Homeschooling 6 year olds – reading

Teaching a child to read in the early years is not as daunting as it at first seems. There are so many different methods out there and honestly, a child that does not have any developmental issues will learn using any of them – just pick one and go for it! Some will need a little more time with the same materials but will get there in the end and others may need you to find them something that addresses their particular needs. Of course, reading excellent literature to children on a daily basis is so important for their development in this area.

The methods I use work for me and have adapted easily for the little ones in my house who needed a little more time. I have already discussed how to lay the foundations for teaching reading in teaching children to read – where to begin so I’ll leave that for now.

Moving on from ear training, a good phonics programme is a must, some sight word practise is helpful and a good quality set of early readers is useful.

I use Letterland for phonics. It was developed to help children who were struggling and was so successful it came into mainstream education. Initially I introduce 1 new letter a day using the abc book, with both its alphabet name and sound, and we spend 5 minutes reading the little story and finding a bunch of items starting with that sound. On the following day we review the sounds and letter names previous learnt before introducing a new letter. At the end of 26 days, with daily reviews of sounds already covered, our 3 year olds will usually know around 20 of the 26 sounds, many of the letter names and be able to work out the rest of the sounds using the Letterland character’s names to prompt them. Not bad for 10 minutes a day.

The 4 and 5 year olds go on to initial sounds experiences, alphabet activities and 3 letter words. (Put “preschool” in the search bar to find my many posts for preschool activities that include alphabet charts, spinny spellers, Duplo 3 letter words, Montessori trays etc.) Our focus this year is now sight words and more advanced digraphs – the sounds that letters make when they get together. Letterland has the cleverest stories to explain these changes.

For example, “H” is Hairy Hat Man who hates noise and whispers his soft “h” sound and the letter “S” is Sammy Snake who hisses his “s” sound. When Sammy stands behind Harry in words his hissing is so loud that Harry turns and says “sh” which is why you can hear a “sh” sound when you see “sh” in words such as shop and ship. Easy isn’t it! Once the children have heard these stories they rarely forget them and they provide very easy prompts when working on decoding words for reading. Even my older children can sometimes be prompted in their reading or spelling of a difficult word with the reminder of one of the more advanced Letterland stories.

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For beginner readers who find reading akin to pulling teeth, putting the readers aside and focussing on building a bank of sight words may be helpful. I type out all the words necessary to read their first Bob Book and we use those for sight word games, flash card drills and other simple activities until they are known by sight. That way, when the child attempts to read the actual book, they are able to breeze through and wonderingly say at the end “I read it!” rather than feel like pulling out their hair (or is that just me?) as they laboriously sound out 1 word after another.

In the sight word mastery file above, the words are moved from pocket to pocket as the child reads them successfully. If they forget the word it goes back to pocket 1 and starts again. That way, by the time words make it into the review envelope they have been read correctly 6 days in a row and are probably quite well known by then – enough to be recognised in the book later.

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The Montessori pink series  starts with simple phonetic words that are matched to pictures. It is an independent activity that requires no supervision other than me listening to the words being read once they have matched all the pictures. In graded sets that get gradually harder, these are free to print out and there are heaps of free resources for them on the web.

There are so many more ideas for teaching reading but these are a few that we have used repeatedly over the years during a short period of one-on-one time with each child, coupled with a little independent work on a daily basis. One they have that lightbulb moment they will be off and running and you will need to restrain yourself from telling them to put that book down and go out and play!

 

 

 

Teaching preschoolers to write

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Today I will be sharing how to teach writing using a daily diary with some general tips and a quick “how to.” I have started this post 3 times now because there is just so much I could say and it keeps turning into a thesis, so back to dot points 🙂

Tips for turning out great writers:

  • Provide many experiences that develop fine motor skills – playdough, threading, building etc.
  • Make sure your child is using the correct pencil grip – get a moulded pencil grip if necessary.
  • Teach the correct letter formation – bad habits are hard to undo.
  • Teach phonics. A strong grasp of the phonemes (sounds) and how they join together to form words is vital
  • Read examples of good writing every day
  • Avoid have-a-go methods where the child is internalising incorrect letter combinations that will need to re-learnt later. Do not be afraid to tell children how to spell a word. It is better to copy from a good model than to write the word the wrong way over and over again. You can encourage them to use their phonetic knowledge and spelling rules as you work with them to write the word correctly the first time.

Daily diary writing for preschoolers – how to:

  • The child chooses their topic for the day and spends a few minutes drawing a picture.
  • Have them dictate a sentence about the picture for you to write down, leaving every second line blank. Ask questions as you do this; What does the word start with? How do I write the letter “s”? Show me in the air. What sound can you hear in the middle of the word? How do I write a “ch” sound? This is one of your sight words – can you remember which letters go together to say “the”?
  • For beginners, re-write the sentence onto a separate strip of paper. Cut it into individual words (or have them do that) then ask them to match these words underneath the ones you have written in their book and glue them in.
  • When this is easy, have the child trace some of the words you have written. For one of my preschoolers I choose a couple of words each day to write in dots so that he can trace them to write the word.
  • When this is easy, start copy work – where the child copies what you have written underneath. (Don’t be too pedantic about letter formation here – just keep practising with handwriting lessons every day so that the correct strokes are quickly learnt.)
  • Read back the writing together, pointing to each word as you do so. Ask them to find a word for you – Can you see the word that says “house”?
  • Move on to having the child write their own sentence once they have a large enough bank of words to do so. Brainstorm words they may need before starting and write them along the bottom of the page so that they can see the correct spelling as they write the word for themselves. Correct any errors as soon as possible.

Obviously there is a lot more to learning to write than I have covered here but for the sake of clarity I have tried to keep it brief. I have used diary writing with several classes of students and now my own children and it is encouraging for them to watch their skills develop over time, as well as proving a lovely keepsake for later. A few years ago my Mum pulled out a school diary I had written in year one and it was so cool to read through and see what was important in my life at the time. It began with the teacher writing everything and by the end of the book I was writing everything – all in the space of one year. Preschoolers will of course move more slowly than this but you will be surprised at their progress. Reading though my diary bought back some wonderful memories of events that I had totally forgotten about and made us all laugh to see what Mum did when she was in school.

 

Teaching preschoolers to read

Homeschool has started for the year at our house and with it our routine. As always, there is some tweaking and re-arranging to make the new schedule work for us and I am reminded that flexibility is important, but am also enjoying the more peaceful atmosphere that being back on a schedule has bought.

As we continue the journey to reading proficiency I have also been reminded that learning to read is a process with several steps that need to be mastered before children will become strong readers. Ear training is so important in the early stages and while they have both memorised their letter sounds without any trouble, they are not yet proficient in the skill of segmenting words into their individual sounds so that is the next step for us. (See this post for an explanation of the steps to successful reading with ideas for teaching each stage along the reading ladder.)

So here are a couple of ways to practise segmenting words; breaking them down into their component sounds or phonograms. These are for words which have two phonograms, but can be easily adapted to 3 letter words by moving 3 objects rather than 2.

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Parking the car into the garage. For example, the word “at” has two sounds or programs; “a” and “t.” Say the word slowly out loud, breaking it into 2 parts as each car is moved to represent the sounds heard.

 

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Sliding the sounds together; bears on a Lego slide.

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The horse jumps the gates as each sound is heard.

These ideas can also be used for learning how many syllables are in words. The word “candle” has 2 syllables; “can” and “dle” so the horse would jump 2 gates also. Don’t use the same game though interchangeably between syllables and sounding out phonograms as it may be very confusing to children. Candle has 5 sounds/phonograms; “c” “a” “n” “d” “l” (silent e), but only 2 syllables.

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Jump the frogs onto the lilipad.

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Jump the grasshoppers onto the leaves.

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Put the food onto the spoons.

After a 5 minute wander through the house I had a bag full of little objects that would do the trick. Even moving counters up and down the desk will do but I thought these were more fun.

 

Teaching Children To Read: Where to begin?

Teaching children to read is one of the most rewarding and challenging things a home educator can do. Watching the love of reading turn into hours of pleasure and learning while curled up with a good book is such a joy, not to mention the importance of being able to read God’s word. So where do we start?

Reading good literature to children is an excellent beginning. Spend a good amount of time every day reading to your children from a young age and they will reap the benefits later.

Apart from being exposed to the written word through books, there are many different stepping-stones along the path to reading – phonetic awareness skills that build on top of each other until competent reading is achieved. We tend to head straight for learning the letter names and sounds, but what many parents don’t realise is that there are several pre-reading skills that need to be in place before a child has that light-bulb moment as they realise they are making sense from the written word.

There is a great article by Diana Rigg here that identifies the sequential steps on what has come to be known as the phonological awareness ladder. She cites research that identifies a direct correlation between children’s grasp of each of these steps and later reading success. Spending some time with your child in the early years ensuring that their ears have been trained to hear sounds in words and have mastered each of the steps on the phonological ladder will set them up for success later.

If you are an educator (and all parents are), the small amount of time spent familiarizing yourself with these concepts will be well worth it. You may be able to skim through them with a child who easily picks them up along the way. However you just may save another child from years of frustration and difficulty in their reading journey by plugging those holes now. It’s worth the effort.

Take a moment to read through Diana’s article first, then with the couple of ideas below and your own methods, you can easily cover these skills with your child. Why not use some of the time spent travelling in the car to play some word games? Be careful to use the sounds that letters make, not their alphabet names. The letter B is called “Bee” but it’s sounds is “b” as in bat.

Level 1 – Participation in rhymes

  • Listen to nursery rhyme CD’s and books
  • Sing rhyming songs and recite fun poetry
  • Read books with obvious rhyming patterns

Level 2 – Words in sentences

  • Ask the child to put up a finger, clap each word or set out a small object for every word they hear

Level 3 – Identifying and Producing Rhyme

  • Use rhyming picture cards and find pairs of objects that rhyme
  • Say 2 words and have children tell you whether or not they rhyme
  • While reading a rhyming story, leave off the rhyming word on the end of a sentence and have the child guess what it could be
  • Make up strings of nonsense words that rhyme
  • Say rhyming words around the circle until no one can think of another rhyme
  • Play rhyming “I spy” (I spy with my little eye, something that rhymes with… )

Level 4 – Syllabification

  • Break words up into syllables or parts. Clap each syllable in words and say how many parts there are. For example, “el-e-phant” has 3 syllables, “app-le” has two, “ant” has one.
  • Sort picture cards or little toys and objects into groups according to the number of syllables
  • Put out coloured chips for each syllable in a word

Level 5 – Recognition of initial sounds in simple words

  • Aurally identify the first sound in words. Ask children to listen for the first sound that comes out when they start to say a word. Find as many things around the house as you can that start with the given sound
  • Find the odd one out within a group that all start with the same sound
  • Sort pictures or objects into their initial sound groups, focussing on 2 obviously different sounds to begin with.
  • Play “I spy.”
  • Remember, this is about training the ear to identify the sounds, not matching sounds to letters at this stage.

Level 6 – Recognition of final sounds in simple words

  • Use the same ideas that the child is already familiar with for initial sounds, focussing on the last sound in the word instead.

Level 7 – Blending

  • Say two or three sounds that make up a word for children to join together. Stretch out the sounds to make them very obvious. For example; d-ooooo-g The child blends the sound together to identify the word.
  • Play the blending game. I do use letter cards for this, but the focus is still on the sounds, not the letters. Hold 2 letters as far apart as you can. The child uses a pointer or fancy stick of some kind (just to make it fun!) and points to each letter in turn. Say the sound each time she points to the letter, moving the letters sightly closer together each time until the letters are touching and the word is blended.

Level 8 – Phonemic segmentation

  • Give lots of practice in segmenting words into sounds. For example, you say dog and the child segments it into d-oooo-g
  • Have a bag or decorated container of pictures or objects that have three obvious sounds. The child takes a lucky dip and segments the word.

