Phonogram Flip Cards

In my combined first and second grade, children learned phonics as an aid in learning to read with phonograms in a Reading Folder. See a copy of the Reading Folder:

Each phonogram was made into a flip card. A flip card was made by cutting paper into 5” x 1½” oak tag pieces. Many pieces were stapled together on the right side edge. Then the left side edge was folded over 1½” and stapled at the folded edge. Sometimes many pieces of paper were cut into 4” x 2” pieces and more paper cut into 2” x 1½” pieces with a few made out of oak tag. Then one piece of oak tag was on the bottom of the larger papers and stapled at the right side and another small piece of oak tag on the top of the flips, stapled all together on the left side, strengthening the whole flip card. Using a marker, a phonogram was printed on the flat piece, beside the edges of the short pieces and one beginning sound or consonant blend was printed on each 1½” or 2” piece. So, each of the small pieces were flipped to the next, continuing through all. The number of pieces of paper stapled together was the number of beginning sounds or blends that could be made with the phonogram. For instance, the phonogram, _and can use eight beginnings – b, h, l, s, st, gr, br, and str. (Other phonograms might include th, sh, ch, and ph if applicable.) That would mean that eight pieces of paper would be used to make the flip card, _and. Phonograms I used at first were simple, such as: at, up, ook, it, all, and ake. As they became more proficient, I included phonograms such as: ight, tion, ick, ung, and ound.  Of course, any phonograms desired can be used.

Read about the beginning reading programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

Three Different Story Plots for Young Children

In my combined first and second grade, children really enjoyed learning about three different story plots: A  progressive plot as found in “The House That Jack Built” keeps building up step by step throughout the story until the climax begins to resolve before the ending. Episodic plots are chapter books, and parallel plots such as the two plots proceeding side by side as in Blueberries for Sal. Children learned this very easily and liked to identify it in literature read to them or in stories they read themselves. And sometimes a child would use the progressive plot or the parallel plot in a story she was writing.

Learn more about the programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where described programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

A Literature Study for an Early Childhood Class

A study of literature allows opportunities for children to further enjoy reading on their own – hopefully a lifetime pursuit. The more a child thinks, feels, and understands his reading, the more enjoyment he attains.

For the first year in my combined first and second grade, only top second grade students were involved – which was a mistake. All children, I soon found out, could benefit. From then on the Literature Group, meeting for one semester, included all second graders and a few first graders who were reading and beyond the beginning program. Most of the second graders were very capable, but a few had varying degrees of learning disabilities.

The intent of the program was to allow children opportunities to develop an appreciation and understanding of literature through an integrated language arts curriculum, utilizing various modes of thinking. Offering a collection of literature by itself is not enough. Children’s concepts are constantly being added to, modified, or revised. In addition to being exposed to literature, children also need a variety of thinking strategies. Children were involved with questions that fused components of literature with various cognitive processes. For instance, one question might be, “Name one thing about (character) that is not real. What other characters are there in stories that are like this?” So, these questions involve understanding and analyzing the qualities of the character.

After children had read a selection, they discussed the answers to questions with a partner. Answers were then shared with the whole group, including my thoughts. Answers were written to some of the questions by making a first and second draft plus occasionally engaging in a non-verbal activity such as art. Each child kept her writing in a booklet. All children contributed to discussions. During the reading and writing phase, many children worked independently, some with help in reading while a few would dictate their ideas for writing and receive help in writing their second drafts. But all would create answers to questions with their own ideas. While children were reading, discussing, writing, or artistically involved, they were sharing and creating experiences at their own comprehension level.

Learn more about the literature program and how to design your own program combining components of literature with cognitive processes in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

Fairy Tales for Young Children

Children seemed captivated with fairy tales read to them in my combined first and second grade classes. Perhaps this great interest was because the plots begin and move along quickly with simple but well-defined characters. Most begin with a problem which is solved by the end, quite often involving magic. Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects is contained in the happy endings, even in different versions of the same story. No matter how difficult the problems are, they are solved. One might argue that life’s problems do not always have happy endings, that it is not a realistic view. However, how many successful solutions can be achieved without the belief that it’s possible?

There are sometimes debates about the suitability of fairy tales for young minds because of the violence. However, the violence in fairy tales provides an acceptable outlet, and it is never rewarded or in any way viewed as acceptable. And children can readily identify with the good characters.

Fairy tales are also a good beginning for understanding more complex symbolism in literature later on. Most often each character, whether good or evil, is entirely pure throughout, never displaying any other trait. Contrasts are most apt to be clearly portrayed, such as good vs. evil and rich vs. poor. A large bulletin board displayed fairy tale book covers with the following words: characters, good vs. evil, powerful, greed, brave, beauty, jealousy, obedient, violence, magic, problem solving, kindness, pride, trustworthy, rich vs. poor, and Does it teach a lesson? The bulletin board served as a reminder, for both children and teacher, of what traits might be applied to the fairy tale just read. It was explained that those words were not often, or ever, used in the story, and children were then asked what parts of the story enabled them to identify each character’s personality. Children became quite proficient at identifying the various qualities. And all of their understanding, of course, was an aid for their own personal story writing.

Read about reading and writing programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

Create a “Model Town” to Teach Reading Skills

In my combined first and second grade classes, creating a town or a city provided the experiential learning and motivation for attaining the required reading skills. This began in January for the second half of the year. Each program was designed for children to participate at their own ability level. It was appropriate for gifted students, many of whom were in this class, and yet younger or less able students were able to participate with enthusiasm, while learning and progressing as well. There was a starting point for everyone but no limit or ceiling for achievement.

The study began with a field trip exploring the city of Syracuse, which was next to our town. Back in the classroom, after completing a list of Syracuse public buildings, city neighborhoods, parks, and ponds, children were ready to build their city.

After deciding upon a building, alone or with one or more partners, they searched through a collection of  boxes brought in, to design the structure of their building. A house was a ½ pint milk carton, and city buildings often started with a ½ gallon milk carton. If their choice was a house, a child had that alone, but if it was a city building, there could be two or three to one building. There wasn’t room for 25 buildings on the desktops that we used – a total of six desks, two sets of three forming an L-shape covered with linoleum. It was important for children to identify strongly with their buildings, so some important city buildings might not be there, such as a fire station, city hall, etc. They knew that their city was just one section of the whole city. There was always a downtown area, a residential neighborhood, and a park sometimes with a pond.

A request went home to parents asking all who could to come in and help create the buildings. This was not an art project. It was to create a realistic city, with lots of imagination at times, but an easily recognizable one. Each child or group of children knew what they wanted their building to look like but lacked the dexterity to finish it, cutting and covering the box structures. There were smaller boxes and oak tag for additions and fadeless colored papers in all colors to choose from. Parents were told that it was okay to make suggestions but the final decision was to be a child’s own. As each building was completed, it was placed on the desktops. Then streets were added, with stop signs, and a collection of bushes, trees, and flowers, etc. allowed all to landscape their lot.

Creating the program for each child, “ Facts and  Events About our City”, included choices from three lists – 1) city events, 2) types of writing and, 3) required reading skills. Each activity contained one city event, a type of writing, and one or more skills. The skills list was by far the longest, and all could not be incorporated in city activities that would finish by June. So, the first section of the program, was “Tools for Writing”, including some pages for instruction plus pages to be completed after a skill has been taught. For instance, teaching the page of Rules for Base Words might take many days, off and on, before the practice pages would be completed.

A child’s program contained three sections: Activity, Expectations, and Procedure. The Activity described what was occurring in the city with some explanation about the event, Expectations told what skills should be included, and the Procedure explained how to do it. Occasionally, when a new skill needed to be applied, following instruction there was a page to complete before beginning that event.

“Facts and Events About our City” might include different assignments. For instance, in alphabetizing the telephone directory, many children could manage a long list, but if that was too much for others, they could request or be offered to alphabetize a smaller amount. A young child with a house might just alphabetize the residential neighborhood and if paragraphs were expected, some would write many and others just one or two.

Each child received their program in an oak tag cover fastened together with three brass fasteners, ready to receive their second draft papers. The first two pages were blank and lined. Each child wrote Table of Contents at the top, ready to receive each new event upon completion. The first session was spent designing their covers along with Minicity, or whatever name had been voted upon, written at the top and their name at the bottom.

The first event was, “Who Lives in My Building?”

Their directions:

Who Lives in My Building?

Activity: Write a short report naming each person and pet that lives in your house/building. For each person, use a few      descriptive words telling about jobs or their ages. For instance:  Robert Grainer, the father, is a professor. Nicky, our dog, is the most active one in our family; or Maxi, the  daughter, is ten-years-old.

Expectations: Your sentence about each person will use commas of apposition.   (see page 12)

Procedure: 1)  Write a first draft.    2)  Revise.    3) Write your second draft.

Some children learned all individually, two children of equal ability might work together, others had adult help, and perhaps a few were assisted by an adult who explained each step while the child filled in the answers or one might dictate their piece. But all children participated with as much as they were capable of. Many children mastered the curriculum, while those who hadn’t reached that level were on a path towards the goal, while being exposed to all. And it didn’t matter that much was repeated from the previous year. The events were in a different place, a town one year and a city the next, and children were a year older. From their previous exposure the year before, their learning progressed with new ideas and more advanced ability.

All were engaged in discussion while continually exposed to various points of view – more opportunities for overcoming egocentrism. Children wrote the assigned writing independently, sometimes with a partner, assisted by an adult when needed, or with a few dictating their first drafts; however, all second drafts contained each child’s own ideas, and second drafts were kept in her own booklet. Finally when all was completed, on one afternoon each child read hers to the class.

Read about the complete procedure and program of Kiddiecity  in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where the programs can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved