One of the hardest things for our students to understand and show is spacing between words. Without understanding spacing, students will not be able to successfully track print. In addition, students who do not understand spacing will also not be able to write appropriately. One of our important jobs is to give students strategies to help them see and make spaces in print.
Personally, I LOVE to use Really Good Stuff's Space Men.
I use these tools because not only are they cute and clever, but they are also small and are easily stored and accessed by my students.
I will let you know, though, that I have not always used Space Men- I used to just rely on the good 'ole "finger spacing" and that also worked just fine!
When I bought them, I went ahead and got the space men kit with the huge one for modeling!
I do this lesson within the first week of the year. The first time I have my students write more than their name, I teach this lesson.
"Today, I am going to show you a learning tool that we can use, especially when we write. This tool helps us remember that words are separated by spaces. It is important to know that: words are separated by spaces. Repeat that, please."
(Students will say, "Words are separated by spaces.")
"Yes. This tool will help us see that words should ALWAYS be separated by spaces. Now, letters do not all need to have spaces between them- only complete words need spaces between them. If we don't have spaces between our words, we cannot read them. That wouldn't be good. So, the way it works is: when you see a space, you need to know you are moving on from one word to another. Whether you are reading or writing, a space separates one word from the next. Now, this learning tool will help show us that."
(Hold up the large teacher-sized Space Man.)
"This is a Space Man. This tool is used to help us see and make spaces. What is this tool, the Space Man, used for?"
(Students will say, "The Space Man is used to help us see and make spaces.")
"Great! Now, when I am reading, a space tells me to go to the next word. But, when I am writing, I have to create that part myself. That is where my Space Man comes in. When I write one word, what do I need before I can write another word?.... (wait time) I need a space. So, I am going to put my Space Man down. After him, then I can start my next word. Basically, my Space Man is going to stop between each of my words to help me remember to make a space after each word before I can write another one. See how helpful he is?"
I will model this for students with a short, three word sentence.
"My sentence is I can see! I will write I... now, I need another word, so I am going to put my Space Man down, and now I can write my next word. Can. Now, I need another word, so I will put my Space Man down again, and I can write the next word. See. I don't have any more words in my sentence, so I can just put a period right after my last word- I don't need spaces before a punctuation mark. Did everyone see how easy it was to use my Space Man to help me make spaces between my words?"
(Students will say yes or nod.)
"Good! Now, at your tables, you have small Space Men. I would like for you to go back to your seats and get a piece of paper and a pencil. Then, I would like for you to copy my sentence, I can see, onto your paper. Between each word, I would like to see you using your Space Man. He is going to be the reminder that we need spaces between each word."
(I will monitor and correct as students are practicing. I will give praise for correct use.)
I leave my Space Men on the tables until mid year. After mid-year, I assign Space Men to those students who still need them. Students who no longer need the visual reminder move on and rarely even think to use a Space Man; however, if a student asks me for one when we are doing a lengthy writing project, I will supply them with a Space Man.
I always keep Space Men available in my small reading groups, year round. I do this because we do a lot of modeled writing in small groups. With the Space Men, I am able to really talk students through the process of making spaces the appropriate length, etc.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the extra benefits (and precautions) of using space men!