In this post regular contributor, Lauren of Teacher Types, shares seven playful ideas for encouraging children in the early years of school to experiment with building words with a range of materials.
“My child knows the Alphabet… Now what?”
Word building is a crucial step between knowing the letters of the alphabet and being able to write. The ideas I’m sharing today allow children to use hands on materials to experiment with arranging letters in different ways to create simple words. This process is much easier for young children than holding a pencil in their hand and having to remember how to form the letter shape, as well as which letters go together to make the word.
I recommend starting with commonly used, high frequency c/v/c (consonant/vowel/consonant) words because they are easier to sound out (eg mum, dad, dog, cat).
1. Bottle top letters
A very cool recyclable, there are so many opportunities to learn with bottle tops, including beginning word building. I usually start with a small group of letters (s a t i p n), and then move onto the second group of letters shown above (I use the Jolly Phonics program). Each student in my class has their own zip lock bag with a bottle top collection (we are always very careful at pack up time to make sure we have each letter and no doubles!).
2+3. Magnet & Foam Bath Letters
Incidental learning can be such a powerful thing – and having letters around the home such as these can provide great opportunities for word building. We have lower case magnets on our fridge and capital foam letters in the bath. At school, we teach lower case letters first, however children are usually exposed to various capital letters before they start school.
4. Foam Letter Stickers
These foam letter stickers are such a lovely tactile material. I ordered these ones from Clever Patch and use them in the classroom all the time.
5. Alphabet Pebbles
You’ll notice with these Alphabet Pebbles that in addition to the single sounds I’ve also made two-letter blends (or diagraphs) such as sh, ch, th, ee and oo. This takes word building to another level. I purchased these pebbles from Bunnings and simply wrote the letters on with permanent marker.
6. Duplo Letters
Duplo is a fantastic tool for teaching word families. The top Duplo brick has one letter on each side of it, while the bottom two bricks stay the same. The child is able to move the top brick to create different rhyming words.
7. Magazine Letters
Who remembers doing this when they were at school? It’s an oldie but a goodie. Firstly, young children can enjoy looking and searching for various letters through the magazines and then begin sticking them together to make words. This is challenging as awhole class activity – but great for small groups or an activity you and your school aged child can enjoy doing together at home.
Extending the Learning
If your child is showing signs of writing readiness or interest in writing the words they are making with these playful materials, you can encourage them to copy the words they’ve created with a variety of interesting writing materials – whiteboards, markers, special pens, crayon resist, rainbow writing, chalk, typing on the computer etc.
Learning the English language can be tricky, and it’s helpful for parents to understand the process of how early reading and writing happens. It will come naturally for some children, and may take a little longer for others, but it is truly magical when you see that penny drop and your child begins reading and writing independently.
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