The kindergarteners at my school enter with an incredibly wide range of literacy abilities, so we know we need to quickly focus on their reading skills immediately in order that everyone, from the high achievers to the ones still struggling to recognize their letters, will end the year strong. Not always an easy task. Therefore, it becomes a joint effort for all the teachers who work with the Kindergartners, to support the building of their literacy skills.

My job only allows me to see the Kindergartners in the computer lab for a short time once a week. When I think about where they need to be by the end of this year in order to succeed as 1st graders, I know any time we can spend reinforcing literacy will never go wasted. So, I searched to find a program that they would not only like and get excited about, but also truly help them learn to read, no matter what skills they had upon entering Kindergarten.By some divine intervention (I’m pretty sure it was a tweet, but I can’t remember from who) I found the site Teach Your Monster to Read. The title was too cute not to investigate further and I am so thankful I did. Funded by the Usborne Foundation, a quality children’s book publisher from England that truly understands quality literature for kids, it is no surprise the site provides such high quality instruction. What does surprise me though, is the beautiful graphics, ease of navigability and high level of engagement of this online program for the students- because it is completely FREE but it feels like playing a software game that should cost a good amount of money to access.

Here is my list for “why” this game works so well with the Kindergartners in the computer lab:

1. The graphics are of an incredible high quality- from the minute I introduced the little monsters, the Kindergartners couldn’t wait to get their “hands” on them… they wanted to watch them run through the demos, hear them talk, customize them for themselves and guide them through the phonics worlds! These little guys are eye candy and the kids loved them immediately

2. It’s a game that gives students multiple points of motivation. The strong readers feel successful because they are moving through the different “worlds” quickly. The ones who are still need more work on phonics earn prizes for their monsters each time they master a letter sound.  Either way they all get excited and keep working because they want to see what happens next, staying involved and excited for the game.

3. The monsters are endearing characters and give the students ownership. When my Kinders come into the lab, they ask about their monsters right away and I tell them their monsters have missed them! They haven’t learned anything more about reading since they were gone! They need to get back on the computers and help their monsters learn! The students love to click on the screen, log in with a quick/easy Kindergarten friendly password, and see their monsters just where they left them last.

4. We can take breaks from playing the game and use the monster characters for other lessons.  Art projects- we can draw them with digital tools or on paper to hang up around the lab. Storytelling- we can give our monsters names and unique personalities and write letters to them or tell stories about them. Across the curriculum- integrate them into other skills- like using them for math or science problems.

As the year goes on, I am excited to watch the Kindergartners master phonics as well as think of more ways to use the monsters to teach. Halloween has passed this year, but the monsters will definitely be staying in the lab with my Kindergartners and I, thanks to Teachyourmonstertoread.com

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