Holiday time is here, and things are sure to be nutty around our house–and everyone else’s–for the next few weeks.
Although I know it’s going to be hard to sneak in a little bit of learning each day while we’re busy decorating, making gifts, wrapping, and eating sweets (which we do a lot of over here!), I do have a little something up my sleeve. I threw our magnetic letters on the fridge this week just to squeeze in a little word-learning when we’re able.
This Quick Trick has been used by millions of homes all around the world, but I’m sharing just a few of the next steps for moms and dads out there.
It’s one thing to put some letters up on your fridge.
It’s another to actually use the letters to teach your kids a teeny trick or two after breakfast one day.
Here’s the skinny on how you can really use magnetic letters with your kids for early literacy learning.
- Magnetic Letters: Our magnetic letters are on and off of the fridge every few weeks. Usually at first I put all of the letters in one big clump, hoping that someone will stop by on their way to the breakfast table to create a word or two.
Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes somebody will put the letters in alphabetical order (woo-hoo!) and sometimes a mystery kid will sneak into our kitchen and spell ‘butt’ or ‘poo’ or ‘bootie’ (certainly not one of my kids and it’s usually blamed on Brady. . . ).
Sometimes someone will stop to spell his or her name, create a little message, and make this mama smile big.
But if no one notices the letters for a few days, I’ll build a few words myself, some varying-in-difficulty CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) with a CVCC here and there, and when my kiddos are in the mood, maybe they’ll play around with them.
just a few words on our fridge, ‘real’ words and nonsense words
Here are a few other little, teeny ways that little ones can learn a bit o’ something while you’re working on dinner and the kids are hangin’ around the kitchen, playing with the magnetic letters:
- ABC Challenge: Put the letters in alphabetical order but then pull every five or so letters out of the mix. Place the ‘lost’ letters under the alphabet and ask your little one to help the lost letters make their way back to their alphabet family.
- Find Me A . . . : For the early letter-learners, simply asking, Can you use your strong eyes and smart brain to find me a letter ‘O’ or ‘M’? is all you need to do to get them focused. Always give a choice between two letters because we want to set our kiddos up for success; if we ask, Can you find the ‘L’? and they can’t, they’ll be less likely to want to play our little learning games down the road.
- Sense and Nonsense: Create several ‘real’ words that are easy to read, and add in a few non-sense words that follow the same word family pattern– cat, bat, rat, zat, wat. Once your little one can ‘read’ the ones he can recognize, he’ll giggle like crazy when he reads a silly nonsense word.
- Make Many: The simple act of adding an ‘s’ to a word is incredibly empowering for emerging readers. With just one letter, they can read–and create–a whole new word! So throw a few easy-to-read nouns up on the fridge (dog, cat, pet, hat, etc.) and show your kiddo how to make one into many!
- Family Names: I’ve said it many times before, but it’s true–names are some of the first words that little guys can read. So starting with Mom and Dad, make your way through the whole family, challenging your kiddos to build their names first, then Mom and Dad, then their siblings’ and pets’ names. If they’re not ready for the whole name, you build the name and then take away the first letter. Mix it up with three other letters and ask if they can find the letter that begins that person’s name. It’s a start–but it helps!
- We are (Word) Families: Word families are a great starting point for emerging readers because in just a few minutes, a little guy can ‘own’ a whole word family! Start by putting ‘at- at the top of the fridge, and then put some consonants close by (c, b, h, m, r, s).
Demonstrate how just by adding one little letter to the beginning of ‘at’, your kiddo can now read six new words! Challenge him to ‘surprise’ you with a new word by switching that important first letter, and every few days add a new word family to the fridge.
- Spell it, Baby: For an older kiddo who’s already conquering the Spelling List, ask her to spell a word from that week’s list on the fridge, just like the good ole days when she was teeny and could only find A, B, and C. You’ll be surprised how interested she might be in demonstrating her expertise!
- Prefix/ Suffix FUN: Really, prefixes can be fun. Put ‘re’ on the fridge and then add ‘write’ to make ‘rewrite’. Then leave ‘re’ on and add ‘view’ or ‘do’. Talk about each word and its meaning and then explain that two little letters placed in front of these words means ‘to do again’ and then talk about what ‘rewrite’, ‘redo’, and ‘review’ mean. Play around with different prefixes (pre-, un-, mis-) and suffixes (-y, -less, -ful).
click here to download: making and breaking words
This does not need to be anything major, crazy-confusing, or stressful. These are just a few fun–fast!–ways of throwing in a little bit of deliberate word learning with those magnetic letter friends of ours when we have a minute or two.
If we’re excited about words, our kids will become excited about words and will (hopefully!) become eager learners. All of the reading research on the topic of word learning says basically the same thing:
Effective teachers display an attitude of excitement and interest in words and language. Teachers who are curious and passionate about words inadvertently share their enthusiasm with students, and it becomes contagious (Bromley, “Nine Things Every Teacher Should Know About Words and Vocabulary Instruction,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. April 2007).
We are our children’s first teachers, so let’s get excited about word learning and put some love into our simple fridge magnets!
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