Learning to solve problems by understanding context can be a tough lesson for children. Fill-in-the-blank exercises challenge this ability, and they rear their ugly heads on tests from elementary school up through doctorate programs. Fortunately, you can simplify these activities and make them fun for your youngster, while also helping her to think creatively and develop reading comprehension skills. You'll enjoy them for the one-on-one time together.
Use fill-in-the-blanks as a “get-to-know-you" game. Write out information cards for the kids to fill out when they arrive to a birthday party. Hand the children a card, and have them find the answers to the blank questions from at least one other child. You can include questions, such as "My favorite animal is (blank);" “My favorite sport is (blank);" “I have (blank) sisters and brothers;" and “My favorite place to go in the summer is (blank)." For older kids, the same game can work by tweaking the questions for an edgier tone. Examples include: “I think (blank) is attractive;" “My favorite teen film character is (blank);" and “I like the show (blank title) because (blank name) is so cool."
Create a story for your child full of blank spaces. You can create a word list for her to choose from or let her use her imagination and fill in the blanks with the silliest things she can imagine. When making the story, be sure to include enough information so the game doesn’t become too hard. For younger elementary school kids especially, you might want to read the story out loud and prompt them with hints when a blank is presented. For older kids, these stories can be good examples of how narrative is developed. Show them how their choices affect characters and scenes. Talk to them about how a good story has a consistent plot and the actions make a logical progression.
Animal Sounds and Habitats
Familiarize your youngster with the different sounds that animals make with a simple fill in the blank lesson at home. Write out a sheet of animal names in this format: “A cow says (blank).” Make a list of animal sounds on the opposite side of the page and see if your child can fill in the blanks with the correct sounds. If she’s not yet reading fluently, have her make the sounds, rather than choosing from the sound list on the opposite side of the page. Older kids who can organize animals by habitat can do a similar exercise. Instead of focusing on sounds, ask about what they eat, where they live and what their skin or fur feels like. For instance, try this exercise with your 10-year-old: “I’m a shark. I live in the (blank) and eat (blank) when I catch them in my mouth. I come in different shapes and sizes, but two of my most popular kinds are the (blank) and (blank).
You can use pictures in place of words if your child isn’t able to read fluently yet. To create a pictorial game, write a story on a large chalkboard or magnetic board, leaving plenty of noun blanks. Draw or print out pictures, and laminate them so they can hold up to duress. Add magnets to the backs if you're using a magnet board. Have your child fill in the blanks with the pictures instead of words. You can have her choose the correct pictures for the story, or put them all in a bag and have her pull out a random one to create a funny sentence. After the giggles slow down, be sure to discuss why the sentence is so silly; "This is funny because zebras don’t fly;" or “A giraffe is too tall to drive a car." These small discussion points will reinforce the animal characteristics and help her learn.