Thursday, March 29, 2007

Move Over Dr. Seuss, My Kid Prefers Queen


Reading, for Griffin, has proved to be a much bigger challenge than it was for the girls.
In his defense, he's had a few strikes against him:
1. He is Apraxic (a speech and language disorder) and has been in therapy since he was 18 months old.
2. He's a boy.
3. He's third born, and the baby of the family.
Griffin's in 1st grade this year, and his teacher has requested that the kids read aloud at least 3 books a night to a parent, and then record the title of the book and one sentence about each book on a page that she has provided. Sounds easy, right?
We have a huge selection of kiddie lit that we have collected over the years. How many of those are easy readers (and I mean books that Griffin can read without becoming overly frustrated)?? Five...a total of five books at his level, or slightly above.
After hearing our five books over and over again, I finally got smart and started borrowing books at his level, from Reilly's former 1st grade teacher. Every week, I borrow 10 books that Griffin is able to read without frustration. The problem...these books have proved to be low vocabulary & low interest reading material (even though they claim the opposite). For a boy interested in Star Wars & video games, reading about a black cat that sat on a hat is just plain boring! And, you can imagine the sentences that he writes after each book...I likt the blck cat. I likt the hat. The cat sat.
Anyway, tonight Griffin asked me what the words were to that We Will Rock You song. I tried to sing some of it (badly of course), but realized that I didn't know many of the lyrics beyond the chorus and that line about "blood on your face". I told him that we would look up the words on the internet. We went to Lyrics Freak.com and pulled up the song.
He was hooked. He was pointing to each word on the screen as he read aloud, asking for help with difficult words that he could not sound out, or figure out using the context clues that have been drilled into him for the past couple of years. He read through the entire song. Then, he read through it again and again. Each time was a little better and a little faster. He then asked me if I would print it out so that he could read it to his dad. It was a very exciting moment at the Strong house!!
Forget those boring little easy-readers...we're breaking out song lyrics from now on!!!!!

Later:
Just recieved this email from my mom (a newly retired Kindergarten teacher)...thought I'd share!

That's a great story! It reminds me of an essay written by Bailey White, a former first grade teacher. I'm going to reprint it here; it's short.

Maritime Disasters

I've been teaching children to read for fifteen years now. I've seen the teaching methods come and go. When I first started teaching first grade, we used the word-list method. Children would memorize lists of words, and when they knew enough words, say ten or twelve, they could read little stories composed of those words. Believe me, those were some dreary stories. It was hard to keep the children's interest.

So we went on to the cute-idea teaching method. A teacher would make construction paper teddy bears whose arms and legs could be attached by matching a contraction to its long form, or dogs who could reach their food bowls by displaying the correct beginning consonant through holes in their heads. Other teachers would say, "What a cute idea!" Then they would make construction paper teddy bears and dogs, and dog bowls. Some children learned to read; some didn't. And at the end of the day, with my classroom strewn with dismembered teddy bears and starving construction paper dogs whose bowls were permanently lost, I would think, There must be a better way.

Then a few years ago I found it: maritime disasters. Give me a man overboard or a good sinking ship, and I can teach a half-witted gorilla to read. I start with old sea chanties. The children rub their fingers under the written words on their song sheets as the singers on the tape recorder yowl out the tale at a dirgelike pace - exactly the speed beginning first-graders read.

So his messmates pulled him up,
but on the deck he died.
And they stitched him in the hammock
which was so fair and wide.
And they lowered him overboard,
But he drifted with the tide,
and he sank into the Lowland, Lowland, low,
he sank into the Lowland Sea.

When children get the idea that written words can tell them something absolutely horrible, half the battle of teaching reading is won.

And that's when I turn to the Titanic. The children sit on the rug at my feet, and I tell them the story. It's almost scary to have the absolute, complete attention of that many young minds.

I bought a little cardboard model of the ship and spent a week and a half folding down flaps and inserting tabs to assemble it.

I used up three years' worth of bonus points from the Lucky Book Club to buy a classroom set of Robert Ballard's book Exploring the Titanic: How the Greatest Ship Ever Lost Was Found. It's written on a fourth-grade reading level- lots of hard words - so I tipped in pages with the story rewritten on an easier level. But by the end of the second week the children are clawing up my pages to get at the original text underneath.

Little boys who couldn't pass the Draw a Man test in September are now turning out recognizable portraits of Captain Smith and Robert Ballard in eight colors with their blunt-tipped first-grade crayons, and Styrofoam cups and paper clips are transformed into models of Ballard's underwater remote-controlled robot. The children learn to read, and I haven't had a cute idea in years...

(Taken from Mama Makes up Her Mind by Bailey White, 1993.)

10 comments:

CrazyDeb said...

So many speech and reading problems are helped with music! I think it's great that you all have found something he wants to read! I do hope his teacher will be flexible and allow him to use music lyrics to be at least some of his books. The key to keeping him reading is to keep it interesting. Of course, you know that - you're a teacher!! Go Griff!! You're a great guy!!!

DW

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm glad to hear you discovered one of those "teachable moments" and ran with it. Good job!

nutmeg said...

Brilliant! A perfect example of authentic learning. I've found writing little stories about our family is very motivating for my early reader too.

NanaD said...

That's a great story! It reminds me of an essay written by Bailey White, a former first grade teacher. I'm going to reprint it here; it's short.

Maritime Disasters

I've been teaching children to read for fifteen years now. I've seen the teaching methods come and go. When I first started teaching first grade, we used the word-list method. Children would memorize lists of words, and when they knew enough words, say ten or twelve, they could read little stories composed of those words. Believe me, those were some dreary stories. It was hard to keep the children's interest.

So we went on to the cute-idea teaching method. A teacher would make construction paper teddy bears whose arms and legs could be attached by matching a contraction to its long form, or dogs who could reach their food bowls by displaying the correct beginning consonant through holes in their heads. Other teachers would say, "What a cute idea!" Then they would make construction paper teddy bears and dogs, and dog bowls. Some children learned to read; some didn't. And at the end of the day, with my classroom strewn with dismembered teddy bears and starving construction paper dogs whose bowls were permanently lost, I would think, There must be a better way.

Then a few years ago I found it: maritime disasters. Give me a man overboard or a good sinking ship, and I can teach a half-witted gorilla to read. I start with old sea chanties. The children rub their fingers under the written words on their song sheets as the singers on the tape recorder yowl out the tale at a dirgelike pace - exactly the speed beginning first-graders read.

So his messmates pulled him up,
but on the deck he died.
And they stitched him in the
hammock
which was so fair and wide.

moodswingingmommy said...

This teacher loves your idea!!!

Gayle said...

Way to get creative! Don't you love it when something clicks for your kids? Plus you introduced him to some classic rock! His education should be just about complete now! Hand that kid a diploma!

Gayle

Household Executive said...

Great idea!

I don't like the way they are teaching kids to read these days. Addisyn is in Kindergarten and while she is learning just fine I don't agree with their teaching style. Love the teacher but not the reading curriculum!

Amy P said...

I agree, boys just like different things that the girls. A big problem is that girls write and teach most of the literature available to them. Johnny has just found a series that he likes (we've tried a few) Has Griff read Nate the Great? It's better than Horrible Harry anyway and easier than Captain Underpants.

theotherbear said...

I just loved this post - both the bit about the song lyrics of Queen, and the essay your mum sent you.

mike said...

Add a little romance by sending this personalized "I Love You" teddy bear greeting with his/her first name. You don't need an occasion . . . Just choose the teddy bears color and treat (lollipop or toy pinwheel).