Posted in Literacy

Morning Message: My go-to activity for an educational jumpstart to our day

Mornings start early over here. I’m up, dressed (dressed meaning pajamas or lounge clothes, hat, and farm boots) and headed outside, feed and water buckets in hand, just as the sun is coming up over the horizon. I stand in the snow, (figuratively) frozen and  wonderstruck gazing at the colors of the sunrise.


It is truly a sight to behold, but now the horse has seen me and lets out his “I’m starving, where have you been?” neigh. I stand there just a minute longer. Another neigh. I pick up the buckets and head to the barn. Thirty minutes later I walk back into the house, all barn animals feed, watered, and outside soaking up the morning sun. Now it’s time to feed the animals inside: the dog, cats, and the children. But first I pour myself a cup of coffee, savoring the first sip knowing that the next sip will be cold. I start to prepare breakfast. On the menu today is pancakes, cut up pineapple, and some bacon. While the cakes are cooking on the griddle, I add another log to woodstove, put the dishes away from the dishwasher, add more pancake batter to the griddle, pick up the 52 crayons from the kitchen table, give the old girl (our dog) her 8 pills and 4 eye drops, take all my supplements and vitamins, and add my favorite essential oils to my diffuser bracelet. It’s been about 18 minutes and I take another sip of coffee. Yep it’s cold. I pour it back into the pot to warm up.

I give the kids the five minute breakfast reminder to feed the cats. Rule around here is you don’t get food until the cats get food. We sit down for breakfast and it’s gobbled up in half the time it took to make it. The kids put their plates in the dishwasher and run off for some play time. I can finally sip some hot coffee while I figure out the school plans for the day. Note: I don’t follow a scripted curriculum. I plan out and write my own so it takes more time to plan and prep which I usually don’t get. My first question is what are we going to first? The voice in my head always answers with, “Morning message, duh?”

Educationally speaking, a morning message is a short message you write on a whiteboard or piece of chart paper. The message read is meant to be shared, shared between the teacher and the student.

The reason I love starting with a morning message is because it literally requires very little prep work (just a well thought out message). It can also naturally lends itself to differentiated and extended learning. If you have a wide range of ages, grades, or learning abilities in your classroom, then it can easily meet all their needs. You won’t have to get three different activities ready and you’ve already met one important piece of literacy.

So for example, let’s use the below message. I write mine on our whiteboard easel (unless I plan to reuse the text). It’s been snowing a lot here so that was inspiration for this message.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Snow is cold,
Snow is white.
Make a ball,
Then take a bite.

My little learners take turns coming up to the board and circle something they know or something they can identify. My 5 year old usually circles letters, numbers, the sight words she is beginning to identify, and some CVC words (c=consonant v=vowel). My 7 year old will circle his sight words and will be looking for words that he is working on such as words with short and long vowel rules. After they each have had a few turns, there are words that are left uncircled. These are the words they don’t know and need my modeled help on how to figure them out, hence shared reading. They learn by watching me talk aloud how I would figure out the words. They learn what strategies I would use when I get stuck on a word. For example, using the above message, we did not know the word snow. So now I will literally talk out loud (you can see my markings on the message in the picture below as I am saying all this) and say, ” Hmmm. I don’t know this word but I know that these two letters s and n next together say /sn/ like in the word snake.” I box it as I talk. “Ok so I know this says /sn/… maybe this word says snake but I hear the long a sound in snake and I don’t see letter a in this word. So snake doesn’t look right. Well I remember reading the farm book and there was the ow in the word cow. Maybe this word says snow (reading it so it rhymes with plow). But snow (read it again so it rhymes with plow) seems like a nonsense word. I also know that the letters o and w can make a long o sound like in bow. I can read it like snow. Yes that sounds right! Snow. Ok so now I can read the words snow is… Hmmm. Another word we don’t know. Well I know that this word is going to be a word that describes snow. I can also use the beginning sound to help me. The beginning sound is /c/. Snow is /c/…snow is cold. Let me look to see if that looks right and the sounds match. Yes they do. Ok so we have snow is cold. Snow is white. Continue in this modeled talk aloud as you show them strategies to use when the come to a word they don’t know.


Now once you all have figured out the message, reread it one or two more times (perhaps letting each child read it out loud. You can now take this message and extend the learning. Some ideas would be to think of more words that rhyme with bite and white. Make a list together, you write them down, and then your students can use this list as a copywork activity. You could think of other ways to describe snow and make a list of those. Your older children could write another poem about snow adding in some rhyming words (your younger ones can do this too but will need you to write it for them). You could focus the lesson on identifying the nouns, verbs, and adjectives. You could work with the -ake word family and think of words that would belong (cake, lake, rake, etc). I also have a collection of word cards that I’ve made so I might pull out some pictures cards and say “Find all the words that rhyme with make and take.” Sometimes the kids will naturally show you a way to extend the learning as well. Maybe they come up with their own idea so always, or usually, go with that.

