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Around the Campfire: Play!

Tip Number 6.


Last year, around the campfire, we shared ideas about adding playfulness into your kindergarten and 1st grade routine. This tip bears repeating!


Once students understand that each of the 26 letters of the alphabet have unique sounds that can be combined to represent the words we speak, they will be off and running! But this is just the beginning. Use the Hatchling Phonetic objects and corresponding deck for matching games. Utilizing the moveable alphabet, the possibility for “play” is endless. Children will quickly learn that they can check their work by simply flipping the phonetic card. That’s right, the  teacher is built in, and this helps students confidently enjoy their important work.

1st Grade

By the time students have reached 1st grade, they are confidently reading and writing simple three and four-letter short vowel words with consonants, consonant blends, and digraphs—cat, mug, splat, chin, this, shop, and more. Again, utilizing the moveable alphabet, set up opportunities for students to independently practice the new phonics introduced each week, matching objects to cards and spelling the playful way. Children will have a longer attention span for this activity that is familiar from their kindergarten year. But even students new to Hatchling curriculum, will quickly catch on to the fact that they can check their work by simply flipping the phonetic card.

Play is an opportunity to practice new academic skills.

Play is an opportunity to foster independence.

Play is an opportunity to grow confidence.

I truly hope your students are not afraid to ask questions, that they know they are learning and learning well. I hope they can use all the tools available and add more. I hope they find their mentors and tribes of support. I hope they have fun and play with sounds and words. I hope they treasure stories like you. I hope you both know that they are teachers too!

After talking with many parents I have put our list of extras down that we have shared over the years, that you can incorporate while doing this early learning or remediation work. Please keep checking back to our website for blogs, videos freebies and more added extras. We are making the guide for you!

Extra Playful Tool Kit

Gross Motor

  • Have your student write the letters they are learning outside with chalk, or paintbrush and water. It’s okay to use big fun strokes.
  • Have your student watercolor or paint letters -tracing a piece of paper.
  • Have your student collect stones, sticks or leaves and make the letters with materials.
  • Have your student write the letters in the dirt with sticks.
  • Put the card with the word or sound out on the floor or tape to the wall. Have your student hop or run or dance to the sound you say.
  • Have your student pick an animal and act like that animal while going to tag the card.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt around the house collecting or naming items that start with the sound you are working on.
  • Have your student make the shape of the letter with his body and make the sound.
  • Have your student throw a bean bag on a letter sounds or words you have learned—use the cards from Hatchling or put words on bigger pieces of paper.

Fine Motor

  • Glue buttons or beads onto a big block letter B written on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper.
  • Engage in a beading activity with pipe cleaners.
  • Draw wavy or zigzag lines for your students to cut, following the lines.
  • Use an eyedropper and colored water to drop into little soap saver suction cups.
  • Find pictures in magazines that start with different sounds, cut, and paste.

I Spy Sounds in Books while Reading

Find pictures in books that start with the sound(s) you are working on: “Do you see anything on this page that starts with a ___ sound?” Give your child time and patience. If your child finds a sound but does not start with the sound you asked for respond in an encouraging way, praising the sound they did find. If the sound was “p” but they found “b” you might say: “Wow, you found a picture with the “b” sound,  “ball” begins with this sound! Now ask if you can have a turn too. You can model finding the “p” sound. Look I found something round too, “pizza” starts with a “p” sound.

Moveable Alphabet tips and games

  • The letters in the Moveable Alphabet are organized in alphabetical order to help students process as they see, feel, touch and do. Ask your student to find the letter (or letters) that makes the ___ sound. You can do this weekly after learning sounds, to practice and reinforce. Always have your children find the letters to match sounds and to also put away the letters when possible.
  • Have your student take the letter sound you are working on or reviewing out of the moveable alphabet box. Have your student walk around the room or permitted area and put the letter in front of any object that starts with that sound. You can play this same game with first, middle and last sound. See game below.
  • Put out letters of moveable alphabet in a sequence on the table and have letters that are missing. Have your student fill in the missing letters (examples: a__ c,  d e __,  g __i,  j  k  __).
  • Ask your student to find the first sound in a word. For example, try the word hat (this list can be the same word cards you practice with Hatchling Volume 1 or Volume 2).
  • Ask your student to find the middle sound—this will be the short vowel sound (a, e, i, o, u) in closed syllable words. Closed syllable words have 1 syllable, one vowel, and are closed in at the end by a consonant or consonants. For example, the word “dog” or “stand” are closed syllable words.
  • Play the Magic “E” game. Spell out any of the following words in the lid of the Moveable alphabet:  cap, car, spar, her, them, kit, bit, pin, twin, rod, nod, hop, glob, hug,  cub. Have your student add the Magic “E” to the end of the word and read with the long vowel sound.
  • Play “My Mistake” with your student. Once your child has completed Volume 1C, CVC words (consonant/vowel/consonant words), you can play with the words you have learned and add new ones. Using the CVC objects, spell words and make mistakes. Ask your students to check your words and ask if they are correct. If they find the mistake have them change the letter to make it correct. For example, beside the object “bag” you spell “bog” with the Moveable Alphabet. Have your student correct your mistake.
  • Play “What New Word” with your student.  After completing 1C and 1H in Hatchling, Volume 1, see if your student can make new words out of words they have learned. For example, they learned the word “bag” in Hatchling 1C. How many words can they make if they take away the letter “b” and replace with a different sound (gag, hag, jag, lag, mag, nag, rag, sag, tag, wag, zag)? Let the words be nonsense or part of a longer word or names. Have fun and be playful. The point is you want your student to identify the correct sounds.

Have fun… the thing is, when it comes to PLAY and learning, the possibilities are endless!