Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oh Coconut!

I have no doubt at all that one of these days I'll be telling Clem to put down the book for a while and go outside. But at almost nine she is not there yet.

When she was four we worked on letter sounds. I'd pick a sound and point it out as I read to her. After a while she would say the sound when I pointed to it.

When she was five we did Hooked on Phonics until she got the idea of blending sounds and could read Pop Fox and Rat Ran and had mastered 30 or so sight words like the, of, you. (I love the Hooked on Phonics books, though I don't love the program.)

When she was six we picked out easy readers at the library and she would read all the phonetically regular words. Or I'd pick a topic like ing or silent e, and have her read all the words that fit the description.

Each time we'd work for a few days or weeks to reach a milestone and then I'd back off and see what happened.

And her reading would improve a little. Now I find her reading while lying on "the warm" (the heater vent) from time to time.

She picked out the book Diary of a Monster's Son at the library and read it.

It has a lexile of 390, which corresponds to 2nd grade reading level. The lexile scale is a measure of text difficulty which takes into account sentence length and the difficulty of the vocabulary used.

I was surprised to find that books in a series can have widely varying lexile measures. Dinosaurs Before Dark in the Magic Tree House series has a lexile of 240 making it a 1st grade book. But Dragon of the Red Dawn, #37 in the series, has a lexile of 580, the expected reading level of a 3rd grader.

I find the lexile website useful in this way: I find the lexile of a book that Clem reads easily, and then I search for books in a 100 point range of that book that I think might interest her (keywords: dragon, magic, wizard). I leave the books lying around and cross my fingers.

I have always believed that spelling comes after reading. Read enough and spelling will come naturally. Clem writes very little and is not able to spell words that she reads easily. But what I wanted was spelling that would help her to read better. So I took out Reading Reflex: The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read.

Reading Reflex is an excellent reading program with HORRIBLE stories and illustrations. I really wish the Reading Reflex people would get together with the Hooked On Phonics people and make, I know, crazy idea, a good program with good stories.

I used their tests to assess Clem's reading and found that she knew the basic code (consonant sounds and single vowel sounds) but that she was shaky on sounds represented by 2 or more letters. She could read these in context, often, but not in unfamiliar words. We started with the long o sound which can be written o (go, gold), oe (toe), o-e (note), oa (goal), ow (snow), ou (soul).

One day she sorted a list of words according to which way the o sound was spelled.

The next we did mad libs where all the words she wrote in the blanks had the long o sound. It was about a super hero who was a purple hoe who drove a car shaped like a gnome. Her sidekick was a bowl.

Finally she wanted to make Coconut Macaroons. I challenged her to find 10 items in our pantry with the long o sound and then we'd make macaroons.

Here she is pointing out and reading some of her finds:

And then making Coconut macaroons.

Consolidating her knowledge while they bake.
Oh, so good!


gina said...

Oh! A yummy lesson indeed! :)

Stefaneener said...

Man, you put me to shame. Please homeschool all of us.

maria said...

I enthusiastically second that!

Susan said...

I think I hid the fact in there that I have devoted a couple weeks, ok, a month, per year to actively fostering the reading and spent the other 11 months just getting library books and waiting hopefully.

So if you want to feel like watched pots come on over and I'll stare at you expectantly. And then maybe we could bake something! :)

patricia said...

11 months of getting library books and waiting hopefully, to one month of active fostering sounds just about perfect. Back to that freedom/scaffolding ratio again...

I've never heard of lexiles. That sounds like such a helpful tool for parents--it's so hard to find books at the right level that would also interest a particular kid.

And encouraging reading with cookie bribery? That sounds like the best tool of all.

Susan said...

I love though the search is a little finicky. Sometimes I won't find a book under its title only to find it under the author's name, or the series name.

I used it when Evelyn was small as well. Her reading had just taken off but she was struggling with a little book by Ursula LeGuin called Catwings about kittens with wings. It turned out to have a lexile of 700, or 4th grade reading level, a good bit above The Unicorn's Secret series she was reading and rereading in the 400-500 lexile range.

And, as for the cookies--they are the easiest cookies in the world to make and really delicious. I just made some more--which I dipped in dark chocolate. I made the recent batch with unsweetened organic coconut and they were even better.

I used 1 cup sugar, 2 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, 4 egg whites, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp almond extract. Mix and bake at 300.

Ada Moreau Demlow said...

I am curious as to whether you have still found lexile to be useful as your daughter got older. As a public librarian, I find that the older a child gets the less relevant the lexile schore seems to be in bgeing able to find them good, age-appropriate literature - especially fiction.