I too have been blessed this year with a class of Super High kiddos and some Sweet N Lows that make me wonder what the heck happened in kindergarten last year! Since I'm teaching first grade this year, I would expect that my kiddos would know their letter sounds and how to write each letter, and be ready for blending phonemes to produce words. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Here in Oklahoma we have a Transitional First program which is an extra grade between Kindergarten and 1st grade for those kids who are young developmentally and chronologically. This year I have 6 kiddos who were in T-1 last year. This means they had an extra year of kindergarten material plus exposure to a lot of first grade material, and they were in a very small class (this year's T-1 class only has 12 kiddos - so jealous!). These 6 kiddos are all-stars in my room - they can read and write independently, they are mature and have self-control and they are ready to soar this year!
Then I have my Sweet N Lows. One didn't attend kindergarten from January to April last year for some unknown reason. Not surprisingly, she has big gaps in knowledge! Another is a sweet, quiet, well-behaved little darling who is so good that I think her teacher missed out on the fact that she wasn't actually learning anything. A few others are rambunctious little guys who tend to wiggle around a lot - maybe that's why they haven't gotten all of their letter sounds?
Now, luckily I have tutors who come in to help me with our literacy work stations. But, I have to have work stations that run the gamut of basic letter/sound recognition to digraphs, blends and cvce words!
One of my biggest issues is with kiddos not forming letters correctly. Many of my kiddos start at the bottom, rather than the top. Some even still have pencil grip issues! So, I try not to use any kind of tracers unless I am right there to monitor that they are being used properly. Often I get out the dry erase boards and hit up youtube for some letter formation videos - Hooked on Phonics has a whole series of upper case videos that is very helpful!
Another youtube video that I love is by Jack Hartmann, It's catchy and the kids love singing it!
Another fun activity is writing our letters in rice. I love using colored rice!
Alternatively, fill a large container with rice and have students search for foam or magnetic alphabet letters that you have mixed in with the rice. As they pull each letter out they identify the sound and name a word that begins with that letter.
Sometimes we use our fishing rods and sand/water table to fish up letter sounds! This activity is great because my Sweet N Lows can work on just pulling out any old letter and identifying it's sound, while my High Fliers can try to build words or pull specific letters to build blends/digraphs. I might say "Find the letters that make the /ch/ sound." for example. We have this set from Lakeshore:
Of course I make a lot of center activities as well. We do alphabet match-ups, beginning sound sorts and "I have...Who has..?" games galore! I decided to let this post do double duty by including a freebie made from these Friendly Ghosts by Graphics From the Pond:
Mel has adorable graphics and she has started a linky for products (free and paid) which use this set of Friendly Ghosts. Thus, I am linking up with her as well, to offer this freebie:
Head over to both linkies to check out all the great ideas and goodies!