Sunday, February 27, 2011

Phonological Awareness

Yesterday, I touched on the importance of phonological awareness.  I included some rhyming ideas since that is one component of phonological awareness.  Today, I'd like to share a thought from Hubbard's Cupboard.  This is a site you might want to explore when you have a few minutes.  (Actually, I often can spend a LOT of time with this site.)   She is speaking about having a balanced literacy approach.  I agree completely with this and try to incorporate activities accordingly so that each day we are doing something each component.  The more experience they have, the more likely to succeed in reading (and writing). It's not as hard as you think!

Reading to children
Reading with children
Reading by children
Writing for children
Writing with children
Writing by children

When we read to the children, one aspect of phonological awareness we can help children do is to recognize that words are separate units.  We do a lot of this by simply tracking print.  Again, this is something that often comes without a lot of formal instruction.  For example, the illustration was a picture of a fat cat on a mat.  We tracked the sentence, "The fat cat sat on a mat."  Then notice that the animal is a cat.  Can we find the "cat" word in our sentence?  Listen, /c/ /a/ /t/ (segmenting).  What's that sound at the beginning?  /c/.  Yes!  The letter c makes that sound.  Where is the word that starts with c?  Oh!  Right there!  c-a-t.  Let's sound it out (point to the letters) /c/ /a/ /t/--- cat (saying it faster and blending it altogether).  Great!  Let's go on. 

It sounds like it would take a lot of time to do that which I described above but in reality it's only taking about 20-30 seconds, especially after doing it several times.  They know what you are going to say and do and are already looking at the sentence for a clue.  You don't want to take the fun out of a book.  This is an activity best done in small doses, maybe once or twice in a book and only after it's been read at least once through.  Some things you did...
1) pointed out that letters together make a word.
2) pointed out that words make a sentence.
3) when tracking you tracked left to right (and maybe top to bottom).  Tracking requires fine movements of the eye and children need practice at this so it comes naturally.  Be aware that the inability to track due to vision problems will hinder their ability to be successful in reading.
4) listened to beginning sounds and reinforced other sounds in the word.
5) did simple segmenting of sounds and blending them back together again.
6) You are also teaching the children to use pictures as clues to reading.  When they are reading a bit more on their own that is something we teach them...if you get stuck on a word, look at the picture/illustration.  Does it give you a clue?  We're just doing it in reverse at the preschool stage.

There are other things you can do.  If you read through the book and then choose one page to focus on you can add even more components.
*  Predict what the sentence is going to say by looking at the illustration.
*  Count how many words make the sentence and talk about the simple punctuation marks-never to early.
*  Count how many letters make your focus word (such as "cat" in the page mentioned above).
* Write that word with air writing or in a sand tray and encourage them to draw a simple circle face, triangle ears, eyes, nose, mouth, whisker cat face.
*  Talk about the words that rhyme in the sentence.  Make new rhyming words from the main rhyming sounds.  So more -at words for example.  Even nonsense ones.
*  Note detail in the illustration.  Help your child become observant!  That will benefit them immensely!
* Encourage them to make a new ending to the story starting with your focus pages.

As an individual activity you can photocopy the page and give your child a highlighter to find a certain letter or all the -at family words or use a different crayon to put a line through (or under) each word.  I've been known to cut off the sentence and cut the words apart and encourage (for older students only) to put the sentence back together again.  Have fun with it!  The child might put "The fat mat sat on the cat." is funny sounding.  Humor is important in learning...helps keep frustration down.  Then have them try again!  When you don't stress their mistake...they learn that it's okay to make mistakes (we all do) and we just "try again".  It also helps them not to be to concerned about "being right".  Some children won't "try" because they are afraid of making a mistake.  This happens when the person they look up to really makes big deals about mistakes.  They aren't big's all a learning process.

So that's reading to your child...track print whenever it's possible. 

Reading with your do all the above but it's 1:1 and doing hand over hand with the tracking until they have that concept down.  Remember that it's the illustration that's going to grab their attention.  Don't rush through it.  Let them get their fill of the illustration before (or at least after) reading the sentence or else they won't track with their eyes as you want them too and they will just be letting you do the "work" of moving their finger.  The goal is for them to look at the words as you track it together. 

Reading BY the children.  Preschool children should have many opportunities to "read" throughout the day.  It doesn't have to be with books and it's going to look different than a Kindergarten or 1st grader.  You can encourage them to tell you/"read" cereal boxes, grocery ads, the Sunday comics, signs, etc.  "What do you think this says?"  And even further (especially if they are close) ask them "why do you think that?"  Or at least confirm what they are saying.  "Yes!  That says Kix!  Watch (track the letters, segment and then blend) K-i-x.  /K/ /i/ /x/ and then go fast!  Kix!"  Or, "That's was close.  Let's sound it out together." 

Of course the same goes for writing...but that's another day! 

I do want to mention a "favorite" book series that we invested in for our own family.  They are called the "We Both Read" series.  They start at the Kindergarten level and work their way up.  I find that the Kindergarten leveled ones work very well for preschool children and encouraging them to read.  We had "early readers", mainly because of the phonological awareness foundation laid early.  They were just ready for the next step.  One issue we had though was that they didn't want to "read on their own" even when they could.  It boiled down to that they were afraid we, as parents, would stop reading to them!  So these were perfect books!  A spread of pages would have a parent reading and a child reading.  I also liked that there were a few nonfiction/informational books in the series.  You can look through the books available through their website and I see you an even purchase them there now.  But I suggest ordering through   A paperback book runs  $4.99 a book.  It's eligible for free shipping and most of them are eligible for the 4 for 3 promotion.  Our local library system is starting to carry many more of them so yours might also.  Check them out!  The following pictures are from the actual "We Both Read" website.

Note the rhyming...that gives the child a clue to what their word or phrase is. 
As they work their way up through the levels there will be less rhyming but all the
K level books and most of the K-1 level books have a rhyming component. 

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