Most people, by the time they have their own children, are at a point where reading comes naturally to them. It’s no longer something that they need to consciously think about; the skill has been acquired and solidified. As a result, it may feel like it’s an innate skill. Parents, please don’t fall into this trap! Reading, unlike oral communication, is not a skill that a typical child will just “pick up.” It requires direct instruction and a lot of practice.
Now, let's talk about how teachers are teaching your child how to read. Once you have the inside scoop about what’s happening in your child’s kindergarten or grade 1 classroom, you'll be able to better support them in their reading at home.
The introduction of letters, sounds and emergent reading skills :
During kindergarten, your child will learn the names of all 26 letters, as well as their sounds. Time will also be spent on helping students assess high frequency words in order to determine the initial and last sound. Additionally, there will be lots of games, songs and poems to practice counting the syllables that each word has. During all this, your classroom teacher will be working hard to foster a love of reading within your child at every possible opportunity. He or she is hand-picking stories to read outloud that will pull your child in and make them want to learn to read books like that themselves one day!
In grade 1, there will be a period of reviewing the concept of letters and letter sounds before jumping into digraphs (two letters that, when put together, make a different sound than they would individually). Common digraphs to see in grade 1 French immersion are: ou, on, oi, au, an, am, en, on, in, among others. The concept of fusing sounds will also be a major focus in grade one. Fusion is the ability to put sounds together to make a syllable or word. At the introduction of this concept, students will work on putting a consonant with a vowel, for example, s+a=sa. Once students have learned the digraphs, fusion practice will move into blending a consonant and a digraph, for example, “s+ou= sou.”
There are LOTS of other things taught in a kindergarten and grade 1 French Immersion classroom, but the above should give you an idea of where the focus is when it comes to helping your child learn to read.
Now, how can you help your child at home?
Things to do at home
1. Make and play a memory game with the letters or digraphs that your child’s teacher is focusing on in school. Use cardstock to create two cards for each letter or sound and the goal will be for your child to find the pairs among the overturned cards. If your child can’t yet print the letters, you can take care of that part and have your child help decorate the cards. Make sure you have them say the name of the letter and the sound it makes (k) or the sound that the digraph makes (grade 1) before they get to keep the pair as a point. This is the key that transforms an exercise in finding two matching cards into an activity that strengthens your child’s emergent reader skills. This game is also great for improving working memory.
2. Use some of the amazing educational apps and websites out there to give your child some practice time at home! Bonus, the following apps even say the letter name or sound, so your child can make sure they’re pronouncing it correctly:
3. Work on identifying these letters and sounds in everyday life with your child. If you don’t speak French at home, I understand that it may not be easy to do this. It is possible, though! With some knowledge of basic french vocab, you can help your child review on the fly. For example, if your child is studying the sound “ou” in class this week. Google “words that contain the sound ‘ou’ in french.” You’ll get a whole list! Then, you’ll be ready when an opportunity presents itself to ask your child to identify the sound. For example, if you’re visiting the farm together, when you see the sheep, you may remember that the word for sheep in french is mOUton. You can ask your child if they hear the sound of the week in the word.
Whenever possible, make the revision of these concepts FUN! As a teacher, I know I speak for all the educators in your child’s life when I say that we want your child to love reading. To make that possible, the acquisition of these fundamental skills needs to be something that your child wants to do :)
Mme Michelle is an Instructional Resource Teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is passionate about helping students with diverse needs thrive at school and in the real world. She started French For Life in 2012 with the goal of helping French Immersion students get the support they need to become bilingual, despite academic challenges. Interested in learning more about French For Life virtual or in-person tutoring? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org .