As a teacher we want our students to LOVE to read. We want our students to devour good books and to become amazing little readers. However, let’s be honest. At first, reading is a lot of work. When you stop to think about all of the things that young children have to recall and remember to be able to read simple sentences, it is astounding.
The cat is red.
To read this sentence, students must first remember that “t-h-e” when put together cannot be sounded out. It is a sight word. Once they get past “The” they approach cat. In order to read cat they need to know that c says /c/, a says /a/, and t says /t/. Then they have to put it all together.
I could go on, but you already know this. It’s amazing how far we take our young 4 and 5 year olds.
Therefore, during my guided reading groups, I like to make them as FUN as they can be. I want my students to internalize that even though reading takes work, that it is also fun. One way that I like to do this is by incorporating play into my groups.
One activity that my students LOVE is when we take out either our wooden or plastic animals and create habitats and stories with them.
We did this just the other day using the Ostheimer Arctic animals.
The first thing each group did was discuss the animals that they were going to add to the habitat. These students decided that even though polar bears and penguins do not live in the same place, they were going to include them together in their “make believe” habitat.
(Do you notice how the B after “polar” is crossed out? This sweet child verbalized as she was working, “Oh! I need to start “bear” on the next line because bear is a word and I can’t break it up!”)
Next, as they added each animal, they wrote a simple sentence about them.
In order to spell the animal’s names correctly, we used our nomenclature cards to help us. My students had to find the picture of the animal that they wanted to add and then find the correct label. Without using the “control cards” my students hunted through the pile to find the correct word. This encouraged them to use their phonics skills.
After my students built their habitat, we then read a leveled reader to learn more about the animals they used.
Some of my groups read simple, predictable texts.
Others read more difficult informative texts.
Each group was SUPER excited to read the books to learn more about their animals. Other days when we have done a similar activity my students then worked together to write the story that they had acted out.
In case you were wondering what standards are hit through activities like this, here are just a few that you can put in your plans if you do something like this!
Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs.
(During their play, students are working on speaking in complete sentences. They also are using the schema that they already know to create a habitat. Ie) “The Arctic wolves are hunting in a pack! They are looking for the Arctic hare but she is camouflaged!)
Form regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/ or /es/ (e.g., dog, dogs; wish, wishes).
(Students learned how to make “wolf” plural and some students wrote sentences about the “pack of wolves.” Others said things like, “The Eskimos are working hard at building their igloos!)
Understand and use question words (interrogatives) (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how).
Use the most frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., to, from, in, out, on, off, for, of, by, with).
Produce and expand complete sentences in shared language activities.