Posted by Cindy on January 20, 2008
A friend from Singapore asked this question recently:
I have a 6y+ son who just started public school in Singapore. He can read pretty well but he can’t spell. He has simple spelling list from school which he has problems learning. Do you have any advice?
Many children need hands-on or movement-based lessons when they seem to be struggling with the typical methods. Here are a few suggestions.
- Write the words in shaving cream.
- Lay white paper over sandpaper and have your child write the words using a crayon. It will create a tactile sensation that makes connections with hands-on kids.
- Mom writes the words in large print on a piece of paper. Lay a plastic canvas screen (from the craft section) over top and let the child trace the words with their finger.
- Write the words on the sidewalk using a spray bottle.
- Write the words in a very shallow sand or rice box.
- Play a ball toss game where you and your son say the next letter of the word as the ball is tossed to you.
- Use magnetic letters to spell the words.
- Play a magnetic letter relay where he has to run to get the first letter of the word and bring it back before running to get the second letter and so on. He may look at the word each time before he runs. This will help him with the memory of what comes next as he’s running.
- Lay random paper letters on the floor and have him jump from one letter to another to spell out the word.
- Some children enjoy spelling to a particular rhythm or tune or even clapping out the letters.
- I would also really stress sounding out each letter at a time as he tries to write the words, helping him hear every sound if he struggles with this.
- Of course, never give up talking about phonics rules as they present themselves.
Posted by Cindy on August 16, 2007
Mahayla pretty much learned to read without my help. By 1st grade, she was reading chapter books. So I didn’t feel the need to back up and teach phonics rules when she was intrisically figuring it all out. We did use Spelling Workout for two and a half years which taught many spelling rules, but she hated the repitition of the same words day after day. By Friday, test day, she would easily make 100%, but wasn’t always transferring the spelling rules into other words.
Fast forward to this year. There are a few spelling mistakes that I have watched her make over and over again – even after talking about them. So, I decided daily spelling instruction needed to be put back on the curriculum schedule. I wanted to do something that really taught the rules this time. Something that would help her to use the rule to spell any word – not just the 20 or 30 for a test.
I decided to use Spelling Works! (Grades 4-8) from Scholastic. The lessons cover spelling rules using all kinds of words – there is no word list. Each day, Mahayla completes a lesson where she has to use the rule in a variety of ways. By Friday, test day, I give her 20 or 30 words that follow the rule. She may or may not have seen the words through the week, but if she learned the rule she should still be able to make 100%.
I’m after an understanding of spelling rather than memorizing a set list. I’ve already seen a big improvement in everyday spelling on the words that follow the rules we’ve covered so far. That puts a big smile on my face and has given her more confidence in her writing!
Posted by Cindy on July 19, 2007
This is the title of a workshop taught by Tina Burnell that I attended at the CHEK Convention.
Let me first start by saying, Duh!! I have a master’s degree in education. I’ve studied in depth about teaching reading. I’ve studied in depth about reaching various learning styles. I’ve known for many years that my son learns in an active, kinesthetic, hands-on sort of way. Why did it take me attending an hour-long workshop session to rekindle the idea of teaching my son reading in a different way?? I actually do know the answer to my question. Because this sort of teaching is going to require much more preparation on my part. It’s going to require more of my focused time each day. But, my goodness, it will all be worth it to give him a solid foundation in reading and spelling! So, on to the review of what I learned…, relearned…, refreshed in my mind. Yes, I like that one!
First, let me mention Tina’s Yahoo group. It’s full of ideas, printables, helps, diagnostics……In fact, you may just want to forget reading anything else I’ve written and just go join the group! In case you’re still with me, following are notes from her handouts and notes I took.
“The wise man builds his house upon the rock.”
Learning to read is similar to this. The “foundation” of the “house” being “phonological awareness” – being able to notice, think about and manipulate individual sounds in words. Some examples: rhyming, syllables, understanding that changing letters means changing sounds.
The “walls” built upon the foundation are “phonics”, “vocabulary” and “fluency”. Phonics is understanding the predictable sound/letter connection. Vocabulary is understanding word meanings. Fluency is the ability to read accurately, quickly and with expression.
And the “roof” of the building is “comprehension” – the ability to understand and make sense of what you read.
So, you must start with the foundation – phonological awareness. (This is from me – Teaching with a multi-sensory approach means you are using more than the visual mode of learning. You pull in auditory things (having to do with sound), tactile things (having to do with touch), active things (get the body moving) and maybe even taste or smell. Some children will understand better using one or more of these approaches. Most workbook style curriculums only use the visual method.) Multi sensory activities for phonological awareness would include:
*reading lots of rhyming books (Dr. Suess)
*saying a word and having your child come up with a rhyming word
*finger tapping or clapping out syllables
*using a manipulative such as magnets on a white board to represent letters. For example, write cat. Say cat slowly, emphasizing each sound. You child pulls downs a magnet for each sound heard. This helps them begin to understand that each sound has a special place (or reason) for being in the word.
*using magnet letters (or some other type of letter – even notecards) to make a simple word like “at”, then having your child pull down new letters to add to the beginning to make new words – c-at, h-at, b-at
Now, on to phonics to build one of the “walls” of the building. This is where we teach the letters and correspoding sounds. Multi-sensory approaches would include things like:
*pulling down magnet letters on a white board as words are sounded out
*putting red chips under consonants and green chips under vowels as they read a word you’ve written on a white board
*laying letter cards on the floor and having the child jump on the letters when they hear the sound
*making little vowel puppets on popsicle sticks and asking your child to hold up the correct stick when you say a word
*laying plastic screen (from craft departments) over large letters you’ve written on paper and asking your children to trace the letter with their finger. The plastic gives a nice tactile attachment to the letter. This is good for children who have a hard time writing letters correctly, too. It’s the same idea as writing letters in sand or rice or shaving cream, but gives more of a bumpy tactile feel on the top of the finger.
Another “wall” to build is vocabulary. She didn’t go into vocabulary during the workshop. But I think it would include such things as :
*having vocabulary cards and definition cards that the child matches
*drawing a picture of the words
*using a particular word in a sentence and asking your child to guess whether it was used correctly or not
*building play dough creations of vocabulary words
The final “wall” is fluency. She didn’t give multi-sensory ideas for fluency, but said that the #1 way to improve fluency is repeated readings of short passages that are at or below the child’s reading level.
And you top the building off with the “roof” of comprehension. She said children can’t comprehend what they’re reading until the foundation and walls are built. Again, she didn’t give multi-sensory ideas to improve comprehension, but my experience has been that children will easily comprehend when the other “parts” are in place. The biggest stumper to comprehension for a younger child seems to be fluency. As children get older and read more fluently, the biggest stumper in comprehension seems to be unfamiliar vocabulary words or the inability to phonetically break apart long, unfamiliar words.
Tina felt like children needed to be monitored or assessed often in the early days of reading. Here’s a website she recommended for free assessments:
*Don Potter – phonics books, remedial drills, assessments, articles
And finally, she recommended All About Spelling to give your child a solid start to spelling and extra phonics help.
Learning is experience. Everything else is just information. -Albert Einstein