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Collision of learning and play

      Today was the start of my after school tutoring group. This group consists of four boys who are five years old. They are struggling with learning letters and sounds, all of which I’ve taught in class. They are all making improvements, but some of them are taking longer. They are great kids with a lot of energy and potential. The school day is long, so staying after for extra learning opportunities is hard.

​     I refuse to worksheet them to death. It would be a waste of everyone’s time. Starting a scripted program is boring and wouldn’t help since I only tutor them once a week and it would move too slowly. These boys need something a little more creative and as of about 2:30 this afternoon, I had no ideas.

     Thankfully, I am pretty good at thinking on my feet. I went through my materials and found a set of turkey letter cards that I could use. When I brought the boys into my classroom after school, we got right down to it.

     I started with them identifying the letters. To motivate them, I made it a contest. The first person to say the letter name got to keep the card. Whoever had the most at the end was the “winner”. They were so into it! One of the boys, who is generally very soft spoken and quiet, was yelling the letter names and getting so excited to have the cards. They all did beautifully!

​     Since they enjoyed this activity so much, we did the same thing with sounds. Only this time, I tracked their card “earnings” using our pocket chart. Each child had a row and when they got the sound first, we added the card. (You’ll notice 5 rows because I drive one of my students from last year to daycare after school sometimes, and she wanted to join the game after she ​saw how much fun they were having!) To get them more excited, I used a dry erase marker to write their first initial on the wall. Of course they lost their minds when I did it! (I told them they are NEVER to repeat that action!

      One of the boys in the group wanted to coast through without really doing anything. He would say the sound of the letter, but only after another student said it. He often pretends not to know answers. To prevent him from getting away with it, I had each kid sit out of the game once their row was filled. They were called on to be “experts” if someone needed their help, so they still had to pay attention. Eventually, my little coaster was the only one left in the game. As I went through each letter that was left, he was able to tell me every single sound with no assistance.

​     We finished our time, and I walked four happy little boys out of the building. They are so excited to continue our tutoring sessions.

​     Some of the best learning in my classroom happens when the kids don’t even know that it is happening. I loved seeing the joy on their faces as they practiced a skill that they really needed in way that is so much better than flash cards and boring worksheets. This is why playing to learn is so crucial for our youngest students!

​     I have a full week to come up with another epic activity for tutoring. Wish me luck!

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