Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review Friday - The Goodnight Train

It is interesting how life can swallow you whole at times - and then when you think back you wonder to yourself, "Did I get anything accomplished?"  I guess the answer is both yes and no! 
Here is a book that we recently discovered:  The Goodnight Train by June Sobel

The Goodnight TrainThis little gem of a book has been a great read as I have settled the kids down for the night.  This fantastical train picks up sleeping cars, which are illustrated as beds and chugs towards dreamland.  On their way the train filled with passengers (children and a skunk), the conductor (a pig), and the engineer (a dog with a lovely striped train cap on) lumber, roll, fly, whiz, glide, curl, and crawl on the tracks.  Make sure that as you read through the lyrical rhymes and train sounds that you pause and spend time discovering the artwork on each page.  It took my son pointing out the wheels coming out of the smoke stack for me to notice, and It was the fifth time I read through the book that I found the mermaid putting on night cream.  This book is a great book that sets up bedtime routines, the inevitable moments of children getting revved up before they calm down for slumber.

How to use this book to increase literacy skills?

Fill in the blank

The text is set up in rhyming couplets, perfect for leaving out the last word of the second line which prompts the child to provide the missing word.  I found that I was able to do this on almost every single couplet.  The only ones that I had to provide were the ones that weren't rather obvious.  Chase really enjoyed it. As children begin to recognize rhymes they are in fact building phonemic awareness - they are learning to decode and create new words.

Using Words You Know

Take the words that are familiar and have your child create a longer list of other rhyming words.  This strategy is called Using Words You Know (Cunningham, 2000).  Here are the basic steps for this activity:
  1. Have children divide a chart into four columns with the words hose, ink, past, and might ,.  Remind your child(ren)/student(s) that words that rhyme often have the same spelling pattern.  
  2. Write the words nose, blink, fast, and light on index cards to show the students. 
  3. Instruct the children to write the word under the correct rhyming column.  
  4. After each word is written down say the words out-loud so they can hear the rhymes.
  5.  Explain that thinking of rhyming words also helps students to spell correctly.  Then instead of showing the word on an index card say the words out-loud and have the students write the words using the same spelling patterns.
  6. Only use words that not only rhyme but have the same spelling pattern
  7. Provide the children with the words instead of having them come up with words that rhyme, since they can come up with words that don't have the same spelling pattern
  8. Here are some samples of words that can be used:
    1. close          sink     cast     sight
    2. pose          think     fast     night
    3. suppose     chink    last     fight

The 37 Rimes

Wylie and Durrell (1970) labeled 37 rimes that are found in over 500 common words.  As I learned about these rimes I made a side note in my textbook that reads "Make stories and games using these rimes", for when children become familiar with these 37 rimes they are then able to decode other words.  Interestingly, these following ending rhymes found in the book contain those 37 common rimes: hill, ink, blink, flat, that, light, might, snug, chug, train!

I came across several case studies in which children were taught explicitly using these 37 common rimes their reading accuracy improved. 
Improved rapid accurate word reading (automatic recognition) enables readers to use more memory and attention to focus on comprehension, phrasing and fluency. By improving the automaticity of the students’ word reading, this intervention should lead to improved prose reading (Belli, pg. 12).
 While the studies can be a bit dry reading they do provide by step the activities that they used for the study, making me think it was an assignment they all were given while completing their masters program (expecially since one of the studies provided the authors name and student id number - interesting).  I know that I will be returning to these studies to put some of their suggestions to use for strengthening onset-rime!


Cunningham, P.M. (2000).  Phonics they use: Words for reading and writing (3rd ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman 

Wylie, R.E., & Durrell, D.D.  (1970).  Teaching vowels through phonograms.  Elementary English, 47, 787-791

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Frogs, Farms, Fish, and Naps. What do we have in common?

At the end of the school year my husband and I met with Chase's teachers and the Special Education coordinator for the district.   With the wonderful help he has received from the school he scored in the normal range, however his ADHD diagnosis will keep him under the other health impaired (OHI)  umbrella.  Good!!!  We also learned that he definitely has Sensory Processing Disorder on top of everything else.

On Thursday we met Chase's Service Coordinator through the Developmental Services.  She recommended that we ask for a  "Sensory Diet"  in his IEP.  I look forward to learning more about this and incorporating these types of sensory activities with our reading excersizes!!!!  She recommended a weighted blanket (He likes to sleep under about 5 or six blankets each night) and she is going to see if he qualifies for Touchpoint Autism Services, which would be a great help for our entire family. His coordinator is also going to see what the age limit for Exceptional Equestrians Research Program for Autism.  If he is too young than she will help us get a scholarship for next fall.  How awesome would it be for him to be able to learn how to ride horses.

A few thoughts stood out to me as I prepared this weeks activities.  These include the importance of the words children learn before they even begin to read, realizing the importance of knowing how to break language into smaller components, and how comprehension is found in all aspects of life.  Here are a few tidbits that I pulled out of my readings as I prepared: