If you use multisensory teaching strategies at all, then you are probably familiar with sand-tracing. If not, then it's not too difficult to figure out or implement into your small-group instruction or center activities. We use sand-tracing to practice and reinforce sounds and spelling patterns for sounds. I have seen it used for sight words as well, and while I can't say that is necessarily wrong, my Orton-Gillingham training stressed that sand tracing should be used mainly for practice with sounds. I fully support whatever works for your students, but do keep that tip in mind when you are planning to use sand trays in your classroom.
This activity just puts a little spin on the typical sand-tracing exercise, and it was really engaging for my students. With this particular class, I have been teaching different spelling patterns for long vowel sounds. I wanted to do a little more with these sound spellings, since they are often more challenging for students to retain for long-term application.
First, I gave each student his/her own notecard with the vowel spelling pattern written in red. They traced this vowel pattern while stating the corresponding sound aloud three times.
Next, I provided sand for each student. As you can tell, I use crayon boxes instead of sand-trays. I like having a lid on top to help control the mess, and the top provides a nice "prop" for any cue or drill cards I want to use during lessons (like this one). The student traces the letters into the sand, while, again, repeating the corresponding sound aloud.
Last, the student uses pom pom balls to fill in the traced letters in the sand. Overall, this provides a fantastic 3-dimensional experience with the spelling pattern!
Naturally, each child is able to put his/her own "touch" on the activity as well, as they choose which colors and sizes they want for the pom poms. Here are a couple of different ones created by my students. I love the way that even a simple activity like this enables them to express their own sense of individuality into the lesson; that leads to a greater sense of ownership, which, as we all know, heightens the value of that learning experience for the students.
If you decide to use this activity, or some variation of it, in your classroom, please feel free to share your ideas with me! I would love to see how you use it with your students. :)