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By Chrysta Naron

Knock knock. 

Who’s there? 

Boo! 

Boo who? 

Don’t cry. It’s only a joke! 

Or in this case, it’s only reading. Sometimes the OO spelling pattern can throw kids for a loop! The letters don’t make the short O sound (like hot) they learn to read first. And it doesn’t make the long O sound (like rope) that they know as the letter’s name. So just how can you teach your child the sounds that O makes when it’s doubled up? Play this happy Halloween-themed spelling game with your child and they’ll be mastering the double-O in no time.

Orange and white paper, scissors, Sharpie

Materials:

  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
  • White paper
  • Orange paper
  • Scissors
  • Black marker

Cost: Free, if you have these things at home! 

Set the Scene: Cozy up and read the Halloween classic Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. It’s a sweet Halloween story and offers ample practice for those pesky OO words. Be sure to point them out as you read together.

White paper cut into the shape of two ghosts

Step 1: Cut out five ghost shapes from the white paper.

Paper ghosts with 'OO' drawn in the middle of each

Step 2: Using the black marker, write OO in the middle of the ghost.

Two orange pumpkins cut out of paper

Step 3: Cut out 15 pumpkins from the orange paper. If you need a little guidance in making a pumpkin shape, you can trace a pumpkin cookie cutter or print and trace this picture.

Orange paper pumpkins with letters written on each one

Step 4: Now, write one letter on each pumpkin. Choose letters that are commonly found in OO words. Some great choices are: B, L, T, M, C, and K. Many OO words end in K (look, book, shook, took, hook) or T (root, hoot, boot, foot), so I recommend making multiples of these two letters.

How to Play: Explain that OO makes the same sound as a ghost would, /oo/, as in BOO! Make sure to really emphasize the /oo/ sound. Optional: This is a great place to review the words from Room on the Broom.

Explore: Let your child try different letter combinations with the pumpkins and ghosts to see if they can make words. Let them explore. Even if they make nonsense words, that’s fine! Read them aloud anyway and laugh together. This is all about learning the sound /oo/. 

Challenge: After a few minutes, separate the pumpkins from the ghosts. Spread the pumpkins out so all of them are visible. Hand your child a ghost.

Then, say an OO word aloud to your child. Ask them to create that word with the pumpkins and ghosts. You can start with simple words like boo, moo, or zoo. Then progress to words like boot, moon, or zoom.

Advance: It’s important to note that OO can make two sounds. It can make a long OO sound like boo or a short OO sound, as in book, look, or wood. But no need to boo-hoo: When children begin to sound out words with the long OO sound, they easily and naturally make the jump to the short sound when they see it. For example, a child might read foot to rhyme with hoot, but once they say the word aloud, they’ll tend to self-correct and say “Oh! Foot!” So, when your child is ready, you can point out the short OO sound and practice these words together, too. 

Incorporating this fun spelling game into your Halloween activities this year is sure to make spelling practice a hoot!

Do you have other favorite activities or devices for teaching tricky spelling patterns? Let us know!

Chrysta Naron (she/her) is an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, who believes everything is better with glitter! Read more from her at playfulprek.com. *Craft photos by Chrysta Naron