Monday, January 14, 2008

Learning Centers: Fishing for Sight Words

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.


Anonymous said...

I'll have to show you the new game I learned that involves shot glasses and clothing removal
Rainbow Fish :)

lettuce said...

that sounds like good fun

(as does anon's version...)

the Rainbow fish book is great, but i don't know the other two. The art work on the 2nd looks interesting.

hope you are still managing not to gain too much speed - i'm fighting the overload at the moment

Salty Miss Jill said...

Very cute. :)
Awwww...I love 'Swimmy'!

la bellina mammina said...

great idea Gary! In the world of world wide web, ipods, Sony WII etc, it really is refreshing when teachers go about it the old school way.

Squirrel said...

what bellina said--it is refreshing for you and the kids-- fun learning even makes regular learning seem more fun, because of the progress.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a blast. Everyone says this all the time, but I have to say it again - I wish I could have had even one teacher in grade school as inspired as you are. those kids are SO LUCKY!!

Gary said...

Rainbow Fish - There is always some game that involves shot glasses and clothing removal isn't there?

Lettuce - Keep fighting the overload dear one. Well, actually a little overload is fine as long as it is balanced with a bit of down time. From what I have read on your blog you seem to have found some balance. And Rainbow Fish is great, Swimmy has tons of fans but I am really partial to Big Al at the moment.

Salty - Yes, Swimmy rocks the ocean!

Bella - I didn't realize until I read your comment that this was old school but you have a good point. I can see them playing this kind of game on Walton's Mountain. :) I must admit that we also use the computer for reading and phonics(my favorite is still I do prefer these hands on activities.

Squirrel - Exactly! My hope is that at the very least these children will grow up with a good feeling about school and that will sustain them when they get knocked around a bit by the system. School can be very difficult for some of them.

Reya - Say it again and again it is good for my sensitive soul. A big hug and smile to you. Wouldn't it be amazing to have a young Reya in my class? I'd love that. I can picture you walking around school with your camera ready and chatting everyone up with deep thoughts and ponderings. Hey wait, I think I have had a few like that before. :) All delightful!

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

That looks like something I could use to improve my French and Euskera vocabularies.

Steve said...

OMG -- I just wrote about "Swimmy" today! Reya pointed out this parallel in our blogs -- cool! :)

kimy said...

excellent activity - think I'll make some wordfish so ms t and I can play! never to early!!

WAT said...

Do they know of FINDING NEMO yet? It's great little cartoon.

Cinn said...

Those sound like great books.

Mikey T said...

Just wanted to stop in and say hi from London!! You'll have to do a geography lesson with your kids and let them know where your friend is (and teall them how fricking cool it is here - wish you were vacationing with me!!)

Gary said...

Mikey - Better yet, why don't you come in and teach that lesson yourself? I'd love to see London with you but alas here I sit. Send pics!

Cinn - They are good books. I am in love with children's books because no matter the topic there is an excellent book about it.

Wat - I actually don't know if they know Finding Nemo but I can't imagine that it would be unknown to them. I love that movie. MINE! MINE!

Kimy - I have a few other ideas as well and I'll post about them at some point. You are right, never too have fun. ;)

Steve - I know, I love that. After I comment here I am going in to link with you on this post. Hope you don't mind.

Gregg - Perhaps you might prefer the game anonymous suggested instead?

d. chedwick bryant said...


I was always upset as a teenager, when I ended up in a class where the teacher (so obviously) did not care.
Our Spanish teacher often complained that she'd wanted to teach gym, not Spanish, but was waiting for an opening so was "forced" to teach us Spanish.

she was not engaged at all, and was immature enough to complain to us 15 year olds! Then there were the teachers who read the newspaper or wandered the halls while we read a chapter of history or Lit. and tried to teach ourselves.

Thank you for being a REAL teacher! Bravo!

Gary said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I appreciate the kindness. I think we have all had teachers who should not have been teching. It happens all the time. I know that there are great teachers out there who simply get worn out by all of the BS that goes along with the position. Administrators and others in power blaming teachers when things go wrong and taking credit when things go right. There are so many issues surrounding education. Issues that happen outside of the classroom that affect the mood inside the classroom. For my part I try to keep one from influencing the other. I am at my best when I am focused on the children.


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