Parent Games!

In my old district, the school year will be half over at the end of January!  I always thought the second half of the year went much faster than the beginning of the year.  This is the time of year when you can really see the children who are moving along, and those who might be struggling with basic concepts.  I think full day kindergarten has made a big difference with this, most of my class recognized letters, matched letters and sounds, and named numerals by mid-year.  But we did not have paraprofessionals to give extra support, so when I had concerns about a child, and spoke to his/her parents, I wanted to be able to give them specific ideas of ways to help their child at home.

I developed a take home packet that had materials and directions for different activities that parents, or older siblings, or babysitters, could do with the children.  Often I made copies of these materials for each child and gave them out to every family at conferences in October.   If a child needed extra help later in the year I would remind the parents about these activities – and sometimes I had to send home another set.   Of course I encouraged parents to use the materials any way they were comfortable, but I provided lots of ideas that helped the child learn by playing instead of  just holding up a flashcard or drilling the child about a skill.

Here are the directions for different activities that I included in the packet.

Activity suggestions

Here are some of the materials I copied for each packet.  I put everything together in a 10 X 13 manilla envelope, here is the cover I glued on the front:

cover

I included upper and lower case letters

I used to make these cards larger, but  I reduced them to use less paper, and they still worked fine.  I usually copied them on construction paper, but I made a few copies on card stock and I kept those in the classroom and sometimes asked parent volunteers to play games with certain kids.  I included extra lower case letters so the children could use them to spell out sight words, their name, etc.
Here are the masters for the letter cards.

Upper case 1

upper case 2

lower case 1

lower case 2

I copied them on different colored paper so the children could play Memory games.  I also included pictures of objects that began with each sound – I did not include all of these in the packet – I usually gave one thing for each sound, but I didn’t keep my original masters so I am just giving you an assortment!

vowel clipart

beginning sounds pdf

I copied these on a new color too – so the children could play games matching letters and sounds.

I included activities for rhyming and word families and gave them these picture cards.


I included this game to help children stretch out sounds in words.

The children cut apart these strips and pushed them through a slit in the frog’s mouth – as they pulled the paper through they would stretch out the sounds.

I also included sight words activities, when I sent this packet home with every family I wanted games that reinforced a range of skills.

And this sight word board game…

I finished the spinner by hooking a paper clip onto a brad fastener and pushing that through the center of the circle.

To reinforce comprehension I gave them simple pictures to help sequence and retell fairy tales.

I added some math activities too.

 

number cards

I tried to be sure and play some of these math games with the children before I sent them home.  They loved numeral dice toss – they just rolled a die and wrote the number in the right column, great numeral writing practice, practice with probability, recognizing standard configuration, 1:1 counting of the dots on the dice – great skills!

This is an old Math Their Way game – My Turn, Your Turn.  The partners use one marker – like a plastic teddy bear or disk and start out with the marker on the star.  The children take turns rolling a die and moving the marker toward themselves – the other child moves the same marker in the opposite direction – great practice with 1:1 counting!

 

I know children learn math best through manipulative materials, so I bought a bag of large lima beans – very cheap!  Then I spread them out on a newspaper and spray painted one side of each bean.  I counted out 3o beans for each child and put them in a ziploc baggie.  In the directions I included different games that parents and children could play with the beans.

Here are more of the masters for these activities!

masters

I always thought that parents were much more receptive when I was asking them to help their child at home when I gave them these games and materials.  I hope you can find some activities here that you can use!

Let’s Make Books!

Every year I asked the children to create a very simple book as a family homework assignment.  I gave directions for this assignment right before our Holiday break, and many parents chose to work on it during vacation, but my goal was to have a book from each child by the end of February.  In my district we celebrated “March is Reading Month.”  I’m not sure if that is common in other districts, but we were always expected to do something special for reading during March, and these books were great.

Most of my families attended our Holiday Program, so after the program and before refreshments I used this opportunity to explain this homework assignment, and read a sample book to the parents.  My sample books were always a very short, simple pattern that used sight words we had already learned.  The examples I am sharing contain photographs, but I also showed parents books made by cutting out magazine pictures, and some that had illustrations drawn by the children.

Here is another sample book:

I also sent home a detailed letter explaining the assignment.

Parent letter

When the children brought their book into school I asked them to sit in our “author’s chair” and read it to the class.  I had a microphone system in my classroom, so the children read their book using the microphone – they loved that!  They called on children to give them a compliment, then I put their book aside to save for March is Reading Month.

I photocopied a list of the children’s names with space to write, and attached one of these inside each book for comments or compliments.  Then I bought extra large, 2 gallon sized baggies.  Each book was put inside a baggie for safekeeping.  Each day during the month of March the children borrowed another child’s book to take home.  They wrote their compliment next to their own name on the paper in each book.  I emphasized to parents how important it was to return these books every day so more children could have a turn to borrow them.

Comments & Compliments

In my letter I asked parents to make duplicate copies if possible to be sure we had enough books to borrow, even if someone forgot to return one.  I didn’t worry or keep track to see if everyone borrowed every book, they just enjoyed the ones they got to take home.  At the end of the month I collected all the books and returned them to the authors, along with an author certificate that I made on the computer.

I got a LOT of positive feedback from parents about this project.  Even parents who were leery about doing it with their child reported how much they enjoyed reading the books the other kids had made at home.  There were a few children who brought in books with lots of long, involved text; but most of them created a book that every child in our class could read.  It was a lot of fun!

Kindergarten Homework!

I believe that all children are much more successful when there is a good partnership between home and school.  Part of that is maintaining good, two way communication.  Another part is educating parents about how children learn, what their child is learning at school, and what they can do to help their child.  There are several times during the year when I send home special fun homework projects, but I also think it is a great idea to provide ongoing homework for parents who are looking for things to do with their child to reinforce their learning, and there are some children who really enjoy having homework along with their older siblings.

I have always thought that the number one thing parents can and should do is to read with their child regularly.  I used to have parents write down the titles of books they read with their child and send the list in, but that was a bother for busy parents.  It really isn’t that important to me whether someone reads 2 books or 10 books an evening – the important thing is that they spend time together enjoying reading!

I found, created and adapted different styles of gameboards and decorated one for each school month.  I numbered the gameboard so there is a space for each day of the month.  My directions to parents were whenever they read to their child they would  ask him or her to color in or make an X in the space for that day’s date.  If their child returned the sheet at the beginning of the next month (s)he could get a prize from our classroom prize box.

Here are those gameboard calendars:
Read aloud

More recently I wanted to provide more things for parents to do with their children that would reinforce what we are learning at school.  I made up a list of things they could work on each month that coincided with what we were doing at school, and included many areas of our curriculum.  When I sent them home I copied these lists back to back with the Read Aloud gameboards.

Homework 2

I asked the families not to return the homework sheets until the beginning of the next month so they could mark the days they read right up until the end of the month.  I made it very clear that they did not have to do ALL of the activities listed.  I encouraged parents to pick and choose things they thought would interest and benefit their child.

When the children brought in the homework sheets/read alouds they would take a prize from our prize box.  I did not remind children about this homework, but I did keep track of which children returned it.  If I was having a conference with a child who needed reinforcement it was helpful for me to know whether parents were doing the homework with them or not.

I had a lot of positive feedback from parents about this format – it was easy for parents, they had a whole month to complete activities and could do as many or few as they wished.  The read aloud format was very simple to complete.  Of course I received some sheets that showed the child obviously just colored in all the gameboard spaces at once, and brought it back because they wanted a prize.  I still think it is worthwhile!