Thursday, December 1, 2005

December 2005: Douglas Christie, Slam Dunking the Alphabet


 December 2005 America Learns Strategy of the Month 

This month's strategy is from Douglas Christie, a member of the University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps

University of Michigan

Douglas created a clever way to assess and expand his students' alphabet knowledge through a basketball game.  When we read the strategy, we immediately wanted to play the game.  We have a feeling that you'll want to play as well!

The Strategy


Created by: Douglas Christie, University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps
(America Learns Network member since 2005)
Topic: Alphabet; Phonics; Assessment
Grade Levels: Preschool – First
Arrangements: One-on-One
Materials: - Construction paper (preferably orange)
- One black and one colored marker
- One plastic cup (preferably a clear one so you can make it look like a basketball net)
- A note card or a small piece of cardboard or tag board
- Tape

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Situation: All three of my tutees said that they liked basketball, so I thought of a way that I could incorporate basketball into testing their alphabet knowledge while helping them learn the alphabet.

I found this to be a good ongoing warm up activity for students learning their letters because it allows you to quickly see if the student still remembers the letters that you worked on during the last few sessions.

Step 1: Set up the game.

Alphabet Basketball Cut 26 circles out of the orange construction paper (make sure that these circles can fit inside the plastic cup that you're using). On one side of each circle draw a basketball pattern, and on the other side write one letter so that you end up with one letter on each ball (this can be done with either capital or lowercase letters).

On the plastic cup, draw a basketball net pattern (usually crisscrossed lines).  (It also helps to use a clear cup so it actually looks like a net.)  Use the note card or piece of cardboard to make a backboard by drawing a colored square in the middle of the card and taping the card to the back of the cup. 

Step 2: Start the game.

To start the game, lay all of the basketballs with the letter side face down.

Tell the tutee that he will be flipping over the basketballs one at a time, and if he can properly tell you the letter, he can shoot a ball into the "net." If he does not get the letter correct, just place the ball aside.

For assessments, this works great because you know the balls in the cup are the ones that the tutee knows. The tutee can then practice with the letters he doesn't know.

Step 3: I found that this can also be used with testing the sounds that the letters make.

Ask the tutee what sound a basketball makes when it goes into the basket. He will probably say something like "swoosh" (or something to that effect). Then tell him that, "Instead of saying 'swoosh' when we make a basket, we are going to pretend that the sound the ball makes is the sound of the letter that is on the back of the basketball."

So when the student puts the basketball in the hoop, he should say the sound for /b/, /d/, /k/, etc. instead of saying "swoosh." You may need to give your student a few examples.

Related Strategies for America Learns Network Members: - Alphabet Dice
- Alphabet Hide & Seek
- Alphabet Show & Tell
- Create Your Own Menu

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Douglas below.

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