Check each child’s ability to recognize and print the letters. Create activities to send home daily for any child who is still having trouble.
Build enthusiasm by treating the words as collectibles. Give children words or pictures for the files as rewards. Ask children to bring in a favorite word from home (one that a family member helps them write and illustrate) and add it to their folders. Set up a bank for children to trade or borrow words or pictures for their files.
Use the files in your lessons. For example, try a hunt, asking each child to find all the animal words or pictures in their file that begin with “m” or all the toys that begin with “b.” Have the children make an index sheet for their file, writing on it all the words they have that match the hunt’s criteria. Pair the children up and let them find a few words they can trade with each other to copy into their file and put on their index sheet.
Have a different child each day help you pick something to read to the class.
Gather many different kinds of written texts to choose from: a book (or part of one) from the class library or from home, a “wordy” comic book, an entry from a children’s encyclopedia, the school lunch menu for the week, the weather report from the daily paper, an article from a children’s magazine, the riddles from the Sunday comics, the Saturday morning listing from a TV guide, the monthly event calendar from the school or some other community organization, a menu from a local favorite restaurant, a recipe, a shopping list, a story written by a child, directions for playing a board game, a class roster, a report card form, a preprinted standardized test.
Ask questions that will help the children discuss the meaning of what is read but also to notice the different structures and conventions. For example, you are supposed to get all the food items mentioned on a shopping list, but not on a menu! How do you know what day the 11:30 listing in the television guide is for? What kinds of printed material tell you who wrote it and where is this information shown? What’s the same about a riddle and a test? What is different? Which kinds of printed materials are only a part of a whole, and how do you find that out? How does the table of contents work? What is supposed to be fact and what is fiction, and how do you tell?
Make a copy for each child of some text you have just read to the class, but put on the top a direction like “Find and underline all the