A lesson to review syllable types and spelling patterns?
Not a problem.
This was the gist of a conversation I had with two third grade teachers recently. Then I sat down to plan the lesson.
Not a problem? What was I thinking? I know my syllable types, don’t get me wrong. But where to begin? I needed a really strong connection to get this lesson off the ground.
As it happened, my son and his girlfriend had been home the weekend before. Part of our routine when they are home is a game of Scrabble. Of course. Knowing syllable types and spelling patterns makes you a better Scrabble player. (Vocabulary helps too, but that’s another post.) That’s my way in.
I grabbed the bag of letter tiles out of the box, and pulled out 7 letter tiles, just as if I was playing a real game.
A E F K R S T
Yes! An A and an E. As I played with these letters, I realized that the R was complicating my options, so I traded it for a random letter. I pulled an N. Perfect.
The rest of the lesson fell into place pretty easily. I used a sentence strip to make my Scrabble letters big enough for modeling, chose a Joyce Sidman poem that had a lot of juicy words that would build the kids vocabulary as well, and headed down to third grade.
The lesson went fine, even though it was clear immediately why the teachers had requested my help. This is ongoing work, and I’ll be heading back to third grade on a regular basis.
But this story doesn’t end there. One of the joys of teaching is that you never know what will strike a spark in kids. As it happens, a Tier 3 student I’ve been working with was in one of those classes. When I picked him up after that lesson, he said to me, “Can we play Scrabble today?”
I was shocked. The Making Words lessons (thank you, Patricia Cunningham!) we had done each week had engaged him, but interest in words, let alone enthusiasm, hadn’t appeared to be part of his personality.
“Sure,” I replied, not wanting my excitement to deter his interest. In my mind, I was frantically wondering if I even still had a Scrabble game at school. My recent move to a smaller space caused me to do some serious weeding.
Thankfully, the Scrabble board was right where it belonged. Soon, the board was out, our tiles were drawn and we were ready for the serious business of playing Scrabble.
Since I started working with this boy about two months ago, he has moaned and groaned his way through lesson after lesson.
“I read this book.”
“My stomach hurts.”
We all know this child. But now that his cleaning my clock at Scrabble, he sits up a little taller and is full of questions about the books we read. He hasn’t had a stomach ache all week.
I’m not naive enough to think that playing Scrabble with this boy every day is the answer to all the concerns we have about him. But for now, it has captured his interest. And sometimes that is where the breakthrough begins.
Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Melanie, Lisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.