Writing 101 – Day 1 (Sept. 15, 2014)
Today is the first day of a new WordPress 20-day writing challenge. Freewrite, they said. Don’t stop.
This morning I’m focusing on research and the importance of sight words and number speed for children to succeed in school. It’s on my mind because of Justin and his rush this morning to do his math homework: 100 addition and subtraction problems with a note from the teacher that over the next few weeks the children will be having 100-problem quizzes with 5 minutes to complete them.
I don’t think parents realize the importance of fluency in math. I call it fluency although I don’t think the mathematicians call it fluency. In reading that’s the key word. Research tells us that sight words are the key to fluency, and fluency is one of the keys to reading comprehension. We practice sight words in a myriad of ways — everything from putting words on objects (refrigerator, chair, lamp) to word walls, word building (using the onset-rime method) to practicing with flash cards. Once a child owns a word, it’s his forever and that word serves as the base for man other related words.
Math works the same. How often have we said that all the children need to know is their math facts and times tables? Speed equals fluency, and the quality teacher uses practice and repetition — drills if you will — to give students a math advantage. As I watched Justin, a beginning third grader, using his fingers to count, to add and subtract, math facts under 20 I felt very sad. I know he’s behind. (Justin and his family live with us.)
I also know that one of the major reasons he doesn’t read and know his facts well is that he doesn’t practice. He spends many, many hours every day playing games on his tablet and watching TV. This isn’t giving him the foundation he needs for school, for life. I know if he had more of a model to follow and if he were allowed only an hour on that tablet each day, he’d read and he’d play outside.