Elementary Education Monthly Update

February 2019

Primary Connection (K-2)

In my professional development, The Science of Reading, I have been focusing on quality phonemic awareness and phonics instruction in the primary grades. One thing that is really important for teachers to know is that phoneme segmentation is the skill that is the primary indicator of early reading success. Phoneme segmentation is a phonemic awareness skill - this is important. Children should be immersed in these oral language skills while learning the alphabetic principle. However, research states that we should not move children into phonics programs until they have sound mastery in phonemic awareness and in particular have mastered phoneme segmentation. This is so important!


As you look for resources just remember that there is NO PRINT in phonemic awareness games or activities. You may use pictures or manipulatives but children should not have print in front of them for these activities. The Florida Center on Reading Research has many free resources by skill on their website. The link is here. The Measured Mom page has a PDF link for 25 free PA games. Have fun and fill your primary classrooms with oral language!

Intermediate Connection (3-4)

For students at this grade level continuing to develop their skills in the six syllable types and introducing multisyllabic works is a priority in brain development. The six syllable types should be first introduced with beginning phonics in first grade but not fully mastered until end of second/third grade. The six syllable types are below.

  • Closed (CVC)
  • Open (CV)
  • VC-e (silent e)
  • Vowel Teams (including diphthongs)
  • Vowel -r (CV-r, CV-rC, or CC-rC) R controlled (diphthongs could be here also)
  • C+le

Here are some games for reinforcing the syllable types and teaching multisyllabic words,

Florida Center on Reading Research Syllable Games (fccr.org)

Syllable Go Fish Cards with rules

For beginners, here is a syllable sort - TPRI

Upper Elementary Connection (5-6)

Readers by this stage have developed strategies for decoding words that they do not recognize in print. When approaching new academic vocabulary or vocabulary in literature students need to have background skills in word attacking to become successful. A student's brain will stop at a word and try to recognize parts of the word they know (syllables, affixes) and try to decode. Teachers should focus on reviewing base words, root words, inflectional endings, and syllabication at the upper grades to aid students in successful decoding.


The average 5th grader encounters 10,000 new words in a school year so knowing the rules for decoding multisyllabic words is a must for content reading. Good readers accurately identify multisyllabic words, break them down, and decode them. Poor readers, on the other hand, tend to process the letters within the words, not the syllables. Poor readers must be able to decode single syllable words, correctly pronounce vowel combinations, identify open and closed syllables, and pronounce affixes in isolation before beginning decoding of multisyllabic words. (Teaching Reading Sourcebook, 2012) These skills should begin being assessed at the end of second grade.


Florida Center on Reading Research has activities for students needing these skills. (fcrr.org)

February is Oral Health Month

Oral health is a part of an overall healthy lifestyle and quality of life. Did you know, in 2016, 18,900 Kansans visited emergency rooms with dental pain (2017 Kansas Oral Health Snapshot) and that most of these visits were preventable? It boils down to the frequency in which people visit the dentist. People tend not to visit the dentist for three main reasons: access to payment, access to a provider, and willingness to access the service. As teachers, we can help with the third issue and help students understand the importance of good oral health and as schools, we can address the first issue by helping to educate families on ways to find access to pay for dental care. Medicaid (which in Kansas is called Kan Care) provides comprehensive dental care services for children until they reach the age of 18. Once teenagers become adults and no longer have access to free dental care they tend to quit address their oral health, which leads to issues like diabetes, pneumonia, stroke, and heart conditions. We must educate children on the importance of lifelong quality oral health care. If you'd like the breakdown of the cost of oral health care by your county and where access to quality oral health care can be found in your county, please read the 2017 Kansas Oral Health Snapshot and share it with parents. (Image above is royalty free from pixels.com)


To teach oral health, several companies and groups have partnered to offer free activities, lesson plans, and science experiments that help to show children that quality oral health care is a serious lifelong health commitment. Children from poverty need access to lessons such as these. I hope you have time in February to take part in some type of oral health lessons.



