Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Early Reading and Writing Ideas Using Blends, Part 2

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Oct 10, 2017 4:30:00 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the second post in a series about building literacy in early readers. To read the first post, click here.

PART TWO: Introduction of Consonant Blends.

As we begin to think of ways to use the Letter Buddies teaching aids as we help students develop strategies to unlock words as they read and write words, we can go again to Clay’s Becoming Literate. On page 263 she spoke of the importance of the child’s exploring the details in word and letter patterns. On page 312 she added letters, clusters of letters, and word groups to the strategies for unlocking words. On page 314 she shared two ways students can derive sounds and meanings from words. Direct visual attention and spelling were the two ways.

On pages 318 and 319 three ways of learning about letters were cited. These ways were experiencing modeling of letter activities, self-directed learning, and learning by discovery. Page 320 list four sources of information used by the beginning reader.

  • Sentence structure
  • Order of ideas, words, and letters.
  • Size of words and letters
  • Special features of sound, shape.

Each of the above are part of the suggested plans for the use of Letter Buddies.


Some of the students will need some formal modeling of letter formation before instruction is shared with a larger group. The teacher can study handwriting samples and make a list of students who are not using correct letter formation. Some may still be having directional difficulty. Some may not be using the lined paper correctly. Some may be confusing the visual and auditory aspects of some of the letters. These children can learn and practice using the LetterMats from Letter Buddies.

Monkey Business Images shutterstock_77120359.jpg

Research of handwriting programs share that the most effective programs are those that use oral directives for the forming of letters as students are instructed and practice letter formation. The teacher can use the formation lines and numbering system of the mats to teach directions and encourage students to say the directives with her/him. For example: Capital ‘R”- “Pencil at top of the solid line, move pencil to bottom of line. Lift pencil to top of line and do half a circle to the right. Slant to bottom of line.” To help a student who has difficulty doing this, teacher can place student’s hand in hers and help the student follow the steps. Some students can profit from working at board and using large strokes and then smaller strokes. The Letter Buddies Letter Books have front covers that share the letters in a multisensory way. The students can say the directives and follow with a finger to feel the letter on the front of the books.

Some students may need review of the use of ‘p’ and ‘r’. The Letter Buddies Starters books Put That Here and The Rocket can be used in guided reading groups. The two books could also be part of the classroom library and be read as independent reading and/or read by students in pairs who share oral reading of the books. The writing activities in the back of the two books could be used with the class, or part of the class, after the teacher has read each book to students. Using the letters in reading and writing activities can facilitate the introduction to ‘pr’.

LB.jpgThe Letter Buddies Letter Books ‘p’ and ‘r’ can be used to review words that begin with these letters. As the students name the objects in the pictures, invite them to move an index finger across the bottom of each word and notice what they see as the word is said. The beginning sound should be recognized. Medial and ending sounds can also help the children read the words. They may recognize smaller words or word parts in the pictured words. Remind the students that the beginning sound is not the only part of a word available to help them as they read unfamiliar words.

Help in recognizing words with the two sounds are shared on the last page of each book and on the backs of the handwriting mats.

Use of Letter Buddies Best Friends book Present from the Prince can now be used in guided reading groups or with larger groups. An Elmo projector might be used to display the pages which might be read as a shared reading activity. You will observe that the ‘pr’ in each word is in a different color of font. Discuss also how the pictures provide clues for the reading of the pages. Be careful not to stretch the sounds of the target words in a separated way. Say each word in a natural way and ask the students to listen for the sounds and check the other things that the students notice about the words.

The final page of the book contains some ideas for using the new learning in writing activities. Some of the students will need more help than others as they create story pages. You might work with these students using guided writing as the instructional mode. Other children might profit from an example of a story page.



As a teacher, you can remind the students of the uses of the visual and auditory help they can receive from consonant blends. This can be done during guided reading and writing and as you conference with students as their writing is discussed and the child is encouraged to use what he knows as he writes.

During guided reading group-time, the children might identify consonant blends and search for some found in a story.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 


Click the images below to learn about the Letter Buddies series, which are mentioned in this post. 


Letter Buddies Starters Sales Sheet  Letter Buddies Letter Books Sales Sheet  Letter Buddies Best Friends Sales Sheet

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Geraldine Haggard, Double Consonants

Early Reading and Writing Ideas Using Blends, Part 1

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Oct 5, 2017 4:22:33 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the first post in a series about building literacy with early readers.

As I pondered ideas for this blog, I decided to visit my old friend, Marie Clay's Becoming Literate, from my days of training in Reading Recovery. Clay reminded her readers that the young reader is not only learning words or letter-sound knowledge, but they are learning how to use each of the sources of information as they read and write. They can then link new strategies to current reading and writing activities and become more successful.


