Anyone who has worked in education knows that to be most effective, you need learning activities that can be differentiated to meet a variety of levels and objectives. That’s part of what makes play-based learning so effective — it’s naturally adapted to the needs and objectives of individual learners. I’m always excited when an activity can be tweaked to meet each learners needs, and we happened to have a perfect example pop up at our house recently. (Pardon the cluttered table. Just keepin’ it real, folks!)
A while back I shared the activity, Scrambled Eggs, a playful way to practice spelling. It was a successful activity the first time around, and my boys were eager to try it out again. This time I decided to differentiate the activity for each of my boys’ learning levels.
They hustled to our table, their interest piqued as they saw the colorful eggs. My middle son is just beginning to read, so for him we used the activity much in the way it was originally described in that first post, unscrambling the letters to match with sight words he was becoming familiar with. But for his brothers on either side of him, there were some easy tweaks to the original activity that gave them each something at their own levels.
For my older son, I wanted something more challenging. I prepared his egg with a mystery word or phrase (this time it happened to be “SPIDERMAN ROCKS”). I put all of the letters in the egg and had my son open it up and create as many words as he could from the letters in the egg. After he had created a long list of words, I started to give him clues to help him solve the puzzle.
I was excited as he discovered words and word patterns I hadn’t even thought of yet. He quickly realized that with the letter “S” in his stack, he could change every noun into another word by simply adding in that “S” on the end. And of course, he was excited to come up with the word “DIAPER”. Anything silly gets extra points in his seven-year-old world. (“Seven-and-a-HALF”, he would remind me here.)
For my younger son, I needed something more simple to keep him engaged. He’s learning to recognize his name these days, so for him, I prepared an egg with the letters of his name and gave him a glue stick so he could take the scrambled letters and create his name in print. It may not look like much here, but it was exciting to watch him recognize “his” letters and then decide he wanted to try writing them as well.
Each boy was engaged and on-level. And each one was having a good time. This activity is a concrete, hands-on way to work on writing, spelling, and reading, all while taking a playful, individualized approach.
How might you use this activity with the children you love and teach?
For those who are curious, the framed quote at the center of my table that you can only partially see comes from Erma Bombeck:
(Fonts from Kevin & Amanda)
This sign pretty much excuses all the crazy clutter on the table, doesn’t it? Love that Erma Bombeck.