Phonemic Awareness for Pre Reading

reading strategiesLearning to read is by far one of the greatest accomplishments of a person’s life. Yet, so often we tend to take this amazing feat for granted. As a homeschool mother, with each of my children I seemingly sweat bullets every time it came to teach them how to read. I guess I realized all too well how vital this ability was to their future success in school. Consequently, on the flip side of that…. is the realization that when taught phonemic awareness on a regular basis the child will eventually read when they are ready. It took me just six kids to realize that one!

When I begin to teach a little one how to read I always start with the basics. Here is a simple timeline of my process for providing them with pre-reading skills.

1) Start with basic letter recognition

2) Build to letter sound recognition

3) Teach consonant and vowels

4) Build to consonant and vowel blends

5) Teach children how to make ABC order

6) Build to consonant blends

7) Teach children how to decode words ( short sound, long sound, special sounds)

8) Introduce short words

9) Build on that!

Quick tips on learning to read…

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.

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 Readiness

How do you know? The fall school term is approaching quickly and many moms are wondering if it is time to start schooling their little ones. But how can you know if they are READY?

There is no ONE single determinant for a child’s reading readiness. In fact, there are MANY facets that contribute to a child being ready. Yet, there are a few definite things your preschooler will do that can show you they are clearly ready for organized education.

1) Is your child able to  listen to instructions and complete a task? (Listening skills)

2) Can your child hold a crayon or pencil? Can he or she cut or tie their shoes? (Fine motor skills)

3) Does your child know the alphabet and number 1-20? (Number skills)

4)Can your child eat a meal without help and dress or undress himself? (Self-sufficiency)

5) Does your child use complete sentences when speaking – at least most of the time 🙂  ?  (Vocabulary skills)

6) Does your child enjoy books? Do they ask you to read to them or try to read themselves? (Language development) I think this is one of the most important indices of a child’s readiness to start learning phonics.  When they DESIRE to read… it’s time…

If your child can do most of these – then he or she is probably ready to start some form of formal education. Yet, if you are still unsure if your child is ready for “school”, a fun “readiness” program may help. Options for this type of program are endless. My preschooler enjoys “getting ready for school”  while having fun with an online preschool program or fun learning games.

Have any readiness suggestions?  Please leave a comment and share your ideas!