Friday, September 21, 2012

Mystery Letters Game

This is a take off of the Handwriting Without Tears mystery letter game, which is used to help reinforce proper letter formation techniques. If you're not familiar with the HWT program, you should know they advocate using consistent language when teaching young children to write their letters. For example, the HWT teacher instructs her child to make F by making a "big line down, froggy jump to the top, little line across, and another little line across." She instructs her child using the same language each time they make an F, and uses the same language for all letters in the alphabet.

It's no secret that I adore the Handwriting Without Tears program, but I don't think the specific wording used in the program is the key to learning per se. Rather, I feel the consistency of whatever language the teacher chooses to use is the key. Just. Say. The. Same. Thing. Each. Time. and you'll be just fine.

One of the simple preschool and kindergarten games the HWT program recommends is called "mystery letters," where a teacher builds a letter on the board, step by step using the familiar language, and students try to guess what the letter is before it's complete (or complete their own at their table). For instructions from the Handwriting Without Tears Froggy Jump Gazette, go here.

Since we're homeschoolers, we changed this game up a little to increase the personalization and, well, the fun factor. :) A friend gave us a package of this Alex Amazing Paper, which changes color as you write on it. This neat-toy-turned-school-time-prop is effective because in order for the ink to change color on the paper a chemical reaction must occur, which takes a second or two, thus giving the student some extra time to process the information being given to them. Neat, huh? They have time to prcoess that the parent is telling them "big line down," and to consider what that means before the visual cue of a colored line shows up on the paper. The crowd-pleasing affects of this lesson on the under-6 set have absolutely nothing to do with the ink changing color, of course- the appeal is pure learning. *ahem*

Once I tried several of the letters that I'd already taught my preschooler, and even tried a few new ones, she was ready to try it out for herself. The appeal of the fun paper even convinced my kindergartener to write some of the letters for his preschool sister, making some great quality sibling time and a great impromptu review for him. I just love it when learning is quick, easy, fun and meaningful, don't you? 

By the way, I am sure there are myriad other ways that this paper could be used for learning fun. What are your thoughts?



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