Each day, my students go to literacy stations with one of the stations being "Working with the Teacher". For one week, the children will rotate into one station to build their own "Word Monster", and then rotate to my station to practice their sight words and "feed" their monsters.
Prior to establishing these stations, I have read to the class from a number of Ed Emberley's monster books: Go Away, Big Green Monster; Glad Monster, Sad Monster; If you're a Monster and You Know It; There Was an Old Monster. I start my station rotation with the group that needs the most practice with sight words, so they will actually see me twice during the week to work on the same skill. I use my "Word Monster" sample to work with this first group so that they can see how the activity is done.
Before the class breaks off into their small groups, I tell the children that I have brought a friend with me to school and this friend is very hungry. Much like Cookie Monster from Sesame Street loves cookies, my friend, the Word Monster, loves to eat words. Although my monster will eat any words, he is most fond of the words that children can already read. I tell the children that they will have an opportunity to feed my monster from their banks of popcorn (sight) words when they are meeting with me, but they will also have the chance to create their own monster at a different station for practicing their words at home. Despite already picking out the group ahead of time, I pretend that I am looking for the best behaved group to work with my friendly monster first.
The “Word Monster” is a tissue box decorated to look like a monster and is “fed” popcorn (sight) words. This activity goes along with my unit about author, Ed Emberley who wrote There Was an Old Monster; Go Away, Big Green Monster; Glad Monster, Sad Monster; and If You’re a Monster and You Know It.
The children’s “monsters” are modeled after the characters in the books. After collecting a tissue box, one per child, the children create “Word Monsters”. I provide the students with paper scraps and markers in which to begin decorating the outside of the tissue box. They glue egg carton cups on top to make the eyes and add googly eyes into the cups to add dimension. I also provide ribbon scraps so the children could make hair. At our small group time, the children get the words that are individually selected for them. We go around the table and each child reads a word. If the child knows the word, they feed it to their monster. If they do not, then I tell them the word, they repeat it, and then put that card at the bottom of the pile. We continue around the table until all the cards have been “eaten”. Then, the children are given a list of popcorn word cards to cut apart so that they can practice the words at home. As the children master a word, the children “feed” their monsters.
Each time the children work in their small groups, their lesson is differentiated by their ability levels. Each group is homogeneous based on ability, so it is easier to keep track of the level of word knowledge. In my district, students are expected to read thirty popcorn words by the end of kindergarten. By providing opportunities to make the learning of these words more engaging at home, I teach parents better ways to interact with their children during homework time. The practice of daily homework does not need to be drudgery when the children are given enjoyable interactions with reading skills. Although all of my students are expected to learn these words, not all of them are at that developmental stage yet. I send letter cards home in both uppercase and lowercase versions for children to practice.
On a weekly basis, I assess my students’ abilities to identify the letter names, sounds and popcorn words. I keep a running log of where the children are in their attaining of this knowledge and send a quick note to parents in regards to their progress. I update their information so that the parents know which skill to focus on primarily. Three times a year I do a formal assessment of these same skills. This activity provides the additional practice that the children need to meet the goals.