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The information below has been adapted from Helping with Reading at Home, a SPELD SA information sheet written by Rose Price and Karen Hodson, Adelaide psychologists, and Dyslexia – Action Plans for Successful Learning (2003), by Glynis Hannell. The use of the first person indicates that this is the author’s professional opinion.
A test of phonological awareness will reveal whether your child’s skills are appropriate for their age. Speech pathologists are the specialists in this field.
For a comprehensive checklist, see How to tell if a young child may be at risk of dyslexia
Spend five minutes a day reading to your child. Short stories, with pictures that your child can look at, are ideal. Make this a relaxing and enjoyable time together. While children may have favourite books you would like to buy, your local library has a wide range of picture books for borrowing.
Nursery rhymes play a vital role in the development of pre-reading skills. Reading and spelling rely on the ability to recognise the sequence of sounds in a word. The use of rhyme (rye/pie and sing/king) and alliteration (sing a song of sixpence) in nursery rhymes focusses attention on the sounds in words. Pre-school children usually enjoy the repetition and word-play in nursery rhymes.
Sing a song of sixpence A pocket full of rye Four-and-twenty blackbirds Baked in a pie. When the pie was opened The birds began to sing Wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the King!
Google ‘modern nursery rhymes’ for examples of traditional and modern nursery rhymes.
How to hold a book the right way up/open a book/turn the pages/read from left to right/ word by word/ line by line.
If you have the time and want a chuckle, have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFAWR6hzZek for an amusing introduction to ‘the book’.
This creates an understanding of symbols and words as representing a particular meaning: E.g., traffic signs, shop names, symbols on the doors of public toilets, name tags, product names
Play word games that focus on the concept of words and sounds in words. The aim is develop awareness that speech is made up of words and words are made up of sounds. At this stage, work orally.
When playing I-Spy in the car, accept any word that begins with the correct letter. If your child is struggling, give a choice of answers. I spy with my little eye something beginning with /s/. Is it ‘s-sun’ or ‘c-car? Give the answer if they hesitate. It is better for your child to hear the correct answer than to make a wrong guess.
For more word games and the later progression of activities, see Action Plans for Successful Learning by Glynis Hannell, available from the SPELD SA shop.
Ask your child’s teacher which early literacy program they use and learn how it works and what you can do to support your child. Ask the teacher to present a parent session to demonstrate the program. Popular early literacy programs include: Jolly Phonics and Letterland. Different programs present the letters of the alphabet in different sequences.
Research indicates that letter/sound associations (phonics) are best taught as part of a multisensory early literacy program that integrates the teaching of the sounds of the letters, how to blend sounds together to form words and correct letter formation. A multisensory program enables your child to learn through different learning channels (sight, hearing, saying, writing, thinking).
Where do I start? The following skills are in developmental order:
Note: Some students find it helpful to verbalise their movements. Letters can be practised using chalk on a blackboard, Textas or large crayons on newsprint, with a finger in sand, over sandpaper, finger on carpet Is there a special order for teaching the formation of the letters of the alphabet?
For children, learning to write letters for the first time, take the order from that of the program being used for teaching letter sounds at school so your child learns the sound and how to form the letter at the same time.
Some children have a lot of difficulty remembering letters and their associated sounds. As well as encouraging correct letter formation and saying the sound at the same time (see above), teach letter/sound matching and recognition using the following approach. Adapt the task to ensure success.
The following approach to learning letters and their sounds is in developmental order.
Some children need a lot of practice to learn new letters and their sounds and repeated revision to remember them. For people without learning difficulties, a rule of thumb for learning a new skill is 100 practices. A person with a learning difficulty may need 10 times more practices for a skill to become automatic.
Being able to blend the sounds in words is often a hurdle for students with reading difficulties. Students may be able to give the sounds for the letters but have difficulty blending the sounds together.
Sometimes, they have difficulty remembering all the sounds or remembering the sounds in order.
Sometimes, they can blend the sounds but cannot relate them to a known word.
Pre-schoolers and students who have difficulty working with the sounds in words can benefit from oral practice.
Children can often recognise words like caterpillar, television, electric because they are visually distinctive, they are phonically regular and they carry meaning for a child. We call these words content words.
In contrast, words like then, they, there are visually similar, do not carry a strong meaning and are hard for many children to remember. We call these words process words.
How do I help my child to remember the short, common words that they repeatedly confuse
The following approach to teaching commonly used words is developmental.
Once your child has a firm knowledge of letter/sound associations, they are ready to build up a bank of commonly used words. The Dolch sight word lists include the 220 most frequently used words in children’s books. For a complete list, go to www.learningbooks.net/whydolchwords.html
Note Some of the words have regular spelling patterns and some do not. If the spelling is regular, show your child how to sound it out or divide it into syllables first.
This teaches your child to look carefully at letter patterns.
Choose 3-5 different words and write each word out four times on separate cards. Spread the cards out on the table face up. Choose one word card and show it to your child. Say: This word is “my”. Find another card that says “my”. Hand the card to your child so they have the visual image of the word in front of them. Continue until there are no cards left.
Creating sets Spread the cards used in level 1 on the table. Time your child as they group the words into sets. They need to say each word as they pick it up. Using the same word cards on the following day, spread the cards on the table face up and see if your child can beat yesterday’s time.
Snap for two players Deal 2 cards from each word set (see above) to each player. Shuffle each player’s cards. Players hold their cards face up and take turns to place their top card on the table, saying the word as they put it down. A hand on top of two matching cards indicates SNAP. The person with most matching pairs wins.
This teaches your child to hold a mental image of a written word.
Choose 3-5 different words and print each word out four times on separate cards. Spread the cards on a table face-up. Choose one word card and show it to your child. Say: Look at this word. It says “my”. Look carefully because I am going to turn it over. Place the word face down and say: Find another card that says “my”. Continue until there are no cards left. If the student has difficulty, return to Level 1.
Snap As above with the cards in each player’s hand face down.
Memory game Spread the cards face down on a table. Take turns to turn over two cards and say the word on each card. The player with most matching pairs wins.
This teaches your child to link a written word with a spoken word.
Choose 3-5 different words and write each word on four separate cards. Spread the cards face up on a table. Say: Find me a card that says “my”.
This is the most difficult level. Your child is asked to remember how a word ‘looks’ from earlier learning and to name the word.
Choose 3-5 different words and write each word on four separate cards. Spread the cards on a table face up.
Point to the words in turn and say: What does this word say?
Use flash cards and any of the games described above for practice. Revision of all words previously learnt once a week will help your child to remember them. Note. For suggestions on how to teach sentence building using a similar step-by-step approach, see Action Plans for Successful Learning by Glynis Hannell, available from the SPELD SA shop.
I have written a short answer and a longer answer to this question. The short answer follows. For a more detailed response, see Choosing Books for Beginning Readers on the SPELD SA website.
Children need practice reading books they can manage independently.
SPELD SA would like to acknowledge the support of the Douglas Whiting Trust in the development of this website.
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