Easy-To-Follow Steps to Teach Your Child Word Patterns
Feb 9, 2011 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 4943 Views
Playwright William Shakespeare conquered the English language in every way - except his own name. In fact, he spelled his name in nearly every conceivable way, using nearly many combinations of word patters. "Shaykespere," "Skspre," and Sheykspere are only a few examples.
Imagine the possibilities of all the word patterns we use every day, which vary so widely from the word to meaning: Bare, Bear; there, their; stair, stare, and so on. The patterns not only change the way we spell but change the very meaning of words themselves.
This can be such a huge stumbling block for young readers which they often carry deep into adulthood. Without addressing the issue of word pattern confusion, it impede their path to good comprehension, spelling, and grammar, as well as their ability to write effectively.
A good reading teacher will tell you that the best way to teach children concepts that may be confusing - or any concept for that matter - is through a hands-on, multi-sensory approach that includes touching, seeing, hearing, and manipulating objects like flashcards.
If you're like the rest of us, most likely, you were taught very differently from today's kids. In fact, most likely you were taught through "rote" drilling that pretty much gave you nil opportunities to be creative and exercise critical thinking skills. It's hard to blame the teachers as they too were instructed and drilled themselves to teach this way. Overtime, however, through research and studies, new thinking and practices slowly took hold.
When your child asks you why "meet" and "meat" both sound the same but are spelled different ways, you might be tempted to change the subject or give an explanation like, "that's just the way we spell it." From a very young age, we were not taught why things are, we were just drilled to accept them. The result: staggering problems with word patterns.
So, how do we teach our kids easy-to-follow ways to learn word patterns?
Over the last thirty years a lot of research has gone into that very question. In fact, word patterns and word meanings, are among the top three problem areas kids and adults both have with their literacy skills.
Let's take a brief look at a couple of examples: cape, bead, and light.
If we spelled out these words using single letters we would get the words: cap, bed, and lit, right? But we know that those letters already represent other words. Intuitively, we know that "patterned" letters, or a combination of letters, often overrides the alphabet single letters. Yes, even with words, there exists a hierarchy. But that hierarchy exists due to various influences from cultures and established word usages that have occurred over generations.
Yet, regardless of how they got here, and as interesting as the stories may be, they exist just the same and haunt the recesses of a young reader's mind. Therefore, teachers and parents both need to explicitly teach their children such patterns. This means the current rules and patterns of rules need to be taught directly to the child as such learning may not be intuitive.
One of the most effective and proven ways to do this is, would be through flashcards. With flash cards children are able to easily see the different patterns and remember them with games or other activities. When students use the printed form of the word they can sort the word by the visual patterns formed by groups of letters or letter sequences.
At the earliest state of literacy development, patterns should be taught right away. Using a variety of ways to sort patterns can and should be done using baby flashcards. For example sorting words through sounds and patterned sets is essential. For any number of word patterns, parents can work with their children in a number of different ways. Yet, there are a few basics you should do with whatever baby flashcard activity you do.
When presenting the baby flashcards for the first time, give the child the stack of word patterns and allow them to play and explore them. Have them look at them, reading or just sounding a few of them aloud if they are unable to read them yet. Next, tell them what you are planning to teach them or work with them on. "Today, we are going to look at some fun word patterns and learn how words and their meanings change - and we're going to use flashcards!" Make sure you use some enthusiasm in your voice. You're attitude with learning is extremely infectious!
Next, choose a classification to work with. For example, let's say that you are learning the ch sound (as in the words check or fetch). Review the words and place them in front of the child. Encourage the child to point to the ch (or whichever pattern you are working on). The whole process of going through the cards with your children provides them to see it, hear it, touch it, and say it aloud. The whole process allows this information to sink in with different sensory inlets, allowing your kids to get the most of your instruction.
Over time, you will begin to see a real difference with your child's reading abilities which will be welcomed when he or she starts reading Shakespeare!