child.”  You will probably find that parents that do not have change for that twenty dollar bill will let you keep the change and donate it to a needy child.

Click here to download this note!  Thank you so much!  And don’t forget to order your classroom supplies for yourself!  The promo code expires on Dec. 3, 2014!

By the way, parents!  These DVD’s also make GREAT gifts for early childhood TEACHERS!!!  :)



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What To Do If You Have Child with a Developmental Delay in a Regular Ed Class

Helping a Child with a Developmental Delay lg

Do you know what to do if you have a child with a developmental delay in your regular education class? How can you help a child that is significantly behind the rest, and still continue teaching the standards that you are responsible for?  You might even have a child placed in your class that has never been in school before for some reason, who appears to have no developmental disabilities at all- it’s just that the child has not had an opportunity to learn, and is significantly behind the rest of the class.  With or without an official special education diagnosis or an aide, here are some tips to help you structure your day so that it is fair to every student in the class.

The key to helping any child in the class is knowing what the child needs to work on, and that is especially true of one that is far behind the rest of the class.  You’ll feel better about the situation if you can make yourself a short list of goals to work on with the child.  So start by finding out some basics about the child, such as:

  • Can he recognize (find) his name amongst other similar looking words?
  • Does he respond to his name when you call it verbally?
  • Can he write his name?
  • Does he identify colors?
  • Can he sort objects by color?
  • Does he speak clearly?
  • Can he identify basic school objects in English (or the home language, if you know it) such as desk, paper, crayons, etc.
  • Can he tell you any shapes?  If not, can he point to any shapes if asked to do so?
  • Does he know any letters at all?  Any letter sounds?

Once you have a basic idea of what the child needs to work on (as opposed to the blanket statement, “He doesn’t know ANYTHING!!!” which I realize can be tempting in some situations!) then you can start to think about ways to integrate that instruction into your day without stopping other lessons to do it.  (I’ll explain more in a minute.)

If your student has been diagnosed and actually has an aide, you could try some of the following activities with him or her. If not, perhaps you can get some volunteers to help the child with some of these activities when they have a few spare minutes. When I had a child like this in my class, he sat and listened to my lessons, sang songs with us, and participated in class unless I had an extra volunteer that could work with him. When it was his turn to be called on, I would either change the question to one that was within the range of things he was working on, or had him try to repeat back the answer after me.  This worked, because he also had speech issues.

Keep copies of the child's name on hand for tracing practice.

When we did group work, I had alternate worksheets and alternate activities that he could do independently when possible while I worked with the rest of the children.  (I found these in preschool level books at a teacher supply store.)  Sometimes I just wrote the correct answers on the worksheet everyone was doing with a red pen, and had him try to go over it with a pencil or crayon. (I used the red pen to make sure that parents knew that it wasn’t his original work, and I also tried to write that at the top of the paper.)  I also pulled him out of playtime and tried to work with him then.

This an example of a basket that I made for a different child, but this is NOT the child I'm referring to in this post.

This an example of a basket that I made for a different child, but this is NOT the name of the child I’m referring to in this post.  These are just the only photos I have on hand.


I accepted all offers of help, and whenever somebody new came into my classroom, I immediately would pull out a tub with activities and instructions in it that I had ready, and hand it to them. It also had a documentation sheet that asked volunteers to sign in when they helped, write the date, and what they worked on, which I have included here as a free download.


This is an EASY way to document it when you give individual help to children in your class!

This is an EASY way to document it when you give individual help to children in your class!

As you can see in the photo above, I called this system of helping children on remedial skills and documenting it, “Tutoring Baskets.”  At some point in the year, every child eventually had their name on a sheet in the tutoring baskets because I used them for just about every skill!  Examples:

  • Writing names
  • Sorting
  • Patterning
  • Counting
  • Sounding Out Words
  • Practicing Sight Words
  • Etc.!

