Teaching My Baby To Read

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A New Take on the Morning Message

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Reading and Writing a daily Morning Message is a great way to teach young children to read. But when kids get bored, effectiveness goes out the window.

So here’s an alternative–personalized letters. It takes more effort but is very impactful.

What you do is write two or three letters to your child to read each day. Make sure to use similar sentence patterns in each set of letters.

Example:

  • Letter #1: We are going to eat breakfast. We are going to make beds. We are going to get dressed.
  • Letter #2: We are going to the park. We are going to put on sunscreen. We are going to play on the swings.
  • Letter #3: We are going to eat dinner. We are going to read books. We are going to snuggle at bedtime.

The first time your child encounters the sentence pattern it will be difficult and he’ll need more help. By the third letter, he will hopefully be able to read everything independently.

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The picture I took isn’t the best example because it shows letter for two days. The letters on the right follow one sentence pattern, and the letter on the left went with a different set.

More Tips and Tricks:

  • Write up three days worth of letters at a time. That makes it easier.
  • Use clip art to provide picture clues. A grocery cart for going to the grocery store, etc.
  • Comic Sans is my favorite font for preschool and Kindergarten because the a looks like a printed a.
  • If you have a child who struggles with transitioning from one activity to the next, these letters can work to your advantage.

Oh! One more thing… Kids love to get mail, right? If you really want to make a splash you could send a couple of letters via post.

A Sentence a Day

Have you ever seen my Where to Start page?  If so, you know that reading and writing a daily Morning Message is something I really encourage.

But sometimes what works for kid #1 does not work for kid #2.

Jenna keeps wrestling the pen from me every time I bring out the whiteboard.  It’s been like this for a while, so I’ve finally gave up on doing a Morning Message with her.  That meant I had to thinking of something else.

Daily Sentences to the rescue!!!!

I write a new sentence each day, and then we tape it to the wall.  When Jenna reads the sentence with me, she gets a gummy bear.  We also read the sentences from the previous day, and read them again to Daddy when my husband gets home from work.

Daily sentences strips aren’t nearly as good as a Morning Message, but they’re better than nothing.  The reason a Morning Message would still be better, is because kids see the thought process going into the formation of each word.  There’s also more content, and you can do some fancy underlining.

But maybe I’ll think of ideas to make Daily Sentences a bit better, as we go along.

The Morning Message Goes High Tech

I’m a big believer in writing a Morning Message each day with young children as a primary way of teaching them how to read. (For more on this, click here.)

Normally I write out the Morning Message by hand because this teaches letter formation at the same time.  It also allows you as the teacher to be really slow and methodical.  “Mmmmmmmoooooorrr- nnnnn– ing”  The funnier you sound the better!

This week things have been different.  Jenna (3y) has croup.  I’m trying to keep her resting and upright at the same time.  That’s not as easy as it sounds!

One of the things Jenna enjoys doing is typing.  So since we are at the computer together anyway, we are experimenting with doing the Morning Message on the computer.  Then we print out our paper when we are done, so Jenna can “read” it to Daddy when he gets home.

Needless to say, this will probably be my only blog post this week until Thursday when the Carnival of Afterschooling is scheduled.

My Thoughts on Play-Based Preschools

Between my two kids I am entering my fourth year of parent participation in a play-based preschool. I am familiar with the research that supports play-based learning, and think it is fine—for children coming from middle class and beyond homes.

But if you have ever faced down a classroom of third graders living in poverty, where some of them didn’t even know their ABCs, you might reconsider the research saying play-based preschools are best, just like I did.

Looking back at my experience as a Psychology student at Stanford’s Bing Nursery school, a play-based preschool where a lot of early childhood research is conducted, I can remember that even though the professors strongly encouraged the parents not to “teach” their children at home, many of the families were doing this anyway. One three year old girl in my class even had a reading tutor.

The English Language Learner kids from East Palo Alto who were at Bing to help “normalize” the data pool? Well, their parents were savvy enough to get them into Bing, right? How typical is that? Most of the parents I knew in the Ravenswood School District loved their children deeply, but none of them knew how to “work the system”.

