Tag Archives: things kids say

Mmm, mmm, ha ha

Actual quote from the writing of one of my students this morning:

“I like pigs because they are funny and tasty.”

… uh … at the same time … ?


Kindergarten top gear

I was hanging out with the kindergarten crowd at my school last week. Every year, my school district likes to have a phonemic awareness screening test done on every single kindergarten student, and one of my many jobs at my particular school is to administer this test in our French Immersion kindergarten classes.

And what’s phonemic awareness, you ask? Well, “phonemic” equals “sounds” (think “phonics”), so phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds of the language. It’s things like recognizing rhyming words, or being able to blend together the sounds “c” – “a” – “t” to say the word “cat”, or knowing that the word “bug” begins with the sound “b” – and so do the words “bat” and “ball”. It’s entirely oral, with absolutely no written component. Once written letters get involved, it turns into – ta da! – phonics. We all know about phonics, because we were all taught to “sound out” words when we were first learning to read.

But phonemic awareness is an important precursor to the actual process of learning to read most languages (the ones with alphabets. Languages like Mandarin that have characters instead of letters – probably not so much). Lots of research has shown that phonemic awareness is a very strong predictor of how easily a kid will learn to read: a kid with strong phonemic awareness skills will very likely learn to read quite quickly, whereas a kid who struggles with it, will have a much more difficult time learning to read. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s the general rule we teachers work with.

So my school district is pretty big on screening kindergarten kids for their phonemic awareness skills. All the individual sub-skills are part of the kindergarten curriculum, but most kids arrive in kindergarten with many of them already well-developed through pre-school experiences or just through everyday activities with dad and mom or grandma or whomever. The basic idea is that if a kid hasn’t yet developed much phonemic awareness, it’s a good idea for the teacher (and the kid’s parents) to know this and to put a little more effort into helping the kid build those pre-reading skills. And for me, as a learning support teacher, that gives me a very good idea about who will likely need additional help to learn to read – my future clientele.

To assess the kids, I sit with each one individually. The test takes about 10 minutes to administer, so I whip ’em in and out fairly quickly. I quite enjoy doing it, as I find the kindergarten kids super-interesting and pretty entertaining!

By far, my favourite sub-test is the rhyming word one. I say a word to a kid, and they are supposed to tell me a different word that rhymes with it. I make sure that they understand that if they can’t think of a real word, that they are allowed to make up a word, as long as it rhymes with the word I said. Many kids find this a lot of fun, and try really hard to invent weird words that rhyme.

For example, one of the words is “sit”. I’m sure you can guess several different words that rhyme with “sit” – but some of the words I hear shouldn’t be said at school (exchange the initial “s” for “t”, “sh” or even once “cl”!)! The thing is, the kid will always say those words quite innocently, then giggle because they believe that they’ve just made them up! And I have to keep a straight face.

images I heard a new one this year, though. In response to “Tell me a word that rhymes with “pig“, I usually get stuff like “big” or “dig”. This time I got “Stig”, accompanied by a big grin. All I could do was grin back at the kid, but I so wanted to laugh!

Wonder what that kid’s favourite tv show is?

A slight mispronunciation

We have this computer program at my school to help kids improve their attention and listening skills. They work on it every day for about an hour, playing various games while wearing headphones to hear the instructions. I monitor them, coach them if they’re having trouble, and keep track of their progress on a colourful wall chart. Four kids can do this program at the same time, each at a different level, working at his or her own speed.

To monitor and coach them, I have a double headphone jack, so I can plug both my headphones and theirs into the computer and I can hear what the program is telling them to do. I can easily determine where they are having difficulty or where they are excelling, and I can comment appropriately.

One of the games shows four pictures on the screen, then a voice says a word. The kid is supposed to click on the correct picture. Because it’s a computery voice, it’s sometimes hard to discern exactly what the word is. Also, the words are chosen to enhance listening, so there might be, for example, pictures showing “bays, pays, base, pace”. The voice might then say “bays”, but if the kid confuses sounds like “b” and “p”, he or she could make an error. It can be pretty niggly stuff, but fortunately the program moves along to the next set of four pictures quite quickly, so the kids don’t have much time to get frustrated.

I was listening in while little Iris was working away at that program. Iris is in Grade 2, and is having a very tough time at school, both academically and behaviourally. We are thinking that she may be learning disabled or be ADHD or have some serious language processing issues. We hope that this computer program will help her while we wait to have her assessed in more detail to find out exactly what is going on with her.

Anyway, Iris was gazing at the four pictures on the screen. The computer voice said “buck”. She clicked, correctly, on a picture of a dollar bill (the program is American). Then she said, in a very conversational tone, “Buck you.”

I wasn’t sure I heard her properly. I was wearing headphones, after all, so a lot of the ambient noise in the classroom was quite muffled.

And then she said it again!

“Buck you.”

Then she blithely clicked on the computer screen to move on to the next set of four pictures.

little+girl+swearingSo not only does Iris have quite the potty mouth for a little girl in Grade 2 (she does have two much older brothers, which may explain her language), she also mixes up the sounds “b” and “f”, AND she’s not quite sure what that particular four-letter word that she thought she was saying actually means!

I think we’re going to have to do a LOT of work with Iris.