Intentionally Designed Environments: Pictures of Classrooms Intentionally Designed EnvironmentsWOW! Teachers in the Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK are incredible. I recently had the opportunity to visit some of their classrooms. They so graciously allowed me to take pictures to share with you the intentionality of their classroom design.

The environment in which children spend their day at school needs to support developmentally appropriate practices that allow children to freely move, to explore with hands-on opportunities, to engage in dramatic play experiences, to build social/emotional skills, and to develop their symbolic thinking and cognitive flexibility among others.

Learning theories from constructivism to social learningintentional design of environments
to experiential learning underscore the importance of
active and inquiry-based learning, knowledge construction
through interaction with the environment, social contexts
and meaningful experiences.

-“Most Influential Theories of Learning,” Unesco Education


Intentional Design for hands-on exploration while encouraging symbolic thinking, problem solving, and cognitive flexibility.


Intentionally Designed Art Centers that encourage the process of art instead of the product,  and free exploration of creative ideas instead of template art.


Intentional Design of the Classroom Aesthetics so that the students can live and breathe in a beautiful space. Use of natural colors as we use in our homes for a calming effect.

Intentional Design of Student Contributions, the classroom belongs to the students. It should be a reflection of the students instead of the teachers passions or “cutesy/pinteresty” type themes.

Intentional Design to Include Dramatic Play. Students require dramatic play experiences to build executive functioning skills.

Teaching Letters of the Alphabet: Sorting Names

Learning about letters, sounds and words are important to developing young readers and writers. Letter knowledge is necessary, but it alone is not enough to read and write. Children will be reading and writing stories long before they can identify all of the letters of the alphabet.

In the past, “letter of the week” was a common practice but teachers now realize the

no more letter of the week FREE DOWNLOAD

severe limitations of this practice. When you spend a great deal of time on “letter of the week”, many children work on letters they already know, while others see and study letters out of context. Sometimes children forget last week’s letter while working on this week’s because they are looking at one item at a time.

YES! We still include instruction in letter name and sound learning with short lessons on how to look at letters- starting with those that have the most meaning.


Picture1To a child, there is nothing more important than his or her own name. In the blog post, Teaching Letters of the Alphabet: Learning Through Children’s Names, I shared ways to teach letters with names during whole group instruction and transitions.


sorting names FREE DOWNLOADAnother way to use student’s names is during small group instruction and during center time by setting up opportunities for the students to sort names to begin to pay attention to all of the letters in names, the path of motion of letters, and the similarities and differences of letters and names. We can differentiate our instruction for students who already know the names of the letters and present children with ways to sort the names by the sounds of the letters including beginning, middle, end and vowel sounds.

Labels and Ideas for Sorting Names: FREE DOWNLOAD




Teaching Letters of the Alphabet: Using Books about Names

To a child, there is nothing more important than his or her own name.  Using names to teach letters and name recognition is a very powerful teaching tool. See blog post, Using Name to Teach the Letters and Sounds of the Alphabet. 

This post provides lots of ideas for using children’s names to teach the letters of the alphabet.

Teaching Letters with Names

chartHowever, not all letters of the alphabet will be in the children’s names. We teach all letters of the alphabet during small group and centers but we can also use books with names to include more letters in all of the graphs, charts and chants we use with the student’s names.

For example, we can read A My Name is Alice by Jane Bayer and Steven Kellogg. Allow the students to choose a couple of the names from the book that contains letters not yet on the name graph to give a name to favorite classroom stuffed animals or pets.

Here are some other great books to teach letters of the alphabet through names:

(Click on the book titles to link to Amazon.)

A My Name is Alice by Jane Bayer and Steven Kellogg

51Uo-AorKtL._SY459_BO1,204,203,200_My Name is Yoon by Helen Recovitis

Great book to help students pay attention to the formation of letters and the meanings behind names.




chrsthanChrysanthemum by Kevin Henke

Students love to chant this name and add it to the number of letters per name since it is so long!





41iOW1kx8fL._SX260_Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Great book to discuss the importance of your own name and of origins of names.






The Chronicles of Nannie by N.C. Memeh5101mm4bU3L._SX260_

Using Name Books to Teach Letters of the Alphabet



Teaching Letters and Sounds of the Alphabet: Using Books (Part III)

A couple of teachers requested even more reviews of books that teach the letters of the alphabet.

As discussed in the blog post, Teaching Letters and Sounds of the Alphabet: Using ABC Books Part II, we need to be intentional about which books we are choosing for the specific objective we want to accomplish.

In the post linked above as well in the post, Teaching Letters of the Alphabet Using ABC Books Part I, we examined books that address the learning target of teaching letter names for both upper- and lowercase letters.

With intentional choosing of books and guidance from the teacher, we can also use ABC books effectively to help expose, practice and explore the sounds of letters and even all 40 sounds of the alphabet.

Here are some additional books not mentioned in the first blog post:

(note: the titles are linked to Amazon)

teaching letters and sound - review of books


Great book to encourage girls to broaden their ideas of what they can be when they grow up. When using for teaching the sounds of the letters, however, be careful since C is a chef. Therefore, the book cannot be used to teach the most common sounds of each letter.


Another great book for girls, especially since it has women role models that they will have heard of such as Beyonce, Coco Chanel, and Flo Jo plus others that are incredible role models for them to learn about.



Great book to learn about different parts of cars.

This book contains blends; therefore, it would be a good book to use after the students know all of the most common sounds for each letter and you want to expand their knowledge of sounds. I do wish that is was not written in all capitals since that is a poor model of writing for our students.


  • Another book about car parts that does model appropriate writing of first letter of the sentence starting with a capital and the other letters in lowercase is…
  • A is for Alternator by Alex Smith

I also really like the realistic photos of the car parts in this book.

  • A book that I like for alliterations is…
  • Pandas Love Pickles by  Liz Lynch. It is a simple pattern book that introduces children to different animals and foods. In order to match foods with animal names, not all letters are used with their most common sound; although this book sticks to the letter’s most common sounds more than many others. So again this would be a book to use after students know most of the common sounds and you want to expand their knowledge. I do love that for letter C the author uses both common sounds with “Cows try cinnamon buns.”