When working with young children, you have to come up with activities that grab and hold your students’ attention. They have done most of their learning through play so anything that can make learning fun will be helpful. Listening to the teacher talk about a skill may only reach a fraction of the class. The doing part of the lesson is where they are going to do their most learning.
- Play Doh: Children LOVE Play Doh. I would even venture to say that they love it all through elementary school. Instead of having children write spelling words, letters, or numbers, have them roll out Play Doh into long snakes and make letters/numbers/spell words. If you print out the words on card stock and laminate them, they can use them as a model to place the Play Doh on. If older children have a spelling list, you can give them a blank laminated piece of cardstock to spell the words on.
- Dry Erase: Children also LOVE dry erase markers. You may have mini white boards that they can write on. If not, put a piece of card stock in a sheet protector and they can write and erase easily. You can print lists of words, numbers, letters, names, etc and put them in the sheet protectors for repeated practice. It saves on paper and will keep your students’ attention.
- Fishing Games: If you want your students to practice read words, letters, numbers, math facts, etc, you can easily make a fishing game. Print out the words, letters, numbers, math facts etc on card stock fish and laminate. Attach a paper clip to each fish. Make a fishing rod out of a pencil, a piece of string and a magnet. Students can go fishing for the letters, word, math fact, etc and it is a fun way to learn. No more boring flash cards.
- Fine Motor Pompoms: You can use the cards that you made for the Play Doh activity for a pompom activity that helps with fine motor skills. Get a bunch of pompoms and some clothespins. Students use the clothespins to grab pompoms and place them on the letters/numbers/words. They line up the pompoms on the lines of the letters/numbers/words. When the card is complete, they use the clothespin to take the pompoms off the card. Using the clothespin is a great way for them to strengthen their fingers.
- Bingo: You can use the letters/numbers/words from the other activities to make bingo activities. Make sure that when you make the bingo boards that each board is a little different so that everyone is not getting bingo at the same time. You can easily make bingo boards by inserting a table into a document. It may take some time to make them initially, but then you’ll have them forever. You can put the sheets in sheet protectors and students can use dry erase markers to mark the squares on the bingo board. You could also use beans or something else small as markers for the bingo squares.
- Dot Markers: Another great medium to use for letter, number and word practice. You can print whatever you want your students to practice on sheets of paper. They can then use dot markers to cover the lines of the letters, numbers or words. You can also write letters, numbers or words inside circle and the students have to look for specific letters, numbers or words and then dot those specific words. So it helps with encoding and decoding words & kaking and recognizing letters and numbers.
- Craft Stick games: Use the large craft sticks and write letters/numbers/words on them. Put the sticks in a coffee can or large yogurt container. Students take turns grabbing a stick reading the letter, number, word on the stick. If they can read it, they keep the stick. If they cannot read it, they put it back in the container. You can also put math facts on the sticks for the students to grab and the answers could be on the back on the stick so that they can check their answer. Game is over when all sticks are gone.
- Shaving Cream: Squirt shaving cream on desks or tables and have students write letters, words, numbers, answers to math facts, etc in the shaving cream with their finger. After they are checked for accuracy, they can just rub the shaving cream over what they wrote and they are ready for the next one. This serves 2 purposes. 1: they get letter, number, word, math fact, etc practice and 2: you end up with very clean tables/desks and a clean smelling room.
- Online games/Apps: There are a plethora of free online educational games and apps for tablets. Some of them are limited when they are free and the full game costs a few dollars for apps or a membership fee for online sites. You can usually get quite a bit for free and these sites are great for students who need additional practice in foundational skills. I tend to want to limit screen time for my students, but this is an easy way to get reluctant learners to stay focused and learn.
- Memory Games: You can easily make memory games with index cards. Cut the index cards in half and write upper case letters, numbers, words, math facts, other facts, etc on one half of the index card. On the other half you can write lower case letters, a number of objects, rhyming words, answers to math facts, drawings/words to go with the facts you wrote, etc. Be sure to put one color dot on the opposite side of one set of cards and another color dot on the opposite side of the other set of cards. Students then flip over one of each color of card to see if they are a match. If they are a match, they keep them. If they are not a match, they turn them back over.