Fun Tips From Ms. Elizabeth Hawkins Lincoln, a Hoot Reading Classroom Teacher

As the school year draws near, parents are asking how to “ready” their child before the first day of school.  In addition to any sessions you might select from Hoot’s Reading, Math, or French programs, we are sharing a few activities to try at home.  If your K-2 child will start the school year with distance learning,  keep these in your toolkit for use during the year – these are ideas that teachers use in their classroom to make learning more engaging.

Some helpful supply items to have around the house:

  • Fine tip permanent marker (Sharpie)
  • Washable markers
  • Index cards (3×5)
  • Dry Lima beans (for creating letter “tiles” ie: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/214976582191035974/)
  • Dry legumes for sensory “bean box” activities
  • Playdough
  • Watercolor paint & brushes
  • Cardstock
  • Plain white paper
  • Newspaper (for protecting surfaces)

Sight Word/High Frequency and C-V-C Word Activities
Sight words (also called high frequency words) are the 100 most commonly used words in the English language and are critical to early and emergent readers.  C-V-C is shorthand for small words that are formed by a consonant, vowel, and another consonant.  For example: cat, bad, rug.  The activities below can help make these words more familiar to your young reader.

Bean Box Alphabet
A “bean box” is a great sensory activity that really shines when letters are added to create a sight word activity. Using a shoe box-sized container (or larger, preferably with snap on lid for spill-free storage) collect letters from games you own (Scrabble or Bananagrams), magnetic letters stuck to your fridge, or create your own set of letters by writing letters onto dry lima beans with Sharpie marker. Add 32 oz (or more as needed) of uncooked dry legumes to fill up 75% of the box.  Copy sight words or C-V-C words onto index cards (one word per card) so that your child can find the letters in the bean box and lay them on top to spell the word correctly.  Ask them to read the word aloud when complete.  Start with completing 5 words per day, possibly 2x per week, making sure that the activity doesn’t become too routine.

Invisible Sight Words/C-V-C Words
Using a white crayon, write the sight words or C-V-C words onto white cardstock. Give your child watercolor paints and a brush to paint over the page, revealing the hidden words.  Switch and let them write a few words they know (phonetic spelling is ok!) so you can paint and reveal as well!

Letter & Sound Recognition Games
Games that help with letter recognition, sounds, and formation are helpful for kindergarten and first grade children.  Whenever possible combine naming, sounding and writing letters.  When learning to write letters it is especially important to reinforce and model proper letter formation including the direction that the shapes are made. Letter formation can be a tedious skill, but is very important. When writing on paper select short pencils that better fit into a small hand, and ask your teacher about pencil grips, shaped pencils, etc.  

For tactile practice at home:
1) Grab a 9×13 cake pan and use different kitchen supplies to create a tactile surface.  Items include:  salt, cornstarch, and plain yogurt.  Select one item and form a layer in the bottom of the pan deep enough for your child to write in so that the letter will show easily.  Practice formation of lower and uppercase letters, making the “sound” as they write.  Save your dry ingredients in resealable bags for making other letters in the future. Not squishy enough?  Have your child form letters using playdough, then build C-V-C words from them. 

2) Write uppercase and lowercase letters onto white plastic and clear plastic spoons (26 of each) to create a “matching” game set.  Uppercase letters should be written in permanent marker onto white spoons.  Lowercase should be written onto clear spoons.  Have your child stack the clear lowercase letters on top of the uppercase letters, then put them in order, identify the vowels, or “read” through them saying the sound they make instead of the name.

Active Word & Letter Games
All teachers know that kids need to move and use their bodies. That can be especially hard when you are teaching a room with 25 bodies in it!  Take this unique opportunity to play some learning games enhanced by movement while you have only *your* kid(s) at home.

1) Sound or Adjective Detectives
Harness your child’s exploratory energy and have them find 5 items in the house or yard that begin with a specific letter sound or blend.  For example the letter “c” might include finding a cork, can, cap, camouflage item, cup, or crayon.  If your child needs to focus on blends consider looking for things that begin with “bl” such as a blanket, blue item, black item, or a block.  Modify the activity for older children with a focus on adjectives instead of sounds.  Find 5 items that are fuzzy, or hard, or, squishy.  The possibilities are endless! 

2) Parking Lot Game
This game uses toys, household objects, word cards or individual letters written on cards.  Take your household objects (or word/letter cards)  and place them into an imaginary grid in a large space on the ground or floor.  Select up to 20 items and lay them out as if each has a parking space in a lot.  Call out an adjective, letter sound, or letter name and allow your child to find a “match” from the objects in the “parking lot.”  For example if your parking lot includes a stuffed brown rabbit, a child could select this parking spot to match the letter “b” (brown), “r” (rabbit), or the adjectives “fuzzy” or “brown.”   Each player must explain how their item matches what word or letter was called out before the next word/letter is called out.  Consider requiring a hop, crab walk, crawl, or other type of movement to keep it interesting and active!

We hope these simple games help make your back-to-school transition easy and fun! These games are great for supplementing Hoot Reading sessions.

About Elizabeth Hawkins Lincoln

Elizabeth is a former elementary school teacher who loves to make learning and fun collide. She earned her Bachelor of Education from the University of Montana (Go Griz!) and her Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She taught Gr. 3 and 5, and when she left the classroom, she worked in educational software and online teacher professional development. Elizabeth spends her free time exploring art museums, riding bikes with her family, camping, writing stories, and traveling to new places.

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