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One Activity ALL K-2 Teachers Must Have for The New Year!

Get the Most out of this FUN 10 Minute Activity

As a second grade teacher with only so many minutes during the day to teach, I'm always looking for intelligent ways to streamline my instruction.  Within our language arts block alone, we are expected to teach the following: reading workshop, writing workshop, guided reading groups, handwriting, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, phonics, and more.  What about the other content areas?  With only so many minutes in the day and within the week, how does one "fit it all in?"  

A good friend of mine, Ginny Dowd, introduced me to her program a few years ago called The Phonics Dance.  I have used it each year not only because it has helped to close achievement gaps for reading and writing but because it is incredibly fun - the students love it.  You see, we don't sit in desks in rows as we code letter sounds, separate sounds in isolation, or try to explain the schwa sound to a room full of seven year olds.  Instead, we stand up, sing, dance, and hunk and chunk patterns within poetry.  We get our bodies moving and grooving!  This great academic activity also serves as a kinesthetic brain break to get our blood flowing the way it should as we learn important content and have proper levels of oxygen delivered to all the right areas of our body.  

Here's How It Works...

Each week, we introduce two new sounds.  Our grade level team has done our best to align these sounds to our spelling program.  Some weeks it doesn't align perfectly, and that is alright.  However, for the week we focused on "the long a sound", it worked nicely.  Each sound has a "hunks and chunks word wall card."  These cards get placed on our "Phonics Dance Bulletin Board" as they're introduced each week.  

As we introduce each sound, students learn the brief chant and motions.  (Teacher Tip: I ordered Ginny's C.D. so I could practice these in the car) After we have learned the new chant and motions, we start with the first one and quickly do the entire "Phonics Dance."  By the end of the year, it does take a bit longer since they're doing all of the sounds.  But this repetition pays off huge!  Then they get a poetry page to begin "hunking and chunking."  We know the brain seeks patterns, so we have students circle all the "hunks and chunks" they find within the poem.  If they see a previously learned hunk and chunk sound, it's fair game - they may circle it along with the new sounds they're learning.  They love hunting for these.  Honestly, it's like a game!  

*See Ginny's class fully explain The Phonics Dance <- video link!
(the dance part starts around 2:20)

When I pass out the poem that goes along with the sound, first I read it aloud to model the rhythm.  Then we read it choral style.  Finally I ask them to read it independently.  The fun begins after these three readings... hunking and chunking!  (this means they're simply circling the sounds they find - for example: ai, ay, wh, th, sh, ch...)

After everyone has "hunked and chunked" their poems, we frame the poem into stanzas.  In the beginning, students learn a stanza is like a paragraph... but for a poem.  Then we number each stanza.  This helps with management as we check our work.  I go through each stanza to verify quickly that each child has had the opportunity to locate all of the letter sound combinations.  They get so excited when they have found all of them.

We go to the title of the poem and start from the beginning to count the number of hunks and chunks we found in each stanza.  We jot this number down to the right of the stanza, in the margin.  

Students look for easy ways to quickly "snap numbers together" in order to make it easier to add.  They hunt for patterns to make 10 or doubles or doubles +1, etc... This encourages them to take several numbers and group them easily to enhance their mental math number sense.  We jot the total number up top by our name.  For some reason, they get really excited about this... almost as if it is the poem's score in some sort of sporting event.  I love it!

We typically introduce this poem and new sound on Monday.  On Wednesday, we introduce the new sound and poem.  We go through the same process of learning the chant, dance moves, hunking and chunking the poem, etc.  The only thing we add is that we take the two poem's scores and find the difference so we can see which poem won for the week.  Students naturally discover the many methods for calculating differences when they have an authentic reason for doing so.  It's been a pleasure watching them share these strategies (like counting up or bunny hopping) with one another before I've introduced them within our math lessons.

Each year I've seen my student's light up in guided reading groups when they come to a tricky word and have another strategy to attack sounding it out.  The Phonics Dance teaches students letter sounds from sh, ch, th, wh, to tion, sion, and ion.  What a range!  My second graders simply love it, and that is my reason for sharing... I'm not an affiliate and receive zero commission for spreading Phonics Dance love.  I have a second grader myself and have watched him struggle as a developing reader.  Seeing how this has helped him is my motivation for sharing with teachers everywhere.  


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