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    By CAT

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    Please don't let that first week spelling test upset you. The kids LOVE learning and are eager. I start with the first week too. It is all in YOUR attitude as to how they react to it. People in general badmouth Spalding, but my kids love that too! We start the second day and teach 4 sounds and continue that pace until all the "basic" phonograms are learned. Throughout the rest of the year we add more complex phonograms (ough has six sounds!!! They LOVE the challenge) and when we teach them we always add gestures and a story behind them. For instance, /ere/ is a story about a queen who loves to wear beautiful earrings (grab earlobe) and when she waves to her adoring crowd she waves real big (kids wave big) and she loves to look at her face in the mirror (kids frame face with hands) and say /er/. Put it all together and the kids just repeat the sounds with the gestures: /ear/ /air/ /er/. They really do like it. By the time we have taught them most of the sounds, I think there are 71 but we have added a few that aren't in the program (all, cious, etc.), the deck of cards takes about 5 minutes to get through. I also do around the world with them--they love that.
    One other thing we do with our small groups is we have index cards with the sounds on them and pass them out to the group. I give them a couple of seconds to let them remember the sound. When I go around the circle, if the child can say the sound--he keeps the card, if not, I get the card. However many cards the child keeps is how many pieces of cereal he gets (don't like bribing with food and am thinking through alternatives). After the sounds are mastered (usually by the end of the first 3 weeks) we shift to the decodable words for the card game.
    I also point out, and have them point out, the sounds in just about everything we read. It is not constant because that would take away the comprehension, but we notice them during the morning message and in our stories, etc. Sometimes we even make charts and when a child sees a phonogram in print, he goes up and adds the word to the appropriate chart.
    We spend a lot of time on phonics because we don't want to produce word callers. It seems slow going at the beginning of the year, but by the end, most are reading 40+ words per minute.
    I have taught for 17 years in four different grades. This is the first and only grade where I see pure enthusiasm and no matter what we are doing, if my attitude is good or exciting, so is theirs. Good luck and you will love these little ones.

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