On the first day of school, and the first week and the first month…students and teachers are busy getting to know one another through a variety of activities. But it’s also important for students to get to know themselves! In this post, I will share with you a few ideas that will serve as both a way for you and other students to find about each other and for students to explore themselves as individuals, learners, and citizens of the world. I call of these activities the “I Am Journey.”
The first idea is a super fun activity I did with my 5th and 6th graders during the first week of school! I can’t remember where I got the idea from (this was 23 years ago!), but I found directions for you online on how to create these. Using butcher paper and markers, I had students help each other to trace their body outlines, and then cut it out. Next, they created a “Me Collage”, adding in words, designs, photos, and illustrations of who they were as a person, and as well as their favorite hobbies and passions. The students presented their Me Collages to the class, then we hung him in the hallway. Check out some of their creations below!
While working as a Gifted and Talented Facilitator, I used a poem format that I’m sure many of you are aware of…the I Am Poem! I chose this poem because my goal for the year was to help students develop a sense of identity and become self-regulatedlearners. I then discovered a unit in the Autonomous Learner Model book by George Betts, called“Journey Into Self.” The same publisher also has another unit called “Journey Into My World”. I decided to build my year-long theme around this concept and to launch the theme, I had students create visual I Am Poems!
To start with, I created an I Am Poem for myself to serve as a model for the students, then walked them through the creation of their own poem, using THIStemplate. You can find many variations of this same template online. Here’s a sample poem that one of my students created. Next, I had students use copyright-free images they found online (that’s an entire lesson in and of itself!) to turn their poem into a visual I Am Poem. Most students used Google Slideshows, but some used other media such as a movie with music. Another student used Glogster to create her visual poem. You can check out some of their presentations HERE; many had their photo on the initial slide and throughout the poem, so I had to delete those for student privacy. Below are some images from their presentations.
The classroom teacher for my 5th grade GT students wanted the students to create math goals in their Advanced Learning Plan, so I had them all create a math version of the I Am Poem. Then, at the end of the year, I had all of my students complete an End of Year I Am Poem to reflect on their learning throughout the year. Many added in this update to their original Google Slide presentations. Here are some examples of what they added about their learning during the past year:
My younger students did something called an I Am Story. Click HERE for an example by one of my students and HERE for the template.
And here’s an idea I always wanted to do, but never got around to it…creating an “I Am” Wall with the students’ names and the first line from their poem!
I hope that you will use the “I Am” poem with your students! Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!
Shared reading can be a powerful collaborative method to help students become proficient readers, and it can be used in all content areas!
Shared Reading is the second in a series of posts about Balanced Literacy elements in the classroom. In my last post, I wrote about Read Aloud with a Purpose, where the teacher reads aloud short pieces of text for a specific teaching purpose. Beside modeling reading behaviors, the teacher also thinks aloud about the text. Shared Reading is the next step; the teacher and class come together to read aloud and discuss text projected on a screen or chart paper. Shared reading is NOT the same as choral reading, which used to be common in classrooms, but now is most often used for fluency and expression practice.
In the gradual release of responsibility model, shared reading falls under “I do, you help” or “We do.” For struggling or reluctant readers, this is a powerful way to help them practice their reading skills without being singled out. The teacher’s voice leads the way, and the students join in. Depending on the text used, shared reading can be a powerful classroom community building opportunity.
The Nuts and Bolts of Shared Reading
The text should be chosen in order to teach a specific reading strategy or lesson
The text should be enlarged via chart paper, document camera or laptop/projector
Students and teachers are reading together from the same piece of enlarged text; students should NOT have their own copy. Students can too easily drop out mentally from the lesson if looking at the text on their desks.
The text should be tracked by the teacher or the student, using either a pointer (if text is on a screen or chart paper) or with a pencil or finger (if under a doc camera).
The teacher’s voice support needs to be heard; this helps make the text accessible to all readers.
During and/or after the shared reading, the teacher and students can discuss the text and/or the reading strategy being used.
Also, the same piece of text can be used all week long for different teaching purposes. For example, on the first day students can respond to the text; the second day, a specific comprehension strategy can be discussed, and on another day, unfamiliar vocabulary can be addressed. The text is read aloud each day by teacher and students to assist with fluency skills. Check out the sample week long plan below and click HEREfor a blank copy!
