Sunday, April 1, 2007

April 2007: Courtney Harkness, Literacy Game Master


April 2007 America Learns Strategy of the Month  

Meet Courtney Harkness, a member of the University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps and the author of the April 2007 Strategy of the Month!

Courtney HarknessCourtney, a graduate student studying cellular, molecular and developmental biology, tutors at New Beginnings Academy in Ypsilanti, MI.  She has been working this school year with students needing help with reading words made up of specific word chunks, sounds and vowel endings.

As Courtney brainstormed on ways to support her students, inspiration hit: the famous Plinko game on CBS's longstanding game show, The Price is Right.  Read the strategy and become inspired below!

More About Courtney


Courtney notes that she chose to tutor with America Reads because "I essentially just love to teach... any age, any subject. I haven't had the opportunity in recent years to work with such young kids (I usually teach/tutor college students), and I've really enjoyed the experience."

When we asked Courtney's supervisor, Rachel Klingelhofer, to talk about Courtney, she wrote that, "She is a really smart, thoughtful, passionate person and it comes through in her work all the time. It is always remarkable to me that education isn't her field of study, yet she's a natural at the work.  Her strategy exemplifies the way she goes above and beyond in her efforts for tutoring....  It is exactly the kind of creative, targeted work we hope for."

The Strategy


Created by: Courtney Harkness, University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps
(America Learns Network member since 2004)
Topics: - Decoding & Sounding Out Words
- Sight & High Frequency Words
Grade Levels: K - 2nd
Arrangements: One-on-One; Small Group
- Cork board and thumb tacks
- Poker chips
- Sticky notes
- Black marker

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Situation: My kids needed a way to work on various word chunks, word endings, and vowel sounds, so I wanted to create a game that I could modify and use for different purposes. The inspiration for this game comes from the television game show, "The Price is Right."
Step 1: Word Link-O BoardUsing a cork board and thumb tacks, I made a grid-like arrangement wide enough for a poker chip to fall through. At the bottom of the board, I made a bank of slots to randomly catch the chips as they fell. (Think Plinko.)
Step 2: The sticky notes are what make this game applicable to many different topics (you can write whatever you need to on them). When I played the game, I had various word endings in my slots at the bottom, (-ed, -s, -ing). I wrote one word ending on each note, and then posted one note to each slot.
Step 3: I wrote simple verbs (I tried to use sight words) on the poker chips that would always or almost always make sense with any word ending I had listed at the bottom.  So if I wrote the word "want" on a poker chip, it could fall into slots that would turn that word into wanted, wanting, wants, etc.

When the poker chip was sent down the "Word Link-O" board a new word was formed (hopefully) each time.

Step 4: To drive the point home, I asked my student to either write out the word again using magnetic letters or on a sheet of paper. Sometimes we would form sentences using that word.
Step 5: This game also works for different word chunks and rhyming words. Just put a word ending (or beginning) on a poker chip, and place sticky notes with corresponding beginnings (or endings) on each slot at the bottom.


Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Courtney by clicking the grey “Comments” link below.