But my little sweetie pie with a delay had some other activities as well, such as:

  • Classification types of activities, like putting pictures of clothes together, toys together, etc. This is also a good vocabulary builder.
  • A simple puzzle, like putting the number one piece into the number one cut-out might work.
  • Inserting pegs into pegboards.  (It’s good fine motor practice just to put the pegs into the slots.) I have some peg boards that have numbers on them; the kids are supposed to put three pegs into the one with number three, etc.
  • Inserting chips into slots.  (I cut a slot out of the lid of a margarine tub, and the child liked to practice putting them into the slot, which was good for his fine motor skills.) That particular child was better off counting things and putting them into the slot, because that meant that he could not stop to play with them after he counted them. It didn’t stop him from playing with the chips before he counted them, though!
  • Letter matching with plastic letters (this develops visual perception skills): I found some plastic letters and pulled out the ones for that child’s name. I wrote his name on a large piece of tagboard, and had him match the letters to form his name.  
  • Matching any other numbers or shapes together (this also develops visual perception.) He matched a large shape to a small shape, or a red triangle to a blue triangle, etc.
  • Name tracing with fat, colored markers and crayons.   My sweetie pie needed his name printed very large- it took up the whole sheet of paper.  I xeroxed a bunch of them to keep on hand.
  • Junior's Papers

    This is how one child practiced his name. This is NOT the child that I have been referring to in this post, however.

  • Tracing straight and curvy lines:   I just drew some curvy and straight lines on a piece of paper with a thick black marker. Then I xeroxed the paper several times before I gave it to him, and I had him try it every day for a while.  He did his papers when the other children were doing theirs.  He was way off, but got better as the year progressed.
  • Trace 2Cutting straight and curvy line:  He just practiced cutting out those same papers that he also traced- and then we threw them away!
  • Working on Vocabulary with Board Books- If you can get your hands on some baby board books with just vocabulary pictures in them, then the child can try to “read” and name the pictures. Sometimes, the most basic emergent readers will also work for this purpose.  For example, the book might be called “Farm Friends” and have just a picture of a goat with the word “Goat” underneath it, etc.
  • Bead Stringing with fat beads on a shoelace: My little guy did this with just plain beads and shoelaces that I had on hand, and also with the center that I have pictured below.  (There are shoelaces tied to some thick pieces of cardboard. The cardboard pieces have numbers and dots on them. So the piece with a number 5 on it has five sticker dots. The children are supposed to lace 5 beads on the shoe lace, etc.)
  • Numbers & Beads (Front)

Numbers & Beads Back

Unfortunately, my little sweetie pie began to hate the tub with his name sheets and tracing sheets, and would start to cry as soon as he saw it, bless his heart!

How to Work with a Child on Separate Skills While Still Teaching the Rest of the Class

So, how can a teacher possibly give a child like this the attention that he or she needs, while teaching the rest of the class the standards that they need to know?

  1. Each time you pass out a paper, have him try to trace his name on it.  He can do it on the back of it if necessary.
  2. As you move along, helping each of the children in turn, just stop and help that child with what HE needs, rather than the assignment that everyone else is working on.
  3. Each time you ask the child to say something, make an effort to ask him to speak CLEARLY.
  4. Each time you pass out a paper, have him try to find and color (or highlight) the letters in his name.
  5. Keep that tub of differentiated work handy!  Pull a different tracing worksheet out when you need to.  Pull out some of the other manipulatives (like color sorting, or putting chips in the slot) for him to work on if they are more appropriate than what the rest of the students are doing.
  6. When you pull names to have kids answer questions, ask your child with a delay a question that is appropriate to what he is working on.  Give him credit for learning things!  Progress does happen, and kids like this can surprise you. :)
  7. Find a compassionate peer tutor in the class that might be willing to help the child learn a few of the skills.  Sometimes girls that have younger siblings at home are a good choice!
  8. Set up a different listening center for that child and let him listen (or watch, with a portable DVD player or computer) some HeidiSongs DVD’s to help get those basic skills down.  (See the video clip below from Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds.)
  9. See if there are any funds to get the child an extra copy of that CD or DVD to take home so that learning time may be increased.  Our Colors and Shapes DVD (see below) is a good choice, and so is our Jumpin’ Numbers series.  Sometimes children with delays learn quite well through music and movement!  One teacher I know even arranged to have one playing in the special ed van as the children came and went to school each day!

This was my rule of thumb for working with him:  If there is anything that he could learn from the activity that the rest of the class was doing, he should do it with the rest of the children.  If it seemed like a big waste of his time, then I would have him do something else (and especially so if there happened to be a volunteer present and available.)

My little guy with the delay basically stayed with my class and did everything that the others did, but he just scribbled on everything. So I had him sit right next to me, and repeat back to me the things that were on the page that he was working on, as clearly as possible.   When I passed out their worksheets, I usually just reached for his tub instead, and had him do one of his own- unless he WANTED to try the one that the class was doing.  In that case, I generally let him get started, and then would wind up helping him by writing an answer on the page with a red pen and letting him trace it.  If he was happy and seemed to be learning and benefitting from the activity, then I was happy with that.

