…the teaching of reading doesn’t look the way we may be used to seeing it, with students sitting quietly as teachers deliver skills into awaiting brains……strong readers for life emerge from enriched and nurturing environments…
Once upon a time, a girl who had just turned five, walked up to me and said she wanted me to teach her how to read. Knowing she did not yet discern letters of the alphabet, I smiled and asked, “First thing we need to do is learn the letters right?”
“So, how do you want to learn those?” I asked.
She shrugged that she did not know. I told her I had noticed that during story time she liked to look at things on the floor, fiddle with fringes of the rug, touch her friend’s hair, so maybe we should just put some letters on the floor she could look at.
She thought this might work.
We wrote a reminder to me to go to the teacher store and get something for her. I went and got a classic alphabet line with photos of animals whose names began with each letter (I knew she loved animals). We duct taped the letter line to the floor the next day.
The girl spent much of story time tracing the letters with her fingers or crawling back and forth on the floor and talking softly to herself. Throughout the day, when it moved her, she would add to her personal journal. She initially was working on teaching herself letter recognition, formation, and then sounds. She began to understand how groups of letters could make words.
She started making books of her own; drawing pictures and adding words as she figured them out with support, and then eventually on her own. We read her books to the class, who applauded her efforts and gave her feedback about her story ideas.
She began to write short poems. We read those to the class. She created signs, letters and announcements that included the names of every kid in the class. She learned these by tirelessly copying them from our class name board. She began to get quite engaged and responsive during story time. Stories were coming alive for her.
She began to read practice primers voraciously.
She is a strong beginning reader now. She just turned 6 not long ago.
At the end of school she told me I was a good teacher ’cause I taught her how to read. We had a good laugh when I pointed out that some people think teachers do all the work but all I had done was provide her what she needed to teach herself! We hooted about that.