Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kindergarten Spelling

About this time of year we have learned the sounds for all the letters of the alphabet. (Vowels are last because we learn more than one sound for each vowel.) Students are now ready to begin writing words. We practice using our ears to tell us what letter to write. We call it Kindergarten Spelling. I send a note home to parents assuring them that we will teach correct spelling but for now, we are teaching them a new way to communicate
It was always interesting to see the way childen would spell things. If they misspelled a word I would ask them if they would like to see the "book spelling". I would write the book spelling (correct spelling) beside the "kindergarten spelling". (Some people call it "ear spelling.)
I am convinced that learning to pronounce words properly is a big key to correct spelling as is illustrated by the following example:
A student was trying to spell the word spaghetti and was using a b to start the word. Another student was trying to help and said. "Watch my mouth. It's "pasghetti". She emphasized the sound of p at the beginning of the word.
We would start with words then move on to sentences and stories. We had a word bank. This consisted of a giant piggy bank drawn on the board with commly used words in it such as "the".

What I learned: It was magical to see students learn a whole new way to communicate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kinesthetic Learners

Some people are visual kearners. (remembering what they see). Some learn best through auditory means, ( hearing) and others are kinesthetic learners (learning through touch or doing). All methods of learning are used by everyone but a person goes automatically to the style that is best for them. For example I think I am a visual learner because I visualize the keypad when I am trying to remember a phone number or I visualize the written word when I want to remember a spelling.
In kindergarten I would try to use all three strategies, just to cover my bases. When teaching the letters of the alphabet I taught the American Sign Language hand sign along with each letter of the alphabet.
This principle of learning was reinforced to me when I would test students to see how many letters and sounds they knew. I would hold up a letter of the alphabet and individually students would be required to tell me the name of the letter and its sound. Some students would put their hands behind their back and make the hand signs to help them remember. They were always a little embarrassed, like they were cheating. In actuality they were using a good learning tactic.

What I learned; People have different learning styles. The one that is right is the one that helps them and may be different from the way we learn best.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who's In Charge?

This probably should have been my first teaching BLOG because it is so fundamental to life and learning. Early on, close to the first day of school I explained the rules. 5 year olds usually can't read so I made pictures of each of the four rules and mounted them on the board at the front of the room. I explained each rule thoroughly. 1. How to sit so as not to bother anyone or have your legs fall asleep. 2. Be quiet. ( Humorous note: This was a picture of a little boy saying shhh with his finger to his lips. Once when I asked if anyone knew what rule this picture represented a boy raised his hand and said, "Don't pick your nose?") 3. Raise your hand and wait for the teacher to call on you before talking. 4. No running
After the rules were thoroughly explained, I asked who was in charge of seeing that they follow the rules. In all my years of teaching no one got the answer right. Lots of hands went up and answers were, "The principle, You, Our Parents etc." I would shake my head and answer no to all of these suggestions. By now there was always someone who was about to burst because they were sure they had the right answer. ( I could always tell which kids went to Sunday School.) This child would answer with wide eyes and awe in their voice, "God." They were always surprised when I shook my head, no, again. It was a revelation when I told them that they were in charge of their arms and legs and mouths. They were in charge of seeing that the rules were followed.
For most kids it had never occurred to them that they were accountable for their own actions and had some control over them. I followed this up at the end of day by letting each student choose how to say good-by - with a hug, a handshake, or nothing. For some students it was liberating to square their shoulders and say, "Nothing." Thus began a student's journey towards learning and accountability.

What I learned: Learning won't happen until a student realizes that it is all up to themselves.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speech Worries

Along with many worries parents have when children start school, are worries about speech. In kindergarten many children come to school with imperfect speech patterns. With each new letter of the alphabet we would practice the sounds of the letter along with a clear decription of what is happening in the mouth and throat. (e.g. When one makes the "l" sound, the tongue touches the roof of the mouth.) If the student continues to make errors toward the end of the year, it is time to call in a speech specialist. ( If a stuent is still saying yoyipop instead of lollipop or similar gross errors) Most students have fairly normal speech by the end of kindergarten and their few errors are developmental.
It is natural for parents to worry about their children. I had many parents who were sure their child was dyslexic because they wrote their name backwards. In kindergarten, many children still retain their multiple perspectives. After all, a watch is a watch no matter which way you hold it. No wonder there is so much confusion with b,d.p and q. As children grow, they lose this ability so if your child is still writing his name backward in third grade. it is time to be concerned.

What I learned: Children grow out of many stages. You can't stop trying to improve but it is hard to be patient.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


About half-way through the year I would introduce rhyming to the kindergarten students. I didn't realize how important recognizing beginning, middle and end sounds were until then. (See previous post) Until then, we had been focusing on beginning sounds and when students insisted that "dog" and "dock" rhymed, I knew I had some work to do.
We sang lots of songs. Two of my favorite were "A Hunting We will Go" and "Wiloby Waloby" "Wiloby Waloby" can be chanted or sung. It goes like this:
Wiloby Waloby Woo
An elephant sat on you
Wiloby Waloby Wee
An elephant sat on me.

Wiloby Waloby Wusan
An elephant sat on Susan.
Names of students in the class can be substituted for Susan. (e.g. Wack-Jack and Wam-Sam) Students try to guess the second name. Students love this, the idea of somone they know getting sat on by an elephant.
Another activity we used helped to distinguish beginning middle and end sounds. I lined up a bell, a box of rice and a New Year's Noisemaker. You can use other items as long as they have three distinct sounds. I would have students close their eyes. Then I would mix up the order of the items. After I made the sound of each item, students would have to tell me if the bell sound was at the beginning, middle or end.
We would use other activities such as rhyming Bingo to reinforce the principle. We also sang rhyming songs every day. One song called "A Spider on the Floor" I sing now with my grandchilden. The song is sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" Those singing the song make a five legged spider out of their hand and put it on the floor. This pretend spider crawls to the corresponding body part with each verse of the song. (Management tip: The rule is that the spider can only crawl on one's self, not on anyone else.)

The words go as follows:

There's a spider on the floor, on the floor.
There's a spider on the floor, on the floor.
Who could ask for any more
Than a spider on the floor.
There's a spider on the floor, on the floor.

There's a spider on my leg, on my leg.
There's a spider on my leg. on my leg.
Oh, he's really really big.
I've got a spider on my leg,
There's a spider on my leg, on my leg!

There's a spider on my arm, on my arm.
There's a spider on my arm, on my arm.
Should I pull the fire alarm
I've got a spider on my arm.
There's a spider on my arm, on my arm.

There's a spider on my neck, on my neck.
There's a spider on my neck, on my neck
Oh, I'm gonna be a wreck.
I've got a spider on my neck.
There's a spider on my neck, on my neck.

There's a spider on my face, on my face.
There's a spider on my face, on my face.
Oh, its such a big disgrace
I've got a spider on my face.
There's a spider on my face, on my face.

There's a spider on my head, on my head.
There's a spider on my head, on my head.
Oh, I wish that I were dead.
I've got a spider on my head.
There's a spider on my head, on my head.

(spoken: But he jumps off.)

There's a spider on the floor, on the floor...
(Song can be sung again if desired.

What I learned: Children may be able to rhyme but they don't understand what makes a word a rhyming word so often are not conistent.