Any advice on when/how to start teaching reading?
This is such a tricky topic, because there are LOADS of conflicting advice and so many ideas and theories out there. Please remember I am only one teacher, with one point of view. And basically you can take it or leave it. Hopefully I can give some insight on the topic and answer questions that some of you have. I have spoken to a few colleagues of mine about this topic since it is sooo controversial and we did come to somewhat of a consensus.
I have mentioned before on previous posts, the importance of reading to your child from the day you bring him home from the hospital. This is the first and most important building block your child needs to become a reader. Those little brains soak up more than we can even imagine and every experience they have with books and reading, brings them one step closer to reading and understanding the written word.
If you have taken a foreign language before, you have probably heard many say that you learn more quickly when you are immersed into that language and culture then just merely being in a classroom practicing the language. The same is true for babies. Babies need to hear the words that are being read on the pages of a book, the patterns that are formed while reading aloud, the intonations that you hear when a person speaks, the pictures that are associated with the words, the stories behind the words. All of these are very important for a child to experience, before their ability to read themselves. You are modeling to them from the beginning what reading sounds like and what reading means.
Secondly, it is very important to teach children at a very young age how to handle books. How to hold them in the proper orientation, how to turn pages gently and in order, how to respect books by not handling them roughly by bending and tearing. Believe it or not this too is also a very important step in the reading process. But fortunately this step in taken care of when you read to your child on a daily basis. They learn, by example, how to hold a book, how to turn pages and so on.
I remember a study that was discussed in one of my education classes back in college. The study surveyed several inner-city, poverty stricken schools and found on the first day of kindergarten that many of those children did not know how to hold a book properly, with the correct orientation. Can you imagine a 5 year old child not knowing how to hold a book, but worse is that many of those children never had any books to hold and read with a parent. They lost out on 5 years of reading and it is very difficult to make those years up! Those children many years later, still had difficulties in reading and comprehension.
Do you need to actually "teach" reading to your child? Not necessarily! Let me explain. I think that many parents think they have to sit down with their children and "teach" reading or worse, pop in a video. Don't get me wrong, I don't fully object to the previous examples, but they shouldn't be your PRIMARY source of teaching. Reading is a necessity that we experience all the time. Why not bring your kids along for the ride. From the very beginning you can show kids words that we use on a daily basis. A good example of this is a stop sign. How many times have you gone for walks with your infant and have walked by a stop sign. First, your infant may love the way a stop sign looks. It is big and red and captures your baby's attention. Stop briefly and say, "that is a stop sign, it say 'Stop' S...T...O...P, spells stop". Pretty simple, right? You don't have to sit them down and make them memorize words, they will pick up on this very quickly.
Another example, if you take your toddlers grocery shopping. Think about how many signs are hanging up, above the fresh produce, the deli counter, the meat department. Why not go through the produce isle and pick 3 or 4 signs and show your toddler, again in the same way we did with the "stop sign", "Susie, that says grapes, you love to eat grapes, don't you?, G...R...A...P...E...S, grapes."
Words are all around us and if we keep in constant communication with our kids, in a way that is natural and organic, then kids will learn reading in a way that is natural and easy. And the best part of it is, it is simple to do. You don't have to run out to the store for a video or curriculum. You don't have to worry about when and how to start because you have been doing it all along. Communication is also very important because the communication you have between you and your children actually will be the clue when he is ready to move on to more advanced reading skills. He will begin asking you questions, such as, "what does that say?" or "how do you spell...?" Then you can feel free to challenge them more by showing them more words and phrases.
When your child gets to the point of being interested more in reading , you should begin sounding out words with them. Reviewing what sounds go with what letters. Beginning phonics can be "taught" right there along the same time as showing them the stop sign. "That is an 'S', an 's' sounds like this..."
The whole beauty of this is, that many of you are reading this and saying "duh, I am already doing this." And that is what I am hoping for. As parents, most of us do this naturally, without thinking too much about it, to some extent, in our daily interactions with our kids. We find moments to give them tiny tidbits of information through out the day. That communication between you and your child is the most important step to beginning reading!
Any Advice on Study Skills
Understanding the way your child learns is key in helping your child succeed in studying. These are called Learning Styles. Is your child a visual learner? Have you noticed that if they see what is being taught they understand more, or if it is shown to them they pick up on it easier? Is your child an auditory leaner? Auditory learners typically can understand subject matter when it is explained to them and when they can talk about it. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing, they are the hands-on type of learners. Many times learners can fall into more than one category.
These are the 3 major ones. If you can figure out what category your child fits into, then you are half way through the battle. An example I will use is that I am a Auditory primarily and a visual learner secondary. I have to hear what is being taught and be active in a discussion about it! I cannot comprehend information by just reading about it. I have to be able to discuss it and sometimes have info read to me to understand it fully. But I also need to have info shown to me. Show me how to do something and I will immediately be able to remember it, but if I read it in a book, I can't usually do it.
So what does this mean to you as a parent? First, try to find out what type of learner your child is. This would be a great question to discuss with your child's teacher also. They see them for 5+ hours a day and may be able to give you some insight into what style your child falls into. Also you child's teacher can give you specific examples on how to help them at home, based on the actual curriculum your child is learning!
- Set aside a quiet area in the house for studying.
- Be actively involved with your child during studying time, especially in the younger grades. By 6th grade, your child most likely won't need or want your immediate help.
- Each night set aside 15 minutes to study, even if there are no tests the next day. These 15 minutes can include weekly vocab, weekly spelling words, math flash cards, or even flipping through their Social Studies chapter and scan the contents and ask review questions. What's important to remember is that 5 minutes of vocab words (or spelling words, or math facts) a night will decrease the amount of cram time before the test and will build true understanding - and isn't that what we want as parents.
- Have the younger kids do some quick exercises before sitting down to study: jumping jacks, a brisk walk around the park, 5 minutes of basketball outside. Studies have shown that exercise before studying has increased retention levels.
- Have open communication with your kids. Don't ask, "What happened at school today?" because we know what the answer will be. Ask them to give you one thing they learned about in Math or to give you one positive thing and one negative thing that happened, etc.
- When studying with your child, try incorporating ALL three styles into the mix! It will make a big improvement on true understanding = higher grades!
Of course, these are brief explanations and if you have a more in depth question or need clarification please contact me or leave a comment below. Or if you want to ask a separate question or share a concern you can leave a comment here or contact me.
I have been receiving emails with some GREAT questions, that I will be sharing next week! To see past "Ask the Teacher" posts click here.