Tip for Mapping Blends & Digraphs – October 18, 2023

A recent message inspired this email. A teacher messaged me asking about blends, digraphs, and “welded” sounds.

They were quite surprised when I said I do not teach blends as “welded” or “glued” sounds. I find it to be confusing when they go to map these words. I know some of you may disagree here and that is okay!

Whether or not we teach “welded” sounds, words are still mapped the same way.


Blends are 2 or more consonants that represent 2 or more sounds so we separate them when mapping. For example:

B – A – N – K

B – L – E – N – D


Digraphs are 2 consonants that come together to represent ONE sound so they are mapped in the same box. For example:

SH – I – P

S – A – NG

P – I – CK

I hope this helps to clarify. If you have any questions, hit reply and let me know!

Don’t forget to get your free Fall Mapping Mats on my website!

Why Does S Sound Like Z? – October 11, 2023

Words like is, has, his, and as have been on lists for kids to memorize for far too long! Did you know that the letter s actually spells /z/ over 60% of the time?

This is definitely worth teaching (especially when we consider the fact that when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, is only true around 30% of the time … but that’s a whole other email 😉).

Is there a pattern to teach?

YES! We can teach kids that s will spell /z/ when it follows a voiced sound (remember last week’s email on voiced and unvoiced sounds?).

That is why words like BUGS sound like they end with a z… because the letter before the S makes a voiced sound. The /g/ sound uses our voice box!

In a word like HATS, the letter S does not represent /z/ because /t/ is an unvoiced sound.

Yet another reason we can, and should, teach our kids about voiced and unvoiced sounds!

Voiced & Unvoiced Sounds – October 4, 2023

So, if you are anything like me, you may have not known what these terms meant or why they are important. But knowing this – and teaching it to my students – has been a game changer!

Voiced Sounds

A voiced sound is one that you use your voice box to make. Touch your throat and say the sounds for letters like G, B, D, R, and W. Do you feel that vibration? That is a voiced sound.

Unvoiced Sounds

An unvoiced sound is one that you DO NOT use your voice box to make. Touch your throat again and say the sounds for letters like P, T, S, F, and K. There is no vibration because these are unvoiced sounds.

This can be super helpful for kid when they confuse letter sounds such as B and P, D and T, and G and K. These sounds are all made in the same place in our mouths. The only difference is one is voiced and the other is unvoiced!

I hope you found this tip helpful.

See you next week!

Why Does the G in GYM Sound like J? – September 27, 2023

Have you ever wondered why G makes one sound in GIFT but sounds like a J in the word GYM?

Or how about C sounding like K in a word like CAKE but then sounding like an S in a word like CITRUS?

What’s up with that?

There is a pattern for this!

C and G make their soft sounds when followed by E, I, or Y. In fact, one of the many jobs of silent E is to make C and G say their soft sounds!

If you are a Science of Reading 101 Member, check out the new Soft C & G decodable resources now! These will be listed on my website and TpT within the next 2 weeks so stay tuned if you are not a member!

Gentle Cindy is a fun visual to help kids remember which letters make C and G say their soft sounds. Check it out below!

Help Kids Learn Their Letters & Sounds Faster! – July 10, 2023

As you may know, Prime Day is coming up July 11 & 12th and that is a great time to stock up on learning resources for kids! If you haven’t heard, I recently self-published a children’s book using my embedded mnemonics images!

Research shows that using images in the shape of the letter with the letter sound can help kids learn their letters and sounds faster! Sounds great, right?

You can see a FULL PREVIEW of the book and learn more about embedded mnemonics here!

If you have already purchased, THANK YOU! I would be honored if you would take the time to leave a review and let me know what you think! (If you leave a review, respond to this email and I will send you a code for 50% off on my website!)

If you are not interested in the book but would like to stock up on other resources aligned to the Science of Reading, you can find my recommendations here!

I hope you are enjoying your summer & thanks again for being a part of this community!

2 Ways to Get Kids to Learn Sight Words – June 14, 2023

Here are two things I started doing to get my kids to actually remember their sight words.

First I sorted over 200 words by phonics skill, because the list that I used to use, made no sense.

So now if my kids are learning short a, here’s all the high frequency words that I am going to teach along with short a.

