Archive for the ‘literacy games’ Category

Clueing In to Easter Egg Fun!

April 6, 2010

Easter is over, but don’t put away those plastic eggs just yet.  In the last couple of days leading up to Easter, my kids had a ball hiding and finding eggs around the house.  But they weren’t just hiding and finding eggs, they were reading, too!

Several years ago, I found a set of eggs that came with clues (and for the life of me, I cannot remember where I bought them!).  When we first used them, my husband and I would hide them and then read the clues when the kids found them.  Last year, we lost a few eggs, so we had fun making up our own clues.  This year, my son, a fluent reader now, had a great time reading the clues to his sister so they could work together to find the next egg.  Each clue leads to the hiding spot of the next egg, until they reach the final egg which has a “Happy Easter” message in it.

As they had fun entertaining themselves hiding and finding eggs, my wheels began turning.  How else could we use these eggs throughout the year to encourage reading?  Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  • Create clues related to your child for his/her birthday.  Have the birthday child find the eggs.  The clues/eggs could be hidden in spots specifically related to the birthday child.  Make it a special day of birth game.
  • Create clues related to other celebrated holidays throughout the year (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc.)  Each clue/egg could give one line of information about the holiday as well as a clue to the next hiding spot.
  • Create clues related to a family trip to build excitement and background knowledge about your destination.  Each clue/egg could have information about the destination and a clue to the next hiding spot.  This could be particularly fun if the destination is a surprise for the child(ren).
  • Create clues related to the new grade your child will attend in the fall.  Provide information about what your child may expect in his new grade, as well as clues to the next hiding spot.  This could help ease anxiety for children as they begin a new school year.

The set that I bought came with 12 eggs.  I think that you could probably just set aside 6 eggs to use sporadically throughout the year.  If your child is not reading yet, either read the clues to him or her or create picture clues instead.

Just another fun way to sneak in reading through a game and to make the fun of hiding eggs last all year long!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Playing With Stories

January 28, 2010

Stories can be experienced in many ways.  Reading aloud is my favorite way to share a story.  I love to read aloud to my children.  (Subconsciously, I think I use this to feed my picture book addiction!)  But, sometimes we don’t have time to read aloud, or they may not want to hear a story.  So, we turn to other avenues to have fun with storytelling.

My children are six and three.  They are at ages where it is often difficult to find things that will interest and engage both of them.  Here are a few different ways you can share stories with your children, without reading aloud:

Felt Storyboards – You can buy Felt Tales Felt Board or make your own.  The best thing about felt storyboards is that you or your child can create the story based on the characters you have or you make.  You can even use felt storyboards to retell a story.

Tell Me A Story – Fairy Tale Mix-Up – I’ve written about these before (in my Holiday Gift Guide).  I just love these cards because they are so versatile.  You can follow the directions that come with the cards, or make up your own way to play.  We  usually choose two or three cards and go around in a circle and tell a story based on the cards chosen.  It’s interesting to see my son’s use of story elements and my daughter’s ability to create a cohesive story based on the cards.

Make Your Own Picture Story – This is a great storytelling game to play with children of varying ages (like mine!).  This is similar to Tell Me a Story, but you make your own cards.  Find interesting pictures in magazines (I actually use old calendars, as well), glue them to card stock and laminate them if possible.  Have a Family Storytelling Night.  Pass out one card to each member of the family.  Choose the youngest child to begin a story based on their picture.  Go around from youngest to oldest, continuing the story based on the picture each person is holding.

Library of Congress Exquisite Corpse Adventure–  An Exquisite Corpse Adventure is an old game in which someone writes a phrase on a piece of paper, folds it over so part of it remains and passes it on to the next person to continue the story.  When all members have finished, the story is read aloud. (Hey! That sounds similar to my Make Your Own Picture Story!)  Inspired by this, the Library of Congress in cooperation with the First National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jon Scieszka, began the first round of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure in conjunction with the National Book Festival last September.  Every two weeks, a new celebrated author (and illustrator) adds to the story.  The story will conclude in September 2010.  I recommend subscribing to the RSS feed and reading the episodes with your children.  Make predictions about the direction you think the story is going to take.

