Word Trains.

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Students will be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter sound correspondence.

Big Idea

Making a word train offers students a chance to refine letter sound connections.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell the students that we are going to watch a short video on trains.

“Boys and girls I am going to show you two short video clips about a fun form of transportation it is one of my favorites. I like the way I can look out the window and relax but if I want to get up and stretch my legs I can. Does anyone think they know what Mrs. Clapp’s favorite form of transportation is?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.

“That’s right Carson it is a train. I love traveling by train.”

“In this video clip we are going to see some different kinds of trains. Listen closely to the sounds of the different types of trains."



During the first video I narrate while the students are watching. We discuss the different types of trains we see, how long or short they are, whether they are carrying people or cargo or both, and whether they are going fast or slow.

“In the video clip I noticed something about the steam train that concerns me. Can anyone think what it might be?”

I select a few students to respond as they try to guess my concern. Because of the nature of our school a student usually picks up on the concern.

“You are right Owen; the amount of smoke being blown out into the atmosphere does add to air pollution. So even though I like steam trains I am glad we do not use them all the time anymore.”

“We are going to read a book about a very famous little steam train. Can anyone guess who that might be?’

I select a student to respond.

“That’s right Landon it is Thomas the Tank Engine.”


I use these short video clips to get my students excited about trains as they will be working with trains in all kinds of activities during integrated work time. 


45 minutes

“This book is called New Tracks for Thomas, written by Gail Herman and illustrated by William Heinemann.


During the reading of this book we discuss how Thomas did not follow directions and how he should have listened to his engine driver. We discuss vocabulary words like; freight, branch, boastful, etc. We review what it means to be proud and I let a couple of students tell us about a time when they were proud.


After reading I tell the students, “Today at one of the integrated work stations you will get an engine that looks like this one (I hold a sample engine for the students to see) and five cars that look like this one (again I hold up one for the students to see).”

Cars for the word train.

“This is your job. First you need to write your name on the engine (I model this process). Next, I want you to look at the last letter of the title "My Word Train" (I model this process as I talk).”

“Now comes the tricky part. What letter sound do you hear at the end of the word “train”?”

I select a student to respond.

“Nicely done Rachel; I do hear the /n/ sound. Well now I am going to take that /n/ sound and make it the beginning sound of a word I will write on my next train car. Can anyone give me a word that begins with /n/?”

I select a student to respond.

“Nail does begin with /n/. Good work Kallee.” I write the word nail on the train car and stick it to the engine with tape.

“Now what sound is at the end of the word “nail”?”

I let the class call it out.

“Right it is /l/. What do you think I am going to do with that sound?”

I select a student who I know will give me the right answer because I do not want other students becoming confused.

“Right Emily; that sound is now the sound I want my next word to begin with. Does everyone understand what your job is?”

“What resources can I use to help me come up with words with specific letter sounds?”

I select enough students to respond to cover the resources.

“You all gave great resources. Those are the same resources I used to help me spell the word train.”

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some word train fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.



One of the most important skills for children to develop in the kindergarten year is the recognition that letters and sounds are related. We often call this "the alphabetic principle," which is the notion that speech sounds can be connected to letters in a predictable way. To grasp the alphabetic principal, children need to understand that:

  • letters represent speech sounds
  • letters go together to make words
  • changing the letters changes the sounds and the words

This is not an easy concept for many young learners to absorb so teachers must provide lots of practice opportunities in the classroom. The letter sounds should also be experienced as initial, medial and ending sounds because this can alter the sound the letter makes. 



15 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Sample of train 1.          End of sample train 1.

Sample train 2.             End of sample train 2.


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to read their word train to the rest of the class.

“Today your exit ticket is to read the word train you created. I will pull the word trains out of the finished work bin and call out the name I see written on the train. That person will come up in front of the class and read their word train to the rest of the group. DO not worry because if you need help I am right here to help you in whatever way you need.”

“Now if I am up here in front of the class reading my word train, what are some skills I need to remember?”

I select enough students to respond to cover the pointers we have discussed in the past.

“Those were all helpful pointer; I need to speak slowly and clearly, I need to let the audience see my face, and I need to stand up tall.”

“What about if I am an audience member; what do I need to do?”

Once again I select enough students to respond to cover the pointers we have discussed in the past.

“Great recalling boys and girls; I need to sit at attention with my eyes on the speaker, I need to be quiet and I need to be respectful.”

“Okay now we know what our jobs are so here we go.”

I pull trains out of the finished work bin and call the students up.

If a student has difficulty reading their own work I help out by prompting through whispering, pointing at the word they should be focusing on, straight our reading the word train if the student asks me too.  

Student reading her word train     Student reading her word train 2 

Using this very quick and easy exit ticket method everyday gets the students into a routine and they know what to expect as a continuation of their learning. The exit ticket gives me a quick glimpse of how a student is doing when they either fluently give me a response or if they struggle I know I may need to do each support work with that particular student. The exit ticket also supports the lesson we have just completed and ties it up before moving on with the rest of our day.  


I use the Word Train Checklist to go over the student’s work and once it is complete I will place the student’s work in his/her collection portfolio.

Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the point that I am looking to see if a student was able to recognize the last letter sound in a word and then take that sound and make it the initial sound for the next word. What resources did the student use to write their word – word wall, books, friends, phonetic spelling, etc? I also make comment on how neat and tidy the work is.

Student mixing letters and sounds

The checklist helps me because the work sample provides me with evidence of students learning as to whether the student met the objectives or not. The checklist helps to convey information to the student’s family as to how well they are doing in class, and finally it helps the student by letting him/her know how he/she did and if there are areas where he/she could improve. 


At the math station students use rulers to measure different train lengths. They record the results on their recording sheet.


At another station students color train cars according to the directions given (ordinal number word activity).

Ordinal Places.

High student sample of ordinal place work.                    Back of high student ordinal place work.

Middle student sample of ordinal place work.                 Back of middle student ordinal place work.