4 Games for Practicing Silent E

Today let’s talk about a common long vowel pattern that early readers need to know about; the silent e.

It’s amazing how one little letter can change an entire word when you put it at the end. With these four games, your child will get an introduction to the power of the silent e, and become more aware of its presence in words.

Mastery of reading long vowel words probably won’t happen for a while, and that’s okay! Learning doesn’t often happen in one fell swoop. A little bit of learning each day adds up to big gains over time!

You’ll find PDFs for some of these games listed in the materials section. Feel free to download and print for personal use.

1. Turn a Kit Into a Kite

Materials Needed:

  • An index card with a fancy letter e written on it (make it colorful, sparkly, or whatever catches your child’s interest!)
  • Turn a Kit into a Kite Cards (cut apart)

How to Play

This game combines some active play with reading.

First, hide the word cards around the house. Ask your child to go find one card and bring it to you.

Have your child read the short vowel word.

Hand your child the special silent e card, and show him how to put it at the end of the word. You can tell your child that this special silent e makes the vowel say its own name.

Read the new word to your child, and have him repeat it.

Have your child go find another word. Continue reading the short and silent e words together until you’ve changed them all.

2. Throw and Read

Materials Needed:

The Silent E index card (see game 1)

Word Cards (from game 1)

A small piece of foil crumpled into a ball

How to Play

In this game, your child will be tossing a ball of foil onto short vowel words before using the special silent e to change them.

Spread the word cards out face up on the floor.

Have your child try to toss the ball of foil onto a word.

Ask your child to read the word.

Hand your child the special silent e card and ask her to add it at the end. Encourage her to read the new word.

Have your child flip over the word and toss the foil again.

Continue until all word cards are flipped over.

3. Silent E Scavenger Hunt

Materials Needed:

How to Play:

You and your child will work together to read and find items that have the silent e. Can you find them all?

Have your child read the words on the scavenger hunt checklist, using picture clues as needed.

Ask your child if she knows where any of these items are.

Work together to collect each item and place it in your bag.

When an item goes in your bag, have your child check it off the list.

If you can’t find an item, let your child draw a picture of it and put the picture in the bag.

4. Silent E Charades

Materials Needed:

How to Play

Players will take turns acting out long e words and trying to guess what the other person’s word is.

Put the cutout word cards in your bowl and give it a good shake.

Ask your child to draw a word and read it quietly. Remind your child that the e is silent and the vowel says its own name.

Ask your child if he knows what the word says. If he doesn’t let him draw a different word and try again. Alternatively, your child can ask another family member for help.

Encourage your child to act out the word while you try to guess what it is.

Switch roles.

Continue alternating until the words are all gone.

Is Your Child Ready to Learn About Silent E?

If your young reader can easily read short vowel words, it’s a sign that it’s time to start introducing the long vowels. Silent e is a great place to start because it’s such a common pattern.

Remember to take it slowly and have fun while learning!

These games are from my course, Teaching Reading Through Play. It contains a full year’s worth of lessons to help your kindergartner learn to read. Since I’m a believer in gentle learning and learning through fun activities, that’s what you’ll find!

I’m currently looking for beta testers. If you’re interested in learning more, shoot me an email at lisatannerwriting (at) gmail (dot) com.

Rainbow Noodles Sensory Play--a fun way to keep kids engaged and exploring.

Rainbow Noodles: A Fun Sensory Activity

Recently, I was coming up on a writing deadline. I knew I needed a fabulous activity to keep the kids engaged while I sat nearby and worked on the computer. Rainbow noodles to the rescue!

Sensory learning is important!  I knew a low-mess activity could keep the kids playing and exploring for a while. So I brought a pot of water to a boil and cooked a pack of cheap fettuccine. You can use spaghetti, but I think the thicker texture of fettuccine holds up to play better.

To Make a Batch of Rainbow Noodles

Once the noodles were cooked to al dente, I drained them. To speed up the process, I ran cold water over them until they were cool enough to touch.

Then, I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and stirred to make sure everything was coated. I didn’t want the noodles sticking together.