What kind of storytelling games do you play with your children?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

iGames – Fun for the iPod or iPhone

January 21, 2010

I’ll admit that I was a bit resistant to an iPhone at first.  My husband, who loves all things technology, bought me one when they were first released.  But, I fell in love quickly!  Especially, when I realized the educational opportunities the phone provided for my children.  My phone is always with me, and therefore, I always have something to occupy my children at any given time.  The only problem is when I have both kids with me and only one phone!

My son is older (almost seven), so the types of educational apps I have downloaded for him consist of math facts practice, sight word recognition, and books to read.

My daughter is three and a whiz on the iPhone.  It’s really amazing how quickly small children pick up new technology.  And rather than fight it, I say go with it.  The games I download engage her and educate her.  She practices writing her letters and actually spelling words!

So, here are few apps that my children have played or that I would like them to play:

Letter Tracer

This is one of my daughter’s favorites because it allows her to practice writing her letters.  The game provides kids the opportunity to practice “writing” their letters and numbers on screen.  There is an option for capital and lower case letters.  There are three options for the child: simple recognition of the letter, opportunities to trace the letter, or an option to free write the letter.

Clifford’s Be Big with Words by Scholastic

My daughter LOVES this game!  And I love it, because it teaches her how to spell words.  And she is learning how to spell words. . . at three!  A child chooses a letter, and based on what is chosen the child is then provided with different letters until he/she spells a three letter word.  The sound of each letter is pronounced.  The word is stated out loud.  A picture is then shown and the word is used in a sentence.

Word Magic

In this game, kids are provided with an option to find the missing beginning sound, middle sound, or end sound.  A picture is provided and the word is announced.  Children are then given the option between several letters and must choose the correct letter.  This game provides great phonics practice as it allows children to listen to the sound of the letters and determine their location in a word.

Learn Sight Words

This game is clear and simple and provides 300 sight words for a child to practice and know.  Children can choose to learn 25 words at a time or go through all 300 words.  If a word is unknown or difficult, children can flag the word.  They also have an option to go through the flagged words, which gives them the opportunity to review those words.

Spelling Magic

Children can play 4 different games with provided words or words you submit yourself.  So, in essence, you can record your child’s spelling list each week and your child can study on your iPhone.  I love this aspect of this app because children have focused words to study instead of just any old word to spell.  My only complaint is that it is a bit “girlish” with unicorns, princesses, and castles.  I think it could have been designed a bit more generically.  I’m not sure how quickly my son (or any other 6 or 7 year old boy for that matter) will jump to play because of this.  It’s also a bit difficult to hear the words clearly.   But, it’s a free app, and you can add your own words, so it will do.

**Note: I have not been able to find a great spelling app.  If you are familiar with any, please let me know! **

Children’s Picture Book Apps

There are a lot of options for picture book apps.  Three that I would recommend are:

Pic Pocket Books


Mobistories (Disclosure:  I sit on the Parent Advisory Council for Mobistories)

If you have any recommendations for iPhone/iPod literacy apps, I would love to hear them!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

It’s a Board! It’s a Game! It’s a Literacy Board Game!

January 19, 2010

A recent article in the Washington Post discussed how board games reinforce lessons in the classroom.  Board games require children to think strategically and attach abstract thoughts to concrete objects.  There are plenty of board games that can reinforce skills learned in the classroom:

  • Candyland – provides lessons in color recognition and counting
  • Chutes and Ladders – exposes children to the concept of numbers
  • Uno Card Game – teaches number and color recognition, sorting skills and strategic thinking
  • Memory – Parents and teachers can create custom Memory games that teach recognition of letters and numbers, sight words, and color words
  • Bingo – Parents and teachers can create custom Bingo games that teach letters, shapes, sight words,  and rhyming words

**View my recent post, Sight Word Games for Your Young Child, to see more on Sight Word Memory and Bingo.**

Board games are hands-on and fun, and provide learning opportunities at the same time.  In addition to the board games listed above, there are also several literacy-based board game options.   These games provide children an opportunity to learn literacy skills while having fun!  A few games to consider:

LeapFrog Letter Factory Board Game

This game is a perfect complement to Fridge Phonics and the Letter Factory video, both by Leap Frog as well.  I absolutely love Leap Frog products.  They are educational and fun! Many times kids are learning and don’t know it, because they are having fun.  The Letter Factory Game guides children with actions, music, and more.  Children match colors and letters.  No reading is required.  The game automatically adjusts to individual skill levels, so children can learn at their own pace.  It’s easy enough (and fun enough!) that my six year old will still play it with my three year old – when they are getting along!

