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valentine’s day hearts & big, pig, FIG!

Jan 28, 2009 // No Comment // Categories: holidays, phonics, word building.

Snow! Snow! Snow! Today was our first official Snow Day of the year, so our house was abuzz with energy! Mom was home! Woo-hoo! (But what’s new?) Dad was home!! Hooray! On a Tuesday! When he was supposed to be at work! Yipppeee!! Everyone was happy!

I had to think fast and channel their excitement quickly into some learning for the day, before boots, hats, and snow pants were soggy and sledding tired out my bambinos. So we decorated for Valentine’s Day (I’m a sucker for holiday decorating, and my children love to do it!), and then during snack time, we built words.

  • Valentine’s Day Hearts: My moms’ group made these at our meeting this month to use as decorations for a dinner we hosted for the families at The Children’s Inn at NIH. They were easy to make, and they really made the Inn look beautiful and festive. So I picked up some contact paper this week, and here’s what we did: I taught Maddy and Owen how to make a heart by folding construction paper in half (how fun!), and they cut the hearts I traced. Then we cut red, white, and pink tissue paper, leftover plastic goodie bags, and silver sparkles up into tiny pieces. We put the heart on the sticky side of contact paper, then carefully placed the tiny pieces of pretty paper in the center. When we were finished, we put another piece of contact paper over the whole thing and cut around the edges. We put them on the windows, and they looked awesome, especially against the falling snow. Cora loved picking out which tissue paper she wanted in the center of her hearts, and it was a great activity for scissor practice for Maddy and Owen. All preschoolers need scissor practice. . .

During our morning snack, an opportunity for a little word building arose, since my children love to examine the packages of their foods for words they know. I think it was a box of ‘Corn Pops’ a few months back that started it–Maddy read ‘pops’ and so the fun began.

  • Word Building: It was the package of Fig Newtons that started it today. I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora if they could read any of the words on the package, and no one said a word. Their mouths were full.
    So I put the word, pig, on the fridge with some magnetic letters we always keep nearby. Maddy mumbled, “pig!” So I asked what words rhymed with pig. Owen called out, “big! . . . dig!” I repeated big and dig, then moved the “p” from pig and replaced it with a “b”. I sounded the new word out, “bbbb ig.” They chimed, “big!” We did the same thing with dig.

I said, “Now look at our snack and see if you can find a word you know.” Here was our secret learning for today: everyone yelled, “FIG!”

Maddy asked to “build” more words, so we did. I put up the word cat, and we played with the -at family, then I placed Dad on the fridge, and we played with the -ad family. Then, before I knew it, snack was over, and winter clothes were on.

The above example is one method of helping children learn patterns and how patterns can help them read. It seems very simple, but it’s so important to model– Change the first letter of a word you know, and you have a new word: to-do; Dad-had; come-some; get-let; Mom-Tom; went-sent.


Cunningham, P. (2000). Phonics they use: Words for reading and writing. New York: Longman.

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