Posted by: ginki0 | March 1, 2017

Speech leading the way to reading

My Ninja had a sequence of terrible ear infections when he was little, culminating in surgery to insert tubes. This is not uncommon, but he also had trouble producing proper sounds, and I am pretty sure the ear infections are related to this trouble. So we monitored, and I got out my speech language pathology stuff from college and tested him and talked to SPLs I know. They were pretty sure he would grow out of it, but I was not so convinced. So we began practicing about a year and a half ago.

We’d say every word we could think of that started with troublesome phonics- sounds like f and s and t and p and b and d and g and k. We’d target a particular issue of his and practice with words, finding those sounds all over in life. We did a lot of various speech work including minimal pairs and sound productions and producing the target sounds at the beginning, middle, and ends of words. Ninja is a perfectionist. This sort of thing irritated him greatly. However, when we’d occasionally have cupcake and cookie parties (he’d get cupcakes as long as he could say the word properly), and that would get him excited about working it again.

The thing is, I quickly realized that this sort of thing was actually preparing him for reading. And he’s been able to read very simple (cat, dog, etc) words since age 4, except for forgetting occasional phonics. He just hasn’t believed he can, and therefore hasn’t been motivated.

In one month, my little Ninja turns 6. Lately, I’ve been thrilled about his increasing interest in academics, and yesterday we had a wonderful phonics lesson!

Montessori puts great emphasis on preparation, and reading instruction is no different. Before the child reads, they learn that words are made up of various sounds. We play I spy quite frequently when we are in the car to develop this ability, and lately Rocky (always game to try to keep up with his brothers) has actually begun to figure out the game! Ninja excels at beginning sounds, but has more difficulty thinking of words with the target sound in the middle or at the end. This is a skill we continue to work on, while including beginning sounds to keep the fun up. When we’re home, we tend to play I spy with his box of miniatures, which he loves. He loves to try to trip me up by getting technical (for instance, he might have spied the green snake with red squiggles, so the yellow snake is not a winning guess).

Less often we play games with hiding items and finding them based on sound, or by hiding the letters and retrieving them by sound in a desired order. Yesterday, we played two games that Ninja was ready for and thoroughly enjoyed. He labelled items in the room with letters standing for sounds in the word. As usual, initial sounds were much easier than medial or ending sounds. Then, I re-introduced him to Pick Up Sticks.

I used a pack of colored popsicle sticks that I had gotten cheap from a craft store and labeled with one letter per stick. Just like Pick Up Sticks, we dropped the whole lot of them onto the floor, and then began picking them up. The rule was that you could pick up as many as you wanted, one at a time, until you moved another stick (not the one you were picking up). Ninja was impressive, gathering quite a pile of letters before he accidentally bumped a different letter. Bugs wanted to play afterwards, and Ninja was far better than either Bugs or I was at precision of movement.

Now, the next rule of the game addressed the phonics. Ninja could take another turn of picking up sticks if he could use the letters he’d already grabbed to spell a word that he could appropriately say. It didn’t have to be spelled properly, nor did it have to be an actual  word, but he needed to use English phonetics to read his “words”. Well, at first he lost his extra turns because he kept wanting to make super long words that were too complex for him to read. His first word that got him an extra turn was “ap”. He also worked hard to spell “aqua”. No dogs or cats or foxes, even though he had the phonics for those words. It was also funny to watch him, because he sounded out his word-in-progress silently to himself. How did I get two perfectionists? Ninja has always been that way with words- he barely babbled and instead was quiet until he could say intelligible words (aside from the speech malfunctions).

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When it came time for my turns and I would inevitably mess up, the rule was that I would spell a word (I kept to CVC words for him) and if he could read it before I did, he would take his next turn- otherwise I got an extra turn. This really helped him increase his confidence, as he realized that he really could read words fairly quickly. It was delightful to see.

So my Ninja is really coming along, pulling everything together. For some reason it’s easier to be patient with his reading progress than it is with my Bugs. With Bugs, I still find myself prone to fretting, even though his reading is also coming along- he’s reading more and more fluently every day and large words like “sometimes” don’t trip him up anymore. I think Bug’s progress might actually have less to do with reading practice during study time and more to do with his tradition with Daddy of reading a chapter of Harry Potter before bed each night. Bugs reads the chapter title, and Daddy reads everything else, but Daddy catches him often sounding out words ahead of him and sometimes reading along.

With all of this, Rocky is hanging out, watching or playing along or listening while working on his own things (he’s loving the pink tower still). I have faith he’s taking in these lessons as well and when it comes time for reading to click for him, just like with Ninja and Bugs, that it will click and he’ll be off and reading. I’m so excited because I feel like Ninja will be reading simple books this year and I think Bugs will be reading independently this year. Once that happens, a whole new world of exciting possibilities will open up!

I went through their 3 year work plans yesterday too, checking off what they’ve begun, dived into, and mastered, and it’s amazing to see all those little check marks! Ninja’s is for  ages 3-6, though I just printed it off for him at the beginning of the school year and there’s some overlap with the age 6-9 one Bugs is working off of. Bugs is nearly completed, except for his reading section, which I’m holding back on check marks until his speed and confidence increases. Ninja’s is over half done, and most of what is left are things he will continue in his 6-9 list. I love seeing the progress in an overall fashion, as well as what they need to focus on to avoid gaps in their education.

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