The kids and I spent the weekend in Pennsylvania, showering my baby sister and her husband with love for their soon-to-be baby boy.
Though we experienced a little more excitement than we had planned (more on that later!), our trip back to Maryland was totally uneventful–and we spent the 3 1/2 hour ride unplugged, chatting, kids dozing, and playing some old school roadtrip games.
We brought back some oldies but goodies and did a wee bit o’ alphabet playing and reading on the road.
Silly stuff that got Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s brains moving and eyes hunting for letters, words, numbers, and more.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Alphabet and Reading on the Road: This was a simple throwback games with a bit of a new twist.
Our goal was to find the whole alphabet, similar to the days of our Alphabet Hunt on the road, but this time when we found a letter, the person who found it had to call out the word it was a part of.
So our focus wasn’t to find a word that began with each letter of the alphabet. Rather, it was to locate each letter of the alphabet on the environmental print we encountered on the road–street signs, billboards, trucks, buildings, etc–and to read the word in which that letter was located.
And the really funny part is that between Pennsylvania and Maryland, there are a whole lot of towns, roads, highways, and the like with names that are heavily influenced by its rich Native American history. We encountered lots of words that were really tough to pronounce, but they forced everyone–each one of us!–to slow down and do some serious stretching of the words.
Sure, along the way we heard a lot of:
- E! I see an ‘E’ and it’s in ‘Allentown!’
- Got it! Found the ‘O’ in ‘Road’!
- Ooooh, I found a fancy ‘L’ and it’s in ‘Cab-el-las’ –Cabellas!
- Oh my gosh! Double ‘X’ in ‘next exit’! Doubles!!
But there was also a lot of
- Uh, there’s an ‘M’ and it’s in uh. . .Kroomsvale. No, Krums. Krums-ville. Krumsville. I think that’s it.
- Hey! I found an ‘R’ and it’s Len- Lenhart-Lenharts-Lenhartsville! Lenhartsville!
It was cool–and it was a really fun ‘next step’ for the alphabet hunts we’ve done while on the road.
What I loved most was the kids’ excitement over finding letters in the environment–we were really, truly playing with environmental print but also using it for some reading work as well. There were no winners. There were no losers. We were just working together, on the hunt for the alphabet and reading along the way.
Though we played about three rounds, we took breaks in between for snacks or restroom stops. And each time, they’d be all in it to win it–to find every last letter. I think we skipped ‘Q’ the second time around, but who’s really keeping track?
Jennifer Prior and Maureen Gerard, in Environmental Print in the Classroom: Meaningful Connections for Learning to Read, (2004, International Reading Association) cite the importance of environmental print in early literacy education. Though their research and resources are more directed toward using environmental print in classrooms, their findings hold true for at-home learning. The authors state:
Our research suggests that the adult is the key element to effectively using environmental print to teach beginning reading skills. When an adult draws attention to the letters and sounds in environmental print words, children are more likely to transfer this knowledge to decontextualized print—text without color and graphics.
I truly believe that the adult who first brings environmental print into focus for kiddos–at home or on the road–should be the parent. It’s all about creating word conscious kids, kids who love, appreciate, and celebrate language, appreciate it, right?
So let’s get on the alphabet hunt–and start reading along with it!
huge thanks to the following for points of reference:
Prior, J., & Gerard, M.R. (2004). Implementing an Environmental Print Curriculum. In Environmental Print in the Classroom (pp. 25-74). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.