Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Preschool: Advanced Early Reading

In our wide range of ages in our classroom, we have some students who have not quite turned three, and at least one who is entering kindergarten this fall.  Lately I have been working with one of our pre-kindergarteners on reading and writing skills, and she is in turn helping me teach the other older students.  It's a method I picked up in Montessori schools: the most effective way to learn something is to teach it.

I started with Dolch sight words for preschool:

Sight words are words that children are encouraged to memorize rather than read phonetically, partly because their phonology is not always immediately apparent in phonetic reading, and partly because of their high frequency. As can be seen in the above chart, most of these words are function words: grammatical words that perform a function rather than contain informational content (in contrast with nouns, verbs, and adjectives, for example).  Function words occur frequently, so the more familiar children are with them, the more fluent their early reading will be.  

I sat down with my student and a few ideas, which we bounced around between, following her attention span.  We began by working on these sight word flashcards:
Source: via Frances on Pinterest
I am generally not a fan of flashcards because they smack of rote memorization to me.  But to initially familiarize my student with these sight words, it felt like the most efficient way.  After that, we could get into the real fun.

The favorite lesson for both my student and myself was this one:
My student read the words to me as I cut them apart, and she arranged them in order to make sense grammatically, then pasted them to a piece of blank paper.  We liked this lesson so much that we started to make our own sentences.  My student wanted to make silly sentences by arranging the words in nonsensical ways, but I wanted to keep grammatical syntax, so we used the Dolch words in the graph at the top of the post to form our own silly sentences such as "Red can jump."

My linguist's brain did cartwheels when my student demanded to know how to spell "an." Normally, children at this age are not yet aware of this article.  At this point in the language, "an" is a feature of Standard English that is not used by all speakers. Though for many people it is second nature to say "an acorn" rather than "a acorn," it is either taught in school or learned naturally at an age much later than four. So I knew my student's demands to know about "an" were not really about the article; rather, she was asking about "and." When I showed her "and" on the chart and read it aloud, she said "'an' is just without the 'd'" and crossed the 'd' out on the paper. Here is why this made the linguist in me so excited: we often don't pronounce that 'd,' so it was natural that she did not recognize it. I especially loved that she insisted that there was no 'd' in "and." She is confident in what she has heard, and she's not wrong!
Here's a Kid Quote to say thanks for reading:
Four-year-old: "Ms. Frances, did you know dogs are allowed at weddings!"

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