Monday, June 29, 2015

Beginning Reading Right

Beginning Reading Right

Swen Nater (summarized from Why Our Children Can’t Read, McGuinness)


For most children, reading kicks into gear at age 6. At that time, or whenever it happens, a child needs to be equipped to unlock the English written code (the letters).  


3 Skills Needed to Unlock the English Written Code

Letters are symbols for sounds. In spoken words (e.g., cat), there is a sequence of sounds (first /c/ then /a/ last /t/). The Code for that word (the letters) is arranged from left to right (first “c” then “a” last “t”). Children who know how to unlock “cat,” match the letters to their sounds, in order. Children who can’t do this usually guess at words they don’t know.


There are three tools a child needs to unlock the code. (Remember, this does not need to be done overnight. Take it one skill at a time.)

  1. Segmentation (separating the sounds with the ears, in order)

Letters c, a, t are on the table in random order, not “cat.”


Teacher: What is the first sound you hear in cat?

Child:  /k/.

Child takes cut out “c” and puts in front of him.


Teacher: What is the next sound you hear in cat?

Child: /a/

Child places “a” to right of “c.”


Teacher: What is the next sound you hear in cat?

Child: /t/  

Child places “t” to right of “a.”


  1. Blending (making a word out of individual sounds)

Cut out letters are placed on table in the form of a word (e.g., cat). Teacher (pointing to first letter): What sound is this?

Child: /k/


Teacher (pointing to second letter): What sound is this?

Child: /a/


Teacher (pointing at third letter): What sound is this?

Child: /t/


Once all the sounds are identified, teacher points to, and asks for sounds, faster this time.


Teacher: What is the word? (If he can’t read it, have him say the sounds faster, or help him say them.)

Teacher: Write each letter and say the sound as you write that letter.

Child does that.

Teacher (pointing at the word): What word is this?

Child reads the word.


  1. Moving Sounds Around (hearing the same sound in different parts of the word)

Cut out letters (2 vowels and 4 consonants he knows) are placed on table.


Teacher: Spell cat.

Child arranges cut-out letters to form the word.


Now change cat to bat.

Child removes “c” and replaces with “b.”

Example of a sequence: cat, bat, mat, mot, pot, pom, pam, tam, bam, bom.


A child who is taught in this way, will understand how the code works and will have the skills to unlock new words. No guessing necessary.  


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Basketball Game



Two teams prepared with all their might,

To see which is the best this night,

Two sets of parents sit and wait to fuel the fight. 


The game begins and a foul is called.

The offender lifts the one he sprawled.

Contaminating parents stand—viciously appalled.


As players play, they gain esteem,

For talents on the other team,

While hatred for their foe infects the parents’ vile scream.


Ten players, equal on a floor,

Comparing only by the score,

While parents judge parents on where they live and what they wore.


The game is over. Both teams converge.

“Good game.” The hands and eyes, they merge.

The self-segregated parents refrain and resist the urge.


Two teams displayed how life should be,

While tainted parents did not see.

They leave the gym, and take along their bigotry.

                                                Swen Nater


Thursday, June 18, 2015

I Must Be All of That Today


I Must Be All of That Today

Swen Nater


See them play? I’m their football coach.

See that tackle? I taught him that approach.  

See, that throw? I taught that shoulder turn.

See that catch? It’s all because of my concern.  

See that block? It took a month for him to learn.

With this ball and whistle, I can teach them how to win.

And how to take the game on the uphill spin.

But to teach them how to be real men who care,

Who love and work and build and share,

And vote and help and give and pray,

And walk far from the wicked way,

I must be all of that today and every day. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Greatest Reading Drill Ever

Letter-Sound Maneuvering (LSM)

For many years, I was a reading therapist. I have helped hundreds of struggling elementary school children improve their decoding skills several grade levels in just weeks. I used exercises that made children hear the different sounds of a word, in the order they occur, sometimes called, "Phonemic Awareness." That term just means, being aware of each sound of a word and where that sound happens.

If I were asked to help a struggling child, but I could choose only one of the many drills I used before, without question that would be a drill I call, "Letter-Sound Maneuvering" or (LSM). This drill, by itself, teaches phonemic awareness and the best thing is, it does it implicitly.

Cut out letter: a  c  t  b  e  f 

have all letter available at top and ask child, "spell cat." Child should bring c  a  t down to make the word. If not, you do it.

Ask child to say each sound  /k/  /a/  /t/  and then ask her to blend them into the word.

Ask child, "If this is cat, change it to bat. When you say the word, run your finger under the letters at the same time.

Child makes the change. Help if you need to.

Ask child to say sounds and blend again.

Ask child, "If this is bat, change it to bet."
and so on an so forth.

You can create nonsense words also, like feb or fab. In fact, when there is no meaning, the child can concentrate on the sounds completely.

Create your own letter groups like u  i  t  p  s  m  Advice: group should contain only two vowels. Make sure the vowels are short.

Enjoy and watch the miracles. Children will be on their way to being master word attackers.

The Takeaway:
This drill teaches the direct relation between a sound and the letter that represents it. There is not need for letter names. Don't use them. You don't need them.
This drill, because children are moving sounds in and out of words, trains the child's eyes to see the details of the word, enabling them to then, later, see the difference between more complex words.