Research has shown that a child's ability to identify letters by name (letter knowledge) is one of the most important predictors of the child's success in learning to read. Phonemic awareness is also a predictor of subsequent reading and spelling performance. Children should be given every opportunity to learn the names of letters as well as the sounds that the letters represent. Children should be provided opportunities to hear the rhythm and beauty of their language through literature and, especially, poetry. Repetition of poetry aids in memorization of the poems.
Poetry should be recited each day by the teacher until the children can say it with the teacher. A copy of the poem can be placed on the back of an appropriate picture. The picture keeps the children's attention as the teaacher presents the poem. And the poem printed on the back of the picture will aid the teacher in memorizing the poem.
Each month a list of letter names, sounds, and words is identified that can be introduced to the children. Use velveteen letters to teach the names of the letters and the sounds. Words are written on sentence strips in the same manuscript letter style as the velveteen letters. A model or picture of the object that the word represents is also helpful to show the children as the word is being introduced. For example, when the word "cat" is taught, a picture of a Halloween cat is shown to the children.
Children respond orally with the teacher. By responding orally they are able to retain the information longer. Overt responses (responses that can be seen and/or heard by the teacher) increase the accuracy, the retention, and the comprehension of the learner. The oral response also helps the teacher know which child is responding confidently and which child needs more practice.
A quick pace is maintained. The children are exposed in brief, quick exercises that letters do have names, that they represent sounds, and that sounds can be blended into words. The children are not necessarily learning the names, sounds, or words--although some children will.
Great music refines the ear; great art refines the eye; and great literature refines the mind. When children are read to by parents and teachers, they develop a sense of literary and artistic appreciation. They hear the changing sounds and feel the rhythm in their language.
A teacher should make a conscious effort to provide reading materials for the children in the classroom. Not only should hard cover books be available, but soft cover books, magazines, catalogs, and newspapers should be placed in a special part of the room. Small chairs and tables, or bean bag chairs or mats could be placed in the "book area" so children can stay and browse through many books if they wish.
Children should be read aloud to daily. Reading to children makes them curious, provides added experiences, and aids in the acquisition of early reading skills.
A few examples are listed below.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Vicarious Experiences: Max and wild thing dolls could be displayed during the reading of the story. Place the dolls in the "book corner" so children can enjoy them later. Around Halloween time let children make masks of wild things and have a wild rumpus of your very own--complete with dancing and growling!
The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola.
Vicarious Experiences: Follow one of the popcorn recipes found in the back of The Popcorn Book. Place popcorn kernels in an oil popcorn popper. Put the popper on a clean sheet on the floor and keep the children away from the hot oil. Ask the children how far they think the popcorn will pop. Let the popcorn pop around the room. Remove the popper once the corn is all popped. Gather up the kernels that landed on the sheet and put into a bowl for the children to eat.
Gregory, the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat
Vicarious Experiences: Give each child a 16" x 22" piece of finger paint paper. This will be a placemat. Have the child glue a paper plate in the center of the finger paint paper. The child should also glue a plastic fork, knife, and spoon to the placemat. Provide buttons, shoelaces, old socks, bottle caps, yarn, newspaper, and pieces of burlap for the children to glue on the plate. They will be creative as they fix a meal for a goat.
Related Books: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Vicarious Experiences: Give a flaming red, shiny, and perfectly round like a marble, pebble to each child. Purchase a bag of marbles. Spray them with fire engine red paint. Let dry. Turn over and spray the opposite sides. After reading the story, give the pebbles to the children and ask what they would wish for if they had a chance. If you can find real pebbles or stones that are almost perfectly round, paint those instead of the marbles.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Vicarious Experiences: Make the school grounds or a yard more beautiful by planting flower seeds. (Just like Miss Rumphius did.) Give each child a packet of seeds. Annuals have a life-span of one season. They will reach their full potential immediately and have a brilliant show of color the first year they are planted. Perennial plants return year after year. There will be limited color from perennials the first year. During the second and subsequent years the flowers will bloom best.
This book could also be read in the fall. Plant five bulbs in a pot. Tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, or crocus bulbs could be planted. Make sure each child chooses and plants a bulb. Place the pots in a cool, dark place for 8 to 12 weeks, and after that put them on a sunny window sill and watch them bloom!
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