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Teaching Literacy Through Skill Building Exercises

Categories: Assistive Technology, Education & Teaching, Learning Disabilities, Parenting

By guest blogger Holly J. LaVine, Director of Literacy Learning Solutions, LLC, Nashua, NH


Child's BrainThere’s an old adage that says, “everything I ever learned, I learned in Kindergarten”. I am excited to offer this blog to all parents of Kindergarten children as a former seasoned public school educator, now turned dyslexia clinic director of her own literacy clinic. Essentially, what I am saying is a modified version of this very same adage from the teacher's perspective. “Everything I ever learned about properly teaching the English language, I learned through my role as a Kindergarten teacher!” Allow me to explain and elaborate. Explicit, direct, prescriptive and purposeful instruction in the sound-letter code of the English language coupled with rich exposures to language building activities is the effective and powerful approach I had used in balancing a top-down literacy teaching strategy with bottom-up skill building exercises.

With a few resources and a little bit of education on this topic, parents can also empower themselves to successfully engage in this reciprocal teaching, in order to set their children up for maximum literacy achievement. And, the best news is that they might already being doing it without even realizing it.

When I was a Kindergarten teacher, I was vigilant over embedding phonemic awareness training in everyday language activities. These activities included the following and were conducted on a weekly basis.

  • Rhyme discrimination and production
  • Count words in sentence, voice to text match
  • Differentiating between letters, words, sentences
  • Syllable Counting
  • Syllable Blending
  • Syllable Segmenting
  • Phoneme Isolation , beginning/end/middle

This told me in an informal way whether or not my students were ready to acquire reading from the perspective of a well-developed phonological processing foundation.

After all, dyslexia research tells us that deficits in the phonological core centers of the brain will impede the acquisition of reading without early intervention measures. “Dyslexia occurs primarily at the level of the single word and involves the ability to decode printed words. This has been known for many years. Print represents speech through the alphabet and words are composed of internal units based on sound called “phonemes”. In learning to read, the child must make explicit an implicit understanding that words have internal structures linked to sounds” (Foorman, B. R.,2008)

The good news is that we can reduce the risk of impoverished phonological sense if parents engage in this fun word-play with their child even while just driving in the car! It is aural with no visual prompts required and it begins to feel as easy as singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Additionally, in terms of understanding development of language comprehension, I would continuously and vigilantly assess students’ oral language processing abilities. “I CAN” statements became our mantra as we self-reflected on what our language learning goals were. We read a variety of engaging fictional and informational texts and the students would assure themselves of these truths.

  • I can ask questions about informational text. I can answer questions about text.
  • I can tell you what a text is mainly about and show details from the text.
  • I can connect ideas in a text.
  • I can ask and answer questions about words I do not know when I read.
  • I can show you the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.
  • I can tell you the author and illustrator of a text and what they do.
  • I can match the illustration to the text.
  • I can tell you what the author thinks and why.
  • I can compare text about the same topic.
  • I can participate in group reading activities.

Mother hugging SonWe would use these statements as our framework for our choral and oral reading and parents can do this, too, as they read regularly with their children. These activities were meant to develop a solid foundation for comprehending language to establish a basis from which their reading comprehension could then naturally develop.


For more information on strategies and activities, you can feel free to contact me at hlaLiteracy Learning Logovine@literacylearningsolutons.com. Also, check out the resources available to educators at the Florida Center for Reading Research’s website and the bevy of activities offered at www.readingrockets.org.

Reference:Foorman, B. R. (2008). Prevention and Remediation of Reading and Learning Disabilities: What We Know From Research. Presentation at the Virginia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association in Richmond, Virginia. February 1, 2008.


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