  • Imagix Dental has many science lesson plans to show the impact of sugar on teeth and how bacteria and plaque can cause health issues. These can be demonstrated to younger students on conducted hands-on with older kids.,
  • NEA offers a list of children's oral health books by title, author, interest level and reading level. They also have a PDF with science activities that are geared for parents to conduct with their children (which may be a good send home). This site has brushing logs, teaching tools, classroom resources, and more.
  • Colgate company offers an entire dental hygiene curriculum for teachers which includes materials, videos, and free classroom kits.
  • Delta Dental of Kansas has "fun activities" that you could put in a center. There is no real lesson plan bank or activity list here though.
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) offers the Smile Smarts Dental Health Curriculum for free. This is focused on children ages 4 - 7. The Teeth to Treasure lessons are for older students in grades 4th - 6th.
  • Crest company offers parent brochures, brushing charts, lesson plans, demos and videos for teachers.

Teacher Self-Care

Compassion fatigue is real. I had several responses to my post last month regarding this. I encourage your teaching team (or just you) to read this book, Take Time for You, Self-Care Action Plans for Educators by Tina H. Boogren. In this book, Tina talks about self-care being a daily act - yep daily! We should not save self-care for the weekends, summer, long weekends, spring break, when our kids are older, when we retire, etc. This book is a how-to for teachers that are overly stressed and have zero time for themselves. It gives starting points, a survey and framework, a review of physiological needs, safety, belonging, esteem, self--actualization, and transcendence needs explained in detail with strategies for each. I've had the pleasure of hearing Tina Boogren speak in person and she is quite inspirational. Take time for you and read this book - you are worth it. (Image from Marzanoresearch.com)

Social Emotional Learning

Emotional regulation is something that most adults can do fairly well (or we'd end up jobless or worse). Knowing how to cope with frustration and cheer ourselves up in healthy ways is how humans stay stable and balanced - or how we self-regulate. We now know that we need to teach these skills to many of our students who developmentally or emotionally lack the ability to do so on their own. The first part of this is to be able to identify the emotion that we are feeling. I don't know about you, but that is hard even for me. For example, when I am wandering through the kitchen and aimlessly grab a snack - is it out of boredom, stress, tiredness, worry - you get the idea.


Infants need "send and return" to be able to read emotions. They check for facial expressions and body movements and mirror these expressions. In toddlerhood, it becomes more difficult for children to link language to emotions as they lack expressive language at this stage of development and need adult guidance to help them build emotional vocabulary. "I see that you are afraid," when they wake up crying from a bad dream. As children grow and enter school, emotional management becomes more difficult. Younger children (preschool through first grade) are expected to manage their emotions in large groups of other children for the first time without the support of caregivers that have helped them name their emotions. This is where posters and charts with facial expressions help children to label and name emotions and build the self-awareness necessary to regulate. This can also be done while reading stories to children as you discuss characters. Older classrooms can use posters, word walls, or task cards to help students with emotion naming.


I have a list of picture books and chapter books for teachers and counselors to use to help teach emotional regulation.

Picture Books

  • When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry Author - Bang, Molly (1999)
  • How to Lose All of Your Friends Author - Carlson, Nancy (1994)
  • Millie Fierce, Author - Manning, Jane (2012)
  • The King of the Playground, Author - Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds (1994)
  • My Friend is Sad, Author - Willems, Mo (2012)
  • Elbert's Bad Word, Author - Wood, Audrey (1996)

Chapter Books

  • Smile, Author - Telgemeier, Raina (2010)
  • Bridge to Terabithia - Author, Paterson, Katherine (1978)
  • Judy Moody Was In a Mood, - Author, McDonald, Megan (2000)
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Author - Hillenbrand, Laura (2014)
  • The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, Author - Birney, B.G. (2005)

Black History Month

It seems easy enough to touch on Black History Month with some Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, Junior lessons. However, the history bestowed upon us by this great ancestry of people should be celebrated all month long with rich lessons in culture, food, music, and art. Here are few ideas to help you plan your Black History Month lessons.


