Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reading and Spelling with Playdoh?

I bet the inventors of playdoh never thought their product could be used to teach reading! I discovered that it can!

I began to use playdoh to teach students how to understand how compound words work. It went something like this:

I held up the ball of dough and asked the students if they thought they could learn about words with playdoh and of course they all thought you could not.

Teacher: say, "baseball"
Students: "baseball"

I then broke the dough into two parts. I held up the first piece and said, "base" and then showed them the second piece and said, "ball". I then smooshed the pieces together again and said, "baseball".

Each student was given a ball of playdoh and learned how to work through identifying the larger word, breaking it into the two smaller words, and pushing it back together to get back to the larger word. Every student in my class is successful with working with compound words now.

You can also use playdoh when learning how to spell. Look at the three colors of dough above. Each color can represent one letter in a simple C-V-C word. For example: for the word "can", red can stand for the /c/, yellow can stand for the /a/, and green can stand for the /n/. The student squishes a finger into each color as they sound out the sound for the letter and then can identify what letter makes that sound for spelling.

I also work with older students after school that struggle immensely with the spelling process and at times become burned out by the usual methods of teaching spelling. We take a ball of playdoh and pinch off a piece for each letter in the word we are spelling. For instance, if I am spelling the word "stamp", the student will pinch a piece and say "s", pince a piece and say "t" and so on until they have pinched enough pieces for all the letters in the word. The pinches are laid out on a mat. The student then pokes his or her finger into each pinched piece and spells the word quickly as all pieces are touched. My students find this a fun way to learn how to spell and it gives them an outlet for any frustration they may have as they have to focus on one of their most difficult academic areas.

I have included a few links if you'd like to learn more about how playdoh was invented. The actual playdoh link includes a free itunes app!

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear what you think of my non-traditional approach to spelling and reading with playdoh!



  1. Christina, your Play Doh ideas are totally awesome! I am going to try these ideas as soon as I get back from spring break. I just used scented home-made Play Doh to teach symmetry, and my kids can't wait to see what color and scent are coming next. The last one I did was yellow/lemon for spring, and before that I used green/mint and brown/chocolate. I love reading your posts!

    Sharon Dudley, NBCT

  2. Thank you Sharon! I love the math idea you have! I bet my students will also!

  3. Thank you for sharing you idea. My students enjoy forming letters from Play Doh. I'm sure they would enjoy squishing it as they spell or segment words. The tactile nature of this idea is perfect for kindergarten!

    Linda Phillips

  4. You are welcome! I appreciate your idea. I haven't tried that with them yet, but I will. Recently, they have been making some letters backwards. I think I will try this as an informal assessment!


I would love to know what you think!

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