Let me start out by saying that I don’t have a ton of patience for toddlers. Pretending that the rock they just picked up or the scribbles of colors they threw on a sidewalk are the greatest things since sliced bread just isn’t exactly in my nature. Sure, I can probably throw on a smile and work things out for an hour or so, but past that my patience begins to wane.
At least, I assume it does. To be honest, I’ve never really given more than an hour much of a shot. For some reason, people don’t look at me and immediately think “babysitter”.
Now, my fiancé on the other hand, is a superb babysitter. She can sit and chat with a miniature person for hours on end sucking in their imaginary friends and endless questions. According to a new study from the Ohio State University, she should probably be the one to teach our kids to read.
This is because according to the study, teachers and parents who constantly call attention to the physical words on the page while they’re reading are giving their kids a leg up on language skills. Referencing words, identifying them, pointing out capital letters or the sounds combinations make at a high and consistent rate seems to be key in helping kids learn even two years down the road.
In the study, Shayne Piasta, assistant professor of teaching and learning, and Laura Justice, professor of teaching and learning, worked with more than 300 children in 85 classrooms during a 30-week shared reading program using the same 30 books for each class. Some classrooms had teachers use a high-dose STAR (Sit Together and Read) regimen, involving four reading sessions per week with consistent pointing out of physical words. A second group got the same treatment twice a week, and a third was read to four times a week but without any special training or instructions. Teaches just did as they always have.
Typically, teachers reference print about 8.5 times per reading session. But those trained in the STAR method usually average 36 references per 10-minue story time.
Those extra references help. A year later, the children in the high-dose STAR classrooms had higher word reading, spelling and comprehension skills than did children in the comparison group. Even the kids in the low-dose STAR classrooms fared better, though the differences were less noticeable.
Here’s my theory. Most of reading is simply pattern and symbol recognition. I mean, how often do you really sit and use your phonetic skills? Usually you just see a word and immediately recognize it for what it is, based on the pattern memory in your brain.
For example: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?
Even monkeys in a recent study were able to learn to differentiate between real and fake words.
My best guess would be that by consistently pointing out the physical words on a page that go along with the words they are hearing is a better way at training a child’s visual memory. Whatever the reason, try pointing out words more often next time during story time.