Books to celebrate Black History Month:

  • Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine is a story about young Henry who escapes slavery in a wooden crate and wants a birthday so bad that he does something risky and brave. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
  • This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt is a great story to connect to "deedle-di-bop" of classic musicians Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and more. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is a story of segregation and two little girls that form an unlikely friendship by the fence that separates them. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold is set in 1939 in Harlem. Little Cassie notices the city and the signs of social injustice all around. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
  • Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson is a 108-page book that has beautiful illustrations of important social contributions of African Americans throughout history. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
  • What Color is My World? by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a book about African American inventors and inventions written by the famous NBA player. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis is a novel narrated by 9-year-old Kenny the youngest brother in a middle-class African Amerian family from Michigan that travels to Alabama to bring his roughneck brother Byron to grandma's house for some tough summer love. The events of the summer change the family's life forever. Recommended for ages 11 and up.
  • Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen is a novel that is a brutally accurate account of slavery in the 1850s. Nightjohn takes many risks to teach a 12-year-old how to read at the risk of his own life. Recommended for ages 12 and up.


The National Education Association has lesson plans, printables, and background resources for grades Kindergarten through 5th for black history month that is all free to teachers.


Scholastic has several resources (some free and some for a fee) on their site for grades PreK through 6th. These are leveled by Guided Reading levels, genre, subject matter and/or theme. Very good resource here!


Kansas History comes alive with the Kansas Historical Society and the Kansas Museum of History's African American History exhibit. Visit the link above for more information and to schedule your visit.


Nicodemus, Kansas is featured on the National Park Service's page with several resources for students. Nicodemus was formed by former slaves from Kentucky at the end of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and is the oldest and only remaining black settlement west of the Mississippi River.

Happenings Around KSDE

Early Childhood Conference

If you are an early childhood educator please plan to attend the Champions of Children conference hosted by the Kansas Division for Early Childhood (KDEC). On-line registration closes on February 8 and walk-in registrations will be accepted. The event will be held Thursday, February 28 - Friday, March 1, 2019, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Wichita. For more information please email David Lindeman at lindeman@ku.edu



Kansas State Schools of Character Recognition Program

Calling all schools who are doing great things with social, emotional and character development. We want to recognize your efforts and share your success with other schools around the state. The Shifting School Culture Recognition is for schools that have developed and implemented an SECD initiative or program for at least one year and are transforming the school culture as well as growing student SECD skills. The Enhanced Spotlight Recognition is for schools that are implementing new initiatives or are enhancing existing initiatives that will strengthen the SECD skills in their students and school climate. Applications are due March 22, 2019, and can be emailed to Noalee McDonald-Augustine at nmcdonald@smokyhill.org. The application fee for both is $25.00 and is payable to Smoky Hill Education Service Center. Click here to go directly to the applications. The Promising Practices Recognition application process must be completed online through the Character.org website, www.character.org, and is for schools or districts that have developed and successfully implemented a unique character practice. The application deadline is March 15, 2019, and has an application fee of $100 payable to Character.org.

For more information, contact Noalee McDonald-Augustine nmcdonald@smokyhill.org or Kent Reed, kreed@ksde.org.


Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17

RAK is a wonderful event for all children and all schools! Kindness begins with one simple act. Please visit the Random Acts of Kindness website for ideas, inspiration, and to share your story.


NGSS activities

K-2 Hands-on activity - Invent a Backscratcher from Everyday Materials. It is winter and your skin is dry. Invent a backscratcher and solve your problems! To view materials and lesson plans click the link here.


Grades 3 - 6 STEM with energy, sound waves, and communication in space will keep your students busy and actively engaged in NGSS content.


The World Wildlife Foundation has just released science lessons that have K - 5 resources. The science lessons are correlated to 3rd grade NGSS. These are great resources and with some tweaks teachers can help students answer their own questions about the phenomena in the lessons (this video explains how to do this). Please visit the World Wildlife Foundation website for resources and lessons for free!


School Redesign - Apollo Project

If you are interested in school redesign - now is the time! View the recorded ZOOM webinar from January with Commissioner Watson and view the website for the application and to have your questions answered. Applications are due by April 5, 2019. It is worth your time as an educator and as a system to invest in this process!

The Arts

The National Association for Music Education has many resources to help teachers with Black History Month. If you teach any of these lessons, please let me know with photos or email updates or an in-person invitation to visit your school. I'd love to see some of these lessons in action.


On the Art Projects for Kids site, there are many art projects based off of the work of famous African Amerian artists. Maybe one of these projects will inspire you and your students.

Cindy Hadicke, Elementary Program Consultant

Kansas State Department of Education