Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reflections on Old Skills

I realize technology keeps our lifestyles going. I appreciate being able to listen to directions when I travel. I blog, and I love what digital has done for photography. But I am a bit of a luddite when it comes to young children and electronic gadgets. It is not the use of technology I question, but rather the skills it may be replacing.

"Research suggest that shoring up mental reserves as we age may also protect against the onslaught of Alzheimer's. This approach may delay onset of the disease or possibly help retain cognitive function longer if it does strike. Building cognitive reserves (which is also being done when we use maps instead of depending on GSP) begins in childhood as we expand reading skills.

Reading does wonderful things for the brain. It stimulates the ability to remember, to empathize, to learn. Reading improves vocabulary and helps us create worlds in our minds through the use of word. "Stanford University researchers have found that close literary reading, in particular, gives your brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions."  Many children today, however, would rather play a game on their tablet than get lost in a book.

I also wonder how cell phones will affect language acquisition. A mother talking constantly on her cell phone while she cares for a baby, may not be speaking in the wonderful parentese speak
(exaggerated lip movement and intense eye contact) that people throughout the world use to communicate to infants. What does a baby learn when a parent appears to be continuously talking into space? How many parents dilute the time they spend with their child to check a phone text or Facebook? A UK study suggested "technology gadgets are blamed for a 70% leap in speech problems in the past six years."

Attention is another changing aspect of the digital age. We talk of multi-tasking but research shows that we don't multi-task. The human brain merely jumps rapidly from one thing to another, giving both activities short shrift.

Research indicates that while learning occurs when "multi-tasking", it is less flexible, more specialized, and harder to retrieve when needed. It is also difficult to transfer, generalize or extrapolate the information to a different setting. Depth and continuity of thought are disrupted when multi-tasking. MRIs reveal that different parts of the brain are used when multi-tasking compared to focusing on a single activity. The article reported "In cases where individuals switch between tasks their performance is worse than when they perform the same tasks individually." (Delbridge, 2001). " Multitasking: The good, the bad, and the unknown

Those who marvel at the benefits of technologies forget that most people still have underlying abilities which support their use of that technology. Researching on the Internet is easy for those with good reading and organizational skills. Twenty years ago a second grader might do a book report on an age appropriate topic. Today many students are asked to do research on the Internet before they have the ability to scan, select, and organize large amounts of material.

We know how children learn language, gain social skills, master reading, and acquire the ability to attend to a task. We realize mastering these skills takes time and practice, and that some children have to work harder and require more time than others. In the rush to utilize technology, let's not rush young children through this learning period. Let's not direct their interest to fast moving games with immediate rewards. Let's not use technology as a way to reduce parent interaction with children. Technology is supposed to work for us. It should expand our knowledge, not limit our abilities.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quick Tip: -TION words

Most readers quickly pick up that the syllable -tion is pronounced shun, but a child with dyslexia often stops when trying to read words such as reaction or exclamation.

One way to help a child recognize this syllable is to create a list of -tion words and have your child read a few words a day. Start with the easy two syllable words. Put the list in columns. They words should be written or typed in a fairly large font. The next day practice the same column. Have your child read the column top to bottom and bottom to top so they don't memorize the list. This practice is fun for many children since there are so many long words that end in -tion

Here are some -tion word examples:

  • Two syllables: action, notion, potion, motion, nation, station, caption, fraction, section. question, caution
  • Three syllables: vacation, tradition, subtraction, addition, solution, selection, rotation, location, direction, quotation, petition, narration, pollution, emotion, nutrition, correction
  • Four  or more syllables: abbreviation, appreciation, aviation, capitalization, characterization, circulation, colonization, conservation, constellation, cooperation, definition, education, hibernation, illustration, introduction, multiplication
This is a good activity for a poor reader in 3rd through 5th grade. The list above is a good representation of some -tion words an upper elementary child should be able to read and define. The list is also good practice for dividing a word into syllables. Check this link  for more -tion words with addition links to their meanings.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Poetry's Power

Language is such a beautiful way to communicate. Unfortunately, many children who have reading problems also have language problems. They have difficulty with comprehension, hearing or predicting rhymes, remembering vocabulary, and playing with sounds and words. Since poetry requires all those skills I would start every reading class with a poem. Our daily poem was a chance for everyone to read: individually, in small groups, or as a class.

The year would begin with a simply repeating poem usually There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly.  The children would giggle in expectation at chanting poems such as In a Dark, Dark Woods. Learning about simple rhymes might include the traditional poem What the Animals Said.

