Stretch and Say: A Reading Activity

3.8 based on 6 ratings
Updated on May 7, 2014

Beginning readers need practice “sounding out” and “blending” letter sounds back into words—in classrooms, you can expect to see activities, worksheets, and flashcards all devoted to developing this skill. But even with all these resources, it can be hard for kids to figure out how individual letters can really blend together to make a word. Here's an easy, at-home activity that uses elastic to help your child build concrete, visual connections to the reading process.

What You Need:

  • 1–2 yards of 3", white elastic, available in any sewing department or store
  • Permanent marker
  • Optional: Colored masking tape

What You Do:

  1. Cut the elastic into 3" to 4" strips. You can put masking tape on the ends to keep the elastic from fraying.
  2. Write a one-syllable, consonant-vowel-consonant word on each. Good examples include: "Dad," "kid," "mom," "sit," "book," and so on. Put a short line across the bottom so your child can quickly tell which side is up!
  3. Now you're ready for some elastic fun! Have your child hold each end of the elastic. As he gently stretches it out, have him vocally stretch the sound out for each letter. After stretching the last sound, he can let the elastic “shrink” and vocally compress all the sounds together into the word.

Once the word has been read, have your child use it in a sentence to help with comprehension. You can also make more sets of elastic for word families (like "tot, pot, rot" or "man, can, tan") and for short vowels (a, e, i, o, u) to really stretch his skill!

Why This Works:

Much of kindergarten and first grade reading is spent "pulling apart” sounds to help children develop an ear for language. This activity allows children to see the letter, hear themselves say the sound as they see each letter stretch, and then blend all sounds together to create a word.

Cindy Middendorf, an elementary teacher for 30 years in Tioga Couty, New York, is the author of Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten, and a nationally respected teacher trainer and mentor.