Parents as Teachers

Parents as Teachers

Parents are their child’s first teachers. Sure, it’s a big job, but you’re up for the challenge! Here, School Zone overviews subtopics describing your dual role as both parent and teacher. Preschool and kindergarten teachers can also pull ideas for parent newsletters or meetings.

Actually Teaching Reading

Pre-reading comes first.

He stumbles across the room on his 18-month-old legs and plops the truck book on your lap. For the fiftieth time this month it seems, you begin to read, emphasizing the rhyming words "The Big Rig". His eyes sparkle as he watches your lips and responds immediately to your request to point to the red truck. He can also point to the yellow earthmover and the big, green tractor.

He is listening to and learning books.

She sits prettily at her tiny desk, turning the pages of the A-B-C book, glancing up now and then as you do, the inflections on her nonsense words and sounds rising and falling from her now pursed lips, looking incredibly school-teacherish. "Point to the A," you request, and she smilingly touches an image on the page, not necessarily an A.

But she is pretend-reading, an essential first step. She is learning books.

You are teaching both of them reading. It is easy to learn if little ones can associate a word with a pleasant experience and a familiar object. By reading, reading, reading to the child, turning pages, and talking about what's on the page, you are teaching reading!

What is the work you've already done?

You have raised an intelligent child, nurtured him with a good diet and a good home environment. On an ongoing basis, you have named all the objects in that environment. You've built up a world of experience in your child's mind and been a good role model by reading in front of him or her. You have a positive attitude toward learning. You value it and the child picks that up and is eager to learn. Children like what their parents like.

Before you teach actual words and stories on paper, you can help children become perceptually ready to read by listening and practicing. Read stories to your kids. (Listening.) Label/name items or things: tree, glass, dog. Encourage plunking little things (like clothespins) into big things (like a milk carton). This develops eye-hand coordination, a prelude to writing something, such as A-B-Cs.

Reading doesn't start with words; it begins with seeing and labeling objects, hearing and using label-words, and performing hand-eye activities for small muscle development. School Zone then gives you pagework, the beginning steps or activities, such as pages on sound-alikes or rhyming words (hearing); same or different (visualizing); or mazes or pathfinding (eye-hand coordination and visualizing). The child does lots of pagework and enjoys it, and soon is ready to put those letters and rhyming families together and place them in a story, a tale with a beginning, middle, and end.

Now, you're on your own. You and your child have graduated from workbooks and pagework. School Zone has a beginning reading series called Start to Read, but you should also go to the library and find a book with 15 to 20 words, hopefully animal or object words, words that rhyme with picture clues. Read the book together. Have your child identify objects and animal words on the page, and soon he will read his first story by himself, then to grandpa, then to the dog, etc., etc.

Learning to read is the biggest and most important task in the first six years of life.

Animal and Object Words

Several key associations must occur before reading or writing words begins. Pictures of animals and objects, with the corresponding word nearby, is a frequent start. When we show a child a picture of a horse with the word "horse" under the picture, we are capturing the child with the picture. Gradually, the child also notices that line of "squiggles" forming the word under the picture. Children draw on both repetition and experience.

A child will know and be able to identify the object called bear long before recognizing the word bear. It's somewhat of a stimulus-response activity: Show a picture of a cat, name it, and the child instantly recognizes and relates it to the actual next-door cat. This word-picture naming is an important early reading step. You can do the same thing with words and pictures of Mom, Dad, Grandma, or bottle. Add puppy and kitten to cat and dog. Keep expanding vocabulary and concepts.

The child has watched television, played on the computer, leafed through picture books, and/or been to the zoo, so he or she can name many animals, such as cows or kangaroos. This experience then makes it easy to identify an animal illustrated in a workbook or on a flash card.

The same holds true for inanimate objects. A car is a familiar object, and so is a fire engine or train. The child knows many objects by name, such as ant, box, ball, jam, or queen. We are getting ready to move the child from the object word "box" to the rhyming/sound-alike animal word "fox." Once he knows the alphabet, he knows that words have different beginning letters. Soon the child can read "The fox on the box."

We are following a step-by-step procedure in which we can eventually begin a story with a combination of words. An example is Up Went the Goat; once the child learns the words "goat" and up, we add a picture clue of the goat going up the mountain.

Animal and object names are nouns. Other words are more challenging for children to learn because they represent a concept—words like "the" and "went." These words cannot be illustrated and must be learned through context, rhyme and memorization. Constant practice places in a child's mind, the association between those line squiggles (words) and the objects and concepts they represent. A simple story such as the following can increase the child's vocabulary with other rhyming or rhyming family words:

Up went the goat.
The goat saw a coat.
The coat was too big for the goat.
The goat saw a boat.
The goat was too big for the boat.
Down went the boat.
Down went the goat.

Note the use of rhyming words and short sentences. With repetition, the child will learn up, down, went, and the. Combined with object words, this begins to form a foundation for reading.

But What Comes First?

How does a child learn letters and words?
Do you work with the alphabet first?
On cards, in a book, or a workbook?
Do you do picture alphabet books first?
Do you mix block-stacking with finger plays or rhyming words?

The answer is yes to all the above! Some learning is sequential, just as you crawl before walking. However, learning words and letters is kind of chaotic, as words are spoken before the alphabet is learned.

Remember, you are a presenter, not the learner. Your child's mind will see and listen, and then that mind, during rest, orders the learning. The mind will mentally practice a skill, going over and over it, getting better and better, so it can guide the hand more accurately the next day. In other words, nighttime is as important as lesson time to order and reinforce yesterday's learning.

