Sunday, April 5, 2020

Montessori Botany - Seeds


Children simply adore the study of seeds.  Nothing speaks to energy and new growth quite like a seed and the potential life inside.  Sequoias Class has begun learning all about seeds even if it is long distance.  This post will take you through the sequence of seed presentations and works for the Early Childhood classroom.  Look forward to the second installment as our studies continue.

In the Montessori environment we always first introduce the real thing and then move to further abstraction of study.  In order to study seeds we will soak many large bean seeds in a bowl of water so we can explore them later.  It takes several hours, or even overnight for the beans to be ready.  When we are teaching in a classroom we don't want to soak too many or they will go to waste or start to really stink.  We try to soak only as many as we think will be used in a day.  Typically a child who takes this work from the shelf after a presentation will dissect 4-5 seeds on their own.

soaking beans in a sunny window

Once the outside (testa) of the seeds are supple and the seed is swollen they are ready to be dissected and explored.  The guide (teacher) will invite a student, or small group of children (no more than 3) to observe this presentation.

For this presentation you will need -A paper towel folded, tweezers, beans that have been soaking in a  small bowl until supple a tray to hold all the items, and a paper with parts of the beans glued as in the example photo:

Dissecting Seeds Presentation Tray

Dissecting Seeds Presentation
*Lay a vinyl mat or hand towel down on the table.
*Go to the shelf and retrieve the bowl of beans which have been soaking for several hours or overnight.
*Place the bowl of soaking beans at the top left corner of the table.
*Remove one seed and place on the mat.
*Say, "This is a seed.  This seed has been soaking in water for several hours.  I can see that this seed has gotten plump with water.  See how much bigger it is?"
*Point to the hilum of the seed and say, "This is the hilum of the seed.  It is where the bean was attached to the seed pod."
*Point to the micropyle of the seed and say, "This is the micropyle.  It is a small opening in the seed."

*Without speaking remove the testa (seed coat) very carefully from the bean.  Trying to keep it as intact as possible.
*Point to the testa and say, "This is the testa of the seed.  It is like a coat for the seed.  It helps to protect what is inside."
*Peel apart the two cotyledons of the bean seed being careful of the embryo inside.
*Point to the cotyledons and say, "These are called the cotyledons.  They will give the new plant the food it needs to grow."
* Point to the embryo still attached to the cotyledon and say, "This is the embryo of the seed.  It is the baby plant." (sometimes it is really helpful to have a red water soluble marker to mark the embryo with so the child can discern it from the rest of the plant)
*Carefully break off the radicle and say, "This is the radicle.  It will grow into the root of the plant."
* Carefully take off the epicotyl and say, "This is the epicotyl.  It will grow into the stems and leaves of the plant."
*For older and more advanced students who can write: Demonstrate creating a sheet with the parts of the seed glued and labeled.  It will take at least two seeds to create this work.
*Place the unused been seed parts into the compost.  Demonstrate how to clean up all of the pieces and return to the tray.  Then place the tray back on the shelf.
*Let the child(ren) know they may use this work whenever they choose now.  Ask if they would like to work with this work.


After the introduction to the actual seed and its parts the child can be introduced to the Parts of the Seed Puzzle.  I definitely have strong opinions about this work.  In many Early Childhood classrooms there is not a puzzle of the seed parts but it is ever so helpful and highly engaging for students.  There are many puzzle out there that seem like they would be more confusing than helpful to the student.  
I love this set of puzzles that details the entire growth process from seed to young plant.

Growing Process Parts of Puzzles
When a puzzle is not available there are other options such as this one made of felt.


After the child has had some experience working with the puzzle (or if they choose not to use the puzzle but have experienced dissecting the seed) they are ready for the Nomenclature Cards for the Parts of the Seed.

When presenting this work begin by laying out the control cards only (picture and word card) and do a naming lesson.  This again goes over the vocabulary first introduced in the Dissecting the Seed presentation.  Once all the parts have been named you may take the Movable Alphabet to build the words.  Young children really do love to build the words.  You can find a printable Movable Alphabet here.

Once this presentation has been given you may, at a different time, formally present the Three-Part Card Lesson.  This video is a great explanation into how to give a Three-Part Card Lesson.
Seed Nomenclature Cards Laid Out with Booklet
Early Childhood Parts of the Seed Nomenclature Cards
click on image for link to file


Booklets just might be THE absolute favorite paper work in the classrooms I have directed.  The children love to color them in and take them home.  Sometimes children want to skip the nomenclature card set and move straight into making the booklets.  I am careful to let them know they may do this work once they have worked with the nomenclature cards at least a few times.  After a while it becomes an understood boundary the children are happy to work with.
Early Childhood Parts of the Seed Booklet Blackline Master
click on image for link to file


Children love to watch a seed germinate outside of the soil so they can really understand what is going on.  In this little experiment the child has the opportunity to set up their own seed germinating factory.  Use dicot seed if possible, such as a bean or pea for this work. 

