“Every Letter Makes a Sound…”

It seems like everywhere I turn in my home, I can hear this *lovely* song:  “B  says /b/, B says, /b/.  Every letter makes a sound…”  Oh, do I have you singing it now?  I’m so sorry. 🙂  Believe me, I know every verse; as I’m sure you do too, if you have little ones in the home.

Learning letter sounds.  While there’s probably not a “wrong” way to do it  (okay, I guess there could be), I believe there is a more developmentally appropriate way than starting with the /a/ sound and working your way through in order to the /z/ sound.  I like to introduce letter sounds in a different order, which can help to minimize confusion.

Much of the confusion over letter sounds occurs at the point of articulation.  Letter sounds are produced or articulated in different places of the mouth.  For example,  the /m/ sound is produced by placing both lips together (bilabial) while the /k/ sound is made at the back of the throat.  (Hang in there.  I do have  a point in all this jargon.)  Some sounds require the voice to be used /v/, while others do not /f/.  There are continuant sounds, meaning they can be elongated naturally /sssssss/, while there are other letter sounds that cannot be elongated (stops), like the /b/ sound.  Some letters are very similar in their articulation, such as /t/ and /d/.  And because they are so similar, they have the potential to confuse young children if introduced close together. Whew…now, take a deep breath. 

The interesting part about all the above info is that even though I studied a lot of this stuff when getting my M.Ed. in Reading, I initially learned most of it while getting my undergrad in music!  I was a voice major and we had to take five diction classes, learning the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), in order to know how to pronounce words in several different languages.  Little did I know that this information would serve me far beyond singing Clair de Lune!  I think it’s so cool how God prepared me to be a teacher before I even knew it was in His plan!

Here is the order in which I typically introduce consonant letter sounds: (I do not follow this exactly in every situation*)

m, s, r, b, t, g, n, p, c, h, f, d, l, k, j, w, y, z, v, x, & q- (both x and q produce two sounds /ks/ for x and /kw/ for q)

By introducing sounds in this approximate order, the letters that have similar articulation points are separated enough so that confusion is minimal.  And an added bonus: the letters that are similar in print features (b, d, p, & q) are also spaced further apart from each other.

*OTHER SITUATIONS

1. If you are introducing the letter sounds to a younger child (for example, NJoy is 2) or a child with speech delays, it may help to adapt the order a bit so that some of the “easier” sounds are introduced first.  Here are two links about articulation development, if you want to read them: Developmental Articulation Chart & full research article.   (Thank you, Tiffany!)

Here’s the main idea of these resources: The letter sounds that have the potential of being more difficult to articulate are generally: /f/, /l/, /r/, /s/, /v/, /y/ & /z/.  It may work best to postpone them, so the order may look more like:

m, b, t, g, n, p, c, h, d, k, w, j, f, y, s, v, z, l, r, x, & q

2. If you are introducing these sounds to an older child (let’s say a Kindergartner), I do not feel it is necessary to get through all 21 consonants before you introduce a short vowel sound (like short a).  If a short vowel is mixed in there, the child can begin working on simple word families and reading words sooner.  You can see how I started doing this with ALuv here.

3. Some reading philosophies (Montessori, for example) choose to teach letter sounds before letter names.  Because of this, the letter order must differ to facilitate reading words.  Here is a post that does a good job explaining this.  (I will post more on this topic at a later time.)

LETTER SOUNDS AND BEYOND…

One of the reasons that articulation interests me is that it helps to explain the interesting invented spellings of young children.  What seems like a random spelling begins to make sense.  Take for example, PK for pig.  From an articulation stand-point, k is a great substitution for g because they are both pronounced in a similar spot: a guttural sound in the back of the tongue and throat.  And if a child is stretching out the sounds in a classroom or in a setting where they need to do so quietly, /k/ is the sound that g makes when the voice is not used.  Pretty cool!

And just in case you are just dying for another round, here you go: “D says /d/, D says /d/…” Happy singing!