 

Teaching Children To Read: Readers

It is very important to expose children to a wide variety of excellent quality literature from an early age. Way before a child can read, they will be able to appreciate a wonderful story and surprise you with their ability to concentrate and enjoy listening to a chapter or so at a time from quality chapter books that would otherwise be way above their reading level.

Those who are familiar with the Charlotte Mason style of education through living books will already be acquainted with the idea that children should be reading “twaddle free” literature that has not been “dumbed down” for children, but rather includes all the richness and fullness of the English language at it’s best.

Today I am listing the beginning readers that my children have enjoyed learning to read from because I do believe that there is a place for the more traditional first reading books or vocabulary controlled readers for beginning readers. Some parents are reluctant to use these because they do not fit into the “quality literature” category, however you need to be clear why you are using them. If they are your child’s only exposure to books then yes, they will not be getting the rich language experiences they need. However, if you are reading aloud or playing audio recordings of classic books and using readers in a structured fashion to teach word decoding and first reading skills, then they have a valuable purpose.

When children are learning to read they will often find it hard work and be easily discouraged with texts that are too difficult. With carefully levelled and graded readers, they will be able to see ongoing progression and experience success and that wonderful feeling of being able to say “I read it myself!” Once a good bank of sight words has been learnt, we go on from levelled readers to plowing through the many picture books in our collection. By the time we have exhausted them, the children are usually ready for easier chapter books and move gradually on to more general chapter books.

There are some beginning readers that are definitely better than others and the following are some of the best that we have used.

Bob Books First!Bob Books Set 3: Word FamiliesBob Books Set 2: Advancing Beginners

Bob Books Set 3: Word FamiliesBob Books Set 5: Long Vowels

Bob Books level 1 2 3 4 and 5  are a relatively cheap way to get a good set of beginning reading books. They have very plain line drawings with stories that have simple appeal. The difficulty increases in very small steps, unlike some early reading sets that jump very quickly from 3 letter words through to sight words, leaving some struggling readers behind. Each level is a boxed set of 12 reading books.

Little BearLittle Bear's VisitA Kiss for Little BearLittle Bear's FriendFather Bear Comes Home

Little Bear books have lots of basic sight words in simple stories that children actually want to read. Very appealing and most are presented in chapter book format to ease through the transition from picture books to chapter books. Level 1 in the “I Can Read” series is a good follow-on from the Bob Books.

Frog and Toad Are FriendsFrog and Toad TogetherFrog and Toad All YearDays with Frog and Toad

The Frog and Toad Series is another set of simple sight word books that have enough in the plot to keep children interested. Frog and Toad’s adventures together are engaging with a touch of humour. Level 2 in the I Can Read series is the next step up from the Little Bear books.

Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia and the rest of the series tell the story of a cheerful young lady who always seems to get things mixed up in a silly and humorous way. Level 2 in the I Can Read series. (I haven’t read all of these but we liked Amelia Bedelia.)

The Josefina Story Quilt

The Josefina story quilt tells the heartwarming tale of Josephina hen as she heads off with a family in a covered wagon. Level 3 in the I Can Read series.

Step into Reading Bravest Dog Ever

Balto tells the story of a sled dog who saves the day with his heroic trip through icy conditions bringing medicine to sick children and villagers. Level 3 in the I Can Read series.

Tornado

Tornado is a good beginner chapter book. More text but simple enough for children to move on with. It is the story of a dog who literally falls out of the sky during a tornado and becomes firm friends with a young boy. One slightly sad section that turns out happily in the end – I always warn my children about these sections as they tend to be quite sensitive to sad events in stories.

Courage of Sarah Noble

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh is a Newbury honour book. An eight-year-old girl finds courage to go alone with her father to build a new home in the Connecticut wilderness and to stay with the Indians when her father goes back to bring the rest of the family.

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is the story of a little boy’s stuffed rabbit and how he became real. Considered to be one of the classics by many and is stepping into longer chapter book reading.