Teaching children to read, how it’s done
Learning to read and write is a process that begins from an early age. Children have already accomplished so much by the time they arrive at school and this is certain to continue as they grow. Learning a language begins at birth and all parents are convinced that their child will learn to speak. We have confidence and we do not expect all children to say their first word at the same time as their sibling or their friend may have. We understand that this is developmental and we should apply this same understanding to how they read and write.
There are many strategies children use to read and write texts. As teachers we explicitly teach these strategies and children learn to automatically choose the strategy that works best. Spelling is taught in the same way. It is one aspect that enables us to become effective writers. Good readers monitor what they are reading as they read eg. Did that sound right? Does that word look right? Does that make sense? Good spellers are also self monitoring. They take responsibility for their spelling, they check in a dictionary, they check if a word looks right, they ask a friend and they look for their own errors.
English is a complicated language but it is like a code. It has patterns and we hear sounds and know what could make that sound. Children begin by learning sound letter relationships. When children are writing I believe one of the most important strategies to solve an unknown word is ‘to say it slowly and write what you hear’. Of course there are other important strategies including, visual patterns, syllabification (clap the word), word meaning, base words etc.
We should remember that spelling is not simply about learning a meaningless list of words by rote, but it is a thinking process that involves being strategic and choosing the best way to help us break the code.
It is important for children to build a bank of words that they can spell automatically and quickly. Teachers often focus on common sight words. These are words that appear most regularly in English and are used most often in the texts the children need to read and write. A common strategy which has been used for many years in classrooms is the LSCWC strategy used in Spelling Heroes app.
How the app enhances this process
Spelling Heroes app is the best app for preschoolers to use to begin learning the words most used in English. It gives them the opportunity to read AND write words they will come across in every text they will read or write about. It is repetitive and involves all three learning styles -VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic)
It is also a great way for parents to personalise lists for their children. They can add words their child may enjoy learning eg. names, animals, foods, etc.
In the classroom, Spelling Heroes is a great tool for teachers to use to individualise the learning for each student. In my Year 3 class, my students have a personal list of words they decide they need to learn each week. During my Literacy sessions small groups of children work in Reading and Writing workshops with me, and the children not involved in these focus groups work on independent tasks. One of these tasks is to practise their spelling words. They have a set of spelling task cards they can work through but they must also add their words to the Spelling Heroes app and practise them using the LSCWC strategy. They enjoy adding their own words and recording them into their personal level. As well as learning their own words the students also work through the common word levels at their own pace. At the end of the week the students conduct partner tests and any words they have learned can be added to their “Words I Know” lists. If they were not successful they keep them on their list for next week. It is a great way for students to monitor their own learning and set themselves goals.