University Games Brown Bear-Panda Bear, What Do You See? Game

Based on Eric Carle’s children’s books, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?,” this hybrid game, Brown Bear, Panda Bear What Do You See? introduces children to story creation and aids in memory and sequencing skills.  Children find animal cards in sequence and recite the story they created.  After players find all the animal cards needed for their sequence, they recite the popular Eric Carle stories they created.  No reading necessary!

University Games Super Why ABC Letter Preschool Game

Based on the PBS cartoon, Super Why, children practice key reading skills by taking on the powers of the Super Why team.  Children build reading skills by identifying letters, rhyming, correct silly sentences, and learn how to read basic words.  The game is touted for 3 and up, but I think that it may be too difficult for your average three year old and possibly four year old.  It’s a fantastic game for pre-readers, but your child should be able to read words in order to feel successful at this game.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Fun with File Folder Games

January 14, 2010

When I taught, I created learning centers out of file folders.  You know the ones, manila folders you use in your file cabinet.  Students could practice specific skills independently or with a partner while I taught a small group.

Last year, I was planning my daughter’s annual Book Fair for her preschool.  I always like to make home-school connection activities for the students to complete and get them excited for the upcoming Book Fair.  I decided to create file folder games.  They were easy enough for the teachers to pass out to the students and for the students to complete with their parents.  I received great feedback.

So, here are a few ideas for file folder games you can create for your child. It’s best if you can laminate the folders to survive wear and tear, but also so your child can use dry erase markers on them.  If you can’t laminate them, use a pencil so you can erase later.  Use your creativity and make them as cute or as simple as you would like.  I suggest helping your child at first, but eventually, these are quick games that your child could complete on his/her own.


Manila file folders

Clip art


Pencil/dry erase marker

Letters (Preschool)

  • Place letters on one side of the folder.  Put matching letters on the other.  Have your child draw a line to the matching letter (create several of these, until you have used the alphabet).
  • Place capital letters on one side of the folder and lower case letters on the other.  Have your child draw a line to the matching letter (create several of these, until you have used the alphabet).

Phonics (Preschool/Kindergarten)

  • Place letters on one side.  Place clip art pictures on the other.  Have your child draw lines to match the letter with the beginning sound of the picture.
  • Place blends on one side (sh, fr, tr, etc.).  Place clip art pictures on the other.  Have your child draw lines to match the blend with the beginning sound (or ending sound) of the picture.

Spelling (Kindergarten/1st grade)

  • Create cards with common patterns (oa, ip).  Write words on the file folder that use the patterns, but leave the pattern blank (g__t, b___t, fl__, s__).  Have your child match the card with the correct pattern to the word that uses that spelling.   
  • Create several sets of individual cards with vowels on them.  On the file folder, write several words with the vowels missing (c_t, d_g).  Have your child place the correct vowel in place of the missing letter (depending on where your child is developmentally, you could make the words more difficult).

Most of these should only take a few minutes to make and create a few minutes of learning fun for your child.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Games for Fun!

January 12, 2010

Is your child expected to learn spelling words each week?  My son is in first grade and already (!) has a list of ten words to study every week.  Attempting to get him to sit down and learn how to spell his words can be a daunting task sometimes. . . and not just for him!  So, we have come up with a few ways to practice spelling words weekly that are enjoyable and not your same old drill and practice.

Cookie Spelling (K, 1st, 2nd) – Provide a cookie sheet for your child and a container of magnetic letters (it’s best if you have multiple copies of each letter).  Have your child spell his/her words on the cookie sheet.  This is a great way to quickly assess your child’s spelling.

Alternative Activities:

  1. Have your child practice spelling known sight words as well.
  2. Teachers – create  a Cookie Spelling literacy center for your K-2 students

Back Spelling (K, 1st, 2nd) – Great for tactile learners!  Have your child simply spell his/her spelling words on your back.  You guess what the word is.  Then switch and you spell the words on your child’s back and have him/her guess what the words are.  If the back proves to be difficult, then close eyes and spell in each other’s hand.

Spelling Mix-Up (K-5th) – Write words on individual index cards.  Cut each letter out and spread out on a table, mixed up.  Put the letters together to spell the individual words.

