September 23, 2023


It's Your Education

Why Your First Grader Can’t Read: He Might Be Smarter Than You Think

When it comes to reading, first grade is a critical year in a child’s academic development. It is during first grade that most teachers define their students as emergent readers, early fluent readers or struggling ones. Unfortunately, it is also in first grade where common instructional practices are arguably most inconsistent with how bright children who are analytic in nature learn. Much has been researched about visual learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners, but there are two more types of learners that we do not hear about as much. They are: the memorizers and the analyticals.

Memorizers need to know the how. Meaning, show them how to do something they memorize it, store it away for future reference and repeat it back to you on demand. Memorizers tend to do well with reading, social studies. Memorizers can remember the spelling of a word or a fact without having to have logical explanations as to why. However, analyticals need to know the “why” in addition to how something is done. Analytics are logical thinkers and if something does not make logical sense their brains will reject it. Analytics are critical thinkers to the highest degree. They tend to excel in math, technology and science. The problem comes in with analytic learners when you try to teach them a subject without the “why”.

Here’s where things can go downhill for analytical learners and they run the risk of being prematurely labeled or mislabeled as learning disordered when they may not have a learning “disorder” but a learning “difference.”

Case in point: in order to read, even emergently, children must know how to blend isolated sounds into words. In order to write, children must know how to break words into their component sounds. Here’s where the problem arises: since many first grade teachers focus primarily on phonic awareness, for words that do not sound how they are spelled like (off) (of) (where) (this) the analytical learner does not understand why the English language is not always written they way it sounds phonetically. As a result may lag behind his peers when it comes to reading. This was an issue for my son who had to repeat the first grade because he was not reading on grade level despite additional services provided by his school.

I made the decision to homeschool him and developed my own curriculum in accordance with state standards to bring him up to speed. I always knew that my son was a kinesthetic learner but I did not realize until recently that he was an analytical learner to. He is a critical thinker and will ask a million questions and problem solve until he figures a concept out. with this new information, I began to teach my son the rules of spelling in addition to phonics and sight word memory. We worked on all of the constant blends (sh) (th) (wh) (ch) I taught him the vowel blends that (ea) like read, bead and teach makes the long e sound but (ea) also makes the short e sound like head, dead, read (past tense). I explained the (how) of spelling in very basic terms. Part of our language arts homeschool program includes him reading 4 books independently (two starter books that he must read independently, followed by two books that are slightly above his level. Instead of reading aloud to him, he must read aloud to me and tell me the main idea, the main characters in the book and at least 2 character traits for each character and how the book relates to something in real life. I then write three vocabulary words from the read aloud book, which he must use in a sentence that is not only punctuated correctly with words evenly space but that makes logical sense. This is but a small part of our first grade homeschool language arts program.

It amazes me to see my son beam with pride as he begins to experience success with reading. He went from hating to read to reading a minimum of four books a day. Since my son is not a “because I said so child,” he needs to know the “why” (logical reason broken down) in addition to the how something is done. This is why math and science come naturally to him. These subjects follow a logical order, a sequential pattern, being a result of something else. He needs to be taught in a way that speaks to his analytical nature, his rationale reasoning. It is also worth noting that many Autistic and Dyslexic children are virtual mathematical geniuses.

If you have a child, who is a struggling reader, meet with your child’s teacher frequently to find out what instructional methods she is using to teach your child and how they are working. Take the time to discover your child’s dominant learning style. Is he a memorizer or an analytical learner? You need to know this. Knowing this will make all the difference in your child’s academic success. You never know. Your struggling reader may be a whole lot smarter than you think.