The East Palo Alto students I taught spent their preschool years playing in the front yard with their cousins, pit bulls, a garden hose and their pet squirrel. They had play-based formative years, but that didn’t mean they entered Kindergarten ready to learn. Some of them didn’t even go to Kindergarten at all, because Kindergarten wasn’t mandatory in the state of California at that time.

So fine academia… Keep telling me how wonderful play-based education is for all learners. I’ll view all of your research with the wisdom of my own personal experience.

For the record, I think Montessori preschools would be a much better choice. They are a hybrid of choice, exploration, reading, counting, painting, real-life skills, and cultural compassion and understanding. Maria Montessori’s very first classroom in the slums of Italy proved that her methods could help all children learn, regardless of socio-economic level. I’d be happy to pay more taxes to fund that.

Using a Morning Message at Home to Teach your Young Children How To Read

It’s fast.  It’s easy.  It’s free.

When I was teaching Kindergarten and first grade, every morning during circle time the children would help me write a giant Morning Message on the white board.  I would be the secretary, and the children would supply the ideas.  Usually I would pick a “star of the day” to be the lead voice in this endeavor, but everyone participated.

Since our Morning Message each day followed a clear, predictable pattern, the children knew what to expect. 

Helping children recognize words on sight, and anticipate what a sentence will say, draws from the Whole Language philosophy of teaching reading.

But I made sure that our daily Morning Message was also teaching phonics too.  I frequently chose simple, consonant-vowel-consonant words that I knew the kids were already learning to sound out.  While I wrote down each letter, I sounded it out, often exaggerating my speech.  The ‘T-H” in Thursday, became “Thhhhhhhhhhhh-urs-day.”  The “A-R” in party, became “Ar!  Ar! Ar!  The pirate sound Ar goes in party!”  The combination of Whole Language and Phonics methodologies is what makes the Morning Message an example of Balanced Literacy Instruction.

In my classroom, some of the first words my students learned to read were from the Morning Message.  

In my home, I used the Morning Message to teach my son Bruce(6.5) to read at a young age, and now I am using it to teach my daughter Jenna(2.5) too.

I have been writing a Morning Message with Jenna each day starting when she was 22 months old. I use to write our Morning Message on a mini white board that I kept on the refrigerator, but it has since fallen off and smashed.  So until I can buy a new one, we are just using white paper and I am taping it up to the kitchen cabinet instead.

Since this is such a malleable activity, the complexity of our writing has changed a lot over the past year.  Right now we are concentrating on patterned sentences, simple words she already knows phonetically or by sight, and new words that I want her to learn.

In today’s example, I put a box around Jenna and Mom because these are words that I know, that Jenna knows. I circled the word is, because this is the new sight word I am teaching.  Today’s message did not include any new c-v-c words to learn, but that was just an accident.  Jenna helps me think of what to write.  Since we wrote our message over our bowls of cereal today while we watched a bird eat from our feeder outside, Jenna wanted to write about eating breakfast.

After the message is written, I read it to Jenna several times and encourage her to read it with me.  I use my pen to point to each word as I read it, to model sound-to-word-correspondence.  Eventually, Jenna will be able to read the Morning Message all by herself.  My son Bruce could do this by age three.

Full disclaimer!  Sometimes I give Jenna a few chocolate chips after we have read the Morning Message together.  This really helps her “feel the love” for this activity.  🙂

Morning Message Update

I  am still plugging away at writing and reading a Morning Message each day with Jenna(2.5).  You can see from today’s example that I highlighted the words “We are going”.  This is an example of a Whole Language type of activity.  While normally I lean towards the phonics end of the Balanced Literacy spectrum, Morning Message is a good example of how you can do something really simple, every days to help build up reading skills such as word to print correspondence, name recognition, and sentence structure.

