This is game you can play with early learners to expose them to some concepts of print…in this case letter shapes (even if they don’t know their letters yet). You’ll need some letter magnets or foam letters that your child can use as manipulatives and some containers (small bins, toy boxes, large cups, baskets, or whatever you have on hand that the letters will fit into).
- Put some letters out in front of your child on the floor or table. Ask them some questions about how the letters look: Do these letters look different or do they all look the same? What makes them look different? Do any look alike? What makes these look similar?, etc. You want them to be looking at their shape and size.
- Ask your child to pick 2-3 letters to look at more closely. Depending on the letters your child picks, you can talk about how the letters are made up of straight lines, curvy lines, or both. Have your child trace the letters they chose with their finger and talk about whether they are made up of curvy lines (for example: S or C), straight lines (A or T), or both (B or R).
- If your child understands and shows interest, you can tell them you’re going to play a game where they have to separate the letters by what kind of lines they have. Have three containers ready, each labeled with a picture of the different lines.
- Play along with your child as you place the letters in the correct containers!
- This game can also be used with older kids who are learning to write their letters to help reinforce what types of lines they should use.
Big books work well for this, but you can use any book with large print. Try to use a book that you’ve already read with your child and one that has a good amount of dialog in it.
- Tell your child that you’ll be reading xyz book, but that you’ll be hunting for different things this time. Write, or show them what an exclamation mark (!) and question mark (?) look like.
- Tell them that you’ll be hunting for these in the book and that they should let you know when they see one because you’re going to have to read it differently.
- Begin reading the book (maybe with less expression than you normally do) until your child lets you know that they’ve spotted one of the marks. Say “Oh, thanks – that’s an (!), that mark means that we have to read this sentence with a lot of expression. Listen to me first and then we’ll try it together.”
- Reread the sentence modeling good expression and then have them read it (or repeat after you if they can’t read yet) with you. Try to have them imitate you as much as possible so that they get into the habit of learning to change their voice when they see these marks.
- Do the same with question marks – Teach them that our voices sound different when we ask questions and that they should sound like that when we read questions too.
- This is one of those easy activities that you can do to lay a strong foundation for good reading habits and fluency. It can be done whether your child can read or not because all they have to do is practice sounding like you (a good reader)!
- Change this up for older kids (2nd grade and up) that need help with expression by skipping the “hunt” and just calling their attention to the marks when they read. Having them listen to you, reread it with you, and then again by themselves will give them the practice they need to improve their fluency.
You’ll need a book that’s on the bigger side of normal and your “dunce cap” on for this one.
- Tell your child that you’re getting ready to read a book and get into a position where he/she can clearly see the book. Hold the book upside down and announce that you’re ready to begin. Hopefully your child will look at you funny and tell you that’s not how you hold a book.
- You (in total disbelief) ask him/ her “Why not?” – they give you an answer and you say “Oh, ok, I got it”. Then you fix it by holding the book sideways and telling them that now you’re ready. They’ll laugh and point at you and tell you you’re doing it all wrong!
- Do this a couple of times in different ways until you “give up” and say “Ok, show me how to read this book the right way”. See if you can get them to explain to you why it should be read that way. You’re looking for them to tell you things like: the front cover needs to be right side up, the title should be on top, we can’t read upside down, you need to open the book up this way, we need to turn the pages in this direction, the pictures can’t be upside down, the words can’t be upside down, etc. If you need to, point these things out to your child.
- This simple pretend play can be very beneficial in helping your child understand the concepts of print. Kids love to be right and they’ll have fun telling you that you’re wrong! Don’t we all?