10.04.2010

Risk.

Today we introduced adjectives and as a way to practice the skill, we colored plain white paper pumpkins and then wrote a describing word for each pumpkin. As I walked around, helping each sprout sound out their describing word, I was amazed at the letter sounds I was hearing after only twenty-one days of school.

Last spring, my principal sent out an email stating he had a new book called The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers: A Quick and Easy Approach to Helping All Students Succeed and wondered if anyone wanted to borrow it. Being the nerd I am, I thought, why not. I got the book, put it in my bag and there it sat… for weeks. One rainy Sunday afternoon, I pulled it out and read the entire book. Based on research, it has some ‘out there’ concepts about how children learn to read, but I thought it sounded promising. I wondered what Mrs. D. would think about it.

Without telling her my thoughts, I gave her the book and asked her to read it and share her thoughts. She agreed, the book’s approach was different, but also seemed revolutionary. We prepped the materials and began the program after the first few weeks of school.

Basically, the book proposes that letter naming (a big deal in kindergarten) has absolutely zero to do with a child’s ability to read. This was a major shift for Mrs. D. and I as letter naming has always been integral to kindergarten success. We’ve always been told, a child’s letter naming ability directly correlates to their ability to read. The book explains, when you look at a word, your brain decodes the sounds only, and the names of the letters are irrelevant. A system for teaching letter sounds only is laid out step by step in the book.

Well today, as I walked around helping children with sounds, I was amazed at the number of sounds even some of the our lowest sprouts had. The program is not only working, it’s wildly successful. We are truly empowering children to feel successful, even so early in the year. We always tell our students to take risks, but how often do we heed our own advice? This is one risk I’m thankful we took.

7 comments:

futureflstar said...

:) The phonics program we use at our school(which begins in K) is similar to this. It teaches the letters by sound first and then after students have learned the entire alphabet they are then taught the names of the letters(which by this point most have learned). It seems weird...but like you said it also seems to work. :) Hooray for your sprouts!

Katie Hellerman said...

This approach is totally fascinating to us old school ABCers. I also worked at a school where they never sang the ABC...rather they sounded them out. Example: "...ba..ba..bee." It was almost like the kids turned instant readers. Keep us updated!

Karen said...

I highly recommend Zoo-phonics, which agrees with this concept of sounds being more important than letter names. It includes songs, visuals, and motions to reach a variety of learners. Check it out.

Francesca said...

I am so intrigued. I have heard of this approach before, Jolly Roger Phonics I think. I am so glad that it is working, perhaps it will be the next "big thing" in early childhood.

Anonymous said...

I learned to read in a Montessori school which also followed this approach. Even though some of us knew letter names (from parents, siblings, or sesame street) at school everyone used only the letter sounds. My sister attended a special school for dyslexic students that did the same thing. I can totally see that not doing the extra mental translation of "B says buh" makes reading that much easier.

Sneaker Teacher said...

The phonics program we use actually is intended to be used without "naming" the letters at all. I have a hard time never using their names because I think that it's also important, but it is amazing that knowing the sounds actually is what helps kids read!

KT

nccarlgreen said...

I've seen some really good reviews for this method. Most teachers praise "Three Habits" for its focus on changing your approach rather than being a program where you need to buy a lot of extra materials to help implement it. It's great to see these success stories of teachers who are able to challenge their own methods for the benefit of their students!