Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Circumventing the LA Tears

For the first week and a half of kindergarten, tears reigned when it came time for Language Arts. I chose to start Chloe off with the first grade LA course instead of the kindergarten because she knows all of her letters and letter sounds and could even read small words. (She read Dick and Jane to me after I coerced her to sit down and try...she read it all) So, I knew she could read.

When it came time to read the short sentences with small words in her reader, she would get halfway through the assignment and then the tears would start flowing. Slowly, at first and then gaining velocity and sound as I calmly tried to explain how to "sound out" each letter. Oh my goodness! What is a Mama to do? I KNEW she could read the word because it would have been a word she read 3-4 times already in the previous 1 minute. The problem was not the level of reading we were at. It was either a lack of confidence or, worse, strong will. I leaned toward the latter.

A friend of mine visited us one day during our second week of school to appraise the situation. She taught 3rd grade last year in the public school system and I knew she could offer me suggestions.

First, she suggested I switch the order of our subjects. I started the day with Bible and then we worked on Math and Handwriting. We take a 15 minute break and then head on into Language Arts. She suggested I schedule LA first thing (after Bible, of course) so that Chloe is fresh and vibrant for that subject. She noted that in her experience, whatever subject she taught first thing in the morning, that would be the subject her classroom of children excelled in. So, I switched the order of our day.

Her other suggestion and probably the one which yielded the most fruit and the least amount of tears (because she, too, felt that this was an issue of "I don't want to do this any more" and strong will) was a reward chart. Okay. Simple enough, right? Well, the problem lies in the fact that we home school and already use reward charts for our regular life. We needed a way to distinguish this from our regular, every day rewards. So, she told me of a reward chart she implemented with one of her students last year.

The chart is a grid. She earns stickers to fill up the grid. Mine is 6 squares across and 7 lines deep.

I picked 3 items I expect from Chloe.

1. Finish the task. (I work her through some breathing exercises and have her say Philippians 4:13 a couple of times when she starts getting worked up over something)

2. Do her best. If I know she can do something better, she doesn't get a sticker.

3. No complaining.

For each task Chloe finishes, adhering to the three expectations I have outlined, she receives a sticker to put on her grid. When she fills up an entire row, she gets a reward. Once she earns that reward, we cross it off and she can't use it again for that grid. I have two sets of grids and rewards and I mix them up. She also has the potential of earning more than one reward in a day, if she works hard at each task. I even give her stickers for tasks that she does well anyways, not just LA tasks. Here is a list of some of the rewards I offer her.

Frozen Yogurt
prize from my goodie box (this is another incentive reward for her household chores)
Color with Mama (10 minutes)
Play Hide and Seek (10 minutes)
Puppet Show (10 minutes)
Read 3 books
Play bowling (10 minutes)
Play in sandbox (10 minutes)
go to McDonalds for ice cream (after school is over)
Be teacher for 10 minutes (she gets to teach me!)
Put a puzzle together

Now this is not all of our rewards but it will give you an idea of some of the things she enjoys. Most of these are instant. The minute she earns that sticker, we halt school and do the activity right then and there. Its immediate. I think that is the power of this method. Also, most of these items are done with me. That holds the most incentive for her...to spend fun time with Mama. And so far it has worked like a charm. We have far fewer tears, if any at all, and she is a much happier reader. I have even caught her reading almost every day out of her school book reader. It's been wonderful.

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