I’m 29 years old and I’m learning to read…………………………………… in Arabic. I know how to read in English (of course) and French & Spanish (kind of), but learning how to read in Arabic means learning a whole new alphabet and learning to read in a whole new direction. I truly feel like I’m learning to read all over again, and it’s really helping me understand how my students feel when they are learning how to read. Since most people don’t remember the cognitive processes they used when they were learning to read, I thought I would share some of my experiences and insights.
I am only beginning to learn (I’ve been at it about a month.), so I have a long ways to go – but here’s what I’ve already learned about reading by learning how to read all over again.
1. Different variations of a letter don’t look the same until you train your brain to see them that way. When I began working on the alphabet, my husband pointed at two letters and called them both the same letter – Ghayn – he couldn’t figure out why they didn’t look like the same letter to me. I couldn’t figure out how they looked the same to him. (In Arabic, there are no Capitols and Lowercase, rather the letters look different depending on where they are in a word.) Then, it occurred to me that a capitol A and a lowercase a really don’t look like they belong together at all. The only reason we know that these letters are the same is that we have train our brains to see them both as the same thing.
2. I can sound out words very well, but have no idea what that word means. I know we have all had word callers in our class, and know that this phenomena is common, but I never understood it in the same way as when I sounded out this great, long word in Arabic and realized that it head no meaning to me whatsoever. Now, when that word is next to a picture, or written in a place in my notebook that helps me remember what it means, I’m good, but written in a random place in a book, and I’m lost!
3. Handwriting is important. In English, my handwriting stinks, and I’ve never really thought it was all that important, as long as it was legible. However, I have realized that different handwritings can be like different fonts. Just like the capitol A and the lowercase a don’t look like each other – different people’s a’s might also look different. I know that the pretty, neat writing that my teacher uses doesn’t always reflect my husband’s quickly written Arabic, or the fancy Arabic fonts that can be found on cereal boxes and billboard signs.
4. Environmental print encourages reading. Now that I can sound out words, I am starting to make more sense of all these Arabic words that have been surrounding me for the past 9 months. I see Arabic everywhere here in Morocco – street signs, billboards, packaging, books, etc. However, much of the time, the Arabic words have corresponding French words, which are MUCH easier for me to figure out, so my eyes have pretty much skipped over the Arabic writing as a whole. Now that I know what the letters are, my eyes are beginning to search for the Arabic and trying to sound out words everywhere. (It’s actually driving my husband a little crazy – lol!)
I knew that it was going to be a crazy week when I figured out that Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School fell on the same day! So, what did I do? I turned it into “Fun Week”, threw all the rules out the window and had one crazy week!! It was fun, but wow am I ready to return to normal next week. Then, with all the chaos, this was the week that my camera died and I can’t find the charger, and I’m sorry I didn’t capture the moments. Here’s what my class did this week:
Monday – Valentine’s Day
Yes, I know that Tuesday was actually Valentine’s Day, but the 100th Day of School fell on Tuesday and my 1st graders thought it was way more important to celebrate the 100th day on the 100th day than Valentine’s on February 14th!
So, on Monday, the kids made Valentine’s for their parents and we worked through the Valentine’s Day Center packet. (Grab it free for next year if you’d like.) The favorite center was Happy Heart Patterns, and I was excited to see how many of them have finally mastered those patterns (I guess all that work is starting to pay off).
At the end of the day we had our party, complete with cherry cheesecake, cookies and candies – wow was I sugar high!!!
Tuesday – 100th Day of School
For the 100th Day of School, I tried to get my kids to come dressed as if they were 100. Only 2 participated, but they all loved my “grey” hair (made with gel and baby powder).
In the morning, we took their 100 things and made the number 100. This took WAY longer than planned, as so many of them brought in really BIG things, like napkins and straws!
Then, we worked through our 100th Day center packets. I totally expected the base ten blocks mosaic to be the favorite center, but they actually liked the hidden picture (heart hidden in a 100’s chart) better!
We have music at the end of the day on Tuesdays, so that saved me from another party.
