Literacy Methods: mnemonics, phenomes, and phonemic awareness
October 22, 2016
The majority of this blog is dedicated to the Mother Goose Time (MGT) program, but I wanted to show you the other half of our curriculum and how they both work hand-in-hand to provide a well-rounded, advanced, and unique preschool program. While others in the community may also use the Mother Goose Time curriculum, we are the only preschool to use what I have decided to term the "Carole Morris Method."
Just over two years ago, I learned of the local preschool legend Carole Morris. Mrs. Morris owned the Bloomington Preschool and taught for 32 years in our community. (Come to find out, my 30 year-old sister-in-law attended preschool there!) Using her advanced understanding of child development, Mrs. Morris created a literacy program that would prove itself over the next few decades. Families flocked to her preschool for the sophisticated academic focus that thoroughly prepared their students for their entrance into kindergarten.
Throughout my educational process, I volunteered in and observed many local preschools. While I found much to love in each classroom, and was in awe of how many wonderful, compassionate teachers are in our community, I felt that no preschool matched my own educational philosophy. I mentally began preparing plans for my own preschool after I finished school.
During that time, parents in the community encouraged me to observe Mrs. Morris' classroom and to learn "her magic techniques" before she retired and "all was lost". After observing her classroom, I felt a strong impression to ask to shadow Mrs. Morris until the end of the school year. This meant that I would have to drop all of my university classes to accommodate the preschool schedule. I didn't want to postpone my education any longer, but felt this decision confirmed through prayer. Mrs. Morris agreed and just a week or so later, she made a proposal that would be one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Offering to hand over all of her materials and knowledge, Carole asked if I would be interested in continuing her program after she retired at the end of the school year. I was shocked and told her I wanted to finish my degree before I opened my own school. She asked me to think about it. I went home and spoke with my husband before kneeling in prayer to seek for divine guidance. Immediately, my answer came as a resounding "yes". It was too strong to deny, even though I had so many mental obstacles to work through before I could logically accept it. Now, nearly two years later, I look back to see how my Heavenly Father orchestrated my path perfectly to accept this blessing and to see how much joy it has brought.
My personal educational philosophy revolves around a student-centered curriculum with opportunities to build academic skills, confidence, and an appreciation for the arts. Through Mother Goose Time and Carole Morris, I feel that I have found a perfect combination of arts, academics, hands-on experimenting, and character development.
Just as I could never explain all that MGT provides for my students in one post, the same goes for the Carole Morris Method. Below is just an excerpt of our literacy program using resources from both MGT and the teachings of Mrs. Morris.
Each week brings a new letter focus. This particular week was the letter "k".
We use our MGT circle time board to learn the letter and use the letter pictures to sing phenome songs to begin pairing the letter sound with the letter name.
We use our magic letter hat to pull out items that begin with the letter sound.
We use mnemonic (pictures to aid in memory) letter flashcards to help the students remember what each letter looks like and sounds like, which prepares them both for early writing and reading. We recently updated the flashcards after the well-loved versions from Mrs. Morris were on their last leg.
For our older class, we learn letters in a specific order designed to help the students build on their writing skills at an increasingly difficult rate. We begin with the letter "l", then "t", "i", "j", etc... Mrs. Morris found this particular order to be the most effective. It assists the students to build on their fine motor skills, beginning with the most simple letter, and working from there to learn similar shaped letters. Each description of the letter anatomy is described in terms that that children know and understand: sticks, balls, rainbows, etc... For the younger class, we stick to the MGT letter schedule to ensure that the corresponding letter activities reinforce our letter of the week.
"Say /k/,/k/,/k/, kangaroo." Our focus when working with the flashcards is phonemic awareness. As they learn each letter, we begin to build word families. The first word family we begin with is "it". We then begin learning CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words as a class. MGT provides us with monthly "I Can Read!" emergent reader books for each student. We use these to read as a class, but also one-on-one with each of the students. We are able to gauge their understanding and phonemic comprehension during this time and individualize their instruction.
We then begin what we call our "letter circuit", beginning with a large letter taped to our carpet. The students practice walking the giant letter as though they were writing it.
They then move on to trace sand paper letters.
Next, they practice writing the lower case letter in the salt, using the MGT letter card for reference.
Their final stop is a magnetic writing board where they practice writing the letter one more time.
The entire circuit provides kinesthetic, tactile, visual, and repetitive learning. The more senses and variations a student uses, the more apt they are to remember.
We finish our writing unit with worksheets created by Mrs. Morris to help identify and write the letter. I am not usually a fan of worksheets, but the results that come from using these worksheets twice a week are evidence that they work. And the students really love them! MGT provides more hands-on, explorative, imaginative, and creative activities for literacy. We get the best of both words!
On the back of each worksheet, we write a word of the day. Sometimes, the students like to make up their own words :)
I will feel forever grateful to Mrs. Morris for giving me what feels like her life work and trusting me to carry on her legacy. I am also very grateful for the introduction I had to MGT from a local preschool teacher. Just one week before opening the doors to the preschool, anxiety really took over. I knew I was set with the materials from Mrs. Morris, but there was so much more I needed to do to prepare for the year. MGT provides lesson manuals, manipulatives, music, art ideas and ALL the supplies, and many, many more things. Mostly, it provided me with confidence. There is so much more to post on this subject, but it will have to wait for another day!