For a child like Jenna who knows all of her letters and sounds but is not yet ready to blend vowel consonant vowel word yet, Morning Message is a great way to keep working on her reading skills in a way that is developmentally appropriate for Jenna.  I could keep sounding out C-A-T with her until I was blue in the face, but she’s just not going to read it yet.  Bruce however, could sound out words at this age.  Every child is different, and that’s okay.

Sometimes you will hear educators say that children are not developmentally ready to read until four or five.  I disagree, because I agree with Maria Montessori’s philosophy that there are early windows of readiness where it is actually easier to teach reading skills than it would be later on.  I’ve also heard this same idea applied to potty-training.  “You’ve got to catch them when they’re interested; otherwise you’re going to have to wait until they are much older.”

So long as you are not putting any pressure on your child to learn, and so long as you keep things really up-beat and positive, then teaching early literacy skills to young children is a great way to spend quality one-on-one time with them.  What child does not love 100% of their mom’s attention?

Morning Message

 

I don’t post about this every day, but keep in mind that writing and reading a daily Morning Message with Jenna is a key part of my methods in teaching young children to read.  I have been doing this with Jenna (23m) for almost half a year.  She can now hold the pen and point to each word as she “reads” along.  This means that she has preliminary understanding that each word on the page corresponds to a spoken word aloud.

Notice too that I am putting her name in a box.  This helps it really pop out on the page to Jenna.  Often times the first word a child is able to recognize is his or her name.

Breakfast in the Bardsley household today: eggs, and a smoothie made out of watermelon, peaches, carrots, flax-seed, and ice.  I’m very proud that I can get my kids to eat vegetables for breakfast, even if it’s just carrots!

“Me Me do it” Morning Message

Jenna decided she wanted to help out with the Morning Message today.  She also decided she was going to wear Bruce’s hat.  Luckily the marker washed off her face pretty easily.

Morning Message Tips and Tricks Part 1

Jenna is 20.5 months now, and we have been doing the Morning Message for two months.  In addition to overly exaggerating sounds as I write each word, I’m also doing some other tricks with this activity.  One is that I let Jenna hold the pen (with the cap on), and help her point to each word as we read the message.  This helps teach sound to word correspondence.  Another tip is that I go back and underline her name, because a child’s name is usually the first word they can identify.

Morning Message Day #11

For the past few days Jenna has been insistent on “writing” the Morning Message herself, at least before I have my turn at it.  The jury is still out on whether or not she is left handed like Bruce.  In most fine motor situations, she prefers her left hand, but sometimes she uses her right.  Both my husband and I are right handed, so it seems a bit odd to be producing lefties.

Evening Message

 

We got through the whole day today without doing the Morning Message, so I tacked it on at the end of dinner as an Evening Message.  Luckily, my husband came home in time to be in charge of baths. 

Morning Message Day Two

So far I’m keeping the Morning Message short and sweet. Two minutes is plenty when you are dealing with a 19 month old. Afterwards, I hang up the whiteboard on our fridge so Jenna can see it all day.

Morning Message Day 1

Today was day one of doing the Morning Message with Jenna.  This is a classic, Whole Language, way teachers deliver early reading instuction, and set the tone for the day.  This idea works well for children just learning to read, but it can also work for kids who are 2nd graders who might still be struggling.  You just vary the content a bit.  It doesn’t have to be a Morning Message.  An Evening Message would work just as well, and could be a fun thing to do as a family at the dinner table.

There are several tricks that make Morning Messages work.  The first is to be patterned and predictable.  Every day is almost the same.  “Morning Message.  Today is ______.  Jenna is going to_____”  This gives children the chance to anticipate what is coming.

Another trick is to over exaggerate while you sound out words aloud while you write the Morning Message.  When you get to words that don’t make sense phonetically, like Wednesday, you make a big deal about that too.  “Wed-nes-day” That doesn’t make any sense!”

You can also do fun things like circle the child’s name, or use special  colors.  Getting the whole family involved in supporting the child, is also a good idea.

 I started doing Morning Message with Bruce when he was about 19 or 20 months.  By two, he was able to read it himself.  We’ll see how things go with his sister!