All you need is a tray with plastic baggies, paper towels pre-cut to half size, bean or pea seeds, and tape. Children should get help to write their names on the baggie with a permanent marker.

Germinating a Seed Tray
Demonstrate WITHOUT SPEAKING how to create this work and put it on the window including writing the name.  After the presentation is finished you may say, "When you need to have your name put on your baggie please come and find me or the tonekeeper."  Once the seed(s) are in the baggie the child can tape them up on a sunny window and watch their seed germinate over the next several days.


This work is especially helpful for more advanced students who can draw something that approximates reality.  That is often a second or third year student in the class.  There is no need to draw the picture every day, unless the child is self-directed in this.  Every few days is just fine.  The children are usually keen to keep track but often need a bit of a reminder of it as an option.

My Seed Growth Diary
Click on image for link to file

With Love,

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Continent Studies - Africa Part 1


It has been all hands on deck these past two weeks since we have had our school suspended for COVID-19.  Since that time I have been working with many other Montessorians across the globe to get things into the hands of educators and parents.  I have been wanting to get back to blogging with regularity for some time now but have had other very pressing and difficult circumstances in my family's life to take care of first.  I am so glad things had gotten to a good place before all this happened.  I am also so grateful I have this platform already in place to make an impact for my own students as well as for so many others.  I wish to thank my readers for the outpouring of love and kindness at this time and in the past.  I want to be one of the helpers.  Thank you also for being one of the helpers.

We are gearing up for our Africa studies in Sequoias Class and I've been knee deep in creating new materials that are friendly to not only the classroom but for home as well.  In this post I will endeavor to share what I have made and a few other things I absolutely love.

Continent Globe
Continent Puzzle Map

Setting the Stage

Whenever we are introducing a new continent for study I will always take the Continent Globe and Continent Puzzle Map together during a Line Time.  We will sing the Continent Song together while pointing to the continents on the Continent Globe first and then again using the Continent Puzzle Map.  The WHY behind doing this is simply - the younger the child the more often they need to see that these things mean the same thing.  With the continued one-to-one correspondence practice more children will pick it up.

Every time we begin a new continent of study the children in our class renew their interest in coloring, cutting and pasting, and painting the continents.  

More advanced Early Childhood students will appreciate making their own Continent Globe.  This is also very beneficial for adults to create when a Continent Globe is not available.  If the child is really interested you can have them do the coloring with a little support.  The cuts make it difficult for Early Childhood students to know what color belongs where but it is such fun work.  I take whatever color they should be using and make a small mark in the spot to color.  This way they can be as independent as possible with the least amount of interference from adults.  Once colored they will need plenty of support in taping it together so it forms a globe.  

Continent Flat Map Work
The Colored Globe Cut Out
The assembled Globe
This following Coloring sheet is so helpful for this.  Whenever there is work that has a specific way to be done you should create a Control of Error.  That is one which is colored in the correct colors as an EXAMPLE. I always write EXAMPLE on the paper or else it may grow legs and go home with some little one.  Even then it may happen, but much less often. 

Continents of the World Coloring Sheet
This can also be used when a Continent Puzzle is not available.  You can print off two sets, color one set in the continent colors and the other with the blue ocean.  Then you can cut out the 
continent set and use them in place of the Continent Puzzle Map.

Assembling the Continent World Coloring Sheet to be used in place of a Puzzle Map
Continents Coloring Sheet Assembled as replacement for Puzzle Map

Introduction to Africa

Once we sing the Continent Song I will point to Africa and ask which continent this is.  Once that has been answered I will tell the children we will now begin our study of Africa.  There are two very good ways to introduce a continent.  The first is with ARTIFACTS and the second is through PICTURES.

In Montessori Classrooms we sequence our work from most concrete to most abstract.  Artifacts are the most concrete representation of a continent.  I find artifacts from friends who have visited and brought things back for me, by visiting my local second hand shops, and sometimes online.  I try to get as many things second hand as possible.  Carvings, textiles, jewelry, money, art etc. all make great artifacts for students to explore.

Add in photo of artifacts

Line Time Photos of a continent are large enough for everyone at the circle to see.  We want to give an overview of the continent in a short enough time to keep the interest of the entire group while whetting their interest for more.  That is easy to do with all the continents, but Africa is fabulous!