Short o and Sight Word Play

ALuv is finishing up his study of short o words.  Yes, it has taken us quite some time to get through them.  We have taken short breaks here and there; which has been refreshing.  I also didn’t get pictures of some of the stuff I wanted to post about, but oh well!

After posting all the pictures, it seems it’s about time to take all the fake tatoos off his arms!  🙂

SHORT O WORK:

He re-matches the words and pictures multiple times from the Words Their Way sort.  Once we do this together a couple of times, I expect him to do it independently. 

Playing with his Tag Short o reader

spelled short o words with bottle caps, like we did here

checking his answer on the back

sorting/building -op & -og frogs

revisiting his Word Study notebook (for explanation, click here) after gluing down his short o words and pictures from his word sort

SIGHT WORDS:

Currently, I am introducing an average of only 1 word wall word a week (it is summer), but we review all of them quite often.  I will probably only still do 2-3 a week, beginning in August; then bump it up to maybe 4-5 a week in January.  I would rather he learn them slowly and thoroughly than quickly and only half way.  He already knows about 1/3 of the sight words I taught in Kindergarten.

Here are some ways we’ve played with our sight words:

unscrambling sight words (letters are made from sentence strips)  This one was his favorite!

spelling with magnetic letters

Built words using this idea.  I made two sets out of foam and added a couple pieces of my own to make lower case building easier.  I’ll share those once I draw them out.

Reading, reading, and more reading- I love this picture!

Building…

…and measuring (in train cars) our weekly Bible Verse.  I adapted this idea from here.

Here is the list of verses he will learn this summer.  He gets to do something “special” with mommy or daddy each time he memorizes 5 verses.

For more Word Play ideas, remember you can visit and link up to this awesome list from 1+1+1=1.

More Butterfly Writing

As we’re wrapping up our study on butterflies, I wanted to post a couple of ways we integrated writing into our unit.  I have been SO proud of his attitude while writing lately.

1.  Butterfly Life Cycle

I read Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell.  This book tells about the life cycle of Monarch butterflies and we compared it to what had happened with our painted lady butterflies.

He worked the butterfly life cycle puzzle from Lakeshore.  This served as a quick review.  I believe it is discontinued now, but I found the set at yard sale recently for $2.

I folded over pieces of paper and created a flip chart to show how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.  He used pictures and words from the book to help him draw and write the words.  Something I noticed is that chrysalid and chrysalis seem to be interchangeable.  Maybe I’m wrong…and if I am, please correct me!

On the top page, he wrote Becoming Butterflies.

Here are a couple of his inside pages:

egg- 1st page

butterfly- last page

This flip chart concept could be adapted and used with many different content areas.

Just a few that pop in my mind right away are:

  • retelling a story in order
  • helping a child understand where they live: city, state, country, continent would go on the pages and the child would draw pictures of those things on the inside flaps
  • writing math problems: for example, 4+5 could be written and when it’s  flipped open, the child writes the answer and maybe draws pictures or writes words to show how she got the answer

2. What Did You Learn?

I read It’s a Butterfly’s Life by Irene Kelly.  This is VERY interesting book.  For example, did you know that a caterpillar’s poop is called frass?  Some caterpillars can even “shoot” their frass up to 3 feet (we pulled out a yard stick to see just how far that was)!  There were parts of the book that were WAY over his head, so I paraphrased or skipped those.

Before reading, I told ALuv that this book contained very interesting and even gross facts about butterflies.  This really engaged him, as he wanted to get to the gross parts.

During reading, I kept commenting, “Wow!  I didn’t know that before!” or “That’s so cool!”  He made comments as well.

After reading, I asked him what facts he remembered the most.  We engaged in dialogue about this, as I shared mine.  Once he established his favorite, I asked him to draw a picture showing it.  I walked away as he worked, so as not to “hover” (as my husband calls it).

This is what he drew:

A green caterpillar with large eye spots.

