"Color Tools and Reading Tools"
for teaching children to read
posted by Kerry from BC Canada

Colour Tools 1   Colour Tools 2   Reading Tools

My partner and I use poetry to teach much of our actual reading (decoding) lessons, much in the same way as the link that Debra just posted:

We find using poetry and song, as material for our reading lessons, provides us with a short piece of text that the kids can really focus in on. As the article mentions, the rhyme and rhythm helps the kids read and they are motivated to practice... a lot! Doesn't the best learning always seem to happen when the lesson is fun and they don't realize they're working?!!!

We don't tend to do as many poems in one week as suggested in the article though. Last year, at a conference, we heard Regie Routman speak about the value of returning to the same piece of text and working with it over a couple of days, rather than adding a new piece every day. We were so impressed with what she had to say that now we try to use a poem in several different lessons before moving on to a new one. And of course, re-reading old favourites is extremely important too, as the article pointed out.

There are a few things we do differently than the article. We don't read the poem TO the children at the beginning of the lesson. We want them to be using and practicing their beginning reading skills independently (in a supported way) when we give them a new poem or song. We look at this as an opportunity for them to "get into the print" and start looking for what we call our "reading tools." We teach them these tools and then they use them to decode. At the beginning of the year, of course, they may only be able to decode just a few unknown words in a poem, and recognize just a few sight words, but their skills grow quickly with this program. It's actually amazing to see their growth in reading as they start to apply the tools. Rather than memorizing, they learn the skills they need to actually read.

Circulating among the children, as they search for tools in a new poem, also helps us monitor their progress. It's easy to spot the kids that understand (the ones who are finding and marking their tools at a rapid rate!) and those who do not. We can then give some direct support to children who are struggling by asking a question or directing them more on an individual basis (Oh! Look! In the third line - I think I see a colour tool you've missed...)

Many people are surprised when we tell them that we prefer to teach reading in a whole group situation, such as in our poetry lessons, rather than in small group situations, but we find that these poetry lessons really help us to meet the needs of a whole range of readers. The less able children receive our support on a one-to-one basis, as we move around the room, and the more able children are off and running with parts of the poem or the entire poem, because they've used their tools to decode. In a large group situation, behaviour problems are less, and as teachers, we are not distracted by checking on what that "rowdy group" in the corner is up to! We feel less stressed and can teach a better lesson.

Another thing we do differently is to always send a copy of the poem home after each lesson. The kids keep one copy in a three prong duotang cover at school, and take the second copy home, to keep in another duotang. We send this second duotang home in September, along with a note asking parents to practice with their child on a regular basis. We feel this really adds to the success of our program because most kids practice a great deal at home. As the article stressed, poetry is fun to read and songs are fun to sing! As every primary teacher knows, practice is an essential part to learning to read fluently and with expression. The more they practice, the better readers they become. We also teach our parents how to help their children to sound out words, using the reading tools, at a special evening meeting in September. In this way they are supporting what we do in the classroom, with their child at home.

Colour Tools
Although our choice of poem often reflects the current theme in our class, early in the year we most often choose poems that will support the kids in learning to use "the reading tools." We begin by teaching the tools that appear in the colour words and we call them "our colour tools." Most of the poems that we use in September and early October therefore, will largely be made up of colour words. Here's an example:

Color Cats!

Red cat,
Green cat,
Yellow cat,

Orange cat,
Black cat
Purple cat too!

We introduce these particular tools on the second day of school by having the kids start to learn to recognize the color words as sight words, and by showing them that most of the colors have tools in them that can help us read. We teach them that every time they find a color tool they should mark it in a particular way, and say the sound it makes. We start by simply marking the actual color words themselves before we move on to transferring this activity to other words.

