Have you ever wondered how your kiddos can remember the lyrics to every song they ever heard but they have a difficult time remember sight words when reading? I have always been amazed when kids sing songs on the radio, word by word, and it truly made me wonder. Just how can I utilize this auditory skill and bring it into the visual world for my struggling readers? This was definitely a big "ah ha" moment for me about eighteen years ago.
So how did I act on this revelation? I began a new strategy and created an "I Can Read" Notebook for each of my students. At the beginning of the school year when supply lists were published, I asked all of my parents to supply a large binder/loose leaf notebook. I'm no longer in the classroom but think the request was for a two inch binder if memory serves me correctly. Of course, when teaching firsties, you have to instruct them on how to properly open and close the rings....because "OUCH". I know you know what I mean. This notebook became the source of my morning/wake up work, every single day.
Each morning when my students trickled into our classroom, they found their "morning work" on a stool, right near the door. After hanging up their things, wishing friends good morning, that stool was the first stop of their academic day. Students picked up their paper and headed to their seats to get started. This paper always consisted of poem, song we learned prior to front load the lyrics, a finger play, a nursery rhyme, some repeated lines from a book we read,or a jump rope chant typed up on it, using all different types and sizes of fonts so students would learn the fancy "a's and "g's". Often times, the poem/song also had to do with a skill or concept we were learning about at the time. (Below you can see two of our pages used during our map unit.) Each page always included the author's name and sometimes included a picture to color, or a blank space for students to illustrate what the poem was "mostly about". By the end of the school year, students had 180 pages that could be read. Besides just coloring the page, students were told to try to read it first, find sight words and circle them, look for word family words, rhyming words, blends/digraphs, or any other skill that was appropriate for my students at the time. Sometimes it was a directed request and sometimes student chose on their own based on what they wanted to work on that day. We always did a shared reading of that morning's selection, incorporating finger pointing to stress one to one correspondence and the left to right sweep. We often had a class word hunt to try to find certain word wall words, rhyming words, or whatever else we were working on before closing our notebooks for the day. Also, during silent reading time, our notebooks were always an option to read for my students. At the time, I too kept a notebook with my masters organized with monthly dividers, which I suppose now a days, would be electronic. So how well do I think this strategy worked? Well let me tell you! Years later after my students were long gone, when often coming back to visit, many students told me that they still had their "I Can Read Notebooks". So I really feel as if I got a lot of bang for my buck and students cherished this activity.
In addition, to support my newest revelation, I went on a mad hunt to collect books that were published versions of songs for children. Over the years, I have collected quite a stash and many more have become available for purchase. Each book could be "read" independently by emerging readers and did wonders to boost confidence in my students. And these are often the most beloved books by my students, which is obvious by the condition these books are in due to the hundreds of hands that have loved on the books.
My next blog entry will include my top ten FAVORITE sing a long books, so be sure to stop back to see if any of yours made the list! Ten is going to definitely be a challenge!
Until Next Time,