Sunday, January 27, 2008

Learning Games

When my foster daughter was still living with my husband and I, she was in her second semester of Kindergarten and struggling with reading. She had a hard time sounding out words and was frustrated with the idea of trying to read at all. I think she could only read the words, dog, cat and her own first name. Her teacher at the time, gave us "star words" to work on with her. These were words the children were supposed to know in order to pass on to the first grade, and she was way behind. So, I went to my favorite resource, the public library to see if I could find any resources to help her feel more confident in reading, and some way to help her learn her 'star words.'

We tried many different reading games, in many different books, but here I want to write you about the one that she liked the best. She actually would ask me repeatedly to play this game! :-) I do not remember the book it came from anymore, I will post it later if I am able to find it again.
Materials & Preparation:

* 2 pieces of paper
* crayons/ or markers (or dry erase markers, optional)
* index cards or similar (one for each word the child is learning)
* 2 clear plastic page protectors (optional)

Draw a pyramid on each piece of paper, similar to the one shown in my picture here.
Then take the index cards, and on each one, write a word you want your child to be able to recognize/ read on sight. Start with words s/he already knows and add only one or two new words at a time. This keeps the game easy and fun for the child. If you choose to use the clear page protectors, place these over each of the pieces of paper, and use the dry erase markers (rather than crayons or other markers) for the game. The plastic proctors make your game boards reusable rather than repeatedly creating new pyramids for each new game.

How to play:

This is a two player game, your child and you. In order to win the game you must color in all of the squares in your pyramid before the other player. To start you give your child 10 seconds to look at each card you hold up. In that 10 second time frame they try to tell you what word is on the card. Count silently so your child can think, and not feel pressured. If the child is able to tell you the word in 10 seconds or less s/he wins a square on his/her pyramid to color in. If s/he does not tell you the word in 10 seconds or less, you get to fill in a square on your pyramid. Whoever colors in all their squares first wins the game! Make sure to tell your child the correct answer whenever s/he misses a word, or fails to tell you the word in 10 seconds. They might just recognize it the next time around!

My foster daughter loved this game, and would often say "I'm beating you!" with a huge smile on her face. I found it best to only add one or two new words at a time to keep her challenged. I also made sure there were enough words in the stack of cards she already knew so that she always beat me. ;-) When she learned the new words well enough that she recognized them most of the time I would add another new word. This made it fun and she did not get bored. By the time she went back with her mom she had learned to read about 27 new words! I am so proud of her for the progress she made!

Oh, one other thought, I noticed my foster daughter still had trouble recognizing her 'star words' in books. To help with this, whenever I read a book to her, if I saw one of her 'star words' on the page, I would point to it and ask her figure out what it was. This way she did not just learn to read words in just my handwriting but also on the typewritten page.

Do you have any learning games that your kids really enjoy? What are they? Thanks for leaving your thoughts!

Updated 1/29/08

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  1. That is a wonderful game :)

    I might just have to use it here at my home.

    Thanks for the great tip.


  2. what a great idea! my 3rd child is in kindergarten and not having the easiest time staying motivated. this may just be the thing! thanks for the idea!

  3. great idea! i love this. I will definitely tuck this idea away to be used in the near future. My preschooler is biting at the bit to read, so this would definitely help to teach/reinforce sight words.

  4. That does sound really fun!


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