Here are some of the color tools:

orange - The kids learn the sound that the letters "or" make when they appear together. They circle the letter chunk "or" in an orange crayon.

green - They learn that "ee" makes a long e sound and we call this sound "noisy ee's" The mark this by putting "noise lines" out from this chunk, using a green crayon.

gray -The long a sound. The kids use a gray crayon or a pencil to circle or underline this chunk.

yellow - The tool in this color is the "ow" chunk which makes the long o sound. The kids learn to use a yellow crayon to draw a line over the “ow" in words where these two letters make the long o sound.

brown - The tool in this color is also "ow" but it is marked differently because it makes a different sound than the sound it makes in "yellow." The kids learn to mark it by drawing a little brown bandaid over the "ow" because it makes the sound "Ow!", just as you would in the word, "Ouch!" The beauty of these two tools, yellow and brown, is that they introduce the kids to the fact that good readers are flexible. When they read they must "try on" different sounds. The tools help you get started but then you have to sound out the word and find out what it says. If they come across this "ow" chunk in a word, they have to try on the two sounds to see which way sounds like a real word AND a word that makes sense in the context of the sentence.

The truly wonderful thing about these tools is that a child never has to struggle trying to sound out a "chunk" as a series of separate letters. For instance when they see the letters "ur" they never go through the frustrating and pointless exercise of trying to say a short "u" sound and an "r" sound. They know instantly to read "ur" as the sound in the color tool, "purple."

You may be able to relate to this better if you think about the letters "ING." This is a "tool" that almost everyone teaches when they teach beginning reading. No one wants a child to sound out those three letters independent of each other. We all know that a good reader sees those three letters as a package. That's what all our reading tools do for the kids... they see packages or chunks in words and read them accordingly. It makes learning to read a lot less painful!

When we teach a poetry lesson, we always have a copy of the poem on chart paper, up on the blackboard. We don't put it up until we actually start the lesson to avoid having parents read the poem aloud to their child when they bring them in at the start of the day. When we put the chart up on the blackboard we give each child a copy of the poem and have them put it in their duotang - no easy feat in the first week of school!

We might start the lesson by having them look for a particular color word and asking them to circle the entire word with that color. (Find the word "red" and circle the whole word with a red crayon"). Then we would ask them to mark the tool in the word, "red." As time goes on, we would give less support and ask the kids to simply find ALL the color words in a particular poem and mark ALL the tools. After each instruction, we give the children time to work independently or with their desk partner (they sit in pairs, in rows) and then re-focus them back to the poem on the board. We then have volunteers come up and do the same thing that they have just done independently, on the chart poem. In this way we can reinforce the tool sound and reinforce the process of sounding out an unknown word. Often the children will take the part of "teacher" at this point and demonstrate their thinking for the class.

From there we would move on to other words in the poem. In the case of the color cat poem, written above, we would then ask them to look at the other words in the poem. In the cat poem, there are only three other words: cat, cats, too. We would then teach a lesson on sounding out "cat" or perhaps, if the time seemed right, we might introduce another tool sound - "oo." "Oo" can say the sound you hear in the word, "moon" and so we draw a little crescent moon over that chunk.

To finish the lesson, we would then give the kids some time to try and read the poem through independently, either entirely on their own, or with their desk partner. We would remind them to track with their finger and ask them to read the poem more than once if they have time. Finally, we'd have someone come to the front and track with a pointer on the chart poem while the rest of us read along, either from the board or from their own copy. End of lesson. Next day, we'd return to the poem, re-read and perhaps do something different with it...

-cut it up and reassemble it,

-make a little book,

-change the colors around to make a different poem (just the color, "blue needs to stay as is to make it rhyme... the rest can be rearranged")

Poetry and song provide a great way to teach reading skills!!

Kerry in B.C. Canada


Our reading program is based on something that came from a lady called Anna Ingham years ago. Her program is called Blended Sight/Sound. We start by teaching our Grade Ones her "colour tools." We don't do all of her program - some of it was worksheet based and we don't find that very meaningful - but her "tools" are fabulous!

We start teaching the colour tools on the second day of school and make reference to them all year long. As the year goes on we add other "reading tools."