These will be short activities but can really extend the learning on and make your message more meaningful and memorable. In this short amount of time, your children have practiced identifying what they know, have learned strategies on what to do when they come to a word they don’t know, and have extended onto their learning in a meaningful way. AND this literacy-rich activity doesn’t take much prep time and can educationally jump-start your day when you don’t have your lessons written in the plan book, like me most mornings.

Also if you would like another easy no-prep learning activity (if you haven’t caught on, I’m all about putting an educational spin on normal day to day activities) check out this post on how to practice an important math skill with those pancakes you’ve got cooking on the griddle.

Posted in Literacy, math, Phonemic Awareness

Wild Wednesdays

(Post drafted yesterday but… internet problems)

While I would like to say that my wild ones and I got to making our lovely heart-shaped bird-seed feeders, we instead spent most of the day taking care of cats! We are watching our neighbors 4 cats and our two barn cats are not feeling well. So after feeding 6 cats, 2 kids who need at least 2 breakfasts, and a dog (oh and sometimes myself) we drove an hour and half round trip and spent another hour and a half at the vet. We get home and there is a sink of dirty dishes, kids who forgot how to get themselves a snack, and cats that need their kitty Gatorade. School, you say?

My kids have been asking to eat their box of candy hearts, so sure why not… thinking… WAIT let’s first do some math. We poured out the hearts, sorted them by color, counted them, graphed them, etc.


I have so many printables on my computer that I could print and use but my computer is slow and it literally takes 30 minutes for it to think about the first click. I proceeded to draw some shapes and lines in their journals for them to record and show their learning. So there is math for today.


Hmmm…what literacy activity to do now? I remember seeing something on Pinterest about a Heart Hop activity. That sounds fun, but I didn’t want to look it up on my phone so I had to come up with something quick. My little guy is really working hard on his beginning sounds and starting to blend those funny phonemes into words. He needs daily practice so I wanted to incorporate those sounds into our game. I grabbed some paper, cut out some heart shapes and wrote some consonants on the white paper and vowels on the red (the plush alphabet letters that we use have the vowels in red, so I wanted to keep with that).


Game is pretty simple… I laid down a simple CVC word that he had to hop, saying each sound as he jumped. At first he jumped slow since I could tell he was thinking of the sounds. After he jumped each one slowly, I asked him to jump again a little faster and a little faster to help him with his quick thinking and to help those sounds be blended faster.


After a few words, I let him choose his hearts and we built some nonsense words that are always funny to him. The other aspect of phonemic awareness that I thought we could quickly practice was syllable counting. I turned the red hearts over and wrote numbers 1-4 on them. I grabbed my picture cards out of my purse (since we have lots of fun ways to use them while at restaurants). I had my little ones choose a card, say the picture, and then jump once for each syllable of the word.


So these probably aren’t the most elaborate ways to practice phonemic awareness but when you have a busy day, aren’t feeling well, or just an activity that is quick and easy to put together, these do provide some fun practice.

What’s your EDventure today?



Posted in Literacy, Storytelling

Storytelling: Why telling stories to our child is important

Ah storytelling…even just the word to me is so magical, so inspiring, so anticipating. I love telling stories, perhaps because I also a mild obsession with children’s stories and as a (former) early elementary teacher, I’ve read countless stories to so many children. Though I only ever read them stories. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I truly came to know and witness the magic of storytelling and why every child should be told a story.

I want to share many different aspects of storytelling, such as why do we tell stories, how do I share a story, what should I tell about. I’ve talked with other parents and teachers about how they do storytelling and often the response is, “It’s hard to tell a story,” “My stories are all always the same,” or “I have absolutely no idea HOW to tell a story.” As much as we judge ourselves about our stories, our young children don’t seem to hold the same judgement, they just love listening. So for the sake of the children that I so passionately love, I want to share this magic and the beauty of storytelling. Please visit back often as I will share a little at a time. It is my hope that you will gain the same love of storytelling that I have and also to help you see that you and anyone can be an amazing storyteller!

So for today’s post I want to share WHY storytelling is so important.

