Hi! I am Nikki Heiman from the Teachers Pay Teachers store Creative Inclusion. I am so excited for the opportunity to be a contributor for Rachel Lynnette. I have admired her work since long before becoming a TpT seller. In fact, my mom is also a teacher, and she has used Rachel’s work for a long time.
So, imagine my excitement when I met her in person last week! I mean, seriously, this was ridiculously exciting to me! She is such a fun and spunky person that I imagine we could be great friends in a short time.
I believe whole-heartedly that if a student isn’t learning the way we teach, the problem isn’t with them, it’s with us. We have to unabashedly release our inner creative to teach the way they learn; and the thing about kids is that not one of them is the same. The thing about teachers is that one of us has to creatively find ways to reach so many students in a single day. How many do you have? I’m lucky, as a special educator, and I range from 10-20 a day. Some who only teach one subject have over 100 in a day!
You, my friend, must have a creative beast inside of you, whom I would venture to guess survives on unearthly amounts of caffeine and a bladder that is trained by a bell!
My heart is bursting with pride for students who decide that, even though traditional education is a challenge, they will face that challenge with an “I Can” attitude and refuse to give up. I also have an 11-year-old son with Down Syndrome, which has presented me with a whole other perspective regarding people with disabilities, or “different abilities,” which is my preferred language. Among all of the students who experience learning differences, I have found one solid consistency: Each student who struggles with the general education structure requires additional multi-sensory instruction. It doesn’t matter what the disability is or how old the student is. Getting them up and out of their chair and getting their whole bodies engaged in learning always helps.
I like to take the regular education materials and then make small changes to integrate ways for students to dive in and get dirty. (As a whole, I mean “dirty” in a figurative way, but with enough sand and glue, it might actually be literal. Your choice!) When it comes to “multi-sensory,” think about all of your senses, and think of all the ways that you can stimulate senses in teaching. There are a few that I would stay away from, like taste, if your student is particularly sensitive to that sort of thing. However, there are many others that can be used.
In this instance, I took a phonics activity, which is available for free if you click on this link. I used the word wheels for the students to build CVC short vowel words. Then, I used multiple sensory activities with them to remember the steps to making the individual sounds make complete words. To start the activity, the students colored in the pictures. Then, we practiced building words with other activities.
Here is a list of just some ideas you can try to get students engaged in phonics:
- Write in sand (pictured above in green on a cookie sheet)
- Print letters on a magnetic sheet, and after you choose a word to practice with on the word wheel, “build” the word again with magnetic letters. This also works great on a magnetic cookie sheet.
- Fill a clear baggie with finger paint, and print the word in the finger paint. This is less messy than the more obvious strategy of actually using finger paint. Finger paint is also a great strategy; just factor clean-up time into your lesson plans! In the clear baggie, it also makes a squishy feeling under their fingers.
- Tap out the sounds of the word with your fingers, and make a blending motion to put the sounds together to make one word.
- Use puffy paint to paint the words onto large craft paper. Throughout your unit, students can trace their puffy paint words to continue practice.
- Print the words in glue on flashcards and sprinkle sand on the glue. It will dry in a 3-D way so that students can trace the letters with their fingers. You can also put these flashcards on a ring, and they can take them home and practice, as well. I have found it helpful to store these in a Ziploc® baggie, though, so we don’t spread sand all over the place!
- Make the letter shapes with your bodies.
- There are many things like Animated Alphabet that assign a gross motor activity to each letter. Use activities like that to incorporate spelling.
- Partner students up for sounding things out. For example, if you are working on sounding out the word “cap,” and you have four students, start a wave. Student 1 has a large card with the letter C on it. Student 2 has a large card with the letter A on it, and student 3 has P. In a wave, student 1 holds the card up and says /c/, student 2 holds up his card and says /a/, and student 3 holds up his card and says /p/. Student 4 blends the sounds to say CAP. I always feel like it’s important for students to do things in teams so they really feel like they have ownership of their own learning. Students should switch up roles in this activity so everyone gets to experience each role.
- Air spelling is when students choose the words and make large motions with their hands and arms, spelling the words while saying them out loud. They get gross motor activity, as well as the opportunity to hear the letter sounds and see their friends air spell.
Set your creativity free! I think that is one of the greatest blessings of being a teacher. We get to take solid educational research, apply it to our classroom, and then be creative with the reteaching and the hands-on activities.
Just an FYI: I give away FREE products when people post pictures of my products in use in their classroom on my Facebook fan page for Creative Inclusion. If you utilize anything here or have additional ideas to share, I would love to see where your creativity takes you!
Thank you, readers, for taking the time to read this post. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your readers with me! I hope you all felt this was valuable and fun information about getting students fully engaged in phonics!
My specialty is in special education. I have a Master’s degree in K-12 adapted special education and am beginning my 9th year of teaching. I have had all grade levels and ability levels throughout the years. In my experience, I have worked with students who are non-verbal and students who attended college. I just received word that one of them is consistently among the top of his class! If you are interested in more posts like this, you can visit my blog at DIY Farm Wife. You can also visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.