Thursday, February 5, 2009

Word Building: Lesson 1 (Part Three)

This post is intended to give an example, step-by-step, of an actual lesson with an actual child (mine!) using the Charlotte Mason method for teaching a child to read as detailed in Home Education. I hope to post a more concise version in Word format soon for others who may wish to try these CM reading lessons with their own children.

For both types of our reading lessons, "word-building" and "reading at sight", Miss Mason's description of the first lesson has really taken full three lessons to complete. Our first reading at sight lesson took three separate days, and now our first word-building lesson has taken just as long. I think this is good for others to know ahead of time :) If I had tried to cram all of the material into one initial lesson, that lesson would have easily been 45 minutes long - which would have been miserable. Instead, we broke the lesson up over several days. This post covers the final portion of the first word-building lesson. (As before, Miss Mason's words will be represented in italic).

"Accustom him from the first to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made. This is important. Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a word; and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do so without effort." Home Education pg. 203

Punkin completed the first two parts of our first word-building lesson last week. This week, we started out with the third and final part. Just as we had done before, I placed the card with the syllable "at" in the center of the table. Then, I asked Punkin to choose a letter card to add to "at" to make a given word. Like this:

"Okay, baby, here's the first card. What does it say?"


"Very good! Now, can you find a letter that will make the word, 'bat'?"

Punkin scans over the choices I have placed out before her. She takes the 'b' card and slides in front of "at".

"Great! Now, what does that new word say?"

"It says, 'bat'."

"Good! Now, today we're going to do something a little differently. I'm going to have you cover your eyes and tell me how to spell the word 'bat'."

"I don't know how to spell it, Mama."

"That's okay, today we're going to learn. So, you've made the word 'bat', very good. Now, I want you to really look at the word. That's right, now close your eyes... good. Can you tell me the first letter in 'bat'?"

"Yes, it starts with 'b'."

"Yes!!! That's great! Now, what comes after 'b'? Can you spell the word?"

"b....a....(some pausing)....b....a....(sounds it out)....b-a-t."

"Woo hoo!!! That's so good, sweetie! You spelled it! You spelled, 'bat'! Now, let's do another one. Put the 'b' away, and now choose a letter to make the word, 'fat'. "

And we repeated the steps until Punkin had spelled all of the words we had read in the previous lessons (at, hat, bat, fat, mat, rat, cat, sat). She has had repeated trouble with the "c" sound, thinking that c makes the sound "g". We had to review a little while spelling, "cat". Also, covering her eyes started to bother her, so we switched to covering up the word with my hands instead. I noticed something very interesting when I covered up the word and she spelled it out. She always looked into the air, slightly to her right. She was visualizing the word! This is exactly what we are after with CM spelling. I was honestly surprised, because of all of the children, I would consider Punkin to be the least visually oriented. She has not shown any signs of a learning disability - that's not at all what I'm saying - she just hasn't been as strikingly visual as her sisters (and even her little brother) have been. I was very encouraged to see her staring off into a definite point in space as she spelled!!!

One important thing to note from another passage (about sight reading) in Home Education:
"As spelling is simply the art of seeing, seeing the letters in a word as we see the features of a face - say to the child, 'Can you spell sky?' - or any of the shorter words. He is put on his mettle, and if he fail this time, be sure he will be able to spell the word when you ask him next; but do not let him learn to spell or even say the letters aloud with the word before him." pg. 206

When the child is looking at the word, he must not be allowed to say to himself, "bat...b...a...t" in an effort to memorize the order of the letters. The idea is to encourage him to see the word as a whole and to be able to see it still, even when the word has been covered up or when the child has closed his eyes.

So, we have now officially finished the first word-building lesson as outlined in Home Education! I've been reading Mary Poppins to the girls before Punkin's nap this week, and it's been fun to stop now and then, put my finger beneath a word, and wait for Punkin to read it. She's read "bat", "hat", "fat", "at", "little", "so", "what", and a few more words that way during the last few days. It's so rewarding for her to see the words that she knows, right there in Mary Poppins! :)

We'll be beginning our next word-building lesson with a new ending syllable, "et". Check back in!!

Thanks for reading :)

Do you have a child that really struggles with visual learning? Click here :)