Once he had his picture drawn, I asked him to tell me about it.  I helped him narrow down the sentence he wanted to write and I set him free to write it.  I listened.  No whining…no crying…not an utterance of  “But I can’t!”.  After a couple minutes of silence, I was intrigued.  I simply walked by to see what was happening.  He had already written two words: The caterpillar.  He had used the flip chart I mentioned above to spell caterpillar!  I was so proud!!

He used the Word Wall to spell several other sight words.  A few times, he did ask for help.  When he did, I modeled how to stretch out the words.  He said the words, too and wrote down the sounds he heard.  Stretching out words and writing down the phonemes is a great way to further develop a child’s phonemic awareness; a necessary skill for reading!

This is the final work:

The Caterpillar can scar othr animls uwa with thr big is.

(The caterpillar can scare other animals away with their big eyes.)

This reading mama’s favorite was UWA for away…brilliant!  Okay, so I am aware that he has a capital C at the beginning of caterpillar and that this “fact” isn’t entirely true…they’re really eye spots, but who cares?!?!  I could not stop praising him for his good attitude and hard work.  His handwriting looks amazing!  Just about a month ago, he didn’t even understand how to use the lines.  Now, he can use them independently!  Yay!

What do I think made such a big difference in a month’s time?  I believe it all boils down to best teaching practices that work in any content area:

  1. Modeling: If you remember, when he wrote in his journal about our butterflies, I modeled “correct” letter formation on a lined dry erase board; which I found at Target in their $1 bin last year.  He has also repeated the sentence strip handwriting activity; which gives him a good model with letter formation.
  2. Multiple Exposures:  I bumped up my expectations with him.  We write almost every day now.
  3. Meaningful Practice: Not worksheet after worksheet, but fun and authentic reasons for writing.

And…an old trick I had forgotten until recently:  Let him draw his picture first.   Drawing tends to be easier (and more fun) for kids at a young age and a less daunting place for them to start.  Encourage them to fill their pictures with lots of details.  When they’re done, ask them to describe their picture to you so they can verbalize their thoughts.  They may even allow you to label their picture.  Then, help them to figure out what they want to write down based off their picture.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

The cool thing about literacy is that you can integrate it with any other content area.  Take, for instance, the caterpillar kit we have from Insect Lore.  As a public school teacher, I did this and the students LOVED it.  I have to admit that I was quite fascinated with it myself. 🙂  Jenae from I Can Teach My Child mentioned it on Facebook and it gave me the push I needed to do it with my own kids!  It took about a week for the caterpillars to arrive in the mail.

Here’s how this reading mama integrated science and literacy:  I had ALuv make observations daily and when he noted a change in the process, he wrote about it in a journal.  Quite simple, really.  When I told him this is what we were going to do, he replied by excitedly saying, “Oh, I get to use a journal just like Sid the Science Kid!”

Below are just some pictures of the journaled journey from caterpillar to butterfly…I’ll spare you from every entry of his journal.

The caterpillars are black and little. – May 20

The caterpillars are bigger with stripes.  -May 23

They poop green poop.  They are getting fat. -May 24; Mom’s favorite sentence…what can I say?!?

The caterpillars are hanging upside down. -May 26

May 27

And finally…

Now they are butterflies! -June 6

I also had him write about some of the butterfly behaviors he noticed while they were in the habitat.  Here is a really cool picture and one of his entries:

If you look carefully, you can see the proboscis (straw-like tongue) coming out to drink the orange.

They are drinking the orange juice. – June 5

The process of getting him to write: After ALuv would make his daily observations, I asked him to narrow down what he wanted to write about.  He would tell me his sentence, then on my lined dry erase board, he would help me write the words.  (We stretched out the words, listening for sounds & used our Word Wall for sight words.)  Using my handwriting as his guide, he would copy the sentences.  And as you may have noticed, his handwriting is getting MUCH better!!  Yay!

Just a side note: For this assignment, I preferred that his spellings be conventional because this text will be read over and over.  There are other times where invented spellings are perfectly fine, like when he wrote HAPPE BERTHDA (Happy Birthday) to MBug the other day.

We released our butterflies on Monday of this week.  When one of our butterflies came out of his chrysalis, he had  a torn wing and was unable to fly away.

ALuv tried so hard to get the butterfly to fly, but he just couldn’t.

So ALuv decided we should keep him.  His name is officially Flutter and he still lives in our playroom.  He now has some green leaves and flowers from our yard to keep him company.

ALuv wanted to include one last page for Flutter.

I let 4 butterflies go, but not Flutter.  His wing is broken.- June 5

I left him to draw the picture on his own and was very impressed when I returned with the attention to details!  Usually, he draws the bare minimal and refuses to give me any details.  ALuv made a cover for his journal and we put the pages in order (this integrated some math skills as he had to look at the dates and get them in the right order) and we stapled it all together.

He was very proud of his finished product…See How They Grow

Here are a few of the read aloud books we read together during this process, yet another way to integrate literacy:

  • The Polliwog and the Caterpillar by Jack Kent
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • It’s a Butterfly’s Life by Irene Kelly (loads of cool facts in this one)
  • Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell (Monarch butterfly)
  • Butterflies and Moths by Kathryn Knight (Target $1 bin)

Playing with Phonemes-Part 3

I am taking a little break from my usual Saturday’s Sites post to continue with my series on phonological & phonemic awareness.  There’s one more day of this series that I’ll post on Monday.  I’ll also be sharing more about my surprise then…I can’t wait to share it with you!

Phonemic Segmentation

There are many ways to work on phonemic segmentation, but I would like to highlight two of my favorite ways: Elkonin boxes & spelling words.

ELKONIN BOXES:

What are Elkonin boxes?  Boxes drawn side-by-side to represent the number of  phonemes or sounds in a word.  (Take note that the number of phonemes and the number of letters in a word may differ!)  Students listen for the individual sounds they hear in a word.  They can either put an object or a letter(s) to represent that sound in each box.

image from http://www.bogglesworldesl.com

For example, sheep has 5 letters, but 3 phonemes.  SH makes one sound /sh/, EE makes one sound /e/ and P makes one sound /p/.  I think Elkonin boxes are a great way to scaffold or support a young speller.

Here are some great online resources for using Elkonin boxes.

  • Mrs. Mc has a great activity with Cheez-It crackers and modified Elkonin boxes for her young learner.
  • Mrs. Kilburn’s Kiddos shows how she uses these boxes with CVC words.
  • Try this website for some Elkonin worksheets containing words with 3 or 4 phonemes (sounds)
  • Reading Rockets has an article and some children’s books you can use with the strategy

Once a child can successfully identify sounds in Elkonin boxes, a way to give him a little more independence in the task would be to say, “I’ve got 6 beans on this table.  I’m going to say a word.  Listen for the sounds you hear in the word and push a bean forward for each sound you hear.”

SPELLING:

Another great strategy for developing the ear for phonemic segmentation in early readers is spelling!  And how a young child spells a word clues you in on her level of phonemic awareness.  For example, a child who spells B for bus has less knowledge about how the sounds in words work than a child who spells BOS for bus.

Invented (or phonetic) spelling is a great way to allow kids to stretch their phonemic “wings” and explore sounds in words.  Here is how you can do it:

Child: “Mom, I want to spell getting.”

Mama: “Okay, let’s s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the word and see what sounds we can feel in our mouth.”  Say the word very slowly.  “What sound did you feel/hear at the beginning?”

Child: “A g!”

Mama: “Good, write that down.  Now, let’s say the word again and listen for the next sound you hear/feel.”

The child may or may not be at a word knowledge level where she hears or feels the e and that’s okay.  If she misses the e and goes straight for the t, here are a couple of things you might say (and both work equally well).  It all depends on what you think your child can handle as to which strategy you use.

