Trading Spaces Tuesday with Em from Curious Firsties

Guest blogging on a Tuesday!  WooHoo!  Thank you so much to Andrea for having me on her blog today.  I am Em from Curious Firsties.  Currently, I am a Title I teacher for first grade.  We are a departmentalized school where I push into reading, writing, and math classes to work with small groups of students.  I love, love, love it!

Last week I shared how I conduct my guided reading groups.  There were some questions about what I do specifically to hit phonological awareness and what my quick fluency practice looks like in these groups.  And that is exactly why I love blogging.

These questions really got me thinking.  What are all of the things that I do for phonological awareness and where did these ideas come from?  And daily practice routine has changed every year based on my students.  What will it look like this year, come January?

So...let's dig a little deeper.  First up, phonological awareness.

It all started with this book for me.  (Not that I did not do phonological awareness activities prior but I am much more intentional, explicit, and systematic now.) I picked up The Complete Phonemic Awareness Handbook when I began my role as Title I because I realized each student had gaps with these skills and I needed an assessment to help me pin point them.
I use the assessment in this book (15 different skills are assessed) to determine where the deficits are.  Then my phonological awareness lessons are planned accordingly.  The book is chuck full of ideas for each skill, but (as we all know) a teacher always takes something and makes it work for them.  So that is what I have tried to do.

I only have 3-5 minutes to spend on phonological awareness during my guided reading group.  So it has to be effective, efficient, and worth my time.  I posted this picture the other day of my materials.  These are my "go to" materials that I use often.
The elastic and slinky: I use both of these for my students that have difficulty breaking apart the sounds in a word.  It helps them to physically stretch the word out as they say it.

The buttons: We used the buttons to push the individual sounds in a word.  But we also use them for sorting.  Here is an example of a /th/ and /sh/ sort.  I would say a word like "ship" and the student would place the button in the correct category. (At the beginning of the year, I always use picture cards for the sorts, then we move to the buttons).
The cubes:  These are my favorite.  They use these to touch each sound in a word.  We will work on questions like: "What is the beginning sound? What is the ending sound?"  Sometimes we delete sounds using these cubes or we add sounds (by adding a cube).  I even have them change cubes out when we are substituting sounds in words.  It is a great visual and tactile experience for them when working on these skills.  One thing I really like about these cubes is that they link together.  When I ask the kids to delete a sound, they have to break the cubes apart, just like we do with the word.

Another big component to my phonological awareness lessons is rhyming.  Many of my students do not know their nursery rhymes; therefore, I show them this book:
They love it!  On Monday and Tuesday we will recite one of these rhymes (just orally to hear the rhymes--no written piece).  But then on Wednesday and Thursday we brainstorm ways to change the rhyme (again, just orally).  On Friday I have their "new" version written out for them to read.  This has been such a hit in my groups.  It works on rhyming and sometimes I do this with alliteration.
Here are two examples of what I mean:
Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb
And pulled out a plum,
And said, "What a good boy am I!"

My students changed it to:
He put in his head
And pulled out a bed.

He put in his knee
And pulled out a bee.

Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old

My students changed it to:
Tease torridge tot
Tease torridge told
Tease torridge in the tot
Nine days old

I saw Tim Rasinski speak this past week and this was actually a strategy that he recommended to improve fluency!!  Wow! I was so excited to hear I was doing something right :)  So my goal is to create a whole set of these nursery rhyme activities.  Here is sneak peek of what I am thinking.  Please click on image and grab this sheet if you would like to try it out.

Thanks so much for reading about my phonological awareness ideas!  I hope you can use some of these ideas and share what you do in the comments below!

Next up...fluency!  After seeing, listening, and feverishly writing down everything Tim Rasinski said, I have some new ideas for my daily fluency practice in guided reading.  This will be my next post (hopefully)!  I would love for you to hope over and follow these upcoming posts.  Click on Curious Firsties or bloglovin to follow!

To continue your Trading Spaces Tuesday, head on over to

Thanks, Em, for some great ideas!  I really enjoyed having you here today!

Stay tuned tomorrow for a big giveaway just in time for Christmas!


  1. So nice to have reading tips for every stage. Thanks for the great information, Em!
    Comprehension Connection

  2. I use colored beads on a shoe string to help with blending. Also i use ma making words folder where students have letters to say make a words. It helps them say the word and then see how you spell it.

    1. I do that a lot too with the colored beads. The kindergarteners really like it, and it helps slow the first graders down quite a bit.


  3. My email is
    Eileen Boyle
    Love you comments and ideas about guided reading.

  4. Love the nursery rhyme activity! I use colored glass gems as the tokens. The kids act as if they are real gems, lol.

    Read With Me ABC


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