West Palm Beach Florida Author Visit

O.k. so I live in Wisconsin and it is an extremely cold day today.  My thermometer said that it was 26 degrees out.  Then I had the awesome opportunity to Skype with  Kindergarten class in West Palm Beach Florida to talk about my book The Three Little Sisters Learn to Get Along.  Do you want to know the gorgeous weather they are having?  It was in the 80's.

These kindergarten kids were awesome.  Their teacher Ms. Martin does all brain based learning with her students, and I have to say I was extremely impressed. When I used the word dabbled to describe my  writing, Ms. Martin discussed what that word means to increase their vocabulary knowledge.  She already has readers and writers in her classroom, and it is only November.  It is amazing what children can learn at such a young age.

In fact these kids were already using big words to describe the parts of the brain like frontal cortex.  Some people would think they entered into a 7th grade classroom with the things these kids were learning.

I loved that when one of the students asked me how many books I own, I was able to show him one of my bookshelves that was filled to the brim.  When I told him that I had five more that looked just like this he was astounded and told me that he has a lot of books too.  Then I said, "In order to become a writer, you need to read a ton of books."  The teacher loved this comment so much she had her children become a mirror and repeat that phrase.  She had them repeat it again.  Then she had them teach this phrase to the other kids sitting next to them.  This will definitely be a concept that they will leave from our Skype visit.

I love it.  I love being able to highlight the amazing teachers in our school systems.  There are so many of them, but Ms. Martin certainly stands out as someone on top of the latest research, implementing things that her students will stick to their long term brains, not just to their short term brains.  I can only imagine the conversations that some of these kids have with their parents when they go home for the day.  I bet they don't look at their parents with that blank look when they get asked what they learned at school today.

Thank you Ms. Martin for inviting me to your class and sharing your extremely bright Kindergarten students with me.  They are a treasure, and you are amazing. Keep up the awesome work.

If you are interested in having me come to your classroom to do a free Skype author visit, then you can contact me at jbkaminski@gmail.com with subject line Author visit.  I would love to meet your students and drive enthusiasm into their lives for reading and writing.

Open pattern – Phonics the Easy Way

Open pattern – Phonics the Easy Way

The next pattern to learn is the open pattern.  This pattern usually occurs in multisyllable words, but there are few words that do stand alone that fit this pattern.  Those words are as follows;










Together you and your child can take a look at these words and notice what is happening with the vowel.  Here are some questions to ask file1851239553258-003your child.

1. How many vowels are in this pattern?

2. Where is the vowel in this pattern?

3. What sound is the vowel making in this pattern?

Once the child has made all of the proper observations, you can share the chant that goes with the phrase.

When the vowel on the end is free, it is going to pop way up and say it's name to me.

Here is a quick video that shows teaching this in action.

The Common Core State Standards and Phonics

The Common Core State Standards and Phonics

Did you know that the common core state standards have been adopted by 45 states so far?  These standards have been created to give teachers a clear instructional map for each grade level and each subject.  In my opinion these standards are much more comprehensive than the old standards that our state had.  Our old standards didn't start until 4th grade.  That meant that some teachers didn't have a clear path of what to teach in the area of reading.  It was up to the school and the individual teacher to determine what would be taught.  This meant that if a child switched schools, then the standards could be different.

As a reading teacher and online reading tutor I was interested in finding out how phonics was included in the common core.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there were clear standards for children in Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade.  These had never existed before in our state.  Each of the grades have the same standard, but different developmental expectations.  The common core standard for phonics is

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

Listed below are each of the specific expectations that every child should be able to know and apply at each grade level from Kindergarten to first grade.

a. Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one
letter-sound correspondences by producing
the primary or many of the most frequent
sound for each consonant.
b. Associate the long and short sounds with
common spellings (graphemes) for the five
major vowels.
c. Read common high-frequency words by sight
(e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
d. Distinguish between similarly spelled words by
identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.

First Grade
a. Know the spelling-sound correspondences for
common consonant digraphs.
b. Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.
c. Know final -e and common vowel team
conventions for representing long vowel
d. Use knowledge that every syllable must have
a vowel sound to determine the number of
syllables in a printed word.
e. Decode two-syllable words following basic
patterns by breaking the words into syllables.
f. Read words with inflectional endings.
g. Recognize and read grade-appropriate
irregularly spelled words.

