Hands-On ELA Study Tips to Help Elementary Kids Become Better Readers

Studying English Language Arts (ELA) and reading at home is more important than ever

What are the benefits of reading? According to a Healthline article, medically reviewed by Heidi Moawad, M.D., reading has mental and physical benefits at any age. Some benefits of reading include: relaxation, improved brain activity, better empathizing and help fighting symptoms of depression.

Not only is reading good for you, but as many parents know, ELA standards are also part of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that help K-12 students prepare for success after high school. Language arts classes for elementary kids generally cover reading, writing, speaking, listening and communication skills.

Dedicated language arts study time at home is like giving your kids an academic booster shot. Becoming better at reading helps young learners to both absorb and express content covered in school— and beyond. From math, science, history and social studies to civic duties like jury duty, voting and understanding laws as adults.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

Additionally, reading at home while social distancing does more than just prepare kids for academic success. It’s inexpensive entertainment, a break from digital activities and a quiet activity that can help parents find some peace. It also helps kids expand their understanding of the world while stuck indoors.

read log with color coded dots and markers books for elementary students pencils notecards
Show your kids how far they’ve come with visual aids for tracking progress. Reuse DIY reading logs over and over again with adhesive laminating sheets. (Avery 73602). Create your own “word hunt” card collection using printable post cards (Avery 8387)

Encourage independent and family reading with visualized goals 

Create your own grid-style reading log tailored to your kids’ goals. For example, tracking the quantity of books a voracious young reader tackles can instill them with a sense of pride. Whereas a slower reader may benefit from a “quality over quantity” approach tracking improved reading level goals.

Laminated reading logs are easy to stick on the fridge, a desk, a wall— basically anywhere. Removable color-coding stickers are fun for kids to use to mark off spaces. You can also use dry-erase markers to write in additional information.

Help kids recognize language patterns in books with DIY “word hunt” cards

Ask your kids to hunt for certain words, spelling patterns and sounds while reading, or by simply looking through a book. For example, words from a class vocab list or words with a specific spelling pattern such as “consonant-vowel-consonant.”

Word hunts can be especially useful for studying words with similar sounds made by different letter combos. For example, the “sh” sound in the words “instructions” and “special,” and the “oo” sound in the words  “through” and “cruise.” Words with silent e’s and hard c’s are also great categories for a word hunt.

Print out postcards with word hunt categories at the top and collect them all together using a loose leaf binder ring. Your readers can write down matching words they discover on the hunt and earn prizes for filling the cards. It’s perfect for showing kids how many words they’ve learned while reading.

story map color coding reading book makrers highlighters ultra tabs context clues
Color-coding is a useful tool for studying ELA skills including close reading, vocabulary and spelling. Colorful repositionable tabs, dry-erase markers and highlighters make it easy to color-code just about anything. (Avery 74767, 24459, 23585)

Develop your kids’ close reading skills with story mapping activities

Story mapping is a visual ELA study technique that helps readers identify details in a story such as characters, plot, settings, problems and solutions. It improves comprehension and helps kids efficiently organize information and ideas.

To help your kids with this study technique, start with a laminated blank story mapping worksheet. Explain the different elements of a story and assign each element a color. Provide color-coded repositionable tabs to help them identify different story elements while they’re reading.

Once they’re finished, they can use the color-coded tabs to complete the story mapping worksheet using dry-erase markers. When it’s completed, no need to save yet another piece of paper, just wipe away the dry-erase. You can use laminated story mapping worksheets for countless chapters or entire books!

Help kids expand their vocabulary by learning to identify context clues

The most practical way to expand your kids vocabulary is to help them learn new words while reading. Hints (or clues) within a sentence or paragraph can be used to understand the meaning of new words by providing context.

The mnemonic device IDEAS identifies the five types of context clues: (1) Inference – based on clues without meaning (2) Definition – the word is explained (3) Example – an example is used (4) Antonym – a word with the opposite meaning is used (5) Synonym – a word with a similar meaning is used.

