Happy Read Across America!
Here's what I'm doing in Michigan to promote reading! I wanted to write an article that would include lots of the fun things that I've designed that helped my Transitional Kindergartners and First Graders learn words. I even use some of these things with my Y5’s.
For my word wall I had a Garden Of Readin’ wall that was several pieces of lattice. It was a fun way to put up alphabetical word cards. These were not only the usual sight words, but had a place for the month’s seasonal words as well as color, number and calendar words.
I made the word wall a bit more fun by reviewing it daily in the dark. I’d pick a Popsicle stick with a student’s name out of the “garden basket” and that student got to use a lighted laser to point to the words.
I have packs of word cards that I laminate and use for games. I laminate them and make Memory Match games. Students also partner up and flip over one card at a time. The one who reads the card first gets to put it in their pile.
I’ll play “Slap” with them as well and sprinkle the cards on the carpet. I give each of my students a flyswatter and call out a word. They slap that card.
Sometimes I’ll flash a card from the pack I keep by my rocking chair. The first student to identify the word gets to hold it. The one with the most cards gets two M&M’s (Most words Memorized!) Everyone else gets one.
My students also gather in a circle and we’ll play “Word Down.” I’ll hold up a word and the first person reads that word. If they can’t they sit down and the next person reads it. Then I flip up another card and so on ‘til only one person is standing.
We play ABCDe-tective. I’ll hide word cards around the room and in the hall. If someone finds the card they read it to the class. If they can’t read it they give it to a friend that can.I put the word cards in a center for the students to make sentences with them. I challenge them to come up with a really long one. We write the longest one that they have come up with so far on the board and try to beat it.
I have several word card books: Popcorn Words has 70 FREE traceable popcorn words, a writing sheet and a poster + a blank set for you to make your own. I also have over 300 FREE Dolch word cards from pre-K through 3rd grade + more helpful things in my Dolch Word Help Book and Kindergarten Mini-Site Words includes 52 traceable word cards.
Elkonin Word Boxes are also helpful. Click on the link for 50 word templates + blank templates for 3, 4 and 5 letter words to make up your own.
I have a mystery letter of the day. I also do this with our number and shape of the day. They are posted behind the apples that you see on my board.
I have a WOW on the board each day. (Wonderful Outstanding Word!) Click on the link to print a FREE poster.
There are also directions for making a "Reading Survival Kit" as a little gift for your students and Zippy a reminder to be quiet poster.
I also have a Secret Word of the day. This is usually a word my students are having difficulty with. I’ll give clues about it all day and then during “Show and Share Time” I’ll ask who’s guessed it and reveal that turned over word card.
I’ll mix up a row of word wall word cards and “steal” one and see if my students can figure out which one is missing.
I’ll drop the word cards in a basket. We’ll sit in a circle right before lunch. Each student will choose a card and read it. I call this “Munch a bunch of words before lunch!” Crunch-Crunch!
Toss all the word cards on the floor. Have your students tip toe in. They can only pick up a word card if they can read it. As they pick them up they read them. Then assemble in a circle. Have each child show their cards one at a time and read them. The rest of the students repeat what’s on the card. The student who found the most cards gets 2 M&M’s the others get one.
I’ll pick 3 cards my students are having trouble with, and play "Hot Cards!" My students sit in a circle and I turn on some zippy music. Three different students pass the 3 cards one at a time. (Start them at 3 different sections of your circle.) When the music stops whoever has a card reads it and is then out. Play continues ‘til there are only 3 people left. They receive 2 M&M's everyone else gets 1. (I remind them that M is for March and M is for M&M's (Most words Memorized so get busy!)
We graph our favorite words, colors, numbers, days, and months. (ages, birthday month, birthday day etc.)
Play 4 Corners with 4 difficult words. Play Simon Says with word cards. Simon says “Read this card.” Play Doggy Doggy Who Took Your Word? Each time you play use a different word card.
Put 4 cards in the middle of the carpet and play "What's Missing?" Read the word cards: all-are-an-and. Have students close their eyes. Take a word card away. Ask students to guess which card you took? Continue to add another card until you have 8 cards.