Introduction to Africa Line Time Cards

Once I have introduced our Continent it is time to give small group lessons for these very cool works.

This work is so lovely for the youngest students to use and they love it.  All works on a Montessori shelf should have an indirect purpose.  This work with play dough and the fitting into the small spaces of the map develop both the gross and fine motor control of the child.

Africa Play Dough Map
This work helps the child with the fine motor control as they tear green paper strips into pieces small enough to be glued onto the paper.  The older the child the better they will be with the fineness of their tears.  It is a great thing to challenge your older and more advanced students to stay as much in the lines as possible.  This also develops hand-eye coordination.  I have included a page of green in case there is not access to a green sheet of paper.  It works best to cut the papers the child will use into a 1/4th of a sheet or even into strips 2 inches wide.

Africa Tear Map
When presenting this work I will show a small group of children the African Mask cards and then invite them to color, watercolor, paint, or use oil pastels to create a beautiful mask with the African Masks Coloring/Painting Pages. They are meant to be cut in half.  We keep a smattering of the masks on a tray for the children to choose from.

African Masks
African Masks Coloring/Art Pages

Something the children seem to enjoy a lot is the bold patterns of many African textiles.  These cards could to be printed twice to make a matching set.

African Textile Cards
  They could also be traced to make clothing like you see here using the Clothing Cut Out Patterns
Clothing Cut Out Patterns

This new work has been fun to create.  It is best suited for more advanced students to do independently.  Younger students will love doing this with a little support.  Follow their needs and help only as much as they need.

African Savannah Diorama Animals

African Savannah Animals Diorama Completed

Keep a look out for Installment 2 of Africa Activities!
Stay Safe!  Stay Healthy!


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Phonemic Awareness Series

It is undoubted that we are facing some uncertain times with the concerns over COVID-19.  As a Montessori Blogger I want to do what I can to help the families who find themselves homeschooling not by choice but by circumstance.  I have been working along with many Montessori Collectives to support teachers, administrators,  and families in keeping as much continuity in the lives of children as possible.  I have updated both the Pink and Blue Reading posts to include all of my updated works and have realized that this post was never completed and published.  This is what I can do.  These are my gifts to the world in times of trouble.  I wish to be one of the helpers.  I am still finishing the explanations on the bottom half of this post but I need to get these files into the hands of parents.  I will publish this post and then continue working on it.

Phonemic Awareness is a vast and important arm of successful reading.  Without Phonemic Awareness skills, even beyond the recognition of letter sounds, children will be hampered in their success.  When a child has solid Phonemic Skills their footing is more sure and their success is greater.


Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #1 - Compound Words for Line Times
Compound words and easy and VERY fun for children to practice and to try to distinguish from other kinds of words.  Every day at Line (circle) our class practices at least a few of Phonemic Exercises and Compound Words is hands down a favorite.  The Compound Words for Line Times document can be used with whole groups to first present the idea of compound words, and then to further practice.  After we have practiced several times I will listen for compound words in everyday discussions at line.  I may say something like, "When I was listening to Joy I heard her use three compound words.  I heard her say playground.  Let's practice that ... play (pause) ground, put it together - playground.  I heard her say backyard.  Let's practice that ... back (pause) yard, put it together - backyard."  and so on.  We use our hands to practice.  The right hand is the first word, the left is the second word. We begin with both hands in the air and drop each one down as we say each word individually and slowly.  Then we bring them together to say the compound word.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #1 Compound Words For Line Times
Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #2 - Compound Word Cards
Once the children have practiced this work at Line plenty of times I will place these cards on the Phonemic Awareness Shelf for use.  They include the compound words and the + & = cards with a control of error to help the children be as independent as possible.  They do need a short presentation to aid them in laying out the cards in the below arrangement and to show them how to check their work.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #2 Compound Word Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #3 - Syllables Counting for Line Times
There may possibly not be a more important skill than syllabification.  The further I take my research and learning into language the more syllables show up as a key skill.  This syllable work is a beautiful beginning.  These cards are large enough to be used at Line Time.  We look at a picture and clap out the number of syllables we think there are.  The children hold up their fingers and then we turn around the cards to check to see how we did.  I will generally do at least 3 pictures and then ask for words that go along with what we are learning.  Dinosaur names are fabulous for this work.

Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #3 Syllables for Line Times

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #4 - Syllable Counting Cards
 Once the children have had some practice with syllables at the Line this shelf work can be introduced.  It uses many of the same pictures as the whole group work but we add Red Bingo Markers for marking the number of syllables a child thinks there are in a word.  The control of error on the back further facilitates independent work.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level 4 Syllables Word Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #5 - Rhyming Word Cards
Rhyming skills are another pillar of language that should begin long before a child can read words.  Training the ear to hear the rhyme supports the development of both reading and spelling skills.  This is a set of cards with control of error to use on the shelf.  This set requires a quick presentation before use. There is no need for a child to have any reading skills for this set.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #5 Rhyming

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #6  - Introduction to Sandpaper Letters
As we get into the realm of letters there are some incredibly important things to understand.  First, we learn to read lowercase, phonetic, short letter, sounds not uppercase letter names.  After having taught Montessori for so long I cannot understand how we in the United States came up with the idea in traditional education to teach letter names, and uppercase no less, first.  It just doesn't make any sense to me at all.  In fact, I find that children who are taught their letter names before I begin working with them can sometimes have a challenge unlearning them in order to learn to read.  During the introduction presentation to Sandpaper Letters we bring the box over to the top left hand corner of the table and ask a child to choose the letter they want to try first.  This presentation is not about having the child remember any sound.  It is about getting them familiar with the material and helping them know how we use the Sandpaper Letters for later use.  We then show how to hold the letter depending on whether or not you are aware of the dominant hand of the child yet.  At this stage we often do not know yet, so we will just hold the letter down with our hand in the margin on the left side and use our first two fingers (with the others tucked tightly under) to trace the letter. You may say the letter sound here but it is not absolute necessary.  You may ask the child if they would like to try tracing this letter.  Set this letter up in the right hand corner upside down and ask the child to make their next choice.  Continue in this way as long as the child is interested.

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #47- Initial Sound Booklets for Use With the Sandpaper Letters
From now on the letter sounds will be broken up into groups of letters.  This is where differences between schools and programs will show up the most.  I have included the letter groupings that we will use here.  They are:   s, m, a, t, b      c, i, r, p, l      d, f, n, o, g      h, j, u, w, k      x, y, z, v, e, q

We have taken a set of our Sandpaper Letters and put them into grouped boxes to support this next work.  Inside the boxes we have the Sandpaper Letter and the Initial Sound Booklets.  When we introduce this work we take the entire box with us to the table and place it on the top left corner.  We first pull out the first Sandpaper Letter sound to teach and trace just as we did in the Introduction to Sandpaper Letters Lesson.  If the letter sound was "ssss" I would trace and then say, "ssss".  Then I would say, "now you trace and say 'sssss'".  I have the child trace and say the sound at least three times in a sitting.  I then say, "I know some things that begin with 'ssss'.  Things like sandwich, song, and sit.  Can you think of anything that begins with 'ssss'?"  Once the child has said what they know I will say,  "I have a booklet of things that begin with 'ssss'" and pull out the booklet.  I touch the sound and say it, then touch the picture and say the name. Then I have the child do the same.  I go through each page and say the sound as I touch it then say the name of the picture as I touch it.  The child then follows me and does the same thing.  Once we go through the entire book I hold up the Sandpaper Letter and say, "What was that sound again?"  Then I immediately say the letter sound.  I move onto the second Sandpaper Letter and sound and follow the same procedure.  Once I have to letters to work with I will do the second step in the three period lesson.  I ask the child to touch the 'sss', now touch the 'aaa'.  We practice picking them up,  handing them to me, turning them over etc. until I feel they are doing well.  Once they are doing well we will turn over the Sandpaper Letters and practice the third step of the three period lesson.  I will knock on the back of the Sandpaper Letter and say in a dingy voice, "Knock, Knock.  Who's there?  What kind of letter sound is under there?"  The child turns it over and we see if they can tell me the sound without any support.  If the child wants to continue and is doing fine I will keep adding letter sounds with a second and third period assessment between each letter to determine if I should still continue.  If a child is really into it and doing so well I will do all the letter sounds in a box.  Even if they get it all right I will come back another day to make sure they are still doing well before moving to the next set.
Phonemic Awareness Level #7 Initial Sound Picture & Word Booklets for the Sandpaper Letters

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #8- Initial Sound Object Sorting
Children adore small objects.  This work simply calls to them from across the room to USE ME!!  There are 4 objects that begin with each letter sound in the group in the box.  Here I must make an IMPORTANT NOTE concerning objects to use for a letter sound.  They MUST be a pure short phonetic sound.  NO BLENDS!  I am making a statement on purpose.  While many children might be able to do just fine there is a good segment of the population that struggles to hear the sound if you have a blend in there.  To explain we can look at some of the objects in C's work below.  He is using the first letter mat with objects.  I would NEVER choose an object such as an apron for 'a' but instead have an astronaut, ant, alligator, and apple.  For 'b' I would not choose something with a blend such as a branch or a blanket.  Instead I carefully chose a butterfly, barn, bat, and ball.  The sound is kept pure to support all learners.  It fits the needs of all in this way.  We never know what we are working with at this stage so being prepared to mitigate challenges BEFORE they show up is our mantra.

