Hot Topics (August Theme) by Bob Krech

One of my favorite parts of teaching first grade was teaching reading. What an amazing experience it is to teach someone to read. One of the strategies I used was known as the Key Vocabulary Approach. This was a method popularized by Sylvia Ashton-Warner, a New Zealand educator who wrote the book, Teacher in the late 60's.

In this method, each day you ask your students a word they would like to learn. You write the word on a large piece of card stock, saying each letter aloud as you write them, finally saying the word aloud. You then pass the card to the student who traces each letter, saying them aloud, and then pronounces the word. The student takes the card, copies it three times and draws a picture of the word. They keep the word in their key word box adding it to their collections. Each day the teacher reviews the words with the student. This is only part of the total process of teaching reading, but it was a great way to get kids excited about reading because they were engaging with words they really wanted to learn.

It was a wonderful way to also get insight into what was "hot" among the first grade crowd. It was also often very challenging because I ended up having to learn to spell incredibly long dinosaur names as well as all the characters in The Masters of the Universe (He-Man, Skeletor, etc.) When I worked with older grades where students were already reading I asked them to create lists of topics they wanted to read or write about. These lists were also packed with "hot" topics.

It was interesting how in these lists and key word collections which included Skeletor, Brontosaurus, Batman, skateboard, and many other "timely" words, there were also many words like: love, friend, Mom, Dad, tattle-tale, steal, divorce, peace, war, kiss, bully and bathroom.

There are some topics that are hot for a while, and there are others, well, they're always going to be hot.


  1. I love this technique! It made me instantly remember a heated debate I had in the first grade about how to spell "pizza." (Two "z"s? Are you serious?)

  2. First graders are so bold and uncensored, aren't they? Sometimes I think I can learn a few things from them! Great post, Bob!

  3. First graders are always a blast. Thanks.


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