The more I become experienced in my craft, the more I realize that most teachers are thrown a manual and told to teach. For me, there have been big Aha’s and I actually have realized why the reading programs are putting these components into their program. I would like to express that I am not the know-all expert in reading. I do have some quick tips that I find are very useful for teachers who do not have a strong reading program. Keep these in mind, and teach your kids the strategies from the beginning, and you will be more effective in your instruction.
1. Sounds do not have /-uh/ on the end of the sound. This goes for “/b/, /c/, /d/, /f/, /g/, /h/, /j/, /k/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /p/, /q/, /r/, /s/, /t/, /v/, /w/, /y/, /z/. This also goes for /sh/, /ch/, /th/, etc. Also, /r/ is not /er/. When you say /-uh/ at the end of these phonemes, the kids are going to do it. Think about it when they are trying to sound out the word “dog.” You don’t realize it, but it is very difficult to made a word out of /duh/ /o/ /guh/. Now try (/d/ /o/ /g/) much better right? Now, try /er/ /a/ /tuh/. Seems like a foreign language right? It is supposed to be /r/ /a/ /t/. To a 5-6 year old, that would be pretty tough to figure out. Especially if you have an ELL.
2. When you take a word and break it into its separate sounds, (I call it break-it-down) it is most commonly called phoneme segmentation. You are teaching your students to ultimately become better writers. We break words down so they are able to say a word in their head, and sound it out. Eventually, this same strategy will be employed when they are writing on their own. Break-it-down every day. I do this before every reading lesson, and it makes such a difference in the spelling and the writing.
3. When you take separate sounds and ask a child to say the word (I call it say-it-fast) it is most commonly called blending. You are teaching your students to become better readers. We practice this skill explicitly so they are able to hear each sound in a word and then blend it together. They will eventually use this skill in their reading. Say-it-fast every day. Do it right after you break-it-down and it will make a huge difference in your students’ reading.
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4. Know the difference between a word you can sound out and a word that you have to know. I love the strategy “sound-it-out,” however, it doesn’t always work. Make sure your kids know the difference as well. A strategy for these words is say-clap-say, or say-snap-say. These are mainly sight words, and just words they have to know.
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5. Encourage your students to track their print. This is a skill they must know. Model it and encourage them to do it. Especially in kinder and beginning of first grade. When I am in small groups, I have them all track and read in their head. Then we take turns reading each page of the selection for the day. I love 100% active participation, however this is one thing that I will hold my students individually accountable. By making them all track the words in the text, I still get 100% participation, it is just not out loud. Then I can really see who is getting it and who is not.
6. Make it a habit to ask the student what they read after each page. And don’t just let them get away with I read about a ______. Ask them to tell you a detail and then a big idea of what they just read about. Even in the emergent readers…the kids can always talk about the picture. This way, you are helping your students get into the habit of thinking about what they read about.
7. When kids are reading, it is okay for them to stumble. Do not give them the words. When they can’t say a word, don’t say it for them. Give them a strategy. Let them sound-it-out, cover part of the word, chunk the word, look for a base word/compound word. They are going to have to be able to clarify before they are fluent, and that is a skill they are going to have to use on their own. That is where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. If you give kids the words, they are going to depend on someone to give them the words. They need to be held accountable for figuring out what words are on their own.
8. Like 7, students are going to have to stop themselves if they do not understand what a word means. Most kids are going to have to see you model what this looks like, because kids won’t naturally do this on their own. They want to keep going. Before they move on from a word they do not understand, they have to clarify the meaning of the word. They will need to employ a strategy such as: read on, reread, look for context/picture clues, use background knowledge, use text features, etc. Whatever strategies you decide to focus on, be sure to post them in the room so they can be referred to. I can say that I have 100% of my students using these strategies each year, and it works. It is a lot of work in the beginning, but it will pay off.
9. When answering questions about the text, make your kids prove their answer with a page number. Make them write in their answer, “I found it on page ____.” Or for the higher ones, you could have them imbed it into their answer such as, “On page _____ it says ________.” This helps your students make a habit of going back to reference the text to find the answers. I started this with my first graders on Day 1 and yes, they all go back to find the evidence/answer even if they know the answer.
10. Develop a culture and community of eager learners that know the value of literacy. Let them know what can happen if they choose to play instead of read during their reading time. Tell them stories about how important it is for them to become better readers and writers. Tell them about how glad you were when you could read the map on the way to California, the stop sign for the cross walk, or your favorite Magic Treehouse book. Good rationale helps them to make real life connections, and that can make or break a reader. I don’t give stickers and plastic toys when my kids read. I let them know the value of working hard to become good readers and good writers, and that my friends, is far greater than anything else in life.
Hope this helps, and good luck! Let me know if you have any additional strategies you teach! I would love to hear from you:)
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