The oily noodles got separated into several different bowls. I let each child who wanted to play pick a color, so we ended up with six bowls.

The kids picked their color, and added two drops of food coloring gel into their bowl. I handed them each a chopstick and let them stir.

When they were finished, the noodles were bright and colorful. We let them dry in the bowl for about fifteen minutes, while we took a short snack break. Kids who aren’t hungry are able to focus for a little bit longer, after all! 😀

Prepping for Play

After cleaning up our snack mess, I brought out a large paper plate for each child. I asked them to each head outside and select three rocks for meatballs.

The kids loved searching for the best meatballs!

While they were out, I scooped a little of each color noodle onto each plate. I added a pair of chopsticks and a plastic fork as well.

When the kids came in, they added their meatballs to their plate. Then I let them each pick two other tools to play with.

They picked:

  • Measuring cups
  • Spatula
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cookie cutters
  • Silicone muffin cups

Let the Fun Begin!

Then we gathered the rainbow noodle plates and the tools, and headed to the table. I spent a few minutes with the kids watching them play.

My son with disabilities (and Pica) immediately started eating his noodles. That’s why we were using an edible today!

As he was eating, he let them drop onto his head and arms. I knew he’d be fine and enjoy the activity.

The other kids were getting into their noodles. They started off playing with each color separately, but it didn’t take long until they were all mixed together.

Rainbow noodle play!

Then the free play started.

They cooked each other meals of noodles, added a certain amount meatballs to order, and arranged noodles into shapes.

Another child suggested making a rainbow out of the noodles, bending one of each color onto the table. They all picked out their noodles and tried to build their own.

They used chopsticks to see who could pick up the most noodles at once, and who could pick out only one of each color.

One decided to count how many noodles it took to fill a specific measuring cup.

They had a blast!

And I was able to sit nearby with my laptop and knock out some work. Win win!

Clean Up

When we were done, we tossed the rocks back on the driveway. We gathered all the big noodles and tossed them out for the chickens to eat.

A broom and dustpan took care of most of the remaining mess. A few pieces were sort of gummy and needed picked up by hand. Good thing there were plenty of helpers to help!

The next time I do this activity, I’ll likely cook up two boxes of noodles. That way everyone gets more to play with. If you have a smaller family, one box will probably work just fine for you!

The next time you’re looking for a low-key, open-ended sensory activity whip up a batch of rainbow noodles.


Adapting Telestrations for Early Readers & Writers

I recently picked up the game Telestrations at Goodwill. Thankfully, all the pieces were there, and it was ready to play.

For this game, you start with a word and draw it in your sketch book. Then the next person looks at what you drew, and writes down what they think you drew. You continue taking turns guessing and drawing, passing the sketch book to the left each time.

Here’s what it looks like (affiliate link…):

It’s a fun game, but does require a bit of adaptation to play with younger children. Here’s how I make it work for my family.

The Youngest Is Teamed Up

When my four-year-old wants to play, she and I team up. I tackle the reading and writing, and let her do the drawing. That’s her favorite part.

I also pass the two toddlers each a dry erase marker and a sketch book. That keeps them entertained while the rest of us play!

Pick Any Word on the Card

The original rules in Telestrations call for rolling the die to see which number word on the card you draw. This causes a problem when you’re playing with early readers. They might not be able to read that particular word.

Here's how we adapt the rules of Telestrations to make it accessible to early readers and writers. So we allow each player to pick any word, from either side of his or her card. If a young reader can’t read any of the words, we let them draw again.

Everyone loves being able to pick the word. My teenager likes it, because she can pick something she actually would like to draw. The early readers like it because they get to be in control of deciding which word they can read. It’s a win win!

Use Invented Spelling

When my younger players write down what they think someone else wrote, they aren’t allowed to ask anyone how to spell a word. They have to say the word, and just do the best they can.

This keeps the game going more smoothly, and makes them practice listening to each letter. It’s a fun way to practice!

You Can Ask for Reading Help

Because of the invented spelling, we’ve had a few instances where we just can’t figure out what was written. There are also cases when an older player wrote something as a guess that an early reader can’t read.