To use this work I help the child lay out the mat (which could easily be made of paper or felt).  I go down the letter sounds and have the child say the sounds.  If a child is missing a sound just let them know what it is and keep going.  I then take my first object and say, "'aaaaa' astronaut.  I hear a at the beginning of this word.  Can you hear 'aaaa' at the beginning of astronaut?"  Then place in the 'aaaa' row.  Continue until all the objects are placed.  Invite the child to do this work.  Replace it on the shelf so they know where to find it and put it away and then give the child the chance to work.  Say, "Please come get me to look at your work when you are finished."  Step a distance away and watch how they are doing with it.  It usually takes a child multiple tries with this work to accomplish it correctly.  We DO NOT fix it for the child.  We make not of how they did and see if they get better the next time on their own.  They may need a new naming lesson if they are calling the 'pop' soda or something like that.  Give as little interference in their work as possible.  They really are great teachers for themselves.

Initial Sound Mat for Sorting with Objects

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #9 - Initial Sound Picture Sorting
This work is exactly the same as the object sort except with pictures.  Once they do the hard work with the object mat this work is generally easier and so fun for them.  The file includes names on the back of the work to help you give naming lessons and in checking work.  This work will need to be sorted into sets as outlined above.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #9 Initial Sound Picture Sorting Cards
Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #10 - Initial Sound Coloring Sheets
Once a child has completed the Sound Sorting Cards they can solidify their knowledge with works like this coloring sheet.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #10 Initial Sound Coloring Sheets

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #11 - Initial Sound Cutting & Pasting Sheets
This cutting and pasting work is fun for children at this level.  To make it easier I will pre-cut the strips into letter groupings and put them in a little file for that sound.  They can color, cut, and glue if they want or they could just cut and glue.

Phonemic Awareness Series Skills #11 Initial Sound Pasting Sheets
Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #12 - Eensy Teensy Letter Books
These Teensy Letter Books are pretty engaging for children.  They like how small they become. To make these sheets into books follow these instructions.  The children can trace the letters inside the outlines and read their new book with you.

Phonemic Awareness Series Skills #12 Eensy Teensy Letter Books 

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #13 - Ending Sound Picture Sorting
Ending sounds are more difficult for some children to hear.  We use this work similarly to the Beginning Sounds work but instead we use our hands to stretch out the word and "throw" the last sound down.  This really helps the children to hear the last sound.  You must have a lot of patience as they will keep flipping to the first sound.  Simply say, "We are listening for the last sound."  Then stretch out the word again.  If they still feel challenged offer support by saying, "I can hear 'bbb' at the end of tub.  Can you hear it?" and stretch out the word giving emphasis to the last sound as you "throw" it down.  Once you finish the presentation give the child a chance in the same way as the Initial Sound work. This work will need to be sorted into sets as outlined above.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #13 Ending Sound Picture Sorting Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #14 - Word Building with Letter Sound Groups and the Movable Alphabet
Once a child has the first group of letter sounds (s, m, a, t, b) mastered, or almost mastered, they can begin practicing building words with the Movable Alphabet.  These sets are made to use only the letters introduced and scaffold as new letter groups are mastered.  This work's main purpose is to give children PRACTICE with the Movable Alphabet so that when they move to Pink Reading work they are more independent.  When I first present this work I give a naming lesson and build the words with them by sounding out first sound, next sound, last sound.  I then put the letters away and let the child have a turn.  I will stay with the child as they hunt for the letters in the Movable Alphabet.  In a sea of 26 letters a newcomer can feel overwhelmed.  I do not want to take the letter sounds out of the box because by the end I would have 26 letters to hunt through which would be worse than keeping them organized in a Movable Alphabet box.  Once I can see they are getting the hang of it I will step away more often.  I always ask the children to "show me your work when you are done".  I do NOT say "before you put it away."  I've learned that again and again over the years.  I hang back away from the child but still in viewing distance and see how it is coming along. I make any notes about what I observe.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #14 Letter Sound Group Word Building Picture Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #15 - Middle Vowel Sort with Objects or Pictures
Middle vowel sounds are tricky things.  They are taught last.  You will notice they are actually taught after the word building cards.  That is because I am explicitly teaching the child how to build the words in the sets.  Only at the end of all the letter groupings will the children have all their vowels learned so it is not really helpful to teach this lesson earlier.  I place the vowels sounds down one at time and saying the sound on the center of the mat.  I say, "I am listening for the sound in the middle of the word.  That sound is a vowel."  Take the first cards and say, 'map' slowly.  What is the sound you hear in the middle of the word 'map'?  For this work it can be very helpful to use your hand as a roller coaster with the vowel emphasized at the top.  Be certain to always say the entire word.  Once the vowel is determined I set the cards on either side of the vowel card so I end up with two on each side.  Now put the work back in its basket and give the child a turn to use it.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #15 Middle Vowel Sorting Pictures

