We all know that making the jump from sounding out words to having the courage to write them on your own can be quite difficult for kindergarteners. But, if we want our students to use the knowledge they already have about letters and sounds, we need to provide them with confidence that they can indeed do it; then, they will take the plunge!
By using slinkies, you can transform your classroom into a group of reluctant spellers to a group of striving spellers! You will be amazed at how often your students want to spell things on their own when they get to use an fun manipulative that actually helps them 'see' the word they are wanting to write! Try this once and you will be hooked!
Slinkies are not only a "fun" learning tool for students, but they also give students a kinesthetic connection to sounding out words. When students are able to stretch each sound, they really pay attention to individual phonemes; this is directly connected to spelling! This practice takes a few times for students to own; however, one students take ownership of stretching each sound, they really listen... and enjoy it!
Before you start this task, make sure that students are pretty good at remembering left to right progression. If they need reinforcement, here is an idea to help!
Materials I use:
I use SMALL slinkies for this practice. Yes, it is something I had to use some school money to purchase, but daily, it is well worth it. These will be used all year and can be used for many years to come!
I am extremely fond of only small, plastic slinkies.
Metal slinkies get tangled and large slinkies are too hard for the students to manipulate.
The slinkies that are shapes (like hearts and stars) are NOT good for this- they also get messed up!
*I think these slinkies are crucial to the success of this lesson- we don't usually use many manipulatives with reading skills (we usually save them for math); however, students can make a better connection to their learning when they use these slinkies because it makes hearing the sounds a more concrete, visual and kinesthetic experience.
The slinkies I use are from Oriental Trading (we bought them for a grade level at a time).
If I didn't want to purchase in bulk, I have checked out smaller packages as well, like this.
I also know that dollar tree and WalMart also carry slinkies in packs, but I didn't look there this time because the price on the ones at Oriental Trading (50 for $11) can't be beat, in my personal opinion!
One thing I learned is this: always get more slinkies than you will need.
Sometimes, the slinkies indeed do get messed up or really dirty- I don't want one child to be missing one. Also, I like to have a set of slinkies for my small groups as well as at my tables for each individual. I even keep a set of slinkies up on my carpet for whole group time as well! I LOVE THESE!
This activity takes commitment on the part of the teacher and the students! I really take time to plan out my lessons for phonemic segmentation and make sure that there is a direct correlation with the skills and our slinkies, every time. Also, I am committed to making sure my students know these are learning tools; you play and it's taken away. Finally, I am committed to using these tools in whole group, small groups and individually; this shows students how important the skill we are talking about will be to them throughout all lessons.
This lesson will be taught in a whole-group setting because I want all students to have a solid introduction to these materials! Students will be seated on the carpet in front of me and I will have my basket of slinkies ready for us to use. Also, I will have my slinky spelling reference chart to use as I introduce this idea to students.
"Today, we are going to learn how to use a new, cool learning tool. Notice, I didn't say it was a toy; I said it was a learning tool. So, what do you think we will use this tool for?"
(Students should say, "We will use this tool for learning.")
"Yes, we will use this tool for learning. Now, I am sure it will be fun and we will have a good time learning how to use it, but we need to make sure we are using it to help us learn! Now that we have that part down, let me show you what the tool is!"
(Take out your slinky and show it to your students.)
"You are right. This learning tool is called a slinky. We are going to use it to help us spell. Now, do you think we will get these out during math time?"
(Students should say, "No, we would not.")
"No, we wouldn't. We will only get the slinkies out when we plan on working on spelling. If you are not working on spelling something, you should not have a slinky in your hand. Does everyone understand?"
(Students should nod or say, "Yes.")
"Good! Now, let me show you how to use this tool. I am going to stand with my back to you so you can see how to use it from the correct direction. For a long time now, we have been working on moving from left to right when we read and sound things out... so, which side do you think I will start my slinky on?"
(Students should say, "We will start on the left side.")
"You are correct again! We will start on the left side. The left side is your glue side. Let me show you what I mean.”
(Stand in front of your students (or sit, if they can all see) and show them that your left arm is going to stay still and touching your body. Explain to them that the reason for this is that the first sound starts there- then it moves. The first sound is on the left, then you move… but the first sound stays still. This helps them see the sounds stretching when they use the slinky. If they are stretching the whole thing out, 1) it gets out of control and 2) they are unable to see the individual sounds as they stretch.)
Show your students how your left arm stays still, even when you stretch.
“Now, I will put my first sound on the left and then stretch towards the right. Let me show you an example.”
(Stretch out a simple CVC word. For the example, we will use cat.)
“Let’s say that I want to know how to spell the word cat. I am going to stretch that word from my left to my right. I am going to do this so I can hear each of the sounds that I will need to write. So, I will start /c/ on my left side. Watch: /c/, now I will keep stretching, /a/, /t/… cat. I didn’t hear all of the sounds, so I can always do it again. /c/…/a/…/t/… Okay, I heard all of the sounds. So I can put my slinky down and now, I can write it. I heard /c/- which is c… I heard /a/- which is a… I heard /t/-which is t. Those were all of the sounds I heard. Now I will touch my letters to make sure they match the sounds I heard with my slinky. /c/…/a/…/t/… Yes! I heard three sounds when I stretched it and I wrote down all three sounds. The slinky helped me spell the word cat! Did you see that?”
(Students will be so excited.)
At this point, I would hand out slinkies to all of my students and have them go through the procedure with me 2-3 times. I would remind them each time to start on the left and glue their left side. Then, I would encourage them to watch the slinky, right in front of them, as they stretch it. That way, not only can they hear how many sounds, but they can also feel and see the sounds as well!
After the group practice, I would let them go back to their seat and stretch out an easy word for themselves. You can coach them through this process with just one word. When you do this, you will be setting the expectation for the rest of the year. Here is where you make sure they are picking it up only to spell, putting it down to write and using it appropriately.
* I have attached my chart that I have in my classroom explaining the rules and procedures for slinky spelling.
Once the students have practiced, pick the slinkies back up.
Do this same lesson 2-3 times before you let students keep slinkies at their tables. Make sure your expectations are set high and they will use them well. Remind them that they can only use the slinkies IF they are spelling words by themselves (not sight words)… they will really begin to try to spell a lot more!
I love to use slinkies in my small groups, also! The students enjoy sounding out their decodable words with this learning tool. Also, when we practice this in small groups, I have the opportunity to correct the way they are using the slinkies if they're not doing it the proper way.
Here is a menu of ideas for how to use the slinkies in small groups:
Sound out decodable words to read or write them.
Sound out nonsense words to read them.
Sound out multi-syllabic words to read or write them.
Sound our blends to figure out how to spell them.
Stretch words fluently for reading or writing (instead of stretching each sound, stretch in one, solid movement for one, fluid word).
Here is what I typically use slinkies for in whole group:
Writing independently in response (to reading, science, social studies, etc.).
*Here is a video of a student using a slinky to spell!
Independent reading for early-finishers- so they don't come ask me about a word.
Word family word list stretching for fluent reading.
The more I use these slinkies, the more students want to write the things they know the sounds for. This small, simple activity really encourages my students to spell, spell, spell and I have absolutely fallen in love with teaching this skill!