July 22, 2010 at 7:15 AM Leave a comment

by: Jennifer Perez

We all know the song~let’s sing it shall we? A-B-C-D-E-F-G, H-I-J-K-elomenop, Q-R-S, T-U-V, W-X-Y and Z. Now we know our ABC’s….but do THEY?

This is exactly what I heard when tutoring a student recently.

Little A

This student, I will call her A, was very strategically trying to write her compound words in alphabetical order when I began to watch ever-so closely.  A had written the 1st two words in the correct alphabetical sequence, but the 3rd however; was not.

Noticing this, I asked my student if she needed a brain break before continuing and she said, “No.”  I then asked if she was confused with the task and she said, “No.”  At this point, I knew something was wrong and I was trying to plan the next questions to ask that wouldn’t make A feel self-conscious.  I asked A if she needed to brush-up on their alphabet, in which the response was a nod…”yes!”

Here we go~ “ABCDEFGHIJK elomenop QRG????”   Imagine the complete shock I was in when I heard this!  How can A not know the Alphabet?  She will be going to 3rd grade in just a few weeks!  How did this go on for so long?  Why didn’t A’s three previous teachers catch on to this discovery?

Learning Opportunity for Little A

In a few short seconds, I realized that answers to those questions did not matter to Little A.  I needed to teach the Alphabet and FAST!  According to A, she “tried learning the ABC’s in Kindergarten, but someone was talking to her so she couldn’t hear the teacher.”  All I have to say about that is …  😦

I quickly wrote down the alphabet into her composition notebook and then closed it.  I decided to sing the ABC song to A so she could hear each and EVERY letter.  When I reach the  “LMNOP” sequence I slowed down a bit and clapped one syllable for each of those five letters. Little A then told me she wanted to try so I encouraged her to use the clapping method.  Did it work???  Not on the first try, but I admire my student’s determination in figuring out the “elomenop” cluster.  Realizing she didn’t get it correct the 1st time around, A looked at me to see what I would say.  I gave her a nod and a BIG smile~ translation: “You can do this!  I believe in you so try it again.” Little A understood the translation perfectly…

Did it work the 2nd time???  YES!!  A decided for the 2nd attempt that she would clap each individual letter.  Once she reached the LMNOP sequence, her rhythm slowed as she carefully said each individual letter ~looking at me with approving eyes.  As soon as she was finished, I gave her our “double high five.” (The double high fives are saved for HUGE accomplishments.)

A’s demeanor completely changed once she realized for herself this was a task and learning opportunity in which she was able to complete herself and learn from.  I could see her self-confidence begin to increase as I told her that she could, “do anything with hard work and determination!” Little A understood what I meant which made my heart smile.

Learning Opportunity for ME

Even though this was a HUGE learning opportunity for A, this was also a HUGE learning opportunity for me as well.  Being that A was about to enter 3rd grade, I automatically assumed she knew her alphabet.  Never again will I do this.  What I learned from this experience is every student has/had different learning experiences in school.  Just because a certain skill or concept was ‘taught’ it doesn’t necessarily mean the skill/concept was actually “learned.”  In my excitement to begin reading and digging deeper into text with A, I didn’t give her a chance to show me what she still needed to know-what I needed to know.  I thank Little A for this valuable lesson.  Not only did I learn from this experience, but it has also made me a better person.  “elomenop” will now have a new meaning for me.

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/22/10


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