Color-coding the different types of context clues helps kids make a visual connection and practice identifying them while reading. Highlighters are ideal for color coding context clues in worksheets, while repositionable tabs can be used to color code without damaging book pages.

ben's site words cards in binder eraser pencil banana holder llama notebook
Keep ELA study tools like flashcards and worksheets organized with a durable binder  (Avery 79722) and sheet protectors for business cards (Avery 76009) or documents (Avery 75540)

Create DIY flashcards with specific ELA skills tailored to your kids’ needs

Making your own flashcards gives your kids limitless options for learning specific reading/language skills. For example, teaching sight words to younger kids or helping older elementary kids study subject-verb agreements, past/present tense and irregular verb forms.

The secret to quick and easy flashcards is using our free online design software to easily add text to printable business cards. Using the “edit one” feature you can simply type in the information for each card. Or you can type the information into a spreadsheet and quickly add it all at once using mail merge.

Practice makes perfect— use ELA worksheets as many times as needed

Learning to write and spell are foundational ELA skills for helping kids learn to read. For younger kids, writing also develops fine motor skills, which requires a lot of practice. You can make literally any ELA worksheet reusable by slipping it into a sheet protector and having your kids use dry-erase markers.

Rainbow writing and pyramid writing language arts worksheets work really well with colorful dry-erase markers and make writing and spelling repetition more engaging. Reading comprehension worksheets are fantastic for helping older elementary kids organize their thoughts when working on book reports.

Use super-easy phonic flip charts to study word families

Phonic flip charts help kids learn how to sound out words while reading. A very simple version is ideal for kids just learning how to read, however, more complicated phonic flip charts can be helpful for learning word families. For example words that end in “at.”

To make your own simple version for beginner readers all you need are three pocket-sized spiral notepads and a marker. Write out the alphabet one letter per page for each notebook. Set them in a row and randomly flip the pages to find new words for your reader to sound out.

lego building blocks markers labels crayons
Building blocks can be awesome tools for getting your kids to study language in a way that feels like a game. Write or print contractions, words and more on removable labels (Avery 5422) to instantly turn your kids’ building blocks into a fun ELA study tool.

Encourage play where your kids can (literally) build language skills

“Gamification” in the classroom is the practice of using game play (rules, scoring, friendly competition etc.) in order to motivate kids and keep them engaged. You can reap the benefits of gamification at home with language and reading games cleverly disguised as play time.

Our favorite reading game to play with building blocks is to have kids match up contractions with the words that make them up. Another fun game is to add nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs to blocks for building sentences. Declare a “winner” each round based on set criteria such as silliest sentence.

Create a “gotta catch ‘em all” reading game in your living room or backyard

All you need is a quick list of 5-10 questions about the reading material from the night before and the same amount of stuffed animal toys. Your kids will feel like they’re “real-life” Pokémon trainers, and all the while you’re teaching them reading comprehension.

Set the toys at intervals creating a path from “start” to “finish.” At each interval the players must correctly answer a question from the reading in order to “catch” the toy. If they miss the question they must move on without the toy, but at the end you can review each missed question until all the toys are collected.

More resources to help your kids study at home

Using these hands-on tips for helping your kids become better readers, you can develop a love of reading in your kids that will benefit them throughout their lives. From teaching strong ELA study skills that will serve them in school, to helping them read books that build character and teach important values. 

Explore more resources to help your kids learn at home, like our study tips for teens and our back-to-school resource page for parents. You can also learn more about using our online design software for tons of at-home DIY projects with our helpful How To videos.

Products Used in This Article

Self-Adhesive Laminating Sheets, 9″ x 12″ (73602)

Printable Postcards, 4-1/4″ x 5-1/2″ (8387)

Removable Round Color-Coding Stickers, 3/4″ (5472)

Dry-Erase Markers, Assorted Colors (24459)

Repositionable Ultra Tabs®, Neon Colors (74767)

Hi-Liter® Markers, Assorted Fluorescent Colors (23585)

Durable Back-to-School Binder, 1-1/2″ Spine (79722)

Sheet Protectors for Business Cards (76009)

Standard Document Sheet Protectors (75540)

Printable Business Cards, 2″ x 3-1/2″ (28371)

Removable Rectangle Labels, 1/2″ x 1-3/4″ (5422)

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