Students in Kindergarten tend to write random words that make absolutely no sense; every Kindergarten teacher who reads this will their eyes because they know what I mean!
It is important that we teach our students the difference between real words and words that might seem real. We must do this by teaching students HOW to sound out words and how to decipher if they make sense or do not make sense.
One easy way to help students sound out words and make sure that they make sense is to have them sort between real and nonsense words.
The time of year my students seem to be really ready for this skill is around mid-year!
"Today, we are going to learn how to sound out words to decide if they are real word or what we call nonsense words. Nonsense words make no sense. That's why they are called non... sense. We don't want to write words like that, so we need to be able to read them so we can tell if they should be used or not! So, today, I am going to show you how to sound out and decide if words are real words or nonsense words! Let me show you some examples."
"Here is a word. I am going to use my slinky to stretch it out. I am going to listen to myself as I do this. H-O-T... hot... Hmmm... is hot a word? Yes. Hot is a word. I will use it in a sentence to make sure. Soup is extremely hot. Yes, it fits! I will put it under the title for Real Words. Now, let me try another one. Z-O-B... zob... is zob a word? I don't think so... I have nevr heard of a zob. So, it must not be a word. I will put it on the side under Silly Words.
"Now, let's see if you can help me."
I will have the students help me with the following words:
Now, I am going to give each pair of you one card. One person is going to sound-out the word very slowly. The other person is going to place the card under the heading for either Real Words or Silly Words.
Students already have partners set up in my classroom, so moving to pairs is done very quickly. I give the better reader in each partnership the card so they can read it slowly.
As students are reading, giving their sentences and placing their cards, I listen and watch. I am looking for students to praise and students to re-teach in the moment.
After all cards have been placed, I read each choice aloud to the class. If a pair of students made a choice that was incorrect, I allow them to move their card and tell me why they had to move it and how they know their answer is now correct. This is part of the process that holds them accountable for always getting the correct answer; even if not on the first try!
This practice activity is one that students enjoy while they also build their phonemic awareness skills. Here is an assessment for the real and nonsense words center where you can see exactly how students put this activity into motion!
I love to put things like this in a center. I usually make them seasonal centers- that way, students don't get bored doing them each round, and I can remember to make new ones! I love to make these on ornaments, eggs for spring, flowers for summer, etc.
Also, this activity is easy to change up- I can give students words, or they can create their own with single letters. Students love doing this because they can rearrange the same letters to see whether they can get a word with just a different combination or not; this mystery makes them love learning this skill even more! I can really easily do this with a classroom boggle board that can stay up and involves little to no prep-work with weekly rotations. Additionally, I have sometimes let my kids use this computerized boggle game that really helps my kinesthetic learners!
As always, practice makes perfect. I don't ever make this a one time thing. We do this throughout the year and the kids enjoy every second!