  1. You can model by saying, “Yes, you did hear a t.  Great job!  But I also heard an e.”  Say getting again and really emphasize the short e sound.  “So, let’s write an e before the t.”
  2. You can praise her efforts, having her write down the t and move on.

Continue doing this with the entire word.  At 5 1/2 years of age, ALuv’s most recent spelling of getting was GETG.

Stretching out the words as he spells makes him more aware of the sounds he feels in his mouth and hears with his ears when he says a word.  To see some of the reasons this reading mama likes spelling, click here.  Reading Rockets also has some great information about invented spelling.

O What Fun!

Here are some more things we did with short o:

1. We re-matched the words and pictures.  The 2nd time he re-matched pictures and words, I helped.  But after that, I expected him to do it with minimal help from me.

3. We played Concentration or Memory Match

The words are on the left side and the pictures on the right side.  The pictures also have the word written in small print to make this game self-checking.

A match!

Just a side note: I used this green short o memory match set when I taught public school.  I also have another set exactly like this one that is printed on orange construction paper.  That way, I could place both sets in the same Ziploc bag at a center.  If I had 6 students playing short o memory match at the same time, 3 students could easily pull and play with the green set, while the other 3 students could play with the orange set.  I used this color system a lot with small group games to make it easy to identify and divide up sets.

4. We built words with Legos.

I organized the words in the sort (adding hog) so that he only had to change one letter at a time to make each new word.  We first built dog together.  I asked, “Can you change one letter in dog to make dot?”  This is a great phonemic awareness skill (a part of phonological awareness) because he had to listen for the individual sounds in each word to figure out how to spell the new word.

5. We went on a short o Word Hunt.

He read I Can Hop from readinga-z.com (I don’t currently have a membership, but the books are downloaded on my computer) and found and colored all the OT and OP words.

Here are the words I pulled out before reading the text.

I remembered as a child sometimes coloring in all the o‘s on the church bulletin during the sermon, so instead of highlighting the words, I thought he’d like to color in the o‘s (OT words in yellow and OP words in pink).  This was also a great way to continue working on his fine motor skills; which he has yet to master.

We Play With Words

I’m a little late in doing this, but Carisa at 1+1+1=1 has started a list of things you can do with your child/students to play with words.  What a great idea!  My word “well” runs dry at times and it’s nice to have a source for more ideas when this happens.

So I wanted to join in the fun and share some of the things we do here at this reading mama’s house to work on sight words & word families.  If you follow my blog, many of these pictures will be familiar.  I have provided a link to the original post when available.

We Manipulate Words

stamping words into Play-Doh

building words with Legos

spelling words with letter stickers

spelling words with magnetic letters

My husband made this kitchen set this past year for Christmas (props to my husband).  We primed the refrigerator and cabinet fronts with magnetic primer; so magnets stick…just like the real fridge!

Wikki Stix spelling

We Spell/Write Words

sentence strip spelling & writing

spelling words on a MagnaDoodle, GloDoodle, or AquaDoodle

Exploding with Words (Crayola Explosion)

spelling words on glass

flipping for words

We Read Words

word family sorting from Words Their Way

word hunts (looking for specific words) while reading in context

putting sight words in ABC order

ALuv is only 5, so I don’t have him alphabetize beyond the first letter.

We Play Games with Words

File Folder Games

Memory Match or Go Fish

Four Corners

Write your sight words (or word family words) on individual index cards.  Each person picks 4 to write on their board.  Shuffle all the cards and place them face down in a pile.  Take turns picking off the top card, reading it, and crossing it off your board if you have it.  The first person to cross off all their words first, wins!

Word Swat

 I call out a word on the board.  He uses his special “reading” glasses, which I found at the $1 store, and word swatter (with the inside cut out) to find the word and swat it.  This one is always a real “hit”!

