Exciting lesson ideas, classroom strategies, book lists, videos, and reproducibles in a daily blog by teachers
























The Power of Playing with Words

By Andrea J. Spillett on September 7, 2011

Welcome to my blog! I am so glad you stopped by! I am privileged to share with you some ideas and strategies about literacy which I have used in my own class, focusing on those that are easy to prep, readily available, and customizable. The topics come directly from the 1st and 2nd grade language arts standards and include Fluency & Word Recognition, Vocabulary/Concept Development, and Reading Comprehension. In addition, I also want to know what your needs are. Please post your comments and questions - if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does and blog about it.


Today's topics are phonemic awareness and word decoding. Thematic focus: It’s All About Me! Engaging and exposing students to phonemic awareness activities early and often is crucial to a student’s ability to read. Here are some ideas to develop phonemic awareness and word reading through oral language.

Standard: Distinguish initial, medial, and final sounds in one-syllable words

Sharing Words (groups of three):

Students work in cooperative groups, with each individual assigned as The Beginning Sound, The Middle Sound or The Ending Sound representative for the group. Groups work collectively to think of three words with the same beginning sound, three words with the same middle sound, and three words with the same ending sound. For example, the students may come up with words such as "bed," "bat," and "bug," which all begin with the "B" sound. For the middle sounds, the students may come up with words such as "snail," "train," and "face," which all have a long "A" sound in the middle. For the ending sounds, words such as "pet," "jet," or "rat," may emerge to represent the “T” sound. One student is assigned to each category illustrates it. Then, groups share their words and drawings when finished. 

Materials needed: three pieces of white letter or construction paper per group, pencils, and crayons

Object Search (whole group):

Find objects in the room that have the same beginning, middle, and ending sounds.

Materials needed: none

* For students needing extra help with beginning sounds, visit Clifford’s Play Sound Match found at Scholastic’s student activities in the Computer Lab Favorites section. For students needing extra help with medial sounds, click on Play Concentration with Clifford

Standard: Distinguish long and short vowel sounds in single- to multi-syllable words

The Long and Short of It! (whole group, then finish the activity individually)



One at a time, have each student stand up and say his or her first and last name. The group decides which students have long vowels and short vowels or both in each name. Not only is this a terrific chance to get to know your students’ names, but it also gives your students an opportunity to work on isolating sounds. For example, the name "Anthony" includes a short “A" and our tricky "sometimes a consonant, sometimes a vowel" friend: “Y.” (Oh and look at that opportunity to review the "TH" digraph.)



Continuing the activity, have the students make a mosaic out of their first names. First have the students write their names in large letters on white paper. The students can choose three colors of construction paper, ripping them into tiny pieces. The students then glue the ripped paper into the outlines of their names, creating a mosaic pattern.

 Materials needed: one piece of 12” x 9” white construction paper per student, different colors of construction paper, glue, pencil

Lyrics: The Long and Short of It! (whole group)

Give each student a copy of the lyrics to a song. Read them or, better yet, have the song available for listening. Have the students circle all the words with a short vowel, box the words that have a long vowel and cross out the words that have both. The song "Consider Yourself," from the musical Oliver is a good choice because it contains words with both long and short vowels (as well as having a great welcoming message).

Materials needed: copies of the lyrics to the song for each student, pencils, a playable version of the song if possible

More ideas

Didn't see an idea that fits your class, or would you just like to see more? Choose from the following tried-and-true exercises and see which of them your students best respond to.

Download Five Ideas Using Rhymes
Download Word Bucket
Download Segmenting Blending Arm
Download What's In a Bag
Download Flashlight Word
Download Five Word Decoding Ideas


Scholastic’s Phonemic Awareness & Word Decoding resources at The Teacher Store:

Differentiated Literacy Centers K-2 

Literacy Centers in Photographs K-2 

Easy Word Building Activities K-2


Thumbnail.aspxI’d like to end each blog with sharing an idea from one of my favorite picture books. In keeping with the "It’s All About Me" theme, I’d like to give you an idea to use when reading the story Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox, to your students. The story is about a little boy who befriends the residents of a retirement home next to his house. He overhears his parents talking about how one of the residents has lost her memory. He doesn't understand what that means, but after spending a day asking the residents of the home what a memory is, he decides to collect items and bring them to his friend in hopes of bringing back some of her most cherished memories.

After reading the story, ask the students how it made them feel and list their responses. Ask them to take a moment to think about one of their favorite memories. I begin by showing the students a picture of a bed. I share a childhood memory of sitting on the edge of my parents’ bed watching the musical South Pacific with my father. Him singing the part of Emile de Becque and me playing Nellie Forbush. Ask the students to draw a picture of something that represents their favorite memory, and then share with the class.

Please share your own ideas for word decoding, sharing memories, and your first days of getting to know your students.


Comments (6)

I love Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. When I taught 2nd grade we read it at the end of the year. The kids then made their own "memory baskets" includuding things that went with each theme something that made them laugh, cry, etc. I would take their picture with each item and put it in PowerPoint and have them write a sentence or two to go with it. Then I'd print them out and make it into a 2nd grade memory book and add a page at the end of something I would remember about them from that year.

Also Josh great website/blog! I was sent there when I clicked on your name! Next week's topic is on systematic vocabulary and found the links you have on your website to be fantastic!

Hi Amanda! Thanks for the nice comment! You caught me on my birthday so I'm sorry that I haven't responded yet! I clicked on your name and was sent to your website. I love the name teachaholic! So cute and so true of many of us!!!!

Thank you so much Josh! I hope your year is going great! One way to help your students with spelling patterns is together with your students pinpoint the specific error. When writing have your students circle the words that they are not sure about. I know this is the primary teacher in me but then have them create their own walking word wall based on those errors. Give the students a file folder and a word list of the words that they are struggling with to alphabetize and keep handy when writing. Also I have found ideas to use in my own class to boost word use and spelling patterns from this website: http://teachers.net/gazette/DEC02/spelling.html The website has some valuable ideas. I know you teach 4th grade and many of the ideas are for younger children but take a look at Scrabble Spelling, Typewriter Fun and Pyramid Power. Also phonemic processing problems can be quite prevalent in upper grades. I say take some time to go over the basics of phonemic and phonological awareness such as clapping syllables, blending and segmenting words. Make the phonemic review more interesting to the students by letting them create 50% of word list from some of their favorite books, movies, sports, etc..... Let me know what you think!

I love this post, and I'm looking forward to reading your literacy posts throughout the year! :)

Hey, Andrea!

I love your teaching ideas! I am using Daily 5/CAFE with my 4th graders this year, and was looking for ideas to incorporate into our Word Work component of D5. If you have any suggestions on how to boost word use, spelling patterns, and phonics for upper elementary, that would be great to hear!

Thanks and I look forward to your blogging!


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