About this time students are ready to learn that ABCs and words can be a form of communication. We began writing a sentence on the board for the afternoon class to read. They would read it and compose another sentence for the morning class. This would give the students practice with "ear spelling" and reading. They were simple sentences like "The plant is big" (our classroom plant on the science table) or "Sam is sick" but it was highly motivational because each class wanted to know what the other class was saying and it was very personal to them.
There were some words that we would use often and students just needed to memorize them. They were words like "the" and "a" so we would put them in the "word bank" for students to use whenever they were needed. I drew a large piggy bank on the board and wrote common words that didn't always follow the rules inside. It became a useful teaching tool for me and a valuable learning experience for the students.
What I learned: Reading becomes a vibrant, "real life" experience when it is something besides sitting in the "Bluebird" (or "Buzzard") group and trying to decipher what is in the reader.