CDC students make "blending boards" for Monument

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BENNINGTON — The Monument Elementary reading program received some new tools this week, thanks to the help of a class from the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center.

Earlier this week, students from the CDC delivered 10 hand-crafted "blending boards" to Monument. Reading specialist Elaine Kenyon had reached out to see if the center could help provide her classes with the boards, which typically cost around $40 each.

"I used to work at (Mount Anthony Union High School, which shares a building with the CDC)," Kenyon explained to a group of kindergartners she was working with on Thursday, "and I met kids who got to do woodworking as part of their school! Isn't that cool?"

The boards are designed to help young students learn how to blend sounds together to form words. Kenyon said she will be using them with kindergarten and first grade students. On Thursday morning, one group of kindergartners tried out the boards for the first time, and were excited to be using them. Each board had three piles of flash cards. The first and third had consonants, and the middle card had a vowel. Students had to sound out the words, and tell Kenyon whether it was a real word or not. Students would give thumbs up when they thought it was a real word, and thumbs down when they thought it was nonsense. Despite a few tricky ones, such as when Kenyon had to explain that while "num" sounds like a word, the real word has a silent "b," the students were able to figure out most of the words.

One student's face was furrowed in concentration as he sounded out the words, "B...a...d...," he said, his face filling with joy as he realized he recognized the word, "Bad!"

Judie Van Alst, speech and language pathologist and founder of MakeTakeandTeach.com provides instructions for how to make and use blending boards on her website. "If you haven't used a blending board yet in your small group instruction, give it a try," she said, "Using this tool really helps students practice sound-symbol correspondence as well as learn to blend sounds into words."

The CDC students' teacher was Brian Coon, who runs the center's Building Trades program, and is no stranger to charitable projects. In 2014, his class built two sheds and donated them to Habitat for Humanity, and they have recently helped out on-site at Habitat builds.

Kenyon was thrilled at the CDC's willingness to help out her students, saving the school $400 in the process. "It was so awesome that they did that," she said.

Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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