Sunday, February 21, 2010

Teaching Word Patterns and Character

Here's my take on CAT the CAT Who is THAT? With your young or struggling reader.

With young readers, it is a great opportunity to teach them words for common animals - cat, duck, fish - the words repeat, which makes it so fun and "easy" for them to read. They will in no time have it memorized and will be able to read it to you. When you get to the alien/creature "Blarggie" -- you can tell them the word and explain that Mo chose the funny name because it is fun to say and kind of silly (I read that from an interview with him).

Have them search for pigeon, of course, and make sure before you start reading, you read the blurb on the back to get them ready. He uses the words "spunky feline" -- take this chance to tell them feline is a special word for cats, and spunky -- well, find some sort of person or experience that you can give them an idea...later, when you have read the book, ask them if they can tell you where she's been "spunky." That will solidify their understanding of it -- if they can't tell you, show them where you think she has. The next time you read the book, I guarantee you they will tell you she's being spunky! He also mentions in the blurb that there is a surprise...wonder aloud before you start reading what that will be, and when you get to the Blarggie, point out "hey! I bet that's the surprise! It's not a normal animal, like the others! The blurb was right!"

I would, as an extention, take the cat, duck, fish, and mouse words and brainstorm a bunch of rhyming or pattern words. For young kids, you can do it aloud, but with the older, struggling ones, I would definitely write down the words and have them see them...and maybe even write them. When you have them write things, you can do it a couple of ways. One is you write, they write next to yours. Another is you write in highlighter, they trace (good handwriting practice too - older kids can do print or cursive), or they can simply watch you write and then write it on their own paper. You can stick with real words if kids are older, but young kids it's just fun to rhyme, so use nonsense too. Rhyming is an important part of understanding words, reading, spelling and letter sounds.
Fish, dish, wish, swish -- nonsense: mish, nish, quish, bish, etc...
Mouse, house, blouse, douse -- nonsense: gouse, wouse, pouse, etc.
Duck, buck, luck, suck, cluck, muck, tuck, puck, truck, pluck - notice that some words completely
change by adding one letter and making a blend -- truck, tuck -- point that out
Cat - bat, rat, gnat (silent letter!), that, pat, fat, mat, Matt (name!), attack (ooh, older readers) etc.

If they are older, have them hunt in books for words with the patterns. Patterns can come in the beginning, middle, or end of the words.

Now, I mentioned character. I love how the characters show personality through actions, expressions, and in the words they say.

For example, duck is dressed with a hat, and says "It's a pleasure" -- duck is more formal, polite, respectful, mannerly --

Fish is dressed in swim trunks and blowing bubbles - he says "hey dude!" -- he is relaxed, leisurely, trendy, up to date --

Talk about it. Cat - happy go lucky, fun loving, carefree, surprised (when Blarggie appears), friendly, etc.

Give them ways and words to describe the characters. Ask them their favorites and why.

Later, when your kids are learning "character analysis" in school, you will thank your lucky stars they did it. That is why I use these with struggling readers, even in third and fourth grade. I may have them do this type of talk with a book and then show them how I can do the exact same thing with a level appropriate book they have.

Usually when I work with an older kid with these type of books, they have a job to prepare to read for a younger child. One of my favorite things at the beginning of the year is to get a Kindergarten buddy class. My third graders learn all about an early reader book and practice reading it over and over so that we can go read to them and "teach" them all the great things they can notice in the book. They are the teachers, so they don't freak out that they are having to work with a "baby book." They put on their best -- and guess what...they get better at what they need to work on too! Tricky Mrs. Forrest!

So there are a few things to do with CAT the CAT. I will have more ideas and extentions on the next book tomorrow.

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