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St. Matthew's Publishing | Textbooks and Children's Books Publisher

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Author: Shaneh Leng

Writing the letters A to Z may seem difficult to teach among preschool children, but with constant practice and with the correct teaching strategy, this skill will soon be easily assimilated. An effective teacher must include engaging, multisensory activities to help children learn to recognize and write each letter from A to Z correctly—and with ease and fun!

With creative, engaging, hands-on activities, children will easily remember the shape of each letter as they develop into writers and readers.

How Children Learn Letter Formation

  • Students learn letter formation best through active exploration of letter names, the sounds the letters stand for, the letters’ visual characteristics, and the motor movements involved in their formation.

Teaching to All Learning Styles

  • It’s important to know that there is a range of learning styles in the classroom: that visual learners learn best by seeing, tactile learners by touching, kinesthetic learners by doing, and auditory learners by hearing.
  • It’s a good idea to give every child a chance to engage in all kinds of activities; combining modalities often leads to faster learning.

Working with Learning Challenges

  • For students with learning disabilities, we must provide activities that fit a range of learning styles to compensate for limitations. A combination of visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory activities nurtures different learning styles and involves the whole group.
  • Children with learning difficulties face many different issues in handwriting instruction.

Disabilities that Affect Letter Formation

  1. Dysgraphia – It is the lack of control of the handwriting muscles. Children with dysgraphia may:
  • write backward;
  • use heavy pressure, thereby smudging the paper;
  • struggle to maintain consistent spacing within and between words; and/or
  • erase repeatedly.
  1. Fine-motor limitations – Children with these difficulties may:
  • struggle to control writing utensils and scissors;
  • struggle to button and zip clothing; and/or
  • have difficulty copying simple shapes.
  1. Visual memory/discrimination weaknesses – Children with these difficulties may:
  • confuse letter orientation (for instance, b and d, or n and u);
  • reverse a series of letters (for instance, saw and was); and/or
  • confuse “left” with “right”, and “over” with “under.”

Letter-practice Procedures

The following steps are a guide to introducing children to each letter of the alphabet:

  1. Preview the letter on the board before having the children write it. Teach the letter name first, so that the children can have a conceptual peg on which to hang their understanding. Slowly demonstrate each letter on the board as you recite the steps in forming the strokes.
  2. Have the children trace each letter in the air as you recite the steps again. Demonstrate how to do this by holding your thumb and first two fingers together, as though gripping a pencil, and forming the letter in the air.
  3. Ask the children to pick up their pencils and try to write one letter on their paper. Circulate around the room and check to see that the children have understood the basic strokes. If they haven’t, take their hands in yours and guide them through the strokes.
  4. Invite the children to complete one row of the letter. For each child, circle the best letter in the row he or she made.

Commonly Confused Letter Pairs

Children recognize letters by visually analyzing the shape and orientation of each letter. However, with so many similarities between letters, it is common even for grade-schoolers to confuse certain letters.

Use the following visual and auditory hints to help children discriminate between these letter pairs:

A vs. O            Like an apple, A has a stem. Like an orange, O does not.

B vs. D           Have the children hold their hands in front of them and form a B with their left hand and a D with their right. Have them move their hands together and help them see the “bed.”

B vs. H           B has a ball that bounces; H has two legs that hop.

C vs. O           C’s mouth is open to eat a cookie. O is closed, like the shape of an orange.

D vs. P           D has a tail that stays above water, like a duck. P has a round peso and a tail that goes down, reaching down to put a peso in your pocket.

P vs. Q          P comes right before Q in the alphabet; so the bat comes before the ball on P, and the bat comes after the ball on Q.

V vs. Y           Y is just like V, but it has a piece of yarn hanging down.

C vs. G           C is wide open, but G has a little Gate, or Garage, at its opening.

I vs. J             J looks like I, but the bottom part of J Jumps up a little.

M vs. W         M looks like two Mountains. W looks like Waves in the Water.

P vs. R            P and R look the same, but R has a Ramp on which you can Race down.

U vs. V            U is the cUp; V is the Vase.

Alphabet Activities

Index Cards

Index cards are a great resource for letter-recognition activities. Make and laminate a set of 26 cards, one for each letter.

  • Give each child an index card with one letter on it. Invite the children to sit in a circle. Play some music and have the children pass the cards in one direction around the circle. When the music stops, each child names the letter on his or her card.
  • Play a letter version of Simon Says. Hold up cards that have the letters Jj, Ww, and Ss on them, and have the children jump when they see Jj, wave when they see Ww, and sit when they see Ss.

Skywriting

Ask one child to stand with his or her back to the group. Have the child trace a large letter in the air with his or her finger while his or her classmates try to guess the letter. Invite the children to take turns “skywriting” letters.