Second Grade
a. Distinguish long and short vowels when
reading regularly spelled one-syllable words.
b. Know spelling-sound correspondences for
additional common vowel teams.
c. Decode regularly spelled two-syllable words
with long vowels.
d. Decode words with common prefixes and
e. Identify words with inconsistent but common
spelling-sound correspondences.
f. Recognize and read grade-appropriate
irregularly spelled words.

Third Grade
a. Identify and know the meaning of the most
common prefixes and derivational suffixes.
b. Decode words with common Latin suffixes.
c. Decode multisyllable words.
d. Read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled

Phonics the Easy Way incorporates each of these standards in one simple to use chart.  The closed pattern and the open pattern can be taught in Kindergarten.  All of the other patterns can be taught in first grade and above.  Beginning in first grade students can begin breaking words apart by syllables.

The common core does not go through a list of suggestions on how to teach these patterns, but certainly the easiest way is through using the Vowel Patternsvowel pattern chart.  The Vowel pattern chart organizes the vowel patterns into six separate sections.  They are closed, open, silent e, bossy r, two vowels, and c + le.  It allows kids to decode 1 syllable words and multi-syllable words through the spot and dot process.  Each syllable has one vowel pattern.  Sometimes the vowel patterns are the same and sometimes they are different.  Knowing where the vowel pattern goes on the chart helps kids to read really big words easily and effortlessly.  No longer does phonics need to be ambiguous.  There are clear patterns that are easy to figure out.

What was reading instruction like when you were a kid?  Was learning to read easy or was it difficult?

Closed Pattern Activities

Closed Pattern Activities

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they teach the 6 patterns to kids is that they move too quickly through them.  If your child is in Kindergarten or earlier, then you will only be sticking with the closed pattern for the most part and sight words that the child needs to memorize.  Children in 1st grade and beyond are ready to learn about the other patterns as a general rule of thumb.  Here is a list of activities and games that can help reinforce the closed patterns.

1.  Get a set of magnetic letters, preferably with the vowels one color and the consonants another color.  Make 3 letter words and reinforce how the vowel is squished and makes it's stuck sound.

2.  Cut words out of magazines that have the closed pattern and make a collage.

3.  Go on a picture walk.  When you are out and about with your child, let them take a picture of closed pattern words with your camera or cameraphone.

4.  Find closed pattern words in the books that you are reading together and have your child write them down.

5.  Focus on the most common rime patterns with the closed pattern.

6.  Write a closed pattern word on your child's back and have her guess the word.

The following is a list of the first words to teach with the closed pattern.  This is based off of the most frequent words in the English language.


And, in, is, that, it, on, as, with,

his, at, this, had, but, not, when,

can, an, which, if, will, up, then,

them, him, has, than, am, its,

long, did, get


Silent E

Bossy R






Two Vowels

C + le


The next pattern that I begin to teach is the silent e pattern because the e will change the vowel sound.  We will take a closer look at this pattern tomorrow.

Phonics the Easy Way with the Vowel Pattern Chart

Phonics the Easy Way with the Vowel Pattern Chart

Yesterday I began talking about how 34 of the most common rimes fit onto the vowel pattern chart.  I didn't explain the vowel pattern chart, but did mention that it makes understanding phonics easy.  Our brains are pattern detectors.  Did you know that if you understand 6 of the vowel patterns, then you can read 75% of the words that you will come across?

Knowing the rime patterns helps one to read 500 words and knowing the vowel patterns helps one read 3/4 of the words that one will come across.  Wow, that is astounding.  Everyone always talks about how difficult the English language is, but really only 25% of the words cause difficulty and need to be memorized.  That is why we have sight words.  Those are words that cannot be sounded out and just need to be memorized because they do not follow the pattern.

The following chart is called the Vowel Pattern Chart because the sound of the vowel is determined by it's placement in the word.  If one is able to see where the vowel is in relation to the consonants, and truly understand these patterns, then she will be able to be a reading machine.  Here is an example of what the chart looks like again.

Vowel Patterns

You can make this chart on poster board or simply on the inside of a notebook.  I use it in powerpoint format with my online reading students  and add it when we come to words that the child doesn't know that are decodeable.

Another name for this chart is the syllable pattern chart because there are words that can have two syllables that go into different places on the chart.  Yesterday you saw words that were one syllable words, but if you have a word like bubble, then bub- would go into the closed pattern and -ble would go under c + le.  (C + le stands for consonant + le).  I refer to these as word parts with kids.  So I would say, "This word part goes under closed, and this word part goes under c + le."

