Summertime Sound-On!

As the school year transitions into summer, parents often ask what their homework is for the summer months, or what reading they should do with their children. No matter the age of the child, the answers are: all areas of reading; and, it doesn’t have to feel like homework!

Reading is a complex process requiring numerous sections of the brain to work together efficiently. Similar to other muscle groups in the body, if you focus all your exercise on training only one group, you end up lopsided (sometimes literally). Reading consists of five  focus areas: phonological awareness; decoding; fluency; comprehension; and vocabulary. This summer, follow Engaging Their Brains! as we kick-off our blogging with multisensory ways to enjoy all of reading!


Imagine 24 voices sounding out all day long. As a classroom teacher, it can be challenging to really hear each student every day. Students are required to work quietly for large chunks of the day out of necessity. It’s no wonder kids crank up the volume during their time off in the summer! Let’s use that vocal energy for building stronger readers. Additionally, let’s focus that energy into some productive brain exercise with some direct sound focus.

Sound Toss

Rhyming is a solid exercise for building and strengthening the language sound pathways of the reading circuit – and no workbook needed, just a ball.

The Basics

Player 1 starts with a word and then tosses the ball. Player 2 catches the ball and names a word that rhymes with the start word and tosses to the next player. One syllable words are recommended, though some multisyllable words will work for this activity. You can have as many players as you like and this activity works with mixed ages. 

Basic Example: Jimmy, Sara & Shawn

Jimmy tosses the ball to Sara and says the word run, Sara has to rhyme with run. She tosses the ball to Shawn and says dun. Shawn tosses the ball to Jimmy and says fun. Jimmy can then keep the rhyme chain going OR start with a new word.

Other Examples

For Early Readers: use short vowel words or word families (ex:cat, hop, fall…). Keep in mind that some endings are slight danger zones”, or rhyme chains that might require censoring, for example it, sell or duck.

For Middle Readers and/or Older Children: including nonsense words can be key to knowing the child can transfer the skill to words that are unrecognizable.

Change It Up:

  • Use a hacky sack, nerf ball, badminton racket and shuttlecock, or frisbee (depends on the motor coordination of the child).
  • With Corn Hole Toss: must rhyme to be able to toss the bean bag.
  • Use a water balloon instead of a bean bag. If a rhyme is incorrect, the catcher has to toss the water balloon at his/her own feet.

A Little Extra

The focus in this activity is phonological awareness, manipulating the sounds of language. The key is hearing the rhyme of the rime. (No, we’re not trying to be tricky! A rime is the sounds at the end of a word, from the last vowel to the end of a word or syllable.)

With older children, rimes can get tricky because of their exposure to poetry and couplets as rhymes. It also gets tricky because they are used to having print while they are working on reading. Activities that focus on the language sounds requires a change from their norm.

Brain Powers Activated

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Memory
  • Attention to detail
  • Auditory Processing
  • Sequencing (rime is at the end)
  • Flexible Thinking (using words that aren’t real; using words that sound the same but might look different)
  • Motor Coordination

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