Saturday, March 2, 2013

SOLSC #2 Just a game

Two Writing TeachersSlice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

In recent weeks, I've been "nudging" the children to understand the concept of alliteration.  For me, this literary concept is one more way of getting them to notice the details of words – how words “work.

I created a simple set of picture cards with animal pictures, each animal's name having the same first letter as a student in the class.  I created a set of cards to "match" with these that have the students names themselves.  So - there is "Cheetah" and "Charlie," "Elephant" and "Ebony," "Rabbit" and "Reia," on and on.

At Gathering, I put these animal cards on their seat mats and created a whole new way for them to sit in a circle.  (It was a strategy for behavior management as well, as I purposefully placed certain first letter animals well away from others. )  The children walked around and around, trying to find the animal who matched their name, searching for their seat.  To be sure, some preschoolers were not understanding it entirely, and chose their favorite animal picture rather than one that matched.  We worked together to identify the "proper" pairing, animal and child.

Now we are playing "Concentration" with these picture cards during centers time.  This is "just a game" - and the children are delighted to play it with me - but I am learning so much about what the children know and how they think, how they approach learning.

I play with four children, using about a dozen cards – their four names and the four animals that are their alliteration match, with a couple extra cards added in for good measure. I lay the cards out face up, first, and we study them together.  Whose name is this? [Mine!] What is the first letter of this name? Holding up the name card,  I ask, Which animal is a first letter match with this name? When I am confident that the children know the basic gist of this game – every name has a matching first letter, then, I turn them over and mix them all around.

It  amazes me how much I learn from this very simple game.

Although not all the children can name the letters, all the children are reading their own names.  Most are reading the names of some or all of their classmates - wow!

There are so many different learning styles and learning approaches.  I watched them develop strategies "on the spot" to find the matches.  For example, one child, although unable to name the letter, has an extraordinary ability to visually match the shape of the letter to its twin - every single time!  Other children studied the turned over cards intensely, looking through the card at the marker that was bleeding through, to decipher the first letter of the word below. Still others showed keen spatial intelligence - remembering precisely the location of matching cards.

There is a whole lot of "juggling" when you play games with children, needing to be alert to their many different temperaments.  One child became totally frustrated when she couldn't find her own name.  She became even more frustrated when she got a match of another classmate and an animal, and she completely shut down - folding her arms across her chest and turning her back to us in disgust.  I made the decision, in the moment, to move on with the game with the other children, all the while patting her back gently, encouraging her to rejoin us.  Hmmm.  I will find time for personal conversations with her, at a time apart from the game itself.  Yes, we will try again.

I have considerable insight about their attention spans - some want to play the game over and over, others wander away when it is no longer their turn.  Children are learning to take turns, to wait for their turn, to be patient. I loved how the children helped one another...showing true generosity, sharing their recall of where the card was positioned, and helping their classmates find the matching card.

Yes, it is "just a game" - but what a lot of learning!


alliteration [əˌlɪtəˈreɪʃən]
(Literary & Literary Critical Terms) the use of the same consonant (consonantal alliteration) or of a vowel, not necessarily the same vowel (vocalic alliteration), at the beginning of each word or each stressed syllable in a line of verse, as in around the rock the ragged rascal ran

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


  1. Hi Maureen, you know how I love when you share what you are doing & how the kids are doing. This is terrific, and interesting to hear about the differences. I also love to compare what you say with my past experiences with middle schoolers; there are parallels, even with those differing frustration levels. I wonder if this wouldn't be a conversation among the staff who teach the youngest to the oldest? Thanks again for your good details!

  2. Just wanted to say I'm enjoying the daily series and looking forward to reading these posts!