I'll pick a word from the wall and put that many dashes on the board and then set the timer. Students have one "Mad Minute" to ask me a letter. If it's in the word I'll write it in, until someone can finally read the word and tell me what it is. If the timer hasn't rung yet, I'll put another puzzle word on the board. Each day they try and beat their record of the most words that they solved in one "Mad Minute".
When we're waiting in line in the hallway I'll play "I'm Thinking of a Word" and then give them clues such as it has the letter a in it, or it ends with, or it rhymes with, or it has 5 letters etc.
I make up game sheets I call SCRAMBLE. I set the timer for 3-5 minutes. The student who can unscramble the most mixed up word wall words in that amount of time wins a prize.
Spill and Spell is a game I make for my students out of Popsicle sticks. It helps them to learn their names. They really enjoy this gift. You could also make them for your word wall words.
Gross Motor & Music
Instead of saying just the alphabet we’ll also say the phonetic alphabet and add a word for each letter.
We do actions for blends and digraphs. i.e. st - stomp! I have a helpful checklist booklet with this chant in it.
We "cheerlead" a new word: Give me a Y give me an O give me a U! What does it spell? Y-O-U – YOU! I’ll brainstorm with my students of how we can make the letters with our arms so we can fit in some gross motor movements.
We sing the vowel song to BINGO. (There was a class that knew their vowels and this is what they sang Oh! A-E-I-O-U, A-E-I-O-U, A-E-I-O-U, and they were very smart Oh!)
I have my students make Itty Bitty Books out of all of my word card flashcards for the various booklets and themes. They take them home to read and review with their families.
I have them do Table Top skill sheets where they do the following with their sight words: They see it, say it, trace it, write it, find it in a sentence and then underline it; spy it in a box and zap it! They enjoy these “fun sheets” and it builds their recognition skills, writing skills and self-esteem.
Click on the link for 61 FREE Sight word skill sheets + the 46 page companion More Sight Word Skill Sheets book, covers colors, numbers, days of the week, months, and question words like who-what and where etc.
Another different site word skill builder filled with skill sheets and covering 53 words is 76 pages long. Here they trace, write, color, cut, rearrange and glue the letters to make the words; involving all sorts of skills. My students enjoy this book because it's like putting together a puzzle.
Take Action With Contractions is another FREE book that's 62 pages long and chock full of activities to get contractions into your students' heads.
We think of rhyming words to go with our word wall words even if they are nonsense words. It's often a silly time. We'll start in a circle with the 1st letter of the alphabet for the word and go from a to z. i.e. at is the word. The first child starts and then it goes to the next child: at, bat, cat, dat, e-at, fat, gat, hat, i-at, jat, klat, mat etc. We do a lot of giggling.
I make skill sheets with groups of words all over them and make it into an “I Spy!” game sheet. I’ll call out a word on the sheet and students spy it and circle it. That student then calls out a word and the students find and circle it. The first person to raise their hand is the next one to be able to call out a word.
We alphabetize our words.
We do word finds.
We compare a word with another word.
We play “I spy!” and look for words inside words.
I make up “Easy Reader” booklets for them to trace-write-color-cut and glue. Then we read them as a whole group. They enjoy collecting these booklets and sharing them with their families. One of the most popular "Easy Readers" that teachers pick is the "I Can!" booklet.
I have also designed counting, color, spatial direction and shape booklets for each theme. The repetition of each booklet in the series helps a student recognize the format and words. Many of my Y5's can read these booklets by the end of the year because of the simple repetition.
Because students recall the familiar directions the teacher is freed up to do other things. As students work independently, a teacher can help students one-on-one or do assessments. One of my Y5's personal favorites is the color booklet.
I do 3 of these booklets through out the day. My students enjoy them and take only 5-7 minutes to complete one, depending on the booklet. It’s great as an independent center activity, home-school connection, something for students to do when they complete other work, or something for your sub. folder.
Calendar time is also another place I incorporate reading. I incorporate reading words during calendar time. The days of the week and the months are part of our word wall. I have a fun class book that my students make that gets the months into their head. It's called Rhyme Time Movin' Through The Months and they LOVE reading and making this book.