Texts to use in Shared Reading
Poems and song lyrics: These types of text are perfect for not only fluency practice, but for many lessons on theme, style, vocabulary and inferences. (Stay tuned for my next blog on shared reading lessons using song lyrics!)
Content area text from textbooks, journal, articles: Avoid using the entire piece as a shared read; instead, use carefully chosen excerpts to make a teaching point or to focus on a comprehension strategy.
Test and assignment directions: How many times do students start on something without bothering to read the directions? By doing a shared read, students cannot avoid these, and through discussion will have a good understanding of what they need to do.
Cartoon strips: Depending on the cartoon, many comprehension strategies, such as inferring and context clues can be taught after a shared reading.
Content area vocabulary words (each used in a sentence): This helps students understand how the words are actually pronounced and the meaning can be inferred via context clues.
Quotes: There are so many wonderful, meaningful quotes out there and they can foster some fantastic discussions! Using these as a shared read and discussion is a great way to start each day! Below are some of my favorites.
For students to become proficient readers, they need to participate in shared learning experiences with the teacher. Not all learning should be in isolation. Remember, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
In my next post, I will focus more on using song lyrics for shared reading, and all the fun, learning…and singing you and your students can do in your own classroom!
P.S. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a Teachers Pay Teachers freebie for you…a St. Patrick’s Day Roll-a-Math-Word Problem Story!
This is a sample from my full product, Year-Round Math Roll-a-Word Problem Stories! All you need is a pair of dice, and students can have fun rolling for their math operation, character, setting and problem. Students will use both math and writing skills by creating the word problem, solving it and then explaining their method for solving. Students can also create word problems, exchange with others and solve!
Reading aloud in the classroom is not just a one time a day activity, and it is not only for elementary students. Teachers can use short, purposeful read alouds in all grades and all content areas!
The single most important activity for building the background knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
– Becoming a Nation of Readers, 1985
Yes, that quote is over 30 years old…but it is STILL true! Reading aloud to kids…by parent, teachers and other adults in their lives is crucial to reading success!
In my post last week, I gave an overview of Balanced Literacy Elementsand wrote about the problem of trying to fit all of these into your daily ELA block…but that’s impossible! In order to ensure our students are proficient readers and ready for the high amount of expository reading they will encounter in secondary school, we MUST be teaching and using reading and writing strategies in content areas. This first breakout post will help you understand Read Aloud with a Purpose(RAWAP) and how this can be used in not only the literacy part of your day but in the rest of your day as well!
Read Aloud with a Purpose is not the same as your scheduled “read aloud-for- pleasure” part of the day. Of course, this IS always important to do in classrooms, especially primary, as it instills a love of reading and introduces genres and authors to kids. However, Read Aloud with a Purpose is different; it’s used in short increments several times during the school day. This time provides an opportunity for teachers to model many different reading behaviors and use of strategies. In the gradual release of responsibility model, Read Aloud with a Purpose comes at the top…”I do, you watch/listen”.
The key points to this element are as follows:
A time for students to observe a proficient reader using a specific reading strategy
The teacher should state the name of the reading strategy being modeled, either before or after the read aloud
The students must hear the teacher’s thinking as they read through a piece of text
Short, strategic pieces of text are used…from any content area.
Here are some examples of how I have used Read Aloud with a Purpose in several content areas.
Ideas for Short, Purposeful Read Alouds…in ELA
Note that for all of these examples, I do NOT read aloud the entire book (If I do, I will wait for my traditional read-aloud time. What I have found is that if you choose books wisely to use for RAWAP, you will cause students to want to read the book on their own! I used to leave my RAWAP book on my whiteboard shelf and for a few days, it was being passed around like crazy! Below are four books I have used for RAWAP in either the classroom, small groups or tutoring.
I use The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg all the time to teach my students about inferring. I would read aloud just a few passages and think aloud about who or what this stranger could be. I pointed out both evidence in the text and talked about how my background knowledge was helping me make some inferences.
Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems (and all of the other Pigeon books) are wonderful to use when teaching persuasion. I just used it last week with my 3rd-grade tutoring student; I read parts of the book to her and we discussed what words and ideas the pigeon used to persuade. Next, she will use these persuasion ideas in her own persuasive writing project on Antarctica!
