Ahhh… the beginning reader… their little minds are so fresh and eager… Most of the time these little ones are so excited about being able to do what mommy and daddy do every day. Their eagerness can be catchy… in fact, it always gets me excited when they learn how to read their first word… what a milestone!!!
Teaching a child how to read isn’t an exact science… it’s simply plodding along. I know that sounds weird, yet it really is a process… and sometimes a slow one. The most reliable method of learning how to read is the phonetically based method. Here are a few quick pointers on how to get started in the right direction.
1. Begin with the letter names and sounds. Focus on the short vowel sounds. I sometimes add human characteristics to the vowels to make it more fun… like “What does Mr. A say?” or “What is this letter’s name?”
2. Once they know the vowel sounds very well… start adding consonant sounds. Begin making blend families with one consonant letter and each of the vowels. D says d… and can be added to the vowels like this… d…a…da!
3. Go through the entire alphabet learning the consonants and adding them to the vowels to make consonant and vowel blends.
4. Begin learning 3 letter words by adding a consonant to the end of these vowel/consonant blends. “C…a…ca…t” Try making words out of all of the blend families that you learned previously. Introduce some small sight words during this time. The Dolch words are great for this. Ie. “the, an, a”
5. Once three letter words are an easy thing, move on to learning four letter words. I usually use this rule to introduce the concept, “When there are two vowels in a word the first one says its long sound and the second one is silent.” I use a pencil to mark the vowels visually so that the child can see this. Begin practicing marking the vowels and pronouncing four letter words with two vowels.
6. Move on to consonant blends such as “ck says ck in duck.” There are several suppliers that make great flashcards of groups of these “special sounds.” They really help make teaching these sounds much easier.
7. Have children practice identifying these special sounds in words by circling them. Pronounce words that contain your new special sound each week.
8. While covering these special sounds, work on improving the reader’s fluency and speed. Also, a focus on comprehension is necessary. The reader should be able to read a sentence/paragraph and then tell you exactly what it means in his/her own words. Using other tools as your child is learning to read can reap great benefits. Practicing letter sounds through online language arts programs or even worksheets is a good way to instill these new principles.