Several summers ago, on a family “vacation” to visit my sister (and a bunch of cousins to my children), my sister over at Bear Paw Creek talked me into doing a video shoot with one of her products—the Stretchy Band. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for a relaxing vacation, but you know how it is with sisters. You step out of your comfort zone and do whatever you can to help them out.
That was the same summer that I was finalizing my book—Alphabet Stew and Chocolate Too: Songs for Developing Phonological Awareness, Literacy, and Communication Skills—and I challenged myself to use the Stretchy Band to teach literacy skills.
Teaching Alliteration & Beat Competence
The Stretchy Band makes an appearance in my book three times. The video below shows one example focusing on the skill of alliteration, also referred to as “sound matching.” Alliteration is a fancy word for when words start with the same sound and it is an important foundational skill for learning to read.
The Stretchy Band is also a fabulous way to teach “beat competence,” the ability to move your body in a steady beat which matches the tempo of music. The fun thing about the Stretchy Band is that when you have a child who struggles in this area, you can put them between two children who have already developed this skill and their hands will get the sensory input of an object that is moving in time with the beat.
We prepped for the activity shown in the video by first passing a simple count of “1-2-3-4” around the circle. By this, I mean that while every child kept a steady beat by tapping the stretchy band on their legs, the children took turns counting 1-2-3-4.
After this, we experimented with putting their names on beat one. This would sound like: “Miss Kathy-2-3-4, Anna-2-3-4, Joy-2-3-4, Jessica-2-3-4, Cody 2-3-4. I would cue with the “2-3-4” and the kids would simply say their names on beat one.
Putting this on beat one is strategic and research-based as the rhythm actually primes the brain and makes responding easier. For kids that struggle with verbalizing and motor planning, this can be a huge help.
Once this become really comfortable we introduced the concept of alliteration using this chant:
Beginning sound celebration!
Say some words that start with M
M says /m/.
At the stage shown in the video, kids are being asked to generate a word. In earlier stages, kids may be asked to decide whether two words start with the same sound. For some, generating the word is actually easier.
Earlier Developing Skills
For kids that aren’t at this stage yet, sound matching can be targeted through instrument play. Simply start with a matching set of rhythm instruments (maracas, sticks, egg shakers, etc.) and give the child one of each instrument while you have the matching instruments hidden. I always travel with a large magnetic dry erase board which comes in handy for this activity. If the child needs more structure, I use a simple song titled “What Do You Hear?” attached here as a free download.
Once they’re ready to start producing a series of words with the same beginning sound, the Stretchy Band is a fun way to reinforce this concept. If a couple of the kids are struggling with coming up with a word, include them in the stretchy band circle and make it clear that it is okay to repeat a word.
This gives them an opportunity for them to participate successfully and to “feel” the sound in their mouth which helps with the development of this skill.
Spark Your Creativity!
If you’re interested in your own Stretchy Band, it can be found at www.BearPawCreek.com. The Stretchy Band makes for a highly motivating activity and might be the spark you need to create some new intervention ideas!