The other booklet they really enjoy is There Was An Old Lady. This is a spin off of the original as my old lady has a different twist. My students feed her the months as we read the story. I've also written one for colors, numbers, shapes and letters. My students enjoy the manipulatives I pass out. We sequence them as well as pop them into the various old ladies' mouths, learning the different concepts and report card standards as we go.
Whenever I give them a free choice book that they'd like me to read it's usually an "Old Lady" booklet. I've made these 2 on a page so you can run off copies of these booklets so your students can each have one to take home and enjoy reading to their families.
Students also practice their writing skills and learn to read the month words by making a Very Hungry Student booklet, they especially enjoy the rhyming text. There's even a page for classmate's autographs.
I also get my parents on board by sending themed-word and picture cards home each month with an "I'm So Cool Calendar!" A letter of explanation tells them how to use the pictures and cards and the calendar provides a way for them to keep track of the words their child is learning. It's a great home-school connection as well as self-esteem builder.
Get Parents On Board:
I have a program that I call RAH RAH. It stands for Read At Home. I hang a megaphone that I bought at The Dollar Store from the ceiling and put a poster listing all my students' names on a wall in the hallway, so that everyone can see how well my students are doing. A letter home asks parents to read to their children a few times a week and then to X off a monthly-themed piece of clipart and send back the signed note.
It has been extremely successful. I think it was all that some parents needed for that extra push to read to their child at night, and see the important value of making the time to do that. Click on the link to view/print your FREE RAH RAH reading logs. Click on this link to print RAH RAH #2 A FREE poster, letter, bookmarks, etc.
I not only want my students reading, I want to build their vocabularies. I need parental help for that and send a monthly list home in my students' Take Home Folders. Monthly Vocabulary Lists
I read lots of alphabet, color, number and themed books every day to my students. I use puppets and magic to make things exciting and to help them become lovers of books and life-long learners. I have a book with 260 teaching tips of how to make storytelling more fun. It's chock full of great ideas to help make your story time educational as well as a much-looked forward to, time of day.
I have my students practice writing their name by sending "I love you" grams and leaving them in silly places once they get home. You could extend this idea by having your students choose a word wall word that they are working on and sign it on the back.
I use stuffed animals and Beanie Babies to help my students remember reading strategies. They "Chunk with the Skunk", "See with the Bee", "Make a Sound with the Hound", "Check the Vowel with the Owl" etc. I’ve made these into posters and bookmarks and a bulletin board. You can find these things in my FREE 136 page A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That Book complete with word wheels and skill sheets!
We have older students come in and be Reading Buddies with my little ones. They work with them one-on-one and sometimes just read together flopped down on mats or simply chill out in a corner on a bean bag. Everyone looks forward to this once a week-end of the day time.
I have a week of Camp Read Away where I let my students read in the dark with a flashlight in a tent for 10 minutes at the beginning or end of our day. I have now collected 10 tents. (More details in another article!)
The entire school has DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read), where we get to go out in the hallway with a book, plop down in front of our lockers and read for 10 minutes after announcements during March is Reading Month.
To build self-esteem I give ABCDe-tective certificates after students are able to read a specific booklet. Click on the link to see a sample.
I also give them bookmarks as incentives and to praise their efforts. I designed 8 reading ones in the 60-page March Apple Bytes newsletter packet. As a fun center activity, why not have your students design a bookmark for Read Across America or March is Reading Month.
Give them a 7x3 piece of white construction paper and have them create something unique. This is a school wide activity for us. Each teacher submits the best two from their class and then the school votes on the best one from each grade level. Prizes are given and the bookmarks put in a frame in our atrium.
Via a newsletter I let parents know that I want to know how their children are doing with their "I'm so Cool Calendars". When students can read all of the Easy Reader Booklets, or are "Most Improved" or can read all of the Word Wall Words or have done other milestones, I award prizes, stickers and certificates + lots of genuine verbal praise and encouragement.
I post all of these things in my monthly newsletters. I think it helps motivate parents to help their child shine a little brighter.
I make it as FUN and as stress-free as I can, through all of the above and promoting a positive "can do" attitude in my students that empowers them. I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading and hope my enthusiasm is contagious.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. As always, if you have something that’s working for you and your students, I’d love to hear from you.
As you're reading across America this month I wish you a magical and safe journey!