Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Starting on the road to literacy

Koala Lou by Mem Fox and Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone will always hold a special place in Becky's milestone. Thanks to these wonderful books, I discovered that she was in an emergent stage in her reading development.

How so? I have noticed that Becky is beginning to grasp an understanding and interest in letters and numbers not just in her books, but in the environment around her as well. She is starting to read from memory, tracing the lines of words from left to right, though the story she recites may not follow the print exactly. Very often, she will repeat the same phrase through her reading, usually, the phrase that is repeated several times in the story itself, like 'Koala Lou, I do love you', or 'You naughty kittens!', and usually, she will add her own plot that she imagined herself. She has also remembered the first two groups of sounds and letters in Jolly Phonics. I'm so glad that playing the Jolly Songs' phonics songs since she was one and a half years has worked so well.

This also means that Becky has reached a certain stage of readiness for more reading. These include eye muscle development, motor skills like writing (she holds her crayon more steadily  now and is able to draw an imperfect circle), being able to cross the midline (imagine a line going down the middle of your body), which are all crucial for literacy. She obviously has an understanding of the concept of print, that a book starts from front to end, and a line reads from left to right. 

The next step is to further work on her phonemic and phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds - phonemes - in spoken words. These are the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning. For example, separating the word cat into three phonemes /k/, /æ/, and /t/ requires phonemic awareness.

While phonemic awareness and phonological awareness are often confused, because they are so dependent on each other. Phonological awareness includes phonemic awareness, but also includes the ability to hear and manipulate larger units of sound, such as rhymes and syllables. It is the ability to 'tune into' the sound system of the language, decode the sound structure of spoken words, and be aware that sounds can be broken into words or syllables, or that they can start and end with the same sound.

Here are some activities I am doing with Becky to help increase these awareness.

1. While reading, I point to words and bring her attention to them, especially repeated words. Or I would point out words starting with letters or sounds that we are learning, emphasizing the sounds whether they appear at the beginning, middle or end. I would also sound out each letter of the word and verbally blend them together.

2. As we are reading, I ask questions like, which is the longest word? How many letters are there in this word? How many words are there in this sentence? How many sentences are on this page? This is to help further her understanding that the written word is a representation of what is spoken. I also start asking questions like, why do you think this happened? What do you think will happen next? This is to help her comprehend the story.

3. Story Treasure Hunt - ask where is a certain word or thing/animal (based on the illustration) and Becky has to point it out. I may sometimes sound out each letter of the word and blend them.

4. Word Match - write words on cards and ask Becky to match similar words.

5. Book Title/Sentence Match - write titles or sentences of books that we are currently reading on cards and ask Becky to match. These can also be further cut out into individual words for a matching game.

6. What do I like - I ask Becky what she likes to do. It can be an activity or food. I then write the word or sentence on to strips of paper and at the back of envelopes. Becky has to match the words or sentence to that written on the envelope. Cut the words of the sentences up and this can be another game of matching words to the sentences written on the envelope.

7.  Daily News Sentences - I ask Becky what she has done during the day, and then I write it down for her. For now, I am just writing one sentence, as well as the date. Then Becky draws what that day meant to her. 

8. Listening Walk - I bring Becky for regular listening walks, where I ask her to listen to the sounds around her, be it someone clapping, sounds of footsteps made by floppy slippers or the rumbling of a motorcycle engine. At home too, I will ask her to focus and listen for any sounds, such as the whirring of the electric fan, the humming of the air conditioner, or the sound of water running down the pipe. This will help to increase her awareness of sounds, which is useful as she learns the various phonemes.

9. While out and about, I would also highlight letters and words that we have learnt. This is to help her reflect on what she knows and help her remember.

10. Nursery rhymes, poetry and songs - very important and useful to build awareness of sounds and rhythms in language.

I hope that what I'm doing will help her on her road to literacy.

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