Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Teach Your Child to Read

So, as promised, I am sharing how I taught my now six-year-old to read over a year ago and how I plan to also teach my almost four-year-old to do the same this year. It was so easy and it only took about five minutes a day.
Image Source: Graphics Hunt

For a craft-and-project-centered Mom's Night Out with my Mocha Moms (shout out!), I brought along supplies to make some very colorful, neon 3 x5 flashcards with the famous Dolch sight word list I had printed and cut out to glue to the cards. By the end of the night I was just about there and the next day, we began our learning. Using blank cards and/or rubber bands as a divider, I divided the cards into sections as follows: 

-easy, phonetic, 3-letter words** ('cat', 'run') 
-strictly learn-by-sight 3-letter words** (words that can't be sounded out, ex. 'eat')
-four-letter words** (I know, I know, but they were all clean, I promise)
-words to describe colors
-words to describe numbers
-all other words with more than four letters
-words we're working on (rubber bands)
-words she already knows cold (rubber bands)

Google Images
**I further subdivided the word types so that words that look similar or have the same letters (saw/was, eat/ate) were together as she learned them. I did this so that she could see the two words compared side-by-side as she learned them and hopefully not get them confused later on. Another way I subdivided the words types was into word families (hat/mat/rat/bat, all/ball/fall), which sometimes caused me to have to mix in a few of my 3-letter words with 4-or-more-letter words, but it made the learning easier via patterning.  

On Day One, I began with the first section, working with ONLY five cards to keep things simple, to help her focus and not be overwhelmed. I would hold up each one of the five cards, show her them and say the word on the card, only using it in a sentence (the sillier the better) the first time I read it. I read the cards to out loud to her at least two more times. Next, I held up the cards and quizzed her, having her sound them out if need be. If she had trouble with any of the words, I'd help, then move on to the next card in the set. I did this at least three times. We'd wrap up by me going over the cards once again out loud to solidify it all. I'd place this set of five in its own rubber band and into our handy index card storage box.

FYI, I never labeled the card sections, since I knew at first glance which section was which. 'Words we're working on' always went in the very front. 'Words she knows cold' always went right behind it but before all the other words we hadn't yet touched so that both sets were easily accessible.

Google Images
On Day Two, I began by reviewing what we'd learned the day before, only I'd quiz her first to see what she remembered. Next, I went over the cards out loud three times, then quizzed her again. I should mention that there was LOTS of praise every time she got a word right or remembered it without hesitation. A wrong guess always came with encouraging and a helpful correction.

On Day Three, I began just like Day Two, only by this day, we had real results (yay!!). She knew most, if not all, of the words without hesitation and was proud of it. Any words she learned cold, I'd put in the appropriate section. New words would be cycled in to replace the words she knew with confidence so that the amount of words she was learning every day was always five. 

For example, let's say our working set had the words 'hat', 'bat', 'sat', 'mat', 'fat'. Say she struggled with 'sat' and 'fat' but easily remembered and identified 'hat', 'bat' and 'mat', the latter three cards would come out and be replaced by three of the next words I grabbed out of the section we were working from ('our', 'are', 'you') so that the working set would now be 'sat', 'fat', 'our', 'are', 'you'.

You may be wondering why I kept the words she had down cold so handy if she already knew them. Here's why: I'd go back and review/quiz her on them every day to be sure she wouldn't forget them and more importantly, to build up her confidence  in forging ahead to learn the next set of words (it really worked!).

And that's it. That's all we had to do to really jump start her reading and boost her confidence to try learning more words on her own. Reading to them at night helped a lot, about three books per night, and I made sure they could sit next to me and see the words I was reading. 

Journaling or writing stories helped, because she would ask how to spell the words she didn't know, which gradually became less and less. She would also attempt to read signs on her own while we were out and about, too. Now, newly six, she reads like a champ and I am truly proud of what she can do. She surprises me all the time with what she knows and what she can figure out. And that is truly rewarding.

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