Phonics Chunking and Coding with Smelly Markers

Phonics Chunking & Coding with Smelly Markers from HeidiSongs

Hello, everyone!  Happy Monday!  Today I am going to tell you about some fun I have been having teaching children to “code phonics chunks” with smelly markers in the first grade classroom that I have been volunteering in each week!  I am also planning on blogging on my first grade experiences each week on Monday!  So if you are a teacher or a parent with a first grader, an advanced kindergartner, or older children needing remediation in first grade skills, then be sure to check us out each Monday!

I am very blessed that my good friend Mary, who is a first grade teacher at the wonderful school that I used to work at, is willing to let me come in and work with her students.  As some of you may remember, I am on a leave of absence this year while I create some new products and travel around doing presentations.   (You can read about where I will be next here!)

Meanwhile, I am really enjoying the opportunity to work with some older students and try out some new ideas!  I am also looking for a local preschool with pre-K students that will let me come and work with their children, too!  So if you are a pre-K teacher (not TK) in the Inland Empire area of Southern CA and would like some qualified FREE help, and a bunch of free products to boot, just let me know!  You wouldn’t BELIEVE how hard it is to get people to let a qualified teacher volunteer in the classroom – but I really can’t blame them for being nervous of a stranger in this day and age.  But, no matter what, I feel confident that God is leading my down the path that I am supposed to be traveling at this point in my life, so it will all work out!

And now, on to the blog post!

These flash cards are from the Sounds Fun Phonics Book, Vol. 1.

These flash cards are from the Sounds Fun Phonics Book, Vol. 1.

So far, I have done this lesson twice with the children.  The first time I did it, we worked mostly on the digraphs sh, th, and ch.  Originally, I was looking for my wet erase markers so that the children could write on my laminated flash cards and then wipe them off.  But alas, since I moved everything from my classroom to our HeidiSongs office, I have not been able to find them!  So in desperation, I went searching for any kind of markers that might be erasable with water, and I found that my stash of Mr. Sketch Scented Markers are totally water soluble!  Eureka!  Hooray!

I KNEW that kids really love all things connected with smelly markers, so this would be a great “hook” to get them interested in the lesson.  All I had to do was find a few clean rags and moisten them.  After two groups, I re-moistened them again, but that’s all the maintenance it took.  Nobody was given a squirt bottle of water or anything.  The worst thing that could happen is if the rags get too wet; then the markers don’t work well.

The lesson itself was quite simple.  I just showed them the Sounds Fun Cards with the associated sounds on them.  We discussed the sounds that we were going to look for, and that we would draw a rectangle around them when we found them.  Then they were to raise their hand and alert me that they were ready to sound out their word.  They had already been working on the Sounds Fun Phonics Songs with their teacher to help them learn the sounds, so I knew that they would be mostly prepared.  You can see some children singing some of the songs from that CD/DVD above.

Sounds Fun Flash CardsThen I dumped out all of the flash cards onto the table, just as you see them below.  Notice, my Starbucks goes with me wherever I go, ha ha!

Chunking TableThen, I turned them loose to try it!  At first, there was an awful lot of smelling and sharing of the interesting smells, of course!  But then I reminded them that we had work to do, and we couldn’t just go on forever smelling those markers!  So they got to work finding chunks and trying to sound out the words.

Shot Card

I really liked this activity because I left the picture of the word attached on purpose, to give them a contextual clue for the word.  I knew that would help some of them that might not have very well developed reading skills quite yet.  The key is that even if they already were able to guess the word, I still made them tell me how they sounded out the word, sliding their fingers underneath the letters as they sounded them out. 

Thumb Chunk with handDespite the fact that I am the one that planned this simple activity, even I was surprised at how effective boxing up the letters was!  At once, the children could see the units of sound and were able to tackle even the harder words, such as chipmunk, and sound them out without help!  Yes, there was a picture clue there, but most of them wanted to call it a squirrel.  🙂

Chipmunk ChunkAnd a lot of the children were finding more advanced chunks that I did not ask them to find, but that they already had learned before they came to my group.  (Since there are five different kindergarten classes at my school, Mary’s first grade class is a mixture of children from all of the classes, and only two of them were in my class last year!)

Sheep Chunk

Well, the smelly markers were such a hit that each time I came back to Mary’s class, someone would ask me if I brought the smelly markers with me and when we were going to do that activity again!  So I knew that we needed to do it again.  They were now on to Bossy E words and Vowel Team words, so I decided to teach them some phonics “codes” that I did with my class last year.

Chunking White BoardSo, in this lesson, I told the children that they would be getting either a Bossy E word or a Vowel Team word.  It would be their responsibility to find the chunk and code it as I showed them on the white board picture above.  For the Bossy E words, they had to circle the middle vowel, cross out the final E since it says nothing, and then draw an arrow to the middle vowel that it is “bossing” to say its own name.

Squeak Chunk with Finger For the Vowel Team words, they just had to draw a box around the two letters, and then draw a line under the first vowel, which does the talking.  Then they had to sound out the word to me!  Again, even if they were able to guess the word based on the picture, I had them show me how they sounded it out anyway, breaking the word down into chunks and showing me sound by sound how it went.

Beast Chunk

The children passed the cards all around the table, exchanging them several times so that each of them got to do the more “popular” cards with the more motivational pictures!  This one with the “beast” was quite popular, and so was one with a Bossy E cone on it.  When they were all done, I let each group have a few minutes to color some of the pictures with the smelly markers, just for fun.  They loved it!  But I did learn to give them just ONE marker to start off with until I was ready to end the lesson and let them color; otherwise, all they did was change colors over and over again.  Some of them changed colors maybe SIX or SEVEN times just while drawing ONE box around two letters, LOL!

Squeak Chunk LargeThe cards that I used came from this book:  Sounds Fun Phonics, Vol. 1.  It has worksheets for each unit, and also some “thumbnail sized” student flashcards that can be used for homework, too.  You can send them all home on just one sheet of paper.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, and maybe even found some ideas you can use!

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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. Hi, Heidi! I know you have been doing this for a very long time, but I am still amazed, blown away, in awe and so motivated by what you do. What a terrific mind you have to come up with these fabulous ideas and lessons for children. I give you so much credit and am very thankful to have found your website many years ago. How I WISH I lived in California, so that I could have you come to my preschool. Lucky people, indeed! Thank you for all that you do and share with us.

  2. Oh, how I wish lived by you Heidi. I would jump at the chance to have you come to our preschool. We use your products daily and I think your products are perfect for this age group. My kids responds so well to them. I would encourage any preschool in Heidi’s area to JUMP at this incredible opportunity!!

    • LaRay,
      Thank you so much! That is so very nice of you to say! I am astounded that even the local preschool that uses my products won’t let me come help! Can you believe it?
      So strange!
      Heidi

  3. My students and I would LOVE you to volunteer in our class! They love “Miss Heidi” and can’t get enough of you. It is crazy that they aren’t jumping on the opportunity for you to volunteer!

    Amanda

  4. Pretty little dinosaurs those. This is so interesting, I find myself drawn to the sound fun phonics songs as much as any mom with a 3 year old would. Since I started homeschooling my girl, I found a site that has been helping out in teaching her with the wonderful resources therein and I find myself going back to it every so often. It is my manual for imparting learning to my 3 year old who gets easily distracted if I use the same material over and over again. http://easylearnreading.com

    Regards
    Daniele Wren

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