Mystery Bag Guessing Game

Here’s a fun way to introduce each letter. Write the letter on a smooth piece of paper using plain school glue. When the glue dries, put the paper in a “mystery bag.” Have the children put their hands in the bag to feel the paper with their fingers and have them try to guess the letter.

Letter-by-letter Activities

Duck Walk

Children form the letter Dd with their bodies and distinguish between upper-and lowercase letters.

Jumping Jack J’s

Children respond physically to the shapes of letters and rapidly discriminate between similar letters.

Karate Kicks

Children use their whole bodies to form the letter Kk.

The L’s are Lost

Children examine the classroom environment for the lines of an L.

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Common Learning Disabilities

What is Learning Disability?

Learning disability is a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities.

TYPES OF LEARNING DISABILITIES

Learning disabilities can be categorized either by the type of information processing that is affected or by the specific difficulties caused by a processing deficit. Information processing deficits. Learning disabilities fall into broad categories based on the four stages of information processing used in learning:

  • Input
  • Integration
  • Storage
  • Output

Specific Learning Disabilities

  1. Reading disability (Dyslexia)
    This type of disorder, also known as dyslexia, is quite widespread and is the most common learning disability. In fact, reading disabilities affect 2 to 8 percent of elementary school children. And, of all students with specific learning disabilities, 70%-80% have deficits in reading.

Specific Characteristics:

  • inability to distinguish or separate the sounds in spoken words
  • problem sounding out words
  • trouble with rhyming games
  • trouble understanding or remembering new concepts
  • difficulty comprehending words read
  1. Writing disability (Dysgraphia)
    Writing too, involves several brain areas and functions. The brain networks for vocabulary, grammar, hand movement, and memory must all be in good working order. So, a developmental writing disorder may result from problems in any of these areas.
  2. Arithmetic disorder (Dyscalculia)
    Specific Characteristics:
    has difficulty …
  • recognizing numbers and symbols
  • memorizing facts
  • aligning numbers
  • understanding abstract concepts like place value and fractions
  1. Nonverbal learning disability

Nonverbal learning disabilities often manifest in…

  • Motor clumsiness, poor visual skills, problematic social relationships, difficulty with math, and poor organizational skills.
  • These individuals often have specific strengths in the verbal domains, including early speech, large vocabulary, early reading and spelling skills, excellent rote-memory and auditory retention, and eloquent self-expression.
  1. Disorders of speaking and listening
    Difficulties that often co-occur with learning disabilities include difficulty with memory, social skills and executive functions (such as organizational skills and time management).
  2. Auditory processing disorder
    Difficulties processing auditory information include difficulty comprehending more than one task at a time and a relatively stronger ability to learn visually.

COMMON SIGNS OF LEARNING DISABILITIES

Toddlers/Pre-K

  • Speaks later than most children
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word
  • Difficulty rhyming words
  • Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, shapes
  • Extremely restless and easily distracted
  • Trouble interacting with peers
  • Difficulty following directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills slow to develop

Kindergarten

  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
  • Slow to remember facts
  • Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
  • Unstable pencil grip
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents

Prep

  • Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)
  • Slow to learn spelling strategies
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Trouble with word problems
  • Difficulty with handwriting
  • Awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip
  • Avoids writing assignments
  • Slow or poor recall of facts
  • Difficulty making friends

CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS

The causes for learning disabilities are not well understood, and sometimes there is no apparent cause for a learning disability. However, some causes of neurological impairments include:

  • Heredity – Learning disabilities often run in the family.
  • Problems during pregnancy and birth.
  • Accidents after birth (head injuries, malnutrition, toxic exposure)

EVALUATION

Evaluation depends on an integrated assessment of the child’s functioning in the following domains:

  • cognition – perceptual organization, memory, concept formation, and problem solving
  • communication – speech/language form, content, and use for receptive and expressive purposes
  • emergent literacy – phonological awareness, awareness of print; numeric – number recognition, and number concepts
  • motor functions – gross, fine, and oral motor abilities
  • sensory functions – auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, and visual systems
  • social – emotional adjustment, including behavior, temperament, and social interaction

TREATMENT AND INTERVENTION

Interventions include:
1. Mastery model:

  • Learners work at their own level of mastery.
  • Practice
  • Gain fundamental skills before moving onto the next level.
  1. Direct Instruction:
  • Highly structured, intensive instruction
  • Correcting mistakes immediately
  • Achievement-based grouping
  • Frequent progress assessment
  1. Classroom Adjustments:
  • Special seating assignments
  • Alternative or modified assignments
  • Modified testing procedures
  1. Special Equipment:
  • Electronic spellers and dictionaries
  • Talking alphabet
  • Books on tape
  1. Classroom Assistants:
  • Note-takers
  • Readers
  • Proofreaders
  1. Special Education:
  • Prescribed hours in a special class
  • Placement in special class

Enrollment in a special school for learning disabled students

Crisis Management

Crisis is defined as a time of severe difficulty or danger, or a time when a difficult or important decision must be made. This is a serious, unexpected, and potentially dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

Crisis often arises from unexpected situations, and may sometimes be very hard to deal with or understand wherein a difficult choice has to be made between alternatives that are equally undesirable.