Here are the Colour Tools:

green - noisy ee's When the kids find this tool then they mark it with "noisy lines" coming from the two ee's. Later we find other ways to spell this same sound (ea, open e as in me, he, she, etc. All are marked with "noisy lines")

orange - or is circled or underlined as a chunk

purple - ur is circled or underlined as a chunk

silver - another version of the same sound as in purple. That gives the kids two ways to write this sound. As it comes up, we introduce the third way (ir) as in girl. When they write, they know that if they need to write this sound there are three choices (ur, ir, er) and the "er" choice is almost always at the end of a word.

red - The kids mark the e by drawing in eyes and hair to make Ed. Ed says the short e sound

gray - kids mark the ay by circling it and know that it makes the long a sound. ( If you're Canadian, you may notice that I don't spell grey the Canadian way. We explain to the parents, in September, the reason for this.... we get far more mileage out of this word if the kids spell "gray" so that we can focus in on the long a sound of "ay." As the year goes on, we tell them that in Canada we actually spell it "ey.")

brown - has the "bandaid" sound of ow like "ouch." Kids draw a little bandaid over an ow word that sounds like it does in brown.

yellow - here's the other sound of ow- he long o sound. They draw a line over the ow in words that make this sound. Like in snow.

White - The kids learn that e does tricky and magic things. They mark it by drawing a curved arrow over to the vowel from the e. This transfers to all other magic e words which they mark in the same way. For example: gate, hope, fine etc.

Gold and pink - These colours don't have very useful tools and we teach them more as sight words.

Gold does have the long o sound and we draw a line over it. Pink is useful later in the year when they are able to transfer this "nk word" to other related word families: ank, enk, unk etc.

Blue - again not very useful because the "ue" tool is not used in many words. It is in Tuesday. We mark a moon shape over the "ue" to show it makes that oooooo sound as in moo.

Oh! One important thing - We find it valuable to have a picture symbol on the wall for each of the tools. The kids to refer to these as they read and write. Anna Ingham did not do this in the original program. We have found that it is most effective to have just a simple shape and one word on the shape as a prompt. Initially we tried having lists of words, that the children had found as they were reading, for each of the tools. (green, seen, be, between, Halloween etc.) Although making lists and flashcards is a great activity, we didn't find it very effective on the wall. What we find they need is just one word that reminds them of the sound of that tool.

This program of teaching reading, really transfers well to writing as well. The kids, using this method of reading instruction, become excellent spellers and fluent writers in comparison to kids who don't know these tools. As the year progresses it becomes very easy for our kids to write...they have the tools they need to spell. Of course, I wouldn't like to give you the impression that their spelling is always 100% correct - it isn't, but it's always far more standard than other Grade One work I see around our school district.

In fact, in January of this past year, the intermediate staff at our school noticed the quality of our children's work and couldn't believe it. They wanted to know what we were doing in our class. Some came in to observe. Many of our average Grade Ones were writing better and more than some of the Grade Four and Five students. So in February we arranged for a workshop and many of the other teachers in are school are now starting to experiment with these tools in their own classrooms.

Once the kids know these tools we look for them everywhere and that's the start of sounding out. Every time they find a tool, they mark it in the way that I mentioned above. You do have to make a point of telling them that FINDING the tool is not enough by itself. First you FIND the tools and then you must USE them to read. We make this more of a concrete concept by looking around the room for a hammer and then ask them if just finding it is enough... no, we have to USE it in order to accomplish something. As the year goes on, they no longer need to mark the tool. Each child on their own will stop actually marking the tools when they no longer need this support. We do have them mark the tools all year long in poetry lessons. This gives them an ongoing review of the the tools.

Another thing we emphasize to the kids is that good readers are flexible. For instance , they should try to sound out a new word, the way they think it should sound, according to the tools, in the word. If that doesn't sound right, or make sense, they have try other ways of saying it, until they get a word that DOES sound right - a word that will fit in the context of the sentence and make sense. We emphasize this a lot. They have to understand that reading is all about getting meaning from the text, not just saying words out loud.

As the year goes on we teach other tools as well, such as "ar" and the two sounds for "oo" etc. We introduce them whenever they come up; during the course of our other lessons, or when we see a need for them. We're teaching reading using the tool sounds all day long whether it's a word that comes up during math or a theme lesson on apples.

