High Hat Makes Everyone Happy – Part 2
At North Star Community School dedicated teachers and an astounding program help students learn to read
Fishing for sounds and symbols
The tour of North Star Community School continues and the discovery of how kindergarten teachers are finding unique ways to teach early reading skills to their students.
In another corner of the building a small group of students work with teachers Janet Kujat and Terri Haberman on a Sounds & Symbols activity. Janet has created a great review and reinforcement game with a plastic New Year’s Eve hat. The game titled, “Uh-Oh High Hat,” is a combination of Go Fish and Bingo. The children’s grinning faces reveal excitement and anticipation. In fact, they view this game as their reward of the day.
To play the game, the children take turns pulling a miniature character card out of the hat and saying the character’s name and sound. Whoever is the first to fill up their “Bingo” card wins. A couple of High Hat character cards are mixed in with the others in the hat. If a student picks out this card, he or she has to say, “Uh-Oh High Hat” and then put all of his or her own cards back in the hat. In essence, the child has to start all over. You can tell the class is having fun and learning at the same time.
Every kindergarten teacher at the school brings their own personality to the Sounds & Symbols program. Teacher Barb Stevens is no exception. Today, Barb settles into her white rocking chair with the High Hat puppet, while a dozen students take their place on the carpeting in front of her. She sets the mood for the upcoming lesson by playing The High Hat Song. “Here comes High Hat, oh ho! He’s back again today . . . It’s time to take your place.”
The Sounds & Symbols Early Reading Program incorporates a variety of multi-sensory activities to address different learning styles. Through a “balloon” activity, children practice identifying and saying sounds they have learned. On the board, Barb writes five symbols and draws circles around each one. First she points to ‘t’ and asks the class, “Who can find the ‘t’ sound?” All the children raise their hands, hoping to be selected.
Barb starts with an eager girl in front who approaches the board and points to ‘t.’ “Which sound did you find?” Barb asks. The student says the ‘t’ sound out loud and then draws a string onto the corresponding balloon. Barb continues the process so all the children have a chance to identify and repeat a sound. She also encourages the class to say each sound out loud together.
Throughout her lesson, practice and repetition help instill learning. “The program works,” says Barb. “[Sounds & Symbols] is so great that we will be able to write Mother’s Day cards in May.” On a counter at the back of the classroom Barb has organized her Sounds & Symbols materials in a unique way. She has filed each character card, flash card, and blackline master by symbol into a large file box. She says this system works well for her, making it easy to prepare her lessons. The filing box also keeps the materials safe and protected.
Reading can begin in kindergarten
In Bob Wold’s classroom a High Hat doll hangs near the bulletin board. Various aquariums filled with turtles, lizards, and insects surround the perimeter. He presents one to two Sounds & Symbols lessons a day and introduces a new sound every three or four days. The progress students have made is truly amazing.
Bob insists the Sounds & Symbols lessons, “are the most important academic part of their day.” Throughout activities, he calls on students silently by selecting a stick with a child’s first name written on it from a cup. His students recognize their names instantly.
Student involvement is key to Bob’s approach. He asks children to volunteer to be the “teacher” or a “helper.” He sits down, while students take turns pointing to symbols and having the class say the sound. He also writes words on the board that are unfamiliar to them, and has them sound out the words letter by letter. During the last activity he encourages children to make up sentences using particular words.
Teachers at North Star Community School find it easy to adapt Sounds & Symbols Early Reading Program to their own styles. With comprehensive lessons and abundant choices of activities, it’s easy to keep students motivated. When the ability to read is the foundation to learning, a high quality reading program is crucial to a student’s overall success in school. Barb Stevens believes in it because it’s based on sound research and designed by experts in the field. Like the other teachers at North Star, she keeps seeing the results, day after day.