While working on matching sight word cards with Matthew the other day, I decided to try (to test) and see if he would recognize the word if I didn't show him the picture. I showed him the word "Daddy" - no picture so there was no other visual cue other than the written word - and he said "dee", which is his verbal approximation for Daddy. He recognized the word! He was sight reading!
I was very excited about his new skill. He is about a month away from his 3rd birthday and he can sight read. He learned this through using homemade materials only.
I videotaped him after discovering his latest skill.
When Did We Start? What Did We Use?
Homemade Sight Word Cards
It was in April 2010 that we had started working on matching my homemade sight word cards, which I wrote about in my previous posts Book Review: Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome and Speech and Reading Connection. This wasn't anything I included in our Early Intervention program goals. I decided to pursue this myself. I wanted him to:
- to learn to recognize letters of the alphabet.
- to pay attention to words. Prior to this, he was only interested in the picture if I showed him the picture and word on a single page.
- to eventually make the association between words and the things they represent.
At that time, Matthew had the skills to identify, differentiate, match and label objects and pictures so I decided it was a good time to start learning some sight words, which is a whole-word approach to reading. Being a visual learner, Matthew sees the word like he would an image and associates it with an object or action via what he has previously stored to memory.
I had also used another set of picture cards that I made for him in late 2009. The picture was printed on one side and the word was on the other. We originally used these for pointing, identifying and labeling the pictures so we'd look at the picture only. When we started with learning sight words, I'd show him the word first just to draw his attention to the word and then flip it over to show him what the word represented.
These are simply cards with a word. I put some on our fridge next to his fridge toys using magnetic tape and labeled toy boxes using adhesive velcro. I also used them for matching with the picture/sight word cards that have the picture and word on the same side.
In addition to the picture cards and word cards, I also created a couple of alphabet videos which I shared on a previous post "Alphabet Home Videos".
How Did We Do It?
We worked on labeling, identifying and matching first as suggested in the book "Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome."
Laying the picture card with the word on the same side in front of him I'd say, "Here's a picture of Daddy." Then pointing to the word card, I'd say "This word says Daddy. Let's put 'Daddy'(the word) on Daddy (the photo card). Yay! Good job!" We did this repeatedly for maybe a minute each time several times a day, depending on his interest level. I didn't push it if he wasn't in the mood for playing this matching game.
I introduced the other sight words when I saw that he was matching words successfully with less prompting from me.
Another game we played with the word cards is what I like to call "peek-a-word". This was literally holding the word card behind our little whiteboard so that it is out of sight and then making it pop up randomly around the whiteboard. I'd say the word everytime Matthew could see it. If I made the word "milk" run across the top of the whiteboard, I'd say "milk, milk, milk, milk, milk" animatedly until it disappeared behind the whiteboard. Matthew thought this was pretty funny.
It would be interesting to see if Matthew would recognize the words that he does now if they were written differently. For example, if the letter 'a' in the word 'Daddy' was written in a different font/style, would that throw him off?
More words, here we come! Maybe we'll try short sentences such as "I see ____" or "I want ____" and create a little book.
What works for us may not work for others. Some have better luck with pre-made programs such as the ones I've listed in Early Reading Programs.
Sight word lists to check out include:
Dolch Words (220 most common words in English)
100 most common words in English
I'm sure there are more resources and ideas available for teaching reading that I am not aware of. Please feel free to share in the comments section.
Alphabet Home Videos
Book Review: Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome
Early Reading Programs
Speech and Reading Connection