Spelling Flashlight Tag

Sorry the picture is blurry.  I call out a word on our word wall and he has to shine his head lamp on it.  When I taught in the classroom, I used flashlights and with a permanent marker, colored the lens covers two different colors.  This way, you know which student found the word first.

Visit 1+1+1=1 to see more word play ideas!

Sentence Strip Handwriting

Before I get into the nitty gritty here, I want to first say that ALuv is currently 5 1/2 years old.  It’s time for him to work on correct letter formation with the lined paper.  I like Michelle’s post, which reminded me to tell you that I didn’t start ALuv on lined paper.  His fine motor skills weren’t there, yet.  Lined paper would have pushed him and this mama off the edge!  We explored writing in many different ways.  His favorite way was by far the giant dry erase boards I have.

Now for the nitty gritty!  On Monday, I told you that I had thought of a way to have ALuv practice his handwriting.  I know you’ve been awake ever since then just wondering what I did…hehe.

As I pondered a way to have him practice his handwriting on the lined paper, it hit me!  Sentence strips have the same lined pattern as the paper.  And I had tons of sentence strips.  I got to work!

1. I cut apart sentence strips into 1 1/2 inch pieces.  You can find sentence strips at any teacher store.  I think I even saw some at Target the other day.

2. I wrote upper case and lower case letters on the pieces:

  • 3 of every lower case consonant (written in black)
  • 4 of every lower case vowel (red)
  • 2 of every upper case consonant (black)
  • 3 of every upper case vowel (red)

My mind started reeling.  This activity could also be a way to practice his sight words from his Word Wall.  He could even form short sentences to practice punctuation as well!

3. I cut out more pieces for punctuation

  • 2 periods (blue)
  • 2 question marks (blue)
  • 2 exclamation marks (blue)

4. I pulled out the letters & punctuation I needed for these three short sentences:

  • I love you.
  • I go up.
  • I see you.

I kept the sentences short & sweet as the focus of my lesson was more on handwriting than sight words.

5.  I placed all the letters on the floor and modeled with the sentence I go.  I picked the sentence strip letters, spelled the words, then wrote my letters/sentence on the dry erase board; showing him how I used the letters on the sentence strips as my guide to form my letters.

The dry erase lined board is one that I got at Target in their $1 bin last year.  An alternative to this would be to print a page off of this website and laminate it so you can write with a dry erase marker.  Or, you could simply use a pencil and lined paper.

6. I called out one sentence at a time and he got to work.  He manipulated the letters to form words then wrote each sentence.

He really liked this activity and kept commenting on how his letters looked like a first grader had written them!  I was encouraged by his enthusiasm.  We’ll definitely do this again with different sentences.  My hope is that as he gets more comfortable with his handwriting, we can write some longer sentences.

A variation that I thought of after our activity would be to laminate all your sentence strip pieces.  This would not only make them more durable, but would allow your child the ability to practice writing over top of the sentence strip pieces if needed.

NJoy wanted to be right there with us, so here’s what he did with his dry erase markers.  He’s REALLY into drawing balloons these days, so I let him have at it.  Coloring on the dry erase board is a treat for him because I rarely let him do it.  If he’s not overly-supervised, dry erase marker adorns everything in his path! 🙂

Tuesday’s Teaching Tip

Literacy encompasses more than reading and writing.  It includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  I know that I’m not a linguist, but there are a few things I’ve noticed and observed myself about kids and their literacy development.

Literacy typically develops in this order:

1.  Listening  I just had to share what my sweet MBug is doing at 11 months old.  She can clap her hands, put her hands up, shake her head when you say, “No way, Jose”, and look out the window when we say, “Where’s the airplane?” (we live near the airport)

2. Speaking

3. Reading/Decoding

4. Writing/Spelling

Not all kids spend the same amount of time in each stage before adding on the next one.  ALuv was almost 3 years old before he really started talking, whereas NJoy was speaking in complete sentences at 2 years old.

So, why am I telling you this?  This is supposed to be a teaching tip Tuesday, right?

