In most cases, when it comes to reading struggles, children have the same problems across all grade levels. If a child does not understand something in Kindergarten, just getting older is not going to solve the problem.
When I was a Title 1 reading teacher, one weakness shared by most of my students was distinguishing between short vowel sounds in words. My students had a hard time memorizing word spellings, and because they were very weak on vowel sound discrimination, their spelling tests were torture for them. It followed that reading was torture for them as well. Here is how I helped them
The first thing I did for these kids was show them the visuals for the vowels and shared a shortened version of the story for each letter. For the visuals to be effective, the object has to match the shape of the letter. The visuals worked beautifully to help cement the sound of the vowel. Using visuals correctly will make all the difference for visual, right-brained, and kinesthetic learners!
Alphabet Teaching Cards include basic vowel sounds and provide a mini-lesson and activity on the reverse of each card.
I also taught hand motions for each vowel. For some children, even as old as middle school, the hand motions were what helped them figure out a word they didn't know. They grew to associate the body motion with the shape of the letter and also the sound they heard themselves saying. Over time, they no longer needed to make the hand motion - sounds had become automatic. Hand motions are essentials for tactile and kinesthetic learners!
For A, we make an anthill with our fingers, and then touch thumbs to make the tunnel Abner made as he tunneled through the anthill For E, I asked the kids to make a fist and notice the lowercase E their fingers made. For I, we had an upraised hand similar to the feathers on Ike’s head. The O was Oscar’s wide open mouth, and the U was Uncle Ule’s upside-down umbrella. Stories are great for beginners and for visual, right-brained, and kinesthetic learners.
Stories along with visuals and hand motions will make it nearly impossible for a child NOT to learn all letter sounds, and especially vowel sounds! (See Alphabet Tales for stories).
In the back of Alphabet Tales, you will find a hands-on activity of craft great for your kinesthetic learner.
In addition to short vowel sounds, words in our language are chock full of advanced vowel spellings just waiting to trip up struggling readers! (Example: ough, igh, ai, ou, etc.) The most effective way to teach children to easily decode words is to teach them how to spell the sounds they hear in words. For example, long A is spelled 8 different ways. The best way to teach visual, right-brained and kinesthetic learners is to show them all the ways you can spell that sound and then practice with real words.
Having introduced the vowel sounds and their letters, and having established our hand motions for those vowels, move on to actually using these newly-acquired tools! We played games together to practice listening for the vowel sound in words.
Say one word at a time. Students will do the hand motion for the vowel they hear. This activity will attach a movement essential for kinesthetic learners and will also allow you to do a quick visual check to see if every child correctly identified the vowel.
Sand, tent, with, bus, off, Tom, bat, best, fresh, sun, punt, shop, west, nod, fun, fin, pen, pun, pan, pin, hop.
If you need a formal assessment for your students’ knowledge of vowel sounds, just have them number a paper, listen to each word, and write the vowel they heard inside each word.
To practice listening for sounds in words, and especially for distinguishing between vowel sounds, I found playing Quick Draw was very helpful. Each child has a white board, or if you are as lucky as I was, you will have enough room on your big white board to accommodate all the kids in your group. Each child stands with his or her back to the white board, marker ready, and then listens while I say the word. OR give each child a personal white board.
You may also use word pairs for quick vowel sound practice: CUT/KIT, GNAT/NET, BET/BIT, COT/CUFF, NIT/NET. Hint: E and I are frequently taken for each other, as are O and U.