Literacy Lift Off & “Power Hour”

I am delighted that my class has started the literacy initiative “Literacy Lift Off”!!!  It is an intensive programme of Reading and Writing. Over the course of 1 hour pupils engage in a number of “stations” where activities are tailor made to their own level of competency over time we  gradually lift the complexity of  the what they can do in both reading and writing.

The aim of Literacy Lift-Off is to make pupils constructive learners. It teaches them ‘how’ to problem-solve independently.


Click here to view a video of LLO

Children are divided up into small groups ( max 7 per group). There are 5 stations and children spend 10 minutes at each. By the end of the hour they will have visited each activity and will take home their “new read” for homework.

There are now 5 adults in my room from Monday-Thursday and this is what we are up to!!

Station 1: Familiar Reading

Pupils read previously seen PM+ Readers.

Purpose: Development of enjoyment, fluency, comprehension and speed.

Station 2: New Reading 
Children will explore and then take home a new reader each day. This challenges the pupils to discover new ways to go beyond their current operating ability and lift their literacy processing.

Purpose: Pupils learn to use strategic activities to read new texts.

Station 3: Phonics
Children are supported to improve their abilities in  blending & segmenting words ( to make and break words) through lots of games and activities.

Purpose: To show children how words work, so that they can make a fast visual analysis of their reading

Station 4: Writing
Pupils write sentences using words that they encounter in their readers and the high frequency words that they are studying.

Purpose: That they will learn how they can write their own messages by hearing and recording sounds in words, using analogy and learning unusual words.

Station 5: High Frequency Words
Through games and small group instruction pupils learn to read the most common HFW appropriate to their age

Purpose: Children become aware of “tricky words” that allow them to access text with greater ease and to increase their reading fluency and accuracy.

“Power Hour” as we are calling it is a fantastic reading initiative and I cannot wait to see the results. The school has invested thousands of euro and lots of “teacher power” into Literacy Lift Off !!! I am so grateful to all of those who have  been involved in fundraising over the last number of year.

The kids are LOVING it so far. Mind you, I have never been busy. The team have been meeting 2o minutes early every morning since it started. I spent a few hours planning this weekend for the coming week only!!!

Watch this space as I will be keeping you up to date on our “Power Hour” activities.

If any of you are already doing LLO I would love to hear from you. Any tips or advice for newbies?!!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

I love “Bee the Book”!

My class had a tonne of fun with this book today!  It’s called Bee the Book.

My class laughed so hard that some of them almost cried! When I read out the “pig” page I swear they could hardly breathe!

The design is so novel and interactive that you can’t help but love it. You hold the book up to your face and look through the hole.

bee the book 2bee the book 3

Click here for a link to the site










There is a little flap that opens to reveal a little story about the animal that you are “beeing” ;). The words are nice and simple and written in a large font size. Senior Infants should have no problem reading it.

bee the book 4

I was thrilled to come across 100% Irish publication to support. It’s an absolute bargain a 9.99 Euro!

I have to admit that I actually used the book for Oral Language and Drama rather than story-time. We love to play Hedbanz and this book can be used in a similar way. Children can give clues to the child “beeing” the book to help him/her guess the animal. There was lots of descriptive language going on. For an extra challenge we had a round where the child with the book could only ask ” yes/no”questions of the class to figure  out who he/she is.

I also did a quick review of  farm animals “as Gaeilge”. I will be doing lots more of this next week. The animals in the book are perfect for Junior or Senior Infant Irish. I will be using it to review the phrases:

  • An… me?
  • Is… tu.


Bee the Book has teamed up with Bee for Battens. They are currently donating a whopping 50% of profits from the sale of the book to the charity. Battens disease is a rare neuro-degenerative and always fatal condition that affects children. At 9.99 Euro ” Bee the book” would make a great stocking filler and support families and children affected by Battens Disease.

 Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

For Parents of Junior Infants: Brush up on your (Jolly) Phonics!

This one is especially for parents of children who have just started school. If your child’s school is using Jolly Phonics chances are your child has already begun to learn his or her sounds.

Jolly Phonics is a form of synthetic phonics. This means that it  first teaches the letter sounds and then teaches children to “blend” sounds together to read and write words eg. cat = caat. Blending is often referred to as “sounding out”. Children are also taught to “segment” which involves breaking words up into sounds eg c/a/t. We do this when spelling words.

Your child will probably already have completed the Sounds in Set 1 and perhaps Set 2 at this stage. Here they are:

Click here to download Glance Card

Download this free glance card and save it for when you are doing homework.

You can use it in 2 main ways:

  1. Randomly point to a letter and ask your child what sound it makes.
  2. Call out a sound and ask your child to point it out.

You now have an easy way to check your child’s sounds 🙂 Just remember that it is letter sounds and not letter names that children learn in the beginning.

Be careful when pronouncing these sounds. Think of a simple 3 letter word eg sat and sing it rather than say it! It is easier to hear the constituent sounds if you do.

Here is an explanation of the sounds covered is Sets 1-2. It is always tricky to write down phonetic sounds. I hope that they make sense 😉

“s” is a long sound as in sssssnake and not suh

“a” is a short sound as in a/nt

“t” is a short sound as in t/ap and not  a harsh tuh ( the “uh” at the end in soft)

“i” is a short sound as in it

“p” is a short sound as in pig. It has a very gently “uh” sound at the end. Curl your lips in around your teeth & push them out like a little explosion. The “uh” sound is subtle rather than pronounced.

“n” is a long sound as in nnnnet and not nuh

“c”  and “k” are a short sounds as in cap and kit. It has a very gently “uh” sound at the end.