Spelling City (K-5th) Spelling City is a website that offers parents the ability to insert their child’s spelling words (or sight words if you want!) into a family profile page.  You can create multiple lists on this page.  For example, I made individual lists of my son’s words for each month and I made a list of the sight words he is expected to know.  Children can then play games that use their own spelling words.  Teachers can incorporate this into their classrooms as well.  Additionally, you can choose to use other lists that have been created by families/classrooms around the country.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Sight Word Games for Your Young Child

January 7, 2010

In order for children to become fluent readers, they must be able to read sight words.  Sight words are the mostcommonly used words in the English language.  These words are known on sight and recognized instantly.   If children know these words by “sight,” reading becomes more fluent and your child can than work to comprehend what he/she has read.

Around 18 months to 3 years, your child is developing environmental print knowledge from the world around him.  Think McDonalds, Target, Starbucks, Stop (sign), gas station names, etc.  This is a precursor to learning sight words.  Encourage your child to notice these words around him/her.

When you read to your pre-school age child, point out common sight words, such as “I, a, an, can, say, and, the.”  After your child has become familiar with some of the common sight words, ask him or her to start pointing them out to you as you read.

Here is a list of the 100 most common sight words. I suggest noting them to yourself and pointing them out as you read aloud to your child.

When your pre-school or kindergarten age child has knowledge of five to ten sight words, begin to play sight word games with him or her.  **It is important to note that the child should be familiar with the sight words prior to incorporating them in a game.**

Sight Word Games:

Sight Word-O – Played just like Bingo, use sight words as the words on the card.  Call out the words one at a time, and ask your child to mark them as he hears them.

Sight Word Memory – Write sight words that your child knows on index cards.  Make two sets.  Mix them up and place them face down.  Ask your child to find the matching sight words. When he doesn’t make a match, he must flip the cards back over again.

Sight Word Go Fish – Use the index cards that you created for Sight Word Memory.  Mix them up and deal out three to five cards to your child and the same amount to yourself.  Put additional cards face down in a pile between you.  Play Sight Word Go Fish as you would traditional Go Fish (it may help to wait to play this game until your child is familiar with ten to fifteen sight words).

Matchbox Match-Up – Using a small car, have your child drive through the parking lot to park in the spot for the sight word you call out.

This month, at Literacy Toolbox, I’m going to focus on literacy games you can play with your children.  Do you have a unique or interesting literacy game you play with your child?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Online Literacy Games for Pre-Readers

January 5, 2010

In this technological age, there are so many games available online that it is hard to determine what is developmentally appropriate for our children or educationally sound for that matter.  I have researched (and had my daughter play) several online games/activities that are appropriate for your preschool or your pre-reading child.  Most, if not all, of these games are phonics based.  This is not to say that I recommend a phonics only reading program.  I just found these games to be educationally sound and developmentally appropriate for preschool age/pre-reading children.

I recommend playing these games in a scaffolded fashion.  In other words, the first time sit down with your child to play the game, even playing it yourself first to demonstrate how it is to be completed.  During the next couple of times, sit with your child and guide him/her through the game, playing with him/her, maybe taking turns.  Finally, have your child play the games by him/herself.

ABC Match

This game combines the classic game of Memory with learning letters and their sounds.  Children are asked to match the letter with the picture that begins with that sound.  Children can play the game in two modes, with a timer and without.   This game is through the Read, Write, Think website.

Picture Match

Another game through the Read, Write, Think website, this one asks children to match pictures to their beginning sounds.  For older children (kindergarten/first grade) or children who are ready, there is an opportunity to match pictures to their short vowel sounds or long vowel sounds.

A Phonics Game

This is a game that allows children to match pictures that begin with the letter chosen.  This is a great page for children who are just learning that letters make sounds and what sound each letter makes.  Or it’s a great page for children who need additional practice with letters and their sounds.  I also like that is has a child’s voice to guide child as they play.


Starfall is quickly becoming a well known website to parents and teachers of pre-readers.  I first learned about Starfall when my son was in kindergarten last year.  I wish I had known about it before then.  Now, I have my daughter play on the site every once in a while to help build her phonics background.  Starfall offers four sections: 1. ABC’s (recognizing the letters and their individual sounds) 2. Learn to Read (using pictures and blending sounds together to make words with common chunks) 3. It’s Fun to Read (using common sight words to make up stories) 4. I’m Reading (choose fiction or nonfiction books to read independently or to have the computer read aloud).  I like how the website allows a child to build on his or her previously acquired skills.

