Teaching reading and spelling with vowel sounds

Maybe you’ve seen it. You begin reading with your child and the tears begin to flow. Your frustrated child can’t put the sounds together; can’t pronounce the words. It’s understandable. Out of the 26 letters in the alphabet, 5 of them are vowels. Those 5 vowels create 19 different sounds depending on the letter combination used in a given word.

Here are a few things to consider when teaching the short vowel sound:

  1. Introduce each vowel sound. Here is a video with short vowel sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQwQ7FWL4MM
  • short /a/ as in bat
  • short /e/ as in bet
  • short /i/ as in bit
  • short /o/ as in bot
  • short /u/ as in but
  1. For each short vowel sound teach a gesture or hand movement to go with it.
  • Short A – put your hand under your chin. Remind your student that when you say /ă/ your chin drops. Say, “Short a says, /ă/.”
  • Short E – Hold three fingers out horizontally. Say, “Short e says, /ĕ/.”
  • Short I – Touch your finger to your nose like you are dotting an i. Say, “Short i says, /ĭ/”.
  • Short O – Form your mouth in the shape of an o. Say, “Short o says, /ŏ/”.
  • Short U – /ŏ/”.Put your hands together and use your thumbs to form a u. Say, “Short u says /ŭ/”.

Remind students to do these gestures each day when they say the short vowel sounds.

You can also use these gestures when segmenting words for accurate spelling. For example, after you dictate the word rat, the student can say each sound in isolation. /r/ / ă / /t/.

 spell trek3. The game, Spell Trek, uses visuals for the vowels and reinforces vowel recognition, phonics, and spelling. During this game, players draw vowel tiles and use them to complete words. Scoring is based on the length of the word spelled, with a bonus point for more complex words.

Here is a video tutorial that parent can watch and receive additional tips on how to play Spell Trek as well as how the game can reinforce spelling and phonics.

I became a SimplyFun Playologist because I truly believe in providing children with multiple ways to learn and succeed in school. Academic game play is fun and effective. Please browse my SimplyFun web page for games and toys designed to help your child play, grow, and learn.

Please visit my SimplyFun web page today https://www.simplyfun.com/pws/gamestogrow/tabs/playologist-home.aspx

Fraction friends: 2nd – 3rd grade math


Re-purpose your empty water bottles in this simple math activity for your elementary-aged students. Fraction strips help students see the relationships between different fractions.



  •  plastic water bottle
  • colorful fuzzy sticks
  • colorful tissue
  • colorful index index cards (large)
  • permanent marker (to draw the the face)
  • sharp pin (to poke holes in plastic bottles)



  • Make fraction strips with index cards. Make sure each strip is evenly spaced.
  • Use a sharp pin to poke holes in opposite sides of the strip.
  • Use a sharp pin to poke holes in opposite sides of the plastic bottle.
  • Thread one fuzzy stick through the plastic bottle.
  • Stuff one sheet of colorful tissue into the plastic bottle.
  • Thread the fuzzy “hands” into either side of the strip. Fold to secure.
  • Draw face on the plastic bottle.
  • Make a few ribbon curls and glue on the “hair.”

Want more? 

Stanford University free outreach programs for students and teachers

It’s obvious why Stanford University is nicknamed “the Ivy league university of the west.” Like Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, and the rest, Stanford is progressive and forward thinking. All of the Ivy League schools actively market homeschoolers and offer inticements, such as outreach programs, that are designed to intrigue developing young minds and equip grade-level teachers. These universities seek bold, innovative thinkers and thus, host programs that help students achieve those desired outcomes. Many of these programs are free.

Here’s a sampling of what Stanford is doing for students in grades K-12:

Ants at work
  • Investigating Ant Colony Searching: a Citizen Science Project This lesson is designed to engage students by providing opportunities for them to explore ants and their behavior, ask scientific questions, collect and analyze data and develop explanations about ant colonies and how ants work together. The lesson engages students in scientific inquiry and promotes curiosity about the natural world. Free PDF, click here.
  • Stanford’s YouCUBED.com offers outstanding math lessons for grades 5th – 9th.
  • Fluency Without Fear: Research Evidence on the Best Ways to Learn Math Facts contains groundbreaking strategies and math activities for elementary-aged children to shake off the fear and develop confidence in math. For example: Snap It! and How Many Are Hiding? are math activities that use Lego cubes.