  • Page 41: “Beginnings of literacy is more than learning letters, words, and letter relationships”.
  • Page 53 contains a caution about ‘decentralization’ of letter knowledge and the need for use of continuous texts.
  • Page 87 encourages teachers to attend closely to features of letters in writing experiences.
  • Page 314 cites that there are two variables used by children to derive sounds and meanings from words: direct visual perception and the use of spelling to sound.
  • Page 320: Clay states that young readers use information from sounds, shapes, and layout of text.
  • Page 87: The importance of writing is stressed because of its providing opportunities for students to access letter knowledge in different ways.
  • Pages 322 and 323 stress the importance of providing learning activities as they read and write that enable them to develop the articulate awareness of phonology and print.
  • Page 325 contains this quote from Clay: “My experience in the longitudinal monitoring of progress of the early instruction was that letters, sounds, words, and word analysis were accumulated gradually over a period of time because the child learned different ways of working with print.”




Those of us who have taught for many years have seen many changes in the ways that literacy skills are taught. My teaching experiences began in 1949. Basal readers were my only tools. Real writing and composing thoughts were not present in the early years. In the 80’s children were encouraged to share thoughts in writing, but modeling and child’s ability to proof and the analysis of his writing was not often present.

The national and state standards used now in our schools demonstrate the importance of the language arts’ multiple faceted programs: reading, writing, and even inclusion of content areas. Phonology is still important, but taught as a tool for reading and writing.

We model and help the students recognize and begin to use new strategies as they read and write. Letter knowledge is such a strategy. Letter knowledge involves letter identification, letter formations, phonology, word parts, and all aspects of written language. We should model and provide practice for the child as he combines new and already acquired strategies in real reading and writing activities.

Instruction of a phonetic blend is more than learning to produce the sound slowly. It involves vocabulary development and use of the blend in in various listening, speaking, reading, and writing settings.

The second part of this blog will provide ideas for doing this using Hameray’s Letter Buddies.



Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 


For more information on the books mentioned in this blog post, click the series highlights images below or click this link to visit our webpage for the Letter Buddies series.

Letter Buddies Blends Sales Sheet

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Blends, Letter Learning, Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery, Double Consonants, Kid Writing

Double Consonants with Little Rabbit!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Oct 6, 2016 3:02:00 PM


Have you read Joy Cowley’s Little Rabbit series yet? Leveled from C-D, this all-new set from the Joy Cowley Early Birds series will bring joy and laughter into your early childhood classroom.

Apart from the charming humor and adorable illustrations, the Little Rabbit series offers a multitude of opportunities for your students to improve literacy skills. The main character’s name, Little Rabbit, already includes two examples of double consonants--"tt" and "bb"! By examining the book Carrots, your students can familiarize themselves with double consonants, an essential phonic skill.


Title page:

  • Examine the title. What do you notice about the spelling of this word? Are there any letters that are repeated in the word?
  • Introduce the term double consonants—when two of the same consonants appear together in succession.

 P. 2:

  • What are the double consonant words on this page? (Rabbit, chopped, carrot.)
  • Three is not a double consonant because “e” is a vowel. This exercise will serve as an effective way to test your students’ confidence in distinguishing consonants from vowels.

P. 5:

  • What is the new double consonant word introduced on this page? (All.)


P. 6:

  • What are the new double consonant words introduced on this page? (Squirrel, will.)

P. 8:

  • Explain that Dad is not a double consonant word. While it contains two “d”s in the word, they are separated by an “a” and thus do not appear right next to each other.

After reading: 

  • List all the different consonants that appear doubled in this book: r, t, b, l, and p. Brainstorm with the class to think of other words that contain these double letter consonants (parrot, tattle, bubble, gorilla, happy).
  • Can other consonants in the alphabet also be doubled? Have your students go on a double consonant hunt through the other books in your classroom library. The Little Rabbit series also includes the double consonan words biggest and off. “S” as in miss, “m” as in summer, “d” as in shudder, and “n” as in runner also appear as double consonants in English.


Double consonants can challenge early spellers, but they are actually very common in our daily language. (For reference, this blog post uses 31 different instances of double consonants!) Gaining familiarity through reading will help your students recognize words that require double consonants. Happy reading with Little Rabbit!


Browse all of the Little Rabbit titles at our website here. Click the image below to download a informational sheet about Joy Cowley Early Birds, which includes the book featured in this article. 

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Topics: Joy Cowley Early Birds, Leveled Readers, Double Consonants, Little Rabbit

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