Thursday, July 10, 2008

Literacy Redux

Most of my best (most successful) resolutions are laterals…. that is, they appear sideways or in reverse rather than in a forward direction. I suddenly decide to just start doing X, or find I have already been doing Y and then it’s easy to continue. When I plan to accomplish Z, I had better write it out in “baby steps” or it probably is about the last thing that you will see me doing.

I wanted to take the little ones outside more — but I have hardly stepped outside the house myself, partly because of an intense heat wave. It is going to be 113 tomorrow down in the valley; which means in the 90’s up here, and no air conditioning for mountain people like ourselves.

On the other hand, I didn’t really resolve to slow down a bit and talk more to Paddy, but I have found myself doing just that. We have been reading together more, too.

Then somehow I found myself already carrying on a habit of bringing out the phonics book for the two younger ones every day. From there, I decided to just keep doing this throughout the summer and get a head start on their “first grade” next year. Paddy is one thing. I find that he can read probably 30% of the simpler words on a page. Dolch type words like “hello”, “look” “the” “yes” “what” that often start off a sentence. However, he reads them from sheer visual memory. He doesn’t have a clue about phonics. I know this because he will unhesitatingly say that a word like “Will” is “can” if it seems to him to fit the context. So I’ve been trying to work very briefly to show him the decoding rules. I have him sound out a few words every time he wants me to read a Tintin, since I’m getting so bored with Tintins. That way, we both get something out of it.

I find I don’t really WANT to teach him to read yet. For one thing, he is probably going to get there mostly without my help if I just wait. I just want him to know HOW you do it, that there is really a “code”. I want that understanding to have some time to sink in. So his “lessons” are extremely short.

Aidan has developed a habit of sounding out like this: Cuh–aah—Tuh. This is why decoding a word is a three-step process which needs my intervention, as I described in my last post. So then of course, he has no clue what he has just read. I am vexed at how to teach him to blend properly. The special education teacher at the school suggested “singing” the blends. Well, it works great in one respect. He can hear me, now, sounding out a word slowly, and tell me what word it is. But I can’t get him to do this himself. If I try to show him, he simply shouts the word out. If I try to help him with the glides, he takes the book off and says “I’ll do it!” Well, that is pretty clear.

But he will spend close to an hour studying his phonics book and attacking all the words. I was watching him yesterday and thinking “genius”, which was a funny thing to think under the circumstances. But that intellectual energy and curiosity is what I associate with brightness. Frustrating that I can’t get him past that block of the extra syllables. We shall simply persist.

It has been a quiet summer so far — not for Sean and Kevin, who are going to all these football things, but for the rest of us. It will start getting more lively soon, though, when Liam comes back and we get involved in various other visits and expeditions we are planning.

Next time I blog on here, I won’t post about reading, OK?