Wednesday – Science Day on Solids, Liquids & Gasses
Our newest science topic is Solids, Liquids and Gasses, so we spent all day Wednesday exploring this topic.The students even brought in their own solids, liquids and gasses to add to our centers – and boy did they get creative!
We spent most of the day “observing” and making “hypothesis” on if each item was a solid, liquid or a gas. We used our Science Discovery Journals to do this. Then, we melted ice with a hair dryer and created gas by mixing vinegar and baking soda. The kids loved this!!
After, we watched some YouTube videos on solids, liquids and gasses, we went outside to play with bubbles (after making hypothesises about if they were solids, liquids, or gasses of course!)
My favorite part of the day was watching my kids walk around at recess and lunch saying “Hey, this is a solid.” or “Ms. Raki is my yogurt a liquid or a solid?”
Thursday – Story Day
After all the excitement of the early week, I really needed a break, so on Thursday, we read all day! Seriously we read for about 40 minutes in the morning, then we went to the library and talked about which books were the best ones to check out.
In the afternoon, we went to the computer lab and wrote our own stories using www.storybird.com – a website I just love!
Then, in the afternoon, I read two chapters of our latest read aloud, Magic Tree House #2 – the Knight at Dawn.
Great easy day!
Friday – Democratic Republic of Congo Day
In April, our school does an International Day, where each classroom takes a country and learns about them. This year, my class is studying the Democratic Republic of Congo, because I have a student from there. So, on Friday, we started doing our “research”.
For homework, I had the students find one fact about DRC, and we used those facts to start a KWL chart. Then, the students came up with a list of questions. (My favorite was if everyone in the Congo had their skin “burnt” by the sun – insert quick, simple lesson on race being genetic.)
My student from DRC’s mom came in and did a fantastic interview with my kids, answering all of our questions, and giving us a lot of information.
Then, my kids started completing their Democratic Republic of Congo book. (I uploaded it into Google Docs, just in case you might be doing a similar project.) I was quite impressed with what they learned, and I’m excited about the rest of the project.
I LOVE to play board games at home, but I also enjoying using them in my classroom. In addition to encouraging cooperation, turn taking and a variety of other social skills, I find I can often use the games to work on math and literacy skills. So, every Friday, I am going to post a Friday Game Night post, giving tips on how to use a particular board game in your classroom. Here’s this week’s Friday Game Night Tip:
Yahtzee – Part 2 (Literacy)
One of my favorite games growing up was Yahtzee, and I was super excited when my oldest son was old enough to learn how to play it! It can be such an educational game, and so, I thought it was the perfect game to feature as my second board game for Game Night Fridays! (The first game was Chutes and Ladders, click here if you missed it!) Here are four ways to use Yahtzee to teach literacy skills. Check out last Friday’s post to see my four ideas for how to use Yahtzee to teach math skills.
For each of these variations, you will need to use index cards to write a variety of words (sight words, spelling words, vocabulary words would all work). Make sure you have a variety of length to your words. Rather than rolling dice, have students draw 5 cards, read the cards out loud and then proceed with each variation.
1. 3 of a Kind, 4 of a Kind, Yahtzee! – Using the number of letters in their word try to make a 3 of a kind, a 4 of a kind or a Yahtzee. (You might allow them to put cards at the bottom of the pile and redraw as you do in Yahtzee.) Award one point per letter and keep score on a Yahtzee score card.
2. Word Grouping – Have students group words by the number of vowels or consonants are in each word, using the number of vowels or consonants in their word try to get their 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s or 6’s. ie. ate would be a 2 if you were playing with vowels or a 1 if you were playing with consonants. (You might allow them to put cards at the bottom of the pile and redraw as you do in Yahtzee.) Award one point per letter and keep score on a Yahtzee score card.
3. Categorically Speaking – Allow students to put their cards into categories. If they can sort their cards into 2 piles and give you categories that they can justify, they can get their points for a full house.
4. Straight to ABC Order – Have students put their words in alphabetical order. Students who get their cards in ABC order on the first try can get a large straight, students who need a second look can get a small straight. Keep score on a Yahtzee score card.
I hope some of these suggestions will allow you to use Yahtzee in a new, interesting way in your classrooms. Keep playing games and watch your kids learn!