One of the best ways you can help a child become good in language arts (which carries over to all of his school work–since all school work involves reading, comprehending, organizing, etc.) is to help him become a good reader.
Over the past month, I have focused on teaching reading, reading aloud, reading instruction, phonics, and more.
(Check out some of those posts here:
If your child is still learning to read, be careful that you don’t get caught up in the “do everything” part of language arts too soon. In the early elementary grades, your child’s primary focus should be on reaching reading fluency.
(This is why I have “reading” benchmarks in place for students who want to come to my complete language arts classes or purchase CQLA: (1) Pre A students should be able to read non-vocabulary-controlled picture books; (2) A students should be able to read easy chapter books.)
If you are still working on reading fluency, let me refresh you with some tips for that before I delve into teaching beginning writing:
1. Be sure he reads from a book every day. So much reading instruction nowadays is workbook oriented. This is like taking piano lessons while only doing theory books–with no actual playing time. Check out my readability info for choosing readers here!
2. Try the “you read, I’ll read” approach. Have him read a page or paragraph then you read a page or paragraph.
3. If he gets stuck on a word that you think he knows, remind him of what he knows about it:
a. Remember, this rhymes with light and bright. You had this word before.
b. Do you remember what the e at the end of the word makes the first vowel say?
c. How do you think Rabbit feels? Would that word be sad or silly based on how he probably feels?
4. If he is stuck too long or you do not think he knows a word, tell him what it is (and anything about it that might help him in the future) and move on. Do not get bogged down on each word.
5. Ask your librarian for help getting a reader that is truly at his level (or check out these vocabulary controlled readers). Do not believe those readers that say K level in the corner but contain two syllable words!
6. Read aloud to him from a chapter book or other book that he enjoys to make the reading experience pleasant for him.
7. Reward him for practicing reading–stickers, coins, candy–it’s worth bribing for!
I am going to move into beginning writing for a while here on the blog–sentences, sentences vs. clauses, writing sentences, verbs, etc.
Here are some tips for taking your child from a reader to a writer:
- Teach him/her the five parts of a sentence—CAVES—Capital; All makes sense; Verb; End mark; Subject. Help the student find these things in his sentences or in sentences that he reads. Learn more about CAVES here.
2. Teach anything about the writing process informally that can be taught informally. Point out that a sentence begins with a capital letter as he reads to you. Ask him what the (?) at the end of the sentence means. Talk about why a word is capitalized in a sentence (it’s at the beginning or is someone’s name). These informal teaching times will carry over to his real writing.
3. Understand the difference between penmanship and writing. Penmanship is art. Pure and simple. I would almost say (but can’t bring myself to do so since I have a degree in elementary education and a two hour credit in penmanship!) that “you either have it or you don’t.” Writing is putting words together to form sentences then paragraphs, then stories/reports/essays/letters—anything! If your child has penmanship difficulties (as many young boys do), do not let this distract him from writing. Pen for him as he dictates to you. Teach him to type. Remember, penmanship is not writing. Writing is writing.
4. Show him that writing is just the spoken word written down. Have him talk slowly to you while you type. Read it back to him. Tell him that if he can speak, he can write (even if the penmanship and spelling are not there yet!).
5. When he is first learning to write sentences, do not make him sound out every word. Just tell him how to spell the tough ones and move on. There is even research out there now strongly suggesting that when it comes to spelling, “you either got it or you don’t.” Nowadays with computers and spell check, no person should be uneducated or feel stupid because of spelling problems.
6. Have him dictate sentences about anything (his day; his favorite show; his favorite game; etc.) and write them in large letters with a highlighter. Have him write over the highlighter with his pencil. Have him read the sentences back to you. Then make a big deal out of it—your child can write!
When starting to read and starting to write, a child needs a great measure of success to keep going and feel confident in what he is learning. Making the reading and writing connection in the elementary grades can help do that for your child.