Sunday, October 21, 2012

Finding Success With Ball Word Champs and Top Bananas

I always have said, if it's not fun for me, then it's not fun for my kinders.  That was the whole reason I started using "Ball Words" to teach my kinders sight words years ago.  That particular year I had a slew of boys and 4 girls.  Sight words were boring and since my class was pretty high energy and even the girls were into games and sports, I slapped the first level of Dolch words on a picture of a baseball and told them that they were baseball words.  If they could master all 20 words, they would be a 'Baseball Champ,' receive a certificate of recognition and get their name on the Baseball Word Champ poster.

I really didn't think it would go much farther than that, but it did.  They zipped through baseball words and wanted more . . . next was soccer . . . they mastered those . . . and then one  more which was basketball.  All of a sudden, instead of "resting" during rest time . . . they were snagging my ball words and practicing. I wasn't getting ANY work done during their rest time  because those darn kids had me too busy listening to ball words everyday.

Last year's ball word posters.

It was fun and exciting and let me tell you the best part . . . they started encouraging and helping each other to pass ball levels. When one of their friends passed a level, they would ALL cheer.

Everyone loved the activities ( there are several games, an I-Spy, I-Spy Word bottles and more in each level) and everyone was working on their own level of readiness and finding success. 

I could hear them even when they were working on writing refer to a word as a baseball word or a basketball word, so I started putting them up on the wall where they could refer to their spelling.

I knew I was on to something.   I put a challenge down.  If every single student could pass baseball (the first 20 Dolch words) I would throw a baseball party.  It was a bit nerve wracking but they worked with each other and did it and the next level and the next and the next.  That year, everyone in my class mastered at least 100 Dolch words but many went on to master all 220 and it's been that way ever since. 

I always assumed they would get passed a couple of levels and just poop out, but they never do.  They keep plugging away through . . .

Baseball - Soccer - Football - Volleyball - Golf - Tennis - Bowling - Ping Pong - Hockey - Beach Ball  11 levels of Sports Balls. One for each level of Dolch Words.

(You can click on each individual word to see each packet above.  They are also available at a discounted price bundled in Groups.  Group 1: Top Bananas, Baseball, Soccer  Group 2: Basketball, Football and Volleyball, Group 3 Golf, Tennis and Bowling, Group 4 Ping Pong, Hockey and Beach Balls

Since then, I've been able to develop some fun activities to go along with each level

Ball word and Top Bananas I-Spy

Ball Words In a Bottle

and I even started a Pre-Ball Word System for Letter Recognition called Top Bananas.  I'm seeing my kinders moving right along.  I have 17 Top Bananas to date.  And just crowned my first two Baseball Champs. 

I'm dying to get those last Top Bananas finished up (9 more to go) so we can have our Banana Split Celebration, but until then I'm scrambling to keep up with 26 kids that are wanting to practice.  The good news is I have really great data on all them and can really see growth daily.

Oh don't worry, I have a system for keeping those words fresh after mastering them too . . . Speedster Readers is all about fluency sentences.  (Got to keep them on their toes ya know.) But I'll save that one for another day.  For now it's all about the ball words.  Yes, it's alot of work, but my results have been great and more importantly, my kids love learning this way so it's all worth it. 

How do you make learning sight words fun?  I'd love to hear how. Until then, I'm off print off some certificates for my new Top Bananas from Friday.  Have a great weekend.


  1. I am new to kindergarten this year and stumbled upon your blog this summer. I LOVE your Ball words and have purchased them from your TPT store. Not only do I love them but so do my kids AND their parents. I only have two more kids to get all my kids to be Top Bananas...and I have 3 kids already on VOLLEYBALL words! They absolutely LOVE practicing their words and I love their enthusiasm. They love finding Ball Words in the books we are reading and pointing them out to me! I use Daily 5 and during word work I incorporate ways for them to practice their Ball Words. It has been such a success! THANK YOU!!!

  2. What great resources! Thank you so much for sharing!

    -Margaret Vaughan

  3. Awesome activities and I love the Baseball Theme! I just Boo'd you! he he he...

  4. OH my heavens!!!! I LOVE this idea! my rest time is becoming more restless than rest and what a FANTASTIC way to have them DO something during that time! Going to investigate TpT now :)

  5. I love the way you made the Dolch words exciting to students and provide visual points where they can see their progress. I tend to have 3 to 4x's more boys in my class then girls and I think they would all love this.I bow down to Marsha's Ball Theory Hee hee

  6. I just have to tell you that my class is totally into ball words. This is my first year using it and it has exceeded my expectations! I have students asking me as they walk in if I can check their ball words. We are THIS close to a baseball party, and have several working on as high as golf words! It is amazing! Dolch word mastery is leading to my students reading at higher levels than ever before. I knew my students needed more than the 40 sight words my reading series teaches, and this is the answer!



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