*SoR 101 Members get this inside the membership!*

Then, I started teaching High Frequency words through phoneme grapheme mapping or matching sounds to symbols.

I have the kids say the word, break apart the sounds in the word and then I have them spell each of those sounds. If the word has a tricky part, I am going to put a star or circle it and then talk about that spelling and why it might be spelled like that.

I promise you will never go back to word walls or memorization again after making these changes! Still unsure? Hit reply and let me know what questions you still have:)

See you next week!

Still Have Struggling Readers? – June 7, 2023

It’s the end of the year and you still have students struggling with reading… I know this feeling all too well!

So, I wanted to share a couple quick tips you can use to see WHY they are struggling and how to get them caught up!

What can we do?

More often than not, if a student is struggling with reading, they are missing key foundational skills.

If you are in the Science of Reading 101 Membership, there is a phonemic awareness quick check you can give to see what skills may be missing.

If not, you can grab the PAST test or simply ask the student the following questions.

Check out my FREE 30 minute training to learn more about these skills!

Questions to ask:

  • What is the first sound in the word SUN?
  • What is the last sound in the word MAP?
  • What is the middle sound in the word TIN?
  • What word is this – /h/ /a/ /t/?
  • Tell me the sounds in the word PET.

Asking these questions will tell you if your child/student has the skills they need to become successful readers!

SoR 101 Members, there is a quiz in the Start Here section of the membership that will help you assess your child/students as well so be sure to check that out!

See you next week!

3 Reading Strategies to Avoid – May 24, 2023

Here are 3 reading strategies that are often used in balanced literacy classrooms. I am guilty of using all of these prompts! We don’t know better until we do, right?

Use the picture

If we ask kids to look at the picture and not at the word, we are just teaching them to guess.

Use the first letter

This is not a helpful strategy unless we are going to have them use all of the other letters too. Typically this strategy asks kids to use the first letter and then look at the picture. Both of these encourage guessing.

Skip the word

Why did I ever do this? We don’t want kids skipping words. We want to give them tools and strategies to solve these words.

All of these strategies are things that struggling readers do to compensate. We want to make sure we are giving our kids the tools & strategies they need to solve words, not guess words.

If you are a teacher, grab this letter to send home with students this summer to help parents avoid these strategies as well!

Grab it here:

See you next week!

Say Goodbye to Sight Word Memorization! – May 17, 2023

Although reading may seem like it is simply a visual task, that is far from the truth. In order to read, different parts of our brains work together to process sounds, letters, meaning, etc.

This is why memorizing words doesn’t work!

Bruce McCandliss did a study with 2 groups of people. Group one learned new words (with a made up alphabet) by memorizing them. Group two learned the sounds and symbols.

Group one started out faster but soon started to forget the words they had previously learned as new words were introduced.

Group two, while they started out slower, they made the most progress and soon were able to decode new words that had not been taught on their own!

Instead of asking kids to memorize words, we can teach the words in a way that will help kids permanently store the words for quick retrieval (this is how we get them to be fluent readers)!

See you next week!

Open VS Closed Syllables – May 10, 2023

Did you know that if you teach kids Open and closed syllables they’ll have the skills that they need to be able to decode around 75% of words?

So what are open & closed syllables?

closed syllable is a syllable that the short vowels spelled with one letter ending in one or more consonants. Like these words






An open syllable is a syllable that ends with a long vowel sound. and is spelled with a single vowel letter. Like these words:




Ro-bot – (Open & Closed)

I start teaching open & closed syllables after my students know their long and short vowel sounds. It is a game changer!

See you next week!

What is a Diphthong? – May 3, 2023

Okay, I have to be honest…

When I first saw this term, I was pronouncing it as DIP-Thong. But this word is pronounced as DIF-Thong. So …what is a diphthong anyway?

A diphthong is a sound that starts as one vowel sound and ends as another.

The word COWBOY has two diphthongs. The /ow/ in cow and /oy/ in boy.

Grab a mirror (if you can) and say the word COW. Watch how your mouth moves as you say /ow/. Listen to the sound change. Repeat for the word BOY. Do you hear how the sound changes?

That is a diphthong!