    Addition Fact Activities

    fwfpic2Snap It: This is an activity that children can work on in groups. Each child makes a train of connecting cubes of a specified number. On the signal “Snap,” children break their trains into two parts and hold one hand behind their back. Children take turns going around the circle showing their remaining cubes. The other children work out the full number combination. For example, if I have 8 cubes in my number train I could snap it and put 3 behind my back. I would show my group the remaining 5 cubes and they should be able to say that three are missing and that 5 and 3 make 8. How Many Are Hiding? In this activity each child has the same number of cubes and a cup. They take turns hiding some of their cubes in the cup and showing the leftovers. Other children work out the answer to the question, “How many are hiding?” and say the full number combination. Example: I have 10 cubes and I decide to hide 4 in my cup. My group can see that I only have 6 cubes. Students should be able to say, “I’m hiding 4 cubes and 6 and 4 make 10.”

Tracking ionospheric activity
  • The Stanford Solar Center Resources for K-12 Teachers and Students is a collection of multi-disciplinary, interactive exercises and activities based on the Sun and solar science, most geared to grades 4-12. Each lesson or activity comes with study guides, worksheets and quizzes and all are aligned with the national science teaching standards.The Center also offers solar spectroscopes for students to cut out and put together. These come complete with gratings, as well as instructions for construction and use. Cost is $10.00 for shipping and handling.
  • Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science.” I especially enjoyed the section on Solar Art and Literature. The animations and images are outstanding! This section includes video shorts, poetry, literature, songs, and visual art.
  • Build your own SID Weather Monitor. SID stands for Solar Ionospheric Disturbance. This device uses low frequency radio waves to detect solar flares and monitor weather disturbances.
  • Available August 2015: For the first time in its history, Stanford is offering some of its most popular engineering classes free of charge to students and educators around the world. Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) expands the Stanford experience to students and educators online. A computer and an Internet connection are all you need. View lecture videos, access reading lists and other course handouts, take quizzes and tests, and communicate with other SEE students, all at your convenience.  Stanford encourages fellow educators to use Stanford Engineering course materials in their own classrooms. A Creative Commons license allows for free and open use, reuse, adaptation and redistribution of Stanford Engineering Everywhere material.

Want more? Visit our website. TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education. We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. We promote diversity and tolerance in a safe learning environment. For TAMS and ED students, the world is their classroom. Come and join us! Felicia Moon-Thomas, Director

The world is our classroom

1373312033583di•ver•si•ty: noun.  The state of being diverse; variety.

A vital part of our home school program is diversity. We live in a colorful world. God designed it that way. Humanity consists of men, women, and children of different races, religions, lifestyles, and ideas.


Moreover, our world is rapidly changing. New conversations are emerging. Tough issues such as gay marriage, religious extremism, or the legalization or marijuana, are creeping more and more into our daily discussions. It’s up to us parents and educators to prepare our children by teaching them to stand for their beliefs and how to respect racial, political, and cultural differences. Otherwise, they will begin to view their world through eyes of prejudice and hate all because he or she doesn’t agree or is different.


Here’s one example. During a recent conversation about religious differences, a student expressed negative thoughts about Muslims. This student was aware of tragedies such as 911 and the rise of Isis. Somehow, this student had attached the actions of a few pseudo-religious rogues with the agenda of an entire religious group of peace loving people who celebrate Jesus Christ.


Thus, James and I launched our World Religions project whereby all of our students would explore the world’s top five religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. We incorporated math, geography, reading, writing, art, music, history, and social studies into the lessons.

In the Teen Center with Imam Shah.
In the Teen Center with Imam Shah.

Over a three month span, we visited a local mosque. We ate lunch at an Indian restaurant. We took turns reading stories out loud. We practiced writing in Hebrew and Arabic. We incorporated literature lessons with The Ramayana, which is a Hindu epic. We made prayer beads. We celebrated Easter and prepared a Passover Seder. We visited the Holocaust Museum Houston and vowed to stop hate starting with ourselves. 


This three-month adventure opened up many “teachable moments.” The students engaged in lively discussion and traveled to new lands. They even took up a collection to help the child victims of the devastating earthquakes in Nepal. We donated  $56.00 to Save the Children.

I thank God for these life-changing experiences.  More than that, I thank Him for allowing us to impact young lives with lessons that they will NEVER forget.

TAMS and ED is a 501(c)(3)organization. We provide a home school experience for children who need a smaller classroom experience. For more information, visit us on Facebook at TAMS and ED or online at http://www.tamsanded.com.