9 Easy, Hands-On Word Work Ideas

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We know that kids learn best when they’re engaged in hands-on learning, but it can be hard to think of new ways to keep them practicing the same word work skills! That’s why i’ve come up with these easy STEM-based ideas that use items you most likely have in your classroom already!

These activities are perfect for centers, morning tubs, early finisher activities, whatever you need!

You may be thinking… can my kids handle these? YES! As long as you set the procedures and expectations and then follow through with your management, then yes, your students can handle these centers. In fact, i’ve found that kids are less likely to misuse materials when they’re engaged in the task at hand!

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Students can use the hashtag building blocks from Target to build words.

This is the only item that most teachers might not have, but if you visited Bullseye’s Playground this summer, there’s a chance you picked these up! These are the $1 hashtag building blocks, but honestly, there are MANY different building materials similar to this online!

I used the sight word cards from my Morning Tubs pack, but you could use words on index cards, spelling lists, letters, anything you want your students to build!

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Students can use geo-boards to make letters.

Geo-boards are perfect for making letters, numbers, or shapes! I do suggest getting some smaller rubber bands (like they small ones you can find in the hair styling aisle) if you want your students to be able to make shorter links.

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Students can make words using mini-erasers.

Mini-erasers are such a fun way to build words and you can keep this fresh by switching them out seasonally! I get my erasers from Target’s Bullseye’s Playground every season. I also like to add in a fine motor component by having students use tweezers to pick up each eraser.

You can have students free-form words from a word wall or word list, or you can use pre-made mats. I often use my sight word playdough mats for this activity!

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Students can use connecting cubes to form letters or words.

Using connecting cubes to build letters and words is an activity that never gets old for my students! These cards are from my September Morning Tubs for Kindergarten, but you could make this even more challenging by simply having your students choose a magnetic letter and build it without a model!

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Students can use playdough to form words.

Playdough is one of those mediums that teachers either love or hate, usually depending on what type of flooring you have. I have tile floors so I LOVE using playdough! This is such a great way to build up students’ fine motor muscles!

Students can form letters or words by rolling the playdough into “snakes” and then twisting it. Also, a good alternative to ink pads and stamping is to have students stamp into playdough! I show an example of this in my 8 Fun, Free Letter Review Activities post.

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Students can use tangrams to build letters and words.

Tangrams are great to build letters and words with and you can incorporate math by having students identify the shapes they used and counting how many they used of each one!

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Students can use tweezers and pom-poms to form letters.

This is one of my FAVORITE fine motor activities! Similar to the mini-erasers, students can use tweezers to pick up pom-poms and use them to form letters or words! In the winter, I swap in white pom-poms to be “snowballs!”

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Students can use base 10 blocks to build words.

You can easily integrate word work into math with this activity! Students will make words using rods and cubes. You can extend it by having them identify how many ones and tens the word is worth. In kindergarten, I will often have my students use just the cubes and then count them.

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Students can use plastic links to make letters.

I’m sure by now you’ve caught on – i’m just taking any manipulatives and using them to make the same activity feel new and exciting! Here students will use plastic links to make letters or words.

Do you have any more fun, hands-on word work ideas that I didn’t list here? Let us know down below!

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How I Teach Sight Words in Kindergarten

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Every year that i’ve taught kindergarten i’ve changed up how I teach sight words because i’ve never been quite happy with my routine. This year I took what worked in past years and tweaked what didn’t work, and I think i’ve found my perfect sight word routine!

To give you some context, we just ended our first quarter yesterday and i’ve taught 19 sight words so far. I teach a class of 29 students, many of whom came in knowing almost no letters, with high poverty and a large ELL population. 20 of my students can read all 19 words, and these don’t include the color words we’ve learned. My lowest babies can read at least 5 each! I’m seeing this growth extend to their reading and writing as well!

So what am I doing this year?

I’m a big fan of Mr. Greg from The Kindergarten Smorgasboard and i’ve used elements of his Sight Word 60 routine for the last 3 years now. I’m still using most of his routine, but i’ve tweaked it to fit our needs.

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This area of our board is part of the “Command Central” of our classroom. I can’t show you the rest because it has student names, but our focus words stay up here all week. In his routine, Mr. Greg introduces 4 words a week, but I have been sticking with 3 words because that seems to be the “just right” amount for my kids. The first couple of weeks I only taught 1-2 a week as we got used to school, and some weeks I use as a review to cover the words from the week before if most students are struggling with them.

