Monday, July 28, 2008

Phonics Focus

When I go running each morning I also use the time to listen through the sessions from the homeschool convention from last year. I took advantage of the opportunity to buy the whole enchilada while at the convention for less than the cost of my registration to the convention. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the many session that I missed (because I can't be in five places at the same time), and visit again those that I enjoyed so much the first time around.

Yesterday I was challenged by a speaker in regards to teaching effective learning skills to our children. He offered a number of statistics that really challenged me to go against the norm and also gave lots of practical advice for the homeschooling mother and family.

One area that he talked about concerned reading. This really struck a chord with me, because he described my current 6 year old to a 'T.' He said that when kids fall into the habit of whole word reading as opposed to automated phonics reading they will struggle to transfer those skills to other similar words. This is the problem with using Dr. Seuss type books as a basis for reading skills. So, if your child can read the following words: dribble, pibble, dibble, wibble, and fibble. But they cannot read these words: scribble, tibble, mibble, and nibble (I know those aren't all real words, but neither are a lot of the words in a Dr. Seuss book), then they aren't really learning to read the letter patterns, but just the whole words.

This is exactly what I am facing with my daughter. We have learned only through phonics based programs and now she is drawn toward a more whole word approach, but somehow can't sound out "pet" when she comes to it. She knows "horse" and "little" and "best," but not "pet."

He challenged me to get back to phonics. As much as she loves reading those books, she needs to have those phonics sounds automated or she will likely struggle to read as easily or to move on to more advanced passages.

So, here's my plan. I typed out all of the basic sounds. Took up about two pages with 5 columns at about 28 size type. Then I cut them all apart and spread them out on the floor. I picked a couple out for her to read and we put them in an envelope that says, "I know these!" She got excited about this then and started pulling out all the ones that she did know quickly and easily. Of course she knows all 26 basic letters and she also knew a good bit of the rest as well. The ones she did not know quickly I tucked into a blank envelope.

My plan: daily (even multiple times a day) we will go through the ones that she knows to solidify and gain speed in recognition (just like flash cards in math). Each day we will also add some new slips of paper into that envelope depending on how quickly she learns/remembers them. Within a month she should have all of them into her "I know these!" envelope. We will also continue reading at least one story together each day, with me focusing more on sounding out words she gets stuck on rather than figuring them out from context or pictures (which she is notorious for.)

After about a month, we will begin working on more blends. I know this is what she struggles with, even with knowing the sounds she sometimes has a hard time blurring them together to make the word. So, we will sing them as blends, and read them, and reread them until they flow more easily from her tongue. I used the Sing, Spell Read and Write material when I taught kindergarten before I had kids and I still carry the songs from that into my reading instruction. They had a Ferris Wheel song that helped kids blend the starting sound with the first vowel sound. Basically we hold the letter next to each vowel and say, "ba, be, bi, bo, bu, bu, bo, bi, be, ba," and so on through the alphabet. This is a great exercise for kids that struggle with this skill.

She is already a good reader, but I hope this will improve her reading and her word attack skills and help her to continue to excel and enjoy more challenging books. Hope this might help some of you out there also. Any other advice for helping kids cross that final hurdle toward reading independently?

If you are interested, here are the letters (and a couple sight words) that I put together for her to use as 'flash cards' each day:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z, ea, ee, ai, the, oa, o_e, a_e, i_e, e_e, u_e (2), two, ck, e (me), o (go), y (fly), ay, st, pl, fr, tr, sh, th (2), bl, cl, fl, gl, br, dr, pr, gr, sm, sc, sk, sp, cr, tw, spl, spr, scr, squ, sn, sl, str, sw, thr, ar, ch, or, ou, ow (2), er, ur, ir, oi, oy, oo (2), wor, igh, all, alk, ing, kn, gn, ang, ing, ong, ung, ank, ink, onk, unk, wa, a (adopt), y (baby), le (little), -ed (3), wh (2), tch, ear (3), old, -mb, ew (2), -ly, -en, -es, ild, ind, au, aw, ought, aught, dge, ph, un, ould, ough, -ful, tion, sion, do, to, come

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