One of my students in Stage 3 did me proud last week. It was a first for him and for the whole class! OK, a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s have the pictures first!
Up to this time, he hasn’t written more than two-word phrases. It was a surreal moment for the both of us and a huge motivator to his classmate: if he can do it, I can too!
Q: Teacher, did you ask him to do it?
A: Nope! It was totally on his own initiative. We were making a booklet of some of the special sounds they have been learning, when he said, “Teacher Sue, can I write words, you know, like a real book?” I said, “Sure, go ahead!” I was expecting him to write his favourite spelling words. So I was simply blown away when he started sounding out the words to make intelligible sentences.
Q: Did you tell him what to write?
A: Mostly, he did it by himself. After awhile though, he ran out of ideas, so I gave him some suggestions and let him form his own sentences with them.
Q: Did you tell him how to spell the words?
A: Nope, I helped him sound out words that are not familiar to him, but he spelled them on his own. I only spelled to him when it came to irregular words that could not be sounded out (sight words etc). I did help him correct the words he spelled wrongly, by sounding out the word with him and asking him to examine his own spelling of it.
Q: Why didn’t you correct the sentences that were not grammatical? (See the picture about the drum).
A: I did, verbally, after he was done. But at the point when he was writing, I knew that it would have de-motivated him terribly for me to correct something that was (to him, at least) such a small thing. The focus at that point was on writing the sentences, and I wanted him to be able to do it without having to think of too many things at one time. We early childhood educators learn very early that when we work with children, we cannot expect perfection! And we come to realise more and more that while we always strive for excellence, we will never get 100% perfection… even with adults!
Q: How did he reach that stage? What did you do to bring him there?
A: I almost hesitate to tell you, because I know how we Singaporeans tend to apply everything in excess when it comes to education.
Tuition works? OK, let’s have it three times a week. Doing assessment papers got you that A? All right, no less than 2 hours of doing assessment papers every day.
And we forget that every child is DIFFERENT. So I’m not going to outline this boy’s reading development to you. Instead, let me tell you the principles I have consistently applied while teaching this class (and every other class, for that matter!)
- Don’t hurry the child. Instead, build on his foundation while he takes all the time he needs to get ready.
- Be ready for it when he makes the jump. Be there to get excited, cheer, praise and encourage!
- Know the child VERY, VERY well. If you, like me, believe firmly that it all lies in knowing the child inside out, you’ll understand why I do not subscribe to subjecting your child every single thing that works with every other child. You need to know HOW your child learns best, WHAT makes him tick and WHERE he is weak. Then you can plan your teaching strategy to make it really work!
Well, we all need this sort of lift every once in awhile. It doesn’t come very often, and there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes… but when it comes, we realise that it was worth it all!
Thank you for reading!