word building, name building (and crossing the line)

I try really hard to mix things up for Owen and Cora during homework time; some days they just color.  Some days they paint.  But at least 2-3 times each week I sneak in some specific literacy or math-related activities.

And if they express an interest in doing something fine-motor related, I’ll certainly let them go there–stringing beads, using chopsticks, hole-punching, cutting, anything. But for a good 10-20 minutes, we all just kind of chill out and have ‘work time’.

Last week, once again we were all about names during homework time–while Maddy and I worked, these two played with words and names.

Things were fine at first, but after about 20 minutes, they (okay, Owen) crossed the line.

  • Name Building: Cora asked earlier in the day how to spell ‘Maddy’ so at work time, I pulled out the cookie sheets for Owen and her.  I grabbed our magnetic letters, and our Family Name Sheets.

I said, Okay, Cora. Let’s see if you can use the magnetic letters in this box to create the names of the people in our family.  Here’s your list. I’ll help you with ‘MADDY’.

Can you find the ‘M’ or the ‘A’? She dug through the letters (which was hard, because it was a huge mix of uppercase, lowercase letters and numbers), and she found both. I showed her where to put the ‘M’, and she insisted she could do the rest by herself.

Occasionally I checked in on her, gave her a little help here and there, but she was right–she took her time–but she could find the letters.  When she was finished with the uppercase names, she said she wanted to try the lowercase names. While I was working with Maddy,Owen gave Cora a hand, and before I realized it, she had finished.

We talked through each letter, and I pointed at the letters on the sheet as I said them.  My pointing back and forth between the sheet and her tray helped her realize that she had ‘Mommy’ backwards.


Cora worked so hard!


Owen’s picture/ word sort started out harmless. . .

  • Word Building: Owen was working on -at family words, doing an -at word/ picture s ort, just like we did with Maddy way back when. He zipped through it, and when he was finished, I said, Okay, let’s check your work.  Read the words as you point to each card.

He did, and sure, sometimes he glanced at the picture to remind him–but that’s what early reading is all about–using what you know about letter sounds and the pictures on the page to help you decode words. I said, Great. Now let’s make it a little harder. Let’s take away the word cards and see if you can build the words using the magnetic letters.

He’s my game-boy, always up for a challenge, so he went for it.


But before I realized it what he and Cora were giggling at–while I was trying to help Maddy through fixing her sentences and playing with spelling words and drawing out math problems–my big-O pulled a 5-year-old boy on me:


. . . and then it all went downhill.


Part of me was really impressed that he worked through the phonics of spelling ‘poop’–not once, but like five times–and part of me was disgusted (I thought we got through this potty talk stage!?), and part of me was glad they were having fun together (even Cora tried spelling ‘poo’ even though she used a lowercase ‘q’), and part of me wanted to laugh (which I did, but only a little).

So really, work time fell apart quickly after this, which Maddy found absolutely hysterical. Owen was proud as a peacock that he made his sisters laugh so hard, and I just really tried to roll with it all.  Life is too short not to laugh with our kids, even when they cross the line.  . . right?

Though they’re both at different stages in literacy development, names are still a great place to begin with literacy, and once you get past names–like where Owen is at this point–it’s time to start work on word families.

Any of these posts can help make word play more exciting:

Happy word building and name building!

HUGE thanks to Bear’s Words Their Way for being just an all-around fabulous resource that I often lean on for activities during homework time, just like the picture/ word sort that Owen did on this afternoon.




  1. says

    *LOVE* this as was just trying to figure out how to make use of a bunch of letter and figure magnets in our newly redesigned playroom. Thanks. Tweeted it, too! (I’m @redwhiteandgrew.)

    • amy says

      hooray! Pamela!! So glad we’ve connected! And I’m glad I could help–thanks for the tweet and happy, happy new playroom to you!!

  2. says

    LOL! Oh, boys and their humor.
    That reminds me of a time I was once teaching a reading recovery student behind the glass. With all my collegues looking on, the student began to break the word grass. “I see a chunk I know,” she said… as soon as she said the chunk “-ass” she turned bright red. If only she had known there were about 10 other teachers watching in on her lesson!
    At least Owen crossed the line into building new words! That’s a line worth crossing.

    • amy says

      Jackie!! That is a hysterical story–I bet the observing teachers never forgot that one!! Yes, you’re right, Owen crossed the line, but the teacher part of me was jumping for joy at his excitement over words–even if they were not the words I’d hoped! :)
      cheers, friend!!

  3. says

    You have a new fan! Love this post and the library book parade one too. This one is particularly relevant for me, because I have an almost 3-year-old son that I have been starting to work harder on letter recognition with. He doesn’t seem to be picking it up as quickly as my daughter did…but I think that it’s because we haven’t been working him as much as we did with her. Will definitely be pulling out the cookie sheets and the magnetic letters when we get home! (Oh…and he’s also currently obsessed with poop. And plumbing. Good times.)

    • amy says

      Kate! So happy we’ve connected! Sounds like we’re living parallel lives as far as the potty talk goes, my friend! Let’s figure out ways of getting through this ‘messy’ stage and laugh as much as we can! Let me know if you have any ?’s–I’m always happy to help as far as literacy goes! Cheers!

  4. says

    Too funny! Especially since I’m reading this while listening to the girls jump on mini indoor trampolines singing new variations on “Who Let the Dogs Out” with words like “Who made the cat barf? Barf, Barf, Barf, Barf” and “Who let the poop out” etc….. You can fill in the blanks of where things are headed around here.

    • amy says

      MaryLea–and you’re an all-girl family. . . so it’s not just my O-man, then, huh? LOVE that we can laugh about this stuff together!! Hugs my friend!

  5. says

    Yay for the -oop family! Glad to hear that my son is not the only one in this stage… this morning I got out of the shower to hear him making up new words to familiar tunes, all of them involving “stinky,” “butt,” and “poop.” When my 2-year-old came running up to me repeating, “butt,” the instigator tried very hard not to let me see his proud smile… Boys!

    • amy says

      Laurie!! Sounds a lot like my house–how LONG will this stage last??! Ack! At least we’re not the only ones!!

  6. Brandy says

    My 4 year old is into the same humor. He spells the same kinds of words on the fridge with the magnetic letters. The other day he spelled HINE (hiney) and BOTUM (bottom). Sigh. What surprised me though, is one day I was letting my 2 year old type on Microsoft Word and he was typing a bunch of t’s and p’s and laughing hysterically. Then he kept saying, “It says tee tee and pee pee.” TWO! And he is ALREADY in that stage.

    • amy says

      OH my gosh!! So funny–Brandy, I’m sure one day we’ll look back and laugh at this stage, right?! TWO??!! Yee-ouzers.

  7. says

    Kids are hilarious. What could be funnier than poop? Especially when it’s spelled out with magnetic letters! (And is that a Words Their Way sort I see?)

    • amy says

      I know, I know. . . but after the like millionth time you hear the same ‘poop’ joke, it’s just not that funny anymore. . . but yes, spelled out in happy, magnetic letters? It IS kind of silly. Yes. WTW is the way to go!

  8. says

    This is such a great activity! I LOVE Words Their Way. I used it ALL the time in my classroom. Thanks for sharing! And the “poop” situation just cracks me up!

  9. says

    I’m glad you had fun with the word Owen came up with. Moms who can have a little fun are the best! I had a similar situation with my daughter. We were using magnetic letters and playing with far, car, star. I added letters to the end of some of the words. Of course she came up with fart. We had a good laugh. I knew she was hearing the sounds and learning.


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