How to teach reading

How to teach reading

Six steps for the beginning reader.

I was fielding questions from a young mom the other day on homeschooling. She and her husband had their heart set on homeschooling, but figured they would send their child to school for a couple of years first so he could learn to read. When I asked why, she admitted that she didn't think she could teach reading and figured the classroom was a better place to master that skill. Judging from the questions and comments I get, a lot of people are intimidated by reading instruction. I taught both my boys to read. One child was easy, while the other was difficult, so I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the methods that work.

There are plenty of quality reading programs out there that can walk you through it. My easy reader didn't need them because he taught himself to read when he was three. The programs didn't quite fit the needs of my difficult reader, so I had to come up with my own plan. Since he is highly methodical and logical like me, I approached it in a logical way.

Step 1: Master the consonant and short vowel sounds. Practice CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) like cat, hat, bad, dog. Continue with this practice until the child can read these words fluently and blend the sounds well and naturally.

Step 2: Introduce the long vowel in conjunction with the silent “E.” Also introduce the plural -s and -es. Many reading programs do these toward the end, but I found it more useful to introduce following CVC fluency.

Step 3: Introduce the initial blends, such as br-, st-, ch-, etc. There are 10 common initial two-letter blends. We focused on a couple of week, joining them with Vowel -Consonant endings, such as sl-ug, sn-ap, etc.

Step 4: Introduce the 12 common ending blends, including -nk and -st, such as in ju-nk and lo-st. We covered a couple a week, while still reviewing out initial blends.

Step 5: Introduce the 21 digraphs, such as “oi,” “ou,” “sh,” and “oa.” We also introduce the four R-controlled sounds at this time – or, ar, air, er. Lots and lots of practice, using these sounds in the beginning, middle and end of words.

Step 6: Once fluency in the common blends and digraphs is reached with simple words, we begin to work on compound words (“cupcake”). We also learn how to break down long words into their parts so we can sound them out (ex.: remember = re*mem*ber. Distaster= dis*tast*er).

After fluency is reached in these six steps, we mainly focus on lots and lots of reading out loud together. I choose engaging books about one level ahead of the new reader. We work out hard words together, taking turns reading paragraphs so he can hear and see how the words flow with fluency. Once reading and comprehension is pretty solid, we begin integrating quiet reading. He keeps a notebook nearby to jot down any words that give him trouble so we can work them out later.