I must admit that the children did seem puzzled by this child that was so much farther behind the rest of them and couldn’t seem to communicate.  My heart went out to him, because it was clear that they did not accept him.  The children got used to the situation eventually, but I had to explain it to them at a time when he was not around.  I tried to persuade them not “to tattle” when he was not completing assignments “correctly.”  I also tried to appeal to their sense of compassion and right and wrong, since I caught them often avoiding sitting by him in small groups, and that made me angry!  But I had to again explain to them that what he had was “not contagious,” and that their behavior was hurtful.  How would they like it if when they sat down at a table, everyone moved away?  How awful would that be?  Lucky for this little boy, his seemed to be totally unaware of it- and for that I was very grateful.  It was still totally unacceptable to ME, though.  We had to work on learning about and accepting differences that year.

The above activities worked for me  because he was a very compliant child who didn’t really know that he was “different” from the others. Working with a less compliant child is a much different story!   If I ever get it “down,” I’ll be sure to make a post on how I did it!

And by the way- you may be wondering how it all turned out with this little sweetie pie child of mine?  Well, he LEARNED!  Yes indeed, he did.  He learned about 20/26 letters (both upper and lower case,) all of the numbers from 0-10, the colors, and the shapes- and yes, he even learned a few sight words!  He qualified for special education services under due to lack of  language, (as well as I can remember) and then went from my class in Kindergarten to full day special ed class.  But I’m SO GLAD that I didn’t just let him “sit there!”


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How to Teach Nonsense Words, and NEW Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets for CVC Words!


How to Teach Nonsense Words

Do your students struggle with the concept of “nonsense words?”  Teaching nonsense words can be a a little bit tricky, but when you take it step by step, it’s really not much harder than any other skill.  In this post, I’ll explain exactly how to teach nonsense words, and I’ll also explain WHY it’s important to teach them- and basically, it has to do with comprehension and phonics.  They really can be beneficial to students for a lot of reasons.  I also am really excited to tell you about our new Color by Nonsense Words Worksheets for CVC Words, too!

First, let me tell you about the new worksheets, and then I’ll tell you how to use them in a lesson so that you can teach your students to read those nonsense words.  Our new Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set One and Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set Two are perfect for helping kids with basic comprehension of CVC words, because they have to really think about what each word MEANS (or rather, if it means anything at all) before they can color in the section!  They are also wonderful for helping kids exercise those phonics skills in a fun way, because they must use phonics to sound out each word.

CVC Vol 1 Word Families

These are the word families included in the CVC Volume One Book, AND the Color by Nonsense Words Worksheets, Set One.

CVC Vol 2 Word Families

These are the word families included in the CVC Volume Two Book, AND the Color by Nonsense Words Worksheets, Set Two.

Each of these sets support our CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) Workbooks, Volumes One and Two.  That means that all of the word families that appear in our CVC Book, Volume 1 are in our Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets, Set One.  And, all of the word families in our CVC Book Volume 2 are found in our Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets, Set 2.  It is also means that Set One accompanies our Sound Blending DVD as well!

I originally created some worksheets like these several years ago to give children a fun way to practice phonics skills and comprehension when reading those all important three letter words with a CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) spelling pattern.  I also created them to help them practice for their DIBELS tests- but more on that below.  Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set One has 42 worksheets for the 15 word families included in the HeidiSongs CVC Workbook, Volume One, including at, an, it, of ip, in, ig, ot, op, ox, et, en, eg, ug, ut, un.  ($4 for the download.)

Dino Nonsense Words vs. Real Words Coloring from HeidiSongs

Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set Two has 40 worksheets for the 13 word families included in the HeidiSongs CVC Workbook, Volume Two, including ap, ag, ad, id, im, od, og, ed, em, um, ud, ub, up.  The photos below are from Set 2.  ($4 for the download.)

Car Nonsense Words An Family


Why Nonsense Words?

Learning to Read Nonsense Words is Helpful for Children That GUESS at Words

When children learn to read simple three letter words, such as “cat” or “dog,” they sometimes start GUESSING and pay little attention to the actual letters that they see, other than the beginning sound.  Reading nonsense words can help isolate those phonics skills for children that have not yet developed them because they have become great at GUESSING!  Many children are so smart that they can make very astute guesses at words, based on no more than the first few letters of the word and the context of the reading passage. But you can’t guess at a nonsense word!

