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ASL sign for “in”

The word IN is a very important preposition. It is one of the basic concept words I often work on with students, and a word I have written about before. It is one of the top-10 CORE words, because it is so functional, and combines with so many other words.


Where is the boy? IN bed!


IN is a CORE word because it is multi-functional. At home, you can model IN by talking about what is IN a box, IN your fridge, IN your purse, or IN a backpack. Students can get IN a car, IN the bathtub, or IN bed. Food goes IN your tummy, and clothes belong IN the closet. Use whatever communication your student uses to practice the word IN all over the house!


My main book this week is “Better Move On, Frog!”, which is an oldie-but-goodie by Ron Maris. In the book, the frog wants to go IN a hole. He goes around the yard, but finds out that all the holes already have animals IN them! He finally finds a pond where he can go IN and live, so the story has a happy ending.


A new favorite for me is the book “IN” by Nikki McClure. Her illustrations are fascinating, and the entire book is talking about things IN other things on every page. It is a bit busy for students who are easily visually distracted, but I just love it.

How will you practice IN this week?


This month we have been talking about shapes in Teacher Norma’s classroom! Some students are at the level of exploring physical shapes with their hands, and other students have begun to label shapes verbally. There are many, many ways to play with shapes that can be done at home.


The book we have been reading together in class is called Shape Capers. You can get it at the library, or on The book introduces shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and semi-circles, and then uses the shapes to create fun pictures of different objects (a race car, a rocket, a dinosaur…). The students enjoyed touching each shape, and matching the shape they were holding to the picture in the book.


I made puffy fabric shapes that velcro onto a display board, which we used as we read the book. Each student got a shape to hold and explore, and when their shape came up in the book, they added their shape to the board. It gave students a chance to learn new words, as well as listen for their shape to be called. And the students enjoyed the texture and squishability of the fabric shapes!

At home, playing with Play-Doh can be one way to learn more about shapes. You can download Play-Doh shape mats here, which you can use while playing with Play-Doh to create and reinforce different shapes.

Flash cards and sorting is another way to learn about shapes. Here is a shape activity with cards of objects that are naturally circles, triangles, squares, etc. Cut them out, and have students label the shapes they see, or sort them into groups based on shape. If your student is not able to label yet, then you can do it with them and model the words as you look at the cards.

Happy Holidays everyone! Stay safe and warm, and I’ll see you in January 2016!



I love books.

I love books to read at home. I love reading books at school. I love using books with my students to introduce language concepts. And I LOVE using the same books repeatedly, especially with my students who need many repetitions to learn a new idea or concept.

Over the summer I was assigned to a new school, with students at different levels than I worked with last year. This has given me an opportunity to develop MORE book activities!

In teacher Norma’s room we are reading the book “In the Small, Small Pond” by Denise Flemming during circle time in November. It’s a fun book featuring many different pond animals. Students with higher vocabulary skills are exposed to many fun animals in the book – there are water beetles, herons, swallows, minnows, tadpoles, and muskrats! – and other students are working on the word “in”. My book poster (see below) has each animal OUT of the pond, and on their turn, each student puts an animal IN the pond.

A great way to solidify learning is to do the same activities at home as at school. In the Small, Small Pond is available at the Sno-Isle Library, or on Better World Books.

I have done this unit before (CLICK HERE for the post!) but of course I added some things this time around. My new books included:

Big Cat, Little Kitty

This book is a great compare/contrast book. It features “big cats” (a lion, a cheetah, a cougar, a snow leopard…) in their native environment, and contrasts them with “little kitties” who resemble them in miniature. The vocabulary is rich without being wordy, and the pictures are dramatic. It’s a very fun book, and a great way to repeatedly contrast “big” and “small”.

The Three Snow Bears

Every book by Jan Brett has wonderful illustrations, and this one is no exception. There is a big polar bear, a medium polar bear, and a small polar bear. The classic story is reinterpreted in a northern climate, which keeps it both fresh and familiar. Since “medium” is much trickier to teach than either big or small, I like to have as many books featuring it as possible. This was our last book, and possibly my favorite of this unit.

And lastly, a super-cute video:

We did this unit last year in the primary intensive support classroom, using books like Caps for Sale, and The Napping House, and singing Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes. This year we are adding more books, and more songs.

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

This book is about a mice family that lives at the bottom of a set of steep stairs. Papa mouse warns the children “DON’T go to see what is at the top of the stairs! There is a MONSTER up there!” Of course the children mice are curious, and they decide to go and look anyway. To find out what they see, you’ll have to read the book!

CLICK HERE for the directions. CLICK HERE for the activity pages.

We also sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The spider starts at the BOTTOM of the spout, climbs up to the MIDDLE and then gets to the TOP! And then of course she gets washed down back to the bottom again.

