Warren is six and has just completed kindergarten. Picture a small boy with big bright eyes behind gold rimmed glasses and a permanent grin. Too cute! Warren was scheduled to come to my house for tutoring in reading. On the first visit, Warren did not speak one word. We played memory games and got to know one another, but he did all of his communicating with those bright eyes and his eyebrows. On the second visit, Warren spoke three words, "Where's my mom?" He heard a VW drive by and thought that his mom had left. She, of course, was just in the other room within earshot but out of view. Again we played games focusing on memory, sorting, and logic. I noticed that Warren loved to sort items by color and shape.
As our tutoring goal together was building reading skills, I made Warren a set of hand printed cards of all the sight words I could think of. I made sure to have three or four cards each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. I knew that I could teach Warren to recognize letters and I also knew that he would enjoy sorting the words using the first letter of each word. All the "A" words would go into one pile, the "B" words into another, etc.
On visit three Warren came in and I presented him with the fancy box I had made him. As he opened the box to reveal the sight word cards, his eyes twinkled and a big grin spread across his face. I said, "Warren, I made these cards for you. Each card has a word on it. Will you sort them into piles using the first letter of each word? Do you see a word starting with A?" Warren nodded and picked up the card with "and" written on it. He whispered "and." He picked up another card "can" and said the word in a tiny quiet voice. He picked up five or six cards and said each of them in turn. I knew he hadn't read aloud before as his pronunciation was just a little off. I said, "Warren, does your mother know you can read?" He looked at me with wide eyes, put his hands on his hips, took a deep breath and shouted, "Silence, I kill you!" For those of you who don't know, Warren was mimicking Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a puppet created by ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. I said, "Oh my, Warren, you have been watching Jeff Dunham." Warren and I are now the best of friends because I know about Achmed. Warren's mom emailed me after session three to say that Warren read all the signs on the way home from my house and was now running around his house reading any easy words he could find.
Session four: I wrote out more sight word cards but this time I arranged them into complete sentences. When I presented them to Warren he said, "I can't read this." I said, "Yes you can." Then I pointed to only one word at a time. He read each word in the sentence. His eyes got big and he looked at me in surprise. I said, "Warren, you just read a complete sentence." The light bulb had gone on. That was the point when Warren realized sentences were made of one word at a time. At this point there was no stopping Warren. I got out easy to read books (The Bob Books series) and Warren read one book after another. He added a loud “The End” flourish to the conclusion of each book. I think he read each book simply so he could get to his favorite part - The End!
I LOVE my job! Warren had learned to recognize letters and their sounds at school. He had been too shy to actually read out loud even though in his mind he had been sounding out the words. When Warren came to see me, we played. In playing he gained his confidence and is now reading everything he can get his hands on. Go Warren!