Start by writing the student's name on the top of the desk mat (mat) in the space provided.
Place the mat in front of the child and ask: "Can you see your name on the mat?" "Point to your name on the mat." In learning about the way our language is written children need to be able to learn how to 'break the code'. The games played on the desk mat (mat) are explicitly designed to support children in their learning about how sounds and words are written. Learning about letters and words. "Show me where the letters are on the mat." "Show me where all the words are on the mat." "Point to the letter that is at the beginning of your name." "Point to the letter that is at the beginning of Mum." Continue with this game by asking about the initial letter of familiar people, family, friends, animals, toys, sports, hobbies etc.
Show the child the letters at the bottom of the mat. Explain that each letter has a name, just like they sound when we sing or say the alphabet - A B C D E F G.... Then explain that each letter can also make different sounds, eg 'A' can say 'a' as in apple.
Beat the Clock
Ask your child to look at the words on the mat and invite them to play the following games. You may need a clock, mobile phone or watch that has a second hand for timing some of the games. Say as many words on the mat as you can in one minute. Choose a color on the mat and say the words in that column as quickly as you can. In learning centres you can time each other and keep score to determine who is the fastest at saying the words. Practise often so that you get faster and faster. Learning to the say the words quickly is a very good way to get better at reading. The faster you are at saying the words helps you to think about the story or information in the book rather than all the little words in between. These games are based on a skill known as rapid automatic naming (RAN) which highly correlates with successful reading. Assisting children to learn to say these high frequency words at a rate of about one word per second is an excellent stategy to enhance reading. The Magic Words Playing Cards have specifically designed to assist children in learning these words and learning to recognise and say them quickly. All the RAN games can be played using the Magic Words Playing Cards.
Get someone to say a word and see how long it takes to locate the word on the mat. Do this many times until you are familiar with where all the words are on the mat.
Once familiar with the words try to spell the word by typing it out on the letter buttons at the bottom of the mat. It is ok to look at the word while typing. Checking to see that you are spelling it correctly is a great way to learn how to spell new words! Recognition of a word either by pointing to the word when asked, playing Magic Words Card Games or reading the word in books is a much easier task than having to remember what a word looks like and be able to spell and write it accurately. Children need to be given ample opportunity to practise "bridging activities" like copying words, tracing words, finding words in words and tapping or typing the words, while looking at them, on the alphabet chart at the bottom of the mat. These activities are prerequisite strategies to being able to write the words correctly.
Have someone make up a sentence using words on the mat. Then as you locate the words say the sentence back. Start with short simple sentences and gradually increase as confidence grows. This game is particularly good at improving short term auditory memory. Sample sentences: I like you. I will come. I will come now. I will come with you. I will come with you now. I want to come. I want to come with you. I want to come with you now. I will come to you now. I can look. I can look up. I can look down. I can look at you. I can look at you now. I could come with you now. I could go there now. I want to go out there with you. I want to go out there with you now. I want to go out there now and see them.
There are literally hundreds of sentences that you can make up!