How Crayons Got Kids Excited About Reading
I was subbing. The Kindergarteners needed to color the curve that was marked “1,” then the curve marked “2,” “3,” on up to “6.” To get the correct colors, students needed to refer to the legend at the bottom of the page: 1=purple, 2=blue, 3=green, 4=yellow, 5=orange, 6=red. As I explained the directions, I read the letters in each word, then the word itself, which they repeated. “B-l-u-e blue” and so on.
I had been clear. So very clear. But as they started coloring, they asked the same questions. What color is 2? What color is 6?
As the rainbow took shape, one child asked what color “3” was. Here we go again. I glumly quizzed her, “G-R-E-E-N spells….” She didn’t budge. I started the sounds. “Guh.. Rrrr…” “Oh, green,” she muttered and picked up a green crayon.
The kid didn’t care about letters or reading, she just wanted to color.
I noticed that the color name was on the crayon wrapper facing us. I took a chance. “What does that word say?” She starred at it. She tentatively stated the letters. “G. R. Guh… Rrrr”
“GREEN!!” She held the crayon in both hand and read it again. “It says GREEN!”
The bland word that I had insisted she read on the worksheet had now appeared on her most prized tool, a crayon. Now those scribbles of letters had value and power.
I announced to the class, “Avril’s crayon says G-R-E-E-N green!” Soon the room was full of “My crayon says green!” “Mine says R-E-D red!” “Mine is P-U-ruh, puh-puh!”
Literacy acquisition was happening in real time for an entire classroom of kids. Suddenly, children were linking letters and known objects. Five minutes before, they had been passive students who wanted help with reading so they could color. They hadn’t seen how reading related to them. Now they were engaged in a Group Read of crayons, and the benefits were real to them.
I’m sure that it wasn’t the first time that the kids had learned that big-kid symbols (letters) indicate actual objects. During this project, though, the children found that the magic of reading was literally in their hands, just waiting for them to discover it.
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