Long & Short Vowel Sorting with Snakes

by Allison McDonald

early learning literacy activityGetting kids to learn after school can be hard. Bribery, delayed rewards even punishment seems futile because we want them to WANT to learn. Making it a game or using some novel tools for learning are my son’s favorite ways to learn after school.  These little slimy snakes are favorites around here . I find them all over the playroom so I decided to use them for a quick lesson in long and short vowel sounds. Learning to distinguish these sounds is an important skill for reading and spelling.  Have fun with learning after school activities and remember that these aren’t in place of homework they are in addition to. Use them as you see fit . My kindergartner usually does 2-3 a week and they are all pretty quick lasting between 5-15 minutes.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper, markers, scissors and plastic snakes you can cut. **If you don’t have access to these try gummy worm candies, ribbon, or yarn.early literacy activity
  2. Start by writing out pages of simple words with long and short vowel sounds . Remember that long vowels say their name (o- open , a-grape, i- bite) . I would work on one letter at a time.early literacy activity 2
  3. Invite your word detective to the table and ask him or her to help you cut some of the snakes into short pieces . My son thought I was joking and was excited to be doing something destructive. Is it a boy thing?early literacy activity 3
  4. Use the short pieces to indicate a short vowel sound and a full snake for the long vowel sounds. He was pretty into it. It was sorta silly but that worked in our favor because he loved it. The combination of a concrete object to show a concept that is not concrete can really help some kids grasp these tasks better than just saying words and having them listen and decide.earlyliteracyactivity4
  5. You can see how he was sounding the words out as he read them. Teach your child to read the words slowly exaggerating the vowel sound. He liked to stretch the sound the same time he stretched the snake. early literacy activity 5Make multiple sheets but don’t worry if they want to work on them one or two at a time. earlyliteracyactivity6
  6. Clearly he was having too much fun to be learning! At least that is what he thought. earlyliteracyactivity9

If this Learning After School activity isn’t exactly what you need but you want to keep learning with your school age kiddo check out our other posts in this series here.

8 Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids From Reading

by Allison McDonald ways parents discourage their kids from reading

No parent intentionally tries to discourage their child from reading. But sometimes our actions do just that. Kids may be resilient, but they are also really sensitive, and how we handle reading in our homes can work for or against our kids’ reading attitude. Once a child writes reading off, it’s much harder to reel them back in and get them to give it a second shot. Here are eight  things to avoid .

 

1. Don’t put down your child’s reading materials. Comics and books with crude humor often get dragged through the mud, as do character-driven books. Their choices may not be your favorite, but when you say no to a book, what your child may hear is no to reading. Instead of banning their beloved reading material , find a way to add in some more desirable books into the mix.

 

2. Don’t provide the wrong level material. No one likes reading something that makes them feel stupid. If the books are too hard they will frustrate your child. If the books are too easy, they will bore your little reader. You don’t need to know your child’s exact level; their interest will let you know. Go to the bookstore or library when you have a chunk of time and let them explore. Take out a bunch of books and try them out. Find favorite authors and read everything they’ve written, then start again with a new author.

 

3. Don’t use reading as a punishment. Saying things like  “Go to your bedroom and read!” or “If you do that again, I will make you go read.” sets kids up to associate reading as a negative thing. Keep punishments and reading separate.

 

4. Don’t forget to give your child  books as a gifts. Gifts are special, and starting at birth books make the best gifts – especially if you read them with the person who gave them to you. Book fairs at schools are a great place for kids to get excited about books, and we use them as treats!

 

5. Don’t explain to your child they aren’t really reading yet when they are only looking at the pictures. If we tell our children they aren’t readers, they will believe it, and to a child this isn’t as fluid as it is for adults. They don’t see that reading is developmental, and this blow to their confidence can really stick with them. If they aren’t decoding words yet, let them know that they can “read the pictures” and tell the story that way until they can read the words too.

 

6. Don’t forget to let your kids see you read for fun.  Studies show that kids with parents who read often for pleasure are more likely to read for fun themselves. So if you want a kid who loves to read, let them see you reading too.

 

7. Don’t over-correct and over-practice. It’s exciting when your child starts to read independently, but forcing them to read and reread text until they have it perfect is not the most effective way to encourage or instruct. Read with your new reader and help when they ask for it. If they miss a word but the meaning is intact, don’t interrupt. If the meaning of the sentence is all screwy, wait for a natural pause and ask them, “Did that make sense?” You can revisit the word if it didn’t. Use the pictures and the rest of the text as clues if the word is too tough to decode.  If you have to do this often, the text is too hard for your child. Choose something easier, or if they are insistent take turns reading so there is some fluency being modeled.

 

8. Don’t forget to read to your kids. Every day. Even those days when you just want them to go to sleep already!!
Check out Scholastic Parents Raise a Reader blog for more simple ways to bring literacy into your family. Together with Amy from Teachmama.com I share with readers  tips, tricks and tried and true ways to Raise a Reader.

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Learning Games For Kindergarten

Easy St. Patrick's Day Activities for kindergartenThese are simple learning games for kindergarten one focusing on breaking down syllables the other is math but they use the same materials from the dollar store. Learning After School at our house is all about doing quick and simple games that reinforce what my son is learning in Kindergarten. These lessons or games need to be fun, active and not too long. This isn’t homework ( he gets some very simple but useful homework) it’s in addition to it. What I love best about these activities is you really get to see how much your child has learned and while we play he will naturally open up and tall me about school.

  1. For both activities you will need a pen, some foam craft sticks ( wood would be fine too ) in rainbow of colors and green foam shamrocks. gamess for st. patrick's day for kindergarten
  2. Start with the syllable break down by writing one, two and three syllable words on the craft sticks. You will want one word per rainbow color stick per shamrock. I had five one syllable, five two syllable and 5 three syllable words each.  Our list was as follows 1: mop, mom, pan, run, son  2: color, garden, panda, super, open 3: umbrella, telephone, dinosaur, butterfly, elephant
  3. Write the numbers ( 1, 2, 3) on the different shamrocks. st. patrick's day math game for kindergarten
  4. Play! Set out the words and shamrocks.syllable break down game Ask your child to clap out or breakdown the words into syllables and place it on the shamrock with that number.syllables for st. patricks day He was way faster at this than I could have imaged.  Each shamrock has one craft stick in each color.syllable sorting reading activity for kindergarten My son didn’t need the prompt but had I been doing this at his age I would have welcomed the hint that the colors give without having to ask for help. If your child is struggling you can say ” Does the number 3 shamrock have a red stick yet?” * Also there is no shame in googling ” 2 syllable words” or ” How to break a word into syllables” as a parent it’s probably been years since you have clapped out a word . syllable sort reading activity
  5. Adding in a little lesson about rainbow colors I had him place the words in proper rainbow order after he’d sorted them. Syllable Counting
  6. This is when he said ” Ok now can we make it math?”
  7. So I flipped the sticks and wrote out simple equations. Again making sure to have one of each color matching the answer on the shamrocks. math activity for kindergarten
  8. He loved this . st. patrick's day mathHe decided he wanted to write the answer on each which slowed it down but I was so happy since writing is still not his favorite activity but is something he is doing in class right now. st.patrick's day math for kindergartenHe didn’t finish all the equations. That’s OK!  15 equations is a huge amount in one go .  This game can be played over and over again . math for kindergarten

For more Learning After School ideas check out these posts.

Sight Word Dominoes & Speed Racer Game

sight word dominoes and race gameLearning after school is something we try to do most days but we keep it fun.  Making learning a game is my magic trick for my son who is possibly the world’s most competitive 6 year old. I set this up quickly and had it all ready for him before he got home.  I wish I could take all the credit for this idea but it’s spin off from our contributing writer Kim’s amazing letter dominoes post from last year. After you read this one make sure you check it out.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some sentence strips, a marker, scissors and  a list of about 20 dolch sight words . We used a mix of levels 1, 2 and 3.  Dolch sight words are high frequency words that are often thought to be best to teach children to read by memorization not through decoding ( sounding out/using other clues like context ) . sight word race game for kindergarten
  2. I chose some words that I knew would be easy for my son, some that I wasn’t sure and a few that would take a few seconds to figure out. I always try to boost confidence with some easy, hit right on target for most and challenge him with some as well.
  3. Cut the sentence strips.sight words game for kids
  4. Draw a line down the middle and write a word on each side . sight words
  5. Play! sight word dominoes game
  6. We played dominoes by placing one card down on the table and flipping the rest over from a pile over until we found a match .sight word game for kids We played on the table because of the terrible light ( winter weather is not blog friendly!) but later on we moved to the floor where we had much more room to make a bigger better domino structure. sight word dominoes
  7. The next game we played with the cards was even more fun. Start with one card each on the same spot on the floor or a table with a clear finish line.
  8. Place all the other cards in a pile.
  9. Flip the card and when a match is found add it to your line. sight word race game for kids
  10. The person to reach the finish line first wins. He was counting to see who was ahead but we were neck and neck!sight word race for kindergarten Repeat! This game got him reading so quickly wanting to hurry up and flip to the next. sight word race game for kindergarten kids

Window Washer Word Wall

word wall gamesThis was originally supposed to be part of our Alphabet For Starters series with alphabet letters on the windows and a rag for my daughter to erase them. But someone got visibly upset when it was suggested she could erase the letters and didn’t want anything to do with that part of the activity. So after we settled her my son and I adapted this for him. I wrote out summer themed words and unlike his sister he loved it.

  1. Gather your materials. We used window markers, baby wipes and a bucket for yucky wipes. Now feel free to use anything to wipe the windows I am using baby wipes because my son has sensitive skin and anything but sensitive fragrance free wipes pose an issue for him. After the activity I took window cleaner and cleaned it properly. word games for kids
  2. Write out words on the windows. Like I mentioned we did summer / beach house words since we are gearing up for a mini beach vacation and  getting really excited. Use any words your child can handle and will be fun for them. If words are too much try letters or shapes.
  3. Next get your bucket and wipes ready …. and watch your child wipe everything in 3 seconds flat.word games for kids I umm forgot to explain the game to him I was so excited. So after I wrote the words out again and explained the game I called out the words and he wiped them once he found them. If you have more than one reader you could even write out the words twice and have a race. 
  4. I popped out to the porch for a different view. I should have taken the screen off but really I never plan these activities that far in advance and this was very much a spur of the moment one . Make sure to have some challenging words in the mix, most of these were easy for my son to find but a few were a good challenge too.

Books About The Beach

picture books about the beachGreat round up of the beach themed picture books  pictured above.