I don’t really have an order to introduce words. I’ve been introducing words together that can make a sentence and that seems to have helped. If there is a word we haven’t learned yet that students keep asking me about during Writer’s Workshop, i’ll make sure it’s one of our words for the next week.

So on Day One, we introduce the sight words as part of our morning routine. I use the words in a sentence and then students give me sentences with the words. We review them every morning.

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We do interactive writing together daily using at least one of our sight words in each sentence. This is a separate time from Writer’s Workshop. On the first day, i’m not concerned about using capital/lowercase letters correctly because I want them to focus on the words. The rest of the week, I will correct them.

For interactive writing, I tell students a sentence and draw a line for each word. We “read” the blank lines a few times to make sure we remember the sentence. Then I have one student at a time come up to write the sight words. When we get to an unknown word, I help students stretch it out. Sometimes we only get down 1-2 sounds, but we are working on the -at family this week so students were able to write these words themselves.

In addition to Interactive Writing, we also do Writer’s Workshop when students are writing independently and guided writing as a part of guided reading groups. Writing is one of the best, best, BEST things students can do when learning sight words because if you can write it, you can read it!

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Excuse the blurry picture! We also do shared reading daily and I make sure our poem contains as many of our sight words as possible. Usually I use a real poem, but this week I just made up the simplest poem possible because I wanted it to have our sight words and -at family words.

We use this poem for so many things! We read it together every morning and students LOVE to be the “teacher” and use the pointer to lead the reading. We use the poem to count words in a sentence, identify rhyming words, clap syllables, and find sight words.

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Every Friday, we search in the poem to find and circle our sight words. If they find the word inside of a larger word, I let them circle that too because it helps them begin to see chunks in those big words and, honestly, i’m just excited they’re finding them!

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We do a different hands-on activity daily, and I absolutely love these ones from DeeDee Wills, but one of our favorites is roll and write! We always do this on Day Two, but i’ll also use this if we have an extra five minutes between transitions.

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For a die, I use this dry erase die from Dollar Tree. I do NOT use dry erase marker on it, though, because it wipes right off! Instead I use a permanent marker and then erase it later with hand sanitizer and a tissue.

Students take turns rolling the die, reading the word, and then writing the word on the board. They get so excited to see which word is winning!

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Many of our literacy centers for the week are focused on sight words, but these are some of my favorite low prep centers that i’ve found keep students engaged!

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The first is making sight words with magnets. I found when my students were supposed to be matching letters/sounds here, they would usually get off task and start making sight words or their name anyway. I decided to just go with it and make it a center!

I have a metal AC unit in my classroom, so I just wrote on the sight of it with permanent marker. I’m hoping and praying it comes off, but it you weren’t this brave (or dumb), you could always use dry erase markers!

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Another favorite is playdough mats:

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Of course, we love to use these with playdough and that is one center choice, but I also like to mix it up sometimes and break out the tweezers! You can have students make the letters with pompoms, base ten cubes, or beans and they will be thrilled!

I’ve also just updated these mats so that their are two versions included. One just has the sight word, and I have updated the font, but the second version has the word to trace and write as well so they can make it, trace it, write it.

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On Day Five, we take our focus words and add them to our word wall. We make this a big deal with drum rolls and applause (and they think it’s hilarious to see me climb the AC unit to hang up the words).

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Please ignore the mess there! #realteacherlife. I have a huge space for my word wall this year, but it’s not as close to the kids as I would like. Because of that, i make the words as big as possible. I write them with a Mr Sketch marker on 3×5 index cards. I’ve switched marker colors now that we have quite a few words up so that they stand out more.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how i’ve been teaching sight words this year and maybe got a few new ideas to try in your classroom! If you have a highly effective sight word routine, I would love to hear about it below!

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8 Fun, Free Letter Review Activities

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If you are a kindergarten teacher, you know how important it is to teach and review letters until it feels like you’re in a real life version of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. It can get old, fast to us and to our kiddos.

Thankfully, it’s SO easy to spice things up a little bit and keep those letters interesting to both us and our students! All of these activities require little to no prep and if they use materials, it’s probably something you have already in your classroom!

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I don’t think this activity is new to anyone, but it’s a staple. I know some teachers absolutely despise playdough in the classroom because of the mess, but really, I say the bigger the mess the more learning is happening!

