Sunday, February 21, 2016

How I Recycled Desktop Calendars to Make Elkonin Boxes

Here's the thing about teachers... we are excellent scavengers, and we hate to see good materials go to waste. Call it a common, inherent trait, or credit it to necessity... either way, we find a lot of ways to use things that other people would probably toss out. 

My latest example? These desktop calendars. You only need one, right? Well, I ended up with four or five. But I just couldn't throw them away. If nothing else, I knew they would make perfectly good scrap paper. After much thought, I came up with another activity that I wanted to share with you.

Really, this is so simple... I covered the numbers on the calendar. I used stickers on some of them because I wanted to laminate a set that I can reuse as needed. For the rest, I just used a marker and colored a circle over each number.
I used white-out to cover any information about holidays, and I cut off the days and months information. A perfect grid of squares remained.
The next part is simple. I treated these like Elkonin boxes for students to use to map sounds and encode words. The covered numbers served as great touch-points for sounds! This group is reviewing ways to spell the long i sound. I provided pages with various pictures that featured different spelling patterns for long i. The students chose a picture, cut it out, and then touched and said each sound in the word before stamping letters to spell the word onto the squares.  (Note: the touching and saying elements are very important here in order to create a multisensory effect for this exercise.)

Also, as another side-note, if you are working on a phonics concept for which you need pictures, you can access a great free collection of reproducible images here.
The large squares made an easy canvas on which students could use letter stamps and glue their pictures alongside the words. While they still had to be very intentional about their space, (particularly with a magic e word or a vowel team), these squares provided adequate room for them to stamp multiple letters as needed. They loved the fact that they each had such a huge piece of paper all to themselves, too. I was surprised that they expected it to be a partner activity because they paper was so large. When I told them they would each get their own, they were so excited! It's the little big things, isn't it? :)
After they finished, each student presented their words to the group. They reread the words, touching each sound and blending the word together. Then they briefly discussed the different spelling patters they each used for the long i sound.

So I realize you may not have a stack of large desk calendars on hand to replicate this activity exactly as I have used it. However, I wanted to share this as a way of encouraging you to take advantage of any materials you can recycle to create something like this for your students. I still cut up the unused edges of the calendars to use as scrap paper, but I'm glad I stared at these calendars for a few days put a little thought into this before I cut each calendar to pieces. If you have something sitting around that you just can't seem to throw away, hang in there! It just may become a valuable resource for your students eventually. :) 

Good luck!