“Sand, Sand Everywhere!” Helps Students Learn Their ABCs in a Creative Way


Writing your ABC’s is a fundamental skill that many students master in their first year of school. But doing so in a way that keeps their age group engaged and excited about learning is another challenge all together. That’s why Kristiana Valentine, a Kindergarten teacher at Red Cedar Elementary School, submitted a grant application for a project entitled “Sand, Sand Everywhere! Phonics Fun!” The Foundation for Educational Excellence awarded funding for Valentine’s project last fall allowing her students to learn their ABCs in a fun and creative way this year. The project was partially funded by the Moss Creek Charitable Fund.


The funds awarded through the grant went towards the purchase of materials used for the multi-sensory experiences associated with the Orton-Gillingham teaching method. Orton-Gillingham teaches literacy in an “explicit, sequential, systematic, and multi-sensory approach.” It is a program that focuses on letter and sound skills which students will build upon over time to help with reading, writing, and spelling.

The Orton-Gillingham program essentially works because it helps to instill confidence in learners, assists children in overcoming learning disorders and makes it easier for children to learn to read. Educators would agree that children learn best by having fun and experiencing their learning through multiple learning modalities.


“Phonemic awareness is a key component in learning how to read and write,” explains Valentine. “As Kindergarten teachers, our number one goal every year is to help kids become confident readers who truly enjoy books.”


Through the project, students were able to write letters and words in sand that was contained in a flip top container purchased with grant monies. Two different types of sand were used so as the student used their finger to write letters, the letters were more easily seen. They were also able to use Red Word books and plastic canvas screens to write sight words with red crayon. The same materials were used to write CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words with a green crayon.

The hands-on and engaging activities helped to increase the letter, sound, sight word recognition, and reading skills of the students. These methods also helped them to master their phonemes and graphemes…all while having fun and instilling a love for learning at a young age.


Valentine and her colleagues were thrilled with the outcome of the program for their students using the Orton-Gillingham materials. Out of 62 Kindergarten students in the four classes at RCE supported by this grant, 92% now know all of their letters and sounds. In addition, over 65% of the Kindergarten students are now reading on or above grade level.


The Kindergarten students at Red Cedar Elementary got to experience first hand the benefit of education through hands on learning – setting these students up for success for the rest of their educational journeys. Thanks to the innovative teaching methods of their teachers and the help of funding from the Foundation and the Moss Creek Charitable Fund, the fundamental skills and the love of learning these kids now have will carry them far beyond their ABCs.