Reluctant Writers

I’ll be honest I have to be quite strong when it comes to getting my eldest to work at home. I had a target at the start of the school year for him to develop his fine motor skills for writing. He rarely held a pencil and avoided anything to do with writing or colouring. When I asked him to draw something his mark making was nothing more than squiggles and lines. This has developed so much in the last year. In school his teacher was great in supporting this and while homeschooling during lockdown I really got to pile on hand strengthening activities.

Because My so can be so resistant to work I have to be very opportunistic and I strike while the iron is hot, so to speak! After a break from table work I tried different ideas I saw from other Instagram posts (#hotcoffeecreativekids) or that I had picked up from OTs and SLTs along the way. For example, I taped large sheets of paper (the ones I use here are from with letters or high interest words written on them high up to the outside of the back door windows. Having the paper slightly higher than the child’s shoulders is good for building the shoulder strength which is where the strength in the hand needed for writing comes from.

Here the boys are writing directly onto the glass, tracing what is written on the paper. The dry wipe markers wipe off easily with window cleaner.

Be sure to choose topics that would interest your child enough to do this activity. Whether it’s letters, superhero characters or toys stick pictures of them up with their names to trace.

Good luck!

Hook the listener!

My crew enjoying a story

I decided to broaden this page as a way to help parents who are supporting their children’s literacy learning at home. Whether it’s homeschooling, homework or just trying to bridge a gap where needed, getting kids to do work outside the school structure can be challenging.

Before the Summer holidays teachers often give suggestions of things you could do to avoid what’s called “the Summer slump”. This is a loss of some of the skills learned during the year which means teachers have to back track a bit the following year to catch them up. To avoid this, kids should read or be read to daily. I have yet to meet a child who didn’t enjoy having a story read to them. Choosing the right book and reading with expression hooks the most reluctant readers every time. If your child looks uninterested capture his or her attention by reading with expression. If their glances are fleeting, raise and lower your voice while pointing to the pictures. Make it seem as if you think it’s the best story ever with your facial expressions.

Have a go and please comment if this works for you. Feel free to ask questions. I don’t claim to be an expert or to have all the answers but I do have experience of helping a child with special needs to learn and what I can say is it takes lots of trial and error, repetition and patience!! Follow me on Instagram for more…@littlelearnersjourney.


Vocabulary book pack storage boxes

All set for all first and second class. It took weeks and months but now all first and second classes are stocked with enough vocabulary book packs to do for a full school year. Included in the first class box is 23 vocabulary book packs, master copies of resources and a yearlong plan. Second class has 19 vocabulary book packs and the other resources. I found these boxes in IKEA and at the moment they are working for the organisation of the packs. They’re good because they hold everything and they stack if needed.

Second class blue word cards

There should be no danger of any of the word cards getting mixed up as they’re all colour coded for first and second class and they all have the title of the book they’re matched to on them.

First class vocabulary book pack organisation

I can’t wait to get started on a school-wide vocabulary drive. I’ve a few ideas in mind to encourage kids to use the words which I’ll share as we go. In the meantime it’s the perfect thing to do with my little ones at home over the summer holidays. I actually get a bit of a thrill every time I hear my five year old preschooler using a tier 2 word in the correct context following frequent exposure of the word.

Now to get working on more vocabulary book packs for the junior and senior infant aged kids…

All set!

All set for teaching vocabulary to my first class gang this year. Vocab packs printed, laminated, cut and organised!


I may change the way I store these as I go but for the moment this large tub from IKEA seems to be a good solution.

If you want to see what my year long plan for vocabulary instruction of tier 2 words in First class looks like, see here.  Over the next while I will also add the book lists for each class level that I have made book packs for.

Now that that’s done I can move on to getting the last of my plans in other subject areas tied up too. I really want to enjoy the last few days of the holidays before school starts back.

Best of luck everyone.

There really is no getting away from it…

Vocabulary instruction matters and needs to be embedded into a balanced framework of literacy instruction. This means finding time in an already very stretched teaching day. The research highlights the strong link between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. According to Graves (2009) vocabulary knowledge in Kindergarten and first grade is a significant predictor of reading comprehension in the higher grades. The work you put into it in the early years is worthwhile. So how should explicit instruction look…?

Suggested Instructional Sequence for Teaching Individual Word Meaning

10-15 minutes a day of systematic vocabulary instruction.

Day 1: Read the story aloud

  • Select a text that is rich in Tier 2 words for your class level. (For more on how to choose Tier 2 words see here).
  • Prepare child friendly definitions for each selected word on cards. All book packs including word cards are available to purchase HERE.

  • Read the text aloud so that they have the story in their head.


I recommend you pre-read the story before introducing the word cards. As some stories are longer than others it may be hard to reread the full story each day you work on the words. You may need to just focus in on the sentence/paragraph to show the word in context.

Day 2: Introduce the Tier 2 words in context and discuss

  • Read aloud the sentence or paragraph in which the new word occurs. This provides context.
  • Introduce the Tier 2 words with a child friendly definition (using the word cards).
  • Have children repeat the word (“Say it with me”) to build memory for the sound and meaning.
  • Give additional context in which we might use the word.
  • Have children provide their own examples of when to use the word.

Day 3-4: Engage children in activities to encourage deeper understanding of the target words

  • Engage children in activities in which they need to deal with various dimensions of the word’s meaning. Ask questions using the target words which the children have to justify their answer. E.g. Would someone be wet if they avoided the large puddles on yard? (do this for each word/encourage children to come up with questions also).
  • Provide opportunities for multiple exposures of the words. E.g. If avoid is one of your target words, instead of saying “keep away from puddles on the yard”, say “avoid the puddles on yard”.
  • Provide opportunities for children to apply the words to a range of contexts. E.g. Sentence stems to complete, that’s… game. E.g. if I walk around the puddles on yard, That’s … “avoiding”.
  • Challenge children to think about how the words could be used outside of the classroom: e.g. for a healthy diet what are some of the foods we should avoid or have less of?

Day 5: Assessment

The kind of knowledge that needs to be assessed is not definitional. The important thing to think about is what can children do with the words that they know? and how do they use them?

  • During the week collect and record data on the frequency and context of Tier 2 words used. (Data sheets are available with each book pack purchased).
  • Use teacher designed assessment such as multiple choice questions and true or false.

General organisation

Vocab display on stairs

Display word cards around the room/school. Keep them active by drawing children’s attention to them. Remind children to include them in their writing where appropriate.


For more detail on this approach, read Chapter 4 of Bringing Words to Life,

by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan.