Learning 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.
- 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 ) .
- 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.
- Cut the sentence strips.
- Draw a line down the middle and write a word on each side .
- 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 . 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.
- 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.
- Place all the other cards in a pile.
- Flip the card and when a match is found add it to your line.
- The person to reach the finish line first wins. He was counting to see who was ahead but we were neck and neck! Repeat! This game got him reading so quickly wanting to hurry up and flip to the next.
I can’t take full credit for this activity idea . Word searches in bottles of rice, popcorn kernels etc.. have been around for as long as I have been teaching and probably much much longer. I was reminded of the simple genius of these last night when searching pinterest for sight word ideas for a reader who was looking for more activities for her son. I pinned this activity onto my early literacy pinterest board but felt like I needed to make my own version using Halloween words. Here is what we did.
- Gather your materials. You will need some filler ( we used our Halloween Sensory tub filler ) like black beans , orange lentils and creepy toys! You will also need some stiff paper ( we used paint chips but card stock will work too), a clip board, markers and a permanent marker. You will also need a large plastic jar, water bottles work too but you may want to take the larger spooky toys out of the mix.
- Write out the words your child is searching for I had my son help me think of Halloween words.
- Write them on the paint chips or card stock. I wrote some words out multiple times and some like Boo! only once. Just to make it successful but challenging.
- Cut and pop them in the jar with the filler.
- Search !
- Cross the words out when you find them.
- We challenged each other to find words. I like this game because it gets kids reading, searching and can be adapted to any level. For younger kids use plain letters, older ones cut the letters of the words out and have them search and spell!
My Favorite Halloween Book For Little Ones
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is on my must buy list! A little girl moves into house and soon finds out it is haunted. Luckily she is a witch and knows just what to do. The ghosts in the story seem mischievous but never scary and even when she washes them in the washing machine, they are still smiling! My son loved this book, the text was the perfect length for a 3 year old, short but still descriptive. I loved the simple black and orange colors and had to look at the copyright twice because I was certain this was written sometime in the 30s, nope 2008. The simplicity of the book and colors is balanced so well with the little details like the litt;e girl’s constant companion , a white cat that puts on a black costume when the little witch pops on her hat. This detail had my son in stitches, “Cats don’t wear clothes , silly cat!” . Absolutely a perfect Halloween book for children not yet ready to be scared for fun!
When children are learning to read playing games with their developing skills is a great way to practice while playing. This giant word search can be used so many ways. For my almost 5 year old I put in simple words he could recognize or easily sound out. I also helped him by making all the words a consistent color and horizontal only. With younger children it can still be a fun game simply looking for specific colors or letters. With older ones you can make words multi colored, going every which way. The learning isn’t just in the searching either, using the dry erase marker to carefully circle the letters or words is fantastic writing practice and the foam letters are a sensory experience too.
- Gather your materials. You will need a sturdy backing like a inexpensive canvas or even some cardboard, contact paper ( which will make it wipe off) foam letter stickers ( two packs) and scissors. Also a dry erase marker to play with.
- Start by covering your canvas or card board with clear contact paper. This makes the surface friendly for dry erase . I found that a baby wipe worded the best to get the marker off after we played.
- Start making a column of letters.
- Decide on some words to pop in. Like I said in the preamble you can customize this to your child’s specific stage of learning.
- Add the words mixed with some random letters.
- Invite your child to play. I meant to make a list of the words I included but forgot and it turned out we didn’t need them. You may want one though.
- Oops he circled the o but it was no biggie because it’s dry erase!
I was fascinated by which words he knew by sight and which he sounded out. He loved this and I can see myself making a few more over the next few months for sure.