Knuffle Bunny Too to the Rescue

Before winter break, I had a few minutes to do a read aloud and word wall lesson in a first grade teacher’s room.  The teacher had been working on word wall words with her students, yet they needed more practice.

I wanted to read something fun, yet purposeful for her class, to foster a sense of excitement for books, reading and the word wall in general. So I pulled out one of my old favorites, Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems.

Before the lesson (planning):

This book is amazing in so many ways, with endless instructional possibilities. And the illustrations! I could look at the pictures forever!  For this situation, however, I decided to focus on word wall words.  Prior to the lesson itself, I took a few moments to jot down the many high frequency words that I noticed in the story:
















Then I compared them to the list of words that she had not yet taught to her class and chose these:

1. very

2. but, not butt (yes, this caused some chuckles when I introduced it. I have my own first grader at home so I should have expected that!)

3. that

4. day


The lesson:

Part One:

I began by introducing the words.  They were prewritten on index cards and I held up each one.  As I did, the students:

*said the word

*read the word in a sentence

*bounced each letter of the word like a basketball *click here to read more about ways to interact with the word wall:

*students “sky wrote” the words using their imaginary pencils (i.e. their fingers)


Part Two:

We read the story!  It helps to give the students are purpose for reading.  In this case, I reminded them to listen for the word wall words.  To keep them engaged, I asked them to put their thumbs up for each word wall word that they heard.

Did I mention how much I love this book??  No matter how many times I listen to it, I still chuckle, especially when the two dads come to school the next day, tired and unshaven.   Meanwhile, Trixie and her friend are peppier than ever, chatting away about their Knuffle Bunnies. I also love how the mom gives Daddy a knowing look, when Trixie wakes them both up to say that Knuffle Bunny is missing. That it doesn’t matter if it’s 2:30 in the morning  He better get his butt (yes, Joey, I’m using your favorite word in the right context now!) out of bed and find Knuffle Bunny.

I could go on and on about this book.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

Reflections on the lesson…

If I were to do it again, I would highlight some vocabulary words as well, like: realized, devoured and/or marched

These are great examples of words to post on a “wow” word wall.  Displaying the words will help students remember to use them in their speaking and/or writing, which will ultimately increase retention and overall vocabulary development.



Overall, this entire lesson took about 20 minutes from start to finish (read aloud and activities). I enjoyed it and judging by the students (and teacher!), I think they did too.

How do you use read alouds and/or interactive games to reinforce the word wall or other phonics lessons in your classroom?  Feel free to share and comment here so we can borrow ideas from each other!

Word Wall (Sight Word) Center Activities

My students need extra practice with our word wall words,” is a common theme with many teachers that I know.  It’s also something that my own son needs extra practice with at home and was a frequent need in my own classroom.

Here are some engaging activities that you can integrate into your literacy centers, another portion of your word study block or even at home (for parents).


Note: for additional information on word walls, read this post:

  1. Rainbow writing: students write the words, a different color for each letter.
  2. Word wall hunt: students search for word wall words in their independent reading books, big books, class charts, poems, etc. They can record the words in their notebooks or on a designated recording sheet.
  3. Partner read/spell: Students work in pairs.  One partner reads a word from the word wall while the other person spells the word (without looking).  First person checks and then they switch roles. IMG_1128
  4. The Wheel: Just like the Wheel of Fortune, one person will play “Vanna.” This student will choose a word from the word wall (without telling anyone else) and then write a blank for each letter in the word on a sheet of paper.  Students in the group take turns guessing letters until the word is spelled.
  5. Bingo: print a reproducible sheet here:  One student will read the words while the other students play.
  6. Word Wall Memory: Materials needed – word wall cards written on index cards, two for each word. Students turn all the words over.  They then take turns turning two cards over at a time, reading each word aloud.  If the two cards match, he/she takes the card.  If not, play continues with the next person. Player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.     IMG_1127
  7. Syllables: Have the students write two columns on their paper like this:           Word                 Number of Syllables  The they choose words and record the number of syllables for each.
  8. Word wall sort: Materials: set of cards with word wall and non-word wall words written on index cards. Students sort the words into two categories.

What other games/activities do you use in your own classroom to reinforce sight words? Please share them here!


Word Wall 101

When I taught third grade, I put up a word wall because it was part of a checklist of items that my principal wanted to see.  I was a new teacher and although I had a vague sense of why word walls were important – to help reinforce high frequency words in reading and writing – I really didn’t know what to do with them once I put it up.

So I found a list of Dolch words for third grade and starting writing them down on index cards.  Did I add them gradually (3 – 5 per week) as I now know to be effective practice?  I honestly can’t remember. But I do know that whatever I did, it wasn’t systematic.  I stuck some up there and encouraged the students to use them during writing.  That was about it.

