The Simplicity of Teaching Reading

homeschool readingYes, as a homeschool parent teaching reading can often feel like a huge mountain to climb. In reality, it isn’t all that difficult. Teaching reading does include some specific instructional steps. However, the act of learning how to read is quite simple – theoretically!  Over the years, we have all seen that the wide and varied methods of teaching reading don’t always work. However, over the years… one tried and true method has stood out from the rest. It’s one that has worked time and again and across a wide variety of students. Homeschool requirements vary by family, but this method typically works well for almost every child and still helps the learner even through adult life. This method is based on instruction in the same way we do our other subjects using a mastery approach or building on a foundation. If these educational theory works for all other subjects – why wouldn’t it work for reading as well?

The educational theorists and researchers have done extensive studies on the best way to approach reading. These studies have finally agreed that the method of teaching phonemic awareness or otherwise known as teaching phonics… is the winner! I know, I know, many of you are saying… big deal… I’ve known that for years. Well, you are right. This isn’t a “new” thing. In fact, it is a very old thing. This is how reading has been taught for centuries, I guess our highly intelligent educational gurus are just now catching up. I love this great yet simplistic Reading Skills Pyramid that Time4Learning has developed. I keep a copy of it in my homeschool binder.

Here are a few simple reading fluency guidelines to make sure that you include in your reading instruction…

1)Students should be able to recognize individual sounds in words – you can accomplish this through games such as clapping for each sound.

2)Students should be able to distinguish first and last sounds of various words. Again, you can play a game where you say a few words and ask the child to tell you what the first and last sounds are.

3)Once students know their letter sounds and can recognize the letters, they can begin “coding” and “decoding.” This is simply sounding out words and then breaking apart the word’s sounds to be able to write the word.

4)Two very fun ways to practice and gain word familiarity are to recognize syllables in words  and to make rhyming words. There are a ton of fun games that can be played to practice these skills. We enjoy clapping/stomping to find syllables in words, and then we have a blast making rhyming words from a simple word that they know and recognize!

Learning to Read…

This year my last little sweety will officially be school age. Which also means that she will be learning to read. I have homeschooled five children already, and even tuaght dozens of children at school how to read yet, somehow teaching my own how to read gives me a bit of anxiety. In my mind, there’s just something pivotal…crucial…or foundational about reading skills that just make me want to be sure to get it right!

She has already completed all of the preschool levels on Time4Learning, and even half of the kindergarten lessons. She seems to know all her letters and sounds, so I know we are close… I’m so excited to be able to help her unlock this door to so many opportunities. Yet… it will still be a challenge.

Here is my simple breakdown of how we start reading at our house…

1) After they know their letter and sounds we usually begin learning blends –  by blending a consonant and a vowel. We’ll practice sounding out these until they do it quickly.

2) Once blends are nicely in hand we move on to special sounds (sometimes these steps overlap). You know those sounds that really have no rules to back them up… like gn in gnat… I have a set of flashcards and little posters that we use to review them…

3) After we master the special sounds or consonant blends we’ll move to blending small words like ca-t and do-g.  Site words (dolch site words are a great list to use) are good to add in while you are working on three letter words.

4) You can move to long vowel sound and then longer words…. also adding more “special sounds” that weren’t learned previously. Sounds like “au in faucet” should be introduced as the child begins learning more difficult words!

The stages and steps are not concrete, and often we’ll enter a different stage while still working on a previous one. There are lots of other things I throw in to enrich the learning process… but these few steps are the basic building blocks to learning how to read. They really are simple…you’d think anyone could it… even me!

Get Hooked… on classics!

A taste for great literature doesn’t just happen… it must be cultivated. Yet how?
With all of the shallow and poorly written books out there it becomes an increasingly difficult task for parents to get their children reading the classics. But the good news is… there are a few easy things you can do to get them hooked…
1. Read aloud – read your children great works of literature. Choose a great classic that is exciting and adventurous. They’ll beg you to read more…
2. Use SSR – Silent Sustained Reading to form a reading habit. Consistently require your children to read for a set amount of time. Do this each day, and it will become a habit.
3. Require a variety of genres. Make sure your children don’t get stuck on one particular type of book. Have them read Newberry Award Books, historical fiction, biographies, folk tales, etc. In fact, encouraging them to be well-read is a great SAT strategy.
4. Use reading strategies to encourage your children to read critically. From the time they first begin to read, they need to be reading with understanding. Ask them questions as they finish each sentence, and encourage them to think while they are reading. Grow this process as they mature into a student who can analyze complex literature.

Teaching Reading for Comprehension

Teaching our children how to read is one of the primary and most fundamental responsibilities of the homeschooling parent. However, teaching children how to read with the goal of good reading comprehension takes a bit of work. Understanding that children need to use “metacognition” (thinking about how they think) to be aware of what they are doing while they are reading is a step toward successful reading comprehension.  Children will often “get down” the mechanics of reading and be able to do it fundamentally well, yet not be able to remember a thing about the story when they finish. Their focus is skewed  – all on how to read instead of reading for meaning.

The child that is being taught the basic fundamental phonemic awareness needs also to be thinking about what he/she is doing as they begin to blend vowels and consonants.  I like to add little games to our beginning reading exercises that allow my child to create meaningful words. For example, if we are reviewing blends such as ba – be  – bi – bo – bu… I let my child add single letter endings to meaningful words out of the blends they are reviewing.  As they progress in to more complex phonemic blends, I do the same. At each step in the process I am teaching meaning along with mechanics. Keeping the focus on the fact that we read to gain meaning, will help your child to think about this as they begin to read. As the child moves into sentences – after they read ask them to explain what it meant to you.  In every reading exercise – make the MEANING of the selection important! The whole point and purpose of reading is to extract meaning from the written word. If our children do less than that – reading is simply an effort in futility.

Reading Rules

Though our focus on this blog is technology based, reading spans the various methods of education.  The same rules for reading apply when you’re reading or book or whether you’re reading an online article.  Children who are beginning readers as well as those who have been reading for quite some time need to keep a few simply guidelines in mind to comprehend the most out of their reading. Educators often call this metacognition… or thinking about how you think.  So, lets encourage our readers to think about how they think about reading! This is reading for comprehension…

1. Always read the passage carefully and deliberately – concentration without distraction is key

2. Don’t forget to pay attentiont o illustrations, diagrams, and charts – these are “pictures” given to help the reader get the most out of the passage

3. Learn to read “between the lines” – this is also called inferring – gaining understanding without the author directly stating the “whole story”

4. If you come across a word that you don’t understand – try to gain the meaning from the context of the passage – use “contextual clues”

Children who struggle with reading comprehenion can be given reading exercises to help strengthen their comprehension skills. There are many different types of learning games and websites that can assist childre with this.  There are a few rules to remember when answering reading comprehension questions…

1. Most answers are given clearly in the passage – but don’t copy – use your own words to answer comprehension questions

2. Comprehension questions do not always follow the sequence of the passage you read

3. If you don’t understand something – read the passage again

Other related posts:

Literature Studies

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum