Spelling with LEGO Letters

MBug (11 months) gets up many mornings around 4 or 5am to eat, but then goes right back to sleep.  During such a feeding one morning last week, I was contemplating how I could combine ALuv’s obsession with Legos and my love for teaching reading.  As I mulled over how this could be done, an idea popped into my head.

Learning Objective: Child will manipulate Lego pieces to spell words and identify their “shapes”.

Since ALuv has a HUGE bucket of Legos (we easily have over 3,000), I knew he wouldn’t miss a handful of them!

Material Preparation:

1.  I collected the Legos.  My two “helpers” assisted me in pulling out the needed Legos.  Okay, so they really built cars while I did all the work, but good help can be hard to come by these days! 🙂  (If I’d only been as organized as Carisa, this would not have taken so long.)

2.  I sorted the Legos.  The Legos on the left side of this picture are for the short consonants, such as c, m, n, v, etc.  The red Legos in the middle are for vowels, and the Legos on the right side are for tall consonants (b, d, t, l, etc.) or consonants with a “tail” (p, q, j, etc.).

3. I wrote the letters on the Legos.  I placed all the Legos with the bumps facing to the right and wrote with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie (permanent); which I found at Target.  So far, only the q has smudged; the rest have held up very well.

Here’s a picture of my finished blocks in ABC order.  If you’ll notice, I also included a red w and a red y for when they act as vowels.

One awesome thing about this is that the b, d, q, and g will not fit together if they are turned the wrong way, so it helps to limit their confusion.  I did, however, write all the b‘s on yellow blocks, the d‘s on light green, and the p‘s on white; just to solidify their differences.

Lesson Plan:

1.  We sorted the Lego letters by “shape” (short letters, tall letters, letters with “tails”).

2. I modeled how to click them together correctly so that the letters retained their “shape”.

3. I called out Word Wall words (sight words) and he built them.  These are the words he made: and, can, go, look, like, off, is, stop, the & you.

Once we got into the lesson, this reminded me of the Reading Rods I used in the classroom with my Kinders and 1st graders (only cheaper!).

Variation & Extension Ideas:

I knew NJoy would want to be right in there with us, so I made some letter blocks for him out of the Duplo blocks–upper case on one side and lower case on the other.  This way MBug could safely play, too, while ALuv’s smaller Lego pieces stayed on the table.

naming his letters

Worksheets are not my thing, but ALuv enjoyed spelling the words so much that I created a couple of worksheets for him on A to Z Teacher Stuff.  He did this one as independent work the next day.  He totally LOVED doing this!

For the worksheet, he had to: 1) Look at the words at the top, 2) Build the words with Legos & 3) Write the correct word in each word shape puzzle.

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April Showers

It has rained a tremendous amount over the last 3 weeks where we live!  And then there’s also the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers.”  So we did a few rain activities together.  I meant to post this last week, but forgot…

Day 1:

Read aloud Rain by Robert Kalan (illustrated by Donald Crews).  I would classify this book on a mid-Kindergarten reading level.  ALuv then read it to us (with a little help from me).

Just a note: The book now resides on our white Ikea shelf in the playroom, which helps to remind me to ask him to re-read it a few more times.  Once he has it down independently, I’ll put the book in his ALuv Can Read bin (below).

Read & sang the nursery rhyme Rain on the Green Grass, which I had posted on my kitchen wall.  I picked this rhyme because our sight words for these two weeks are and &  not.  The poem also reviews other Word Wall words (on, the, & me).

We patted our knees to make the rain sound as we sang it in a little song together.

If you’ll notice, I have green grass underlined.  We looked out our windows and took turns changing those lyrics as we sang the song again.  These were some of our other lyrics…Rain on the black road, blue swing, red flowers, green trees, and blue van (NJoy’s favorite…we sang that one each time it was his turn!!).

Writing/Coloring Time: NJoy colored some pictures with the rain theme from DLTK.  His favorite thing about the rain are the “rainbrellas”–why do we call them umbrellas?!?  I like NJoy’s word choice much better! 🙂

While NJoy colored, I started ALuv on writing and illustrating his own Rain book.  I drew some lined paper (see below) for him to use for the book.  On the first 2 pages, I had already written Rain on the and he had to finish the sentence using a color word and an object on which it could rain.  (For example: Rain on the red locomotive).  Once his sentence was complete, he had to draw and color the pictures.  He did these two pages on Day 1 and then we stopped for the day.

For the paper we used on day 1, click here: Rain on the…

Day 2:

Read aloud The Napping House by Audrey WoodWhile reading Rain on Day 1, I was reminded of this book.  It’s one of my mom’s favorite books and has become one of mine, too.  I also have the big book, but couldn’t find it in the attic; which needs a serious organizational overhaul–any volunteers?!? 🙂

Re-read Rain (we shared the reading)

Sang Rain on the Green Grass like Day 1, except we added some spice by singing it fast and slow, while patting our legs fast and slow.

