Friday, October 31, 2008
This has been a very challenging school year for me, as I have a class with quite a few discipline problems (7 out of 21!), and the majority (about 75%) came to Kindergarten not knowing the alphabet or numbers. Usually, I have three or four discipline problems at the most, and about half of my students know the alphabet when they begin school. Not this year! Here are some things that I have done that have seemed to really helped them learn.
Using the Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds CD, I introduced one letter song per day for the first month of school until we knew all of the songs. I always hold the letter card in my hand when we sing, and then shout out "What's that letter?" after each song is over. We continually review all of the songs, of course. Most of my class now knows all of the letters(!), except for the lowest of the low. I have seven this year that I consider to be VERY low. Two of those low kids now know most of the letters (though not all), and three know about half of the letters. The other two kids are going no where fast, no matter how many times a day they get pulled individually to work on it with myself or with volunteers, and despite having after school tutoring in a group of five for an hour three times a week. I do think that those two will eventually qualify for special services. So I think that the songs are helping. (This is the first school year that I have had them from the start of the year.) I do hear them singing the songs to themselves to help figure out a letter that they don't know. They recognize it from the song, and start singing. Eventually they come to the letter name in the words to the song.
Another thing that is helping is having the kids form the letters out of Playdough, and then tell me the name of the letter. If they don't know the name of the letter, then they have to make it again. I have a list of letters that each child is working on, so I make them form the letters on my list, not ones they already know. The easiest way to do it is to keep a ziplock bag with the letters each child is working on in a tub. Each baggie has the child’s name written on it. I pull out the bag and hand the letter card to that child, and ask him to form the letter. With my higher kids, I let them form any letter they want (assuming they already know them all.) As a side note, I also found it helpful to have the faster learners make the letters that are harder to draw out of playdough, too- like the K, or lower case E's and G's.
One more thing that is helping is Rapid Automatic Naming boards. If you have never heard of these, "RAN" boards are simply grids with letters (or numbers, words, whatever) in them that each kid needs to work on.I started with my low kids' letters of their names in this grid, and had them continually point and say those letters only. We worked on each one until they started to get them. So Angel is only working on A-N-G-E-L until he gets them; then we'll add more. I taught him to spell his name aloud, pointing to some plastic letters that he would put in order for me. Then, when working on the RAN board, when he came to a letter that he forgot, he would point and spell his name aloud until he figured it out. It's slow, but at least he is experiencing some success. I put the letters from their names in little pencil boxes that I found at Staples for a penny each in August, along with their names printed out and taped to the top of the box. That way, we always have the plastic letters from their names ready to go. It is tough to manage this activity any other way than one-on-one, so I prepared a coloring sheet for the kids to do in my small group, and worked with the kids that needed it one at a time. I skipped the kids that did not need this type of help, or helped them with word flashcards, etc. I also did it in after school tutoring. In this case, I let the others play while I worked with just one child at a time. (Click here for some good samples)
I also found it helpful to print out each child’s name in large print on index paper, and have the kids cut them apart and sort them by letter. I taped a paper with each letter on it to the wall. Each time they cut off a letter, I tried to ask each one what letter it was. Then they glued the A to the A paper, etc. We did this with names and with color words, to try to focus strictly on the words and letters that were meaningful to each child. For my faster learners, I let them cut apart the letters from anyone’s name that they wanted, and encouraged them to try to read that name. They loved it! I think that I will try to do the same thing with words, and have them sort the words by color, sight word, or names of students. My kids LOVE this activity, and it is easy to manage to do it more than one child at a time, thankfully!
Helpful Hints for using my Sing and Spell CD's
1. To maximize results, introduce just one or two songs a week for Kindergarten. You can increase the number of songs introduced per week for older children.
2. Practice getting your children to calm down when you are done singing. Demonstrate the behavior you expect, and practice it with the children before you begin.
3. Always include hand motions of some kind. This keeps the children motivated and engaged. You can change the motions as much as you like to make it “your own”. Many people find it easiest to bring the DVD into the classroom and have the students and teacher learn the motions together. Once the class has a handle on the movements, you can switch to a more convenient method, like an ipod or a CD player. Also, you might try to download the written description of the motions from the website. Sometimes knowing "why" I do certain things helps folks remember. You can always make up your own motions, and that's great, too!
4. Always show the word when you introduce a song. Have the children spell it aloud with you as you point to the letters.
5. Once the children know the songs, have them sit and write the words as you sing them. I use individual white boards. We put on a song, and everyone sings as they write. Check for mistakes and have the children rewrite the word correctly. Sometimes the children just parrot back the sounds that they think they hear, and they don’t really know what they are saying. If so, then sing the song slowly with the children, pointing to the letters as you go.
6. Use the songs as a classroom management tool. If your students are getting restless, have them stand and sing a song with movements. They can get their wiggles out AND learn at the same time. Also, have your students sing as they wait for their classmates to put things away or finish up their work. This is a good way to fill up those extra minutes that seem “unteachable.”
7. Demonstrate how to write sentences, using the songs as a spelling tool. Explicitly teach what the songs can be used for.
8. Practicing writing the words in the context of how they are used is more effective than simply writing the same word over and over. If you do assign your students to write a word several times each, remind them to sing the spellings in their heads as they go. There are worksheets that go along with the songs on the HeidiSongs Resource CD. These worksheets are like a “cloze” activity. Each time you come to the target word in the song, there is a space so the child can write the word in him or herself.
9. Use a word wall. Some kids can repeat the spellings but not visualize the word. Have them sing the song aloud, and then find the word on the wall to copy it.
10. Let the children practice reading the words as often as possible. My students enjoyed reading little song books that I made up for them.
11. As far as the order of songs is concerned, you will probably need to skip around on the CD and DVD quite a bit, since everyone seems to teach these words in a different order. Using an ipod can be very helpful in the classroom, since you can make a playlist of songs and put them in any order you want, and change the playlist as often as you want.