In this past year, we introduced the tool sounds for "oo" within a week of school starting. In the process of scanning books to find "noisy ee words", Ryan noticed what he called a "noisy o" word. He was very excited! The word was"boot" but he thought that it was "boat." He generalized that if "ee" said the long e sound, then surely "oo" would say the long "o" sound. Although we shared in his joy at finding a tool, we made sure that he didn't carry on trying to read with this misconception.

The very next day I introduced the two tools for the chunk, "oo." We put up two different symbols on the wall, side by side, for this chunk. One symbol is a crescent moon and the other is a pair of glasses. We teach the kids to be flexible when they come across this chunk in their reading. We teach them to try out the two possible sounds and then mark the "oo" in one of two ways:

-If it sounds like the "oo" in moon, draw a moon over it.
-If it sounds like the "oo" in look, draw two dots (for eyes in the "oo."

In another year, this particular tool sound may not come up so quickly... maybe a week or two later in a different way all together. If it doesn't come up incidentally, then we would make sure to introduce it ourselves in a planned lesson at some point.

This is such a powerful way to teach kids to read! Of course, it's only ONE portion of our whole reading program, but it's the core for us, in terms of teaching decoding skills. It really works and every year we get better at teaching this way. We find more "tools" that we can point out to the kids and we get better at thinking of interesting ways to introduce these tools.

For instance, about April of this past year, we noticed that quite a few kids were spelling words like "pizza" with a "u" at the end like this: "pizzu." In order to help them with this in their writing, I introduced a new tool, that we had never thought to focus on before. We presented it to the kids in this way:

We have a mailbox in our classroom (described in Message # 71860 of the KK Archives) and one day a toy gorilla "came" in the mail! He had a little note with him about the sound of the final "a" in gorilla. The following note went home with each child at the end of the day:

*********** Today, when we opened our class mailbox, we found a funny fellow!
His name was MaGilla Gorilla!

He suggested that we look for words ending in the letter “a.”
The “a” makes the sound of “u” (uh)!!
Tonight we have a challenge! We need some family help to collect words like “gorilla” or “Canada” or “Debra.” Please have your child make a list words like this and bring it in tomorrow.

Thank you,
Kerry and Darlene


After this introduction, we put a picture of a gorilla on the wall with the word "gorilla" written on it. The final "a" of the word was in red to highlight it. From then on, we noticed that their writing improved dramatically in their independent work, with respect to this particular spelling pattern. After that we always referred to this as the "Gorilla Tool" and words like "pizza" and "Carla" became known as "gorilla words." Silly, I know.... but that's why the kids remember and use these tools. We could just have easily introduced it in a different way and called it something else.... "The Pizza tool" or the "Banana Tool!" My partner is especially creative when it comes to this kind of business. She's a great teacher and I learn a lot from her about making learning fun and meaningful.

Another thing I should make clear is that the kids don't need to know all their individual alphabet letters and sounds before starting to teach them the tool sounds. In fact, half of the kids we get each September rarely know more than say, 10 consonant sounds. Often they don't know all the letter names either. We don't worry about that - we just start in on everything. We, of course, want them to learn the individual letter sounds as soon as possible, so we focus on doing a lot of alphabet games, songs etc. in September and October, but that doesn't stop us from introducing the tools as well. As I said, on the second day of school we start having them learn to read the colour words and mark the tools.
We also find it very valuable to have a picture symbol for the individual vowel letters as well as for the digraphs: ch, sh, wh, th. Again, there's no particular "right" way to introduce these - we just use our imagination and sometimes, in different years, we will choose different symbols. When we introduce the digraphs we have four objects "arrive in the mail." Last year we used a baby shoe, a whistle a mitten with the fingers folded back and a piece of Kraft cheese. Also in the mail were the four digraphs printed on paper. These became our symbols on the walls to help the kids when they needed these "tools" in their writing or reading.

sh - shoe   wh - whistle  ch -cheese  th - thumb

I know of another teacher who uses a chocolate chip cookie as a prompt for "ch." When the kids find a new "chocolate chip" word, she records it on a flashcard shaped like a cookie.

