Podcast Episode 33:
The Importance of a Strong Foundation

When a toddler is first learning to stack blocks, what do they always do?


One block on top of another, as high as it can go, right?


And then it falls over.


As they get older, they start to realize that if they build a larger base, they can get a taller and more stable tower.


In this week’s podcast episode, I go deep into how to apply this same concept to your child’s education.


Sometimes, we get so focused on our child’s progress, we push them further and further along, going as fast as possible to the next milestone, and we leave gaps in their foundation.  


We need to constantly be checking for gaps and not be afraid to backstep in order to build up that foundation to then move forward once again.

Audio version: www.DecodingLearningDifferences.com


This is Decoding Learning Differences with Kimberlynn Lavelle. This episode is the importance of a strong foundation and the educational conundrum of progress. In the Interview with Beth Sullivan (I'll link to that episode below) in that interview, we talked about how sometimes we have a much older kid who's reading fairly well, and we have to go back to basic basics, A says /a/ because they're coming up with struggles in making progress to go further in their reading.

And one of their struggles is that they're missing some foundational skills. So this episode is really going to be digging into that idea of the importance of a strong foundation and the issue that I have sometimes with just trying to show progress. So the importance of a strong foundation, If you've played Jenga, you know that as you're pulling out the blocks and it's going higher and higher,

you're actually losing the solid foundation that we had to start with. And it's getting all toppling, right? The blocks all fall over. when toddlers are first learning and stacking blocks, they just start stacking one on top of another and they want it to go as high as it can. Then it falls over and you know, the start, they're not even stacked very well.

And so they just fall over after three blocks and then they get up to five blocks. And then as they develop, they start to realize that if they have a stronger base and the bigger blocks on the bottom and they work smart, right? They usher strong foundation allows them to actually build it taller than if they just go straight up. Obviously there's a lot of architectural people,

architects throughout history. They've built with that. That same knowledge of you need a strong foundation in order to have something that withstands the test of time. So Within this, I'm going to actually back up a little, Your foundation, your strong foundation is really important because like I'm saying, if, if you don't have a strong foundation, you're going to have trouble later to be more specific.

Instead of just talking about blood in reading, if your child isn't really super, super strong in their phonics and knowing different letters and sound combinations and what those letters and sound, what those letters, what sounds those letters make, or I should say those phonemes make what the meaning is behind certain morphemes. And I'm getting into kind of like technical speak, but a phoneme is somebody makes a particular sound.

There's a sound associated with it. Morpheme is a piece of a word that has meaning. So it might be the whole word, like cat is a Morpheme, you know, you can picture cat, right. But then there's also like a prefix is not a word by itself, but it has meaning, right? "Un-" has meaning UNremarkable.

We know, the meaning of "-un" is basically not or the opposite of. so any, any part of a word or whole word that has meaning on its own as a phoneme, sorry, a morpheme. The phoneme is the sounds so learning those pieces. They don't have to know phoneme morpheme, those words. they need, but they need to know the, the concept underneath that of this letter makes this sound,

these two letters make this other sound. These three letters make this other sound. Those are all different phonemes. And they have certain sounds. So all of, all of that plays into it. How well they're going to read later. A lot of times we kind of stop working on phonics a little too early. We don't have a super strong foundation.

So they kind of know letters and sounds in general, but then they start relying very heavily on sight words and just sight reading, memorizing what? That this, this says, this, this says this, it says this. And when they get to things that are hard or that they haven't learned yet, yet, they don't know what to do with it.

They really can struggle. And then they, he just kind of mumbled past it or they might ask, what is this word? But if you ask them, well, break it apart. They don't really know what you mean. Or they might start with the first sound and they don't know what to do with the rest. They don't know how to break it apart.

So we actually need to teach phonics a lot longer than we tend to, to have that really strong foundation for reading for math, we tend to rush past number sense, which is understanding how numbers work. And then you wind up with kids who don't really understand like place value. They don't understand what that one next to that nine in 19 really means.

They don't really understand that it's eight, 10, that it's not a one it's a 10. And then in 1,342, that three is a 300. It's not just a three. And even if they can tell you it's 300, sometimes they don't really truly understand it in a way that is internalized, that they can then understand why they made a mistake.

When they said 1,342 minus nine is 42. I know that as an example, doesn't even make too much sense, but if they don't, if they make mistake, that's like not even close, usually it's because they don't understand the numbers that they're working with and what's really happening and we need to backup. So that's this next piece that I want to talk about is allowed back steps.