Other children may try to memorize these tiny words rather than learn to sound them out, and that becomes a problem when they are suddenly confronted many DOZENS of these tiny words that all start to look alike!

Frogs Nonsense Words Worksheet by HeidiSongs

Deciding If a Word is Real or Nonsense is an Exercise in Basic Comprehension 

Some children have to put so much effort into sounding out words that they totally forget to think about what they are reading  MEANS!  One solution is to give the children some words to read that are “real” and actually make sense, and have them compare them to “nonsense words.” Nonsense words, of course, are really made up words that mean nothing at all, at least in standard English! So the children are forced to think about the meanings of each word and decide if each one is an actual word that means something or not.  (Example:  Does the word make sense? Does it mean anything?)  In these worksheets, the children must color the objects or sections in each picture a specific color, depending on whether it is a real word or not.  And when they learn new words in the process, children’s vocabularies also grow.

Kinder Kid with Nonsense Word Worksheet

Learning to Read Short Nonsense Words Helps Kids Read Longer Words Later

Reading nonsense words is good preparation for reading long, multisyllabic words such as “encyclopedia,” “condominium,” “auditorium,” or “hippopotamus.” The reason is because each syllable in these long words is made up of a small nonsense word! Children with solid phonics skills can be trained later to apply those skills to any word, long or short. They should be able to take a word apart, syllable by syllable, and read it without guessing.

Nonsense Words Apple from HeidiSongs

This particular Nonsense Word Worksheet is from Set 2.

To help get kids started using these worksheets, I recommend that you do these worksheets TOGETHER as a group.  Do them as a guided lesson.  I did them in small groups by first showing the children the letters on large flashcards and helping them sound out the words.  I found it very helpful for me to wear my Show & Tell Apron that I got from the Kinder-Gardening TPT store!!  Even though I was sitting down for the lesson, I just left the apron untied and lifted up the pockets each time we needed to sound out a word.  It kept my hands free and left more space on the table.

Kinder-Gardening Apron for Sounding Out Words

Note that the Kinder-Gardening apron comes with some very nice downloadable letters, which I forgot to print out.  (Duh!)  So I just wrote my own letters on index cards and trimmed them down to two by five inches.  Worked fine!


How to Teach Nonsense Words with the Color by Nonsense Words Worksheets:

  1. Show the children the letters on large flashcards and helping them sound out the word as a group.
  2.  Together, decide if the word has any meaning or not.  Basically,  I talked them through the decision of whether or not it was a real word or a nonsense word by asking them things like, “Can you “vip” me?  Can you give me a “vip?”  Does this paper look “vip” to you?  Does the word “vip” have any meaning at all, or is it silly?”  (Notice how I tried to use the nonsense word as a verb, a noun, and an adjective with the children, looking for meaning in the nonsense word.)
  3. Together decide which color to use on the worksheet by re-reading the directions each time if necessary.
  4. Together, find that word on the worksheet and color it (or underline it with the correct color so that later the children can go back and color it.)
  5. Repeat this process until the worksheet is completed, or until you are confident that the children understand how to proceed on their own.
  6. While the children are coloring, try to find the time to go back and listen to the individual children read some of the words to you, asking them if the word is real or nonsense.
Nonsense Word Easel

We underlined the words with the correct color first, and then I released them to finish the coloring.  I also gave them ONLY the colors that they needed, rather than all of the colors in the box.

Here’s a little movie that shows you the lesson that I did:

Sometimes certain words appeared multiple times, so we decided to “work smart” and color all of them at once.  The children really enjoyed trying to find ALL of them, and then counting them, calling out, “I found another!  That’s three!” etc.  In fact, they were having so much fun with it, proudly showing each other where to find the words that we decided it was a lot like playing “Where’s Waldo?”  It actually made me wish I had “planted” more word doubles in it, LOL!


The boys really enjoyed the car theme of this Nonsense Word Worksheet!  I did have to clarify that the color words were meant to be colored that specific color, rather than being treated as a real word.  Notice how we underlined the words with the correct color first, and then went back and colored them in later.

Here’s a management tip for getting the worksheets done more efficiently as a group: have the children look for the words in the SMALLEST sections FIRST, and then it will be easy for them to color them with you as you go along.   Then the children can easily all color them together. When almost all of the sections are colored, then you can release the group to do the rest of the worksheet on their own (although one group was not ready for that.)  I wished I had figured that one out BEFORE the very last group.  Oh well!

