In first grade kids start to learn the difference between verbs (“action words”) and nouns (objects, people, places). Help them take in this information with their whole bodies by playing a few boisterous rounds of this party or playground game.
What You Do:
- This is a version of the classic relay race, just like in the Olympics, where teams of kids will work together. Each child will take a leg of the race and the fastest team wins the round. There's just one catch: each “leg” will require a different action, and nobody can say it aloud. Racers must use their first grade reading skills in order to know what to do.
- Make two stacks of index cards, and have the kids help you brainstorm action words that they can do on the move, such as skip, run, jump, hop, flap, tango. This is a great time to introduce some unusual or unexpected verbs to expand their vocabularies. Write each word on two cards and place one of each in a stack for each team.
- Divide your first graders into two teams, each with at least 2-3 racers. Then mark out a course that’s a reasonable length for your little athletes. They’ll need to be able to go up and back without dropping down exhausted!
- Now it’s time for action-word reading action. Stand between each team and have the first player draw a card from that team’s stack. On the count of three, start the race, and be ready for hilarity.
- While the first racer is in motion, the second one can grab a card and get ready for action. As soon as the first racer tags up, the second can go…and on down the line until the cards are used up.
Why it Works: First graders need endless practice with reading skills in all forms, but often these come on pencil and paper, or inside classrooms. Many kids benefit when they can get their full bodies in on the task. In teacher talk, it’s called “kinesthetic” learning; in kid-world, it’s usually called just plain fun.
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school History and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.