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Why Your First Grader Can’t Read: He Might Be Smarter Than You Think
When it comes to reading, grade one is a critical year in a child’s academic development. It is during the first year that most teachers define their students as emerging readers, early fluent readers, or struggling readers. Unfortunately, it is also in the first grade that common teaching practices are arguably the most incompatible with the way bright kids who are analytical in nature learn. A lot of research has been done on visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners, but there are two other types of learners that we don’t hear as much about. They are: memorizers and analytics.
Memorizers must know how. That is, show them how to do something they memorize, save it for future reference, and repeat it on demand. Memorizers tend to do well in reading and social studies. Memorizers can remember the spelling of a word or fact without having to have logical explanations for why. However, analytics need to know the “why” in addition to knowing how something is done. Analyticals are logical thinkers and if something doesn’t make logical sense, their brain will reject it. Analysts are critical thinkers to the highest degree. They tend to excel in math, technology, and science. The problem arises with analytical learners when you try to teach them a topic without the “why”.
This is where things can go wrong for analytical learners and they run the risk of being prematurely labeled or mislabeled as learning disabilities when they may not have a “disorder”. learning but a learning ‘difference’.
Example: to read, even in an emergency, children must know how to blend isolated sounds into words. To write, children must know how to break down words into their sound components. This is where the problem arises: since many first grade teachers focus primarily on phonic awareness, for words that don’t sound like they are spelled like (off) (of) (where) (this) the analytical learner does not understand why the English language is not always written as it sounds phonetically. As a result, he may lag behind his peers in reading. This was a problem for my son who had to repeat first grade because he was not reading at grade level despite extra services provided by his school.
I made the decision to homeschool him and developed my own curriculum according to state standards to bring him up to speed. I always knew my son was a kinesthetic learner, but only recently realized he was an analytical learner. He is a critical thinker and will ask a million questions and solve problems until he finds a concept. with this new information, I started teaching my son the rules of spelling in addition to phonetics and visual memory of words. We worked on all the constant mixtures (sh) (th) (wh) (ch) I taught him the vowel mixtures which (ea) like reading, beading and teaching make the e sound long but (ea) also make the e short sound like head, dead, read (past). I have explained the (how) of spelling in very basic terms. In our language arts homeschooling program, he reads 4 books independently (two starter books that he must read independently, followed by two books slightly above his level. Instead of read aloud to him, he must read me aloud and tell me the main idea, the main characters of the book and at least 2 character traits for each character and how the book relates to something in real life. I then write down three vocabulary words from the read-aloud book, which he must use in a sentence that is not only punctuated correctly with evenly spaced words, but it makes logical sense. a small part of our first grade home language arts program.
I am amazed to see my son beaming with pride as he begins to experience success in reading. He went from hating to read to reading a minimum of four books a day. Since my son is not a “because I said so”, he needs to know the “why” (decomposed logical reason) in addition to how something is done. This is why mathematics and science come naturally to him. These topics follow a logical order, a sequential pattern, being the result of something else. He needs to be taught in a way that reflects his analytical nature, his rational reasoning. It should also be noted that many autistic and dyslexic children are virtual math geniuses.
If you have a child who struggles to read, meet frequently with your child’s teacher to find out what teaching methods she uses to teach your child and how they work. Take the time to discover your child’s dominant learning style. Is he a memorizer or an analytical learner? You must know that. Knowledge will make all the difference in your child’s academic success. We never know. Your struggling reader may be a lot smarter than you think.
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