Teacher Ponderings

The ABC’s of Teaching Letters

The Importance of Letter Names and Sounds

What is the first step in teaching a child to read? Letters and sounds instruction is the key! In simple terms, for a child to learn to read independently and construct meaning from text – he needs to be able to identify words automatically. He can do this after he decodes unknown words. In order to reach this point, children have to first learn the 44 speech sounds of letters and more than 100 spellings that are made. So- first, identify letter names and then, produce letter sounds. Then, he will be prepared to read! The next step is to implement a carefully planned and systematic presentation of explicit letter/sound teaching.

Which Letters Should Be Taught First?

The hardest question for researchers and professionals to answer is – “What order should the letters be taught?” Although there is not one universal answer to this question, there is great data to give professionals guidance in creating and/or implementing the necessary systematic order of instruction.

When deciding the order to teach the letters, please keep in mind what research says.

What Does Research Say?

  • Some letters are harder to learn than others: U, Q, V
  • The following letters are most well-known by children, even if they have not been taught them: O, A, B
  • Children are most likely to learn the first letter of a their name more easily and quickly
  • Teach the letters in an order that allows a child to form many words with them (for example: C, M, A, T)
  • Begin with letters that make “simple sounds” that are easiest to stretch out and are easier to blend: M, S, F, R, N, L
  • Teach new sounds in small steps
  • Review previously taught letters and sounds
  • Introduce commonly encountered sounds before the infrequent sounds: For example, “A” occurs more commonly than “Q” or “V.”
  • Teach the letters that occur more frequently in most words. The most commonly occurring letters are: E, T, A, I, N, O, S, H, R, D, L, C
  • Introduce vowels early. A child must know the vowel sounds, in order to make and read words.
  • It is suggested to teach graphemes together, like C and H, C and K, T and H
  • Alphabetic order is not ideal because it does not address the needs listed above
  • Do not pair and teach together letters that are auditorily and/or visually similar: E, I and D, B
  • Introduce some continuous sounds early: M, S
  • One study suggests introducing lower case letters first, unless upper case letters are similar in shape: (Similar: S, s, U, u, W, w; Dissimilar: R, r, T, t, F, f) Note: I have always taught capital and lowercase at the same time: Ss, Rr, Tt, so I do not disagree with this study, I myself and just unfamiliar with its effectiveness
  • Do not teach similar looking letters together: b, d, p, q
  • Introducing letters in isolation may confuse some children about the purpose of letters in relation to words and reading
  • Some letters take longer to visually discriminate: t, a, e, o, s, i

The many resources below provides suggestions for the sequence of teaching letters and sounds.

Sources:

http://www.readingrockets.org/blog/53818/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Hootsuite&utm_campaign=RRSocialMedia

http://livingmontessorinow.com/2010/09/07/in-what-order-should-you-introduce-letters-to-your-preschooler/

http://www.righttrackreading.com/teachphonemiccode.html

http://reading.uoregon.edu/big_ideas/au/au_programs.php

http://www.ciera.org/library/presos/2001/2001nrc/01nrcstahl/01nrcsta.pdf

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104134/chapters/phonics-and-word-study.aspx

Free! Sight Word Readers

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A great way to encourage daily reading at home, is to send home a “Little Reader” with your students. These Little Readers are about 5 pages each and contain sight words and word family words. These are the types of books that young children should begin reading with. Sight word and word family instruction should precede, though and then through these books, they will practice reading their recently taught and learned words.

These books will be even more meaningful to them, if you read it with them in a small group, before they take it home. Stick it inside a folder and add a “Reading Log” paper, for their parents to sign (that they listened to their child read). When all three of my children were in Kindergarten (one of them, last year) they all brought home little readers. I was able to help them with a tricky word and they were able to show off their reading skills.

Amongst all of my many projects (writing books, updating and completing the Lesson Plans section, and attending to my own Kindergarten classroom) I am creating and adding “Little Reader” books. They contain two pages on a typical 8 1/2 by 11″ page (the white printer paper size). All you have to do is print if off, cut it in half and staple together. Then, you will have a mini-binded book! Some of my previously made “Little Readers” are within the NEW Lesson Plans page of this website. I will work on moving them to here. But for now, here is the latest hot of the press Little Reader book: “He Ate Hay.”

Little Reader Library

Click on the title below, to print

horse

Little Reader – He Ate Hay (-ay words) Sight Word focus: and, has, to, all, and, he

Little Reader – The iPad (-ad words) Sight Word focus: is, too, had, an, was, and, are

 

 

Folder Printables

Labels for Little Reader Folder

Note: “He Ate Hay” images are from either Shutterstock, Google or Bing.

Here are the other books-but they are on standard 8 1/2 x 12 paper (no need to cut-just print and staple). You can follow this link to TpT here:

Paycheck! Using Incentives to Encourage Children to Carry Out Responsibilities!

As a mom, I have to write about Chore Monster. Each summer, my three children (ages 6, 8 and 10) struggle with being BORED. I struggle with finding things to keep them busy! Now, they do their chores to keep them busy, amazingly! am sure that Chore Monster could also be used in the classroom. It is like a rewards/incentive chart for children to “digitally” keep track of their responsibilities.

My children log in on their ipad’s and I log in on either my lap top or iphone. We use the free version.

I made them a pay check to reward them (tangibly). I am taking them to the bank, because they chose money as their reward. I want them to get the experience of cashing in their paychecks (which I am giving them once a month).