What to do in times of crises:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Don’t panic.
  3. Don’t blame others.
  4. Analyze the crisis.
  5. Be rational.
  6. Decide on what action to take.
  7. Implement your decision.
  8. Evaluate.
  9. Talk about the crisis with your staff.

Even if you don’t have a great deal of experiences, you can ensure that you are successful in crisis management and decision-making if you are methodical in your approach.

Do:

  1. Concentrate.
  2. Think logically and go through the stages of decision-making.
  3. Be honest. (Was it your fault?)
  4. Be positive.
  5. Be open to criticism.
  6. Accept problems.
  7. Be patient.
  8. Recognize your limits—you may need to pass the problem over to someone else.
  9. Be open-minded, particularly to other people’s solutions.
  10. Be willing to learn from the problem.
  11. Have the courage to try or start again.
  12. Keep the problem in perspective.
  13. Have a sense of Humor when it’s been solved.
  14. Talk to other people about the problem.
  15. Be confident.

Get off to a good start in communication by explaining why there is a problem and why you have decided to take the action that you have

Don’t:

  1. Be over-sensitive.
  2. Take it personally.
  3. Be over-emotional.
  4. Be tunnel-visioned; there is always a way out.
  5. Be negative.
  6. Blame others.
  7. Panic.
  8. Hide or cover up either the Problem or your actions.
  9. Put off decisions or Procrastinate.

 

*This article was prepared especially for Saint Matthew’s Publishing Corporation.

Constructing Tests

A Test is a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something; it is a short examination of skill or knowledge.

Tests are made for the following reasons:

  • Establish a baseline of information about each child to judge future progress.
  • Monitor the growth of individual children.
  • Have a systematic plan for intervention and guidance.
  • Plan curriculum.
  • Provide parents with updated information on their child.
  • Provide information for making administrative decisions.

Teacher-made Test Examinations are constructed by teachers to be given to their students for the purpose of making and promotions. It is a principal tool in measuring school achievement.

Teacher designed tests are created to supplement evaluation measures, enabling the teacher to make more accurate decisions that affect student learning. It can support decisions about students’ needs and determine their strengths and weaknesses in content areas. These allow the evaluation of the instructional program being used.

Types of Examinations

  • Oral examinations – test in which the answer is given in spoken words.
  • Written examinatioins – test in which the answers are given in writing.
  • Performance examination – test in which the answer is given by means of overt actions.

Several types of test questions have proved their value in teacher-made tests of computational ability, vocabulary, information, understanding, and other specific outcomes. These types are the short-answer, multiple choice, matching and true-false questions.

The short-answer question. This type of question comes in a variety of forms and is known by a variety of names. There is the incomplete sentence form: “A square has four straight sides, while a triangle has ____________ sides.” Then there is a question form: “What letter comes after ‘b’?”

These various forms measure essentially the same thing. Experience indicates that the short-answer forms are more easily read and less confusing than any other type of question. However, other kinds of questions may be used to provide interest and variety and to serve special purposes.

The short-answer type of question is limited, however, to questions that call for facts—what, who, when, where, and how many.

The multiple-choice question. The multiple-choice question type is the best general purpose question for testing outcomes. It is the most widely used type of question in standardized tests, largely because of its flexibility and the fact that it can be scored objectively—that is, anyone who scores it using the answer sheet will arrive at the same results. In teacher-made tests, the multiple-choice question is useful for measuring ability in vocabulary, reading comprehension, interpretation of pictures, letter forms, and symbols, drawing references from set of data, and understanding of concepts and relationships.

Matching-type questions. An interesting variation for the multiple-choice question, one which the teacher can use for a number of special purposes, is the matching-type questions.

This type of question is widely used in pairing off such things as definitions and words defined, or uppercase and lowercase letters. Three of the more important points to watch out for in constructing questions of this type are (1) the list on the right, from which selections are made, should contain more items than the list on the left; (2) to make it simpler for the pupil who knows the right answer to find it, possible answers should be arranged alphabetically, chronologically, or in some other systematic way, and each item should be shot; (3) the questions should be homogenous; that is, on item on the right should be logically excludable as an answer to any item on the left by a pupil who is uninformed.

True-false questions. True-false questions lend variety and interest to informal testing activities. It is easy to construct, interesting to the pupils, easily scored, and it arouses discussion. It is useful when performance of the pupil on any one item is not an important consideration.

Other Types of Test Questions

  • Following directions
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • Sequencing
  • Vocabulary
  • Analogies
  • Problem solving
  • Grammar
  • Essay
  • Listening
  • Dictation
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