All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan is perfect for teaching students about how words can invoke both feelings and senses. While training teachers on Modeling Writing (also called “Write Aloud), I read aloud the first few pages without showing them the illustrations. We then discussed what visuals they were seeing in their mind, and how the author invoked both feelings and senses by the word choice. I then shared the beautiful illustrations and we discussed further feelings gained from the images. I then used these ideas to write and think aloud in front of the teachers about the place I loved the most…my grandparents’ camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Finally, to help a student learn about the main idea in expository books, chapters, and passages, I used an excellent non-fiction book from Scholastic’s A True Book seriesAnimals Helping with Healing by Ann O. Squire. I read aloud the first chapter, discussing sentences and details that were clues to determining the main idea. Next, I had the student read the next chapter and try to determine what the main idea was, and which details supported the idea.
You can also read excerpts from chapter books to focus on specific reading and writing strategies! Tuck Everlasting is one of my all-time favorite books, and I loved introducing it to students. I would read aloud the beginning of the book (the “August” paragraphs) for many reasons…to model inferring, predicting, vocabulary in context, or just for the sheer beauty of the words. I also loved to read aloud the beginning of The Winter Room by Gary Paulsen for all the same purposes. Here’s a link to a blog discussing favorite opening paragraphs in children’s/young adult novels.
I discovered a wonderful website, Live.Read.Write by Erika Crowl, who has created something called “Story Snippets“; wonderful excerpts from children’s books that can be read aloud to help students understand how to show, not just tell. As you read, you need to be thinking aloud about how the words help the reader to understand the feeling without the author stating what it is. Currently, she has Snippets for several emotions: calm (at left), despair, sunshine, wind, and anticipation.
It’s also fun to read aloud the JUST the very first sentences of books to students for a variety of reasons: to help them with writer’s craft, to entice them to read new books for independent reading or to model word choice. Here are some classic first lines from Kim Hart on her website.
Ideas for Short, Purposeful Read Alouds in other content areas
Understanding test or assignment directions:
Take a look at the two different set of directions above…do you see the benefit of reading and discussing these out loud with students? So many times we just expect that students will magically understand all the words in the directions and what the directions are telling them to do! I can’t tell you how many times I would hand out an assignment or test to my students, with VERY clear, bulleted directions, only to have several students coming to ask me questions on what do afterward! I finally started adding in secret messages into the directions, such as, “If you are reading these directions, write this sentence under the directions: “I read them!” and you will get five bonus points…” or something similar. It finally dawned on me that it would help if I projected the directions so all could see, then read aloud the directions and model my understanding of what I had to do to be successful in that particular assignment or test area. You could also have the students join you in a shared reading of the directions and a follow-up discussion.
Vocabulary in context:
To help students understand how to use context in reading to figure out an unfamiliar vocabulary word, I would choose a piece of text that I knew would have some difficult words. Let’s say I am teaching 5th-grade social studies unit on Explorers (been there, done that!). I plan to assign articles on explorers from Newselato help with background knowledge on exploration and explorers, as well as reading skills. Before I have them work independently on this, I am going to read an excerpt from an article and think aloud about how I would use clues in the text to figure out the words “fleet”, “mutiny” and “vessels”. I would also point out the proper name “Patagonia”; I can tell it’s a place, but I’d like to look on a map to help understand the location.
Education Corner has this to say about textbook reading: “Textbooks can be boring, tedious, and full of detail. Jumping right into a textbook without having a general idea of the central themes and topics can make textbook reading that much more challenging.” To help make this type of reading less intimidating, you can do a read/think-aloud while previewing a textbook chapter. Read and discuss the titles, the heading, any bold-faced words, picture captions, etc. Model reading aloud any chapter questions BEFORE reading and think aloud about how this will help find the answers while reading.
Math Word Problems:
This is an area in which I have spent a great deal of time helping not only my tutoring students who struggle in reading or math but also my gifted and talented students! In my own past classrooms, I know I was guilty of just assuming if students could read, they could handle these problems easily. Just look at the problem to the left; even skilled reading and math students can easily be intimidated by this! An excellent way to help with this is to provide a read/think aloud of a word problem. A teacher can do this in a whole group setting, or a small guided math group setting. The teacher reads the problem aloud, thinking aloud about what exactly needs to be solved, as well as clues given on how to solve it and any unnecessary information thrown into the problem. The teacher should also model annotating the text (highlighting, questions, thoughts). By providing this modeling, it could help many students be less intimidated by word problems! After modeling for my tutoring student, he was able to read, annotate and solve on his own!
