Ask a Teacher: Confusing Letters

Question:

What is the best way to help a good reader master the confusion they have with b’s and d’s?

Answer:

Here are some suggestions that approach the challenge of differentiating b from d in different ways:

  • Practice the difference between the letters in a physical game. Let your child practice these letters by writing with their finger tips on different surfaces. Cover a counter top with whipped cream or chocolate pudding. Demonstrate the letters and let the child practice to their hearts content.
  • Give your child a visual cue for each letter. The b can be drawn as a bat with a ball next to it. The d can be drawn as a dog with a tail. This visual will help your child to remember the shape of each letter and be connected to a picture that uses it’s sound.
  • Play with sounds and hear the differences between the two letters. We recommend using the Letter Book inside My Cabin in JumpStart World. Your child can turn to any letter page and experience the letters by listening to the letter sounds, hear the sounds in alliterative songs, recording the sounds and songs with their own voices and finally decorating a letter page with stickers of words that all start with that beginning sound.
  • Make a letter collage by finding pictures of words that start with the sound b or d. Draw the shape of the letter on a large sheet of paper. Then help your child find as many examples of words beginning with the sound as possible and paste them onto the letter collage. Hang the picture on the wall as a reward and a reminder.

These ideas work for learning all letters and sounds and especially the letters that look alike!

Tips for Practicing Beginning Consonant Blends

The following information is from a series of parent tips by Knowledge Adventure. The tips are meant to be used as fun ways of bringing learning into the home and everyday life. We hope you enjoy them!

Your child can learn how to identify beginning consonant blends in pictures and words. Below are some words you can use to help your child practice the beginning blends. Have fun practicing with the helpful tips below.

  • Paper Plate Blends: Take six paper plates and have your child write one of the above blends on each plate. Look through magazines and have your child find pictures of words that start with the blends. Sort the pictures and place them on the appropriate plate. Then glue the pictures on the plate to make a paper plate collage.
  • Making Words: Choose words that start with the blends above and have your child write them on index cards. Then, with scissors, cut the words, separating the blends from the remaining letters. Place the cards with the blends face up on the floor, and the rest of the cards in a hat. Have your child choose a card from the hat and match the card with the appropriate blend to make a word.
  • Shopping for Blends: Do you need to go to the mall today and want to make it educational? While looking for your purchases, your child can look for words that start with blends. Maybe a dress or a skirt will help get your shopping spree started!

More Tips for Learning Reading and Spelling

The following information is from a series of parent tips by Knowledge Adventure. The tips are meant to be used as fun ways of bringing learning into the home and everyday life. We hope you enjoy them!

Learning how to recognize and spell words will help your child become a better reader. You can help your child practice reading and spelling short-vowel words. Below are some tips to help make learning fun!

  • Beat the Clock: Set a timer and see how many words your child can write down in one minute. Have your child write down as many words as he or she can spell with the following endings: ack, ath, est, ock, ump, and, ing, ick, ock, ish, ent.
  • Spell the Correct Word: Write a word for your child on a piece of paper that includes letters similar to the ending letters mentioned in Beat the Clock. Then, say a new word and ask your child to change a letter to make the new word. For example, write the word pick and ask your child to make it pack. Below are some more examples to help get you started:

  • Play a Guessing Game: To begin, use the word endings ack, and, ath, est, ick, ill, ing, ock, and ump to create words. Write down a blank line for each letter in the word. For example, for a four-letter word, write _ _ _ _. Ask your child to guess letters to create the word. If your child guesses a correct letter, write it on the correct line. If not, make a list of the letters missed. When your child fills in enough letters to guess the word, he or she should tell you the word and the correct spelling. Now use the following beginning blends to create more words: st, cr, fr, sw, cl, dr, pr, sk, sl, pl, gl, br, tr, sp, fl, sh, ch, th, wh. Take turns making up words with your child and guessing the correct letters.

Ask a Teacher: Encouraging Reading

Question:

How can I get my first grader to love to read? He is now going to 2nd grade and I’m a little afraid that he will not do well. He knows the basics, he knows all the site words, he can read, but he refuses? Help me, Belkys.

