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.



  1. Talk about the right place and the right time. Thank-You, Thank-You, Thank-You for this incredible resource, God Bless you!! My son just finished up with the Pink series yesterday and I desperately needed Blue Series, we are on a tight budget so I often have to locate low cost resources, this is just perfect. I will have a very willing and happy 7 year old little boy. Thank-You.

    1. I am so pleased you have found this at just the right time. It is my pleasure!

  2. It's amazing that this was just posted yesterday! I have used the Pink Series, and my child flew through it. I needed the Blue Series, but also needed an explanation of the materials since I don't know exactly what I am doing. I knew you hadn't written anything formal the last time I had hopped on the site, but a quick Pinterest search brought me right here. When I looked at the date you posted, I couldn't believe it! Perfect timing. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing all the materials with us!

    One question. I noticed in the Picture to Word Matching Cards that the "spr" blend is missing. Was that on purpose? Is it not supposed to be used?

    Thank you again! This is such a blessing!

    1. Amanda,
      I'm so glad you have found this at just the right time. I have gone back through the document for the Picture to Word Matching Cards and it does show the "spy" blend. I'm not sure what you are seeing.

    2. Hi, Cathie. I realized after I wrote that you put links directly in this post. I had been looking at the one in your document site. Thank you!

  3. One more question. :) When I click on "Most Common Words Sets For Pink, Blue, and Green Reading Material" in your downloads, it doesn't link me to the file to print off the sight words. Is the link broken, or am I doing something wrong? Most everything else I click on will take me to the Google Doc. This one just allows me to preview a larger photo. Thanks for any help you can provide!

    1. I have just fixed this link. It should download now.

  4. Meticulous work! Very helpful. Thank you!

  5. My dear Cathie you are a wonderful person. I have no words to describe your work. The material is owesome. I run my home Montessori classes. I have started using your material and I am thankful to you whenever I use the materials. Thank you is not enough. You gave me life. If I happen to see you I touch your feet and pay my tribute.
    Thank you so so soooo much and Godbless you.

  6. Thank you so much for your efforts . I appreciate that

  7. This is a fabulous resource. Thank you so much for your hard work. I am curious about the advantage of including th, sh, and ch here in the blue scheme rather than green?

    1. There are a few advantages to including the first digraphs in the blue set. There has been a great deal of research and thought put into the use of the first digraphs in blue. It was included in my training in this manner but I wasn't sure about it until I did my own research. The first is that it more closely follows the Orton Gillingham Sequence in this manner. The second is more important. A child who knows these simple digraphs can read SOOO many more words than if they are left out until Green Reading. A child needs to read at the very least 50 books before they believe they are really a reader. Thus, if we include the beginning digraphs a child can read many more simple books and feel greater success as a reader. It better sets them up for success. The third reason is that with many Montessori schools opening in the public sector they have to follow DIBELS testing in the United States. When a child enters first grade they need to have these simple digraphs under their belt to be in the safe category. Since they are so easy to learn it seems a shame to clump our Montessori students in the yellow or red category because they are still working in the Blue Reading sequence. The placement of the first digraphs in the middle coincides with where many children who move at their own pace fall at the end of Kindergarten. Actually they often work diligently through the blue series up until and through the digraphs and then only need a few of the ending blends to be on their way ready for Green Reading.