I know that the children enjoyed this activity.  And I LOVE this group of children!

I know that the children enjoyed this activity.  And I LOVE this group of kids!!  They are the sweetest group of children that I have worked with in quite a long time.

Make sure that you watch out for reversals that look like real words when they are not, such as “bat” vs. “dat.”  It is frustrating for some children when they mistakenly color a section, and cannot fix it!  I found that warning the kids ahead of time that this might be a problem helped quite a bit.  I thought it was interesting that the children that had the most trouble with reversals seemed to already realize it and were immediately on the lookout for those b’s, d’s, and p’s once I warned them that they were coming!  Other children were confident that they could tell the difference- and for the most part, they could!

Turkey Nonsense Words 1 Logo

This Nonsense Word Worksheet is also from Set 2.

These pictures are from my friend Julie’s class that I have been volunteering in, but I used to really enjoy doing Color by Nonsense word worksheets in my own Kindergarten class before I went out on my leave of absence!  I actually started doing it to help prepare them for their DIBELS tests (which I DESPISED- and that’s not a strong enough word!) but in the end, I discovered that teaching the nonsense words themselves was not a bad thing- as long as we didn’t have to deal with ENDLESS rounds of timed tests and gobs of pressure!  And teaching them through coloring?   Well that’s FUN!

Ladybug Nonsense Words Kids

These are students from my OWN class doing a ladybug nonsense word worksheet that I made for them in 2011! Aren’t they cute?  And quite photogenic!  I had a lot of fun taking pictures of that class of children, especially!  LOL!

The bottom line is that I know that Kindergartners CAN get to the point later in the year when you can simply give them the worksheet and they can do it on their own (like around March or so, for my student population.)

Ladybug Nonsense Words Kids 2

Here are some of my sweet little boys from my class in 2011, also working on their ladybug nonsense words worksheet. Ahh, I miss those kids!

I used to give it to a small group, get them started, and then stop one child and listen to him or her try to read as many of the words on the page as he or she could in one minute or so, telling me if it is real or nonsense.

And here's one more photo of my class from 2011.  What lovely children!  Love their precious smiles!

And here’s one more photo of my class from 2011. What lovely children! Love their precious smiles!

I LOVE this because it’s a built in management system to keep the rest of the group busy while I listen to just ONE child read.  PERFECT.

Want to try these out for yourself?  Here is where you can purchase them, and also where you can pick up the free samples, too!

Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set One 

Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set One Freebies

Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set Two

Color by Nonsense Word Worksheets Set Two Freebies


I hope you enjoyed this blog post!  If you did, sign up for our email updates!  You can also follow this blog on Bloglovin’, and keep in touch with me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, TPTGoogle+ and YouTube, too!  And, join more than 10,000 subscribers of our email newsletter for updates on products, Heidi’s workshops, valuable information, freebies, and PROMO codes you won’t find anywhere else!

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A Thanksgiving Draw-and-Tell Story Freebie

Thanksgiving Draw & Tell Freebie

Today I am going to tell you how I Turned my Thanksgiving Sound Effects Story into a Draw-and-Tell Story.  It was fun and easy, and the children LOVED it!  I am also giving you a free download of the Sound Effects Story and the little easy to draw Thanksgiving icons that I made up, just in case you would also like to try it!

Thanksgiving Guided Drawing Kids

Not long ago, I read a blog entry from “Teach Preschool”’s Deborah Stewart called Thanksgiving time story telling with symbols in preschool.  As I read about this idea, it occurred to me that it would be a great idea to combine it with my existing Sound Effects Story for Thanksgiving! (Click here to see the post with the Thanksgiving Sound Effects Story.  It’s free!)  So I tried it and it was a huge hit!  My students were totally enthralled, and just loved it!

Thanksgiving Picture Icons Pg 1

I have done other kinds of “Draw and Tell” stories before, and they have always been very well received, so this should have been no surprise.  However, I have never tried to combine the two ways to tell a story.  I have to say that the first method really just enhanced the other!

So basically, this is what I did:  when I told the story for the very first time, I told it sitting next to my white board easel.  I showed them the picture icons that I am including as a free download for you today, and I drew the pictures as I went along.  I also taught the children the sound effects as I drew.  So I as I drew the stick figure pilgrims, I told them about the pilgrims and then told them to say, “Hi, there!” each time they heard the word “pilgrims,” etc., which was one of the “sound effects” that the children were supposed to say whenever they heard that target word as I read the Thanksgiving story.

