How to Teach Children to Write Words Like They Sound
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry that detailed how the teachers at my school were supposed to use a new lesson plan format that included step by step directions to teach children new skills. Last week, I wrote another lesson that was similar in nature to that one, but was for teaching children to write words like they sound rather than for teaching children to sound out CVC words. This lesson is based on the “RISE/TESS” format that we are being expected to use in my school district these days. And while I REALLY dislike being told what to do, I can see the benefits of teaching children the steps to certain skills in this way. I have noticed that since I started trying out this type of lesson, some of my lower children have been catching on to some of the trickier skills more quickly than I would have expected, based on my previous experience. It is probably based on the use of the visual aid, combined with the motions that I add into it, and the fact that I am leaving the posters up on the wall for the skills that I know take a long time to master, such as sounding out CVC words and now writing words like they sound. That way, the children (and I) can refer to them when they get stuck.
Here are the steps:
Step 1. Say the word.
Step 2. Stretch out it.
Step 3. Write the first sound.
Step 4. Stretch out it.
Step 5. Write the middle sound.
Step 6. Stretch out it.
Step 7. Write the ending sound.
Below are the most important elements of the lesson. You can also download the entire lesson plan with the steps HERE... and the pictures that go with it HERE.
1. Children are told the “Big Idea” of the lesson, (AKA the main idea of the lesson,) and are expected to be able to repeat it back. The Big Idea of this lesson is:
Writing words the way they sound is saying the words out loud and writing down the sounds that you hear.
2. The teacher models writing one of the words, and then introduces the steps, and then models writing one more word. The RISE trainers refer to this as a “Model Sandwich.” When I modeled the steps, I also taught them a motion for the words, “Stretch it out.” So when they were supposed to stretch out the sounds of a word, they were supposed to pull their hands apart.
3. Then there is a guided practice time, when the children practice writing some words as they sound on white boards with dry erase markers. I let the children generate the words that they wanted to write, but I did ask them to tell me words about what Santa’s elves could do, because we had started talking about elves the day before and made our elf project! (See my last year’s blog entry on how to make that super cute elf!)
4. I waited until the next day to do the independent practice portion of the lesson, which is having the children write a sentence or two using sight words that they already know how to spell and also some new words that they have to sound out.
5. Of course, closing the lesson with the usual questions such as “What did we learn today?” “What’s the Big Idea? “Who can tell me the steps?” is always a good thing, but somehow I seem to always run out of time for that sort of thing! But I know that it is good for their language development, and it is my lowest children that really need this the most, unfortunately. They really need just as much language as I can possibly “feed” them on a continual basis. And so for that reason, I am willing to try to remember to do it- but I will admit that I don’t feel so bad if I forget and leave it out of the high kids’ lessons!
One problem that I encountered with the lesson was trying to get my students to cooperate and really try to stretch out the sounds, rather than just try to guess at the sounds that they thought were there once I said the word. Some of them were a little over-confident and just wanted to write the whole word immediately. SO..... as I have done in the past, I got out my trusty ball box! I cleared the things off of the table that were not needed for the lesson right away, and started rolling the ball to the children that were following my directions. “I like the way So-and-So is stretching out the sounds like I asked, and ONLY writing the first sound, just like I asked him to!” I just kept rolling the ball back and forth to the children that were staying right with me, and NOT rolling it to the ones that were ignoring my directions and writing whatever they pleased, and drawing pictures on the white boards. I soon had everyone following my directions except for one little boy, who was clearly upset that he was not getting a ball, but still not wanting to change his behavior to get the ball. I just kept repeating what he had to do to get it, and finally he started to comply! Soon, the entire group was happily cooperating and doing their best to stretch out and then write each of the individual sounds. Hooray! This was my lowest group, so this was no small accomplishment. :)
|Sounds Fun Card for the "Ch" Sound|
(It goes "Chug, chug!)
|These are my teacher made sample clay snowmen.|
Teaching children to make snowmen out of clay is really not that hard! But you will need access to a kiln and about ten to fifteen pounds of white clay for a class of twenty-four children. (Do not buy the red clay for white snowmen!) You will also need at least one week for the snowmen to dry before they can be fired in the kiln, and then another day to glaze them in the classroom before they can be fired again. So the absolute minimum amount of time needed to complete this clay project is a week and a half, but it can be completed more comfortably in two weeks. I always try to give myself a month, just so that if anyone is absent on the day that we make the clay project, I have a few days to make it up, and then plenty of the “wiggle room” I always need to find the time to get the snowmen loaded and unloaded in the kiln. At my school, we also have to take into account that there may be other teachers using the kiln as well, so it’s best not to put things like this off til the last minute.
