Thursday, January 14, 2010

Preschool Phonics

I get to spend part of each week with wriggling preschoolers and words. Both give me much pleasure.

First, we begin with letter sounds. We said "aaaaaahhhhh" to the doctor, "eh?" because we can't hear well, "i! i! i!" because we're itchy, roar "oooooooooooo" like Tarzan, and look skyward with a "uuuuuuu!"  (Short vowels aren't so mysterious after all!)

Then we begin to sing letter sounds together: baaaaaaaaaat!

Soon, we discover that those sounds made words.

bat cat fat hat mat pat rat sat
Now we're playing with rhymes as the children decode words through their rhyming "families."

I love teaching phonics to preschoolers. Whether they're ready to "get it" or will need to hear the concepts a few times before that light bulb glows, they LOVE playing with letters and sounds and rhymes and pencils. Since we celebrate achievements and a can-do spirit through play-based learning, they have a really good time. (The fact that every class ends with a visit to the treasure box certainly helps, too!)

What I see emerging in my little learners are lifelong personality traits. Perfectionists do not like to try, try again. They hold back until they get it right the first time, won't write if their letters don't look like mine, and worry more about the end result rather than taking pleasure in the process. Carefree spirits forget a workbook, skip a page, accidentally knock over a learning center, and live in the moment - worry is not part of their psyche. I get to see the genesis of leaders and followers, scholars and players, those who will give up easily and those who will keep trying until they succeed.

While I'm introducing them to the world of reading, I also impart gentle lessons in trying your best, working with a partner, completing assignments, celebrating your own achievements rather than comparing yourself to others, patience, accepting change, and good manners.

Once upon a time, I taught high schoolers the art of analyzing literature, expressing themselves through writing and speech, and exploring the world through the words of witnesses through the ages. Now I'm teaching preschoolers the art of the word at its most fundamental level.

I am so very blessed . . . and grateful . . . to have the opportunity to teach.

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