Thanksgiving Picture Icons Pg 4

I made one set of the pictures with titles, and the other without so that you could use them as you wish.  As you can see, this picture shows the icons with the titles, but the icons shown in the other picture do not have them.

I actually ran out of time to finish the story before the end of the day when I introduced it, but he kids were so interested in it that at dismissal time, they did not want me to stop to send them home!  That actually really surprised me.  But what surprised me even more was the fact that the next morning, they came in asking me to finish it, first thing in the morning!

That day I left the picture icons clipped to the white board easel with magnets, and at playtime I had at least eight children all clamoring to draw those pictures on that one small easel, so I got out a bunch of individual white boards for the children to use and let as many children draw as they wished.  They had a wonderful time, and they were all telling the story as well!   I just wish I had remembered to take a few pictures of them doing that.  Darn!
In any case, click here to download the file with the Thanksgiving picture icons!  I hope that you will enjoy using these in your Thanksgiving story telling.  :)

This is a photo of the children’s Thanksgiving Guided Drawing pictures!  Click here for the free instructions for this adorable project, too!


I hope you enjoyed this blog post!  If you did, sign up for our email updates!  You can also follow this blog on Bloglovin’, and keep in touch with me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, TPTGoogle+ and YouTube, too!  And, join more than 10,000 subscribers of our email newsletter for updates on products, Heidi’s workshops, valuable information, freebies, and PROMO codes you won’t find anywhere else!

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Getting Kindergartners Started Writing When It Seems IMPOSSIBLE!

How to Get Kindergartners Started Writing When It Seems IMPOSSIBLE!

Getting young children started writing real sentences can seem more than difficult; it can seem completely IMPOSSIBLE, especially if you work with disadvantaged or low income students as I always have!  Yet year after year, my students have conquered this successfully, without any tears (on their part) or ulcers (on mine!)  Here is how I accomplish this, step by step.

Environmental Print Writing

My intention has always been to make the writing process a FUN AND EASY one, whether my little ones came to me with tons of advantages, or whether they arrived on day one with no preschool or literacy experiences to their name anywhere, ever.  When I started making up sight word spelling songs, I was just trying to make the writing process easier and more fun for all!  So, it was very natural for me to intentionally CONNECT THE SONGS TO THE WRITING PROCESS.  Of course, as many of you already know, the unintended consequence was that most of the children first learned to READ the words by singing and moving to the songs- and THEN they learned to spell them!  (What a surprise!)

However, I find that connecting the songs to the writing process is not always something that all teachers instinctively know that they should do.  Therefore, I am here to point this out to everyone right now.  Remind the children to use the spelling songs to help them write, and MODEL HOW TO USE THEM.  Then they will be able to write much more quickly and easily.  So here is exactly how I do that, from start to finish!

Now, before I begin telling you about the basic lesson format, I need to point out that this method of getting kids writing starts with teaching kids to write specific “Sentence Frames”, such as “The (animal) is (color.)”  For example, the children might write, “The horse is brown,” or  “The pig is pink.”  It’s not about teaching the kids to write anything they want, but it IS a way to get kindergartners STARTED writing.  After that, we move on from there.  Just one baby step at a time… one foot in front of the other.  Don’t get overwhelmed!  If it seems like they aren’t making it, just back up and model the process a few more times, and then try it again. Don’t worry, because they WILL PROGRESS!  They ALL do!  I’ve only had two children in my twenty five years of teaching that were never able to write a sentence independently, and both were little sweethearts that were eventually placed in county classes for children severe developmental delays.  So what I’m saying is that 99% of the children (at least in my experience) will be able to master at least this much, and most will go much, much farther.

A Child's  Writing Progress with HeidiSongs

So this is how I get my kindergartners started writing.  This is what really works well with my student population, which is mostly from a low income area, with about 60% of the children on the free lunch program, and about half of them coming with no preschool experience.  About half of them speak another language at home, as well (usually Spanish.)