Answer:

Here are some ideas to encourage reading in the home:

  • Help him to get his own public library card. Visit the library regularly, get to know the children’s librarian, and ask for recommendations. He might want to browse and select his own titles, too!
  • Ask the children’s librarian at his school for ideas for titles that might appeal from their collection.
  • Find a local bookstore with a good children’s section and request suggestions from the person ordering the books.
  • Explore ways to have fun with reading and language—such as creating books, poems, songs, puppet shows, and computer art and stories, and acting out favorite stories. Let his interests and enthusiasm inspire and guide new activities!
  • Repetition, rhyme, predictable text, colorful pictures, humor, suspense, imagination, emotional appeal and carefully crafted text that match your child’s developmental level are book attributes children will appreciate.
  • If your child has a favorite book, he might enjoy other titles by the same author.
  • Offer your child different kinds of books—nonfiction, fiction, poetry, folklore, and multicultural stories that may expose him to new experiences, as well as books about issues relevant to his life, such as friendship, sports or other topics that interest him strongly.
  • Set aside a time for Family Reading. Turn off the TV. Have everyone in the family choose something to read (newspaper, book, magazine). Showing your son that everyone reads for enjoyment is important to helping him build a love for reading.

Reading expert Jim Trelease writes, “What children read is less important than the fact that they read.” If your son reads a range of different kinds of books, he will begin to evaluate what he feels is worthwhile. A love of books, leading to a lifelong enjoyment of reading, is the most important consideration of all!

Ask a Teacher: Letter Mix-Ups

Question:

Thanks for your time; we are finding our 7 year old is having problems with words. He can hear a word and spell, but when he goes to write the word he is having a hard time, he will mix up letters, or put the b, d, and p’s backwards. Any help you can give would be most helpful.

Answer:

Here are some suggestions that approach the challenge of differentiating letters that look alike:

  • Let your child practice these letters by writing with his finger tips on different surfaces. Cover a counter top with whipped cream or chocolate pudding. Demonstrate the letters or words and let the child practice to their hearts content.
  • Give your child a visual cue for each letter. The b can be drawn as a bat with a ball next to it. The d can be drawn as a dog with a tail. This visual will help your child to remember the shape of each letter and be connected to a picture that uses its sound.
  • Make a letter collage by finding words that start with the sound b, p or d. Draw the shape of the letter on a large sheet of paper. Then help your child find as many examples of words beginning with the sound as possible and paste them onto the letter collage. Hang the picture on the wall as a reward and a reminder.

This is a fairly common problem with young children as they are learning to read and write. The more he practices by touching or feeling the letters, the more he may remember what they look like.

Hope this helps!

Have a Heart to Heart with Your Kids

You pick your little one up from daycare, school, or sports practice and can’t wait to hear about what she has been up to every single moment since you last saw her. You want to know what made her laugh, if anything or anyone is upsetting her, and all the new and exciting things she’s learned. The trouble is, you can’t seem to pry more than a handful of one-word answers out of her. What’s a parent to do?

To get the conversations flowing with your kids, try these handy tips:

Non-Interrogation Techniques

Look for little ways to add conversation into your daily routine. In the car, put down the toys and turn down the radio to make room for a little chatter. At night, consider pushing back bedtime for a few minutes so you can spend a little time with each child individually as you tuck them in. Keep in mind that for tough topics, not having to make eye contact can help kids open up. Talking while driving home, walking around the neighborhood together or playing a friendly game of catch feels a lot less like an interrogation than sitting face to face.

Chat by Example

Teach your child how to open up by example. Instead of bombarding your child with questions the moment he puts on his seatbelt, try sharing a little bit about your day first: “Today I had to give a speech at work today in front of 10 people! It was a little scary, but after a few minutes of talking, it got easier. How do you feel when you have to speak in front of your class at school?”

Ask Specific Questions

If you ask questions that can be answered in a single word, chances are, your child will give you just that. Instead of asking about your child’s day in general, try zeroing in on specific areas of interest. What did you do in PE class today? Who did you sit with at lunch? Did you hear any good jokes today?

Dinner Discussion

Dinnertime is a great opportunity for the family to kick back, relax, and share stories about the day’s excitement and stress. But if your kids aren’t willing to open up over the green beans, dinner can turn into a quiet and dull affair. Try writing down a handful of fun questions and stashing them near the table for when the conversation lulls. Here are a few questions to get your collection started:

  • If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?
  • What do you think the worst job in the world is?
  • If you were an animal, what would you want to be?
  • What is your favorite toy and why?
  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?

Just one last reminder – when you do get the kids talking, remember to listen up. Showing interest in what your child has to say will boost confidence and encourage your child to confide in you again.

Kisha’s Craft Corner: Fuzzy Valentines

What better way to spread the love this holiday than with adorable, fuzzy little friends?

What You’ll Need:

  • Scissors
  • Red and pink paper
  • Glue
  • Pipe cleaners in assorted colors
  • Small googly eyes
  • Hole punch (optional)

Cupid the Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Wrap two colored pipe cleaners around a pen to create a spiral of alternating colors. Slide your spiral off the pen and gently push on the ends to close off the tube you’ve created. Next, cut off a small piece of another color pipe cleaner and mold into a V shape for the antennae. Attach by sliding the point of the V between two of your spiraling pipe cleaners. Affix 2 googly eyes, bend your caterpillar to show off a little slither and voila – an adorable caterpillar.

Baby the Bee

Bee

This friendly bumble bee uses the same technique as the caterpillar (above). Follow the directions above, substituting in a thicker pen (try a marker) to plump up your bumble bee. Also, instead of using the full length of your pipe cleaners, use scissors to trim down your bee’s body to the desired length (recommend approximately 1 inch). As above, add antennae and 2 eyes to complete your masterpiece.

To add some flair for your little bee, consider creating a pipe cleaner flower for him to rest on. Select a green pipe cleaner for the stem and a red pipe cleaner for your petals. Connect the two pipe cleaners by twisting a small section of them together. Next form petals by looping the red piece around your finger and twisting it back toward the stem. Repeat until you have enough petals.

Tugg the Tiger

Tiger

Grab one orange and one black pipe cleaner and carefully twist them together. Next, find the mid-point and fold the twisted pipe cleaners in half so that they form a large V. The point of this V will soon become your tiny tiger’s nose. Gently push the pipe cleaner strands up so that they form two ears just behind this nose. Next, twist the 2 strands together 2 times (to create the neck), then separate the strands and loop each one down to create to front legs. Reunite your strands again for approximately 5 twists (to create the back), the repeat the separated loops to create back legs. Twist any remaining length of the strands together to create a tail. Pull the 2 ears apart slightly to create a heart-shaped face for your new friend and add two eyes to finish.

Ally the Gator

Gator

Start with one green pipe cleaner and follow the instructions for Tugg the tiger (above), ignoring the first step of twisting the two pipe cleaners together. Once you have successfully created Ally’s body, carefully flatten her so that her legs lay flat to the sides and her tail lies flat on the ground behind her. Next, take an orange pipe cleaner and bend it back and forth so that it creates a zig-zag pattern. Attach the orange zig-zag at the top of your gator’s “neck” and at the end of her tail. Finally, add some eyeballs to give her a little personality.

Goober the Giraffe

Giraffe

Follow the instructions for Tugg the tiger (above), substituting a yellow and an orange colored pipe cleaner. Also, instead of twisting the strands only 2 times to create a next, twist them approximately 5 times to give Goober the lengthly neck he needs. Finally, trim any remaining pipe cleaner with your scissors to make sure he has a short tail.

Now that you have your fuzzy pals all lined up, begin cutting heart shaped pieces out of your pink and red papers. Using different sizes of hearts will add some pizzazz to your artwork. Next, use a marker or crayon to inscribe your Valentine’s messages across the hearts. (Note: for Baby the bee’s flower, we recommend using a hole punch and threading the stem around one side of the paper heart). Affix your chosen critter with a little glue and you are all set!

Fuzzys