Writing checklist 2


writing checklistI have been using this checklist from Teacher’s Pet Displays during the writing section of the lesson.

I use a peg to bookmark the current page being used in each student’s writing book. The peg also holds a copy of this checklist.

Sometimes the students need a quick prompt to check their own writing. I just point to the relevant prompt on the card, e.g. the student is neglecting to use a captital letter or a full stop. Sometimes a student may write a letter backwards, or leave out a word that is needed for the sentence to make sense.

‘Interesting words’ are words that are a bit different to those that are written all the time, e.g. yummy or delicious is more interesting than nice. It also refers to varying topics or sentence starters, e.g. we don’t want every sentence to begin with ‘I like…’ or be about the same event over and over again.

Connective words are joining words (e.g. and, but, because, so) that add further detail or information to a simple sentence. The student is encouraged to use these once he /she is ready to write longer sentences, e.g. Baby Bear was hiding in the tree hole because he wanted to trick Father Bear.

Click on the checklist if you would like to have your own copy from Teacher’s Pet Displays.

Remembering how to write words

writing pencilOver the past 2 weeks l have been testing my students to confirm what I think they already know, and to decide future teaching directions before these students finish Reading Recovery. (Anyone would think it was report writing time.)

The area that needed the most attention for all of the students was Writing Vocabulary, i.e. being able to recall and write the many, many words that they have previously written independently. The students were given 10 minutes to write as many words as they could.

Some students could not recall the words they did know. (These students would have been able to write more words if l told them which words to write from their individual lists.) Other students wrote some words with spelling errors, e.g. tow (two). One boy was determined to write big words (incorrectly) to impress me and did not write the many smaller words that he did know. This meant that all of the scores (number of words written in 10 minutes) was well below the number of words that l had recorded for each student as being known.

Why is this an issue? Students need to know what they know. If l know l can write day, then l know it will probably help me to write stayed.

If l can write many most-used words quickly without thinking much about it, l will have more time and energy to spend on new and more interesting words.

abcyaOne way of remembering how to write words is to write them many times. It may be fun to play games for spelling practice.  Click on the picture to find some.

Building sentences

writingEvery day the Reading Recovery student writes a sentence or 2. During the series of lessons there should be a progression in the words that are used (vocabulary) and the complexity of the sentences (e.g. correct grammar, the use of joining words such as and, because, so).


For example, the following 3 sentences were composed by one of my students.

The truck put mud.

Jack got happy on his birthday.

Kitty Cat sat on the chair and Fat Cat got angry so he chased Kitty Cat.

The 1st sentence was written very early in his series of lessons. The 2nd sentence was written during Week 5, and the 3rd sentence was written during Week 10.

Notice the changing complexity of the sentences. This student has learnt much more about our pencillanguage from the books he has read, the conversations he has shared during his lessons, and through all of his school (and world) experiences.  Ideally his writing ability will keep up with the complexity of his reading levels.

One way you can help your child with his / her developing vocabulary and sentence structure is to ask questions that need more than a yes or no answer. Instead of saying- Fat Cat was angry wasn’t he? (Inviting a yes / no reply), invite longer responses by saying – Why do you think Fat Cat was so angry? Tell me about Kitty Cat. What was she doing? What do you think she will do next? 

Elkonin Sound Boxes

When children are writing an unknown word, one of the ways of solving it is to stretch it out to hear the parts. In Reading Recovery we use sound (Elkonin) boxes to say the words slowly in order to hear each sound and then choose a letter or letters to represent each sound.


elkoninI have linked to a You Tube video about using Sound Boxes on the Useful Links page. This is an 8 minute clip that was originally intended for teachers and so it has a lot of ‘teacher talk’. (Click on the picture if you wish to view it.)



elkoninHere is another You Tube clip that is shorter and may be easier to understand. (Click on the picture.) Hearing each sound, and hearing it in order, can be tricky for some children. For others, choosing a letter or letters, e.g. sh, to represent the sounds can be difficult.


wordsWhen I  refer to vocabulary I mean knowing the names of things, including objects, feelings, concepts and ideas.

Learning the meaning of  words begins when a child is born and continues throughout the child’s life. The number of words that the child already knows before beginning school varies greatly between students.

Much of a book introduction is spent checking that the student understands the vocabulary of the book.

Some ways you can help to build up your child’s vocabulary are:

  • Talk about an unfamiliar word. Give examples of how it could be used, e.g. gigantic means very, very big. A giant is very big and gigantic can mean big like a giant. The tent we saw at the circus was gigantic wasn’t it? Can you think of anything else that could be gigantic?
  • Talk about the different meanings that a word can have, e.g. saw (with eyes, a tool), sore.
  • Pick out a word. Explain the word if it is unfamiliar. Or pick out a well known word, e.g. big and give an unfamiliar alternative, e.g. enormous.
  • Add more descriptions or information than is in the book, e.g. describe the pictures in an interesting way, e.g. that sun looks dazzling, Emma’s dress is stunning, those animals are grouped together to stay safe.
  • Have your child repeat the unfamiliar word a number of times to help her / him to remember it by sight and sound.
  • Encourage your child to talk about the pictures and add ideas.
  • Talk about the feelings of the characters.

