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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 6. Have the children co- operatively share what they know about let- ter sounds and try to figure out the word. Younger children need assistance, which old- er children are more than happy to pro- vide. Give children the opportunity to ask for what they need. Nev- er step in to help un- til they ask. Figuring out the word can take time, patience, and persistence—all good skills to practice. 7. Once the children have figured it out, talk about the word. The children will want to share what they know about it. Make time for this Mystery Word conversation with the group and with individual children. 8. Be prepared for play possibilities the Mystery Word may inspire. The children will often incorporate the word into their play. For example, if the Mystery Word is gloppy, you had better be prepared for some messy play. The Mystery Word concept teaches children letters in a fun, exciting, motivating way. It helps them learn letters, as well as the purpose of each letter, in a very unthreatening, unforced, playful way. All the children feel a sense of pride when they find a letter, and when the younger children ask the older children to assist them in identifying a letter, the older children feel a huge boost of self-esteem. For them, sharing what they know is empowering. As the letters are found, the children have to construct the Mystery Word by putting letters in the correct order. Doing this is great for learning visual track- ing, problem solving, letter sounds, letter recognition, teamwork, ownership of discoveries, knowledge sharing, and community building. Many times, one mystery word builds on another. For example, the word apart may lead to the word together, and that may lead to the word attach, and that may lead to the word glue. This means kids are identifying connections between words, stretching and owning their own vocabularies, and actively thinking about language. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 3