You can start with an alphabet picture book, reading to the child, familiarizing him or her with the sounds and objects represented by those funny little symbols. The child's mind will slowly begin to understand. After alphabet picture books, it is a good idea to take your child to a library, bookstore, or department store to look at other picture books. You will see your child make choices—the truck book vs. Snow White. Please realize how critical this phase is; your child is learning books. At home, if books are available and adults value them, many children will begin to carry books around about the time they learn to walk. Your child can learn reading, counting, and a variety of other skills at the same time.

Colors, Shapes, and More

Research indicates children learn sounds first, such as recognizing mother's voice. Forms are next, as in the unique appearance of mother or the forms called bed, tree, or table. Forms and shapes are easy for children to recognize and process. Soon, they will see and recognize similar patterns in words. For example, the letter A looks like a triangle and a circle forms the letter O.

The child is also seeing the colors of objects. The intensity, boldness, and variety of colors in the home, clothing and other surroundings place color words high in the hierarchy of words the child desires to learn. Children will name the color red about six months to a year before learning the actual word.

Play and practice help pull together essential concepts. For example, with Colors, Shapes & More flash cards, little learners "see it and say it." You experience their joy in learning the basic shapes, colors, and numbers as they identify, pair together, count, rhyme, match, and more. The cards offer a picture on one side with the associated word on the other.

Similarly, with our app of the same name, your preschooler will begin identifying and counting numbers 1-12 and recognizing colors, shapes, go-togethers, positional and rhyming words and much more.

Feeding The Learning Machine!

On a typical day, kids sleep on average, 10 to 12 hours and spend the remaining hours seeing, feeling, touching, discovering, banging, talking, running, dropping, poking, singing, rummaging, breaking, and interacting.

Think of a child as a learning machine. You, as a parent, can feed materials into this machine!

For example, read to your child daily. Many teachers read a chapter a day or every other day to their class. You can do the same with Swiss Family Robinson or Charlotte's Web, or read a smaller board book in its entirety.

You can also sit your child at the kitchen table for 15-20 minutes to do a School Zone workbook page or two. Kids enjoy these colorful activities. They love the ABCs and counting and are actually excited to be able to write their name, learn their telephone number, or read to Daddy. We use the word ready; the child is ready for readiness activities that will get him or her ready for school.

Make this time special. Have a treat ready for a reward, or simply say, "Good job."

You can do the same page later for reinforcement. You will find that your child looks forward to school, and gets used to the idea of it. When school begins, your child will be eager and ready.

Mix media as you teach. Do page work one day, then switch to or incorporate flash cards and games. Be creative. After a work page or flash card session, get out the paint and brush, or scissors and glue. A coloring session never hurts; besides being fun, it develops creativity and eye-hand coordination.

Allow for physical time. Use the school term "field trip," and go outside and collect seeds, acorns, leaves, etc. Or try and find as many of "this or that" as possible.

And last, don't forget nap time and snack time. Give yourself a rest or bite too!

First Grade Reading Strategies

Reading Strategies from Sue Leary's first grade classroom at Peach Plains Elementary School, Grand Haven, MI

  1. Get ready to read! Take a picture walk before you read the book. Look at the pictures carefully and predict what the book will be about. Make a list of words you think you might see in the story.
  2. Look at the pictures for clues about words you don’t know.
  3. Look at the beginning letter and the ending letter in the word you don’t know. Make the sounds of those letters…do you know the word?
  4. Is there a small word inside the big word that you know? Example: There’s an “at” in sat.
  5. A vowel letter can have a long sound. When a vowel is long it says its own name. A short vowel sounds different than a long vowel. Example: A short “i” makes the sound you make when you don’t like your mom’s cooking. A short “o” makes the sound your mom makes when she puts you to bed, as in, “AHHHHHHH!!!”
  6. If the word has one vowel in it, the vowel is USUALLY short!
  7. Does the word have a CVCV (consonant, vowel, consonant, vowel) pattern? If it does, the first vowel you come to talks and the second vowel walks. When a vowel talks it says its own name and when a vowel walks it says nothing at all!
  8. When a word ends with an “e” the “e” usually says nothing. The “e” is silent, but deadly.
  9. When a word has two vowels standing next to each other, USUALLY the first vowel talks and the second vowel walks.
    Example: rain
    The first vowel “a” talks (says its own name) and the second vowel “i” walks or says nothing at all.
  10. If you don’t know the word a good strategy is to skip it and read the rest of the sentence. Can you make sense of the sentence without knowing the word? Try to think of a word that would make sense in the sentence.
  11. Does the word you are stuck on look like another word you know? For example, if you know the word “car” could you figure out this word: “star”? Change the beginning sound and see if you know this word!
  12. Think about the word you are stuck on. If you come to a word you don’t know, read all the words you do know! What word would make sense?
  13. Pull the word you don’t know apart. Say the sounds in the word in S-L-O-W M-O-T-I-O-N. Speed it up…what is the word?
  14. Look for a chunk in the word. We call chunks consonant clusters. Some consonant clusters we know about are: th, sh, and ch. Teachers don’t like th because when a student makes the sound a th makes, the student can stick their tongue out at the teacher! Teachers love sh because when a student makes the sound a sh makes, the student says “Shhhhhh!”. And when a student makes the sound a ch makes, the student makes the sound a train makes!
  15. Can you retell the story? A good reader can tell what happened in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story.
  16. Is the book you are reading a “just right” book for you? If you are stuck on five words on a single page, this book is not a “just right” book for you…yet!
  17. Phone a friend. If all the strategies you try don’t help you, this it the last strategy you can try. Ask a friend for help!