When I first started teaching kindergarten, I had a room full of active boys (I loved it by the way) and two (yes only 2) lovely little girls. These boys were movers and groovers, and I knew that whatever I wanted them to accomplish in that year, I would have to find a way to get their interest and motivate them. What I found was a system that all the kids (boys and girls) LOVED.
What I do is place each level of Ball Words on a different sports ball or equipment. When they master a level such as Baseball (Dolch 1) they get a certificate naming them a Baseball Word Champ and their name goes on my Baseball Word Champ poster. (Or my Top Banana tree for letter master) I also let them go to my treasure chest for a little something for their hard work, but honestly, they care more about the certificate, poster and bragging rights to their parents. (Oh yes, parents like ball words as much as students.)
When EVERYONE in the class has passed a level of ball words, I throw a party. For that first level, baseball, I throw a Baseball party. Kinders wear their favorite baseball hats and jerseys, I play baseball games and I usually have a parent volunteer offer to bring in a treat of some kind. Two years ago, I gladly threw 6 ball parties. Yes, that means that every single kinder in my class master at least 120 sight words. More than half the class mastered all 11 (220) words.
And here is what I love MOST, every year without fail, when that one student (you know the one) is still struggling to pass Baseball words, the other students patiently work with that student on their own time. I often hear, ‘Hey, Mrs. McGuire said we have 5 minutes before lunch, want to practice ball words?’ They work with each other to become better and better. And every year without fail when that one child finally does pass their baseball words . . . somehow THAT is the child who becomes a hero. Everyone cheers (because we’re always cheering in my class) and hoots and hollers and it is one of those things that makes me love being a kindergarten teacher. I love how they love each other.
Top Bananas is the introductory (letter recognition) unit I use before starting Ball Words. The activities and games are very similar so that when they move to Ball Words, their isn’t much reteaching of games and activities. With the leveled Balls and similar activities, it makes differentiating for word work so much easier for me. If they go to the I-Spy drawer for word work, they know what ball word they are working on (oh believe me they KNOW at all times what they are working on, I never have to tell them) and they grab that activity.