Thursday, October 31, 2013

Learning to write, learning to read with block play

We inherited these lovely little blocks from a cool mom who picked them up at a yard sale for us. I LOVE it when parents bring us in cool new toys because I never know what we will end up with! We usually spend some time exploring new open ended items to figure out how they work and what we can do with them.

Here we were building stairs by lining the blocks up so that they are in order from tallest to smallest. This is tricky because there are many varying sizes so she has to try many blocks before she finds the ones that fit into her plan. She also refines her fine motor skills as she carefully concentrates on lining the blocks up along the long flat block, then balances the tiny cubes on top of her rods without tipping them. The project requires a lot of precision and patience! 

 So far we’ve used the blocks for a bunch of sorting / counting / building projects such as the one above but my latest idea has been to use them to construct letters.

While demonstrating how to make letters for the kids, it occurred to me that I have sharpies in colors that correspond with the blocks. I decided to use the sharpies and the blocks to make templates for the kids so they replicate the letters correctly. 

To make the templates I built the letters then I carefully moved each block then traced it with the same color sharpie. As I worked I made sure the template showed the accurate color and size block so it could be a sorting / matching activity too. 

As I worked the kids watched and made some letters of their own on the table. They counted the number of blocks they would need to construct each letter then compared sizes of the blocks to get the correct size lines to complete the letters. Some of their letters were oddly shaped or comprised of too many lines to accurately portray the letter they were attempting to build but they had fun experimenting with their own approximations of the letters. 

Working with the tiny blocks requires a lot of attention to detail and patience. One false move could cause the entire letter to go off course. Some of the children worked intently on creating one letter for over 15 minutes before moving on to something else. 
Once we had enough templates for the kids to work, they got busy building. As they worked they practiced identifying letters, talking about the sounds of the letters and requesting new letters to build based on words they were thinking about.

One of my little ones stumbled across the letter L then he decided he wanted to build all the letters of his name. This is the process he used.

Upon building the letter L, Will asked me to make a second L because he has two L’s in his name. When he was finished constructing the letters L - L - he requested a letter W to complete his name. When he was finished making the letter W he proudly pronounced that he had spelled his name. 

I took a look at it and said, “You did a lot of great work here but I think you are missing a letter, What are the letters in your name?” He responded with “W - I - L - L”. I said “Most of the letters are here but one is missing, Which one is it?” He looked closely at the letters pointing to each one and naming it - finally he said, “I need a letter I!” So I made him a template to the letter I. When he was finished he said “There, now I spelled my name.” I came over to take a look and said “Great! Let’s sound out the letters so we can see what you spelled.” I sounded out the letters in the order he had constructed them. Pointing to each letter I made the sounds for the “word” he spelled “L- L - I - W”. 

He looked at me and giggled then he pointed to the letters (in the correct sequence but placed out of order) and said, “No! W - I - L - L spells Will”. 

I said “That is how you spell “Will” but if you want everyone else to know you are writing the word “Will” you have to make sure the letters are in the right order so that the letter sounds tell everyone the word is “Will”. “I can write the word Will on a piece of paper so you can check your letters and know if they are in the right order to spell the word Will.”

Then I asked Will “Which letter to I need to write first to spell the word Will?” Will proceeded to tell me each letter in correct sequence and he watched as I drew them slowly for him. We sounded out the word together to make sure it was right. When I was finished I placed the paper with his name above the letters he had constructed.

Will took a minute to study both the letters I had written and the letters he had constructed. Then he got to work rearranging the letters in the correct sequence so that they spelled the word Will.

When he was finished and we double checked his spelling, Will proudly called all his friends over and explained how he constructed his name.

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