Do you recommend any other online literacy games?  I believe quality online games are few and far between.  If you happen to know of one that you love, please let me know!

This month, at Literacy Toolbox, I’m going to focus on literacy games you can play with your children.  Sight word games, spelling games, storytelling games, etc.  Do you have a unique or interesting literacy game you play with your child?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

National Family Literacy Month

November 6, 2009
November is National Family Literacy Month.  So, this month, I’m going to take some time to post about ways that families can incorporate literacy into their everyday lives.
What Can Families Do Together To Promote Literacy?
1. The number one thing, in my opinion, that families can do together to promote literacy is to read aloud.  Consider hosting a family reading night once a week.  Each week rotate family members to choose a book to read aloud.  If you have children who aren’t of reading age, allow them to pick out the book and have a reading family member read it aloud.  Make it an event! Make snacks, create crafts, or make a game up related to the book.  Need some inspiration?  Check out: Fairy Tale Feasts:  A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters by Jane Yolen  

Susan at The Book Chook recently posted Ten Ways to Involve the Whole Family in Reading Aloud.  Check it out for additional ways to incorporate reading aloud into the fabric of your family.   

Jen, from Jen Robinson’s Book Page, posted Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud this week at PBS Booklights.  She discusses the importance of reading aloud to our kids from birth or even before!

2. Have older siblings read to younger siblings.  I love hearing my son read to my daughter.  And she loves it, too!  I’ve also had my older child record himself reading two or three favorite books.  This helps him practice fluency and my daughter can listen to the recordings when he’s not around.    

Along the same lines, Terry from The Reading Tub wrote Bedtime from Afar: Sharing Books When You Can’t Cuddle Up Close at PBS Booklights last month.   In her post she talks about ways to continue a bedtime read aloud tradition, even if you can’t be there in person, by recording yourself reading aloud. 

Which made me think about this:  when I was a child, my father was in the military and often spent six months or more out to sea.  One of my fondest memories was my mom, brother, and I sitting around the kitchen table recounting our day into a cassette tape for Dad.  Mom would mail the tapes off and in a month or so we received several cassette tapes from my dad telling us about his travels.  Taking this idea a step further, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the children of deployed military men and women recorded themselves reading aloud books to send to their moms and dads overseas?  United Through Reading provides books and recording equipment for deployed parents to read aloud to their kids on DVD, but I’m sure parents would be delighted to hear (and even better, SEE) their children read books to them as well! 

3. Play literacy games, such as Boggle or Scrabble.  Boggle, Jr. is perfect for kids 3-6.  Break your family into teams and make it a game night!  Or make up your own literacy games.  My children enjoy playing Go Fish with a twist.  My three year old goes fishing for letters and my six year old goes fishing for sight words.  Simply create pairs of letters or pairs of sight words on index cards.  If your child already recognizes capital letters, make lower case letters or create a mixture of both and have your child match the capital letter to the lowercase letter.      

4. Make regular family outings to the library, book store, or yard/garage sales to find new books.  Libraries and book stores often showcase new books each month based on seasons, holidays, special events, etc.  Both also often provide story times for young children and special events.  Often you can find special treasures at sales. . . if you really look. 
5. Pay it forward!   As a family, donate books you don’t read anymore to local hospitals, homeless shelters, etc.  Volunteer your time to read to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, etc.  Nothing beats sharing a love of literacy as a family than sharing it with those who can use a little extra attention.  So as the holiday season approaches, consider reading aloud holiday books at your local children’s hospital or nursing home.       

Additional Resources
Since it’s National Family Literacy Month, several organizations are posting ways to incorporate literacy into family life.  Here are a few I found this week: 
The National Center for Family Literacy has free, interactive activities for families to complete together.  These activities are based on events that instill pride in our nation’s history.

At First Book, guest blogger, Tina Chovanec, wrote Adventures in Family Learning, a post about ways “parents can jumpstart reading and learning together.” 

What ways do you promote literacy as a family? I’d love to hear how other families incorporate literacy into their lives.