Monday, September 3, 2012

The Good Doctor Cures All Ills

This actually happened before the drill, but I wanted to save talking about it till after.

So the major education project with Makoto is learning how to read. Going slow, very slow, and working on things like letter recognition and phonics. It's been, a bit stressful.

Part of the problem is that, teacher I am, but I always expected to be teaching at the secondary level. I like teaching small kids, but I usually don't handle education of children as young as Makoto. The other problem is that while I have taught reading (And in fact teach it every year), I'm dealing with those said older kids. Yes, it's quite a bit of a jump for my junior high students to go from Japanese and its four different writing systems to English, but I'm not having to teach them the concept of reading in the first place.

Makoto however is a blank slate. The biggest challenge is getting him to understand that reading is possible and just how it's done, let alone doing something like sounding out words. The other problem is that of time, we have to face this at night after dinner is done so I'm usually tired after teaching all day and possibly with a private lesson or two, and Makoto has had enough for the day and wants to play. This means he's less than focused and I am not as patient as I should be. All of this has led to some tears (On both sides truth be known) and some yelling from both sides as well.

But, still, we keep going. Lately I've been working with word recognition. We know the alphabet and we're kinda there on the various sounds, it's starting to tie them together and as the middle step between nothing and reading the first book, I've been using the rhymes of Seuss to get things moving along.

Hop on Pop is the current book of choice. Now normally I use this on my junior high school kids to teach them pronunciation (Fox in Socks, a book my speech contest student curse by the time I'm done with them, but yet love getting a copy of after speech, is my choice for intonation and stress). The best thing about the book is that the inner cover contains most of the words used and grouped into their rhyme scheme. This makes it easy, in theory, to point out that the same letters make the same sounds, thus all you need to do is say the same sound over and over and over again, just change the first sound.

With Makoto, this has been slow going. He's great at memorizing (The kid has Panda Bear, Panda Bear What Do You See fully memorized), but actually reading... that's been difficult. It's like the idea isn't quite there and his frustration at being asked to do something by Daddy that he's not so sure of is palatable.

Last Thursday I decided to test him. After all, he had memorized and was, hopefully, reading, a number of the words. So instead of going through the word list, I opened the first page of the book. Then there was a fight.

Makoto howled that he couldn't do it. He didn't want to. He can't read. I kept at it that, yes, he could. He had already. He could indeed read this, really he could! I finally had to grab my youngest into a bear hug and  told him that Daddy believed in him. Daddy thought that HE. COULD. READ!

I talked about how much I love reading and how happy I was when I read my very first book, an experience that I still remember and I still have the book (Are You My Mother?, in case you wanted to know). I told him that we could do this together and then go show Mommy. There was some sniffing, but Makoto settled down a bit, opened the book and...

"Uuuup. P...p...pu... Pup. Pup i... i... is u...p up. Pupupup. C.... c... Cup. Pup is... i... in c... cup. Cup. Puuuuuup. Cup ooon Puuup."

I gathered my son up and took him downstairs. The second time, in front of Mommy, was a bit more smoother.

Pup is up.

Pup in cup.

Cup on pup.

The "click" happened. If you have ever taught, you are aware of the click. It's the teacher's reward. That moment, a moment that is damn near audible, when you've been pounding away at something, trying to twist it and turn it to just the right way for a student to understand. That moment when frustration gives way to understanding, that sweet, sweet moment of education when something is learned, not a fact, but a new way of thinking, that click. It happened.

Makoto read three pages. He's not a reader yet, we still have a long way to go before I can say he can read. The target is still Green Eggs and Ham. But he learned something that I wanted him to get, not the words, not the rhyme, not the phonics, but the simple fact that HE. CAN. READ!

My first book was not Dr. Seuss, my second was. And I remember reading the good doctor a lot growing up and still enjoy reading him to my sons and students. And once more the good doctor has provided the perfect cure for the "I can't do it", because Makoto now knows that he can.

Just how cool is that?

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