Thursday, April 9, 2015

Big Words for an Early Childhood Classroom

            When I taught kindergarten, I made a print-rich environment by making these enormous sight words.

             Below, see "she" on the wall. These two girls were really the sweetest, by the way.

            They are about the size of a poster board.

Here's how:

            Get a lot of very large construction paper, the size of a poster board. I ordered this through the school district.

           Write the words you want, two to a page, and draw bubble letters around them. Then, cut out. Be sure to cut neatly, shown above, to get to the word, and to save the middles of the o's, a's, b's, etc

For words like this you have to leave little strips of paper to hold the letters together.

              You have to make sure the letters touch each other. Make them touch enough to keep the word together in the laminator, but not too much to be unreadable. It's an art.

         Then laminate! Very important step. Be careful that the word doesn't go awry as you feed it into the machine.

         I went a little overboard and used the paper I had cut it out from as well. This is why I said to save the insides of the e's, etc. Back it with another sheet of large paper. Paste those inner circles on and run it through the laminator.

  I probably didn't need to have two of every word, but it didn't hurt! I offered these to the other kindergarten teacher, because she said she could not draw bubble letters but really liked my big words. She said she felt bad taking them, though, since they were so much work for me. Maybe you could give yours away, but I had such a large room that they really didn't make the room look crowded in any way. I just put them way up high, near the ceiling.

              This is "Martin," and behind him you can see the words "white" and "we" by the door - reversals of words up top. I let the kids decorate the room with the words as I finished them each day, so they put them in all sorts of places.
            Look on the wall in the photo above to see where words are in my classroom - everywhere!    These are really useful, too, because when I would describe locations in my classroom it helped them learn words.

Teacher: "Karri, get me the dry erase marker."
Child: "Where is it?"
Teacher: "Under 'do'."         

            And if they didn't know how to read "do," I'd say, "Under 'do' by the door" - and every time I did this it was one more exposure to that word.

            It's really helpful to teach young kids color words by doing them in the correct color. My students would ask me, how do you write "green"? And I would say, look for the green word!

                I put these up all over my classroom. The kids loved them. When I was reviewing a particular word, I would take it off of the wall and show it to them, ask them to trace it with their fingers. You do have to be careful, because unless you laminate them twice (and I didn't) they can tear easily.

            When teachers were out at my school and no sub would come (which was frequent), three or four kids from the upper grades were sent to my class, and the other teachers' classes. So once when I had a third grader in my room, I asked her what some of the words were. She was delighted to tell me what they were, and she loved the way my room looked. This girl didn't usually like reading or practicing sight words, so I think coming in my room was a positive experience for her. She didn't know all of the words, I'm afraid, so I think having words up even in a higher grade classroom would be helpful for students like her. It's really important to meet kids where they are, and not frighten them by making them feel like they are failing at reading - because that's usually a self-fulfilling prophecy.

           At the end of the school year, at kindergarten graduation, I sat in the midst of my students trying to keep them still while the others' names were called. Martin kept reading the words I had put up on the windows of the cafeteria to decorate, and I said, "Shhh, your mom's right there." So, while he wasn't being quiet, this did show that he loved to practice reading the big words. His desire to impress me by how many he knew was greater than his desire to impress his mom by being quiet. It was a really nice way to end the year. Teaching can be so much fun.

Kindergarten Graduation decorations - check out the windows!

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