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Teaching Little Learners

I am having a golden opportunity: I have begun working with a young, beginning kindergartener and her mother and father. This child needs to learn to read and spell. She is a “tabula rasa” and I am learning so many things by working with her.


One factor that stands out boldly is that I have to work at her pace and be aware of her span of attention. I create many activities to fill the half hour that I work with her which will engage her mind, her mouth (because she is learning the articulatory features of the consonants and vowels), her hands and her body.


I need to plan many activities, dividing up tasks into small increments, parsing out each task into the component parts and teaching her each part separately and carefully .


Activities for her mother and father to do on the intermediary days when I do not work with her are included in each lesson. Her mother or father observe when we are working together so they can see how to do the tasks assigned as home practice.


Each lesson focuses on practice activities based upon the consonant or vowel that I am teaching.


Here are some of those activities:

Handwriting: My student is learning first how to draw vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines as well as circles with a steady, tripod grip on her pencil in preparation for understanding the component strokes that form letters. We began with the letters in her name because she is familiar with those letters and we could speak about upper and lower case letters. The Montessori letter form blocks are flat wooden blocks that have the letters written/indented on in wooden blocks so she can feel the strokes in the letter A or a, B or b and the motor sequence to form each letter.

This week my student will be introduced to the idea that the letter A can be written in different fonts and we will explore that with a fluency worksheet in which she will circle all of the upper or lower case letters A, a among an array of many letters on several lines of letters.

Phonemic Awareness: The length of words that are appropriate for my student is two letter sequences, either VC or CV. We have begun with only one skill, segmenting the sounds in this length word. Pictures of the mouth, the lips, the tongue in the front of the mouth and the tongue in the back of the mouth are being used to identify the articulatory features of sounds using in the phonemic awareness activities. Any consonant or vowel can be used for these exercises because we are focusing on the articulatory features and the sounds she hears, instead of the letters associated with the sounds at this time.


Below is a photo of the pictures she can pick up the to show me which part of her mouth she is using when she pronounces a two-sound word. We also have a small mirror close at hand so she can see her mouth as well as mine to make these judgements. We can use these pictures to represent the sounds and show how when you segment a word, you are putting a space between each sound.

Helpful questions to use with this activities might be:

“What part of your mouth are you using at the beginning of this word,

/ka/, your lips or your tongue?”

“Is the first sound in the word /ka/ using a stream of air like /s/ or a puff of air like /p/?

Is the first sound in the word /ka/ voiced like /z/ or unvoiced like /s/?


These tongue depressor pictures can also be used when teaching each consonant and vowel’s articulatory features.

With the letters that have taught, a short list of CV and VC words can be used for her to read.


Finally, we are reading one of her favorite books, talking about the meaning of the words, but also noting when we see a letter that she has been taught.

Once I have taught her a couple more consonants and vowels, we will begin to play games like Concentration, matching the letter with the part of the mouth used to form that letter, or the voiced, unvoiced cards or the air cards. She can also sort the letters based upon what part of her mouth she is using or whether the letter is voiced or unvoiced.


It is so much fun to work with little learners!

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