Since my Facebook friends all know that I'm obsessed with how to help children learn to read without stress and confusion, they often send me messages, asking for advice with their budding readers.
One of my out-of-state friends has a daughter named Lillith, who was in the beginning stages of learning to read. She sent me a message back in March - Lillith was just NOT understanding how sometimes it took several letters to represent one sound - and how was she supposed to know when that was happening? (This is classic confusion when kids are learning about digraphs.) I told her to let me think about it, and we would figure something out.
That night, I had a burst of inspiration, and sent her this message the next day:
Hey - it dawns on me that Lillith's name is a perfect example of letters working together. I'll make her something with her name to help reinforce the concept. What are the other names in your fam? What does she call her grandparents? Names of friends at school?
She sent me a list of several names, and some of them - like Bryson and Maya - wouldn't really work for this particular goal. But 9 of the names, plus Lillith's, were perfect. So I made her this. (Lillith's last name has been deleted for privacy.)
They're self-explanatory puzzles, with each name a different color. Finding a personal way for her to relate to this difficult concept was the best way to get her invested in putting forth the effort to master it.
And this simple question from a friend is what inspired probably the most useful teaching tool I've ever made (Spelling with Digraphs.) Part of why I'm always willing to give my time and energy freely to my friends is that I want every child to learn to read. But I also know that anything I do to help one child might inspire me to be able to help another. One of my tutoring students has had trouble with digraphs as well, and being able to put together words with a digraph movable alphabet has done wonders for him! So this worked out quite well. :)