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #16 - Beginning Alphabetizing with Pictures
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #16 Picture Alphabetizing

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #17 Alphabetizing Cards Work

Alphabetizing Mat

Phonemic Awareness Series Alphabetizing by First Letter

Phonemic Awareness Series Alphabetizing by First Two Letters

Monday, March 12, 2018

Blue Reading

My Montessori journey has been an incredible one of self discovery and learning.  Through it all one thing I have learned about myself is my utter respect for learning something new and making my craft as a teacher better because of it.  This often means that my created work will change.  In no place has this been more true than in the Language Program.  The Pink Reading Level has remained fairly static since it was created.  Not much has changed about it except a couple of additions like Sight Words and Nonsense Words.  I'm sure it will happen and then I will update, but for now the NUMBER 1 hit for Pink Reading on the internet will stay the same.  I really like that this humble little blog has the #1 hit for Pink Reading work, mostly because it is free for anyone who wants and needs it.  I feel in this way I am serving my greatest desire: helping those who really need it with the best materials I can as a means of serving the children of the world and my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Since I first created the Blue Reading Program I have changed it a couple of times.  I am now at a place where I am feeling pretty confident in its completeness.  With that said I am unveiling it to ya'll today.  I've actually had this for a while now, but was overwhelmed being a full time spouse, a full time mommy and cancer mommy to boot, in the Relief Society Presidency at church, being a full time Montessori teacher, being a sister, daughter, cousin etc.  I gave myself permission to make the world wait a little while.  My Cancer Cutie finished his treatments for leukemia last month and I'm ready to get back to a new kind of normal life.  I changed jobs again and moved to a WONDERFUL new school in Salt Lake City called Montessori Community School.  I absolutely LOVE it there!  It really is such a place of community and fully interested in following the child.  I am back in Early Childhood again.  I don't think I could choose a favorite between Early Elementary and Early Childhood.  I sure am missing those 8 year olds right now, but I'm in love with the 3-6's just as much.

I am going to take you on a tour of my Blue Reading set-up, why they are the way they are, and how these skills are taught in our classroom.

My favorite part about creating a Blue Reading Program is the fact that I have had complete control over how integrated all the parts are.  It has been so frustrating trying to make what is out there work for my vision.  I could see what my students were lacking but couldn't really fix it without creating an entire program that addressed all of their needs.  Students with learning differences, visual processing disorders, and even dyslexia needed all the steps and what I was using wasn't cutting it, but the students who were not facing any of these challenges could make big jumps in the matter of a week or even days.  How was I to service both ends of the pendulum?  The answer has been to service the one with the greatest need and let them all move at the pace right for them.  The child who doesn't need all the steps can show me they are totally mastered, have written their words, can read the sentences and match them to the pictures, know their sight words, and they can move on.  These children will often get through 3-5 envelopes in a week if they are really motivated, and truth be told, sometimes these children will come back after a weekend and have all kinds of new blends under their belt.  This is fun to talk with them about it and work through what they can skip when we get back together.  It also feels like a great accomplishment for them.

Blue Reading Pouches:
This video will take you on a walk through of the Blue Reading Pouches.

I Spy Cards
Before each of the above mentioned set of boxes is used we first use an "I Spy" game to introduce  letter combinations.  This is a great assessment tool to see if a child can sort the sounds and is ready to use the boxes.  If they are not at mastery wait a bit until they are and then have them use the boxes.

This video shows how to use this work

To introduce the I Spy Set for #1 you would take out the Movable Alphabet and get a 'c' & a 'k'.  Say, " When c and k are together the just say 'k'".  Then build a few phonetic words using the blends such as duck, luck, tack, sock, deck.  Notice how I am naming only words that do not have ANY other blends. Now do this for "ff", "ll", "ss" & "zz".  Once you have introduced the sounds you can move onto the "I Spy" Cards for that set.  The "I Spy" cards do not need to be purely phonetic since we are not building any words with this set, only seeing if the child can hear and sort by the correct sound.  These sets have a control of error on the back of each card and a word list on the back of the letter card.
Blue Reading Beginning Blends and Beginning Digraphs
and First Digraphs "I Spy" Cards
Blue Reading Ending Blends, 
Triple Blends and Triple Digraphs "I Spy" Cards
I Spy Sets Stickers for Vinyl Envelopes

