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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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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Easy Name Activities

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Every year that I have taught kindergarten, I have always had multiple students come in not even able to recognize their own name. So it’s no surprise then that we spend a LOT of time our first few weeks of school focusing on names.

The activities i’m going to show you today do not take a lot of prep at all but are fun and would be perfect for Pre-K to 1st grade kiddos who need some name practice.

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This activity is probably not new to you, but it’s a staple in my classroom! I use these name puzzles in guided reading groups and I let my students keep them in baggies in their book boxes to pull out throughout the day.

If I have a student who is just beginning to learn their name, I only make one cut right in the middle of their name. As they master the puzzle, I cut more and more pieces until it is finally all cut apart!

If you are doing this as part of guided reading groups, it is always a big motivator to cut the puzzles at the table. My kiddos practice extra just so they can have the most pieces!

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I LOVE this rainbow names craft because it is SO easy but it brightens up our room beautifully!

I just write each kiddo’s name on the clouds and then give them enough rays to write 1 letter of their name on each ray (for some students, I write the letters). They have to put the rays in order and I check them before they glue.

I have this craft as a freebie in my store! If you don’t want to print the rays page on colored paper, you can also cut strips of construction paper.

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Another easy word work activity! All you need is a name and magnetic letters or letter tiles. I’ll find all sorts of different letters just to make this more interesting.

You can also take a picture of students at the beginning of the year and put it next to their name so they can easily pull out the right one!

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Along with those cards, I use sentence frames for students to practice reading.

Now, I know it would be easy to type these up and laminate them but, just being honest, i’m not likely to do that! I like easy, low prep!

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The last activity is this fun name craft! I like this one because it doubles as a name puzzle – students can take the crayons out of the box and put them in order to make their names.

This craft is very similar to the rainbow craft. The students cut out their boxes and I staple the sides and write their name on the front. Then they write 1 letter on each crayon and put them in their box.

I’ve just added options for longer names too! You can check that out here.

I hope you enjoyed these easy name activities! If you have any go to ways to practice names, i’d love it if you left them below!

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What’s In Your Writing Center?

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The writing center has always been one of my favorite centers; probably because it has always been one of my students’ favorite centers as well! Seriously, they choose to go to the writing center during free time over computers or legos.

So what’s the key to making your writing center so engaging to your students that they choose to go there over playing? The answer is: choice!

Of course, choice doesn’t mean having a free for all at the writing center. I make sure to set high expectations for the materials at this center and I don’t put out all the choices at once. I introduce 3 at the beginning of the year and then 1-2 each quarter.

The choices then stay the same, but the vocabulary cards and the themes change to keep it fresh. I have themed writing centers that I can keep all month or change out whenever we focus on a new topic. This keeps my students excited and connects what we’re learning in other areas to our center time!

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I keep the choices in these letter trays. You could hang the vocabulary cards on hooks or on a ribbon using clothespins. I’ve done both and they both work just fine! I also keep visual directions for each activity here so students always know the expectations.

I’m going to show you some of my favorite activities to keep at my writing center below!

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This free activity is perfect for beginning writers because it exposes them to sentence structure, sight words, and vocabulary, but also scaffolds their writing by providing the sentence frame.

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In this activity, students will trace the sentence and use the vocabulary cards to finish the sentence. They will also draw a matching picture, which gives them practice drawing matching illustrations.

You could also save paper and make this reusable by sticking it in a dry erase sleeve.

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Again, you can find this activity free here.

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This is another great activity for beginning writers, but I love this activity for all year because it exposes students to vocabulary and gives them practice with longer words.

Some of my students choose to stretch out the words instead of looking at the vocabulary cards and that is perfectly fine with me! I love seeing their progress throughout the year.

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ANOTHER easy activity, but it’s also easy to differentiate! Students can write generic lists, which I usually keep out from day 1, or I can have them write lists on specific topics.

Again, this exposes them to new vocabulary and drawing pictures to match their words.