  1. First, we learn to recognize some sight words by singing some of the Sing and Spell the Sight Words songs from HeidiSongs, and also practice writing these words individually on marker boards, etc.
  2. Once we know at least two sight words, such as “the” and “is,” THEN we can start writing!  We start out by teaching them to write “Sentence Frames” by teaching them to find and copy their new sight words on the word wall.
  3. As the year goes along and their phonemic awareness skills improve, I begin teaching the kids to write words as they sound.  Then we combine those words  in sentences with the sight words that they already know how to write.
  4. Then, later in the year when they have more skills, we start writing in their journals, and at that point, they can write anything they want.   So their journal entries will contain both sight words spelled correctly (having learned them from the sight word spelling songs,) and also words spelled with inventive phonetic spelling, using our Sounds Fun Phonics cards and poster as a spelling tool.

HeidiSongs Sounds Fun Phonics Poster for Writing and Reading


This works particularly well for my student population of low income English Language Learners, because it always seems to be difficult for them to try to write words phonetically right from the beginning of the year.  That’s because most of them come to Kindergarten without knowing the letters or sounds.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that if you give them a piece of paper and tell them to write a story and they can’t do anything other than draw a picture and perhaps write their names, if we’re lucky.

Check out this video above to see one child’s writing progress from August to June in Heidi’s Kindergarten Class!

The “traditional” order of instruction for teaching writing in kindergarten has been to have kids just start drawing pictures, and encourage them to label their pictures, with the expectation that writing will begin to naturally occur as they watch the teacher model it.  What I do is REVERSE that order of writing instruction by teaching them to write sight words first, and inventive spelling second.  This gives these children that struggle with English language skills, phonemic awareness, (and therefore inventive spelling) a way to approach it that usually produces success for them specifically- and also works well for everyone else.

Word Wall

To prepare for the lesson: I make sure that my word wall has all of the words on it that the kids will need, adding the words as we learn them WHILE THE STUDENTS WATCH.  This helps them know where to find the words they need.  I also intentionally use lots of different flash card colors on the wall, so that if I have to direct a child to a certain word, I can always say something like, “It’s the one in pink that starts with a T.”  Sometimes I even put a star or a happy face on one or two of the cards to help them find the right one, such as to differentiate between “that” and “they” for my struggling learners.

Another thing to note is that I always add the words to the wall gradually as the children learn them, rather than fill it up with all of them at the beginning of the year, which is overwhelming to the young eye when they are trying to find a new word.  Many teachers fill up the word wall at the beginning of the year and leave it there all year long (and leave it up for years) because it saves time, but I think that this is not the best approach in terms of learning.  If the children only know five words, there should only be five words on the word wall!

Just a note:  You may wish to take some writing samples from your children BEFORE you begin this type of instruction, and DATE them!  I use a date stamp to make it easy, and try to date each sample that is done without help.  The progress that children show is usually ASTOUNDING!  Check out this writing sample below done at the beginning of the year from a Kindergarten boy before we began our writing instruction:

Beginning of the Year Writing Sample2

Here is a beginning of the year writing sample taken from an average Kindergarten boy at the end of August on year. School usually starts for us on the last week of August.


To Give the Lesson:

A. Tell the children what sentence we are going to write.

I start by telling the children what “kind of sentence” we will be working on today.  For example, I may say that we are going to write an “I see a ____” sentence, or a “The ____ is ____ ” sentence.

An "I see the ____" Sentence.

Here is the same child’s writing sample, after just one month of instruction on Sept. 26, 2012. This is an AMAZING transformation! (Parents (and administrators!) LOVE this sort of thing!)

My students learn that they will get to choose what goes in the blanks when they go to write their own sentences by choosing words off of the themed pocket chart word wall (see below) or using inventive spelling.  I always include the sight words that we are working on in the sentences, because that way they get more practice using the words that they have learned, and this reinforces their learning.  The more they use the words in their writing and see them in print, the better they remember them!

Farm Animals

This is our “Pocket Chart Word Wall.” I have a rolling pocket chart on a stand with a pocket chart on two sides. One side always has our themed word cards on it, as you see above. We were studying farm animals, so I had some simple farm animal drawings and words next to them up on the chart for reference.

B. Have the class repeat the sentence back to you, and count the number of words in the sentence.

It often helps to write one horizontal line on the whiteboard for each word that you will need to write.

C.  Ask the children what the first word in the sentence is, and then choose a child to find that word on the word wall.  I use my sticks to choose a child to make sure that all children eventually get a turn to do something over the course of the week, if not every couple of days.

Name Pick Sticks Organizer from Nestle's Quick Tubs!