We started with the concepts IN and OUT in the primary intensive support classroom this year.

Bronto Eats Meat, by Peter Maloney & Felicia Zekauskas

Bronto Eats Meat was our first book. A brontosaurus (cleverly named “Bronto”) accidentally eats a BOY named Billy! Having Billy IN his tummy makes him feel sick. His family takes him to the doctor, where they figure out how to get Billy OUT! After reading the book we talked about what we like IN our own tummies, and what we want to keep OUT!

CLICK HERE for the activity to accompany Bronto Eats Meat

In the Small, Small Pond

We also read this book, which describes the animals which live in or around a pond. We talked about which animals live IN the pond, and which ones live OUT of the pond. Then we created our own pond scenes. The students placed the animals either IN the pond, or OUT of it. When they were done, they got to describe their pictures using the words IN and OUT. So much fun practice!

CLICK HERE for the activity to accompany In the Small, Small Pond

Hokey Pokey

For a song, how about the HOKEY POKEY!?! Always fun, always silly. Let’s sing it together!

Using negation can be tricky. Using the word “NO” is fairly simple, and for some children is one of the first words they master! (Much to their parents’ chagrin…). But the word “not” can be quite tricky. It’s “not” easy! (hahaha!). Part of the difficulty is that to use “not” correctly it needs to be in the context of a sentence, whereas “no” can be a sentence all by itself.

We worked on “not” in the primary intensive support classroom over the past few weeks. Here are some of the books we used!

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato – by Lauren Child

This wonderful book is about a boy who is watching his little sister, who is a picky eater and does NOT like tomatoes (or peas, or carrots, or mashed potatoes either!). The sneaky big brother convinces her to try the foods by saying that they are NOT any of those things, but instead are green drops from Iceland, Moonberries, and Cloud fluff from Mt. Kilimanjaro. She tries the food, and she likes it! There are many possibilities for asking questions during the book, so long as you model and expect a sentence in response.

“Is this a pea?” “No, it’s NOT a pea! It’s a green drop from Iceland!”

17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore – by Jeremy Offill

This book is about a girl who gets into trouble doing all sorts of things that she is NOT supposed to do! She staples her brother’s hair to his pillow (Should she do that? No, she should NOT!), writes her report about beavers instead of George Washington (Is that okay?” No, it is NOT!),  and walks to school backwards (Is that safe? NO, it is NOT!). After reading the book we brainstormed things that were NOT okay to do, and then thought up appropriate alternatives.

Example: I can NOT put my finger in the pencil sharpener. Instead, I can sharpen my pencil the safe way!

Click here for the in-class worksheet to go with the book.

Is Your Mama a Llama? – by Deborah Guarino
(Tu Mama Es Una Llama?)

A children’s classic, “Is Your Mama A Llama?” is the story of a young llama who asks all her friends about their animal mothers. She asks a baby cow, a baby duck, a baby bat… For most of the book the answer is “No, my mama is NOT a llama!” We did an activity asking questions about our own mamas (Is your mama tall? pretty? smart? rich? purple?) where the kids got to ask each other questions and fill in the answers on a chart. Such fun!

My mama is smart, nice, and pretty. She is NOT mean, tall, or purple!

We just wrapped up a unit on before and after in one of my classrooms. These concept words are tricky because they are more abstract than some of the spatial concepts. It’s hard to draw a picture of “before” without drawing on preexisting knowledge of what is supposed to happen next; similarly with “after”, a student needs to have sequencing ability in order to understand most of the examples that come to mind.

But never let it be said that I backed down from a fight because something was hard. We learned before AND after this month! And we had fun while we did it!

The simplest ways I found to help students understand before/after had to do with familiar sequences. We started with a number line, 1-10, and me asking the simple question “What number comes after ______?” What number comes after 1? What number comes after 2? What number comes after 3?

Once students understood the concept of “after,” we moved on to “before.” I explained that using the word “after” was like going forwards. “Before” is like going backwards. With an alphabet line (letters written in order from A-Z) I asked the same kind of questions. What letter comes before C? What letter comes before F? I used the visual to point to the letter in question, and students were allowed to point to their answers. (Some of my students don’t know all of their letters, and I wanted to see if they could understand the word “before” independent of whether they can say the letter names).

We also used the daily schedule in the wall to practice using before/after. What do you do AFTER lunch? What do you do BEFORE you go home? These questions, relating to their familiar routine, really helped the students to connect the words with their real-life meaning. In order to learn and use new words, they must be connected to real life. Using the schedule was a great way to do this.

