200+ days in COVID-19 lockdown and no clear end in sight, so I’m scratching around for fresh ways to target phonemic awareness, phonics and morphology online. Maybe you are too. Here are some things I was SO GRATEFUL to find. A million thanks to their creators. Please add your favourite resources and ideas in the comments.
I think my head would have imploded in the last 18 months without a Wordwall subscription (AUD$12 a month for all the games). We’ve made lots of activities which you can use for free, and so have many others.
Only the crossword and hangman games require spelling rather than reading to play, but not to create. I therefore get kids to help me create a game online: first choose a game, type the target words/sentences into it, then play the game, then go on the leader board. Playing the game again can be part of the homework, either on a computer or as a printable crossword or word search.
2. Phonic Books Moon Dogs At Home books and other resources
We use the physical Phonic Books resources a lot, and have found their free online resources very useful during our lockdowns. So generous, and so relevant. A lot of the WordWalls we’ve created also match their books’ teaching sequences.
Flyleaf’s Online Portal contains lots of cute books from the UK which are perfect for online use, and all free at present, because of the pandemic. Again, so generous! Jen’s Best Gift Ever is my favourite, click here to read it, and here’s a comprehension quiz I’ve made as a follow-up activity (use it as a Gameshow Quiz for more pizazz).
4. ICT Games
ICT games are all free online, and a quick, fun way to warm up or finish off a session. I often ask kids to type their own lists into Help A Hedgehog, then see how many they can read before the 90 second timer runs out. Other favourites are Tell A T-Rex, Poop Deck Pirates, Viking Full Circle, Forest Phonics, and Phonics Finder. This site runs on a donation model because the husband-and-wife team behind it think no child should be prevented from learning by lack of money. So if you can afford to donate, please do.
5. Sounds Write interactive whiteboard activities
If you’re using the program Sounds-Write, this USB contains heaps of activities ready for use online. They cover the Initial Code (one-letter=one-sound spellings plus major consonant digraphs) plus vowel spellings up to Sounds-Write Unit 28. The USB costs AUD$95, and I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth.
Because many other Sounds-Write activities are provided as pdfs as part of the training, they have also lent themselves to online use (see item 8 below), and the Aussie/NZ Sounds-Write community has lots of great ideas and resources.
6. Little Learners Love Literacy apps and other resources
The app versions of the lovely LLLL books have been a great way to show young clients the books, by sharing the iPad screen online. Always affordable, the iPad versions are currently free till the end of September (at least in the Australian store). Which is so incredibly generous, and will help so many young, locked-down children learn to read. Lots of paper-based LLLL activities also lend themselves to online use, see item 8 below.
7. Powerpoint versions of decodable texts
Some kids with good keyboarding skills like typing a simple story to dictation, to create a book they can then show a parent or teacher. I’ve used some Phonics With Feeling books for this, with author permission. I take screenshots of the pictures and paste them onto slides, type the text, then use Powerpoint’s formatting suggestions to make it look more schmick. Then I save it, delete the text and save it again under a different file name. Voila! A simple onscreen reading then spelling activity with large text.
8. Adobe Acrobat Reader editing tools
We use Zoom and it has been excellent, but I rarely use their whiteboard or editing tools. The free Adobe Acrobat editing tools work much better with pdfs. You can scroll through homework and cover it in ticks. You or the learner can type, change the font size and colour, and move text around. You can underline or put boxes around target words in sound searches (we play a guess-how-many-jellybeans-in-the-jar game with these, first guessing how many words with the target sound there will be). I just wish I could turn off the predictive text! (any ideas? I’ve tried everything!)
You can also play games (like the one above from Nicole Brady) using big dots as counters. Sounds-Write, Phonic Books and Little Learners Love Literacy books all have paper-based games that can be scanned as pdfs and used this way, and there are digital versions of the LLLL books. I use the iPad or iPhone app Make Dice held up to the camera for dice games, as I’m rubbish at online dice (all tips gratefully received). Make Dice can also replace the spinner for the Phonic Books Spin, Read and Spell games.
I’m sad to say that I’ve only recently figured out that Kahoot! can motivate many kids to do quite a lot of reading. The best music teacher in the world (hi Roz!) told me it had revolutionised her lessons. Kids are often familiar with it from school, and think it’s fun and cool. We’re writing some downloadable quizzes now which should be easy to turn into Kahoot!s.
Google’s Jamboard is another useful tool I wish I’d discovered earlier. It’s like an online whiteboard with colourful post-it notes, from which I’ve made simplified versions of my moveable alphabet for word-building sequences, e.g. here the learner would be asked to change “stitch” into “switch”:
Kids tend not to stretch or rotate the tiles the way they have in other formats I’ve tried using for this activity. Jamboard is also a quick way to create neat word sorting activities:
I hope you found some useful information in all that, especially if you’re still working online too. Pretty please leave any great ideas you have to share in the comments.