Every time you have a conversation with your child there is an opportunity to talkingintroduce new vocabulary. You probably already do it without thinking about it. You can:

  • Talk about what is going on around you. Talk about how things work, feelings and ideas.
  • When your child talks about something, add more detail to what is said.
  • Choose books from the library that are about things that you don’t often see during your daily activities.
  • Learn together by looking at information  programs on TV , the Internet, and in non-fiction books.

These are just a few suggestions. You can probably think of many other ways of helping to improve the number of words that your child understands and uses.

Phonological Awareness

little talkerPut simply, phonological awareness is being able to hear and play with the smaller sounds within words.Very young children naturally like to play around with making sounds, e.g. da, da, da.

Authors know that young children enjoy books that rhyme (e.g. The Cat In The Hat), books with alliteration (e.g. The big bad bear…) and books with animal sounds  (e.g. cock-a-doodle-do) and other sounds (e.g. whoosh, whoosh, whoosh). You may have noticed that your children join in with you if you read these sorts of books to them.

Phonological awareness helps children to break down words into parts in order to be able to read and write them. Eventually the student needs to be able to  hear the smallest sounds within words (phonemes). We may have the students clap their name to hear the parts, e.g. Ma-ri-a has 3 claps. We also introduce sound boxes to hear and represent individual sounds.

Some ways you can help your child to develop phonological awareness at home:

– Choose some library books with rhyming words, alliteration, sounds of animals and other things, and poems / nursery rhymes.
– Say the rhymes  with your child. After a few times, pause just before the rhyming word and see if your child can say it.
– Make up silly words that rhyme with your child’s name, e.g. Sam, bram, tam-tam.
– Sing songs and point out some rhyming words.
– Sometimes ask if 2 words rhyme, e.g. Do cat and fat rhyme? Do dog and cat rhyme?
– Say words with word chunks left out, e.g. What word would you have if you left foot off football?
– Put 2 word chunks together. What word would you have if you put hot and dog together?
– Take away a sound. What word would you have it you take b away from bat?

If you would like to know more about phonological awareness or phonemic awareness  go to http://www.k12reader.com/phonemic-awareness-vs-phonological-awareness/

Holiday ideas

dancing-santa-clausThere are many ideas for activities that you might like to do with your children over the holidays. Here are just a few activities l found by searching onlineClick on the pictures to take you to the websites.

december wordsHere are some useful December words you can download from Zeek’s Zoo. You could use them to assist with writing or you could use them for sorting.





holiday giftGreat writing ideas from Primary Chalkboard. 8 free writing sheets.

1. How to Decorate a Christmas Tree (procedural writing) 2. The Best Holiday Gift (opinion writing) 3. All about Reindeer (informative writing) and 4. A Holiday Story (narrative writing)



acrostic poem



Here’s another fun idea from TeachWithMe.com

3 free pages of templates to write acrostic poems. (See the picture on the right.)







Look for the Grinch at Seussville.

There are many activities to do at this website.


At Story Place your children can read and watch stories after choosing some characters and entering some other choices.


Writing checklist

writer's eyeI came across this great poster at Zeek’s Zoo that reminds students to check their writing. You may like to download a free copy for home. Click on this poster to take you to the site and scroll down until you see it.

Students need to remember the audience that will be reading their writing. Will it be easy to read? Some students still need reminders to leave spaces between words and to use capital letters appropriately. thisisveryhardtoread

To read more about punctuation refer to the previous blog- Reading Punctuation.

Sight Vocabulary 2

sight gamesIn the last post l wrote about the importance of learning to read (and write) many commonly used words called sight vocabulary. This frees up more time and energy for solving new words.

Here is another link to many ideas that you might like to check out, and perhaps inspire you to play some games at home to help your child to revise or learn some words.

You might recall word games that you may have played such as Snap, Go Fish or Concentration. There are many sight vocabulary card games available (quite cheaply) at shops such as K Mart.


Sight Vocabulary

sight wordsStudents need to build up their own  bank of words that they can quickly read or write in order to free up more time and energy to constantly solve new words.

There are many word games, songs and animations on the internet that can help your child to learn some ‘high frequency’ words (words that we often use) and some common letter clusters (e.g. sh, tr).

You will find some examples at: 


If you continue to follow the links from the You Tube and Pinterest sites you will find many more. Some links are free but be aware that some of the links are to sites that are advertising products that are for sale. I am NOT suggesting that you buy any of these.

You can never predict which games and songs will engage the children.simple

This simple sentence making ‘game’ was very popular with one of my students.



sight words match                                       This word matching activity was also simple and popular.