When two vowels go walking…

When two vowels go walking …

It is more than a little helpful to have a handy set of flash cards ready to prompt younger learners and give them reading cues. When learning about “vowel pairs”, for example, cue cards like these are colourful and attractive:

As the time-honoured reading prompt goes: “When two vowels go walking, the first does the talking …” Then, feeling smug with your handy flash cards, you help the child out with the picture provided: “oa” makes “coat.”

To my surprise, the most effective set of flash cards that I have used with my Gr. 1 student is one that she created herself. When I uttered the phrase “when two vowels go walking …” she immediately drew some minuscule legs on a couple of little vowels:


Note that the first attempt had a minor error: the order of the vowels. I urged her to reconsider: the first does the talking. She re-arranged accordingly and proceeded to create different vowel pairs “meeting” each other. The following results were stupendous:


The student rapidly became familiar with which vowels formed which pairs. The truth is, the effectiveness of these homemade flash cards should not have come as a surprise to me. Involving the child in the learning process is essential to developing their ability to retain the concepts and apply them.




Spring at Little House


Spring has officially sprung here at Little House, and we are celebrating the changing of the seasons with a new writing contest! This new contest will not only challenge our students’ imaginations but also their poetry skills. In order to be in the running for the mystery prize, the students must write an acrostic poem centered around spring time.

Acrostics are a fun poetic form that anyone can write by following just a few simple guidelines. To begin, an acrostic poem is a poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase. For our acrostic, we will be spelling out the word “SPRING”. Usually, the first letter of each line is capitalized, as this makes it easier to see the word spelled vertically down the page. The nice thing about acrostic poems is that they don’t need to rhyme, and they don’t have to follow a specific rhythm.

Students are encouraged to participate in the contest by brainstorming about what they think of when they think of spring, and creating a descriptive acrostic poem!


The Borel-Maisonny Phonetic and Gestural Method


Méthode de lecture phonétique et gestuelle Borel-Maisonny :

The Borel-Maisonny phonetic and gestural method teaches french reading in a multi-sensory approach. It focuses on connecting the auditive, visual, articulatory and kinesthetic memories. It was originally developed by one of the founders of speech therapy in France. The idea is to associate each sound with a specific gesture that will help memorizing, but also acts as a link between the sound and its graphic representation.

Let’s take an example : The sound “p” . The tutor will pronounce (auditive) the sound “p” while doing the gesture (visual). The student then repeats and imitates (kinesthetic). The gesture makes sense with the way you articulate the sound. Pronounce “p”, you can observe that first your lips get closer than burst into an explosion. That’s exactly what the gesture mimics as you can see on the picture. That calls for the articulatory memory. The graphic form is also presented to the student (visual). The sound is then practiced in visual and auditory drills. At Little House we have adapted this method. We aim to also address the spelling side and we added pictures to reinforce the visual component.

This is a great and complete method which is very effective teaching students with and without learning disabilities. Each student will or won’t use gestures or pictures, but all is offered for him to naturally pick which techniques provides the best result.


La méthode phonétique et gestuelle Borel-Maisonny permet d’apprendre à lire avec une approche multi-sensorielle. Elle repose sur l’utilisation des mémoires auditive, visuelle, articulatoire et kinesthésique. Elle a été développée par l’une des fondatrices de l’orthophonie en France et a la particularité d’associer chaque son avec un geste. Cela permet d’aider l’enfant à mémoriser et agit comme un intermédiaire entre le phonème et le graphème. Prenons l’exemple du son “p”. En même temps que le tuteur prononce (auditive) le son “p”, il fait le geste associé (visuelle). L’enfant répète et reproduit (kinesthésique). Le geste a été réfléchi pour être cohérent avec l’articulation du son. Prononcezle son “p”, vous pouvez observer que dans un premier temps vos lèvres se serrent puis forment comme une explosion. Ce sont ces étapes que le geste reprend, comme le montre la photo. Cela fait donc lien avec la mémoire articulatoire. La forme visuelle, le graphème, est bien entendu également présentée à l’élève. L’étude du son est ensuite renforcée avec une lecture centrée sur le nouveau son et une dictée. A Little House nous avons adapté cette méthode afin de travailler égalementsur le versant orthographique et nous avons ajouté des images pour renforcer l’utilisation de la mémoire visuelle. Il s’agit d’une méthode complète utile pour les enfants avec et sans troubles des apprentissages. Chaque élève va s’approprier ou non les gestes et les images, mais tous les moyens lui sont offerts et il pourra naturellement choisir celui qui convient le mieux à son style d’apprentissage.


