Archive for October 16th, 2007

I was playing letter games with my Sunshine Boy (4yo ds) this afternoon. I noticed that he was struggling to write his letters today in a booklet we created. He has the general idea, but his motor skills just aren’t there yet and I observed that he hesitates to recall how the letter is properly made..ie where it starts and what direction to go in….

I invited him to work with the sandpaper letters, but as I did so, I thought that he was really looking for something more creative. As I guessed, he declined using them.

So I sent one of my dds in search of a big box. Taking a quick survey of what was around me so that I would not lose my audience, I then whipped out the rod track for the wooden Cuisenaire Rods(ruler no where to be found, of course ;o) and I drew large penmanship lines across the box so that they wrapped completely around it on the standing faces. I then took a colored pencil and wrote the whole alphabet in large letters on those lines being careful not to run out of box before I ran out of alphabet. I then took one of my favorite educational items which my ds calls a “spooker” (meaning anything that has the ability to poke) (of course you and I would call it a golf tee) and I “spooked” (poked) each letter making them bumpy. I made a bigger poke where the letter started and all he had to do from there was to follow the dotted line. Dot-to-dots being his favorite pastime as of late, this was definitely “him”.

I then pulled out some of the Moncurebooks (that he loves so much) from the shelf and read several of them with him. These books are special. There is a book for every letter of the alphabet (except the last 3 letters which are in the same volume). In each book, the main character is always “little (letter of the book)”. This character has a box and decides to fill it with items that start with that letter. Instead of saying, “little i has a box….”, I would say, “little iuh has a box…”, making the story more phonetic. I would even ask him what little iuh’s (speaking the short vowel sound of i) OTHER name was. Of course, he knew that! It was (the long vowel sound) I!

And so we played. We played a listening game where we listened to ourselves saying each word, carefully trying to determine where we could hear the letter we were seeking (such as the letter i) in the beginning, the middle and the end of words. If my son missed one, I would say that I tricked him and he would erupt in fits of giggles. We felt where the sound was made in our mouths so we could “feel” it better when it would show up in the words we spoke.

Later, I handed him this box that I made. I said to him “How old are you?” He giggled”Oh, you know! FOUR!” And I then instructed him to find four objects in the room and place them in the box for our game. Most of them were train related…LOL

He brought the box back to me and I told him to choose an object, hold it up and say its name. Next, I told him to listen to the first sound he heard and feel how that sound was made in his mouth. I then told him that listening and feeling would lead him to the two clues he needed to find the correct mystery letter of the sound at the beginning of each word. When he discovered the mystery letter he was to point to it on the box and trace it with his first two fingers saying the sound as he did so.

Worked like a charm. Even my 2.5yo dd played. Developmentally she was not ready to determine first sounds. She is in the stage where she is identifying objects. She thinks it is funny when I point to the first letter in her name and tell her it is the first letter of her name. She laughs and says, that not me! Smart kid.

There is much fruit to be had in desperation. Desperation, however fleeting, was the mother of invention of a mysterious box that held the keys to learning today. I made my own”manipulatives” that were custom made to suit my young audience. It fed my “inner mommy” with warm and fuzzy feelings, so to speak. (Translation = it was a fun creative outlet.)

If you will pardon the pun….Sometimes…you just HAVE to think Out of the Box!

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