Monday, April 14, 2014

Chunky Monkey!

Sometimes when we as teachers get overwhelmed with what we have to get done, we need to step back and remember how far our students have come!  I am so proud of them. 
The one area we need to keep practicing this time of year is noticing chunks and blends in words, so they don't try to "sound out" each letter. (Well, not THEE one area, but let's say one of the areas...) Some of the children seem almost suspicious- like they LEARNED all of their letters and sounds, and yet it's STILL not enough for me. Now I am throwing two letters at a time at them that make new sounds! I guess it's good that they learn a little at a time, because once they think they have conquered these chunks, they'll find out that sometimes they make different sounds. (hoot, book; cow, snow...)  Poor things.

In spite of the "exceptions," we are working hard to learn to chunk words.  

The kids and I both love using our Beanie Baby Reading Strategies.  I started using them last year.  They really give the kids something concrete to help them remember what to do when they get stuck on a word.  

I made and laminated these Reading Strategy Book Marks for each of the children.  They love them and have taken such good care of them. It is really sweet. 
I was able to find all animals (except for Eagle Eye) at the Dollar Store or Ollie's (for the frogs) so that I could buy 5 of each for the children to use during independent reading for reading buddies. They aren't the real "beanie babies" but close enough (for a dollar!)   I usually have a group of 5 at a time in beanbag chairs reading independently for a center, so I rotate these buddies to have different ones out as we talk about them to reinforce the strategies. They are great for practicing fluency as the children read aloud to the buddies.   I am still looking for those Eagle Eyes. (How ironic!) 

We spent a lot of time early in the year  using our Eagle Eyes to notice details in illustrations, in the classroom, details in patterns, details everywhere!  Look and Find books and I Spy games were great practice to help practice using our Eagle Eyes. Every time someone found a missing toy or random Lego on the floor, I praised them for using their Eagle Eyes. I think praising the children for  having such wonderful Eagle Eyes, noticing details, finding lost toys or glue stick caps... really gave them confidence that they COULD conquer that reading strategy. So, of course they could conquer the others!  

We learned about Lips the Fish as soon as I felt the children had a good grasp of the letter sounds and were able to get those lips ready for the beginning sound of a word.  I really make a point of having the children  point to the beginning letter of a word when they are reading, so that is the sound they know to make to begin that word.

Stretchy Snake came along next to help with both reading and writing of those CVC words we came across. Stretchy Snake and Mr. Slinky were really good friends for s t r e t c h i n g words!  Now we are focusing on Skippy Frog and Chunky Monkey as the children see bigger words in the C,D, and higher level books.  Tryin' Lion is always sort of in the mix as well. (I didn't even put up Flip the Dolphin or Helpful Hippo- I just didn't want to overwhelm the kids- They are cute, too, and maybe another year I will decide to use them!)

I just sent home a Parent Note in each reading bag explaining the Chunky Monkey Strategy. I told them that as the books their child reads become more difficult, finding "chunks" of letters to help their child figure out a word is a huge help.  For instance, "teacher" looks like a BIG word, but when a child realizes that he/she knows "t" then "ea" then "ch" then "er," it makes reading it easier.  "Sounding out" words letter by letter no longer works with longer words, like it did for shorter (CVC) words like "cup."  I wrote that chunking  was also a great help for writing words, and that we practice clapping syllables of words and then trying to write it by the parts we hear.

For our whole group activity on the rug, I started off with two Cars movie scene pictures that I printed out. One I cut into 8 strips. One I cut into 3 strips.  (The bottom picture is just 3 bigger "chunk" strips. I put it together in this picture for the children to see what the picture was supposed to look like.) I put magnets on back so I could use the puzzle on my dry erase board.

I asked the children which puzzle would be easier to put together.  They could easily tell me that the puzzle with 3 pieces would be easier to put together.  But of course some thought the 8 pieces would be very easy to do...

So I called up one brave student to try as the rest of us counted to ten. 
After a great effort, he didn't make it.

I then mixed up the 3 piece puzzle and had another student try to complete this puzzle as we counted.  Ta da!  He finished before we counted to six.

Next I put up a puzzle of letters. You can see Chunky Monkey's little legs and arms in the upper corner looking on as we work! :)

After I let the children try to figure out what word I mixed up, I tell them it is "teacher."  I do the same activity as with the Cars puzzle to have the students see which puzzle is easier to complete: the one that is letter by letter or the one with chunks.  The children love to try to complete it quickly, but the chunks always win.

This was a GREAT visual for the children to see how chunking helps them to read and figure out words more quickly. 
In fact, a couple of my girls were so clever, they saw two words they could make with the chunks!

Next, I called some children up to hold letters.

Then... we "chunked"  them and read our word.  

They loved doing this!  They also loved the word, because earlier we had watched the Word World episode Sh Sh Shark, where everyone is afraid of Shark, except Duck who doesn't know about the "Sh" chunk and calls him "S-hark."  I love that episode, and we refer to it a lot.  If someone forgets to use the "sh" chunk, I say, "Remember how Duck forgot to use that chunk and called Shark, S-hark?"

We played around with other chunks and made new words with the "op" chunk.  The kids had so much fun, we could have done this all morning. 

We made hops, tops, stop... you get the idea! 

Then we did a quick interactive writing activity circling chunks in words I wrote on the board and reading the words together.  Some of the words I used were:

napkin, market, blender, crash, dinner, and bonus words... helicopter and impossible!

Since we have been studying the water cycle, we also chunked evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and accumulation.

My kids felt very accomplished after reading these grown-up sized words, or "25 cent" words as my friend calls them.   

I have lots of Word Wall Roll games that I had out for Independent Centers for the children.  I had a big bag of the blank wooden cubes, so I made lots of word family sets of Word Wall Roll to have on hand.  Some days, I have 5 or 6 of the different word family games out for the kids to play.  Each time a child plays, he/she gets a set of 6 small stickers (I have hundreds of these pre-cut.).  The word that is rolled and written the most  is the first winner! Then they keep playing to see what word comes in 2nd, 3rd...  This is my "an" word family game. 

(As you can see, this game has been used and "loved" a lot! )

I also have Number Roll games and the usual Sight Word games.  I do like the idea of just numbering the words and rolling dice to see what number comes up, so that is the word to write. That saves making the different worksheets.

I like using the wooden cubes because  I can make game sets of specific words (or numbers)  a child is having a hard time learning, and send the game home with the child.  When you add stickers to ANYTHING, it becomes fun! 

We love to play Smartboard games as small groups or during rug time , and we watched some videos about word families and blends. This is my Chunky Monkey Prezi. It is a part of my Kindergarten Beginning Reading Prezi.  When we are working on chunks, I have the Prezi up all day, so that  if we had a few extra minutes to watch a video during snack or play a game before outside recess, it is all set to go.  Under the "Ideas for  the teacher" part is a link to some great word family/chunking worksheets. If you haven't used Prezis yet, they are fun to check out.  The ones I made to use in my classroom are basically interactive posters that zoom into links.  I searched the internet to find the best sites, games, activities, videos that would normally be a "favorite" and compiled them into big organized favorite collections.
Chunky Monkey is FREE at my TPT Store .

My children really need practice noticing and remembering to read the chunks as chunks.  I made these worksheets that I turned into a little packet so that we can practice circling chunks and reading the words correctly. If you would like a copy, just click on the picture below! (Sorry I have said the word "chunk" like a hundred times so far...)

These Word Family Sliders from Julie Van Alst would make a great center activity for the children! They are free at her TPT store! Thank you, Julie!
Word Family SlidersWord Family SlidersWord Family Sliders

Now, go get yourself a spoon and some of Ben and Jerry's more delicious idea of Chunky Monkey!
Have a wonderful day!


  1. What a great post! I love finding new and fun ways to teach a concept. LOVE the puzzle idea! Thank you.

  2. Carolyn, I don't know if you're getting sick of hearing it from me, but you are AMAZING! I love these ideas. You're also inspiring me to do a post about blends with music. I'm off to the Poconos on Wednesday. If I don't talk to you, have a very happy Easter!

    Sharon Dudley, NBCT
    Teaching with Sight


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