Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Schooling Older Adoptees: What Works

A few weeks ago, I asked other adoptive moms of Liberians what their experience has been with teaching their adoptees to read. I was shocked by the responses. Without fail, they all said that their child learns a bit, then hits a plateau, then eventually makes progress again. These plateaus can be really long sometimes as the child's vocabulary catches up to all that they are learning. It does no good to know how to sound out "suddenly" if you have no idea that it's actually a word. (Ask me how I know.)

With older adoptees, slow and steady wins the race. What has helped with reading is utilizing several different types of instruction. We do phonics decoding practice with Explode the Code, reading practice with Pathway Readers and chapter books, spelling and phonics practice with All About Spelling (thank you so much, Angie, this program is fabulous!), and auditory training with Earobics. Most importantly, they are always reading or having a book read to them. Audio books are wonderful for building vocabulary in non-readers!
One of the biggest problems with phonics for my Liberians is that they can't hear the difference between certain vowel sounds (/a/ and /i/ sound the same, and /o/ and /u/ are confused). This is due to their dialect. Auditory training has proven very helpful with this issue.

When it comes to math, Maya and Isaac are both able to follow the formulas, but have a hard time learning the facts because it is still too abstract for them. That is, they can do the math, but they don't understand it fully. So we do a little math every day. I hand them a worksheet and set the timer for 20 minutes. They stop when the timer beeps, not when the page is complete. Daily practice is the goal; I don't care how long it takes to finish a book. Slow and steady.

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