Learning Through Sand Play


This is part 2 of the Learning At The Beach series. Click HERE to read part 1. 

We made it back home from our fun-filled week at the beach with buckets of shells and happy hearts. 🌊 While it was a week full of fun, we also snuck in some learning. Last week, I shared how we played activities like "Beat the Wave" and "Sandy Sound Dictation." This week, I'm sharing some more activities that we played in the sand as part 2 of the mini-series, Learning at the beach. 

One of the powerful reminders for us as parents and educators is that it is possible to play with a purpose. Playful learning can set the stage for enjoyable interactions, reduce the stress sometimes associated with reading, and engage students in reading tasks while still focusing on a learning objective. Here are some additional games/activities that we played at the beach. Whether you are headed to the beach this summer or spending it at home or elsewhere, you can certainly bring these activities into your day.  

Learning Games for the Beach


  • Letter and Word Matching. This is as simple as it sounds! My youngest is working on letter-sound correspondences, letter naming, and beginning reading and loves matching games! We made this engaging at the beach by changing up the matching task. For example, we matched the same letter (lower-case to lower-case, etc.), matched upper-and lower-case letters, matched sounds, and then matched words.
  • Sound Race. Running on the beach is always fun, and my girls love a good race. Why not combine the two! I set up specific letters and words and sent them down the beach to the starting line. I then gave them a target sound to which they had to race. It was a perfect way to get out some excess energy while weaving in some reinforcement of skills! I added words for them to run to and locate as a challenge. (To keep the competition down a bit and level the playing field for my youngest, each had their own target sound/letter/word).

  • Sound Segmentation with spelling application. In last week's blog, we talked about Elkonin boxes to develop the phonemic awareness skill of segmentation. There were several ways that we practiced sound segmentation. First, the kids collected shells to use as markers to represent sounds in words. (see picture) For some students, using manipulatives is necessary to hold individual sounds (phonemes) in their phonological memory. Our shells made the perfect manipulative for this! 

    We added movement by hopping through the word as they isolated each phoneme (sound). Students need to have highly proficient phonological and phonemic awareness skills to access reading and spelling, especially in segmenting and blending. These are better predictors of future reading problems than other phonological tasks. So the more we can engage students in segmentation of phonemes in words when developing their decoding skills, the better. 

  • Connect Spelling to Sound Boxes. Students also need automatic phoneme-grapheme correspondence knowledge and the ability to decode words with accuracy and automaticity. The more we solidify these subset skills that develop the orthographic mapping process, the more efficiently and automatically we can retrieve and apply them to reading and spelling. Reading and spelling are reciprocal processes. We want to provide opportunities for students to link speech sounds to their written representations (graphemes). The orthographic mapping process is in action when students map speech sounds to print. Once we segmented the phonemes (sounds) in the word, we then wrote the letter representations (graphemes) in the sound boxes. 
  • Word Ladders/Chains. I have said before that word chains/word ladders should be a part of every early literacy lesson. A word chain, also called a word ladder, is designed to build phonemic awareness, decoding (reading), and encoding (spelling). There is no guessing when one can map the speech sounds to the representation within our orthographic system. Instead, students use their knowledge of the connection of individual speech sounds to the letter representations. Word chains move in a progression where you only change one sound at a time. 👆See the video for an example. Building new words based on previously taught phoneme-grapheme correspondences is crucial. Phoneme manipulation requires students to utilize their understanding of segmentation, blending, the position of sound within the word, and the ability to isolate and change the sound to create a new word. A lot is going on with this task.

  • Morphology + Spelling Tasks. (add picture) Morphology instruction, the study of words and how they are formed and used, is one of the elements of structured literacy. When we look at language through the lens of units of meaning within words, that is part of morphology. Dr. Louisa Moats notes, "Knowing morphemes enhances reading, vocabulary, and spelling." (Moats, 2000). When we work with morphemes, we work with the smallest unit of meaning that exists within our language. Morphemes can be single letters, or units of letters, that carry meaning and may or may not stand alone. 

    The English language is considered a deep orthography. Morphology includes prefixes, suffixes, free morphemes, bound morphemes, roots, and combining forms. The English writing system is morphophonemic or represents meaningful parts (morphemes) and speech sounds (phonemic). 

    It was easy to build multisensory morphology practice with spelling on the sand at the beach. We drew a box for the base word and an additional box for any prefix/suffix. I gave the girls the target word, and they identified the base word and the affix and wrote them in the corresponding boxes. This was an easy scaffold to help them break apart the meaningful parts of the word and build it back together as they spelled the word. This scaffold is especially helpful when working with spelling rules such as the dropping rule, the doubling rule, and the changing rule.  See video clip 👆

You can read more about making morphology multi-sensory here.

As you can see, weaving a little playful reading practice into your day can benefit students and engage them in meaningful reading tasks. 

Have you incorporated any of these activities into your summer fun? I would love to hear about it!


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