A couple of years ago I found a book by Mary Tarasoff, called "Reading Instruction that Makes Sense." Although she doesn't talk about "tool sounds" she does have a list of them in her book that I have found very useful in planning for instruction. I use it as a checklist, making sure I am covering as many of the "tools" as possible. She calls them "patterns."

One last important thing to mention is our jail! We don't want kids to spell words like "said, they, friend, the, have" phonetically. We want them to know that these are words that we just have to memorize and that they break all the rules - so we put them in "jail" and call them "jail words." My partner made a 3-D jail out of a cardboard box. She sponge painted gray bricks etc. and put bars on the windows. Very early in the year, as these words arise in reading or writing sessions, we put them "in jail." For instance, if a child was trying to write in their journal about their "friend" and we noticed it, we might just stop and get every- one's attention. We might say, something like... "Oh, guess what! Tanner has just come across an important jail word that we're all going to need to learn. It's a word we'll probably use a lot. It's the word friend and it has a very strange spelling pattern in it. We are just going to have to memorize this word! Here's how you spell it. This word is "friend"! Can you believe it? Let's put it in jail right away. Whenever we need to spell this word, you can just look at the jail and find out how to spell it."

This jail is our version of a word wall. For the three years that we have now been teaching Grade One we have tried unsuccessfully to build a word wall that we found was useful. We've now decided that we will build a bigger "jail", and attach the words alphabetically so the kids can find them easily. Our dissatisfaction with a typical word wall is that most of the words on it can easily be sounded out. We don't need words like "and, big, up, down, play, went, today" on the wall... they can easily be spelled by sounding them out and that's what our kids are good at because they have all these "tools"!!!

I hope you might be able to use some of this in your classroom next year. Just adding a "tool" here and there will help your kids and I'm pretty sure that you'll be thrilled with the results and will want to experiment more.

Kerry in B.C. Canada


Anna Ingham may have had a specific order in which to teach, but I'm not sure - we never have taken her course. I believe it's still being taught by her daughter, but I'm not sure about that either. We learned about this method of teaching from a colleague, Mary, now retired, who did take the course. I know that she didn't follow the Blended sight/sound program exactly as it was given to her - just took out the pieces that seemed valuable for her.

By the way.... someone on this ring (I won't say her name because I haven't asked permission...) also teaches this way and had the actual workshop training by Anna Ingham herself. She told me that Anna Ingham was from Saskatchewan, not Alberta, but her daughter was helping with workshops and she lived in Alberta! I just thought I would set the record straight! It's been so exciting to talk to this colleague on this mailring... there aren't many Anna Ingham style teachers in our area! She may also be able to give us some ideas from her reading program too!

My partner, Darlene, who originally taught intermediate, first had contact with the Mary that I mentioned above, when her son was in Mary's Grade One class. At the time, her son was extremely hard of hearing, but no one had picked up on it. It was actually very near the end of Grade One when it was detected (Something was done and his hearing is now fine). The doctor mentioned to Darlene that it would probably be a wise decision for her to have her son repeat Grade One so that he could learn to read. He was absolutely blown away when Darlene told him that actually that wouldn't be necessary because he was an excellent reader. The doctor said that he would have thought it was impossible that a child with such severe hearing loss would be able to learn to read! He couldn't believe it! Darlene knew that whatever Mary was doing to teach reading, it had to be wonderful. Later, when Darlene ended up teaching Grade One herself, she went to Mary, who then spent time to mentor Darlene in this type of reading program. I have been so lucky to have worked with Darlene, who is a very competent, dynamic and creative teacher herself.

So, I as said, WE have no particular order for when we teach each tool, but there are certain tools that seem best to introduce early on and those that seem better left until later in the year. Our goal is to try to be responsive to what the kids seem to need to help them at that particular moment and to try to pick up on things that the kids notice themselves, in order to make the learning as meaningful as possible. We try and take our direction from their lead. Often there are tools within the names of the students in the class. This makes for very meaningful learning.

