Teaching word families to preschoolers is an important skill to work on when it comes to early literacy activities. Young children need hands-on activities to learn, and literacy is no exception. Using ping pong balls when teaching word families certainly allows the children to get their hands busy (and have lots of FUN)! It’s also a great way for kids to get in some fine motor practice.
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What a fun way of teaching word families!
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Decide which word families to focus on first, then grab the permanent marker. Write one letter on each ping pong ball to correspond with the word families that will be taught.
Place the appropriate number of golf tees into the styrofoam base. Try to ensure they’re spaced far enough apart so the ping pong balls don’t touch. Since the word families I chose were just three letters, I just used three tees.
Call the child over and introduce the concept. For example, I might say, “Let’s make some words with these ping pong balls!”
Since they ARE balls, the kiddo may want to throw or bounce them a little bit. I think that’s a great warm up! Go over letter identification while tossing the balls back and forth. “Throw me the ‘a’!” “Oh, I caught the ‘g’!”
Place one word up on the golf tees, encouraging the child to help. “Let’s make the word ‘dig’ together! I bet you can help me figure out which letters we need. Let’s say ‘dig’ slowly. Hmmm, I hear the sound /d/ at the beginning. The letter ‘d’ says that sound! Let’s find the letter ‘d’!”
After making the first word, set out a few other balls with letters written on them. Make sure that the letters would work as part of the word family you’re discussing. For example, with ‘dig’ I chose the letters r, b, and z to make more words with.
Explain how to change the word into another word. “We can change words we know into new words just by changing one letter! Let’s change ‘dig’ into ‘zig’. /Z/ is the sound I hear at the beginning of the word ‘zig’. Which of these letters should be use next? Yes, the letter z! Let’s take ‘d’ off of ‘dig’ and put the z at the beginning. It’s not ‘dig’ anymore! Now it’s ‘zig’!” You can also touch on making new words by change the last letter!
Keep moving along with one word family, helping the child as needed. Model and think out loud as much as possible. This allowed the child to better understand the process. If you’re so inclined, move onto another word family!
Of course, the ping pong ball letters can be used for more than just teaching word families. They’re great for letter identification, practicing letter sounds, letter matching, etc. Make names using the ping pong letters! Allow older children to practice spelling words with the letters. Use them on the golf tees or toss them around for a more active game. Lots of playful literacy fun!
How do you go about teaching word families? How would you and your kiddos use ping pong ball letters?
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