My tip (and sometimes soap box, but I’ll keep it somewhat short and semi-sweet) is that we need to consider how kids develop with literacy before we try and make them fit into a curriculum that isn’t so considerate.

For example, I recently attended a homeschool conference in which I was introduced to a literacy curriculum (that will remain nameless) that claimed kids should be able to spell every word they can read…that reading and spelling development should happen at the same time.   Really?!?  Maybe I’m just naive and inexperienced, but I’ve yet to find a child who can do that!  Actually, I can’t even do that.  I can read the word ophthalmologist, but I just had to look it up to spell it for you.

Writing and spelling, in their essence, are much more demanding than reading.  A beginning reader may rely heavily on context clues to read words, not necessarily paying attention to much more than the pictures and the first letter in each word.  This is not so with writing.  A young speller has to not only think of what he wants to write, but also how to:

  1. listen for letter sounds in each word (phonemes)
  2. pick the right letter/letter combination that matches each sound (phonics)
  3. remember what the letter(s) looks like (visualize)
  4. form each letter correctly (handwriting)
  5. remember the exact order in which the letters come to spell some words conventionally (spelling)
  6. then remember what message he was trying to portray in the first place; so he can start the whole process all over again to spell the next word in his sentence

No wonder it may take him ten minutes just to write three words!

Sometimes you just need trust your gut and use your own judgment as a reading mama or teacher.  Just because the curriculum (or the school) says it’s supposed to be done a certain way doesn’t mean that your child will fit that mold.  And just because an “expert” or “researcher” in the reading field says it, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily developmentally appropriate.

Tuesday's Teaching Tip

Literacy encompasses more than reading and writing.  It includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  I know that I’m not a linguist, but there are a few things I’ve noticed and observed myself about kids and their literacy development.

Literacy typically develops in this order:

1.  Listening  I just had to share what my sweet MBug is doing at 11 months old.  She can clap her hands, put her hands up, shake her head when you say, “No way, Jose”, and look out the window when we say, “Where’s the airplane?” (we live near the airport)

2. Speaking

3. Reading/Decoding

4. Writing/Spelling

Not all kids spend the same amount of time in each stage before adding on the next one.  ALuv was almost 3 years old before he really started talking, whereas NJoy was speaking in complete sentences at 2 years old.

So, why am I telling you this?  This is supposed to be a teaching tip Tuesday, right?

My tip (and sometimes soap box, but I’ll keep it somewhat short and semi-sweet) is that we need to consider how kids develop with literacy before we try and make them fit into a curriculum that isn’t so considerate.

For example, I recently attended a homeschool conference in which I was introduced to a literacy curriculum (that will remain nameless) that claimed kids should be able to spell every word they can read…that reading and spelling development should happen at the same time.   Really?!?  Maybe I’m just naive and inexperienced, but I’ve yet to find a child who can do that!  Actually, I can’t even do that.  I can read the word ophthalmologist, but I just had to look it up to spell it for you.

Writing and spelling, in their essence, are much more demanding than reading.  A beginning reader may rely heavily on context clues to read words, not necessarily paying attention to much more than the pictures and the first letter in each word.  This is not so with writing.  A young speller has to not only think of what he wants to write, but also how to:

  1. listen for letter sounds in each word (phonemes)
  2. pick the right letter/letter combination that matches each sound (phonics)
  3. remember what the letter(s) looks like (visualize)
  4. form each letter correctly (handwriting)
  5. remember the exact order in which the letters come to spell some words conventionally (spelling)
  6. then remember what message he was trying to portray in the first place; so he can start the whole process all over again to spell the next word in his sentence

No wonder it may take him ten minutes just to write three words!

Sometimes you just need trust your gut and use your own judgment as a reading mama or teacher.  Just because the curriculum (or the school) says it’s supposed to be done a certain way doesn’t mean that your child will fit that mold.  And just because an “expert” or “researcher” in the reading field says it, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily developmentally appropriate.

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