Writing Lessons from Literature Book 1: Heidi, by Johanna Spyri

Do you have a daughter who loves to read and write stories? If you do, here is something I think you’ll both appreciate. It’s a resource you can use for reading comprehension, for a book club, or for writing lessons.

For years I have thought that a wonderful way to teach writing would be to help students study and analyze the actual writings of accomplished authors. It’s how musicians learn to compose music (at least back in the day when I was studying music theory and composition.) We’d study the music of the great composers by analyzing the chord progressions and melodies, taking note of the structures of the compositions, investigating the composers’ use of instrumentation, and so on. And then we’d try to imitate their style in our own compositions.

I have looked and looked for a similar approach to teaching writing. However, I have not been able to find exactly what I was searching for. So last year my college-age daughter and I wrote Writing Lessons from Literature for my youngest daughter. They include the following:

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The “Our Father” in Art

Last month, I made Junior art masterpiece cards to help him learn the “Hail Mary”. He really enjoyed looking at and talking about the pictures. And he did memorize the prayer, line by line. He would read the words, then I’d cover up them up and he would say them by memory. So, I decided to go ahead and make a similar set to help him learn the “Our Father.”

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Three-Syllable Word Cards for Articulation… and Teaching Ornery Kids

Does your child need practice articulating three-syllable words? For many children with T21, difficulty with phonemic and short term memory is one of the causes of language delay. This really becomes evident when they try to remember how to say multi-syllabic words or construct sentences.

As a former piano teacher, I am noticing the similarity between teaching the language of music to typically developing children and teaching language to a child with Down Syndrome. For typically developing children (and adults!) learning to improvise on the piano can only occur after *a lot* of practice with scales and chord progressions. Similarly, it seems that for Junior, learning to “improvise” in speech only occurs after lots of practice with carrier phrases and repetition with words that are hard to articulate. Frankly, I’m hoping that at some point something will just “click” and he’ll start talking in complete sentences. But I’m still waiting for that to happen.

In the meanwhile, we’re working on articulating difficult sounds such as /h/ and /y/, and we’re working on three syllable words. We practice these at the word level and at the sentence level. And we practice them in scripted conversations. Moreover, because the written word has become a very powerful visual prompt, Junior is also learning to read these words by sight and partly by sounding out.

Of course we want to practice words that he will actually use in daily life. So, for this summer I made this set of flashcards for articulation practice and sight reading.

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Let’s Learn Letters 2! – More Handwriting Worksheets for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

As I mentioned in my last post on Handwriting Skills for Preschoolers, here is another set of handwriting sheets. These are meant to be used once your child is proficient with the first set of Let’s Learn Letters and is ready for narrower (but not too narrow!) lines to trace.

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The “Hail Mary” in Art

Here’s a little Mother’s Day gift for you! For the month of May, I’m teaching Junior to pray the “Hail Mary”. Since he’s such a visual learner, I made these cards for him: an art masterpiece for each line of the “Hail Mary”. I hope they’ll help him to understand the meaning of each line in the prayer as he memorizes it. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Looking at beautiful sacred art is truly a path to prayer. If you have little ones who are just learning to pray, I hope this will help:

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Handwriting Skills for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

This past fall, Junior and I really began working on early handwriting skills in a consistent and systematic manner. It’s been fun to watch his progress. Not only are his hands getting stronger, he is also developing better dexterity. Little by little. So today I’m sharing with you some of our favorite resources and methods for building handwriting skills.

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Building Phonemic Awareness: Three Free Books about Rhyming

Teaching children about rhyming is one of the first steps in building phonemic awareness and preparing them to read phonetically. It’s one of the reasons why so many books for preschoolers use rhymes.

To help Junior learn about rhyming, I made three silly books about rhyming. They’re silly because Junior gets a kick out of anything silly. When I read the first book to him, he giggled so much I just had to make more.

Of course, I thought your preschoolers might enjoy them, too. So here they are:

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Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read with See and Learn: Ten More Free Books!

For those of you using DSE’s See and Learn Reading Program, here are ten more free books. These books are meant to go with See and Learn Sentences 1. Each book reinforces new words and reviews old ones. New books keep my little guy highly motivated, which I why I keep making them 🙂

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Adapted Books for Children with Down Syndrome

In past posts, I have shared some of our homemade books to supplement DSE’s See and Learn Reading Program. Sometimes, however, kids like to read from “real” books. Adapting real books is a great way to motivate them to read. Natalie Hale, author of Whole Child Reading gives some excellent guidelines for adapting books. My nephew Aidan, for example, LOVES the movie Cars. So my sister and I adapted several Cars books for him, which he was so excited to read.

Today I’m sharing some adapted books which your kids may find highly motivating:

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Let’s Learn Shapes! More Montessori-Inspired Worksheets for Preschoolers with (and without) Down Syndrome

As I wrote in my last post, attributes such as colors and shapes, are abstract concepts that can be difficult for children with T21 to understand. But the Montessori method of matching, selecting, and naming really helps children understand attributes and generalize them to real-life objects.

Here are some worksheets I made for Junior to help him learn and understand shapes:

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