Sometime in January 2013
If I mention the words book, read, you in some order to my beautiful, creative, intelligent, snowflake of a daughter the sparks will fly. It is like pouring lighter fluid on glowing coals. And the inner conflict it creates between empathetic parent and standards bearing teacher is quite grandiose. Grim standards bearing teacher has been ‘reduced’ to reading environmental print such as signs and packages. She sheds a tear each time a word is read and the new understanding empathetic teacher fairy and snowflake loving mother grows a feather to her wings. I have been trying to step away from those boxlike perspectives and into the shoes of spock or my inner science geek if you will.
Today the image of the articulation chart popped into my spock like mind. Questions followed… (Always Question a-thor-a-Tah)
Why don’t we have age ranges for academic goals? Is it too messy for the politics and corporate driven goals of today? As we move into hard and fast standards to measure students and teachers are we sacrificing some part of kids childhood to suit adult purposes? Am I really supposed to sit with my crying child and “force her to read”, if one could even do such a thing? What about the stress and pressure this is causing both of us? I can only hope that advances in how the brain learns will give us a better and more diverse developmental picture of reading. Or perhaps there are studies I don’t know about that already do.
Fast Forward to June 2013
She is now reading at a mid year first grade level and received the most improved reader award. And no I did not announce that on facebook. The courage award, I did announce.
How did we do it? Environmental print phonics- aka one word is less scary than a bunch of words together. First our little kitty ninja even resisted this when I would ask. The Dada aka Kryten was called in…..resistance was futile. No manner of crying or resisting would be accepted, only great healing hugs would be given prior to and during the EVIL READING. First HE sounded out SIGHT WORDS. Standards bearing teacher glowered at Kryten who was totally unsympathethic to this plight.
There was sounding out of many Dr. Seuss’ words, enough to make teacher have to leave the room to keep from yelling “just tell her already she can get the funky phonetics of English diagraphs later in first grade”. Something seemed to switch on after loads of crying with Kryten over sounding out words. I think she learned that reading with the new empathetic glowering teacher fairy and snowflake loving mother really wasn’t so bad. In fact that lady just told her words sometimes. But she did make her look – NO REALLY LOOK- at the word parts while she said them. And then she made her point to some of the words and repeat certain ones while pointing at them. And then the fun fairy started throwing in all sorts of silly words that weren’t there. If I had to say what the key was to all this it would be fun most of all. And then using picture and story cues. Kitty Ninja was good at syntax and meaning; she consistently replaced big words she didn’t know how to sound out with words that made sense within the text she was reading. (omg–i think i used a semicolon correctly–quick someone give me some feedback about that)
At times over the summer I requested the kitty ninja do kata and/ or read a book with me to earn TV watching. We are still struggling with sound it out vs. just telling the unknown word for the sake of fluency. I’m counting on school to teach her phonics that I will reinforce at home. In my experience many struggling readers often end up in the–I just read the words but don’t know what they mean category. I think we might just be able to avoid that based on how I see kitty ninja using meaning cues.