In this One Thing You Might Try . . . blog post, kindergarten teacher and co-author of Intentional From the Start, Carolyn Helmers, shares how she’s using Wordle as an engaging and meaningful phonics experience for her students.
I admit it! I have been swept up in the Wordle craze! Six tries to figure out a five-letter word is an exciting daily challenge that I look forward to everyday. I also have to admit that I love seeing everyone’s posts on social media after they have completed the daily puzzle. I enjoy playing it so much that I’ve sucked my husband and son into completing it each day too. It’s become a battle in our house to see who can solve the daily Wordle in the fewest number of attempts. We always share our attempts from first word to solution, and I find it interesting to see the thinking that led each of us to the correct word. Our strategies are completely different but lead us to the same word. Here are our attempts for 2/22/22:
A Fun Way to Learn
I read Nell Duke’s article "What Wordle Reminds Us About Effective Phonics and Spelling Instruction" not long after starting to solve the daily Wordle puzzle. All of her key insights resonated with me as a Wordle solver but the fifth one, “Phonics and spelling can be engaging.” got me thinking about my kindergarten children and our literacy work we’re focused on in the classroom right now which is learning to write and read CVC words. I strive to make learning the skills needed to become a reader and writer engaging, meaningful, playful, and transferable. So, I asked myself how I could utilize the fun nature of Wordle with my students at their level and the answer fell into my lap through a Twitter thread. Someone tweeted this website: https://mywordle.strivemath.com/ which allows you to make your own Wordle puzzles. I got to work right away making CVC Wordles for each of the five short vowels. It’s so easy and I couldn’t wait to share them with my class.
Wordle with Kids
The opportunity arose a few days later when my class breezed through a CVC word ladder/chain, and we had some extra time before lunch. I proceeded to show my students one of the Wordles I created and explained the rules. I asked our leader to get us started with a three-letter word. He naturally started with a word that was very familiar to him, see. We stumbled through the first puzzle together and figured out the word in four tries. The children enjoyed it so much that they begged to play it again two more times.
Since that first day, we have been playing CVC Wordle almost every day and engagement is high as is the excitement to figure out the new word.
Think about the plentiful learning taking place in some of the children’s comments I heard during one of our Wordle games:
- First word: the
- “Ugh! We bonked!”
- Second word: and (n in the word but in the wrong spot.)
- “Put the n first.”
- “I think it’s gonna be tan and the n is at the end.”
- “It couldn’t have been and because it’s not a CVC word, it’s a VCC word.”
- “Put n first.”
- “Can’t be not, there’s no t.”
- “Can’t be Ben because we can’t use an e.”
- “Win, win, win!” from the child who yells until I acknowledge their thinking.
- Third word: win (n is now in the correct spot.)
- “Yay! N is in the right spot!”
- “Only three more tries.”
- “We can do it!”
- Here it gets a little quiet as children think. I pose the question, “What vowels can we still use?”
- “Fun! Try fun!”
- Fourth word: fun (u and n are now in the correct spot.)
- “Done!” I love these last two guesses as children think about rhymes. I save this discussion for later because I want to keep the un momentum going.
- Fifth word: sun
- “Only one more guess left.”
- “I think it’s bun!”
- “No, let’s try run!”
- Run and bun are being shouted from all corners of the rug. I choose one friend to choose the last word and they pick bun.
- Sixth word: bun
- Before I hit enter you could hear, “Please, please, please!”
- “Awwww, it was run.”
- “Can we play it again???”
My children didn’t succeed at solving the CVC Wordle this time. But it didn’t stop them from begging to play again. Over time, as they’re learning more and more about how letters and sounds within words work, you can see their thinking and guessing becoming more efficient. They’re also self-checking each other and defending their thinking. The energy, excitement, thinking and collaboration is so fun to watch.
Wordle’s an addictive game for young and old alike. It strengthens letter knowledge, letter sounds, and phonics skills in such an engaging way that children don’t even realize they are learning. It’s fun! It’s challenging! It’s a simple game with big benefits! If you haven't played yet, I encourage you to give it a try yourself here NY Times Wordle. Then give it a try with your students by easily creating custom Wordle puzzles here: Create Your Own Wordle. Happy Wordle solving!
About the Author
Carolyn Helmers is a thirty-plus year veteran kindergarten teacher and co-author of Intentional From the Start. She has spent her entire career immersed in emergent reading, writing and word study learning. She strives to stay current on research so she can best meet the diverse needs of the kindergarten children she spends her time with each and every day. She is an avid reader and has a large, ever expanding picture book collection that she loves sharing with her students. You can find Carolyn on Twitter @carolynhelmers.
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