There are so many more ways you can read aloud in content areas…just think about how much you expect kids to read silently in math, science, health, electives, etc. Now think about how much their comprehension can improve if you first MODEL proficient reading skills and THINK ALOUD about the strategies you are using. This can make a world of difference!
Let me know in the comment section below other lesson ideas or texts to use for Reading Aloud…with a Purpose!
All balanced literacy elements defined! Stay tuned for more blog posts going more into depth on these elements and how they can be used in content area!
This past week I had the honor of presenting three sessions at the annual conference of the Colorado Council of the International Reading (CCIRA). It so happened that my three sessions were on the same day, so it made for a very LONG day, but in retrospect, it was probably better as that was my entire focus for the day. This post will be the first of several covering the highlights of each of my presentations.
First up, balanced literacy! Depending on where you look, there are many different definitions of balanced literacy. Here are the ones I used in my presentation, and the ones I agree with based on my training and experiences.
In my district literacy training sessions for the Douglas County School District in Colorado, I trained hundreds of teachers on a total of TEN balanced literacy elements! WOW! The number one question I received… “How do you fit all of these into your daily literacy block?” The answer…you DON’T!In order for all of the elements to receive the same amount of attention, teachers MUST use these elements in ALL parts of the day…every content area! This should continue into secondary schools with content area and elective teachers using literacy in their classes as well. The importance of content area literacy cannot be stressed enough!
In this first post, I’m going to define each of these elements for you…some, of course, you will be very familiar with, but others may be new to you.
ALL OF THE ELEMENTS BELOW WILL BE DISCUSSED IN FURTHER BLOG POSTS!
Read Aloud with a Purpose (I Do): This is a separate time from the “sit on the floor in front of the teacher and listen to her/him read a great children’s book”…which IS always important to do in classrooms, especially primary, as it instills a love of reading and introduces genres and authors to kids. However, Read Aloud with a Purpose is used in short increments several times during the school day. It’s defined as:
The teacher chooses a read aloud based on a specific teaching purpose (strategy).
As the teacher reads aloud, she/he “thinks aloud” about the reading and offers explicit instruction on the strategy.
Students then will practice the modeled strategy in guided and independent reading.
Shared Reading (We Do): In shared reading, the text is once again chosen by the teacher for a specific strategy. The students and teacher all look at a projected or enlarged piece of text together and read in unison. If this sounds like choral reading, it’s not, because again, the teacher is using that text for a specific teacher purpose and a lesson comes during or after the choral reading. The bonus is that students are practicing fluency skills and hearing a fluent reader read with them. Shared reading works especially well when the text is a bit more complex than the usual text students read. (Image from this website.)
Guided Reading (We Do): I’m sure readers of this blog have different understandings of what guided reading is…I am using the most common interpretation popularized by Marie Clayand Fountas and Pinell, among others. Guided reading is a time for strategic teaching based on the needs of the students, ones who have been grouped together because they have similar strengths and weaknesses. There is a specific purpose for the lesson each day, and the teacher works with both the entire group, as well as individuals as needed. This is also an excellent time for teachers to observe reading behaviors in their students.
Book Clubs (We Do/You Do): Just as with adult book clubs, these are small groups reading and discussing works of literature that are appropriate for them. I’m torn between “we do” and “you do”. Teachers do have to provide the initial guidelines and structure, but then he/she must be willing to step away and be a part of the book club, as both a participant and observer. This is an excellent opportunity to just enjoy reading and discussion without specific teaching strategies, but the teacher can gain a great deal of information on both students’ reading behaviors, as well as comprehension and vocabulary skills.
Independent Reading (You Do): Most students should now be ready to take the skills and strategies learned in the previous elements and apply them to their own independent reading. The teacher is either observing reading behaviors among his/her students or conductingindividual reading conferences.
