Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What if we are stuck?

If comprehension and understanding are breaking down, it may be the words themselves that are problematic.

Remember, they should be reading Just Right books, so they should encounter no more than 5 words on a page that they are struggling with. If there are more than that, you need to find a better fit in terms of books.

Decoding issues are the easiest to notice. They won't know the word, so they try to "sound it out."

Educators have had issues regarding phonics, phonemic awareness, and word attack for years...how to present, when, what's better, etc. The fighting wages on - publishing companies are constantly "revamping" their material to fit what educators are clamoring for at the moment.

Suffice it to say your child needs a blend of all those things, and yet each child is so different and may need work in different areas. They will need phonics, knowing the letters - and that they have sounds and what those sounds are. Phonemic awareness is that aspect where they manipulate the smallest units of sound - a phoneme, to help them for example, when sounding out the word "hat" they blend the sounds H A T together to form the word, the letters aren't simply sounds in isolation. And they also need to have a bank of sight words (usually High Frequency Words - is, the, my, etc.).

You may or may not know which of these things they need work on, but entertwining activities in all areas is a good idea.

There are a plethora of websites and resources from stores to help you work in these areas. I am not here touting any new ways of doing it. I do know that there is less and less time in the classroom these days, and it seems that what I call "Word Work" -- spelling, phonics and phonemic awareness seem to get strong attention in grades K and 1, but as 2nd and 3rd graders, they are expected to have it down. Here's what worries me about that, and why I suggest you may want to get some resources of your own.

In 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th, there are gaps in some of their word work knowledge for some kids. When those gaps are ignored and not filled in, it will get harder for them to progress with more complex reading.

In those grades, they are stretching their knowledge base of words...the vocabulary is much more precise and complex -- multi syllable words are the mainstay. If they are still stuck with smaller words, they will frustrate eventually.

When kids come to words they can't say immediately, give them a few seconds. Don't jump in immediately. This will give them the feeling of success if they can do it, and they won't feel they must have you there. Teach them to do it themselves.

If they are truly stuck, ask them to get their mouth ready. What letter(s) does it start with? What sounds does it make? What would fit there and make sense? How long/short is the word?

Sounding out is a progression too. Kids go from one letter at a time and blending to "chunking" -- looking for what I call hidden words inside a bigger word or sounds (i.e. ch, sh, ock, et, etc.) together to help them sound out the word.

Some kids get stuck in the one letter at a time stage - you will find them sounding out every letter, and not having an idea of how to pull it together. Those kids need help finding those patterns (at, ack, et) so they can begin the chunking.

Tomorrow...we will talk about poetry and using that to aid both fluency and decoding.

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