Any book with a sequence could be used to talk about before/after. Here are a few we used:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carl. This book has become a staple of the modern children’s library, and for good reason. The colorful artwork, the predictable yet fun sequence, the life cycle of a caterpillar, and the simple language all make it ideal. The version I used was also bilingual Spanish/English, which engaged my kids immediately. My Spanish accent is good enough to pull off single words, so I supplemented my reading with the Spanish as I was able. What did the caterpillar eat before the plums? What did he eat after the oranges?

The Secret Birthday Message, by Eric Carl. Another Eric Carl book. This one follows a boy who gets a mysterious letter, with directions for a treasure hunt. I asked lots of questions about the sequence of the book (What did he do before he went in the cave? What did he see after he went up the ladder?). After the book, we went on our own treasure hunt around the school. Such fun!

Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carl. Yes, all of the books I used were by Eric Carl. This one was the sequence of Jack, a boy who wanted to eat pancakes for breakfast. Before he could eat them, he needed to get flour, and after that some milk, and after that make some butter, and after that make a fire… you get the idea. We drew pictures of our favorite pancakes after we sorted out the sequence from the book.

This  month we’re working on the words BIG, MEDIUM, and LITTLE (and their synonyms large, huge, tiny, small, etc). I found some wonderful books for this unit, and was able to purchase them thanks to another grant from the STARS foundation to create a basic concept book library! I’m going to start including examples of the follow-up activities also, so that you can reinforce the concepts at home if you wish. Enjoy!

We started with a classic – Goldilocks and the three bears. I used the Jan Brett version which was available in our school library, but any version would work. There is a BIG bear, a MEDIUM bear, and a SMALL bear. And then there are big, medium, and little porridge bowls, chairs, and beds. Our activity after the story was coloring pictures of the bears (big, medium, and small) or pictures of the beds (big, medium, and small), and labeling them. And then asking/answering many questions about which bear was big, which bear was small, which bear is this? Etc. Click here for the activity.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Our next book was a new one for me – Big Al and Shrimpy by Andrew Clements. Big Al is a big fish, and Shrimpy is a tiny one, but they find things in common and become friends. When Big Al needs him most, Shrimpy saves the day! We talked about the big-ness and little-ness of course, but it was also a nice lesson about how being little doesn’t mean you can’t help your friends. After the story we sorted attributes about the two fish, including which one was big or little, but also story comprehension questions about which fish was brave, which fish was strong, and which fish could zig-zag the best. Click here for the activity, and here for the directions.

Big Al and Shrimpy

A new favorite book of mine was Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake by Thomas Taylor. A little mouse finds a HUGE cupcake, but he’s not strong enough to carry it home. He asks his friends to help. They aren’t strong enough to carry it either, but they all ask to try a bite, and he shares with all of them. By the end of the book, the cupcake is much smaller! So small, in fact, that he can carry it home in his tummy. For our activity, I made a coloring page with a small cupcake, a medium cupcake, and a big cupcake. The kids chose toppings from a deck of topping cards, and had to say which cupcake would get the topping. Sprinkles on the medium cupcake, or the small cupcake? A candle for the large cupcake? You can’t have too many cupcakes. Click here for the activity, and here for the directions.

Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake

Other books for big, medium, and small:

This month we worked on the concept words TOP, MIDDLE, and BOTTOM in the intensive support classroom I serve. Books! Books! and a few songs as well. This is what we did:

Caps for Sale

We started with the book “Caps for Sale.” It is a classic children’s book about a peddler who sells caps, and carries them on TOP of his head. He has his checked cap on the BOTTOM, the grey caps in the MIDDLE, and the red caps on TOP. We did a craft activity where the kids colored and cut out hats and glued them on a picture of a peddler, and then described to each other and their teacher which caps were on the TOP, MIDDLE, and BOTTOM.

The Napping House is another fabulous book. There is a napping house, with a napping bed, and a snoring granny in the bed, with a sleeping child on TOP of her, and a dozing dog on TOP of him… you get the idea. Many questions about who was on TOP, who was on the BOTTOM (the kids liked this question, because it was always the granny!), and who was in the MIDDLE. And of course, a coloring project where they got to create their own napping bed, and decide who was on the BOTTOM, TOP, and in the MIDDLE.

Animals: A mix-and-match book

My favorite book we used didn’t even have any words! Animals: A mix-and-match book is a flip book with 3 sections, and had the students chose whether I should turn the TOP of the page, the MIDDLE of the page, or the BOTTOM of the page. In order to turn the page, they had to say the word! And it makes such funny pictures!

We also used some songs in our unit. Head and shoulders, knees and toes is a perfect song to use to talk about what is at the TOP of your body (head, eyes, ears, mouth, nose), what is in the MIDDLE of your body (tummy, belly button, knees), and what is at the BOTTOM of your body (feet, toes, ankles).

Other books I used include The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The Hole in the Middle, and Tops and Bottoms.

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Spring break!

Spring break!March 30th, 2018
spring break!

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