Modeled Writing (I Do): This is the teacher’s time to write in front of the students using a specific teaching purpose. The teacher uses a write-aloudto let the students know the process he/she is using. In addition to being a model for good writing, it’s also important that the students see mistakes and frustration from the teacher and how he/she works through that.
Interactive Writing: (We Do): This is sometimes called Shared Writing. The teacher and students negotiate the wording in a planned piece of text and then share the pen to create the writing. Once again, the teacher has a goal and purpose with this element, although often when the students have the pen, many other teaching opportunities may arise. This is an excellent way to create anchor charts of the classroom instead of the teacher creating one or purchasing one. The students have much more ownership and understanding of the chart if they are involved in the creation.
Guided Writing (We Do): Just as in guided reading, the teacher has created groups of students that reflect strengths and weaknesses observed in students or obtained from data. The teacher has a specific teacher purpose and collaborates with the students on creating a piece of writing. Often this writing can be used as a model when the student continues independent writing on their own.
Independent Writing (I Do): The student takes all of the strategies and new learnings from the teacher modeling and group collaborative work and uses them in his/her own writing. The teacher should use this time to do 1-1 writing conferences so he/she can observe the student’s writing behaviors, as well as provide support in difficult areas.
Interactive Editing (We Do:) This is probably the element that you are least familiar with, and it has nothing to do with the type of “editing” done in writing. In this element, the teacher guides students in using higher-level thinking, as well as creativity, in transforming a piece of text into another format, such as a summary, three column notes, a text, message, etc. This is an element that is already used in content areas!
Independent Centers or Independent Work: While the teacher is working in Guided Reading or Writing groups, the students can be engaged in independent work or centers…and the centers do not just have to be literacy-based; they can be based on any content areas!
In future posts, I will share more ideas on how you can use all of these balanced literacy elements in not only reading but in all content areas!
Photo Credits: Featured Image: Pixabay All other photos, unless otherwise noted, from my personal photo files
New literacy resources for teachers…apps, websites, assessment tools, reading comprehension tools, and penguin belly sliding??!!!
Whew! Another holiday season is done! Were they as crazy for you as for me? As I look back on my teaching days while raising kids, I don’t know how I survived the holidays. Even though I am retired with my own business, I still found myself going crazy, probably because I’m older… In my first blog of 2019, I am excited to share some new literacy resources with you!
Have you done these with your students? I had seen a few on Instagram but didn’t realize it was a popular (required?) activity in the AVIDprogram. The other week my student, who is in the 7th-grade AVID program at her school, brought this assignment to me for help. She had a page of requirements for what needed to be included and how to design. I was immediately intrigued and wish I had known about this while working with my GT students a few years ago. I love the creativity and thinking that goes into this! Here is the definition of this activity from the AVID website:“A One-Pager is a creative response to your learning experience. It allows you to respond imaginatively while being brief and concise in making connections between words and images. We think about what we see and read differently when we are asked to do something with what we have seen or read. We learn best when we create our own ideas. Your personal thinking about what you have experienced should be understood by the audience that views the One-Pager.” The link also has the requirements for the activity to hand out to students. Do you use these in your classroom? I would love to see any photos of one-pagers that your students have done!
Wow – just discovered this…again, because my tutoring student needed help on her assignment on Go Formative. Once logged in to the website, she had to read a story (“Harrison Bergeron”) that was in her assignments, then answer questions about the story. The questions were right next to the story so she could answer them as she read. She was even able to draw some of her answers, which for this particular student, is sometimes easier than writing. Of course, I had to get my own account, and I’ve added some activities that others have made, but I am anxious to upload and create my own activities for tutoring students! Stay tuned!
Reading Comprehension App by Peekaboo Studios LLC
I have plenty of phonics and fluency apps on my iPad, but it seems as if reading comprehension ones are not as plentiful unless you want to pay a lot of money! I found one, called simply Reading Comprehension, that can initially be used for free, and then if you want, you can purchase more passages/tests; there are reading passages for grades 1-5, and if you work with struggling readers, you can use the most appropriate grade level for the students. I immediately realized the potential for using this app for comprehension progress monitoring (I have also had trouble finding short passages that could give a quick update on comprehension!) I tried the app with my 3rd-grade tutoring student who has struggled with both comprehension and fluency, and she LOVED it! She read a story about Bats and then took the assessment; receiving a perfect score (I helped her a bit…). I plan to use this with other students to monitor their comprehension.
