Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Dani was at the library again tonight, so I was helping her with her (first grade) homework, as I often do, to keep her out of her mother's hair. It was mostly reading and spelling, but I thought some of the assignments were rather odd.

First was reading. Dani had a short story that she was using for "fluency practice." The way this works is, I time her for one minute while she reads as much of the story as she can. Then she counts the words and writes it down on a form that I sign to prove that she actually did it. Then she does it again, three times a day. The form had three days worth of this already on it, all with the same story. How useful is this, really? Granted, her word count per minute doubled over those practice sessions, but I think mostly because she was practicing being fast, not fluent. She knew the story well enough by this point that she could just slur everything together in one minute-long mush of mispronunciations and flat intonation. A very strange sort of exercise, I thought.

The spelling part of the homework involved "spelling triangles." Each of the vocabulary words had to be spelled out in a triangle, with the first letter on one line, the first two letters on the line below it, then the first three, etc., forming a triangle. This sort of practice kind of makes sense to me, but I don't really like it. I guess it can help with going through the words piece by piece, and figuring out the phonics of each letter, but my brain really wants to divide the words up by syllables first, or even into letter combinations, like "ch" or whatever. The letter by letter string just seems so fragmented. Maybe this is because of my speed-reading mentality of absorbing things in units rather than sequentially.

I wish I could remember how I learned to read and spell (though I think I got the latter mostly from the former). It seems like it's the sort of thing that would be really interesting to study. Not only how we learn it, but how it's been taught in different ways over the years.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I am subbing for a reading class and I am supposed to do those fluency builders, too. For us, it's a bunch of words like this:

fish fry flush fun free fluke fish fat flat

One minute to read 100 words, three tries. I don't see how it helps either. That's why I am just the sub.