Sight Word Tic-Tac-Toe


Learning to spell sight words can be tricky for many students. They often do not follow a specific spelling rule and can’t be sounded out phonetically. To make memorizing these words more enjoyable, I like to turn them into a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. I draw a 3 x 3 grid, and fill in 9 sight words I want to teach. I put this in a plastic sleeve so we can use dry erase markers.

First, I ask my student to point to each of the sight words and read them out loud. Then we play the game. Each turn, the player marks an X or O, practices spelling the word at the bottom of the page, and reads it out loud. I usually play a few rounds with my student at the beginning of the lesson, and then have them practice spelling the words without looking at them on their Daily Page. This is a fun, multi-sensory method of teaching sight words.


Online resources: a student’s best friends


Online resources: a student’s best friends

 Throughout elementary and high school, I was a forgetful person. I would forget everything from what homework I had to do, to where I left my lunch bag. My parents often said that I would lose my head if it wasn’t screwed on. As a tutor, I’ve had many students who are just as forgetful as I was. It can be stressful for students, their parents, and their tutors when they forget the textbook they need to finish their homework, or the book they need to write a report on for English. However, I’ve found that in most of these cases there is no need to panic or rush back to school to get the forgotten item. What many parents and students underestimate is the immense collection of resources available online. One of my students last week left her math textbook at school, which would have made it difficult to do her homework. When she showed up to tutoring, all we had to do was a simple Google search to find a full copy of the textbook online. This also works for novels. Google Books is an amazing database of full and partial novels, many of which can be accessed for free. If a novel isn’t on Google Books, the Vancouver Public Library also has great collection of eBooks that can be borrowed for free. Also, many schools have paid for subscriptions to online databases that can be accessed through the library’s Webcat site (http://webcat.vsb.bc.ca/). These databases are full of wonderful and reliable sources that can help a lot with research projects. I recommend checking with your school’s librarian to get the access information. The internet is amazing, and is for so much more than cat videos and Facebook. Learning how to use it as a tool for learning is valuable for students as well as their parents.


The Importance of Having a Strong Foundation in Basic Math Skills



In each year of elementary and high school, students learn new math concepts and skills, and build upon what they learned in previous years. It is incredibly important that students have a strong understanding of the concepts they learn in one year in order to meet the challenges of the next year. So, when a student needs help with math, one of my top priorities as a tutor is making sure they have a strong foundation of basic math skills.


Taking time now to practice basic math skills is incredibly important, and will save many hours in the future. Having a strong grasp of addition and subtraction helps students progress to multiplication and division with ease. Multiplication and division are necessary for almost all units of math above a certain grade level, so it is incredibly useful to know the times tables by heart. One of the most frustrating parts of math homework for students can be how long it takes, but being able to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division quickly without a calculator can make it go much faster.


Practicing math skills doesn’t have to be boring either. I have found that when I am enthusiastic while teaching, students are more enthusiastic while learning. Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude! Flash cards are another great way to practice math skills; they are fast, and don’t involve pulling out a textbook, workbook, or pencils. This makes them perfect for math practice on-the-go. You can also incorporate a challenge aspect to math practice, such as seeing how many correct answers a student can get in a minute.


If your child enjoys playing games online or on their phone, consider finding some math websites or apps for them to use. Every child learns differently, so it can be helpful to try out multiple strategies to find what works best.


If your child needs help developing a strong foundation of math skills, or understanding complex topics, the tutors at Little House are happy to help!