Reading a-z Comprehension Passages
I have used this incredible, wonderful, fantastic, fabulouswebsite for years with both my RtI students in schools and my tutoring students. But in the last few months, I discovered that they have reading passages specifically for all of the reading comprehension strategies! The passages come with lesson plans, a model passage, and practice passage. In addition, there are ways to extend the lesson.
For those teachers new to teaching reading, this is a fail-safe way to ensure that all of the reading strategies are being taught and covered. With my tutoring students, I extend the strategies taught with these comprehension passages when we are reading other articles/passages. At left is a photo of a Main Idea passage used with my 3rd-grade student. She was so into this topic of Penguins, that she had to draw pictures (great way to check comprehension, by the way!) and even did a demonstration of the belly sliding on her tiled floor!
So that’s it for the first blog of the year! Please comment on if you already use or plan to use these resources! For more teaching resources, be sure to check out my TpT store, as well as my Instagram!
Merry Christmas to all the followers of my blog! Want a FREEBIE to keep you sane this last week before Winter Break? Then keep reading!
Okay….it’s the last week before Christmas break…so here’s a quick post with a few ideas for things to do to keep the kids busy and NOT driving you crazy!
The first idea is based on something I did in my classroom days…and it was a HUGE hit! This was in the 90s before technology came to the classroom, so I used to copy off catalog pages of potential holiday gifts for friends and family. I would hand out a sheet to the kids for listing gifts and prices, then show the items on the overhead projector (yes – I said overhead projector; that’s how old I am LOL!). I would use this “fantasy” shopping excursion to help the students practice math computation skills. I can’t remember exactly what I did, but I know that there was a competition to see who could spend the most and the least!
Now that I’m tutoring, I wanted to try the same idea with my students but updated with technology. I created three sheets for fantasy shopping…one for multiplication/addition, one for a division and one for subtraction. Armed with both catalogs I had received in the mail, as well as websites (Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.), I had the students choose WHO they wanted to shop for…it could be friends or family, or both! On the sheet, they had to list the cost, and then do the computation based on the topic. Then, taking it a step further, I had them create a presentation with a photo of the item, the cost, and their grand total/budget. The students are either taking a photo of the item in the catalog or finding it online and doing a screenshot, then adding to their Google Doc or Slide. Click HERE to see a sample presentation!
For my students not working on math skills with me, I created a few literacy activities to use with the fantasy gift shopping, including responding to a prompt about what gifts they would give to friends and family if money was not an issue, as well as persuasive and descriptive writing ideas. For my student just today, I brought my catalogs so he could pick out some “gifts: for his family. Tomorrow I plan to have my 7th-grade student do writing about some very “unique” gifts using her vocabulary words from her vocabulary word wall on Padlet (see photo below.) Check out her work HERE!
My Fantasy Holiday Gift Shopping activities are currently for sale in my TpT store, but I wanted to thank all of you for following my blog by offering you a free copy for just 24 hours! Click HERE for your copy! Best of luck surviving the week and have a restful, peaceful and relaxing Winter Break! You deserve it!
Freebie TpT Product coming up at the end…just for readers of my blog!
As I stated in my blog post on Word Walls, I love words. I have been surrounded by words my entire life, first in books, magazines, and newspapers, and then the internet and apps. I will admit that I am a Words with Friends junkie…I have played this game for nine years now and show no signs up stopping anytime soon. (Username: Jan119 – send me a game request!) In addition to words, I love playing games, so imagine my excitement when I first realized that there were games totally devoted to WORDS!
Last year, I discovered Words with Friends Edu and jumped on it as a fun activity for my tutoring students. However, several months ago, the company discontinued the Edu version online. However, I still think that Words with Friends, Scrabble or other word building games are a great resource for students to learn and study new words. While playing WWF, I have learned many new words that I had no idea existed until either I or an opponent used them in the game. While I don’t believe in students learning strange words they will never use, I do want them to learn and be able to use some of the more common words played in the game that they will see in books, textbooks, and the internet. One of the best features of the WWF Edu website were the many lesson plans to use in conjunction with the game; fortunately, I saved all the lesson plans in my Google Drive so you can access there HERE!
