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The Struggling Child In Early Primary School

 The Struggling Child.

Stop Worrying And Act.

Every parent wants their child to learn to read. I have solutions and sensible advice on taking control.

Distressed parents have come to me  about reports from the school. They are worried and they want another opinion.  

“Is my child that far behind?” But even worse is this question, “Why is our child being referred to the School Psychologist for testing?”

There’s a great Arab proverb and it says, “Trust in God but tie up your camel,” and I give that advice in different words. I test the child for them with basic teaching materials. I can usually say, “Stop worrying, but take extra steps.”

Take Control, But Work With The School Too

Then there’s the opposite situation where the classroom teacher says that the child is doing quite alright. But the parents believe the child is not, and can’t get enough detail from the teacher.

It may be difficult to work out why your child is a little behind. There could be many reasons. The most obvious reason is that your child gets distracted in class. He or she may not be tuned in yet.

I tell parents who are worried about a referral to the School Psychologist the following: The school is taking the right steps. As teachers we don’t want children falling through the gaps. If there is a problem we want it identified early. And that is a good thing.

Some of what I write below is also on the post   https://www.tutoringprimary.com/teaching-dyslexic-child/  but all children, or let’s say, most children, require explicit instruction. I say the same to parents of all children, but parents of children with a learning difficulty need the same information but a lot more support, ideas and help to supplement the child’s learning.

To Help Your Child To Read

  1. Think Through The Literacy Curriculum

Often, words are introduced to children in class without a context, that is, in lists or in isolation. There is no reason for Grade 2 children to be given the word ‘debt’ or to experience such a word in a story.

I would not introduce the word ‘island’ or ‘yacht’ to early primary school children.

When teaching the letter ‘y’ as a consonant, the word ‘yes’ is easier than the word ‘yacht’. The teacher has the problem because it is hard to illustrate. The child doesn’t have a problem with the word, ‘yes’.

  1. Vocabulary In The Classroom

So how would you – as a tutoring parent – introduce the word ‘island’ to your primary school child? Perhaps at Grade 3 or 4. I teach children geography. So I have pictures and brief descriptions of geographical features, such as ‘cliff’, ‘bay’, ‘coast’ and ‘river’. The definition of an island is ‘land with water all around it’. There are islands off the coasts and in the middle of rivers.

I would never introduce more than one irregularly spelt word at a time. So I would not give children a sentence such as, “The yacht sails around the island.”

There are also some great stories about islands that can help to introduce the word.

  1. How To Deal With Spelling Lists From School

No child can be expected to learn new vocabulary in a vacuum. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Take a close look at spelling lists, magic words and the like that come home from the school.
  2. Ask yourself whether each word is regular or irregular in spelling.
  3. Ask your child if the irregular words have been discussed in the classroom. Find out if any problematic words have been given to the class in the context of a story. There should always be a context such as a story, a report, a set of instructions, or the like.
  4. Discuss the irregular spelling words with your child. For example, many people believe that the word put does not have regular spelling. Yet, if you go to the UK you will find people pronounce put and but the same way. It depends on local accents.
  1. Literacy Standards At Your Child’s School

  1. Schools today are pressured to perform and to obtain results. Often this pressure comes from parents. This means that some schools are teaching above standard and beyond the specifications of the Curriculum.
  2. You could find that Grade 3 material is being taught as if it is Grade 2. And children are being assessed for Grade 2 on Grade 3 materials. These practices are now common and can cause some children unnecessary frustration. The school, however, will continue the over-reach and you need to be aware of that. This means that the parents can get their child’s school performance into a truer perspective.
  3. Check your curriculum on the internet carefully. Words mean a lot in curriculum writing. Compare one grade with another grade’s curriculum and you will see what your child’s standard needs to be.
  1. What You Can Do If The Readers Are Not Suitable

Many reader sets used in primary schools are old. A confusing aspect about readers is that each publisher uses their own grading codes.

If you believe the readers for your child are too easy, too hard or in other ways a mismatch, you could do your own analysis of a reader.

  1. Make lists under certain headings (in tabular form), such as irregular words, sight words, high frequency words and even odd words.
  2. Note down each word you want to query, and the number of times it is used.
  3. Form your own opinion about the value of the reader.
  4. Then take your findings to the classroom teacher with your argument that the material is not suitable for your child.
  5. Some readers, I’ve noticed, have a sprinkling of uncommon words and I’m at a loss to understand why such words are included in early primary. Note down such words.
  6. If the teacher refers to the pictures as prompts for meanings of the words, you can always ask if the child is learning to read the words or the pictures! Too much dependence on pictures does not assist the child to learn to decode.

Alternatively, if the readers are too easy, let your child read through them and then add to their homework with a Worksheet from this site.

  1. Help Your Child To Learn The Alphabet (if in Prep)

Explain to your child that

  • Our alphabet has twenty six letters.
  • And there are other alphabets that have more letters.
  • As we only have twenty-six letters, fifty two if we include capital letters. And we use them in combinations to create other sounds such as ‘th’ and ‘oa’.
  • The letter ‘y’ acts as the vowel ‘i’ more often than a consonant. So we have A,E,I,O,U and Y as vowels.
  1. Real Words Or Nonsense Words

There is nothing to be gained in giving any child ‘nonsense words’ to read unless it is part of a test conducted by trained psychologists or related professionals.

There is a huge number of real words that can be used to help your child learn to read.

Every time a child sees a word it registers in the memory. So why register nonsense letter combinations. A child needs to see a word between 40 and 60 times to be able to read it – and preferably in context.

If your child hasn’t seen a word that many times and can’t recognise it or read it, then this is a matter for the school, while the parent takes control of learning at home.

Parents can follow straight-forward guidance that I am providing on this site, along with worksheets and lessons, to reinforce children’s learning.