Wednesday, August 26, 2009

finding a hook

i wont lie- the wii changed my life. before the wii i use to play nintendo games to be social, but i was absolutely horrid at them. all of them. i blame my parents who, when all my friends were getting the original nintendo system, dug out the old atari and tried to tell us that it was the same thing. for those of you who are wondering- it wasn't. when we finally did get a nintendo system my twin brothers monopolized it, never giving me those hours and hours of practice everyone else my age experienced.

so until the wii i was embarrassingly awful at all of these games. but once the wii came out a new world opened up. the wii is the equivalent to differentiated instruction in the world of nintendo. suddenly i actually enjoyed playing the games once i could move the controller and that moved my person (i'm not so good with the buttons) and i no longer had to pretend i was having fun while others worked out their thumbs.

this also meant i recently was introduced to the cast of characters from mario brothers. as a new convert to this world i'm still learning, but i'm also trying to catch up for lost time. i have my husband explain the ends and outs of each character and try to follow along with which character is from which game. and then i quickly forget what he said and i choose whoever is cutest.

this is all to say that last week i was working one on one with one of my little ones. this is my second year with her and we've been working on hearing initial sounds in words since may. we're making slow but steady progress.

on thursday afternoon i was wracking my brain to think of items that started with the letter m when i blurted out "mushroom". this clearly triggered something in her brain because she exploded into a long monologue of mushrooms in mariocart as well as all the other characters in the game. i tried to follow as much as i could, and silently thanked my husband for exposing me to these characters, and the makers of nintendo wii for making it possible for even me to enjoy playing the games.

as she chatted on and on about her favorite characters a thought began to form- why am i trying so hard to make her listen to the beginning sounds in random words that mean nothing to her? so, after listening to her undying love for princess peach i asked what letter princess peach started with. her eyes lit up as she worked hard at listening to the sound. "P" she exclaimed as she jumped into the air. so i tried more, "mario, lugi, toad," and she took a turn, saying their names and asking me to help her determine their initial sound.

what had three minutes before been a painstaking process was slowly turning into the most animated lesson i've had with her.

that afternoon i spent time on google images finding pictures of each of these characters and printing them out onto cards for us to use in our lessons. when she saw this she just about died of happiness.

today, still on her mario-love streak she asked me to work with her in writing workshop. until today she spent writing workshop writing strings of letters with occasional high frequency words thrown in. she didn't seem to have the concept that what we put on paper has meaning and that the letter sounds are important for making meaning. any attempts to teach her or guide her toward these concepts were painstaking. i'd been working away at it, but it was going slowly.

until today.

she filled three pages writing about mario- mario getting married, dancing with peach, giving her a ring and a kiss, having a baby toad, going to bed, then waking up and going to work. if class hadn't ended i'm not sure how long she would have gone on. for the first time i watched her work at listening to the sounds in her words and slowly she began to understand that writers don't just write down any letter that looks good- they write down letters that have meaning.

as i watched this light bulb turn on she became more confident and more independent with her work in one day. a lesson i've tried to teach since the beginning of last year was learned quickly because she'd truly chosen a topic that she cared about writing perfectly.

who knew mario was so inspiring? i'm so glad i listened to her chat away about her love of mario- so glad i ran with it- and even happier that my wasted hours of playing the wii have paid off professionally.

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