For instance, in the year where we had a "Philip" in our class, the children learned the "ph" tool in the first month of school. This past year, without "a Philip", we didn't introduce that tool until April when our class spent a month preparing to put on a circus for our parents and some other classes in the school. The "ph" tool came up when we did a poem about an elephant parade. In another year we have introduced it in January, when our school typically has a drive to collect old phone books for recycling. In each of these years the symbol on the wall was different. One year we had a xerox blow-up of Philip, this year we had an elephant, and the other year we had a phone.

Once we've introduced a tool, we then try to reinforce it as often as possible, in as many different settings as possible, so that eventually every child has it mastered. At that point we no longer need to practice that particular tool. For instance, noisy ee seems to be an easy one. Part way through the year we don't need to point it out anymore - the kids just know it. The brighter kids take off very quickly in the year with this program and somehow just seem to notice and use these tools intuitively. The lower kids need lots of direct instruction, modeling and one-on-one help.

We find that for those children, it is incredibly important to work with their parents, so that what the parents do at home, is the same as what we do in the classroom. In this way, the slower kids can also become good readers. We initially have a meeting in September, just to discuss our reading program. Then throughout the year we speak often with the parents of the children who are "not taking off" and give them further clarification and instruction about how to work with their children at home. In this way the students get lots of individualized instruction that we could never hope to be able to provide in the classroom. We are very lucky in this regard; the parents in our neighbourhood are very supportive.

Here then, are the tools, or "patterns," that are listed in the Mary Tarasoff book I referred to. This is the Amazon link to her books: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/002-6393558-7741646 Unfortunately, there is no image of "Reading Instruction that Makes Sense." I'm not familiar with her other books, but the titles sound intriguing.

Mary Tarasoff's patterns - she doesn't seem to have a particular order (WE call these our "Reading Tools" - I will put a *** beside the ones that we find useful to introduce early on)

-individual letters, consonants and vowels ******

y as a vowel - We have a prompt on the wall. It's a large "y" with two speech bubbles coming from it. Inside one speech bubble is an "e" and the other has an "i." We teach them that if you hear a "noisy e" sound at the end of the word, it is almost always spelled with a "y" as in "fairy, carry etc/ *******

-qu ******

-digraphs: dh, sh, th, wh *******

st sp sn sm sl sc sk sw lb cl fl gl pl br cr dr fr gr pr tr spl str spr scr squ

We don't call these tools - we just teach the kids to sound them out to form the blend. We have a chart of these on the board and in spare moments we point to the various blends and just keep practicing them. As the year goes on the kids circle them or underline the blends, all on their own, because they are so used to reading by looking for bits that go together.

-all *******
(We teach this tool when we talk about "fall trees." We don't teach ell, ill, ull as separate tools. Instead we seem able to transfer the understanding over from the "all" tool. When they come to a word like "hill" or "fell" we just refer back to the "all" tool and teach them that we have to change the vowel sound.)

-magic e - as in white
(We use the colour tool, white to introduce this word) ******

-silent e - as in "are" *****

or - taken care of in the colour tool, orange ******

ai, ea, oa, ie, ei
We teach that old fashioned rhyme, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking and says its own name." "Ea" is marked with noisy ee lines. The other chunks are just underlined or circled.

Darlene usually introduces this one - she has letters on big "necklaces." Two kids come to the front and put them on. We say the sound for each letter as an individual letter. Then she moves the two kids together and everyone says the sound they make when "they're waling." This is a very concrete way to introduce these pairs of vowels.

ee - this is the green tool sound ******

aw au - We teach short "o" using an octopus as a prompt. Later we put "aw" on a strawberry shape and attach it to one leg. Then we put "au" and a picture of our school's Kindergarten teacher on another leg. Her name is Mrs. FAUght.

ew - We've never done a very good job of teaching this one yet... Any ideas? (Picture of this sneeze-SJ?

-ck (We cover this one in the colour tool, black) ******

-nk (Aha!!! This should be the tool we teach from the colour tool, "pink!" Funny how I never noticed that before!!!)

ou - this comes up quite quickly and we put it on the same bandaid picture that we used for brOWn Then when they need to write this sound they know they have two choices. *******

oi/oy - This year we had a Troy in our class. We introduced the "oy" sound early on and had Troy's picture on the wall. At Christmas, on a day when we made a poinsettia craft, we introduced "oi." After finding words with these two tools, it was easy for the kids to generalize the rule that "oy" is at the end of a word and "oi" is used in the middle of a word. - usually!

