In the early grades we strive to make learning as fun and entertaining as possible. Catch the interest, make it a game and children learn without even knowing it. No struggles, no fuss, just good times.
To that end young childhood educators are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to make this happen. I have picked up some ideas along the way from other teachers, friends, The Mailbox and through my own inventiveness. I would like to share some of these games once in a while to perhaps assist other teachers or even parents to motivate children to focus their considerable energies towards learning.
One game we play at school is something I call "Fishing for Sight Words". Sight words are common words that children encounter everyday in their reading. These words generally can not be figured out by decoding because the rules of English are not always consistent. You may be able to figure out a word like 'cat' by sounding it out (segmenting) /c/ /a/ /t/ and then blending it all together but this does not work with a word like 'what' or 'said'. Try to do it now and you'll see what I mean.
Sight words are words that children need to look at and automatically recognize. Without the ability to do this their reading will lack fluency and reading comprehension suffers.
This game gives students practice reading these words. On each colored fish is a different sight word. Near the mouth of the fish I place a colored paper clip (to match the color of the fish, natch). The fish are spread out on our lake rug and each student takes turns fishing with a plastic fishing rod equipped with a magnet at the end of the line instead of the usual hook. When a fish is caught the child reads the word and places it in a fish bowl.
They really enjoy this activity and as the year progresses new words are added to the mix. It does take some preparation on the teacher's part but once this is set up it can become a nifty item in your bag of tricks.
And just because I can't resist here are some great children's books featuring fish.
Big Al by Andrew Clements Yoshi
All of the cute little fish are afraid of Big Al because he is so ugly and scary looking. But Big Al just wants some friends, not a snack. When the fish get caught in a fisherman's net Big Al saves the day and everyone learns to appreciate him.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
A fish story about working together to beat the big guys and the power in being different.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Sure, Rainbow Fish is beautiful but what good is being beautiful if there is no one around to admire you. His pride ensures that he has no friends but when he decides to share the wealth in the form of his lovely, shiny scales, he is the hit of the ocean. A lesson to be learned for sure.