The first lesson in the Blue Reading Program is presented using the - ck - envelope, the Small Moveable Alphabet, and a Blue Reading Moveable Alphabet Mat I've made from a Blue Rug (you'll see a picture of that in just a moment):

Blue Reading CK Envelope
This is the only set of Blue Reading I keep in a clear vinyl envelope.
All the others are housed in the boxes.
Blue Reading Envelope Contents
The vinyl envelopes are purchased at Everyday Plastics
When I give this presentation it is my job to make sure they know how to use all the components of a Blue Reading Box because there are several parts.  The younger the child using these, the more broken down the presentation will be.  If I am showing a First Year and many Second Years (Early Childhood), I will do each part of the envelope as a separate presentation.  If I am presenting to an Early Childhood Third Year and above I will show the contents of the entire box in one sitting.  In our classroom there is enough room to house all the Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs works in separate stacking boxes.  If there was less room I would house them in clear vinyl envelopes like the ck presentation is in and put them in order inside bins or baskets (this is how I organize the Green Reading Difficulties but since I have some first years that get into Blue Reading I wanted younger students.  I wanted them to have more independence and success).  It is important to note there are 55 Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs to house.  Yeah I know, you had NO IDEA there were so many.  In fact this doesn't cover every single one, but pretty dang close and all the ones we run into with any regularity are covered.  These are the included Blends and First Digraphs:

Set #1
Double Letters -
1. ck (you linguists can debate with me about it being a double letter or a digraph but I'm sticking to my guns on placement with this because it is SO easy to teach at this point and so necessary for reading success at this stage)
2. ff
3. ll
4. ss
5. zz

Set #2
Beginning Blends -
6. bl
7. cl
8. fl

Set #3
9. gl
10. pl
11. sl

Set #4
12. br
13. cr
14. dr

Set #5
15. fr
16. gr
17. pr
18. tr

Set #6
19. sc
20. sk
21. sn

Set #7
22. sp
23. st
24. sw
25. tw

Set #8
First Digraphs (There are two reasons I have placed these in the middle of the Blue Reading Sets.  Number one: most are regularly used at both the beginning and ending of words and these are very important for reading success at this stage.  Number Two: Because by this time children are wanting to read what is around them in the world, having these simple digraphs under their belt at this point gives them much greater confidence in the world at large.)
26. ch
27. qu
28. sh
29. th - This box also contains the word list for both voiced and unvoiced th. Voiced example: bathtub, unvoiced example: that.  I also have the voiced and unvoiced th sorting mat in this box.

Set #9
Ending Blends (there are children who don't actually need much help with ending blends and can skip ahead.  But then again, there are children who really struggle with these and need the support of the boxes)
30. ct
31. ft
32. lt

Set #10
33. nt
34. pt
35. st

Set #11
36. lp
37. mp
38. sp

Set #12
(There is a good reason to introduce the ld, ng, and nk closed syllable with short vowel sounds).  Later in green reading we will explore the closed syllable exception in words like hang, old, and tank)
39. lk
40. nk
41. sk

Set #13
42. ld
43. nd
44. lf
45. ng

Set #14
Triple Letter Blends
46. scr
47. spl
48. spr
49. str

Set #15
Beginning and Ending First Triple Digraphs
51. nch
52. shr
53. squ
54. tch
55. thr

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Drawer Labels
I label the fronts of the drawers with these stickers after
I've laminated and cut them out.  I place the number on
the left and the picture on the right.

Picture to Movable Alphabet and Word Cards
When using these cards the tonekeeper or person working with the child holds the word cards while the child builds the word with the Movable Alphabet.  Then they fetch the word card from the adult and see if there are any letters to fix.

Blue Reading Picture to Moveable Alphabet and Word Cards
Layout of the Blue Reading Picture to
Moveable Alphabet and Word Cards

Blue Reading Word Booklets
These are single word booklets to help the child have further reading practice with the skill and success in booklet form.

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Single Word Booklets

Blue Reading Single Word Booklets
Blue Reading Word Lists

After a child has mastered their word list there is a writing piece.  They use the Blue Reading Word List writing paper to write their list and put in their file or binder.
Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Word Lists

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Word List Recording Paper
Blue Reading Word Lists with Word List Recording Paper
Voiced and Unvoiced th Sorting Mat
The th digraph is really two subsets the voiced - as in bathtub and the unvoiced - as in that.  This work helps the child become more familiar with both.

