X marks the spot
With a dot, dot, dot
With a dash, dash, dash
And a question mark.
With a ripple up
And a ripple down,
With a crack of an egg
And a warm summer breeze.
This simple poem, shared with us at a KG workshop by Judy Ellis last year, is a great example of how we can bring oral language into the classroom.
"Early readers must hear abundant spoken language. They must playfully interact with language through rhyming and other word play before they are ready to decode sounds and sound sequences. Adequate oral language experience is a prerequisite to, and highly predictive of, reading success" (Marylin Pitcairn, 2006)
We first introduced the poem to the children by showing them the poem in a pocket chart. Each child was invited to find a word that they could read. This gave each child an opportunity to try reading new words in a low risk setting. With time, more words are recognized and children gain confidence in trying to decode words they may not yet know.
We then taught them the physical movements that go along with the poem. Each child took wrote the "code" on their friend's back. They were delighted with being able to write the code on their classmates as well as feeling it when they were the recipients!
A few weeks later, after a disappointing attempt to catch leprechauns in traps, the children found the following message on the board:
The children quickly made the connection between the letter X on the board and the poem we had been reciting for the past few weeks. They found a big envelope in the classroom with an X on it and the fun began. The envelope contained a map of the Rec Center (map reading skills!) and a clue.
We found Stephanie upstairs (she had trouble counting, but we helped her determine that indeed that envelope had three dots!).
The kids knew that dash, dash, dash was the next clue ... off to the gym!
The next clue took us to the library (where all questions can be answered). Christine had found an envelope with a large ?
The ripple up and the ripple down were tricky to find (up the ramp and down the stairs).
Each group took turns digging under the X and found what those naughty leprechauns had left them.
The children were SO excited at finding their treasure. They worked together to figure out clues: readers helped emerging readers and quiet, observant children were able to find where clues were hidden sooner than their speedier classmates. Once we returned to the classroom, everyone wrote in their journals, sharing what they had enjoyed about the day. As an adult, it was wonderful to see our shyest child bravely ask the librarians if they had seen a "Question Mark", watching the children work together to figure out where the next clue might be hidden in the building and all of them practicing self restraint when they took turns to dig. This silly poem not only helped build our love of reading and writing, but also nurtured our small community!
We would like to thank Stephanie at the front desk, all the librarians and teacher Meryl and teacher Jean for being such good sports!