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One of my favorite things to do is create learning games. This one was inspired in the aisle of the Target dollar aisle. Inspiration lies in every bin for teaching materials and learning games. Especially, when I have specific skills I know I need to work on with certain students.

bag of blocksMy walk down the aisle last week inspired a game that I call Word Family Mystery Box Grab. (Please don’t trademark this.) My inspiration came in the form of primary colored counting blocks – 18 per bag – the red blocks for vowels – all the other colors for the consonants letters. When I teach vowels, I always differentiate them from consonants by making them the color red.

To make the game, first identify the word family you want to work on. The “at” family of words is a great place to start with your child. (Think about all of those great books for your child about cats and hats!) Start by making your child’s game by writing the letter “a” on the red block, on both sides, and the letter “t” on the other consonant blocks – any color other than red.

atThen make letter blocks that your child will choose as the first sound of an “at” word. These consonant letters will make real words when added to the start of your new “at” blocks. For example, you can add the letter “c” to “at” to create the word “cat”. It can be fun to throw in a letter or two that doesn’t make a real word is fun, like “g” added before “at”. It will help your child gain confidence reading any word, even if, as one of my five-year-old students told me, “It’s a nonsense word.”

box of blocksNext put all the initial consonant letters in a box with an opening in the top. The opening should be big enough for your child to use his or her little hand to pull each letter out one at a time. (You can use a bag, too.) Before you start the game, lay out the two blocks that represent “at” middle letter vowel sounds and final consonant letter sound. Put all of your blocks for letters that can go in front of “at” in your bag or box.

The game begins when you ask your child to pull a letter out, add it to the “at” part, and then read the word. Next, have your child hand you the first letter sound block, and then pick another letter sound block to start a new word again. Repeat until the box is empty.

Multiple children can take turns and tally how many words they spell and read, or your child can play with you. Except when you build your word, have your child read the word to you.

word familyI love this game because you can use any vowel-pattern, word family you want. I recommend starting with the short “a” word families and then try other vowel-pattern, word families. Some suggestions for when your child masters “at”: try “ad”, “ag”, “ap”, or “ack” word families. Organize your word families using Ziploc bags – to identify each word family and separate the specific letters that go with each family.

Here is one game inspired by the dollar aisle.

What are some simple reading games that you have created for your kids?


One step at a time…

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You can prepare your child before the age of two to become an early reader. In my upcoming blogs, I will recommend activities for you and your pre-two-year-old child. You will learn fun activities that are age appropriate and will build skills as your child reaches each monthly milestone.

Seeing your child read at the age of two and a half is quite exciting! It was for me with my own daughter. The ability of a child so young to read and spell words is amazing. Nothing will prepare you for the first realization that your young child is reading.

Bella reading at age 2.My first experiences include my daughter in the checkout line at the grocery reading the names of different candies. People would ask, “Is she reading that?”

After seeing Bella begin to read at such an early age and later watching students in my own practice with the same capacity, I now truly believe that children as young as two can begin to read and even spell words given the right training. My upcoming series will introduce you to some of the activities I used with my daughter as she grew and matured in her first two years.

These activities will include fun games such as consonant/vowel babble copycat at six months – where your child initiates a sound, like “ma,” and you repeat that same sound – and then eventually you initiate a sound, and your child repeats the sound. Or at nine months, beginning to create for your child a first wordbook to document the first hundred words that your child learns and says. Your child will love to look back at their first wordbook when he or she is six or seven.

So my series of blogs will start with activities for month one and continue with activities for each month until month twenty-four. These month-to-month activities will be fun and hands on. Look forward to hearing from you about any activities you do with your infant to help promote early reading.

My active eight year old challenges me to find constructive and academic ways to have fun and learn on snow days that might go on for three days or more – especially when school is canceled and there is no snow!

One academic, fun solution to snowless snow days is to make your very own board game for your own child or children. For your beginner, it might be my “Letter or Sound” game. For your more advanced reader, my child and students will recommend my “Read or Spell” game to your child.

board_game_board_1 Here is a simple version of these games. On the board, the R stands for read and the S stands for spell. A different version called the “Letter or Sound” game may interest your emergent reader. This version of the game replaces the R and S with L and S. The L stands for letter and the S stands for sound.

You can make either game as elaborate as your child wants. For example, if your child loves trains, make the path into railroad tracks. If your child loves fairies, make the finish line a beautiful fairy house. She can use stickers to decorate. He might want to put original drawings around the empty spaces. The key is to allow your child to make it their own.board_game_board_1_diceboard_game_board_1_playing_pieces

To play the game you will need a die – I use a larger die to make it easier for my kiddos to roll. You will also need player pieces. These can be anything your child likes, from action figures to toy cars or trains. Here are some of the player pieces that I use with my students.

To play the “Read or Spell” game, have your child roll the die and move the number of spaces shown on the die. If your child lands on an R, give her a word to read. You can use words written on note cards or a dry erase board.  If she lands on an S, give her a word to spell. For a child still learning to write, your child can arrange letter tiles to spell the word. Letter tiles are available from a school supply store.

If you are playing the “Letter or Sound” game, give your child a letter to name if he lands on an L or ask him to say the sound of the letter if he lands on S. Use letter tiles or letters written on a dry erase board. You can mix it up by adding extra turn spaces to the board, or spaces that direct your child to “go back” or “forward” spaces.

Having your child personalize the game can be a fun snowy or rainy day activity. The real fun will begin when your child gives the game a go, and starts to read and spell. Watch as your child asks you to play again and again.

What are some reading and spelling games your child likes to play?