Well, I am finally healthy and trying to get back into the swing of things! Anyone would think that my students had never heard of the class rules before Monday! Two and a half weeks with two different substitutes pretty much “undid” just about all of the procedures that I had firmly in place when I left, and I had to start over with the rules and consequences. My students spent two days (and a few of them three!) testing me to see if they would still wind up in time-out, etc., if they did not follow the rules! I had to really “crack down,” but by Thursday I had my “perfect class” back again! I guess we’ll have to wait and see what I come back to on Monday, since I had to leave them AGAIN today, (Friday), to present at the National Association of Education of Young Children Conference in Anaheim, CA. Luckily, this is less than an hour’s drive away from my home, so no travel time was required. Yeah!
1. Concepts of Print Bingo and Practice Cards
Concepts of print- ugh! This is something that is just no fun to teach - and therefore not much fun to learn, either! If you are not familiar with the term “Concepts of Print,” in my school district, we use it to refer to an understanding of the following:
* left to right progression (We always begin reading sentences on the left side.)
* return sweep (When you get to the end of the line, you go back to the left side of the page on the next line and begin again, rather than jump down one line directly below and begin reading again from the right to the left.)
* tracking (This refers to pointing to words accurately while someone else is reading)
* front and back covers of a book
* the spine of a book
* title page
Basically, when we teach concepts of print, we are teaching kids to think about print and giving them the related academic vocabulary for each component. The problem with teaching this to young children is that there is really nothing inherently interesting or fun about this! So, I decided to try to take a rather dry topic and see if I could turn it into a game that would be fun for all! Since my students just LOVE to play bingo this year, I created pictures to represent each item and inserted them into my usual bingo game format. This time, I also enlarged each picture so that I could use the pictures to introduce the concepts in a whole group setting as well. Of course, the children needed to see the related concrete objects whenever possible, so in addition to the pictures, I showed them real books with the title pages, front covers, spines, etc. Then I related those real objects to the pictures so that they would know what they were looking for in the bingo game.
I was really happy to find that this format of teaching really added excitement and fun to an otherwise dry topic! Typically, young children just don’t see the purpose of learning these terms; it is simply too abstract for some of them to care about learning the names of the concepts of print. However, once it has been turned into a game, they suddenly DO care very much! So their motivation factor increases, and this makes a great deal of difference in their learning.
2. Sorting Concepts of Print
Last year, I came up with the idea of having the children sort the concepts of print in small groups, and turned this into an open ended cut and paste type of activity that can last as long or as short an amount of time as you like. It worked great, and the kids loved it! So I am including it as a free download for you here today! It focuses only on words, numbers, letters, and sentences, and this is how it works:
* Duplicate several copies of the sorting sheets on cardstock paper. Cut the pieces apart lengthwise into strips so that the children only have to do a minimal amount of cutting in order to separate one box from another. Place the pieces into baskets and place several baskets on the table.
* Duplicate one copy of each of the sorting charts with the categories on the top (the sheets that say only, “Letters,” “Numbers,” “Words,” etc.) and place them or tape them on a wall, pocket chart or some other place where the children can reach them.
To Do the Activity:
Have the children each take one strip and cut off one of the boxes. They should try to identify whether the item in the box is a word, number, sentence, or letter, and glue it into its appropriate category. The children should continue doing this until their given time is up. Any available adult at the center should ask the children what category their item belongs in, and also ask them to read or otherwise identify their letter, word, sentence, or number.
Variations for Struggling Learners:
Have an adult sit with them and ask them to all find just one category of print, such as a letter. When the children have found a letter, then they may tell the adult how he or she knows it is a letter and not a word, number, or sentence. Then he or she should tell where it should be glued down. When the children have mastered identification of the pieces of paper that are letters, then they may look for the next category of print, such as words, and look only for words. Then they should tell how they know that the item is a word, not a letter, etc.
3. Words That Start the Same Bingo
In my district one of the required skills that the children must master is called “Producing Words That Start the Same.” The skill came from the DIBELS test, https://dibels.uoregon.edu/ which is a test of phonemic awareness skills that is said to be predictive of reading success in first grade. If the children can master the skills in the DIBELS test, apparently they will do well in first grade reading. Therefore, my district expects us to teach these skills so that the children can pass all of these tests.
To master this skill, the children must listen to a word, and then give another word that begins with the same sound. For some children, this skill is particularly difficult to master! I have come to the conclusion that there are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is that this is a two step skill:
1. The child must identify the beginning sound.
2. The child must “pull a word out of the air” that begins with that sound and say it.
The last reason why this is such a difficult skill is that at least in my district, we are expected to teach this immediately after our unit on rhyming words! This leads to an obvious problem: the children become very confused with the two skills! When I ask them for a word that starts the same as another, sometimes they give me a rhyming word. When I ask them for a word that rhymes, sometimes they give me a word with the same beginning sound! And the frustrations on their part (and mine!) mount...
One way that I fight this problem is to teach the unit on rhyming words (and test it) BEFORE I begin teaching and testing the Producing Words that Start the Same unit. That helps quite a bit, though it is not a silver bullet that solves the problem by any means. I do assign worksheets in their weekly homework that ask them to think of and illustrate words that start the same as other words, and I am including one of them as a free download in this blog today! . And this year, I decided to make some large practice cards that would help me teach this whole group, and then make it into a bingo game, since my students seem to be addicted to that particular game and will do anything to play it this year! I tested my students this week on this skill, and I think that they did amazingly well on it in comparison to past years! Just having a visual aid that we could use to practice it whole group helped tremendously. I find it tough to hold children’s attention to practice phonemic awareness skills when there is nothing visual and there is no movement involved. If it is not a “fun” skill to learn, then only my most mature and well behaved students are really listening and paying attention, and of course, they are the ones that needed this lesson the least! The visual aid captures the attention of more of the children and helps them pay attention. And, the more focused their attention is, the greater the chance there is that real learning will take place.
4. Capture Their Attention and Practice With a Song!
* “Brother Starts the Same as Bop!”
This song is another great way to practice producing words that start the same! This song is on the Little Songs for Language Arts CD. My kids love to sing it, and it is a great way to get the active learners involved in learning this skill. You can also have the children make up their own verses, of course. A really fun thing to do is substitute the children’s names in the class in the song. For example, you could sing, “Mario starts the same as Max! Max, Max, Mario, Mario, Max!”
* “The Sentence” and the “Letters and Words” Songs
These songs help kids repeat and remember what each of these concepts are and refer to. They are designed to help the active learner practice and remember this important academic vocabulary.