So when we play, you can ask the person sitting next to you to help you read. You just have to ask politely and not shout.

We Don’t Keep Score

There are directions for scoring in Telestrations, but we don’t worry about keeping score. Right now, we’re playing for fun. We typically play two or three rounds and call it good. It’s fun for everyone, even without a “winner!”

We All Share

Once we reach the end of a round, everyone takes turns sharing the pages in their sketchbooks. This lets everyone practice their speaking skills, and we all get a good laugh out of the way the word changed through words and pictures.

Have You Played Telestrations?

I love board games, and I was happy to add this one to our collection. It’s one we’ll get a lot of use out of. Have you ever played this one? I’d love to hear your family rules and adaptations in the comments.



Singing silly songs isn't all fun and games. It's also educational. Here's how!

7 Benefits of Singing Silly Songs with Kids

Silly songs. Do you kids love them as much as mine do?

We have a list of several songs in this category, and they’re often requested as we’re driving along singing.

I enjoy singing these songs as well, and love knowing that there’s real educational benefits to them. They seem like they’re just for fun, but they’re really not. Ha!

Here are seven benefits of singing silly songs together:

1. Practice Listening Carefully

These songs are silly! The first few times I sing them, the kids really listen carefully. They often say things like, “What did you just say?” or, “Did you really say she swallowed a spider?”

Music encourages kids to listen. Listening attentively helps improve attention spans and is an important lifelong skill!

2. Learn More About How Language Works

As kids listen to and sing silly songs, they’ll be learning new ways to combine words. They’ll learn more about how the English language works.

You probably won’t ever talk about buzzard eggs and salamander thighs just as a random conversation, but these words are in a song. This will expose your child to the concept that birds lay eggs and animals share similar body parts.

Silly songs typically use phrases and words that are uncommon, which is part of what makes them silly. So sing away and share more of our language with your kids!

3. Strengthen Rhyming Ability

Silly songs are full of rhyming words. If you have a child who is struggling to understand rhyming words, make sure you’re singing silly songs regularly.

After all, exposure is a great way to become more comfortable and confident with a skill.

4. Encourage Creativity

When you’re singing silly songs, your mind gets rolling. You think of things you might not otherwise. You try to make up your own words to go along with the tune.

This is especially true for songs like Down by the Bay where singers are encouraged to become active participants and add their own verses.

What can you come up with? Try to make additional verses to other silly songs. You’ll probably all be laughing by the time you’re done!

5. Improve Memory

Songs are way easier to memorize than speech. The brain identifies with the rhythm and tune, and the songs are easy and fun to sing over and over. Before you know it, your kids will be singing along. Even young kids can memorize the words.

Memorizing songs is a fabulous way to improve memory skills.

6. Strengthen Family Bond

Kids love spending time with their parents! Singing together builds family togetherness, and encourages a common activity.

You’ll also help your child improve social skills by singing together. They’ll learn about taking turns picking songs, finishing one thing before moving onto the next, and how to keep their voice level appropriate to the location and time. For instance, we might sing quieter in the car than we do outside.

7. Laughter

This might be the biggest benefit to singing silly songs! It’s hard to sing very many while keeping a straight face.

Laughing is so beneficial for parents and kids alike.

What Silly Songs Are There?

Most of these songs are ones I learned back in elementary school. I loved singing them then, and it’s been fun teaching them to the kids.

Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Mama’s Soup Surprise (yes, it’s little gross…but it’s sure fun!)
  2. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (great repetitive song to build language practice.)
  3. There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea (A repetitive song that ends up right back where it starts)
  4. There’s a Hole in My Bucket (Another one that ends at the beginning!)
  5. The Other Day I Met a Bear (There’s also a version about a Bear in Tennis Shoes…)
  6. Down By the Bay (Really works on rhyming!)
  7. Baby Bumblebee (Ew! Who would even think to pick up a bee to take home???)
  8. Boom Boom, Aint’ It Great to Be Crazy? (Love it!)
  9. I’m Being Eaten By a Boa Constrictor (A great what if scenario to spark discussion afterwards!)
  10. Do Your Ears Hang Low? (There are actions to go with this one though this video doesn’t show them.)
  11. Flea Fly (it’s sort of a singing tongue twister with some fabulous nonsense words)
  12. On Top of Spaghetti (Lots of variations of this one)
  13. Going on a Lion Hunt (the sound effects make it fun)
  14. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt (I might not have spelled that one right! But it’s so fun to sing each verse a bit quieter than you did before, and then all shout the chorus.)

What Silly Songs Do You Remember?

Did you sing silly songs as a kid, or sing them with your kids today? I’d love to have you share your favorites in the comments!

Social studies car games

5 Social Studies Car Games

We took a recent road trip hitting both free local ferry services. It was a fabulous trip, and offered opportunity to try out a few new car games. These were all social studies based, giving us the perfect opportunity to practice new skills we’ve been learning.

5 Social Studies Car Games

Social studies is a large umbrella subject, covering:

  • History
  • Geography
  • Civics
  • Economics
  • Community

With all of those subcategories, there’s plenty to work with to create some games! Here’s what we came up with:

1. Where’s It Come From?

This quick playing game gave us a chance to practice naming where different resources come from. It’s simple to play. One person is the host, taking turns asking questions.

Here are some of the questions:

  • Where does hamburger come from? (a cow)
  • Where does gold come from? (mined from the ground)
  • Where do we get wool to make clothes? (From shearing sheep)
  • Where does bacon come from? (Pigs)
  • Where do wooden planks come from? (Trees)
  • Where do blueberries come from? (They grow on bushes.)

You can ask pretty much anything and help your children learn more about the resources we use everyday.

For every question a player got correct, they earned a point. Everyone who earned 5 points earned a piece of candy after the game.

2. Name the States

I challenged my oldest to name all the 50 states. The younger kids helped where they could, but since they haven’t covered US geography in-depth yet, they didn’t play this one for points.

We’ve listened to a great CD set from Wee Sing full of American songs. One of them names all the states in alphabetical order. My oldest tried singing this to name the states, but ended up missing a few.

It was fun to have my husband jump in and try to help her name the five she was missing. Eventually we named them all!

3. Who’s Who?

This game took what we’ve learned about our family and community. I have several pictures on my cell phone that showed family members and places we go to often.

On a player’s turn, they looked at the picture naming the subject. If it showed a person, they named who was in the picture and how that person was related to them. If it was a place, they said where it was, and why we go there.

For instance, a picture of the doctor’s office would have the player say: That’s the doctor, we go there if we’re sick.

A picture of an aunt would have them say: That’s Aunt ____. She’s your sister Mom.

It’s a great way to review important people and places. Just be sure to fill up your camera roll with relevant clips before you head out on the road.

4. The License Plate Game

This one’s a classic! As we passed cars, we peered out the windows to see what state the license plate was from. The little guys called for help if they saw a plate they couldn’t read that wasn’t Washington.

We wrote down the states that we found. We also saw a province of Canada, so we were able to talk about where that was.

This one would have been better if I’d printed off a US map for everyone before we left. Then they could have colored the states as we found them. The visual clue would have helped the younger kids feel more included!

5. Animal Habitats & Continents

My kids love animals, so this was a fun game. On each player’s turn, they’d name an animal. The rest of us would work as a team to describe the habitat that the animal lived in. Then a continent where that animal could live got named. Here’s how a couple of rounds looked:

Polar Bear

They live in the cold and eat fish so they need to be by water.

Polar bears could live in Antarctica.


They live in the tall grass. Lions hunt other animals.

This animal could live in Africa.

This game/conversation went on for several miles and let everyone take part in an age-appropriate way.

After the interest slowed down, everyone drew a picture of an animal in a habitat, which extended the game nicely.

Need Other Ideas for Car Games?

We love playing games every time we hit the road. Here are other collections for you to use:

Math Car Games

English/Language Arts Car Games

Musical Car Games

What are your favorite games for the car? I’d love for you to share them in the comments!

Photo credit: Hon Kim via Unsplash