# 31 Teaching Kindergartners to Read Fluently
When I first taught in school, it was common to be able to collect one pound empty coffee cans. Why? Because many people drank coffee and that was the most popular way coffee was sold, in a tin coffee container with a plastic lid on top to keep the coffee fresh. We sent notes home and most students brought them back to school. Some brought extra because not every family drank coffee. I needed 26 cans per class because there are 26 letters in the alphabet. We also had a machine that made upper and lower case letters. The teacher would have to cut the paper into three by four squares. On one side of the coffee can we would glue an upper case letter while the lower case letter was glued on the back. Then another note went home asking parents if they could help their child find small objects that would fit into a coffee can that corresponded with that letter of the alphabet. We were clear to tell parents these objects would not be returned home. I first used yellow construction paper cut to fit and wrapped it around the can. Then I glued the letters on, and lastly used clear construction paper to wrap around the can. I forgot to mention the letters were made using red construction paper. At last the objects dwindled in and students were thrilled to find the correct can for their object.
Now, let's test your critical thinking skills. What is a very common object a child would most likely bring to school? Don't know? Think about where twenty six coffee cans were kept in a classroom. We had the cans lined along the radiator on the window sills. When it got cold outside and the heat was turned on, can you guess what happened? The many crayons that were kept in the cans began to melt, and the smell permeated throughout the room. We immediately removed the cans from the radiators. I tried to take out the melted materials after school dismissed. Until this point the students enjoyed playing with the cans and saying the beginning letters.
Every day the students were given a printed newspaper, half lined to write a story. They would draw a picture and then scribble write a story. They would share their stories with the class. We also practiced writing upper and lower case letters. After the crayon melt dilemma, each child was given a can and allowed to keep it on their desk during writing time. I had cut a stack of two by three inch oak tag cards. I would circulate around the class and ask a student to read their story to me. Next I would ask them which word they would like to learn to spell. They would tell me and I would take my Sharpie and spell out the word. The student would correct their spelling error and keep the card in their coffee can. Sometimes We would have an ABC day in which all the cards in a can was spilled out and the students would line up the cards in alphabetical order. These activities helped the students become stronger readers and writers. This was a great idea for teaching students to love reading and writing.