Differentiated Instruction

Students have different learning styles. It’s vital that instruction meet the needs of all students. Using a one size fits all approach is not best practice. Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. 

•Research shows differentiated instruction is effective for high-ability students as well as students with mild to severe disabilities.

•When students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.

•Students appear to be more engaged in learning, and there are reportedly fewer discipline problems in classrooms where teachers provide differentiated lessons.

•There are 4 ways to differentiate instruction:

•Content- what are you teaching?

•Process- How will you teach it?

•Product-  What will be the outcome?

•Learning Environment- whole group? Small group? 

Each student learns in their own way at their own time.

Early Literacy Resources

Check out this video to help your child with phonemic awareness. Many struggling readers lack knowledge of sounds (phonemic awareness).

Children have better success with phonics once they have experience with phonemic awareness.  Phonemic awareness may be the component that will help fill that gap.  Children must be able to segment words into individual sounds to read in any language that uses the alphabetic principle.

Phoneme isolation is the ability to isolate a single sound from within a word. Phoneme blending is the ability to blend individual sounds into a word. Phoneme segmentationis the ability to break a word into individual sounds.

Blending is linked to reading, segmenting linked to writing. Therefore, blending should come before segmenting, as you want to get children starting to read some words before they need to start writing them. Also, blending is a slightly easier skill to master as it relies more on listening.


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After The Rain

There were 60mph winds and torrential rains in our little beach town. Tree limbs blocked roads, lawn chairs flew to a neighboring yard, and birds found refuge anywhere they could. I know the thirsty earth needed the rain, but it made the pandemic isolation even lonelier. Today the sun is out and the birds are drying off on the telephone lines. I will have my morning meditation outdoors today so I can give thanks that, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 50:5b

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Living in a Beach Town

I am one of the lucky ones who has a view of the Pacific Ocean from my living room window. Our home was purchased 24 years ago when it was doable on teacher salaries. I sit out on my upstairs deck and watch the waves curl angrily on windy days and gently on mild spring and summer days. The year the whales came through and put on a show caused drivers to pull over to watch the majestic scene. The sunsets are as if the sky spilled out orange, red and yellow paint while the sun creates the light show. Often it brings me to tears of gratitude for this little tropical haven.

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The day I became a grandmother I began evaluating my life, or I should say reevaluating it. I realized that this beautiful child is not mine and I am a part of a much bigger picture, yet only a part. What part do I play? As a retired elementary teacher I know the joy of teaching young children. I have learned things I never knew about when raising my own three. Will I have any credibility when I suggest ideas for my grandchild to learn to read or learn to navigate technology when I left it up to teachers to provide literacy instruction for my own children? Is it my place to offer any suggestions? I know best practices and I have learned to lean on researched methods with proven results, yet this little one is not mine and I have to realize that I am an eager grandmother, one with hopes and dreams, but this child is the child of my child. “Take a deep breath and slow down,” I tell myself, “Enjoy the moment, and let the parents have their shot at raising their own child.” I am going to listen to that not so quiet voice. I will read aloud when I get opportunities and rejoice in my child’s journey with his child. Now if I am asked for advice, well, that’s another story.

The Hike

My son called to ask if we could celebrate my husband’s birthday by hiking near the coast. He has two small children; a two year old daughter and a 3 1/2 month old son. The hike is 4 miles total, and seemed at first to be a bad idea. We met at our favorite cafe for breakfast and then drove to the headlands to begin our hike. I marveled at how much gear my son had for the children. My daughter-in-law wrapped the 3 month old around her stomach as my son put the largest kid seat I’d ever seen on his back. This contraption even had stirrups and a cup holder. My granddaughter had other ideas. She insisted on walking. Her parents went ahead as my husband, the birthday boy, and I walked with Kaia. She walked along dodging dog poop and refused to hold my hand. Other hikers smiled as they passed my independent granddaughter so determined to make the hike on her own. All I wanted was to hold her hand until I realized that this tiny human is giving us all a glimpse of the future. She will make her own way someday. She walked a mile before getting tired and reluctantly got into her 21st century backpack seat to let her daddy carry her. It was so much more than a beautiful long hike.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com


The numbers on my bathroom scale made me dizzy. How can it be that
I weigh that much? When and where did I lose control of my weight? How can I get back to my old self? How soon?

One of the side effects of the medication I take is weight gain, but geez, this much? Being the clothes horse that I am this is unacceptable.

I decided to enlist the help of a trainer at a local fitness center. My trainer came highly recommended and her smile put me at ease immediately. She asked the standard questions and I shared about my personal illness and my goals to gain strength and lose weight. We went to work setting up a routine. My end of the deal is work out on my own 2-3 days a week and meet with her on Friday afternoons. She showed me how to set up and properly use the machines.

I was self-conscious at first, but kept telling myself that there isn’t a soul in the gym that cares if I am a newbie. They are there for their own health and well being. There were lots of smiles and people around me were more focused on their own goals.

I am either committed or not. My trainer could sense that I have a lazy streak, so she told me to think of it as my job to show up for work. Tomorrow I will travel 4 hours to Stanford Hospital for a medical procedure and allow myself a day or two to rest, then I plan to show up and get to work.

Update1 : The pandemic has put a halt to any gym activity. I purchased an eliptical and some stretch bands. I live at the beach where taking a walk is not a chore. I also bought a membership to Body Groove and dance myself silly in the living room. I am going to stick with my commitment.

Update 2: Down 6 pounds in one week. Woohoo!

Update 3: I joined an online group that gathers on Zoom to discuss healthy lifestyle choices. They are a great group of local women and I am happy to be on the same journey.

Update 4: Down 10 pounds. Woohoo!!

Update 5: I make my own granola and morning muffins– healthy and delicious

Update 6: I am able to go back to the gym!!!

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Resources For Early Literacy

Phonemic Awareness

A child may be able to recite the alphabet, but they need to first learn SOUNDS. Most of reading problems come from a lack of phonemic awareness (knowledge of sounds). When teaching this skill you would not introduce letters yet. Sounds first! There are many ways to do that. The following items will help you. Phonics (combining letters and sounds would come once a student knows sounds.

Here is a Powtoon on Phonemic Awareness:





Rhyming bingo


Rhyming game


Another rhyming game


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Sight Words

Sight words comprise close to 70 of the words we read. For a child to be a fluent reader, it is important that sight words are stored in long term memory. That requires practice through games and engaging activities that activate various parts of the brain. Sight words are often words that cannot be sounded out. For example said.
I have collected resources to help:

******Make it Multi-Sensory: Use salt or sand. Student finger spells the words.

Click to access Sight-Word-Assessment.pdf

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About Me

I am a mother of three who are all grown, and a grandmother to four. As a retired elementary teacher for both general and special education, I quickly learned that sitting at home watching Dr. Phil wasn’t a good fit for me (nothing against Dr. Phil). Seeking ways I could remain connected to education, I applied to two universities near my home. I have been supervising student teachers and teaching an online Master’s Degree course in Literacy for six years and The Art and Craft of Teaching.

I am the first in my family to earn a Masters Degree and two credentials. Being half Mexican and half English has informed my thinking regarding stereotypes, inclusion, racial divide and privilege. I highly recommend the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. With a strong desire to learn all I can, I continue to register for courses and opportunities to learn about ways I can make a difference. I facilitated two Book Circles on Culturally Responsive Teaching The
by Jaretta Hammond, and Emotional Agility by Susan David. I joined a team to create a newsletter for student teachers.

Currently I am finishing a children’s book that has been on my mind for years. Who says I can’t be a published author after retirement?!

Email me at Caysunset@caysunset

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