by Eileen Pedersen, Trail, BC
I’m a retired school teacher with a passion for kids–my social network for years. My classroom was my canvas. I explored creativity, silliness–yes, silliness; having fun, promoting self-expression, inter-connectedness, mutual respect, visibility, and confidence…all towards an optimal learning environment.
I miss kids. Hence, this article which has ideas to maximize the extra effort currently required for helping kids read.
Part One: Prepare the brain for learning
Make this a game, include the whole family, award points. I did this three times each day and it was beyond worth the effort with all grades, including adults. It’s based on Educational Kinesiology–movement for learning. Equipment required: a glass of water. Total time: 5 minutes.
One: FEED ME! Take a couple gulps of water. Feeds and energizes the brain.
Two: GIMME OXYGEN! Left hand flat over navel. Place thumb and forefinger of the right hand on the soft area below the collar bone on either side of the sternum. Press, making small one-inch circles for 30 seconds while taking long slow breaths. Increases oxygen flow to brain; promotes clear thinking.
Three: BRAIN, WAKE UP!!! Stand (sit), feet shoulder length apart. Reach right hand across to touch a raised left knee. Switch. Left hand to right knee…back and forth for one slow minute. Activates both hemispheres of the brain; promotes balance.
Four: RELAX ALREADY! Sit, extend legs, cross ankles. Form an “X” with arms on chest, palms flat, finger tips under the collar bone. Touch roof of mouth (not teeth) with tip of tongue. Now, take long, slow breaths for one minute. Relaxes and clears emotions. (Do anytime! Drink water first.)
The Reading Lesson
For me, the Whole Language approach to teaching reading is the most successful. That means, beginning with the “whole” (story) and progressing to the “parts” that make up the whole. When I introduced the novel, “Charlotte’s Web”, I showed the movie first. Students had the sense of the whole story before reading it, which made for a more positive and successful learning experience.
You parents can easily adapt this by having your child dictate their very own story to you. They dictate; you write their words, especially if they have difficulty writing themselves or are too young to do so.
Now you move from the child’s “journal entry” of between two and six sentences, depending upon reading fluency, to individual words and the letters that make up those words.
How do you do this? By making up games in which you and your child take turns getting the other to “find” something within the story. You lead. Make it easy at first.
Example: I asked my young grandson what it’s like for him to stay inside and not go to school. I asked how he felt about not going to school, and I requested advice on how I could stay safe. I asked what he does to stay healthy and finally, what he would like for the whole world. By asking the him how he experienced the pandemic, he had the opportunity to express his knowledge and experience. This sample lesson addressed the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of his being.
Here’s what he said:
“It’s scary because people could die from the coronavirus. I really miss playing with my friends. You need to wash your hands and don’t sneeze on people, Nona. I wash my hands all the time. I want everyone to stay healthy”
So now you have a story to work with. Read it together with you tracking each word with your finger. Treasure hunt for words in the story…you pick one word to find (or one sentence or paragraph at a time, then s/he picks a word for you to find. Hints are welcome. Also, your child can print one of the words and omit a letter (or two or three) and YOU have to guess the missing letters. Take turns. Imagine all the learning that’s taking place, and, be prepared to lose the game.
With the word, corona, I asked my grandson if he could spell it. I did not say “nope. that’s wrong.” I told him which letters he got right, then asked him to spell ‘car’, which he did. Then the lesson: Cor is almost like car except with an ‘o’. Then, “can you find ‘or’ inside of corona? ‘on’? a?” Find a compound word, find one that rhymes with play. Whole to part. Increase capacity. Eventually, have your child read the first sentence and more by tracking each word with her/his finger and eyes so they can’t make up words. High fives, high twos, high thumbs throughout. Reward at the end– popcorn, 10 video games minutes. Re-read tomorrow. Be creative. Have fun! Let me know how it goes.