Here is how it works: You and your child decide which chores to add to their list. You give each chore a point value from 5 to 1000! My 6 year old has his chores as: brush your teeth in the morning and night, make your bed, take dirty clothes to the laundry room and clean your floor. He made about 200 points this month. My 10 year olds chores included: help mom with cooking, fold the clothes and place in correct bedroom, load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, brush your teeth. Not every chore occurs every day, though! Next, the points your child earns can be “cashed in” for rewards. Each reward is worth a certain amount of points (which you decide.) The rewards on their list include: a movie ticket, ice cream, $10.

Check out more information on their website!

http://www.choremonster.com/

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Autism in America and Around the World

by: Andrea M. Chouhan, M.Ed

I recently read an article that labeled autism as a “problem in schools.” At first I was a bit shocked, but as I continued reading, I understood the reasoning behind that label. Many schools lack the appropriate funding to give children with autism an appropriate education. Materials used in a special education classroom differ in many ways and of course, they are costly. For example, many children with autism require a visual daily schedule which can be created using Boardmaker software (which I love, by the way!) The basic software costs $399, though…but it is well worth it.

Many years ago, in America, there were special schools for children requiring special education. Children were turned away from attending a “regular school. Children with autism may have been mislabeled as mentally retarded, also. Luckily, we understand autism and other disabilities much better now. America has certainly come a long way as children with special needs now have a lawful right for an appropriate education.

I am proud to work with special needs children! I am proud to be doing so in America. Last year, I worked in Saudi Arabia where many schools are run with privatized funding. Sadly, some schools do not even accept children with autism or lower IQ’s. Many of these schools do not have trained teachers or classrooms for these children. Other schools that I came in contact with, did have Special Education Departments, however, they were at maximum capacity. Many special needs children were turned away. School systems that I have worked with in Texas actually make space, send the child to a nearby campus, or hire more teachers to teach children with special needs. They make it work instead of turning them away.

Did you know that autism affects 1 in 150 children in American? New Jersey is even called a hot spot where 1 in 95 children have autism! These numbers are staggering, I must say! The cost to fund one autistic student can level out at  $19,000 a year, which is triple that of a typical child! This includes the cost of Special classrooms, Materials, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Aides and Transportation (according to the Special Education Expenditure Project). So, when schools do not have ALL of this funding, providing a “free and appropriate” education to autistic children can become a problem.

As a Special Education certified teacher, I encourage parents, leaders and teachers to be the voice of our special children. We have the role to advocate for them, and we should. These children are already part of our society and it is our job to help them learn how to socialize, apply what they learn and contribute to society (from the classroom to the workplace)!

References:

Boardmaker Software link: http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/?gclid=CNOj7_efgrgCFQdk7AodLWwAfA

Smith, F. (2013) Educators Deal with the Growing Problem of Autism. http://www.edutopia.org/autism-school-special-needs

Did I Make a Difference?

Twelve years ago as a first year teacher, I responded to an interview question saying that I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. Now that sounds so cliche’, however I meant it then and I mean it now. Each school I’ve been at and each student that have been placed in my class, was not by mistake. I truly feel that each and every child is meant to be there for a reason-with one of those reasons being that God meant for our paths to cross. Each of us was meant to teach one another something.

When you teach young children, you see how much they learn and see such growth by the end of the school year. However, many years later, you hope that you did your job and that they are contributing members of society. Just recently I got a very special confirmation of just that!

One of the first students I ever had contacted me on facebook! I was his Third Grade teacher in Texas and he messaged me to see if I was in fact the same person. After telling him that he found the right person, he told me that I was one of the best teachers he had ever had. He was nine years old then and now he is a college student studying Meteorology in Colorado. What an Angel!

What Exactly is Creativity?

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Creativity has been deemed as a 21st Century Skill, because creative ideas can lead us to success in society and in our jobs. Have you ever thought about what creativity actually is and what it means? When I think of this word-I think about something unique, inspiring and eye-opening. In its most basic sense, creative means “original and of high quality.” (Perkins, 1981).

According to Wikipedia, creativity is “The use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.” Encarta dictionary agrees.

So, basically, to be deemed “creative” one must produce an original idea. Are you creative? I am not. I can easily copy someone’s painting, but producing one from my own imagination is more tricky and near impossible!

According to a recent article in Educational Leadership magazine, creativity can and should be taught. The most important key is to give our children constructive feedback. This article asserts that we teachers must first set clear goals for our students. We can’t just say “Write a creative story!” First, it is important to emphasize that the story should be original, inspiring, and imaginative. However, I like how Perkins included that creative products should be of high quality. Perhaps teachers could even facilitate a thinking session where students discover and list what creativity means. If I create a new BMW model, and it looks great yet it breaks down continually, then I was simply not creative. However, if I create a new BMW car with features unlike any other car and superb quality…well then, I was creative. In the same respect, we can teach our children the differences of “original” products and replica’s. We don’t want our students to just copy and mimic everything that is taught to them. Yes, we want them to have knowledge, but it is how they use that knowledge to create new things that is of vital importance.

Recap:

1. Set goals for students products and creative works.

2. Help students see the difference between originality and replica’s.

3. Have a creativity lesson! Brainstorm what is means.

4. Emphasize the importance of original and high quality works.

I would love to hear your thoughts! What is creativity to you? How do you help your students or children be creative?

References:

http://www.wikipedia.com

Encarta Dictionary via Microsoft Word

(Brookhart, S., 2013).”Assessing Creativity” Educational Leadership. ASCD.  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Assessing-Creativity.aspx

Image from: http://rinskesblog.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html

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