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.

{fill in the blank} Easel Stories

early writing activity for kids My daughter got this Melissa & Doug easel from Santa and she loves it but at our house we share most everything and her brother got a chance to play with the easel with this Fill in the Blank Easel  Story.  Writing , spelling and reading all come together with creativity and storytelling in this fast to set up activity. If you do not have an easel you can enter for a chance to win one from Melissa & Doug below or use a big sheet of paper on the wall. The reason I am suggesting the wall or an easel is because when kids write on vertical surfaces likes these their arms, wrists and hands naturally go into the proper position for writing. This makes it easier for many kids that struggle and doesn’t hurt those who aren’t either.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some dry erase makers, a dry erase board / easel and a big imagination.
  2. Start by writing out a simple story on the easel with dry erase markers.fill in the blank easel stories early literacy Here is mine – Once upon a time there was a ________ named _________. He was brave, smart and ____________ . One day he found a magic ____________ and it started to ____________. He thought that is was amazing and ran to show his ___________. when he got home his magic ____________ disappeared! He looked for it everyday but never saw it again.
  3. Invite your writer to come fill in the blanks.  Have them read it out loud.fill in the blank early writers activity
  4. Fill in the blanks. fill in the blanks spellingMy son kept asking me how to spell things. Here is what I do when he asks. I will ask him first to sound it out. If he is struggling I will help. Generally I ask that he uses his 6 year old spelling for everything. Spelling is developmental and if we skip stages in development there can be struggles later on. Invented spellings are a really important step. Kids aren’t misspelling things they are just spelling them at their level of development. As your child progresses feel free to correct them little by little. My son can read well and simple words like dog, hat, car are ones that I would not hesitate to correct his spelling but words like furious, sword or friends I am still encouraging him to sound out and spell at his level. Interestingly he spelled sword correctly later in the lesson.fill in the blanks sounding out and spelling
  5. He didn’t like my ending so he edited it. ” When he got home his magic sword would shock people.” fill int he blanks stories and spelling activity
  6. When he was done writing he proudly read it back to me.fill the blank stories for kids

Watching my son write this really showed me how hard white boards can be for new and struggling writers. Many need the friction of a chalkboard to help them form letters correctly. This easel has a black board on the other side and if you aren’t lucky enough to win it in our sweepstakes you can make your own dollar store ones like we did.

Enter For A Chance To Win

deluxe standing art easel from Melissa & Doug

Fill out the form below. Please only one entry per household. SWEEPSTAKES NOW CLOSED

Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel and Companion Set from Melissa & Doug

Official Rules
This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must enter your name and email in the google form embedded in this post. 1 winner will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on January 14th 2013 at 8:00pm PST. The winners will receive the Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel and Companion Set , valued at approximately $115. After the winner is notified he or she has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address to ship their easel and companion set to ,or another winner will be chosen at random. No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Any information gathered through the sweepstakes including email and postal addresses will not be used in anyway other than contacting winners and shipment of winnings. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
 
I am a blog ambassador for Melissa & Doug and am compensated for my work. The sweepstakes prize is provided for the winner free of charge from Melissa & Doug.

Build With Letters – Alphabet For Starters

jumbo cardboard blocks The  goal for our Alphabet For Starters series is to give you ways to  introduce letters to your children through all sorts of play. This activity the 7th post in our series pairs gross motor play with letter recognition perfectly! Don’t forget that the number one thing you can do to teach your children about letters is to read to them so after the activity we’ve included some of our favorite books and if you are looking for alphabet books for kids we have 50 Alphabet Books too!

  1.  Gather your materials. You will need some big blocks like these from Melissa & Doug ( cardboard boxes will work just great too ) ,scissors,  painters tape if you don’t want to alter your blocks forever or a sharpie if you do.
  2. Using the tape make letters on the blocks. I did this obviously but she wanted to help , it was tricky…
  3. So she got in the bin and supervised while I made a bunch of letters that she suggested and I popped in a few others too.
  4. Then my son came to help too. He wanted the O to be on a blue so he suggested making the o I’d already made into a Q. I was all for it.
  5. We didn’t make every letter because they were super eager to play. But don’t feel like you have to do every letter. If you think 26 letters will overwhelm then focus on s few that your child knows well and a few that they have yet to recognize so you balance challenge with success.
  6. BUILD!  The most fascinating thing was that every time she grabbed a block she’d recognize and say the letter without prompting. As we built I would sometimes say ” Should we put the W on top?” or ” Grab the T and I’ll put it here.” We were playing with letters without testing or drilling and while we were building someone decided to start spelling too.
  7. Knock it down and build another.

