Today we’re kicking off a new series on How to Teach Early Reading with two of my favorite games! As you may or may not know, my other big passion besides stay-at-home-mom life is teaching, learning, and being in classrooms. Before becoming a SAHM/foster mom/writer/blogger, I completed a PhD in Education – because I love learning about teaching and learning that much!
When I worked as an English tutor for a couple years at the end of my Masters/start of my PhD, I helped teens with grammar and essay writing, middle school kids who struggled with reading fluency and comprehension because of learning disabilities, and my very favorite of all: grade one and two littles who were struggling with early reading. It was one of the best jobs I ever had, and I loved the games that came along with it!
My own son was ready to learn (and obsessed with) reading at an unusually young age, so these games have been tested across a huge age range. They are always big hits!
The sticky note game
A classic. For when you need to sit and not move, and your kid needs to run real bad, and you need to not yell. This one has been around the internet for a while (if you invented this game, please message me so I can credit you), and it will have a place in my heart forever. It saved me many times. And once I realized that it could actually teach reading and phonics as well I was in bliss. All the kids I’ve ever had in my house (a lot) have seemed to love this game, regardless of age and temperament. It also works well for a single child or small groups.
How to play
Simply sit down on the couch (or lie on your bed) with a pencil and a pad of sticky notes. Write a word on your sticky note. Ex. bathtub. The child must sound out the word, then run and stick it on the bathtub. Then they run back to you for their next word.
You can also use individual letters (“B! Stick this on something that begins with the letter ‘b’. Buh buh, bee.” And then they can stick it on a basket or their bedroom door or whatever.) You can also use phonemes (“Ch! Chuh chuh! Does something in our house have a ‘ch’ sound? How about the porch? Or a chair?”).
You can also use descriptors. Blue. Small. Belongs to Dad. Somewhere a baby sleeps. Write a phrase, word, sound, or letter that is at or just slightly beyond their current reading level. They will get excited to run to their next location so they will have more incentive to try to sound it out.
If you’re doing this with multiple children at a time give them each their own sticky note, each with a unique location.
The index card game
This is another game in which kids can move their bodies while they grapple with reading, which really takes the edge off. Tip: if your child is not enjoying reading the best thing to do generally is just take a break for a few weeks or months until your child shows interest again, but if for whatever reason, you feel that he/she needs to move ahead, try adding more physical movement into all your reading and pre-reading activities.
How to play
In the index card game you are simply writing letters, sounds, and words on index cards. Then you are scattering them around the room, or around your whole house, or out in shared hallways if you live in an apartment.
The important part here is to write down all the words and sounds on a key that you keep with you on the couch. Then you can say “find ‘the’!” and if they find it and bring it back to you, you can cross ‘the’ of your own list. In my experience, scattering the cards and then trying to see them and call them out without a list leads to getting up a lot.
Make it tougher
You can also try partially hiding the cards, which is fun, and makes the game take longer – just be careful not to add on too many layers of difficulty too soon. Remember that what the child sees here is a sea of symbols they are trying to decipher from one another. That takes more brain power than we, as experienced readers, may realize.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of teaching
Ready to kick this game up a notch? Particularly for homeschoolers, if you are responsible for teaching the nitty gritty of reading, consider the balance between sound-it-out words, sight words, and phonics sounds (more on this later in my early reading series). You can mix them all into this game very successfully. In fact I really like this game as a starting place to first introduce new words or sounds. Just add new cards in gradually. I.e. first some sounds: oo, ee, ay. Then some words that use those sounds: soon, loon, see, seen, say, hay. Then a batch of sight words: the, there, she, where. Then a new batch of sounds, and so on. Your word fish pond can get bigger and more challenging and yet your child’s confidence can go up because he is familiar with the words you started out with.
Here are some word/sound ideas:
you, her, ai, can, when, up, they, then, there, their, did, him, her, out, was, about, with, time, word, b, d, ee, oo, what, a, the, today, day, she, that, yes, and, like, my, be, will, from, th, o, say, ay, who, w, that, at, get, ph, i, people, could, would, me
Happy reading and running (and couch sitting)!