Does this sound familiar or are you looking for a refresher on this topic? If so, read on to find out more about the “what,” “why” and “how” of word walls, including interactive tips for your classroom.

What are word walls and why are word walls important?

Word walls are a place where teachers can place high frequency words that students have learned. These are words that occur most commonly in printed texts.  For example, the, want, went, because, etc.  Some of these words can be sounded out phonetically, however, many do not follow the basic rules of phonics. It is therefore of critical importance that we teach students the words in a systematic way. Knowing 100 high frequency words will give students access to over 50% of all printed material. 

A word wall is a place where teachers can display these words, so students can access them during reading and writing.  Regular repetition and reference to the word wall will allow students to become more familiar and independent with the words, allowing them to spell them correctly in their writing and recognize them in their reading.  Being able to read high frequency words allows students to focus their “reading muscles” on the process of decoding harder words and actually comprehending their reading.  In short, it allows them to be more independent as readers and writers, which is a win win for you and for them!

How can I use them in my own classroom in a purposeful and meaningful way?

Here are a few tips to integrate word walls into your own classroom.  The key is for the word wall to be purposeful and meaningful, as opposed to wallpaper that just blends into the background.

  1. Choose 3 – 5 words per week to introduce. You can find words in various places, such as The Dolch List or Fry lists, plus words that you notice students struggle with during reading and writing.  Just remember that only high frequency words go up on this wall, not vocabulary or content words.  Click here for a list of Dolch words:

Example of a high frequency word – because, went, want, there

*Non-example – farewell, evaporation, decimal, graceful

*Note: These words can (and should) still be displayed in your room, in separate spaces designated for those specific purposes (i.e. Wow! Words (vocabulary), Science Words, Math Words, etc.)

  1. Make a routine of how to introduce and reinforce the words with your students:
    1. Say the words.
    2. Chant the spelling of the words. (Get creative here! For example, let the students: bounce each letter like a basketball, then make a layup as they say the entire word, strum each letter like they are playing a guitar, swing each letter like a baseball bat
    3. Write the words in notebook, on a white board or even in the air “with their magic pencil.”
    4. Use in a sentence.
  1. Interact with the words daily through chants, games, etc.
  2. Reinforce during centers and other independent work (i.e. search big books and poems for word wall words, make words with magnetic letters, rainbow write word wall words, play Word Wall Bingo, etc.).
  3. Use the words in writing workshop, morning messages and other writing that you model for students. Be intentional about the writing that you’re modeling and make your thinking explicit.

Ready to get started?  All you need is a black marker, a few index cards (preferably colored) and a space to display the wall.  So grab your materials, introduce some words and watch your students grow as readers and writers!


Family Bingo Night

Looking for a fun Friday night activity? Pop some popcorn, pull up a chair and play Word Wall Bingo!

Playing games at home is one way to support our children with sight word recognition, a critical piece in reading fluency and overall literacy growth.  When students can read sight words, this frees up their efforts and energy to focus on harder, decodable words.  Moreover, these sight words account for approximately 50% of what we read! It’s no wonder that fluent readers can read these words in a snap.

Why play games? First of all, they’re fun! They can also provide a springboard and the motivation for continued learning and effort.  Make it a family routine and involve older and younger children as well.  Your child can also help choose the words for the Bingo board, when you use one of the reproduceable sheets below.

Bingo board
Bingo board

How do you know which words to choose?  There are a few ways.  The fastest and easiest is to print a copy of the Dolch or Fry word lists.  Look at the list for your child’s grade and do a quick assessment by having your child read them to you.  Use that to decide which words to include.  (I would suggest including some words that he/she knows well – to build confidence – and some that need to be mastered).

Other ways to choose high frequency words include listening to him/her read and taking note of the words that he/she misses.  And last but not least, consider checking with your child’s teacher for words to focus on.  My son’s teacher sends home sight words to practice each week, which is a big help.

For more information on sight words in general, read this post:

You have your words…the next step is to add them to your board and make copies.  

Note: Make sure to write them in different order on each game board.  I’m embarrassed to say that I recently learned this the hard way in a second grade classroom.  I came prepared to model a Bingo lesson and realized that I had created 28 identical game boards.  Everyone won!!

Finally, grab some bingo chips (or a bag of coins, your child’s rock collection, etc., etc.), pop some popcorn and settle in around the dining room table.  Winner gets to keep the coins or possibly pick the ice cream flavor, if dessert is in your plans.  Your child learns new words and the family bonds around fun, games and dessert.


Can you think of a better Friday evening?