I have always used sticks to choose names, and have used this very same Nestle’s Quik Organizer that I made for about 20 YEARS! I put the names of the kids that have already had a turn in the side that has no stickers. The names of the children that are still waiting for a turn are in the side that does have stickers and has my name on it. I also write boys’ names in blue and girls’ names in red or magenta. That way, when we are playing a “boys against girls” game, I can easily choose a randomly selected boy or girl name.

D.  The rest of the class “helps” that child by singing that sight word song while the child tries to find it and point at it with my pointer. (We sing this without the CD during this activity, from memory.)

E.  Once that child has found the word, I have the children tell me how to spell the it. I show them how I can copy that word from the wall, or even write it from memory by using the song, if I can. I write the word on my white board easel.

F. I discuss the fact that I must have a space between my words, and I sing the “Spaces” song from Sing and Spell Vol. 2 with the kids a cappella (with no CD.) I put a magnet up on my white board easel to “hold” that space.


One Finger Spacer

 I give the children “One Finger Spacers” from Starting Blocks Plus at our writing table to help them remember to leave a space when they are writing.  (They also have two finger spacers if you prefer.)  I teach my kids to place them “upside down” as shown below because then it is not in the way of the letters that come next.  I think my spacers have lasted a good ten years!

G. I ask the children what the next word should be, and pick another child to find that word with my pointer while the class again sings that sight word song. Then I write the word as the class spells it for me. Then we again add the space with the Spaces song. Basically, I model this writing process from beginning to end, showing the children how I know what to write. I keep doing this until I get to the end of the sentence.

H. The child that gets picked to find the last word in the sentence gets to choose the themed word that I will put in my sentence, such as a farm, zoo, or sea life animal. (See the zoo word wall picture below.)

Zoo Word Wall Pocket Chart

I prefer to put my “themed words” on a pocket chart rather than “clutter” up my permanent word wall, (as I mentioned above) which makes it hard for some of the little ones to find those sight words. Plus, there isn’t room to leave them up all year long on my word wall, so they will have to come down when we are done with the unit anyway.


I. When we get to the end of the sentence, I ask the children what we have to put at the end of the sentence, and then prompt them to sing the “I’m Done” song from Sing and Spell Vol. 1. Then I put a period at the end. Later in the year, I explain that an exclamation point is a “happy period” that you can put there instead, and we practice reading the sentences that we wrote in two different ways: once with a period, and once with a “happy period.” It’s fun!

I have a little video clip of this method that I took of my class several years ago when I was trying to make an instructional DVD. (See above.)  The instructional DVD never happened, since the quality of the video tape didn’t come out as it should have, but I have used the video clip in my workshops ever since! I am including it here so that you can get an idea of what teaching kids to write this way looks like. If a picture tells a thousand words, than a video tells a million!

Before you do this lesson for the first time, I recommend MODELING it:

  • Once or twice with the kids just watching.
  • Model it again a couple more times while the children write along with you on marker boards, if possible.
  • When you are ready to actually have the children do, go model it AGAIN with the specific sentence you would like them to write on paper.


(For more information on how I do my rotation, see my blog entry on how to pull small groups in Kindergarten.)

When we write, I use paper that I made with lines on it that are an appropriate size for little Kindergarten hands and eyes.  I have included them as a free download here for you if you need them.

To differentiate this lesson:

My faster learners write more than one sentence if they want to, or make a longer sentence by writing the word “and” and writing more than one thing at the end.  Example:  “I see the brown cow and horse.”  They could also write an adjective before the animal, such as “I see the soft sheep,” and sound out the adjective that they want to include.

My struggling students often need me to guide them through the writing process again from right from the beginning, going just as slowly as necessary.  I try to allow EXTRA TIME for this group if they need it.  With every step, I make sure that “no child is left behind” (HA!) because we are going too fast.  (Now if one of them seems to be stalling on purpose to try to get out of doing it at all… well then he or she and I will do it together at playtime!)

A Suggestion To Make Small Group Rotations Go A Little Faster

Children often REALLY enjoy drawing the pictures to go with their writing!  So sometimes we do guided drawing ahead of time right ON the writing paper, and then let them write about any of the things that they drew.  So this means that there is less to do at the writing table, because there is already a picture on the paper.  Children that finish with time to spare can always add more details or more animals to their papers.

You can find lots of free guided drawing lessons on my blog by putting the words “guided drawing” into the “Search This Blog” box in the side bar. Or, check my Guided Drawing Pinterest Board!



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