Writing & Coloring: NJoy colored again (the boy loves to color!) while ALuv finished his Rain book.

On the next 3 pages, ALuv had to write the entire sentence and the draw pictures to go with them.  Here’s the paper he used for that: blank writing paper.

On the last page, he spelled the word RAINBOW with rainbow stickers from Target’s $1 bin.

We took 11×14 construction paper and covered & stapled the book together once he was finished.  It now resides in his ALuv Can Read Bin.

Saturday’s Sites

Okay, so I admit it: I’m a little cheesy with my alliteration in the title to this post, but you get the picture.  Each Tuesday I present a teaching tip, so I thought I’d use Saturdays to tell you about sites I think that are very helpful and/or pretty cool to this reading mama.

So, here are this Saturday’s Sites:

Free Printable Writing Paper– For PreK through 2nd grade

You Can Read! is a high frequency word program developed to help your younger reader (below age 5) master basic sight words.  (I think the current cost is $5).

Scholastic is running a deal right now.  If your child completes a MATH and a READING activity sheet, you can earn five FREE books from Scholastic.  I read the fine print, but couldn’t quite determine what kinds of books they are offering for free (I’m pretty sure they are trade books, but wouldn’t be surprised if they might be workbooks), but check it out for yourselves and see what you think.

If you search around on Scholastic’s website, you’ll find it’s loaded with great info and help for parents, like this article called 10 Non-Book Ways to Get Your Child Reading.

So, sit down…and enjoy the sites! 🙂

Saturday's Sites

Okay, so I admit it: I’m a little cheesy with my alliteration in the title to this post, but you get the picture.  Each Tuesday I present a teaching tip, so I thought I’d use Saturdays to tell you about sites I think that are very helpful and/or pretty cool to this reading mama.

So, here are this Saturday’s Sites:

Free Printable Writing Paper– For PreK through 2nd grade

You Can Read! is a high frequency word program developed to help your younger reader (below age 5) master basic sight words.  (I think the current cost is $5).

Scholastic is running a deal right now.  If your child completes a MATH and a READING activity sheet, you can earn five FREE books from Scholastic.  I read the fine print, but couldn’t quite determine what kinds of books they are offering for free (I’m pretty sure they are trade books, but wouldn’t be surprised if they might be workbooks), but check it out for yourselves and see what you think.

If you search around on Scholastic’s website, you’ll find it’s loaded with great info and help for parents, like this article called 10 Non-Book Ways to Get Your Child Reading.

So, sit down…and enjoy the sites! 🙂

Mom! How do you spell…?

It’s writing time!  You set your darling down at the kitchen table to write while you prepare dinner.  Then it begins.  “Mom!  How do you spell…?”   Do you ever feel tied down…like you must sit and spell every unknown word to your young speller?   I know sometimes I do.  Here are a few spelling strategies and resources this reading mama has used with young spellers to help them spell more independently. 

Note: These strategies need to be modeled by you one at a time (preferably not in the middle of cooking dinner) before your child will feel comfortable using them on her own.

1.       Word Wall: Our Word Wall is mainly used for sight words (frequent words that are not always spelled phonetically) and important words to our family that we’ve studied together.  You can visit here for more ideas concerning Word Walls and sight words.

More Portable Word Walls:

  • use a science board
  • use a manila folder (see below)–These are a great idea when you have multiple children with different words.

2.     Meaningful Print:


Label things around the house (believe it or not, my kitchen trash can is even labeled!) that are important to your child.  These words can be rich resources for spelling.  If your child likes to write, let her help you label things around the house.  You can use index cards, card stock, or sentence strips (which I use).

3.      Books: If he wants to write about monster trucks, get out a book about monster trucks.  It may have many of the vocabulary words he will need.

For my young spellers, I have books with labels beside the pictures, which serve as great resources.

ALuv spelling locomotive

4.      Children’s Dictionary: You can search online or in your local bookstore for one that best suits your child’s spelling stage.  When I taught K-1, I had several copies of The Cat in the Hat Beginner Dictionaries.  I found another printable dictionary/word wall on ProTeacher Community.  Click here to download it: Dictionary for Students.

5.      Allow “Invented Spelling”: This means that you let your child spell unknown words how they sound versus requiring all spelling to be conventional (or “correct”).  For example, he may spell  MOTRSIKL for motorcycle.   There are several reasons why this reading mama likes invented spelling.  Here are just a few.  For the skeptics our there: very capable spellers, just like you, still use invented spelling sometimes!  How did it look the last time you had to spell out the entire word miscellaneous?