I hope you found this helpful and don’t forget to hit that reply button with any comments or questions! I love to hear from you.

See you next week!

Most Words are Not Heart Words – April 26, 2023

“Heart Word” has become quite the buzzword! I think it is important to note that most words are actually NOT heart words.

Let’s take a look at some words that people think are “heart words” but they’re really not.


Have is a completely regular word because the E is at the end to make sure that the word does not end with a V.


Is, is another perfectly regular word because s spells the /z/ sound over 60% of the time (which makes it a very common pattern)!


My is not a heart word because Y typically spells I or E at the end of words.


She is not a heart word because it is an open syllable word. When we have an open syllable, the vowel says it’s name.

Be mindful when purchasing resources focused on heart words! And remember, only about 4% of words are truly irregular.

See you next week!

What’s Up with the Letter X? April 19, 2023

Usually if I ask a group of people how many sounds there are in the word BOX, most of them answer 3!

However, X always represents 2 sounds (or phonemes). Sometimes it’s the /k/ /s/ sound – as in box. Other times it’s the /g/ /z/ sound – as in exit.

No matter how you say it, X represents 2 sounds! Which is why Louisa Moats calls it a “consonant oddity”.

Quick Tips

  • When teaching the letter X, it is best to use target pictures that represent these sounds rather than using a picture of a xylophone (where X represents the /z/ sound).
  • When mapping words with X, it should take up two boxes or lines since it represents two phonemes!

I hope you found this helpful!

See you next week!

4 Questions to Ask a Struggling Reader – April 12, 2023

No matter what age your child or students are, if they are missing foundational reading skills, they may struggle to read. The good news is that these skills CAN be taught and you are never too old to learn them!

4 Questions to Ask

  1. Have them say a word like SUN and ask them to tell you what the beginning sound is. If they say “S” tell them yes, that’s the letter but can you tell me the sound? And you want them to say /s/.
  2. Then ask them, to say a word like MUD and ask them to tell you what sound they hear at the end of the word.
  3. Ask them to say a word like PIN and ask them to tell you what the middle sound is.
  4. Choose a word and you segment the sounds like, /m/ /ou/ /se/ and ask them to blend those sounds together to tell you what word that is.

BONUS QUESTION – Say a word like PLANT and ask them to tell you the sounds in the word.

If they are having trouble with any of these steps they are missing a key skill for successful readers which is called phonemic awareness.

I have created a FREE 30 minute training that explains what these skills are & gives you practical ideas for teaching them!

If you are in the SoR 101 Membership, this session is available for you in the PD Library.

The BEST Trick for Teaching Letters and Sounds – April 5, 2023

Using embedded mnemonics may help students learn their letters and sounds faster!

What are Embedded Mnemonics?

Embedded mnemonics are pictures in the shape of the letter but not only that, the picture is of something that starts with that letter’s main sound.

One study found that kids who were taught with embedded mnemonics learned letters & sounds fasterremembered them better a week later, and less often confused letters! 🤯

I used embedded mnemonics with my 4K and Kindergarten students and saw amazing results! So if you have kids who are still working on this, definitely give this a try.

See you next week!

How to Know when to Use C or K? – March 29, 2023

Do you have students who spell words like this? How will they know if its duck or duk? Clock or clok? Parck or park?

Here is the pattern:

If you hear /k/ at the end of a word and that sound immediately follows a short vowel, it is spelled with a CK.

So, park is spelled with a K because it follows an R-controlled vowel, not a short vowel sound.

As always, there are exceptions for this pattern (which is why I call them patterns, not rules) especially when you see CK in the middle of words like TICKET.

See you next week!

Reading Tip of the Week – MIRRORS! – March 19, 2023

Letting students see what their mouths are doing when they are making sounds can be so helpful!

I started doing this with my 4K and Kindergarten students when I was teaching letter sounds and saw a HUGE improvement in their ability to say the letter sounds correctly.

Sounds can be tricky and saying them incorrectly, can affect a child’s ability to blend sounds into words. Looking at our mouths, teeth, and tongue can help ensure we are saying each sound correctly.

Want to make sure you are saying the sounds correctly? Check out my new video on letters sounds.

See you next week!

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