Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Earn Your Way: A Game for Motivating Early Reading while Attending to Sensory Diet

Sometimes, traditional decoding and reading activities aren't what my son needs.  Instead, he needs a burst of activity for his sensory diet.

Thus, one day a few weeks back when my son was balking about doing "school work" and was more interested in baking and eating some GFCF cookies than he was in practicing his reading skills, I went with it. I immersed him in practical life skills to make the cookie batter with the promise that we would go outside for a bit while the cookies baked.  Then, I capitalized on his desire to test the cookies by preparing a challenge for him on our front walkway.

Yes, in order to get in a burst of much needed "heavy work" while also encouraging reading practice, I adapted our CVC Chalk Word Jump Game into a challenge where my son had to earn his way back to the kitchen for the tasters he so wanted.

Now, I am not advocating food as a reward on a regular basis, so let me add the caveat that any motivator could be used in the place of tempting home-baked cookies.  The important thing is not what the motivator is, but that your child is enticed to play the game.  Ass things turned out with my son, after the cookie motivator once and the motivation of having me unlock the car door so we could go somewhere he wanted to go the second time we played the game, I found my son playing on his own – completely self-motivated – until the rain washed away our "game board."

Want to try out our effective game for helping kinesthetic learners and children who need extra sensory input get some reading practice?  Go for it.  Here is how to play

Earn Your Way

    • chalk (or paper, a writing utensil and tape if playing inside)
    • front walkway (sidewalk or hallway)
    • a motivator (such as fresh-baked GFCF cookies, to go inside, to go outside to play, to go for a ride or to play with a specific toy)


    1. Write a fairly long lst of words on your walkway (or on sheets of paper taped to the floor if playing inside.)  Be sure to include words your child has mastered as well as some new ones.
    2. Let your child know you have a challenge game prepared and that if he or she completes it, access to the motivator awaits.
    3. Ask your child to stand at one end of the list, to read (or sound out) the first word and, then, to shout it out as he or she stomps on it.
    4. Offer encouragement as your child progresses through the list, stating things your child has accomplished, such as, "You sounded out a four letter word."  Or, "You stomped with such power."  Or, "You've read five words already."  In other words, be specific with your praise.  Of course, offer help as needed as well.
    5. When your child gets to the end of the list, congratulate him or her with some big high fives and a comment, such as, "Wow!  You read 1, 2, 3, 4....TWENTY-SIX words just now!"  Then, offer access to the motivator.
    • Decoding Words
    • Gross Motor
    • Proprioception
    • Motor Coordination/Motor Planning
    • Listening/Following Directions 

    Quick Tips/Extensions

      • If your child has mastered all basic phonemes, be sure to include an example of each in the list of words you choose to write.   
      • Mix basic sight words with phonics-based ones.  If your child needs it, cue that the sight words are "puzzle words" or "challenge words" that may not be able to be sounded out traditionally.
      • As an extension, play Hide-n-Seek Words:  Call out a word from the list that has a smaller word hiding within it, for example "cat", "tin" or "trip".  Have your child run to jump on it.  Then, challenge your child to find the shorter word hiding in the larger one.
      • As another extension, play Silly Stories:  Have your child jump on a word and begin a story that starts with it.  Then, you jump on a different word and find a way to weave the word you are on into your child's story.  Take turns jumping on different words and incorporating them into the story.
      • For repetition, use the list whenever you enter or exit the house.  Sometimes, challenge your child to read all the words.  Other times, challenge your child to read five of them.  At still other times, challenge your child to read all words that contain a specific letter.
      • Vary vestibular and proprioceptive input by having your child hop on, run around, skip to, slither by, gallop to or spin around words.
      How do you use motivators to get "heavy work" into your child's day?  
      What movement-based ways do you encourage early reading skills?
      Do you have a frugal, fun and effective early learning activity to share? 
      Please leave a comment to share.

      This post is being shared at We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday because outdoor reading lessons that include heavy work really work for us.


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