This activity is awesome for for fine motor and it helps students really see the lines and curves of each letter. Win!

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Another playdough activity! Just like some teachers despise playdough, I despise ink pads. I’ll admit it – ink covered hands touching every important paper and surface is my kryptonite.

As an alternative, I let my students stamp letters in playdough! They just pick a letter, find the stamp, and stamp it in the playdough. As an added bonus, this stamp set has each letter on printed on the tray so students have to match them when they all accidentally on purpose get jumbled up. I just got it on Amazon.

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This is another activity that is great for fine motor because students have to really work to manipulate the pipe cleaners just right. Eventually, I let them make sight words using pipe cleaners too! It’s always a favorite.

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This activity I just thought of on the spot, but I LOVE it! Students pick a letter and then have to find the matching letter in the bag of letter beads. Then they string them onto a pipe cleaner.

This is another activity that could also be used to practice sight words! Just have students string the letters to make each word onto the pipe cleaners! How easy it that??

The next few activities are meant to be done whole group or in small groups and would be great for when you have an extra 5 minutes to fill.

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For this activity, you will think of a letter and give students clues to guess what it is. You can use features such as “It has a circle then a stick” or sounds “Bear begins with it.”

Once students get the hang of this, they can be the ones to think of the letters and give clues!

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This game practices beginning sounds. You will say a letter and a word that begins with that letter (b balloon). Then you will go around the circle as students say words that begin with that letter (ball, bear, bee). When they cannot think of any more, that letter ends. You can make it a competition by seeing which letter they can think of the most words for!

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For this activity, you will need a bowl of letter magnets or tiles. You could make it really interesting by getting a plastic cauldron around Halloween time! You will stir the pot while saying,

Letters, letters, in my stew. Pick a letter just for you!

A students will reach in and grab a letter. You can differentiate by having them name the letter, say the letter sound, or name something that begins with that letter. If you want to make it REALLY hard, you can have them try to guess the letter by feel before they take it out!

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This is probably not an activity you have room for in your classroom (and if you do, i’m jealous!), but it would be fun to do outside or in the gym.

Students will work together in small groups of 2-3 to form letters with their bodies! They can do this laying down or standing up, but some letters will be much easier laying down.

I hope these ideas were useful to you! These letter review activities are a bonus included in all of my Little Readers Whole Group Literacy units, but i’m also offering them as a blog exclusive FREEBIE here:

Letter Review Activities FREEBIE

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How To Differentiate Your Centers in Kindergarten

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I talked previously about how I managed my differentiated centers last year in this post. However, i’m in a new school this year and i’m not sure i’ll have all that space!

I wanted to show you an EASY way to differentiate your centers and then give you a peek into HOW I differentiate them. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work!

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I have different colors for below level, on level, and above level. I wish that yellow folder was purple but beggars can’t be choosers! These are normally at least $4 at Office Depot, but I got them when they were 2/$1 plus I had a coupon making them around 30 cents each!

So in each basket center, I would have 3 folders. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year teaching my students how to get out THEIR color. If you assign students centers, you could have 1 basket at each center and that basket would hold the 3 folders for any students who go to that center so you don’t have to change it out.

You could also just have one basket hold all the blue folders, one hold all the pink folders, and one hold all the purple folders for students to choose from if you want to give them more choice. It cuts out a lot of space!

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What I LOVE about these folders are the pockets! I can keep the recording sheets and instructions in the zipped pocket and smaller pieces in the little pockets!

I promise this isn’t an ad for these, I just really wanted to show you because I am SO excited about that feature. 😉

So then the activities as that center are very similar, but at different levels. To the students, it looks like they are doing the same center or almost the same center, but I know each student is getting what they need.

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This is the below level sight word center from my September pack. Students are matching sight words to sight words. They are just working on recognizing the word in print.

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This is the on level center. Now students are building the sight word and working on spelling it.

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The above level activity is, again, very similar but now students have to unscramble the sight word. This requires them to use higher order thinking skills.

I differentiate my math centers in the same way.

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Oops! Notice the mistake? Even teachers have trouble subitizing. 😉

I change it up by what numbers are used and sometimes by the task. So for the subitizing center above, my below level students are sorting up to 5, my on level students are sorting up to 10, and my above level students are sorting up to 20.

You can get all of these differentiated centers by month in my store, or you can get the growing year-long bundle right now! It is a STEAL right now as I add in the months and it’s guaranteed to make differentiating your centers easy!

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