“e” is a short sound as in egg

“h” is a soft, short sound and not huh. Take a deep breath and sigh to hear it 🙂

“r” is a long sound as in rrrrip and not ruh

“m “is a long sound as in mmmat and not muh

“d” is a soft, short sound as in dip with a quite rather than pronounced uh sound at the end.

I hope that this helps :). It is so important to get it right in the beginning. If you have any further questions please feel free to email me

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Keeping on top of sounds!

I don’t know about you but sometimes it is hard to keep on top of who knows what in phonics! With 33 children in my class this year I have to be on top of my game ;).

I created a  Sound Identification Sheet that I find great. I use it at the beginning of the year and at the start of each term to see who knows what. You would have to check more often if children are struggling or if you teach Infants etc.

Please click here for a link to this post

I also have these rather nifty sheets to help me check sounds. They are based on the Jolly Phonics teaching order, as are the Sound Identification Sheets.

Please click here for a link to this post

*Please note that you no longer need Google Docs open. Just click on the image!

As a teacher I also need to know what sounds are proving tricky over all for my class. This helps with my planning. I usually use post-its and hastily scribbled notes. They do the job but I figured that I could do better than this!

Voila, my new sheet!!!

Click here to download

It is soooooo much easier to see where generally difficulties and weaknesses are. I hope that you find it as useful as I have.

How do you keep track? Do have any tips that you would like to share?!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

ps The cute ABC graphic is from

Free Sight Word App

I had a rummage around last weekend for an iPad app for high frequency words. There are lots of great apps available but I was looking for one that was free 😉

I was delighted to find this one by “Teacher Created Materials Publishing”.

As you can see it covers 25 high frequency words (HFW) that children need to learn to read  “by sight”. This means that they are not phonologically regular and cannot be sounded out.

I love the fact that the words are broken up into bite sized chunks. Your child can then learn or revise just a small number, experience success and move on to the next level. It can be frustrating to be staring at a very long list of words!

The app is very user friendly for children. It is brightly coloured and nice and large for little hands to use and to read.

How to use this app:

  • To hear the word- click on the “star” on the left of the screen
  • To record yourself saying the word- click the microphone button and keep it depressed while you say the word.
  • Write the word- use your pointer finger to write it on the screen
  • To erase the word- click the eraser icon

At the end of your 5 words you make a jigsaw, play hangman, concentration or Tic Tac Toe. Kids are all about the games…!

It’s nice to find an app that you can use as a test. You could use it to test your child’s level of recall by not pressing on the “star”. In fact, if you go to their website by following this link you will get a printable  checklist for sight words 1-25.

You can also download  these free printable flashcards from You could print a double set and play “snap” or “go fish”. I just love how well thought out these games are.

I can hardly believe that this app is free! I was pleasantly surprised to see the cost of purchasing the full app. Please click here to be taken to app store.

I hope that you find this post useful. Are any of you already using this app? Have you others that you can recommend?

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

My Little Box of Books

I came across a really lovely new series of books for Junior Infants last week. It is produced by Edco Primary English and  it is being launched for the start of the next school year.

” My Little Box” is a lovely concept and very well thought out. The box contains 10 little stories books for small little hands. The stories are about the adventures of Danny, Zeb ( his stuffed zebra), Emma and Josh. Not a weird alien or odd sounding name in sight for a change! The stories are based on topics that young children can easily relate to: Halloween, the market, saying hello and goodbye, the playground, “I can”, the telescope, tree houses, the swimming pool, Danny and his Mum and making a spaceship from an old box.

I love that they books contain lots of high frequency words and that each book only covers 6 new ones at most. They are also repeated over and over in the book. The controlled introduction and frequent use means that children will find them easier to learn to read. The HFW are based on the Dolch list.

The back of each book clearly lays out the HFW that will be focused on:

Inside the text is lovely and clear and well spaced. It also has a font similar to that used in Jolly Phonics. I love joined up thinking!

I am delighted to see that Irish textbook manufacturers are finally waking up to the importance of these for beginner readers.  I have spent far too many years teaching children words that are not “valuable”. By this I mean words that are not likely to pop up in the next book they read. I think that Infant books should be based on Dolch words and the others should be decodable. There is no point in teaching phonics if the first book you hand out contains precious few words that can be sounded out!

I love the idea of beginner readers getting to take home 10 stories rather than 4 big books. It can be demotivating for struggling readers to be faced with a large book and lots of words to learn in one go. This format means that children only need to learn a few words before they can take a book home and read it for Mom. How motivating!

“My Little Box” costs 9.95 Euro. Follow this link for further details. Edco have even thought of Reader Rental schemes and will allow you to purchase books individually to replace books that are sodden with orange juice ;).

Unfortunately, my school is not searching for a new scheme at present. I really wish that we were! It is one to keep in mind for supplementing your classroom library even if you, like me, are stuck with older schemes.

If you are a parent of a Junior Infant next year it is worth buying and reading with your child to supplement other schemes used in your child’s school.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

The Pig in the Pond Reader Response Activity 2

This reader response activity ties in nicely with Science and Geography- keeping cool.

I explained to my class that the duck and geese have forbidden the pig from every jumping into their pond again! As it is summer, the pig is likely to get hot again. The ducks are looking for useful suggestions to offer the pig when he needs to cool off.

Click here to download

My class came up with some fantastic ideas during our brainstorming session: ice-cream, a cold shower, a sun hat, water guns and even his own paddling pool! I just love to see children becoming so absorbed and so engaged with text and creatively responding to it.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