And then there was Shel Silverstein with his delightful drawings and magical children's poems. The class would explore the poetry in the book A Light in the Attic followed by Where the Sidewalk Ends. Children who had poor comprehension suddenly suddenly found themselves reading and laughing at the Messy Room, or The Homework Machine. They saw the humor of a baby bat afraid of the light in Batty.  In the past many of these children stopped reading when they came upon an unfamiliar word, but now words such as beau and gloom made sense when reading Almost Perfect. My poor readers, the children who  never volunteered to read, clamored to be the first to read True Story or One Inch Tall. accompanied by their own drawings.  Children who didn't care about vocabulary or history asked "What is a chicken pox? or "Who is Paul Bunyan?" Students started to realize a word might not be real, but if one line ended with hippopotamus that strange word in the next line might be bottomus. Children who had merely tolerated going to the library suddenly wanted help finding a book by Mr. Silverstein.

Next, they were told they were old enough for adult poetry. There was no deep interpretation for Robert Frost  Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening although the 1978 beautiful picture book fascinated the students. We plowed through Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride as each child selected four lines and drew a picture to describe them. Suddenly everyone could visualize a belfry arch and learned the history behind  "One if by land, and two if sea."  The poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae gave the students a glimpse of World War I and an understanding of an old tradition of selling poppies in memory of fallen soldiers.

The class then moved on to  Love that Dog, a book about poetry written in free verse. This book introduced the students to the idea that poems didn't have to rhyme.  This concept was difficult for many of the 4th graders, but by now they understood the beauty of words and the visual pictures words could paint. They imagined the sound of Street Music by Arnold Adoff and tried their hand at writing their own poems.

Finally, we ended the year with Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer, a book of reversible verse about fairy tales. Of course, this is not the complete curriculum of the poems they read. And poetry was only a small part of the reading class. I think, however, this was the part of the class that had the most influence on the children's reading fluency and understanding. As years passed I had many former students mention the poems we read in class.

Poetry helps children with dyslexia. It improves children's understanding of language. Reading and discussing poems helps reading fluency and comprehension. Parents can open the door to poetry with their child, and should encourage schools to make it an integral part of the reading curriculum.

Friday, April 24, 2015


The spotlight dances upon
The wild child
Streaking across the room
Talking,  fidgeting,  forgetting
Homework, rules, consideration
Like an attention-seeking missile
All eyes on me!
The eyes, minds, and voices of the teachers comply
As hordes of quiet students
Lost in the background
Invisible in their cloaks of obedience
Trying to learn

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Letters for Learning

"Children's knowledge of letter names and sounds is the best predictor of their later reading and spelling abilities. Preschool and kindergarten students with poor knowledge of letter names and sounds are more likely to to struggle with learning to read and be classified as having reading disabilities."

For the beginning reader working with the alphabet is encouraged; for the child with dyslexia the alphabet is essential. The struggling reader needs direct teaching and constant review of the elements of reading. One handy item to have at home is a set of of magnetic letters. I recommend a set of upper case and lower case letters. They are fairly cheap, so I would probably buy two set of lower case letters just to have some extras.

Assuming your child knows most of the alphabet and can recognize most the letters there are a number ways to use the plastic letters which can help set a sturdy foundation for reading.

Alphabet arc with missing letter cards
  • Have your child make an alphabet arc with the letters. Show you child where to place the A at the beginning, the z at the end and the MN in the middle to start the arc. Make sure you say the words beginning, middle and end as you place the letters.
  • Time how long it takes your child to make the first arc. After several days see how much quicker he can make the arc. Always have your child start with the A, MN, and Z
  • Use different location words as your child sets out the alphabet. That is the first(beginning or initial) letter. What letters are in the middle? What is the last(end or final) letter? This is also a good way to introduce/practice the concept of right and left. Which letter is to the right of R?
  • Have your child point to the letter when you say the letter name. Note how she finds the letter. Does she start at the beginning of the alphabet, go to the sections the alphabet should be in, or randomly check the letters?  Later do the same activity with the sounds of the letters.
  • Ask what letters are before or after a letter. What letter is before Y? What letter is after G? Does you child need to see the letters to answer the question? Ask what letters are between certain letters.
  • This activity can be expanded to making missing letter cards (see photo).  Start with the missing third letter:  Example:  CD __  then the missing first letter   E_G and finally the missing first letter _KL
  • Place a letter in a paper bag and see if your child can identify the letter by touch.
  • Write the letter in his hand and see if he knows the letter. Have him write a letter in your hand and see if you can guess the letter.
  • Have you child pull out all the vowels from the alphabet arc.
  • Pull out some end rhyming patterns and then add a beginning letter or letters:  Examples: am,  bam, cam, dam, ham, slam, etc.   Start with short vowel sounds patterns:  ab, ad, ag, al, am, an, etc.  Create patterns with all the short vowel sounds a through u.
  • Have your child make the vowel pattern with the letters, as well as the rhyming words.
  • Letters are a good way to build a word if a child has difficulties with blends. Example: it, lit, plit, split
  • Match lower case with upper case. See which case is quicker when making the alphabet arc.
  • It you child has difficulty writing the letters show him how by tracing the plastic letters, making sure you start the letter correctly.
  • You might use the alphabet arc as a counting tool. How many letters in the alphabet?  What is the 4th letter? You can even use the letter for counters  for simple addition or subtraction.
Always start the activity with the arc and then do one or two of the activities listed. Sometimes you can have your child do the activity as she puts the letters away. For example: Put all the vowels away. Now put away any letter that has the "k" sound.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quick Tip - Drop or Double

