The most important thing happening in American education today is what is being done at school and in the home for the elementary school child. Upon this foundation the whole future of our education rests. And we must devote some of our time to specific ways in which parents can provide the best for their child's education.
The approach to word study for the young child should be by four simple steps:
See the word.
Say the word.
Build the word.
Feel the word.
See the Word
Let him start by seeing the words:
Across the room there will be a spot for mental pictures, above a picture on the wall, along the top of a door frame, against the back of a chair. Here the child will look away from unable on the page and see unable, for the un is the troublesome spot and therefore is the part to be emphasized.
As Un able is seen on the wall or door frame, it is said un able. The thinking is already in process, and the mental picture produces a positive feeling (I am able to spell un able), and the word is built. Climb becomes climb against the back of the chair, and consequently will never be dime on a composition to horrify an eighth grade teacher.
Saying the Word
This follows close upon the heels of seeing the word. Here again, the few profitable minutes devoted to this practice at home will be complementing and giving lasting meaning to the many tiring hours of drill already put in by the teacher at school.
As a matter of fact, except for the saying of the word for purposes of correct spelling, the recognition of the vowels - a, e, i, o, u - and the use of the simplest rules for dividing words into syllables, the parent will tread lightly in this direction. The parent will rely on the teacher to direct the child through the myriad side roads of confusion and exceptions to the rule.
Building the Word
This uses all the patterns of sight and sound carried over from seeing and saying, and the child who has learned the fundamentals of these will build with a satisfactory degree of success.
Feeling the Word
Feeling is generally explained within the boundaries of comparison and contrast. Feelings are "like something" or "they are more or less than." Then to feel words we see what they are like - what they describe "more or less." The physical feeling of a word grows out of seeing, saying, and building it. But the awe of word power, word scope, and word possibility grow out of what might have once seemed "too simple to waste time on."
Practices in Understanding Words
Start with words and the excitement of learning words.
Practice seeing words until the skill of enlarging the troublesome spots has become habit.
Knowledge of word parts and basic words should be reviewed at home along with practice in building words.
An introduction to the dictionary, and the necessity for constant dictionary use, can best be emphasized by ownership and use at home.
Study familiar words for new meanings and new interests.
Always learn examples to go with rules.
Start the practice of studying words in their relationship to other words to determine their meaning.
Have faith in the power of words, and the enthusiasm for words, which grows out of feeling words.
Keep a list of important working words (working words are those which can be read, whose meaning is known, and can be written correctly); also, start early to develop the fundamental vocabulary for arithmetic, language, social studies, science, etc.
Put each new word to work, so that it quickly becomes a part of the thinking, speaking, and writing vocabulary.
Know that words are symbols, signs, labels, tools of thinking and expression, and as such are only as good as the wisdom with which they are used.
With a little ingenuity, a parent may easily help a child in his quest to read fluently.