But a few months ago, I began to devote the initial part of meal time to a short phonics lesson. Once the children became adept at letter sounds, I started to use two letter sequences (which in some cases were words, in some cases not) to teach them how to blend the sounds together.
Although I started this program for Thomas, who seemed very much ready and interested in learning to read, I was shocked at how quickly Leila and Amadea caught on. Here is a video of one of our sessions. Thomas is 3 years and 4 months old. Leila (closer to me in the video) is 2 years and 8 months old. Finally, Amadea is 2 years and 2 months old. They are all superstars.
Although I consider these somewhat formal lessons to be the core of our reading program, there is much more we do informally to support it. Also, I believe that teaching early literacy should be fun and pressure free. Some kids really aren't into letters or their sounds at such a young age. Still, it is my hope that this kind of reading program would 'rub off' on them. If not, they should in the very least, develop a love of books.
Below is a list of techniques and tips that I believe really support early literacy.I hope this list helps somebody out there!
- Read books to children during meal times.
- Devote the initial portion of meal time to a reading or phonics lesson. This should be very short (Between 1 and 5 minutes), but exciting and fun. The exact lesson will vary depending on what stage of literacy the children are at. (So, it could range from practicing one letter sound for a week, to blending 3 and four letter words together.) Start with upper case letters.
- Focus more on the sounds of the letters, not their names. If working on a letter that makes more than one sound, stick with the most common sound first. (Example: when working on the letter A, only use the short vowel sound, until that is mastered.)
- Throughout the week, take notice of the letter sounds you are working on: in books, around the home, and in the community. (Example: You pass a sign with the word "Dog" on it. You can exclaim, "Oh look! D!" The sound you make when you refer to "D" should not be the name of the letter, but the sound the letter makes. Leave the name of the letter completely out of the conversation, at lest as much as possible. You can then sound the word out.)
- Model excitement, determination, and focus when pretending to figure out new words. Kids love to see us struggle a little (they're just relieved that adults also can experience frustration, since they so often do). They also love the chance to help us. If we don't know the answer right away, they become empowered by helping. So show them, in very slow motion, how you would go about sounding out the word. When you get a word, show excitement. When they get a word, show excitement. Show how proud you are, and how much reading is valued.
- Always be happy with the child's interest and involvement in reading, not the accuracy. Trying is much more important than being right. When trying to read a word, if the child is not getting any sounds right, congratulate them when they copy your sounds. Always make them feel like they have succeeded. There are so many baby steps in learning to read. If they associate good feelings with trying to read, they will try again. And that's all we can ask for.
I find it so exhilarating when a child learns to read. Their whole world opens up. Now, they can read signs on stores in the community. They can recognize words in books, on clothing and on toys. They start to notice signs on the walls in restaurants, or at the library. I am always truly happy when I see or hear of a child that has just learned to read. I know that the child will feel more confident, curious and connected to her world.
Thanks for reading. ;)
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