• Tearri Rivers

Hands On Literacy Activities for the Beginning/Struggling Reader

In August of 2018 Michigan passed a law that third graders who score below a second grade reading level will have to repeat third grade again. During mid Fall, which is when parent conferences are held in our neck of the woods we were asked by a couple of parents whose children attend Studio One, if we could do one-on-one tutoring to help improve their child's reading level, as their children were already being identified as not reading on level.

We also have preschoolers who are in their sensitive period of language. Their vocabulary is expanding on a daily basis. They are really interested in writing, I mean a lot! They also are grasping letter/sound recognition effortlessly.


Phonological Awareness is an important skill in the road to becoming a reader. Phonological awareness is a skill that allows kids to recognize and work with the sounds of spoken language. In preschool, it means being able to pick out rhyming words and count the number of syllables in a name.


The literacy activities that we put together for our afterschoolers, and preschoolers helps them to understand phonological concepts hands on.


1. I Spy Tray



This game can be played with another classmate, or with one a parent/teacher. The parent or child places all of the objects on a placemat. One child chooses a random letter card, and the other child then tries to find an object that begins with the sound of the letter, this child says "I spy with my little eye something that starts with the sound ______. You can also play the I Spy Game to reinforce what letter name the objects begins with too.



We are also using self correcting cards with this activity, so that the first child can offer assistance if need be and also if one child wanted to play this game independently. The letters/sounds is on the front of the card, on the back of the card is a picture of the object that the second child can match the object to that picture.



2. Rhyming Basket


The Rhyming Basket holds objects of rhyming pairs. First name all of the objects in the basket with the child. Then lay out a row of objects of one side of a placemat. Have the child lay the matching object next to the one that it rhymes with. We started this basket with only three matching pairs so that I would not overwhelm them. The Rhyming Basket is requested a lot. We have had a ball coming up with rhyming words on our own.


3. Chalkboard Blocks


The chalkboard blocks were found at the Target Spot and we have used these blocks for many things. Writing the sound as you hear it helps with phonemic segmentation (listening to each sound in the words by stretching the word out). The afterschoolers dig this activity, as it is not often that they are able to practice their reading with chalk and blocks.

4. Spinny Blocks


Spinny Blocks is an activity that the child can also practice phonemic segmentation, it is important to have more than one way to practice a skill. I saw great improvements in the ability to blend the words after a first grader used the Spinny Blocks routinely. You can make up to 16 words per vowel by spinning the blocks.

5. Words to Objects

We have some letters in a basket and objects in another basket together on a small tray. The children decide on which object they want to spell to practice their CVC words. This activity is great for the child who doesn't like to write.


We also have appropriate reading level books for the children to practice the skills and sounds that were introduced to them during our one-on-one sessions.


No doubt that phonological awareness is the first step to learning how to read, and if you miss these steps chances are the child may struggle to read. No worries though, just incorporate these activities 20 minutes a day. You can play these as a game and see improvements in your child's reading daily. Our budding readers and afterschoolers have grown so much in their reading over the past few months and I think it has a lot to do with having a hands on approach to learning the important skills to become an independent reader. When the afterschoolers arrive they are asking "What time do we tutor today!" And this makes our hearts smile.


We hope that more children are able to have the opportunity of learning to read in a hands on way. We are grateful that we have the chance to see how learning to read improves self esteem and builds confidence. Even though parent/teacher conferences prompted the tutoring sessions we love to be able to be a part of a child's reading journey, and wouldn't of had it any other way.




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