Beginning readers may also find this spelling tip helpful.  In a one syllable word that has a vowel/consonant/silent e pattern (examples: rope, make, like) drop the e when adding ing.  With one syllable words that end with a vowel/consonant (example: rap, tip, stop) double the end consonant when adding ing.

Children need practice not only using this rule but reading words created with this rule.

Some doubling last consonant words: slipping, winning, clapping, hitting, stopping, nodding, patting, skipping, stepping

Some drop the final e words: driving, liking, making, raking, smiling, roping, joking, tubing

Some similar  words  for practice: Hope:hoping -  hop:hopping,  tap:tapping - tape:taping,  ride:riding - rid: ridding,  skid:skidding -  slide:sliding

There are more rules concerning adding vowel suffixes, but for a child who has difficulty with spelling, the simpler the rule--the easier it is to learn. These two rules work well when learned together for comparison and examples.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reflections on Dyslexia

An Introduction

The diagnosis of dyslexia is often the beginning a long journey, starting with the question of what exactly is dyslexia?

The International Dyslexia Association' s definition is "Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge."

I almost felt dyslexic reading the above definition. I think of dyslexia as difficulty reading because of the way an individual's brain processes print. The reading difficulty is not due to lack of intellectual ability, vision, hearing, English as a second language, or poor teaching.

People with dyslexia usually have difficulty interpreting the sounds (phonological components) of the language. Most people hear and process the sounds in a word so rapidly that they don't even realize they have done it. We hear the sound each letter makes in the word p-i-g and read it without dividing the sounds. People with dyslexia need structured, sequential, reading instruction that retrains the brain to decode letters into a word. People who have dyslexia also may have trouble with spelling, writing, or learning a foreign language. 

As a former teacher I have seen several issues with the diagnosis of dyslexia.  They include;

  • Difficulty for parents and some teachers to understand how much effort a dyslexic person needs to make to learn to read 
  • Acknowledging that the  diagnosis of dyslexia does not take away the individual characteristics of a child. A mildly, dyslexic child with an IQ around 85, ADHD, and little concern about learning may need a different approach to remediation than a severely dyslexic, focused child, with a 140 IQ,  and high anxiety about learning.  
  • Unrealistic expectations of the amount of time needed to remediate a poor reader. Even the best instruction will require a long-term commitment. 
  • Lack of awareness of all the other things a child is learning while trying to improve reading skills. Children are expected to learn sports, social skills, math, history, science, music, and art while they are working at learning (for them) the very difficult skills of reading and spelling. Most adults would not like to tackle that many subjects at one time.
  • Severity of the dyslexia. Some children are mildly dyslexic and with good instruction fairly quickly become better than adequate readers. Some children are severely dyslexic and need many years of instruction along with modifications in their other work so they do not fall behind.
  • Problems with terminology.  Parents often feel that they are listening to a foreign language when professionals discuss dyslexia: Phonemic awareness, orthographic processing, auditory processing, aphasia, executive function . . .  and then there are the acronyms: ARD, IEP,LD, ADHD, FBA ...! Never be afraid to stop a person and ask  the meaning of a word.
  • The specificity of definitions of dyslexia.  For some testers the term dyslexia covers just about any reading problems. In fact,  parents may be told dyslexia can include problems in math, organization, or handwriting. Other testers give problems with math or handwriting  their own term (dyscalculia or dysgraphia). Some believe dyslexia only refers to the problem of phonological (sounds) awareness. They insist that other reading problems should not be labeled dyslexia. And some testers use more specific terms such as auditory discrimination problem, orthographic deficit, phonemic awareness deficit, short or long term memory deficit or visual motor integration disorder.  
  • The reasons why a child can't read. Although most people with dyslexia are helped with a structured, phonemic based, multi-sensory approach to reading, the reality is there may be many factors making learning to read difficult for them. A person may have short or long term memory problems, attention deficit, spatial problems, motor problems, or a number of other issues that make learning to read difficult. Some children need more than the standard program given for remediation.
So if your child is having difficulty learning to read, get him tested. The schools are required to test on request. Find an organization that can help guild you through the process. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You are your child's best advocate, not just because you know your child, but because you are the only adult your child has who is in it for the long haul.  

Look for future posts of what can be done, and where to find help for the poor reader.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Many Words Do We Have to Write?

Why is writing so difficult for many children?  The schools test writing, the SAT has a writing section, and schools have children write, write, write;  yet we still hear the complaint that children and young adults are poor writers. On a national writing test only "27% of eighth-graders and the same rate of 12th graders scored proficient or advanced, meaning they developed explanations with well-chosen details to enhance meaning, present a clear progression of ideas, chose precise words and crafted well-controlled sentences."

Children too often are told to write but not taught to write. They are encouraged to fill journals, write book reports and follow a template to pass the writing test, but they are not taught how our written language differs from our spoken language. Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University explained the "popular thinking is that writing should be caught, not taught." This idea gave birth to journals, and an emphasis on creative writing for the school age child with little instruction on grammar, sentence structure, and formal composition.

Our written language is different than our spoken language. Written language expected in academics and business has capitals, punctuation, sentences, and paragraphs. Unless one is writing dialog, written language is not just writing words down the way you speak.  I remember a child who wrote the following sentence: A bear is like you know a mammal.  Many children are expected to do a rough draft, edit and do a final paper without understanding how to get the thought into written form.

What are some of the activities that can help a child learn how to write?
  • Familiarize them with written language.
    • Read, read, read to your child. Even when your child is reading, read books that are at a higher lever then his reading level. 
  • Have a young child (ages  6 - 8) copy sentences from good children's literature. Start with a short sentence. Throughout the year move up to longer, more complex sentences. Remind him to use all the capitals and punctuation in the sentence. Many children need practice copying before they can fluidly put their own thoughts on paper.
  • Read excerpts from children's books and ask questions about what was read. Repeat the answers in complete sentences. For example:
                 Adult: Who gave Snow White the poison apple? 
                 Child: the witch 
                Adult: Yes! Say, The witch gave Snow White the poison apple. 
                Child: The witch gave Snow White the poison apple.
  • Teach children how words such as although, unless, if, and because are used in sentences. Direct teaching of how these words are used will also improve reading comprehension.
  • Popular thought is that children with LDs should not be graded on spelling, grammar and punctuation. It is important that writing skills are re-enforced across subjects. A child should receive credit for a correct answer in history or science, but she should also be expected to use writing skills across the board. Answering a question with a complete sentence is not above the ability of an elementary child, especially a child who has been specifically taught writing skills.
What about creativity?  What about excitement in writing unfettered by rules?  Yes, there are children who delight in writing long, convoluted stories and sharing them with the class. There are children who pick up grammar, spelling and punctuation seemingly by osmosis.  But most children would be better off following Picasso's quote, "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."

Note: One example of a program that includes copy work,  excerpts from children's literature with questions and  dictation is Writing with Ease.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Attention Please

Teachers do not diagnose ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) -- that is the job of a psychologist, or medical doctor. Teachers are in the trenches trying to pour information into a variety of learners. This post looks at what happens when certain behaviors are exhibited in the classroom.

There are quiet, well-behaved children who have a very difficult time focusing in school. What happens to many of them in the classroom?
  • They may get overlooked because they are not behavior problems. Often the teacher may place them near the back of the room because she knows they won't cause problems.
  • They may be having problems that the teacher knows nothing about (such as violence in the home or neighborhood, death in the family, abuse, or neglect) and are shutting down.
  • They may have a learning difference and are so lost that they just want to disappear from any teacher's radar.
  • Hearing and vision can be an undiagnosed problem in a lower grade. With a hearing problem girls usually are more sensitive to noise than boys. A boy with a soft-voiced teacher may do better in the from row. A girl may find the front row uncomfortable if her teacher has a loud voice.
  • A quiet child who appears not to focus may have ADHD. I remember teaching one child who couldn't even write his five-letter name without losing track of what he was doing. He never bothered anyone in class but after a visit to his pediatrician and a round of filling out several forms by parents, teachers and others, he was put on medication for ADHD.  On medication he was able to show what a creative, intelligent person he was. He was not only able to write his name but wrote and illustrated beautiful poems.
The wiggle-worm child often is thought of as ADHD. But this is not a cause and effect situation. Some wiggly children are very focused. In fact, when made to be still, they may be focusing so much on staying still that they aren't paying attention.