  • For younger spellers, say: “Can you s-t-r-e-t-c-h out that word and write down the sounds you hear?”
  • For older spellers, say: “Can you think of a word similar to that word that might help you spell part of it?”

6. Circle misspelled words: Some of our sweet, little darlings really struggle with perfection and despite our attempts to help them, they still experience melt-down over misspelling a word.  Encourage them to spell unknown words to the best of their knowledge, then lightly circle (in pencil) the words if they know they’ve misspelled them.  Assure these spellers that you will revisit the text with them and help them spell the words conventionally.  Doing this can help these children move past, instead of focusing so much energy on, the misspelled word.

So the next time you hear, “Mom!  How do you spell…?”, try one of these strategies.  You just may get around to cooking your gourmet meal of grilled cheese sandwiches after all!

Word Wall Activities

My 10 Favorite Activities to do with Word Wall Words

Please feel free to share your favorites, too!

1. Cheer, Chant, or Spell the Words Out Loud.

  • Jump on an indoor trampoline, saying each letter of the word, then jump off and say the entire word.  Example: s-a-i-d, jump off=said!
  • “Bounce” the ball on each letter (s-a-i-d), then “shoot” when you say the entire word
  • Spell words out loud with your opera, baby, robot, daddy, dinosaur voice (let your child create a voice!) 

2. Card Games: Play Memory Match (Concentration) or Go Fish with the cards.  Using 20 index cards-cut in 1/2 (or reuse scraps of cardstock paper), pick 10 words and write each word 2 times, so you have pairs of each word.  Then play the classic games together.  If you don’t remember how to play these games, you can google how to play them.

3. Flash Cards:

  • Keep words written down on flash cards and carry in a Ziploc bag.  Take them to the doctor’s office, grocery store, or anywhere you might have to wait and go through them together.
  • Play “I Spy” with your flash cards.  Scatter several cards face-up on the floor and spy a word.  See if your child can find it.  Reverse roles and let her spy a word for you to find.
  • Put the cards in a stack and time your child to see how fast she can read the words.  See if she can beat her own time.
  • Place cards in ABC order.

4. Mind Reader: Can your child can “read your mind”?  Have her number her paper 1 through 5.  Give 5 clues to see if she can guess which word you’re thinking of.  With each clue, she writes down her guess and by the 5th clue, she should be able to figure out the word.  For example, if the word was look; this reading mama might say: 1) It’s a word on the word wall.  2) It has 4 letters.  3) It has 2 vowels in the middle of the word.  4) It rhymes with book.  5) It ends with the letter k.

5. Integrate into Everyday Life: One of the ways we do this is by spelling these words throughout our day.  The first word ALuv learned to spell, even before his name, was go because I would say to him, “Are you ready to g-o?” or “It’s time to g-o to the store.”  I spelled it in every day phrases.   His new thing to ask me is, “Mom, can I go o-u-t?”  It’s funny to hear him spelling words, but it really works!

6. Go on a Word Hunt.  Can your child find the sight words in the texts you’re reading?  How about on a billboard riding in the car?  Or a sign in the doctor’s office?  Sight words make up about 50% of what we read, so finding them shouldn’t be too hard.

7. Create texts/stories together with the words.  When we studied like and to, we wrote a book ALuv could read.  On each page, it read, I like to _________.  ALuv completed the blank and drew a picture to go with it.  Then he practiced reading it.  We placed it in his “ALuv Can Read” bin (see picture below) so he could re-read it on his own. 

8. Play Bingo.  Click here for Blank Sight Word Bingo and have your child write word wall words in each square.  You do the same on your blank board.  Use your flash cards, putting the words in a pile.  Take turns pulling the top card, reading it, and placing a counter (pennies, beans, etc.) on your board to get Bingo!  You can also use these pre-made bingo boards.

9.  Write the words.

  • Write sentences using the words.
  • “Rainbow write” the words.  Write the word first in pencil, then trace with one color of crayon/marker.  Trace back over it again with another color.  Keep doing this until your word looks like a rainbow!
  • “Write” the words on each others’ backs with your finger.  Can you guess which word was just spelled?

10. Make or spell words with..

  • play-doh
  • Wikki sticks
  • magnetic letters
  • letter beads strung on pipe cleaner or shoe lace
  • abc stamps
  • abc stickers
  • letter tiles (if you don’t have tiles, click here for letters you can print off, laminate, and use over and over)

Misc. Info:

  • Right now, I only do 1-2 new words a week with ALuv.  When I taught 1st grade, we did 5 new sight words a week.
  • Here’s a great website for more word wall activities
  • Which words should a reading mama go through?  Try: Dolch list or Fry’s List.  You don’t have to go in exact order, but these are designed to begin with easier words and progress to more difficult ones.
  • Here is the link to the info on my blog about word walls & sight words
  • This link will give you some sight words ready to print cards

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