This year, instead of being tied to a curriculum, I am focusing on the five essential literacy activities: RRWWT.
Side note: A lot of the early literacy and word study work ideas that I use come from Words Their Way. They have a solid, research backed approach to reading, writing, and spelling. I’ve used it with my ELLs in secondary schools, the beginning sound and concept sorts with my preschoolers, and I’ve tapped into the idea of concept sorts and word sorts with my French students in the classroom.)
Just what the heck is RRWWT, though? The acronym stands for Read to, Read with, Write with, Word Study, and Talk with.
This is exactly what it sounds like – I read to Mon Coeur (and Mon Amour). I read new and themed books and stories. This month we are exploring apples and animal migration. Over the course of the month, I’ll probably reread our favorites between 3-5 times. We read all the time. At the breakfast table, during bath time, in the morning lull, at lunchtime, at bath time, at bed time…Today we started about three stories on apples, although we didn’t finish them – they were a little long. We’ll get back around to them later. It’s nice to have a no pressure, informal way to discover these books and then get back around to them later when we have more time.
Resources I’ve found and like to reference when choosing books by author or theme: Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, and The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Both have excellent book lists with classic authors. Gladys’ book lists are organized by age and listed out by author. Jim’s book has compelling data to prove just how powerful it is to read books to children – of any age! His treasury of read-aloud books notes books that are related, so you could compile a themes list together easily.
For read with, I am having MC join me in reading, and even read on her own. The readings I choose for this portion are Mother Goose rhymes, simple poems & French comptines. Some come direct from the WTW book, but most I source. Here, I am focusing on modeling reading by pointing to each word as I say it – I track the words I say, and then MC will do the same. We read a passage a day usually, and it’s not more than a few lines. We will reread the same passage over and over until she reads it with accurate tracking and reading. Some of her “reading” is memorized right now, and that’s okay! She is learning that sounds come together to make words, and that words come together to make sentences. She is noting the punctuation within a sentence and asks about the “mystery” (question mark) when she sees it!
This is an opportunity to model the writing process. I am the one writing, and the focus is on the content, not on MC’s manuscript. We do a lot of dictated stories right now. I will ask MC a question to get her started, and then I write exactly what she says. Sometimes I help guide her back to topics as needed.
These stories are so valuable for helping her to read. Much like the first word she learned to read and write was her name, these stories are personal to her. The words in the story are from her vocabulary, helping her to recognize the same when I ask her to go back and read.
Eventually, I will do some daily recaps, or stories about our day to model the writing process.
For manuscript practice, she has a composition notebook she uses as like a doodle book – I will write one letter for focus in upper and lower case as well as script in various sizes on one page in pencil, and she will choose a marker to trace the same letters. I also still focus on just making markings, like circles, zig zag lines, loop-de-loos, etc. Straight, curved, and angled lines all work together to make letters, and instead of having her practice to make perfect letters in repetition, we work with lines in isolation and then bring them together later.
I teach MC directly for the word study portion. For any new concept, I will start with direct instruction, which just means that I will do the sort, thinking out loud and sorting as I go. I will sound out the words and place emphasis where our focus is – beginning, ending, or medial sounds.
Other times when we are reviewing a concept or sort, we work together to discern between beginning and ending sounds, rhymes, and syllables. We sort pictures from WTW books that are specifically organized for those themes.
Last week we sorted pictures by their beginning sounds – M, S, B or R. MC already did this in preschool with me last year. So this time, we are sorting, and gluing pictures one beginning sound per page, and she is identifying and telling me the letter that makes the beginning and ending sound. She has also tried to identify the middle/vowel sound and has done fairly well at this! I have been modeling sounding out the words and writing the letters in each word.
You may recognize these sorts from your child’s homework – ever seen what sounds like gibberish – CVC, CVCE, CVVC, oddball ? Just what exactly could that mean you may have wondered? That’s word study, WTW style. I appreciate that instead of listing rules, there are concrete words to serve as examples. The child’s task is to read words and sort by spelling patterns (consonant/vowel patterns) and also by the sound. It gives space for those exceptions to the spelling/pronunciation rules. As I continue to explain…it seems like this is another post for another day.
Talk with (conversations!)
Girl can talk. And ask questions. Retell stories. And create new ones based on stories we’ve read. New vocabulary can come from conversations, and with the amount of questions she has just from daily life, along with questions, comments, or observations that she has while reading a book, it provides a window into her thinking and a springboard for continued conversation.
Randomly, driving down the road, she recently asked me, “What is “ambush”?” To which I responded, “It’s a surprise attack. Typically when we are talking about war. Where did you hear this word?” “Mulan.” “Okay!”
Two weeks later, she asked, “What is “wounded”?” “It means hurt, or injured. We usually use wounded though when we are talking about warriors getting hurt. Where did you hear this word?” “Mulan.” “Gotcha! (yes you guessed it already, but my memory is not what it was, and I needed a reminder that it came from that movie we watched a month ago.)”