Some things to think about for the constantly moving child.
  • Boys tend to move more than girls. Most boys also tend to tolerate noises such as tapping feet or clicking pens better than girls. Since a classroom consists of both noise sensitive and noise making children, the best one can do is try not to enable a noisy child. Give him a wooden pencil, not a mechanical clicking one. Ignore all those cute, moving, noisy school supplies (pencils with moving parts, erasers made like cars, etc.) and get your child work tools.  Yes, I know they will still tap feet and wiggle, but that may not be as distracting to their neighbor.
  • Make sure your child goes to school fed and rested.  You know how toddlers have tantrums at the end of a long shopping trip -- K-4th graders are closer to being toddlers than adults. Feed them and get them to bed on time.
  • Encourage the school to have daily recess or active PE.  Encourage your child to have run-around outdoor play when at home. 
The impulsive child may constantly talk in class, hit children, or act as the clown of the class. She may be a danger to herself or others; or she may just be a distraction.
  • Yes, there are more boys in this category than girls; but girls in this category are often judged more harshly.
  • These children are often labeled immature. Perhaps they are, but the impulsive child may very well grow up to be an impulsive adult. Let's acknowledge that some children seem to be born mature and others not so much. The serious two-year-old may be more self-contained than the impulsive eight-year-old. 
  • Parents have to be careful that they aren't giving tacit approval or even encouraging such behavior. If a parent is smiling every time she or he discusses a child's impulsive behavior, "Oh, he jumped off the roof, " slight smile, "Accidentally got a pea stuck in his ear," giggle, "Hit his doctor in the stomach" grin,  the child learns it is his job to provide entertainment. I have seen a few parents do this. It is creepy to watch, and the child suffers.
  • On the other hand, parents and teachers should have reasonable developmental expectations. The younger the child the more breaks, encouragement, and movement he needs. Some schools have pretty long days for first graders. The removal of recess in some schools along with little or no active learning such as games or learning stations, is not acknowledging the physical movement needs of young children.
So what does a parent need to look for when it comes to attention and school?
  1. Is it hurting your child's ability to learn? If you child appears happy, is doing well in school, and gets good grades, then maybe drawing while the teacher talks, constantly moving hands or feet, appearing to be spacey, is just is the way your child learns. Teach her to not bother her neighbors, and don't worry about it.
  2. If your child is not doing well in school due to inattention or impulsiveness think about the environment. Most children with attention problems need a structured environment. He will have problems with a disorganized teacher.  Try to move him to a room staffed with an organized teacher with a sense of humor.  
  3. Always check to make sure there are no hearing or vision problems. A child who can't see the board or understand what the teacher is saying might very well find other close-at-hand ways to amuse herself.
  4. Check for learning differences. "Research indicated that from 30-50 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and the two conditions can interact to make learning extremely challenging."   Although it is true that a child with ADHD has a higher chance of being diagnosed with an LD, a child with an LD may be trying different, sometimes inappropriate methods, to deal with their problems in the classroom.  A child who can't read may very well decide that being the class clown is the safest thing to be in reading class.
  5. See if your child understands classroom expectations.
  6. If this appears to be a new problem think about any emotional trauma you child might be experiencing. Remember, while parents may think they are hiding their problems, a child picks up signals when a parent is troubled.  Although you may feel your problems are not the teacher's business, let her know if there are problems. You don't need to be specific, but most teachers are more understanding of a child's new behavior if they know there are some problems at home.  
  7. Finally, if you are concerned that it may be ADHD,  find a good doctor and look at therapy and environment,  as well as medication

Monday, April 6, 2015

Map It!

While planning a short trip this weekend, I started thinking about maps. Having recently acquired a great camera, I wanted to drive along back roads in the hopes of finding something picturesque. Plotting my trip on Google maps was a nightmare. Google wants me to take the Interstate (which we all know is scenic wonderland) and had a fit when I attempted to pull the shortest route in a different direction.  It was so annoying having to make the map smaller and larger as I plotted my route that I finally pulled out my trusty atlas of "The Roads of Texas.

Some of us are old enough to remember road trips of our youth filled with license plate viewing games, stops at Stuckeys, and watching seemingly endless landscapes change while our parents argued about how to refold a map. We got a first hand view of the vastness of the southwest, the height of the Rockies, and the differences in regional restaurants and speech. Children of today will remember road trips filled with electronic games, cell phones, fast food, and selfies taken in the back seat as a robotic voice from the front says turn left. 

Several years ago I asked 4th graders about their spring break ski vacations and discovered that many of them had no idea what state they visited. Sometimes if a I listed a few ski places: Taos? Aspen? Breckenridge? it might ring a bell. One child's family even had a condo that they visited several times a year, yet the child looked blank when I asked where it was. Obviously, if a family has enough money for a ski vacation the lack of location awareness can't be put down to economic deprivation. But in this world of cell phone maps and GPS is learning to read a paper map, locating a country on a globe, or remembering how to get to a new friend's house worthwhile skills? What is acquired from reading paper maps and navigating without GPS ?

  •  "Spatial navigation skills can cause the hippocampus and the brain to grow, forming more neural pathways as the number of mental maps increase. Neuroscientist Veroniques Bohbot said, 'The results of studies suggest using spatial memory regularly may improve the function of the hippocampus and could help ward off cognitive impairment as we age." 
  • People learn by creating paradigms.  Knowledge of a location helps a child remember what happened there. It is more difficult to learn and memorize history or current events if you don't have a mental image of where it happened. 
  • Understanding a region's climate and environment makes travel more fun.  A study from the Applied Research in Quality of Life found that vacationers felt the happiest before a trip! It is difficult to enjoy the anticipation of travel if one has no idea where one is going. 
  • People dutifully following a GPS have been known to drive off bridges, go the wrong way, or get totally lost. Walking head down following a phone with GPS limits a person's perception of what is around them, and how they got from here to there. Orientation and navigation skills help a person feel more in control. "The more humans uses GPS, the more cut off from the real world they might become," writes Rebecca Maxwell. 
  • Getting a perspective of the size of states, countries, or towns is easier on a globe or large map. While we may appreciate the ease of a map on a phone, a child may not yet have an image to relate size and direction. 

School children are still asked to make maps of their classrooms and taught to read a map. Like any skill, practice adds to the mastery. I urge parents to make maps and a globe available to a child. Plan a trip with your child. Use a map to locate where you are going and how you are getting there. Discuss what you might see and what else is in the area. Ask your child to give you directions to the local grocery store. Play a few observation games on a road trip. Give your child skills that give her confidence to notice and question an obviously incorrect robotic voice's direction.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sound Shifter C

The letter 'C' creates a bit of a quandary for a poor speller or  reader.  Why? Let's count the ways:

  1. The letter C doesn't have it's own sound. It makes the S or K sound.
  2. Teachers may refer to these sounds as the soft or hard C sound, giving students something else to remember about the letter C.
  3. The reading rule is that a C has the S sound when followed by an e, i, or y.  Examples? Center, city, or cylinder. For most children this is apparent without even thinking about the rule. Other children have to work at remembering the rule when reading new words.
  4. Children have more problems knowing when a C should be used in spelling.  They might be able to cite the rule, but application is much more difficult.
  5. The rule is that the K sound is spelled with a K before an e, i or y.  But, of course, the K sound at the end of a one syllable word is spelled CK or K depending what letter proceeds it. A two syllable word that ends with the K sound  may be spelled with a C. For example: picnic and music.  Of course, picnicking is spelled with a ck and musical isn't. 
  6. What about the S sound?  When is it spelled with a C and when is it spelled with an S? One rule states after a long vowel it is spelled CE for example race, mice, nice. Remember, you are looking at the S sound not the z sound found in words like nose.  So, obviously the letter S also has two sounds: S and Z.  Let's not go into that right now.
  7. What about the S sound at the beginning of words? Before all letters except e, i, and y the S sound is spelled with an S.  
  8. Before e, i and y it may be spelled with a c or an s  - silver, cinder, sister, city, system, cylinder, center, sent, etc. Knowing which one to use seems to depend on exposure to the word and visual memory. 
Now, imagine trying to learn how to use the above rules, while having difficulty reading and spelling because you process written information differently. Imagine being an eight-year-old watching another child blithely reading a page of words that you see as gobbledygook. Imagine someone telling you all you need to do is learn the rules.