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 :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Reading at Sight: 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.

Yes, three parts to the first lesson. I would have just called them lessons 1, 2, and 3, except that Punkin and I had still not successfully completed Miss Mason's instructions for the first lesson. So, I'm posting our first three lessons as our "first lesson" :)

I posted about our actual first "reading at sight" lesson last week. There were some issues ;) We made some in roads, though, after figuring out that Punkin wasn't sure what a word was... good grief. How did I miss that?! I've probably lost all credibility with you dear readers :)Anyway, we had a little troubleshooting session and talked all about words and spaces, greatly helping Punkin's success with sight-reading. Yay! Today, then, we continued on with what Miss Mason outlines as the first lesson - the first two lines of "Twinkle, twinkle".

The initial, smaller font

The larger font (in a sideways pic - what happened?!)

I had mentioned the other day that Punkin seemed to do better with her word-building lessons when the font was larger. I decided to test this out with the reading-at-sight lessons, too. I printed out a second copy of the poem, this time with considerably larger font. Miss Mason never mentions the size of the font, but I'd say it's fairly safe to assume that she used the size of regular "book" font, since she gives examples of other reading lessons (word box lessons) that make use of words literally cut from books. But, I wanted to see if the larger font would help Punkin, and I believe it did. Here's today's lesson, a far cry from our true first lesson (Miss Mason's words are in italic):

"Lessons in word-making help him to take intelligent interest in words; but his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the 'reading at sight' lessons... The teacher must be content to proceed very slowly, securing the ground under her feet as she goes. Say - 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are," is the first lesson; just those two lines." Home Education, page 204

I was reeeaaallly hoping to get through the first two lines today, and finally finish the material for the "first" lesson :)

"Read the passage for the child, very slowly, sweetly, with just expression, so that it is pleasant to him to listen. Point to each word as you read."

I read the first two lines of the poem. As I read, I pointed beneath each word. However, instead of just pointing beneath the middle of the word, I moved my finger under each word from left to right as I read, picking my finger up at the spaces between the words. This is not mentioned by Miss Mason; I did it to make certain Punkin was clear on the beginnings and endings of the words.

"Then point to 'twinkle', 'wonder', 'star', 'what', - and expect the child to pronounce each word in the verse taken promiscuously..."

"Promiscuously" just means in no particular order. So, I pointed to 'star', 'twinkle', 'little', 'Twinkle' - she knew them from a previous lesson. Now, the test - I pointed to 'How'... she knew it! I pointed to 'are'... she knew it! I pointed to 'wonder'... she didn't. 'What'? Nope. 'I' - yes, she knew that one, and we talked about how it is just the name of the letter, but it is also used in sentences ("I am going home", etc.). She did not know 'you', either. So, I pointed to each of the words that she did not remember and read them again. We focused on just those three words for a few minutes until I felt that she knew them. Then we tried again. I pointed to all ten words promiscously and she did better. We focused in on trouble words again for just a short bit. I pointed to all ten words promiscously yet again, and Punkin read them all several times!

"But we have not yet finished the reading lesson on 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star". The child should hunt through two or three pages of good, clear type for 'little', 'star', 'you', 'are', each of the words he has learned, until the word he knows looks out upon him like the face of a friend in a crowd of strangers, and he is able to pounce upon it anywhere. Lest he grow weary of the search, let the teacher guide him unawares (without him knowing it) to the line or paragraph where the word he wants occurs."

Searching for words (Ack! Still sideways!)

Then I brought out a newly printed page of text (with larger font) and had Punkin search for words as I said them. I had to give her a little help with the general area - "Look somewhere over here", for instance. She found the words, though, all ten of them. We had been working at the lesson for fifteen minutes now, and it was time to stop. But, after such hard work and success, we had to end on the sweetest note...

"...then, when he shows that he knows each word by itself, and not before, let him read the two lines with clear enunciation and expression..."

I slid my finger under each word as Punkin read:

"Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are,"

And the expression on her face captured in one look all the reasons I love teaching my children at home.


Reading at Sight: Lesson 1 (Part Two - Troubleshooting)

Last week, I shared how big of a complete flop our first "reading at sight" lesson turned out to be. I mean - really. Clearly, I wasn't expecting her to read perfectly from the get go, but it was obvious that something just was not clicking with Punkin, and I had to figure out what that was.

When we settled down two days later for our second sight reading lesson, I still wasn't sure I had much of an idea. I had plans to introduce fewer words in one lesson, instead of the entire first two lines. Other than that, I was still sort of flying by the seat of my pants. I wondered, though, if perhaps seeing the word all by itself, without neighboring words crowding around it in a sentence, would help Punkin focus in and "see" the word. So, before I took out the "Twinkle, twinkle" paper, I wrote the word "twinkle", slowly, in print as Punkin watched. When I was finished writing, I told her that the word was "twinkle".

She jumped back in her seat, clearly shocked (rather dramatic, I know). But, she was evidently surprised, which surprised me since this word was one that she had sort of gotten in the previous lesson.

"That whole thing?! That whole long word says 'twinkle'?!" she asked (still shocked).

"Well, yes, honey. Don't you remember this word from our first lesson? Here, we begin at the t and read over to the e and that's all one word - twinkle. See?"

Punkin pointed to the very center of twinkle, just as I had done in our lessons, and said, "I thought just this part was twinkle!"

"The i-n-k part?"


Ahhhh, now all of the confusion from the other day was beginning to make sense. I admit, I was startled myself by our little discovery. Punkin needed some preparatory work that I had taken for granted! We took a few moments to talk about words and the spaces between words. We counted the number of words in the first two lines. Just to be certain we were clear on where a word began and where a word ended, I wrote out some of the words on a piece of paper as she watched me.

I felt like a complete dunce for overlooking something so completely fundamental. The good news is, though, that Punkin made great strides after we cleared the issue up! We only had a few minutes left after our troubleshooting session, but we followed the steps in the first lesson over again and were able to get through the first line. This time, at the end of the lesson, Punkin read the words back to me, left to right - "". Then, grinning a very big grin, she looked up at me.

What a sweet moment.

(Praise God we figured that out early on in the game!)

Today we finished Punkin's third sight reading lesson, and I clued in on what I think was the other major issue impeding our first sight reading lesson. But, more of that in my next post :)