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I have two different levels of writing paper. One just has a couple lines and is perfect for emergent writers. Once my students can write multiple pages for one story, I also let them add covers to make their own books!

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I also have story starter paper, which is great for those students who take ten years to think of a writing topic. They already have the topic provided for them; they just have to write about the picture!

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This is an activity I usually introduce the second semester, because I like to take the time to teach my students the proper way to right a letter. It annoys me so much to see a page with just a heart or “hi.” written on it!

How engaging would this be if you actually had a mailbox, though?? I know they usually put small ones in the Target Dollar Spot around Valentine’s Day. You could let students “mail” their letters and have a mailman as a classroom job to deliver the letters!

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This is another activity I save either for the end of the year or for my more advanced writers. If you taught 1st or 2nd grade, though, this would be perfect for all year long!

I have so many of these research flip books, so I can keep ones out that match with what we’re learning or put out ones that match student interest. The National Geographic Kids books are perfect for research, or I let my students use Kiddle (the kid-friendly Google) on the computers!

If you want to start your own writing center, or even just change yours up, i’m offering my Themed Writing Centers for the Year for just $15 right now as I add in the themes! There are currently 10 themes included (a $30 value), and I will be adding in at least 29 more!

In each themed pack, you’ll get the visual directions posters you can display, picture vocabulary cards, multiple labeling pages, list pages, writing and story start paper, a card, and letter paper.

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Little Readers: Whole Group Literacy for K-1 (Freebies included!)

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I’m not going to lie, i’m a little bit sentimental about the “birth” of this curriculum! It has been a LONG time coming!

Each unit contains everything you need to teach an effective and engaging whole group literacy block, including phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, writing, vocabulary, phonics, and crafts – all you need to add is the books!

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What does a typical unit look like?

Each unit contains 4 weeks worth of materials (except August/September which contains 6 weeks). Each week will focus on one text you will do a close read on as a whole class.

Why a close read? By focusing on one book a week, but reading it for different information and thinking about it in a different way, students really get to know the text and can really focus on the reading comprehension strategies they are practicing each week.

NOT every week will look the same, though! In the August/September unit, most of the weeks focus on the same comprehension skills to build a routine, but by the 6th week, the strategies change as nonfiction text is also introduced. In the October unit, students some of the comprehension skills will stay the same, but 1-2 will be different each week.

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Each week, you will have a week overview and 5 days worth of lesson plans. These lesson plans offer easy ways to differentiate for K/1 (or for your higher/lower students).

Each week generally contains 4 vocabulary words students will focus on and one day a week is generally dedicated to working with that vocabulary.

You are given two options for these vocabulary cards to make it easy for you! You may also choose to just print the picture and word card and let the students generate the definition using context clues in the text. For kindergarten, this is a skill I would introduce later on in the year.

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This is one of the fun phonemic awareness activities included for kindergarten! I can’t take credit for this idea, but I can guarantee that students LOVE this game!

 

These are an example of one of the comprehension skills covered – making predictions. You can see how the pages might be different for kindergarten or first, but the skills stay the same. If you have students at different levels in your classroom, you could also use these to differentiate their work.

 

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Each week contains one craft or extension activity. Above you can see an example of the August/September crafts, and below you can see examples of the October crafts.

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Phonics is also differentiated for K/1. In the August/September unit, kindergarten will focus on being introduce to the letters and reviewing the letters. In October, they will focus on reviewing letter sounds, working with beginning sounds, and learn medial vowel a.

 

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First grade will focus on all of the medial vowels and cvc words in August/September. In October, they will focus on word families. Their word work generally contains one paper activity or interactive board activity per day and a short assessment/check in for Fridays.

Interested but still not completely sure if this is for you?

Try the first week FREE for a limited time!

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I’m interested! Where can I find this?

Right now, August/September and October are available and they will be discounted to 50% off through Friday 6/23.

BUT you can also save a HUGE amount of money by getting the growing bundle! This bundle will be $25 (a $102 value) through Friday only as well. Right now it contains the first 2 units, but each additional unit will be added at least 2 months before the actual month.

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