We have been rockin’ it out with our alphabet letter lids since we made them a few weeks back, and occasionally I’ll throw in some word building when the kids are in the mood.
I had a bunch of bigger lids that were just waiting to find a new life outside of their ole lid container, so I thought I’d make work spaces for word building.
I’ve found that Maddy and Owen–and many kiddos, for that matter–seem to enjoy tiny spots for word-creating rather than just making words on the carpet, fridge, magnetic board, or table.
- Building Words With Letter Lids: I used the alphabet letter lids and some larger, flat lids, and I combined the flat lids with tiny dot stickers.
I wanted to focus on two things: short vowel words (the simple CVC pattern–consonant-vowel-consonant) and one long vowel pattern (CVC e — consonant-vowel-consonant + e).
Because short vowel word families are the first ones that emerging readers usually learn, I thought it would make sense to use these with Owen, and the review of the short vowel sounds would be helpful for Maddy.
The first time we used the lids, I said, Hey, Owen! Look at this tiny word-building space. There’s a dot, the letter ‘a’, and another dot. Watch how I can put a letter ‘t’ on top of the second dot, and now I have ‘at’, (and then I sounded it out) at. If I choose any letter and put it on the first dot, I can make a word. Watch.
I grabbed a ‘c’ and put it on top of the first dot. Owen loooves cats. Now I have ‘cat’. Cat. How cool is that?
He said, I know. Cat.
Watch what happens if I put a letter ‘m’ where the ‘c’ is. Now I have mmm–aaaa–ttttt. Mat. Neat, huh? And I can do it if I put a letter ‘h’ where the ‘m’ is. Hhhhhh–aaaaa-ttttt. Hat.
Hey that’s cool. And now we have an ‘s’ for ssss–aaaa–ttt. Sat.
He got it. And that’s all he and I did that afternoon. And I was fine with it; changing the first letter of a word that kiddos already know is one of the 7 Basic Principles of Word Building, and if Owen remembers just a teeny bit of this concept, I’ll be happy.
On another lid, I placed a dot followed by the letter ‘a’, followed by another dot, followed by the letter ‘e’ — (* a * e). Maddy and I played a bit with the ‘powerful e’ by comparing gat/gate, rat/rate, mat/mate, and hat/ hate, until she had had enough and was ready to get back to dress-up with Cora and Owen again.
Maddy and I have been recently talking about the ‘powerful e’ at the end of words, so I wanted to have her play with those patterns as well so that she could see firsthand how an ‘e’ at the end of words can really change the sound.
I really didn’t want to make this into a huge and boring lesson for them; I wanted to use a teeny bit of time while they were playing to show them each something reading-related that they would find interesting and relevant.
And part of the reason they maybe, just maybe, get into these things is because I think the concepts are cool–because they really are, aren’t they?
If you’re interested in a pretty neato (yes, I mean ‘neato’) and incredibly handy sheet that outlines the Seven Basic Principles of Word Building (I’ve used it for years and have only modified slightly from Reading Recovery and MCPS), then feel free to download it here: How Words Work–The 7 Basic Principles.
fyi: The 7 Basic Principles of Word Building:
- Add a new letter or letters to the end of words you know. (go-going; can-can’t; look-looked)
- Change the first letter of a word you know. (to-do; Dad-had; come; some)
- Change the last letter of a word you know. (up-us; is-if; out-our)
- Add a letter or letters to the front of a word you know or take away the first letter. (is-his; and-stand; or-for)
- Change the middle of a word you know. (get-got; ran-run; make-made)
- Put two words you know together. (in + to-into; a + go-ago; to + day-today)
- Take a part of one word and add it to a part of another word you know. (sh/she + op/stop-shop; pl/play + an/can-plan)
A few pointers:
- Always use two examples when teaching these principles (or any, for that matter!).
- In spelling new words in writing or decoding an unknown word in reading, children should learn how to go from their known words to new words through ‘analogies’–comparing what they know to what they need to know.
- These Seven Basic Principles are not a sequence; kiddos can work on each concept as needed.
- Magnetic letters, stamps, jello-mix, post-it notes, letter lids–anything with letters–can be used to play with these principles.
Happy Word Building, and remember what reading researcher, Kathryn H. Au has said: “Making words encourages children to study how letters go together to form words, to look beyond the initial consonant, and to notice vowels as well as consonants.” We want our kids to love words, to be in awe of what words can do, and to–most of all–have fun building words!
2002, Multicultural factors and the effective instruction of students of diverse backgrounds. In A.E. Farstrup & S. Samuels (Eds.) What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (pp. 392-413). Newark, DE: IRA
Thanks to Reading Recovery program and MCPS for most information here.