Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bilingual tip: How we began reading in Spanish

Beginning reading in Spanish is different than English.  We start with the vowels and then introduce one letter at a time.  You can write many words with just a few letters, therefore you can read before you learn the entire alphabet.
While on a conference for Dual Language educators, the equivalent to the Secretary of Education from Spain had a fantastic presenter who talked about how he was teaching his students to read and love reading.  His presentation was called "Con historias y canciones se aprende mejor las lecciones" (With Stories and Songs, lessons are better learned.) Years later I still have a lot of my notes from that conference.  When it came to the time for me to teach my own daughter how to read, I knew he was right!
I used the same method he presented  called: Letrilandia by Aurora Usero.  It literally translates to the land of letters, where every letter has a story that helps beginner readers not only remember the abstract shape of the letter, but also its sound by itself and when used with other letters.  For example (and I hope this is not violating copyrights!) the letter is a princess from the royal family -all the vowels are part of the family-. She is very skinny because she doesn't like to eat (to remember the shape).  She cries a lot sounding just like a mouse  (making the "i" sounds).  She misbehaves a lot making other letters behave differently when they are watching her, and her mischievous little brother (this is to explain why letters like g and c change their sounds with i and e! super clever if you ask me!).  She has a pet iguana (again to remember the sound)... and so much more.  But I hope you get the idea.

My daughter loves all the stories.  We even act them out.  I don't read them to her, but instead, I read them ahead of time and just tell her.  She loves this the most, since she usually wants to see the pictures after I finish telling her the story to corroborate the details!  It also allows me to adjust them as needed.  We don't own the students books because they are sold in Spain, but thanks to Ms. Usero, I was able to get the CD that comes with a song for every letter.  That on itself makes a huge difference. I know that it is not particularly Montessori related but in my family's situation is a perfect fit.  With story telling it creates a special bond between my daughter and I (like the one I had with my dad).  It also brings a lot of joy to learning a task that would otherwise be difficult.  If you think about it trying to teach little kids the 27 letters of the Spanish alphabet is a quite the task!  Besides, I feel that my kids are not just learning an abstract concept as a letter of the week each day/week, they are learning stories that help them recognize such letters and remember them enough to be able to use them.  I think Aurora Usero is a genius! She brings one more way to generate brain connections
As you will see in the bilingual tip post for beginning sound objects, we use this letters a lot. It also helps that the letters are related to many objects that start with their sounds. 

Above you can see what we have with the letter "o". The objects are: ocho, oso, oruga, oveja, ojo, olla, o, and oro (eight, bear, caterpillar, sheep, eye, pot, letter o, and gold).  The princess o happens to have a favorite stuffed bear in her story. We found this shadow box at a dollar store and my daughter likes to sort her objects in it.  

Once we learned all the vowels, I started introducing consonants one at a time. I started with m since you can make words with just m and vowels.  I created image and word cards that she can pair up. After that one was mastered I introduced p and all its combinations: 
M:M + P:
I know there is a t in mamut but since it is a final sound and my daughter likes a story about a mammoth, I could not skip it.  I used these same pictures above to make her a control of error card where she could correct herself. 

First she used the movable alphabet, later on she became able tow rite the words for the images with the help of the word cards.
We kept on learning letters and discovering what else she was able to read and write. here are the images for learning L and T


We also worked on the feminine and masculine articles.  I got this beautiful Korea box from my mother-in-law.  It comes with small plate like pieces inside where We put the control of error cards, the image cards, and the word cards.

Our Spanish version of the pink reading activities.  This three and two letter words CVC help start the reading.  It is a bit easy for her but she likes it.  As you can see I only used letters that she had already mastered.  SO far we only have two of these boards.  I plan to create more and also a Spanish alphabet book with a felt letter to touch

My daughter working on a game we created.  She gets an image card and with the movable alphabet tries to spell the word.  then she flips the word card and sees if she has done it on her own. 

Here she just gets an object and tries to spell it. 

 I have been reading about the Dwyer approach.  I am using it for Spanish.  Here is an activity I learned from there.  If you want to know more, I highly recommend to check it out at:

To try the Dwyer approach I brought these items, a pack of post-its, and a pen.  I wrote the names of the items on the post-its while my daughter was watching me  (this is very important!) and I told her to use them to find the objects. By the way, I know homeschooling moms tend to try to make everything pretty.  We use computers and print outs to help us in our teaching.... the truth is... we need to write more and show them that it is OK to make mistakes.  We need to show them we can erase and try again (without obsessing for perfection).  The reality is that by watching us write, our children are learning the process of writing.  Just as we read in front of them to show them our love for books, we need to write in front of them to show them our love for writing. I encourage you to give it a try. Having your little one watch YOU write will be 100% more beneficial than having him/her fill out a worksheet! 

My daughter decided to stick the post-its on top of the baseboard (with my help) and place the items underneath independently. If you go back to the container with the objects' picture you will notice that she didn't have the first three objects.  I asked her to look for them in the house.  I just wanted to see how much she was reading vs guessing with the objects at hand.  She did great. She looked for the ball, cup, and raisins in our kitchen! Since she didn't want me to put it away, I was able to take this picture when she was sleeping. 

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