When you have a fifth grader reading at a fifth grade level, struggling to move beyond that, Back up, back up and figure out where are their gaps. And then you Usually, if you go really far back, go back to the very, very, very beginning that you think is way too easy. Embarrassingly, easy. I've done this with a fifth grader.

This last year. I had a student reading basically at grade level doing great, understands what he reads, but I was noticing that when he was struggling, it was, he didn't have a strategy. He didn't know what to do with multisyllabic words. So I decided, okay, we're going to go back to the very beginning. And it's like embarrassing.

I felt, I felt a little embarrassed asking him to do some of the things I was asking to do, But they were hard for him. It wasn't actually too easy. And I was a little surprised at how hard, some of the very basic things were for him, but it also reinforced that I, I knew what I was doing when I had him back way Up.

So, and this is where I was talking about educational conundrum of progress, right? Educationally, I'm supposed to write goals that shows that he's moving, making progress, moving forward in his reading. So to have a fifth grader reading at a fifth grade level, suddenly be working on ACE, says, ah, Doesn't doesn't work with what I'm supposed to be doing theoretically,

but I know that in the longterm, that's how I get him to go further is to back way up, fill in the gaps. And it is going to go a lot faster than taking six years to get back to a fifth grade level, right? He has so much, but there's some very foundational, beginning stuff that he was missing that we need to fill in so that he can then just fly.

And I've told him that. I said, you know, some of this is going to feel too easy. We just need to get really strong in some of these more beginning things that look a little easy, because then it's going to be so easy for you. Later. When we go back to reading the really big words and periodically I'll show him like a really big word and show him how the thing we just learned applies to that really big word.

You know, we we're working on it with like tiny words, but look, it applies to this really big word. That's why we're learning this other stuff. And then he's always fine with it. He is a really cool kid anyway. So he's always fine with everything. So I want you to take a minute and really think and reflect in your child's learning.

Where are they struggling make forward motion that might be give you a clue or where they're making a lot of mistakes that might give you a clue of where they need to take a back step. They need to go back to that foundational understanding, get out those manipulatives for math, like anything that's tangible that they can work with the, the base 10 blocks.

If you don't have any crabs in base 10 blocks, or the Montessori materials are really beautiful. I love them, but they are a lot more pricey than just like the base 10 blocks on Amazon. But if you want to get some of the beautiful Montessori materials, there, there is some benefit to the Montessori stuff. They've got like some of what they have can be applied a little easier to different concepts,

but I'm not going to give it that right now, my point is get something, having something that concrete shows, this is a one, this is a 10, this is a hundred. This is a thousand really helps because then you can also go from there and say, okay, this thousand is now a one which makes this hundred a 10th, which made this 10,

what was a 10, a thousandth or a hundredth, and then down to a thousandth as the tiny ones, right? So you can, it, it can get adjusted based on what you're working on. Having those manipulatives super powerful. I definitely recommend it all the way. If you have a high schooler and you don't have any manipulatives, please get some,

it helps with that foundational understandings that when you're going onto a new topic, anything you can do to make it very real, definitely helps. And I've talked about this before the importance of the concrete, when we're learning math, we need the concrete. Before we go into pictorial and into abstract too often, as our kids get older, we jumped abstract.

They would make mistakes. They don't understand because they don't have enough foundational understanding that comes from using those concrete materials. With reading, we need a really strong foundation of understanding how sounds work, blending different sounds together, writing, making up silly words by changing the first sound or the lot of sound or the middle sound. Playing With words like that, super helpful,

super important that all builds phonemic awareness, the phonics, knowing letters and sounds. And not just that A says A, A says /a/, a says, ah, and basically all the vowels say, uh, at some point in reading, sometimes any of them will say, uh, B is pretty constant, right? But then they also need to know how to like blend the B L: "bl". C.

It can say /k/, it can say /S/.  CH Sometimes mostly says "ch", but later it might say /k/.

 So Really looking at the, the, the more advanced phonics get into all of that, because that's going to really help with being able to then apply it to larger words later that they've never seen because usually the really big words follow the rules the most. So they're actually easier because if you break them apart into their chunks,

you know, -tion, when pretty much always says tion, it's either like, if you just know it, you know, it done, they can be very easy to just break them apart. So if your child is struggling back it up, and I want to know, where is your child struggling? Where might they need the backstep. If you have questions on this, want a little support, reach out to me. Kimberlynn@DecodingLearningDifferences.com. I really look forward to hearing from you.



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