I Spy with My Little Eye….

Posted:20 September 2016

Author: Tanis Harms, Community Learning Network

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Comments: 4

Recommendations: 1

Do you remember playing “I Spy” as a child or now with your children and/or grandchildren? This classic game has saved many doctor’s visits for my girls and myself in the past few years.

For those who are not familiar with this game, it is very simple to play. The person whose turn it is says “I spy with my little eye, something that is….” followed by an object’s description (its color, shape, or another descriptor). So, for example, “I spy with my little eye, something that is blue.” At this point, you would make educated guesses as to what I may be referring to until a certain time is up or until the guesser gives up. Each participant takes turns being the one to choose what to spy.

I can imagine by now that some of you are going crazy wondering what blue item I am referring to in my example. Yes, it is the bold title at the top of this blog.

You may be asking yourself at this point, “So what does the “I Spy” game have to do with foundational literacy?” Essential Skills used in order to complete the tasks involved in this game may include Reading, Oral Communication, and Thinking for both the person choosing the object and the one guessing what it is.

What are “I Spy” Quilts?

Our CALP system is stocked full of creative individuals with innovative ideas. Let me share one more example of this with you: an “I Spy” Quilt.

This quilt takes the classic game to the next level by providing multiple pictures in one small space to enhance learning activities. Some ideas on how a program facilitator and a caregiver could use an “I Spy” blanket are shared in the following two documents on the CALP Portal:

"I Spy" Guide for Program Staff

"I Spy" Guide for Caregivers


Additional ways that a Family Literacy program facilitator
could use the “I Spy” Quilt:

  • Child with QuiltHelp the caregivers to facilitate their child(ren)’s distance to the quilt, helping the child(ren) get as close as they want or need to in order to see the pictures (since children’s eyes develop over time to see further distances clearer).
  • Help the caregivers adjust the blanket in order to focus on a smaller area if needed by folding it down.
  • Help the caregivers build their child(ren)’s vocabulary by learning new words of objects as well as describing words
  • Help the caregivers assess whether to use the cards (with the words on them) or just the pictures, depending on the age and stage of their child’s development
  • Provide an opportunity for a child to connect a square from the quilt with a rhyme or song that they know and want to say or sing
  • Provide an opportunity for a connected story, where each family contributes a sentence from a picture that they see. Participants could also write down their sentence before sharing if they feel comfortable in order to extend this activity.
  • If there are words or letters on the blankets, caregivers could help their child(ren) identify the letters and the sound that they make

Additional ways that an Adult Literacy Program Coordinator or Tutor
of Adult Foundational Learners could use this blanket with Adult Learners:

  • Storywriting – develop a story from the pictures that you see
  • Similarities and Differences – talk about or build a chart with these two categories from what you notice
    about the different squares of the quilt
  • Sparked Memories - Tell a story about a memory that is sparked from looking at a picture
    (extend the activity by writing down the memory in a journal)
  • Build vocabulary – for English Language Learners as well as Adult Literacy Learners,
    learn the names of the items in the square
  • Describing Words – pick one square per person or for the group, and come up with as
    many adjectives or describing words as possible for that square

Where can I get one?

It’s time to get creative in how to obtain one or more for your organization’s use!

  • Find a volunteer to sew one, or if you’re a sewer….
  • Apply for a project grant and use the funds to make a set of quilts
  • Hold a “Square Drive” where community members donate squares for the quilt to your organization (be sure to specify exact measurements)
  • Ask a local quilting club if they would take this on as a project as a gift in kind
  • Chat with a local fabric store to see if they would donate their fabric scraps for this project

Stop by to see a sample "I Spy Quilt" Kit at the Symposium!

Be sure to stop by the Regional Support Staff table at the Resource Fair Reception at next week's Literacy & Learning Symposium. We will have a great sample quilt to show you, donated by the “I Spy Quilt” Literacy Project. Volunteers and contributors to the project include Connie Harrison, Nancy, Klein, Grace Klein, Marion Kobayashi, Shannon Marquette, Marg Mitchell, and Eileen Passmore.


So what other ways do you envision using an “I Spy” Quilt in your CALP Programming? Please share your ideas with us in the comments below!

Happy Sewing and Happy Spying….

Tanis Harms
Regional Support Staff
Northern Alberta


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