Blue Reading Voiced and Unvoiced th Sorting Mat

Blue Level Sight Words Sets
If you have been working with the Language Works from this blog since the beginning you will have been introduced to Sight Words in the Pink Reading Series blog post.  These words follow the same presentation format.  It is important to note that it isn't necessary to be finished with the Pink Level Sight Words before beginning to read these sentence matching cards.  You will find detailed instructions for the presentation of sight words with he pink sight words.  You can click on the link above.  If a child is reading along and needs help with a word you simply tell them the word and have them reread the sentence with the word included.  These words are in 4 sets that correspond with the Sentence Matching Cards Sets.

Blue Reading Series Sight Words Sets

Picture to Sentence Matching Cards
These sets correspond to the Sight Words.  Each set of Blends has a certain number of Sight Words that are used in the sentences.  Everything is scaffolded and builds skill upon skill.  I LOVE this part of the program.  This is exactly what I felt was missing from everything else I'd used.  Children at this level NEED to be working on their sentence skills and building confidence in their reading at large.

Blue Reading Series Picture to Sentence Matching Cards Set #1Beginning Blends

Blue Reading Series Picture To Sentence Matching Cards Set #2 First Digraphs

Set #3 Ending Blends and Triple Blends & Sets #4 Digraphs are still in the works but getting closer!

After the Blue Reading Boxes

That is right.  After the boxes there are still some skills to learn before moving to the Green Reading Level with real success.

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Fluency Cards
I am putting in a HUGE plug for this work.  It is quite possibly our key to success in reading.  The ability to read words with fluency literally changes the ball game for students.  Look here for the Pink Reading Level Fluency Cards.  These words are in 12 sets of 24 words.  By this time the child is working on moving more quickly.  During the Pink Level we are working on learning how to blend.  In the Blue Level the child masters the set by reading 20+ words easily.  This usually takes a few times through the set before they reach this mastery.  We use the same game as with the Sight Words. First time through any words they can read easily within about 3 seconds goes into their pile.  Any they still need practice on stays in my pile.  We count how many are in their pile and say, "Look how many you have in your pile today!".  We then practice through the words they need twice and see if they can add any more to their pile.  Only the amount from the first run through count towards mastery.  The child will use this work until they have mastered all the sets, or until I feel confident they are reading blends and beginning digraph words with facility (at this level it is harder since those triple blends will trip up the kids sometimes).  This could last into the Green Reading Level.

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Fluency Cards
Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Fluency Cards
Blue Reading Single Word Command Cards
I have replaced Secret Words with these cards.  The children I've worked with have loved this work.  This is a two person work for children on the same level or one on the level and one already mastered with this work.  The cards are sorted into two piles and set face down.  The first child reads their top card to themselves and acts out the command.  The other child tries to guess the word and then it is revealed.  Then it is the other child's turn and so on until all the cards are acted out.

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Single Word Command Cards
Blue Reading Single Word Command Cards
Blue Reading Command Cards Sentences
This work is used exactly the same as the Single Word Command Cards but the sentences give more direction for the children to follow.

Blue Reading Blends and First Digraphs Command Cards Sentences
Blue Reading Nonsense Words Cards
There is a very important reason to add these cards into your reading works at every level.  I was first introduced to the importance of nonsense words when working in the public school system for a couple of years.  I thought it was so strange until I learned about the research behind this skill.  A child who can read nonsense words and feel comfortable with them will have greater ability to read longer and more complex words with ease.  If we break down a big words, such as presidential or endangerment, they are made of word segments that do not make much sense until the word is put together.  Honing the child's skill to read nonsense words supports their overall reading success.

Blue Reading Nonsense Words Cards

Blue Reading Nonsense Words Cards Layout

Blue Reading Rhyming Set
Rhyming is so important to reading success and this set helps with the further practice of this skill.

Blue Reading Series Rhyming Families Set

Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Picture and Word Matching Cards
I've always found it so confusing to throw children into the Green Reading level without giving them the success with multi-syllable words before they begin.  This work has three sets of ten pictures and matching cards.  It allows for a formal introduction to multi-syllable words.

Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Picture and Word Matching Cards

Multi-Syllable Words and Picture Card Matching Layout
Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Fluency Word Cards
This set is used the same way as the other fluency word cards.  Sort into sets of about 24.  This work will be used well into the Green Reading Level.

Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Fluency Cards
Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Picture and Sentence Matching
This work gives the child practice in using their multi-syllable words in sentences before adding new difficulties found in the Green Reading Level.

Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Picture and Sentence Matching
Blue Reading Multi-Syllable Picture and Sentence Matching Layout
All these works have made a huge difference for the one and for all in the classrooms I've been in the last five years.  Particularly for those who would have been struggling in their reading much more without the skills being broken down for them.  I hope you love it as much as I do.