I learned to read when I was in first grade, when I was six years old going on seven. But so many of the beginning readers I teach today are much younger. Right now I am working with a five-year-old kindergartener, one of the youngest boys in his class. Although he is bright and ready to learn to read, he is also fidgety and inattentive.
Maybe you are working at home during the pandemic with such a kindergartener? How do you teach such a child without both you and he becoming frustrated?
The answer is to have multiple ways of teaching the same concept, so when attention wanes, you can try different approaches.
Suppose you are teaching blends at the beginning of short-vowel one-syllable words. For such a child, I would schedule either multiple ten-minute lessons, or a thirty-minute lesson divided into three parts. What could those parts include?
Review using lists for five minutes. Reading lists of words is a good way to begin. Reading lists is boring, so move on quickly. If the words are printed in large type with lots of white space, that helps the words to look “friendly.”
Using flash cards make great reviews too. They also can become boring quickly.
Making words of letter tiles covers a lot of words in a short amount of time.
Reading words on BINGO-like cards of words turns learning into fun. Nine words per card (three words across by three words down) is few enough not to overwhelm the child. Ask the student to cover a word when you pronounce it. Then ask the child to pronounce the word and you cover it. Pennies or tiny candies used as markers offer incentive to play this game.
Reading cartoons in workbooks can be fun. The drawings attract the child, but sometimes they offer clues to words which the child does not sound out, so be careful.
Working on appropriate workbook pages from a supplementary series is another approach.
Having the child handwrite words reinforces them and improves printing skills.
“Writing” words in a dish of sand or sugar can seem more like fun than learning. I would use this type lesson at the end of the time period because other approaches might seem boring in comparison.
The same goes for online learning. Often it is more attractive than “analog” methods. But old-fashioned methods can target the child’s specific needs quicker.
The younger the reading student, the more activities a teacher needs to keep the student engaged during a lesson. For four- and five-year-olds, I come prepared with a bagful of reading activities such as
A stack of pictures showing CVC words (flag, map, dog, cat, and pen) which the student sorts into two piles: those that have the desired vowel or consonant sound, and those that don’t.
Letter tiles which I use to form words, phrases and sentences for the student to read. Sentences using the student’s own name attract the youngest readers. Letting the student create some of the words. also keeps the student engaged.
Stories written with the simplest CVC vocabulary which the student and I read together, and then which she reads independently.
Twelve pictures of rhyming words on index cards .
Another kind of reading assignment that my youngest reading students like is reading and answering silly questions like the following:
Can an ant wink to a cat? Yes No
Can a bug land on a lip? Yes No
Will a duck swim in a mug? Yes No
Can a big cat fit in a bag? Yes No
Will a dog dig with a pen? Yes No
The questions consist of whatever examples of the reading concept we are studying at the time such as CVC words, blends, or two-syllable short-vowel words. Almost all the questions are ridiculous and the more ridiculous the better. Having colored pencils or markers to use intensifies the fun.
I find that the more hands-on the activity, the better. Early readers sometimes cannot print letters, but they can make ovals around words or draw matching lines. They can hold a small stack of pictures and sort them into piles. They can move around letter tiles.
The more busy their bodies are, the more likely they are to stay engaged.
Is there a best sequence in which to learn printing, cursive writing and key stroking? Yes, according to research.
First children should learn to print letters, using either a pen or pencil, from toddler years through second grade.
Then, during third and fourth grade, children should learn and switch to cursive handwriting.
Beginning in fifth grade, children should learn to keystroke.
This sequence is connected to how the brain of a child develops.
Holding a pencil, forming letters correctly, printing neatly on a horizontal line and using correct spacing to form words is a complex skill requiring coordination of many processes. By four or five years old, most children are capable of this.
Around fourth grade, using cursive writing seems to help children with spelling and composing. The reason is not clear, but researchers speculate that joining letters together in cursive writing helps children to form words from individual letters.
When a child learns to type properly on a keyboard, the fingers from both hands are used, unlike when handwriting. Using both hands might activate connective tissue in the brain which joins different parts of the brain together to perform a task.
(Common Core Standards recommend that children learn to print in first and second grades, but learning to write in cursive is not recommended. As a result, cursive writing is no longer taught in many schools. The Common Core Standards recommend learning to use a keyboard.)
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You may think revising means finding grammar and spelling mistakes when it really means rewriting—moving ideas around, adding more details, using specific verbs, varying your sentence structures and adding figurative language. Learn how to improve your writing with these rewriting ideas and more.