  • Let’s first look back in time to when hunters would go off for the day and return back home with the hunt. A fire is made as the men, women, and children gather around to hear the tale of the hunt. An entrancing story is told (and often acted out) as children sit and listen, hardly even blinking. The stories hold wonderment and magic, bu they also hold facts. These stories pass on knowledge for the young boys who will become the next hunter. They learn how to hunt, what tools to use, where the best spot is, etc. Same is true for the women as they would tell stories of the days gatherings, harvesting plants and herbs. They pass on information about what plants to harvest and which to stay away from. So while these stories connect the people of a group at night under the stars, they also pass on information.
  • Stories help our children deal with big emotions and challenges. When stories are told that children can connect to, they can process and understand what is happening from a distance but yet they can connect it back to themselves. I once told a story to my children but my goal was to connect to my son who was experiencing some fear and anxiety about swim lessons. My story was about a pronghorn (we see those all the time driving out here) named Junip who was entering a race and his family and all pronghorns trekked to the Great Plains for the race. He was very nervous to compete and meet other pronghorns. So long story short, Junip faced his fears, ran like the wind, did his best, and met new friends.
  • Stories open up a whole world of imagination and creativity for children, and adults. Truthfully, deep down we all still have a child within. Well-told stories beg for the full circle of questions, and answers, and then more questions. Stories are wonderful for the brain. As a story is being told, the brain is constantly firing neurons and making synapses as it can’t help but make connections to what is being heard. And guess what…to the person who is telling a story, that brain is more active too!
  • Stories bring a focus or a center of attention to our children. One day, we had a long drive ahead of us and my kids were just in one of those moods where they were constantly arguing and bickering. I decided this was the perfect time for a story. Thirty minutes had gone by and no one interrupted, argued, etc. I would look back and I could tell their bodies were settled, relaxed, their eyes were looking out the window as if they were watching the story happen outside. After the story, their whole moods had changed. Also, telling stories before bedtime brings that relaxation to their bodies and minds so they will fall asleep better.

When children are told stories, wonderful things happen to the body, mind, and soul. However, stories aren’t being told as often as they should. We can change that. In my next post, I want to share with you the HOW of storytelling.






Posted in Literacy

Book Reading and Activities


Last night for Little A’s bedtime story we read, Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. This is a darling story of a kitten who looks up in the night sky and sees what she thinks is a big bowl of milk. She is determined to get the bowl of milk and tries again and again to get it. Does she get it or not? This book was a gift to my daughter for Christmas and she loves reading it again and again.  Luckily for us it also incorporates the letter we are working on, letter M.

Here are some activities to do with this cute story. Choose what works with your student and their learning style.

Comprehension: When we are reading together, I like to find one aspect of comprehension that we will work on (the main types of comprehension are predicting, questioning, making inferences, summarizing, visualizing, and using background knowledge). It’s always a good idea to quickly read the book before reading it with your child. For this story, I chose to focus on predicting.  Sometimes I will say, “While we read this book we are going to think about what’s been happening so far and make a guess about what will happen next.” But since this was our bedtime story I didn’t get into those specifics. Tomorrow we will reread it and extend our learning.

While reading the story, the kitten is trying to reach the big bowl of milk in the sky. She climbs to the top of the tree but is not scared. The text asks, “What could she do?” I paused here. I asked Little A, “Kitten has a problem. She is stuck up in a tree. What are some things she can do to solve this?” Little A came up with a few suggestions and I complimented her thinking. Finally I said, “Ok, what do you predict or think she will do?” Little A predicted she would claw her way sideways down the tree (clearly she has seen her kittens do this many times over).

Introducing vocabulary: The kitten was very determined and persistent in trying to get her bowl of milk. Ask your child what these big words might mean and have some discussion about these new words. Highlight other times you or your child witnesses determination or persistence.

Beginning Sounds: Draw or print out a picture of a moon and a glass of milk. Don’t write the words down, this activity should be more about listening to the sound when you say the pictures than seeing the letter of the word you write. Put the pictures next to each other. Tell your student that Kitten thinks the moon is a bowl of milk. Point to each picture and say the word, emphasizing the beginning sound. Ask your child if they know what letter makes the beginning sound. Once they have determined which letter, create a list of objects that begin with letter m. It may be hard for your student to come up with words out of the blue. Go on a hunt around the house or outside for things that start like moon and milk. Look through books and magazines. Or gather objects from around the house, making sure some start with the /m/ sound and some objects that don’t. See if your student can pick out which ones have the same beginning sound.

Sequencing: What a Night! This activity can be modified for preschoolers and up.  Cut out 4 or 5 circles from white construction paper. You can cut more for older students. Label them beginning, middle, and end. Have your student draw what the kitten was doing in the beginning, an event from the middle, and what the kitten was doing at the end. For younger students, ask them about their picture and write what they tell you. Students who are exploring letters and print may want to write on their own. Write down what they say underneath their print. Older students can practice writing their own sentence (s). Design a cover and staple together.

Pretend Play: Read through the book again and talk about cats, the things they do, they ways they move, etc. Have your student pretend to be a cat.


  • Kitten thinks the full moon is bowl of milk. Ask your student why kitten thinks so. They may suggest that the moon is the shape of a circle like a bowl. Draw some circles of all sizes onto a poster board or piece of paper. What other things could a circle become (the sun, the wheel of a vehicle, the middle of a flower, a face, a knob)?
  • Kevin Henkes, who is the author as well as the illustrator, uses black, white and shades of gray for his illustrations. Have your student explore with black and white paint seeing how many different shades of gray he/she can make. Talk about how to make the gray color lighter and darker.

Science: Go outside and check out the moon! Observe over a week and see how the shape of the moon changes. Children can draw pictures, older children can learn the names and chart the moon over a month, or just enjoy taking the time to look!

Other books to read: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw.

Happy reading!


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