|Child-Made Clay Snowmen, Waiting to Be Glazed|
The snowmen in the picture above the title for this section are my teacher made samples. The snowmen in the picture to the left that are still to be glazed are strictly child made, and I think you can really see the difference. I think that the child made ones are really adorable! The snowmen below with the hats on them were made by the class next door. They have a retired teacher come in and do them with the children one at a time. You can see that these snowmen have had a LOT more adult intervention, and they all tend to come out looking the same. In fact, it is hard to tell that a child ever laid hands on them, in my opinion! I really respect this particular retired teacher, but she and I do not share the same opinion about children's artwork, and especially about clay projects. I really want my students' gifts of clay artwork to look like their work at the age of five, not the teacher's work when they were five. The fact that the child made it him or herself is what makes the gift special, and it should be treasured as such! Behind the three finished sample snowmen that I made, you can see the whole class' snowmen, ready to be fired.
|Snowmen Made with One-On-One Teacher Help|
So, the children score the clay and put the slip between all of the balls of clay. Then they use the fat eraser side of a pencil to poke holes in the sides of the snowman for the arms. (The arm holes only need to be about 1/4 inch long.) Then they roll some primary pencil sized "snakes" for the arms and put some slip inside the arm holes. Then they put the arms inside the arm holes. The arms should be no longer than an inch or two, and about the width of a fat primary pencil. Then they use the sharpened side of a pencil to make the snowman's face. They use the eraser side for the buttons. If you want to add a hat, then they need to roll out another ball of clay, and then squish it flat with the palm of their hand, but no thinner than 1/4 of an inch or it will be too fragile. Score it and add some slip, and do the same to the head, and then put it on the snowman's head. That will be the brim of the hat. Then add another ball of clay to the top of the flattened clay, and that will form the "stove-pipe" part of the top of the hat. Of course, that has to be scored and it needs slip in order for it to stick.
|My Snowmen in Front, Drying Student Snowmen in Back|
Here are another couple of tips. I NEVER let them scratch their names into the bottom of the snowman, because very often they push too hard and ruin the whole thing by squishing it and have to start over. If you don't have time to get to everybody, have them write their names on a paper towel, and have them leave their snowmen on the paper towel with their name on it.
I ALWAYS make a couple of extra snowmen, and I just scratch an X lightly on the bottom. Somebody's snowman will probably break in the kiln, and somebody is going to be heartbroken. All it takes is one little air bubble inside the middle of one snowman, and that air will expand and the snowman will explode in the kiln! BUT... I can usually substitute my snowman for theirs and just tell them that their name got rubbed off, and they never know. Also, if you get a new student, there will be a snowman for that child when it's time to glaze them. By the way, if your snowmen seem large and heavy to you, and you are afraid that they might have air bubbles or something like that in them, you can always stick the fat eraser side of a pencil up the bottom of the middle of the snowman to help it dry. BUT, this must be done while they are still wet, of course. Hint: if you make 24 snowmen out of ten pounds of clay, then they will probably dry just fine without the extra hole in the bottom middle. If your snowmen are a lot bigger than that, then you may need to poke that extra hole in them to help them dry. Watch out for the names, though! You’ll have to write the names in the bottom of the snowmen going around the edges of them rather than across the middle.
The snowmen have to air dry for about a week before going into the kiln to be fired at Cone 4. Then they have to be glazed, and we usually fire them at Cone 5 or 6, depending on the glaze. If you are not sure, just look at the bottle of glaze and it will tell you what temperature to fire them at. I always go with the higher of the temperatures. Of course, they can't be glazed on the bottom of the snowmen, or they stick to the kiln and you have to break them to get them off.
I always lay them down flat on their backs in a tub on some dish towels when I am ready to take them over to the kiln, because if one of them tips over when they are standing up, then a whole bunch of them tip over, domino style. They are at their most fragile at this point, when they are ready for their first firing. Also, I always dry them way up high OUT OF REACH of the children, because the temptation to lift them up to read the names and check to see which snowman is theirs is totally overwhelming! They lift them up, touch them, and break them. And sadly, the one they break is almost NEVER theirs! So I put mine up on top of a cupboard where nobody, (not even a volunteer,) can easily touch them to investigate.
|Upon firing, the snowman on the right's arms fell off|
because they were too long
To wrap our gifts, the children sponge paint a wreath on a white lunch bag, and use a Q-tip to put on holly berries. Then we wrap the snowmen in tissue paper and send them home, with lots of stern reminders about the hazards of stuffing them in their backpacks and then throwing the backpacks on the ground. If possible, I prefer to hand these treasures straight to into the hand of the adult that picks them up after school!
If you decide to make these clay snowmen, I would love to hear from you! Have fun!