Saturday, 8 October 2011

Starting to Read

The child I am working with at the moment is the fourth one that I will  teach to begin to read.  In the school where I work, the system for the other children is Synthetic Phonics which is good to know but will not go very far towards helping a very young child with Down's to read just yet.  We usually continue including the child with the others in Phonics groups, but work harder on whole word recognition in these early stages.

The way I do this is to make a small 'All About Me' book.  It's just a plain exercise book and I type up a few simple sentences to illustrate photographs from home.  For instance,the first pages will consist of pictures of the child and their immediate family, with the words 'I can see Mum.  Hello Mum. This is my Mum' etc. used underneath.  As the first few words taught to the rest of the class are also Mum, Dad, I, can, see, the, cat, dog, it works out well.  For children who also have speech difficulties, this helps a great deal with stock phrases being learnt that can be used in everyday life.

The book is then used on a daily basis for about ten minutes at a time - more if the child is enthusiastic - initially just read the text while pointing at each word as you say it.  Gradually, as these words become more and more familiar, you get the child to read along with you and eventually to read independently.  Along the way, you introduce cut out or magnetic matching words and show the child how to find and match each word while saying it out loud.  Throughout your day, if you come across a printed word elsewhere that matches what he is learning, point it out and read it - it is quite important to avoid the pitfall of the child thinking that these words only have meaning when read in the All About Me book.  As the vocabulary widens, it helps to have labels on such objects such as door, window, chair, table etc.

I will also be introducing flashcards of the first few words and slowly adding  new words such as names of classmates, the words that will be used on future pages of the book, and selections from the 100 most common word list held in class.  The flashcards are never used in a sit-down-read-this kind of way - you can invent all kinds of games to make this more interesting - labelling passing children, having a few words on the desk and getting the child to find one that matches an object, or even, if they are not impressed with this activity, getting them to put each word away as you read it, the reward being the end of the activity.  I am currently using the child's snack as a fun incentive for counting and word finding - he brings in yoghurt covered raisins which can be used in hundreds of ways to help the learning process as well as being a good basis for some conversation and signing practice - ' I want MORE!' 'How many more, 1,2,3,4, or 5?' 
Funny how the answer is invariably 'Five!'

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