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Consistently learning and practicing new words is essential for readers of all ages. This activity can be used on a daily basis to enhance the learning of sight, spelling, or vocabulary words.

Supplies: Shoe box; index cards or words cut from a spelling or sight word list; un-popped popcorn kernels or decorative filler stones; markers or pictures to decorate the box (opt.)

Preparation: Word cards can be made by your child writing them on index cards, or by obtaining word lists and cutting them apart. Use your child's classroom word lists or access hundreds of lists online by doing a search for "sight words," "spelling words" or "vocabulary words" with your child's grade level. If desired, you can work together with your child to decorate the Word Pop box, or encourage your child to do so independently.

Place word cards and kernels (or stones) into the pop box and close the lid. Have your child shake the box so that it sounds like popcorn popping; then open and choose a word to read or spell. If the word is read or spelled correctly, it can stay out of the box. If it was challenging, it should go back in the box for another shake and try. Repeat until all words have been reviewed. This is a great activity to do at the kitchen table while dinner is being prepared!

Extension Activities

•Keep all words in the pop box the entire practice time. Have your child keep a running tally of the words he chooses and talk about the probability of choosing a particular word. 

•Have older kids write the vocabulary word and definition on each card and practice both. 

•Help younger children write and practice learning their capital and lower case letters on the index cards.

•Add more challenging words to the box over time. Remove the words that have become too easy. 

•Search online for "sign language practice cards" and cut them apart for practice too. 

•Challenge advanced learners to locate "college words" and place them in the box. During dinner, encourage your child to teach the family some of these new words. 

•Write the name of each state, with its abbreviation and capital, on the index cards. Have the entire family practice and memorize!

Diane DiMemmo is a former elementary teacher and current tutor for struggling and advanced readers. She developed many hands-on reading games for her active classroom learners that worked equally well during home tutoring sessions. The parents of her students noticed the positive results so they began using the same strategies at home with their other children.

At their request, Diane compiled all of her reading games and routines into a book titled THE READING HOUSE, which is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble Booksellers. A new companion edition, filled with reading activity sheets for parents to use at home with their children, is currently in development. Sign up for the Reading Blueprints Blog to receive the latest engaging and interactive reading activities!

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