In an article posted on Edutopia about building vocabulary with games, it states that “Developing students’ vocabulary doesn’t have to be a chore. Given a creative mindset and some openness to exploring, we can find opportunities to educate and stretch students’ understanding with play. Far from being wasted time, these exchanges can help motivate students to realize that playing with language can be enjoyable”.
Furthermore, the website Reading Rockets published an article on using technology tools to promote vocabulary instruction and had this to say about having fun with words: Whether directly teaching vocabulary and word learning strategies, or increasing students’ volume of reading, an important research-based principle that applies across the board is to promote a lively interest in words through student expression and participation in a learning community that enjoys playing with words, builds on individual interests as well as curriculum needs, and emphasizes self-efficacy in word learning (Beck et al., 2008; Graves & Watts- Taffe, 2008).
My Favorite Word Games for Students
Word Monkeys – I have to say this is my top choice; I have used it with both struggling readers and gifted students, both in schools and during tutoring. The concept is simple; players take turns making words with the seven cards in their hand and the top card on the draw pile. The longer and more complex the words are, the more points they receive! I remember pleading with my RtI reading group to play on Fridays, even though some were tired of the game!
Photo by Jan
Photo by Jan
Word Shark – Another fun game that has players building words with mats. The game can be easier for younger students (mats already have the rime/word family on the mat, and the player just has to provide the beginning consonant). For advanced or older students, you can use the blank word mat where players draw both vowels and consonants and build their own words.
My Word – A fast-paced game with the dealer continuously placing vowel, consonant, digraphs and suffix cards on the table while the other players watch for words they can create out of the cards. When they see one, they have to grab it and make it…the more words they can spot and build, the more points. I found I had to make some adjustments for younger students, such as pausing in my dealing so they could have a chance to look over the cards and not get overwhelmed.
Word Connect – I only recently learned about this app from a tutoring student…a fun app that displays letters and the boxes for the words; the player has to put the letters in the correct order to make the words. It sounds easy, but I was surprised at how many words you can make from just three letters; it’s all about putting the letters in the correct order. The levels are easy at first but gradually become more difficult as they pass the beginning levels.
Word Ladders – This is not really a game, but it’s so much fun that I’m including it on my list. Students start at the bottom with a word, then have to add or remove letters based on the clues as they “climb” the ladder. I would put together packets of these for both RtI and tutoring students as it’s a great warm-up for a group or tutoring session. The link takes you to the Daily Word Ladders book you can buy, but you can also find others word ladder sheets online: here and here, as well as many other websites.
Bananagrams – I only recently discovered this game, but it’s already a favorite! The banana-shaped pouch contains Scrabble-type letter tiles, and players race each other to build words! I recently played this with two sisters I tutor; 5th-grade sister did fine on her own, but I had to help the 3rd-grade sister…she didn’t understand the all words had to connect; she wanted to just build isolated words from her tiles (although that could be an option at first with younger kids). Another option is that there is a version especially for young kids, My First Bananagrams!
Okay, so playing these games is fun…but what about the LEARNING aspect?
Of course, these games can help foster phonics, spelling and vocabulary skills, as well as a love and knowledge of words. But all of that is nebulous and hard to measure…so I took it a step further. As the games were played, I had students write down the words they built or played. After the game, I had them choose 2-3 words they either did not know the meaning of, or just “kind of knew it” (have you ever asked your student if he/she knows what a word means and they answer yes, but then can’t give you the definition? That’s “kind of knowing it”). I had them record words on this sheet, find out the meaning…either with my help, other students’ help, or the internet, and then write the definition and use in a sentence. I then add these words to lists in either Vocabulary/Spelling City (for younger kids) or Quizlet (for older kids). I have the students return to these words over the weeks by using them in a variety of vocabulary and spelling activities. Even after they have “passed” their tests on the words on Vocab/Spelling City or Quizlet, I still have them use and review the words during the year….that’s what ensures retention of words.
My latest Teachers Pay Teachers product is all about Word Games, and the activities for practicing and retaining the words! There are several fun vocabulary and spelling ideas that incorporate social media and popular culture. However…YOU, the reader of this blog, can have a copy for free, by clicking on the link below!
Please use the comment section to tell me about any other word games and word study activities you use in your classroom!