In the 1st grade class I am in, this has proved to be a big problem. I have students with special needs and/or learning disabilities, but I also have students who never went to Pre-K or Kindergarden or who attended a Kindergarden that was more like a Pre-K in the state of Maryland. One of my students came from a state where 1st grade was more like our Pre-K, and thus when she came in November, she didn't even know her whole alphabet. Yikes!
One of my (hopefully) solutions was to create home literacy kits. Many studies show that students who receive support/practice at home excel more than those who do not. My hope is that if I provide the resources, then maybe some of my student's parents/guardians will start practicing with them at home.
Here is what I put in the kits.
The green paper is the letter which explained the point of the kit and the importance of home practice in increasing reading ability and fluency. I also explained each item in the kit, and if needed, how to use it. The yellow stock is a decoding strategies sheet. Unfortunately I got it from another teacher and I'm not sure where she got it from. However, I found some cute bookmarks here and this page has a couple options as well.
Next is the orange sheet, which is just a list of books good for first graders. I found this list by just doing a quick google search, and a lot of schools have ones that are available to use. Lastly, there is the blue stock, which is a list of activities that can be done to practice sight words/spelling words (click here to download). I actually had a more extensive list, however because many of my students are from households on very fixed and limited budgets, I chose to keep to activities that would require very minimal resources.
I also included various readers. I'm not completely sure how much age-appropriate children's literature my students have access to, so I provided it. Plus, I don't know what it is about paper mini-books, but my kids are obsessed with them. The books on the top left are from the wonderful Cherry Carl. My favorite thing about her mini books are the ease to make them. If I remember to tell the copier to sort, then it takes me about 10 minutes to staple and cut a class set of books. The book in the top right is from Scholastic's Word Family Tales Teaching Guide and the books on the bottom right are from Scholastic's Sight Word Readers Teaching Guide. I tried to include a mix of books based on sight words as well as books focusing on word families.
The last thing I included in my kit was the ring with the sight words on them. I used the cards I had created for my memory game and just tossed the instruction cards (click here to download pre-primer cards and here to download primer cards). I went ahead and made enough copies for each of my students to have both complete sets. At the end of the school year I'll just send anything left over home and cross some fingers that maybe they'll master them over the summer.
It took a little pre-planning to figure out the best way to efficiently manage these rings. First thing I did was cut out (over a thousand cards, with the help of my 16 year old brother), hole punch (with the help of my boyfriend), and "file" each word in an envelope.
Then I created each child's ring. For most of them I added words in consecutive, alphabetical order, such as words "a-jump". Some got more, some got less depending on their current level and needs. But for a couple of my "super special" friends, their rings were completely customized. To keep track of this, every child got a name label on the back of the "a" card, and I jotted down what I sent home on one of my data collection sheets (just a table with their names listed down the side). In my letter I instructed parents to send in their child's ring when more words needed to be added, so the labels keep me from mixing up whose ring is whose and my list let's me know where I left off for each kiddo.
Lastly, I bagged it up, and stuck another name label on the bag and they were ready to head home.
Phew! I know that seems like a lot, but it really wasn't that bad. Thanks to a very faithful parent volunteer, the help of my brother and boyfriend it probably only took me about 12 hours to get it all together (that includes the making of a few hundred additional books which are ready to be sent home when needed). Obviously you don't have to make everything in one fell swoop, however I like knowing that all I have to do is grab an envelope or pull out a stack of books from my crate to add to the kits. All the hard work is done.
Hopefully all this hard work will pay off, even if it's only for a few children. Only time will tell.