Saturday, 15 August 2009

The First week

The first week must introduce the children to letter names. The children, all of them, learn the alphabet song quite easily. A good place to start is the ABC song done to the Twinkle... twinkle little star tune. See

Once the alphabet is clear and easily recalled, it is time to move on to the next step- letter names. Now the child needs to identify the letters by the sounds. It is preferable to do three to five letters in one session and build in small increments. Thus, the child would now say the letter sounds

  • A as in cAt
  • B as in Bat
  • C as in Cat etc
It does help to have picture cues for the child to start with. Gradually the picture cues will not be needed and can be done away with.

When the letter sounds are clear and the letters can be read as letter names ( sounds), the next step can be introduced.

This will need to be repeated and revised everyday for at least a month for difficult children and as little as a week for children with a strong sense of language.

Early clues to dyslexia may include a delay in speech. Later, baby talk that persists beyond a reasonable age may indicate some problem in language processing, too. These children also have a difficulty in sound letter association so that recognition and understanding of rhyming words may not be easy. The sensitivity to and recognition of rhyme indicates that the child is developing an awareness that words have component sounds and these sounds can be broken down.

Thus, present words like cat and bat, and ask your child whether they sound similar. Explain that a similar ending sound means rhyming. When the child seems to understand this move on to more familiar words- walk and talk. Also present some words with common beginner phonemes rather than endings and ask whether these rhyme. So you could present bit and boon with the bit and pit and ask the child which is the matching pair.

You could start working on building your own lists. Roughly these lists should fall into three categories:
  • Rhyming words
  • Alliterative words
  • Phonetically Unrelated words
Thus a rhyming word pair list would have examples like
  • Car, Bar
  • Mat, Hat
  • Bet Let
  • Get Pet
  • Let Met
  • Hit Pit
  • Kit Lit
  • Pot Lot
  • Cot Not
  • Hut But
  • Cut Gut
Once the rhyme is clear as a word ending sound, move on to introduce letter combinations:
TH- the, this, that, them, these, those, with, Beth, Math, path
take care that you focus on word beginnings and endings specifically. Help the child identify patterns and sequencing. Take him through baby steps. Help her identify the phoneme being introduced. It is now time to introduce words with these phonemes in the middle... Bethlehem, Wither, weather, bother, brother, mother, father. spend a week on one phoneme. Go slow. Allow the child time to understand the sequence of sounds. Do not insist on correct written spelling for the time being. There will be the time for that, too. Let reading become more natural and effortless before insisting on correct written form from children.

SH- Shop, Shoe, Shampoo, wash, wish, bash, washer, bashful
Try to introduce these concepts with familiar words. This makes it easy for the kids to follow the words and the phonemes. Always introduce the sequence in this order- beginning, end and the middle. Repeat. reinforce.

CH- chop, Chicken, which, watch, CHurCH, watchful

Finally, we must understand that a dyslexic KNOWS what he or she wants to say, it is pulling out of the correct word from the memory bank that is defective. So constant MULTI SENSORY INPUT is the only way around the difficulty. Repetition is never too much for these children. They can often IDENTIFY the correct word from a set of words. So show a child a written word, write it in front of him, use magnetic letters that the child can feel, encourage the child to write his own letters and say the sounds.

For the first month of a reading programme with an early reader, this is as much as a child may be able to digest. All this will need to be repeated in varying degrees throughout the programme to keep the circuits fresh and open.

How to measure the reading/ language ability?

By the time a child can sit or, in some cases, even earlier, children will begin to enjoy picture books. Even before they can begin to articulate words, the children hear and form memories of words. These words then form the data bank from which retrieval helps children to develop language. Colourful pictures and associated words help them to tackle more complicated tasks later.

Though, controversial, the writing ability tends to lag a little behind the reading skill. Controversial, because most reading writing experts and programmes treat the two skills in a parallel manner.

Motor skills develop later than cognitive and sensory skills. thus, it is easier for a child to 'read' a picture book than write a word in the early stages. Writing, when it does develop, aids and speeds up reading proficiency. Language is a learned art.

When a child is exposed to literature early in life, he has a bigger memory bank. This has been shown to give a child a distinct advantage in later learning years.

The child in preschool to kindergarten years should be able to:

  • Understand that things have names.
  • Name and label objects
  • Maintain focus for short durations- say follow a short book of 15 to 16 pages with one to two lines per page and not more than one to two word changes a page.
  • Start to make the association of written letter to letter sounds.
  • Begin to understand that words are formed of letters.
  • Begin to understand the concept of chronology.
  • Develop enough skill to start using 'bookish' language- Once upon a time. Long, long ago. etc
  • Form letters.
  • Decipher small words and form early word memories. A, An, The, their own name.
These form a reasonable benchmark for a kindergarten child's caretakers to lead the children on into the magical world of words and fairies or even monsters.

The early scribbling and squiggles begin to appear on paper and newspaper and even walls. At this stage provide the young ones with several media to experience the words. Paper, play dough, card board, crayons, pencils and even paints. You will be surprised at what a child can accomplish given the opportunity. I still have both my children's 'art' work!

When allowed to DO something with their hands, the motor skills become proficient enough to handle usual writing instruments on usual writing surfaces.

Activities like play dough and cutting- pasting and tearing-pasting tend to promote the development of these motor skills. At the same time, it is important to promote small tasks like zipping up and down, buttoning and unbuttoning, tying laces and untying laces, putting and taking out things from pockets to the same end. It also has a spin-off in making the kids more independent in their daily lives.

Next we will explore the first few lesson plans to have ANY CHILD, yes ANY child reading in the short span of a few weeks. It takes a lot of repetition and reinforcement... and a lot of dedication but it works.

The children's early reading programme Hooked on Phonics or HOP works on the same general principles and gives a ready made easy to follow plan. You can preview the programme at

The programme emphasises on early start. There is a programme for babies- upto 18 months, toddlers, preK, Kindergarten, and upwards.

The programme is fun- very important, and effective- equally vital.

So.... on to the lesson plans.