-ing (Again, after teaching this one, it is easy, later in the year, to transfer this to "ung, ong, eng, ang" ***

-soft c ( If there is a "c" that is followed by an "e" or an "i," the kids know that it will be soft as in "circus or face.")

-soft g (If a "g" is followed by an "e" or an "i," we teach the kids that it will be soft as in "giant or cage"

-kn (We introduce this when we do /n/ in November, I embelish this story: When The Letter Keeper was giving out sounds the "n" was "nervous" so went up and down the alphabet to see if any of the letter would help him. "K" said he would stand next to him but would not say anything so that "n" could learn to do the speaking. So, that is what happens in words like, knock, knee, knuckles, etc. -SJ)

-kn / wr (We handle these two by calling them "ghost words" - Anna Ingham's idea, I think. The kids mark the ghost letter (the silent one) by drawing a little ghost over top the chunk.)

-ar - We use a star for our symbol and draw a star over the chunk to mark it. One year we had a Carlee in our class and so that was the prompt for remembering this tool sound *******

er - introduced as the tool from "silver" ******

ur - introduced as the tool from "purple" *******

-ir - introduced with the prompt of either "girl" or "bird" . We point out that this is the same tool sound as in purple and silver.

-ight - We use a light bulb symbol - The kids draw a light bulb to mark this tool.

-ph - I mentioned this one above.

-gh - We've never introduced this one as a lesson. I guess we might next year!

-le - Darlene introduced this on someone's birthday and connected this tool to the word "candle." Just like we had "gorrilla words"... we also had "candle words" like "table, topple, ripple etc." This tool was introduced late in the year but next year we'll introduce it sooner because it really helped with their spelling.

-tion - Our symbol on the wall is a Christmas decoraTION.
This year we introduced it at Christmas when we had this little poem:
I am making decorations
To hang up on our tree.
I am cutting,
I’m as busy as can be!

-tch - We don't do this one because it can be sounded out as is.

-ture - We haven't done this one before

-age - These two are taken care of with the soft g rule
so we don't introduce them at all

Now, that's it!!! That's all the tools that anyone, needs to read. There aren't "harder" ones that are added later. This is it. I like finite lists like this! Then I can see where I'm going. Before I had these tools, I always felt overwhelmed by teaching reading. Now I see that there are definite things that I can point out to kids that will help them be significantly better readers. It's taken the mystery out of it for me and for the kids and for the parents.

Kerry in B.C. Canada


Last summer this same topic was discussed and so I could direct you to a number of posts that I made then which might be of use to you. Many of them describe how my partner and I approach the teaching of reading, because we use poetry in the early part of Grade One to actually teach many reading skills. So imbedded in these posts, you will find poems and lesson ideas that can be used in beginning Grade One.

In addition, I'll give you a number of posts that explain how we make many poems into "little books" that we keep in a Reading Treasure Box early in the year. We also use them in the pocket chart. I just recently posted one such posts that makes use of a dinosaur poem.

Dinosaur Little Book based on a poem, "Colourful Dinosaurs"
Message # 117157

How my partner and I use poetry in order to teach reading/phonics skills:
Message #100724

Jelly Bean poem and lesson outline:
Message #100713

A little book based on a poem that I usually use first in the year
because it focuses on the names of the kids in the class:
Message #73526

A poem called ME! and a lesson to go with it:
Message #72439

And there are many more if this sort of a focus for poetry lesson interests you. Let me know and I can look them up.

Here are some sites that will give you a starting place to look for poems: http://web.archive.org/web/20011029192014/http://members.home.net/henriksent/






Have fun with your poetry lessons. I find them extremely valuable and the kids love them. Don't forget to include songs as poetry lessons too. They love to be able to read and sing!

Good luck,

Kerry in BC Canada