Last night I had to make more letters because my son was begging to spell all sorts of words. I was excited to see him sit down and sound out words first before asking me if it was right .  I absolutely love that they both have enjoyed such an easy to make activity using their favorite blocks.

Our Bedtime Books

Baby Giggles (Beautiful Babies) by Rachael Hale is a simple board book that my daughter adores. She can’t go to bed without reading it and saying goodnight to the babies. Now something about my daughter is that she is baby obsessed which is why this book was bought for her in the first place, it’s page after page of all sorts of babies. The text is simple and rhymes but isn’t anything to be wowed by. The photos are adorable and even after a million readings she giggles at the baby picking her nose and kisses the sleeping babies at the end of the book goodnight. Definitely a favorite at our house even if it will never be a classic.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. is another book that can go with a baby from infancy through toddlerhood and into the preschool years. The bold colors of the illustrations by Eric Carle are perfect for catching infant’s attention and will continue to grab it through the years. My son enjoyed this book and loves reading it to his sister now but she absolutely adores this book.  We have read it every night before nap and bed for a few weeks and I think it’s going to be a bedtime favorite for a while. I also completely credit this book for teaching her some of her colors. It’s a great bedtime book because of the even rhythm and predictability that is calming and great to wind down to. There are other titles in the series , including ; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? , and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? but this one is my and my daughter’s very favorite!

Spin and Spell

” Mom how do you spell ______? ”  is that a common phrase at your house? Since my son has started reading more and more fluently he has been eager to spell words as well. The catch is he’s not the most enthusiastic writer. I want to fill that desire to spell without creating crazy stress over writing . This is an easy way to make spelling into a puzzle and not a test.  If you are a long time reader you probably know I am a terrible speller and I so want my kids to love the challenge of spelling that I never had for fear of being wrong. Games and activities like this are a great way to start.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some( many) letter stickers ( you can just write on the blocks but I prefer to do something temporary), blocks, a spinner, animal stickers and time to sit down and play with your child. 
  2. Start by placing animal stickers on the spinner. I chose animals my son would be able to spell with encouragement. Which means a parent helping him sound out when he got stuck. Not quite all by himself, there needs to be some challenge. 
  3. Now add the letters. Spell each word yourself to make sure that you have them correct, remebering that some letters can be used for multiple words… it’s only a little tricky.
  4. Time to play . It’s simple, they spin the spinner then spell the word corresponding to the animal the spinner landed on.
  5. Spin and spell! My son kept landing on lion, after a few I thought he’d get annoyed but instead he said ” I know this word L-I-O-N ”

Remember you can break this down for non readers too by looking for the first sound, or for even younger children by providing a basket of toys with matching animals. Lots of options.

Spelling Puzzles

My son has been asking how to spell words for a while, he knows his letter sounds and while I am not planning on formally teaching him to read yet I do want to keep him interested and learning , as well as offering some challenge . This activity evolved as we played and is easy to adapt to various abilities. You could even skip spelling as use it as a match game for younger children!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a cardboard puzzle ours was from trick or treating , and markers in various colors. If you are doing this with school age or more proficient readers you can use one color, but for beginners or children needing less challenge the single color per word will help the process.
  2. Start by putting the puzzle together.
  3. Next divide it into smaller pieces for the words.
  4. Using one color per word , write the word one letter per piece on the back of the puzzle. Out of habit Icapitalized two of the words. When we put those together we talked about Uppercase letters and when we use them.
  5. Now to play! The way we did it for my son was to pick out all the letters in one color and place them on the tray.
  6. Next we tried to decide which letter came first. This frustrated my son, it was too much of a challenge. So I found the first letter and he was golden from there.
  7. Once the pieces are all together he sounded it out without prompting .
  1. This is when he figured it out!