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Teaching Tips: Looking at print in the new school year

Michele DufresneZoo Animals Downloadable Book for Early Literacy and Teaching ReadingAs the school year begins, teachers may be working with children who know very little about print. They may know only a few letters or words. The child's name is often one of the first words he or she can recognize in print. I suggest making simple books with the student's name. Write stories using your student's name (click here for an example that you can print out and personalize). For a simple way to make personalized books, I recommend using the BookBuilder software from Pioneer Valley Books. This innovative software allows you to type in a student's name and print out personalized books incorporating the student's name.

As you teach, it is important to think carefully about the books you are having students read. Are there words in the book the child does know or is everything new? New words will be acquired by reading books and writing stories, but you can arrange for your students to begin to pay more attention to the features of print. The following are some ideas to expand your student's print repertoire.

After reading a familiar book:

1. Use magnetic letters to assemble the word you want the student to learn. Assemble the word from left to right as the student watches you.  Have the student slide the letters left to right to make the word.

2. Write the word in large print and have the student watch you.

3. Write the word in a sand tray. Have the student trace it. Now shake the sand and have the student write the word on their own.

4. Ask the child to write the word on the Water Wizard, chalkboard, dry erase easel, dry erase lapboard, or the Gel Board. Using a variety of surfaces will help the student gain familiarity with the word.

5. Create a bank of words the child knows and almost knows. You can make cards of the words the student knows, or use the word cards from Pioneer Valley. Play concentration and other quick games with word cards.

6. The first few words a student learns will probably require repeated encounters. With these kinds of activities your student will come to notice more and more visual features of print he or she is reading!

Enjoy your new students!

Michèle Dufresne

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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