Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading Lessons in Some Surprising Places

Up until a few days ago, Sam could not pronounce the sound "sp."  She used a foon to eat her cereal, she liked to sing the itsy-bitsy-fider, and nothing was better than cleaning up the table with a fonge.

I don't focus much on her pronunciation - I'll just repeat the word back to her correctly on occasion.  I've been told that she speaks quite well for her age and I've always figured that this is something children fix on their own, so it's not a big issue to me.  But I noticed that Sammy was starting to get frustrated more and more often when people didn't understand her, so I figured it was time to start doing a little bit more practice.  She has other, typical preschooler speech issues like an occasional lisp and not speaking loudly enough, but the "sp" thing seemed like something very concrete that we could work on, and something that she was probably capable of correcting.  I also had a suspicion that working on making these sounds might help with her reading.

Spoon and sponge are words that she uses all the time, so I focused on those.  I started by making a big  joke about how I didn't know what she meant when she told me that she was out of clean foons.  "What's a foon?" I would ask in a silly way, and eventually, I'd say, "Oh, you mean a spoon!"  Luckily, this made her giggle and it got us off on the right foot.  She'd listen intently as I would separate out the sounds of "sp" and "oon."  I showed her the motions my mouth and tongue made.  To my surprise, she could easily make the sound "sp" and she could even say, "sp" and then a moment later, "oon."  She just couldn't link them up because she had this bad habit with the "f" sound.  I made a lot of jokes about there being no "f" in spoon or sponge, and a lot of times, she would say foon or fonge just to make me laugh.

This went on for a few weeks.  We only worked on it when the mood struck one of us, and I was glad to see her putting an effort into it and having fun trying.  About a week ago, Adam was working on it with her and she got it!  She's been noticing the "sp" sound in all kinds of words ever since, and she is really proud to feak, I mean speak, correctly.

And it turns out that I was right about the reading, because the very next day I caught her sounding out words in a way that I'd never heard her do it before.  I think putting that "sp" together with the "oon" finally made it click for her that all the individual letter sounds can be strung together to make words.  This is where she's been mostly stuck for quite a long time now.  She can get some words, but much of the time, I'll say the individual sounds for something like, "H-E-N" and I'll say them closer and closer together until I feel like she can't help but just hear the word, but she still won't get it.  She does a little bit better with spelling than with reading.  But the other day I caught her sounding out "hop," "pop," and "mop."  That's progress!

Another thing I noticed about the reading is that she was doing it alone.  That figures.  Just like with the potty, she does a much better job when left alone.  If I try to help in any way, she is more interested in resisting me (or hiding her skills from me?) than in accomplishing anything.  (Did you notice that she finally got the "sp" with Adam, not with me?  This is something I'm going to have to account for when it comes time to do real homeschooling.  I'm probably going to have to bend over backwards to avoid any sense of me being the authority.)  Luckily, she can play Starfall by herself, as well as all the activities she is doing at Montessori.  Still, I wish I could find some other kind of game that she could use by herself that would focus on this particular reading skill.  I looked for one of those electronic gadgets, but I didn't see anything that seemed right.  If you have a suggestion, please leave me a comment!

I did find one electronic reading toy that is a lot of fun - a label maker!  Since Sam is more advanced at spelling than at reading, but still can't write letters with a pen very well, this was super-exciting for her!  And how fun is it to write words and print them on tiny little stickers!  I'm surprised that I've never read about this one anywhere else.  Check out the things she wrote with it, with just a tiny bit of help from me:

"MOW" is supposed to be "meow" but our cat actually does say, "mow" so I didn't correct her.  And "DOESNG" actually stared out as "dog" but I walked away and instead of hitting the "print" button, she played around with the keyboard some more.  As it turns out, she thinks the word "doesng" is just about the most hilarious thing in the world.  I think she was quite pleased with herself for making up such a lovely little nonsense word.


  1. I don't have any suggestions for getting kids to put the sounds of words together, but I can commiserate a bit. Livy could sound out individual letters really easily long before she figured out how to put them together. You saying them really close together was just what I did, and she wouldn't understand either. Then one day, she just did. It seemed like a developmental thing to me because one day she had no idea, and the next day it was the easiest thing in the world. Also, she has always done writing and spelling first. I wonder if that is the norm, or if our kids both have the same different way?

    Also, personality wise, Livy sounds a lot like Sammy. She will do lots of things on her own, but the second she realizes I care about it, she resists. I think she likes everything to be her own idea and feels controlled even if I watch too closely. I consciously keep out of her business because it seems so important to her to do everything herself. It has gotten a little easier as she has gotten older; she seems to take my advice a little better now. Good luck! I know that is kind of frustrating.

  2. Kelly, that's great to hear. I've suspected it would be the same way for Sam, although she hasn't had that definitive a leap yet. I really do think that there is just some developmental thing that needs to happen. It's all very exciting.

    When I heard the "writing before reading" idea, I thought it was nuts. I was wrong! But Sam still can only write about 5 letters by hand, so typing is a great substitute.

    Sam is strange in that she is fiercely independent in some ways, but oddly dependent in others. She won't do anything at school without asking permission first, no matter how many times the teacher tells her she does not need to ask. She doesn't have that problem at home! We often get an earful if we mistakenly bring her napkin to the dinner table for her, and if we give too many instructions, we get MOMMY/DADDY, BE QUIET WHILE I DO IT MYSELF.

  3. Benny had the same "sp" issue. Of course it was hilarious to hear him talk about seeing "Farty" when we went to band practice! The joys of living in MSU Spartan territory!