two boys seated on the grass laughing and reading books

Amazing early literacy due to Lakeshore

The internet contains vast pointers from teachers that take the classroom to their own children. With a mind to learning resources for letters, words, speech, early literacy, various stages of articulation, colors, numbers, calisthenics, imaginative play, handicrafts, sports, and all manner of special interests, there’s a ready army of mostly mothers incredibly passionate across areas of at-home learning. Whether fully homeschooling or supplementing models, it’s been a remarkable ongoing movement of responsible materials and practice sharing. Then, the pandemic introduced countless communities to meeting educational needs at home for most public school children. While many of us were happy adding a healthy recipe to our homes among the occasional unique kiddie craft, learning questions swiftly became so intense.

Rescue-grade early literacy

A family visit to Lakeshore Learning remains my fondest recollection from the pandemic. It was not our first visit to the supply chain, but it was the first that went beyond purchasing an item or two. In the midst of emergency, parents flooded the hallmark teacher store. We sought tangible tools to help focus our kids’ learning attention, and to assert foundational materials despite all else.

One of my favorite gifts for our budding students at home was a bargain. For less than $30, a tactile phonics kit, along with plenty of routine, helped with many frequent but initially awkward blends (like br, cr, bl, cl) and digraphs (like ch, th, sh.) The phonics cards present the added appeal of a physical touch point signifying each phoneme, or sound expression.

In the cases of digraphs or blends, the two letters of a target sound share one round, gritty dot for their combined sound. This is also visible in the picture below. In a world of sight words, even a few routine moments with these focused phonics cards is a kindness to new readers. It does not take long to fortify their techniques as much as their confidence with brief, steady reviews of the cards. Best yet, as they approach these words they learn to approach more words in general. As they understand contexts for varied relationships between letters, they are able to consider the various sounds in more contexts.

Early literacy tools like these textured phonics cards, help to keep real learning in reach for my digital-era kids.
Digraphs and blends became second nature with the help of tactile phonics aids

Reading fluency remains urgent

Reading fluency practice cost us more than double. However, it came with a super-sized set of materials. Lakeshore’s Building Fluency Card Bank ranged themes and styles as much as reading levels. The cards are designed for high legibility and are tabbed by reading level. No reading is repeated. Even the longest readings present bite-sized convenience, for regular use across cards. The cards and tabs are all coated paper, for a highly durable and markable platform to reuse over years. Several plastic sand timers are included (with a classroom in mind, but they’ve been used scattered across any of multiple rooms) along with a markable progress chart, if the kids get into that.

Reading fluency card bank for early reading

I’ve just started posting some of these things that have come up, and I cannot imagine not mentioning either of these early literacy sets. They rooted major foundational routines with minimal fuss. Even with our first grader at school each day since kindergarten, the phonics cards pepped him up nicely in summer. I’ll look to the fluency card bank as soon as I can, knowing practice across sample texts will aid his confidence as much as his skill.