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!

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.