As a child comes across a word that is decodeable that she cannot read, then add it to the chart where it belongs.  After you have one of the sections filled with tons of word parts, start analyzing where the vowel is, what sound the vowel makes, and talk about any rules that the two of you notice.

Over the next week I am going to discuss each of the patterns in more detail, how I get kids to discover the patterns, and easy ways to remember each of them.  I will also include a video that will show this in action.

Which of these patterns are new to you?  List them in the comment sections along with any questions that you may have.






Syllables, Syllables, Syllables

Syllables, Syllables, Syllables

Teaching syllables to kids can be so much fun.  Syllables are parts of words.  These can be taught using the child’s name.  Clap each syllable as you pronounce each syllable.  You can start with the names list that you created for teaching the alphabet.  For example, one could clap and pronounce Mi-kay-la.  Ask the child if they heard 3 parts.  Most likely the child will say yes, because she heard you clap three times.


One activity that helps kids with identifying syllables  is to categorize them into a chart that is labled 1 clap words, 2 clap words and 3 clap words.  Here is an example of a chart with names.


1 Clap 





2 Claps 




3 Claps 






Each syllable will contain one vowel sound.  There are six syllable patterns that make up 75% of the words that we read.  The other 25% of the words are words that do not follow the patterns and need to be memorized.  The syllable patterns are closed, open, silent e, bossy r, two vowels, and consonant + le.

Hearing syllables is a much easier task than seeing syllables, so start with sorting words by how many syllables a word has before you start breaking words up into syllables.  Over the course of this month you are going to learn about each of these patterns and how to teach them to young ones.


How many syllables does your name have?  How many vowel sounds does your name have?  Is it the same number?

Using Videos to Teach Letter Names and Sounds

Using Videos to Teach Letter Names and Sounds

The past couple of days we have looked at how using names of family members can help with learning the letters of the alphabet and how sesame_streetwww.starfall.com can help as well.  Another resource that I like to utilize is video.  My favorite website that incorporates video to teach letter names and sounds is www.sesamestreet.org.  I have found a great way to get a bunch of videos for the specific letter that you are focusing on with your child.  Using this resource will increase your child’s knowledge by 50%.



  1. First you need to open up the website, go to the search box.
  2. Type in the search box the letter that you would like videos and games for.  For example, if your child was working on the letter x, then you would type “letter x” and then push go.
  3. Look for playlists on the left hand side.
  4. Choose one of the playlists that has the letter you would like to work on.


Now, you are ready to sit back, watch, and learn.  All of the videos will play consecutively, along with the games.

It All Starts with the Right Reading Assessments Part I

It All Starts with the Right Reading Assessments Part I

For the next month you are going to get the first peak at my program called Phonics the Easy Way.  All of the content will be shared on these



pages and you will learn everything that you need to know about teaching children phonics.  Our English language can be quite complicated, so it is going to be my goal to demystify this complicated process into small bits and pieces that are easy to understand.

It all starts with assessment, but not just any kind of assessment.  It starts with specific assessments that meets the needs of your child.  Another name for this is diagnostic assessment.  For instance, if you know that your child knows all of the letters of the alphabet, then it would be fruitless to test this skill.  Here is a list of skills to think about that children need in order to learn how to read.

1.  Rhyming

2.  Blending sounds

3. Segmenting sounds

4. Letter names - Capital and Lowercase

5. Letter sounds- lowercase

6. Sight Words

In order to be ready to read it helps to be able to do most of these skills.  Rhyming, Blending sounds without letters and segmenting sounds without letters fit into the phonemic awareness category.  These are prereading skills that help a child to start learning about the reading process.

Our brain is a pattern detector.  One of the first reading patterns that we develop is the ability to rhyme.  Later on kids will be able to use their knowledge about words they know to figure out new unknown words.  Kids that are in 2nd grade and are unable to produce rhymes and identify rhymes are at risk for reading at grade level.  So whether your child is just starting out in reading or is struggling with reading, you will want to check if they are able to produce and identify rhymes.  Here is a rhyming assessment I have created that you can use.

Another phonological skill that is useful for kids to master is blending sounds with out letters.  This is not an activity that is done with letters, it is only done with sounds.  For example, if I said /c/ /a/ /t/, then you would put it together and make the word cat.  Once one adds letter to this activity it becomes a more advanced skill.  So, in the beginning it is important to do this without any letters.  Here is a blending sounds assessment to identify if this is a skill that your child has mastered.

A more difficult task is to give the child a word and have her tell you each of the sounds.  This activity is called segmenting sounds.  Sometimes a child will get just the first sound and not the rest of the word.  This will count as a point for the child.  Here is a segmenting sounds assessment that you can use with your child.

Rhyming, blending, and segmenting are some of the pre-reading skills that kids need to master before they can learn to read.  These skills will help them with the more complicated tasks they will be required to do once they start putting letters and sounds together to make words.  If your child has not mastered one of these skills, then you will want to provide instruction in that area and reassess once you think that your child has mastered it.

Have you ever known a child that has struggled with these skills?  What was your experience.  What are some things that you did to help him/her to master them? Tell me about it in the comments section.

Tomorrow we are going to begin to take look at letter name, letter sounds, and sight word assessments.  You will also learn how to do ongoing assessment to determine how much each child has learned and if the instruction that you are providing is working.


The Skyping Reading Tutor In Kernersville, North Carolina

The Skyping Reading Tutor In Kernersville, North Carolina

When I was in the school system as a reading specialist I started my day reading a story to the entire school on the morning news.  It was a wonderful way to start off our day.  Today I get to do something very similar and that is volunteer in classrooms all over the world and read stories to classrooms.

Today I had the pleasure of reading to a group of Kindergarten students in Kernersville, North Carolina.  It is such a pleasure to meet so many bright smiling faces early in the morning.  I love it.  My own children had just gotten on the bus and these kids were already at school ready for their day. They were all seated patiently at the carpet waiting for me to come into their classroom.

They were amazed that we were talking to each other and were 815 miles away from each other.  Some of them had experience with talking to people via Skype and many others had not.  One little boy shared with me that he gets to talk to his Grandpa in Mexico via Skype.  That is the beautiful thing about Skype.  Never has there ever existed a way to talk to people far away without paying a ton of money.  Now, not only do people get to talk to love ones, but they can see them as well.

Today I read the story Dragon's Halloween by Dav Pilkey.  It was very exciting because Halloween is right around the corner and many of the children in the classroom are experiencing the same dilemma that Dragon was experiencing.   Dragon was trying to pick out a Halloween costume but couldn't decide which one he wanted to be.  So, he decided to wear them all.  It didn't work out so well for Dragon, but of course it had a wonderful ending.  I love this chapter so much that I am going to share it with you as well.  Click on the video and enjoy.


Books Boys Love

Cover of "Everyone Poops (My Body Science...

Cover of Everyone Poops (My Body Science)

Parents often wonder how they can engage their boys in enjoying reading.  They are looking for books that aren't too girly and that their sons will enjoy.  Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the biggest questions that I get is, "What books do you suggest for a __year old boy?"  This question has inspired me to make a list of books from my favorite book publishing company, Usborne Books and More.  Below you will find a list of books that tend to be boys favorites along with the age that they are appropriate for.

Boys tend to like books that fit into 6 different categories. Of course this is just a brief list of the most popular and not all inclusive.

  • humor
  • non-fiction
  • Suspense
  • Hands on
  • Sports
  • How to

Baby Boys 0-4

Animal Board Books

Noisy Touch Feely

That's Not my Monster

Glug, Glug, Glug Bath Book

Lift and Look Board books - Books include topics about construction sites, tractors, trains, and dinosaurs

Boys Ages 4-6

Everyone Poops

Engaging phonics Readers

How Big is a Million

The Gingerbread Man

There's a Mouse About the House

Very First Reading Program

Boys 7-10

Beginning Non-fiction Readers

Illustrated Stories for Boys - includes the following

The Masked Pirate
Robot Racers
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Jon and the Green Troll
The Tale of the Haunted TV
The Band of Robbers
Sinbad the Sailor
Victor Saves the Village
The Terrible Tidybot
The Story of Shiverham Hall
The Pesky Parrot
Sam and the Giants
The Tale of the Kitchen Knight
Attack of the Swamp Monster
Robot Robbery
Treasure Island

Jack Russell Dog Detective

The Team Series

Boys 10-15

Moby Dick

Tom Sawyer

David Copperfield

Conspiracy 365

These are some suggestions for boys to engage them and get them excited about reading.  Usborne Books has many many titles that boys love.  You can check them all out at www.popularbooksforkids.com.

This topic was discussed tonight as well on the Totoal Education Network, where I was a guest.  Check it out and learn what some of Neil's favorite books for boys are as well.

Total Education Network Radio 08/18 by Total Tutor | Blog Talk Radio.