How Do You Teach Reading?
This is a question I get from many parents. The answer is: it depends on why the child is struggling to read. Generally I like to start by getting a reading assessment so I can pinpoint the child’s strengths and weaknesses. I look at the current reading ability along with visual, auditory and attention skills. From there I can design a reading program.
What we have noticed at our center that students generally come in with good phonemic skills, they are able to sound out letters. The issues many of our students struggle with are due to weaknesses in sound blending, visual processing, or rapid naming issues. In other words, they either have trouble smoothly putting c-a-t into cat (sound blending) or moving their eyes smoothly across the line of letters without skipping ahead, backwards or down a line. Rapid naming is another issues that impacts reading. Weak rapid naming skills means the pathway between eye (seeing the word), the language center in the brain (translates the letter symbols into sounds that combine to create a word), and the mouth (saying the word) is weak.
We have taken what we have learned over 15 years and created a beginning reading kit. To help understand the process of learning to read I have invited Christy, an educational specialist at the K&M Center, to chronicle her sessions with a beginning reader. Today’s post includes her first session with Tony (not his real name). She will continue to update his progress weekly so you can see in real time both the effort and the joy that comes from teaching a child to read.
Teaching Reading: Session One
Today I met Tony, an enthusiastic 1st grader who wants to read better! After talking to his teachers I have learned that Tony is an average reader and could definitely use extra enrichment outside of school to improve his reading skills. He is the perfect candidate for the Targeted Reading Program and I am looking forward to working with him throughout the twelve-week span of the program.
I had a great first session with Tony and we covered a lot of material that I feel is 100% beneficial in making him a stronger reader. I introduced him to vowel pattern cards (AD) and starter cards (single consonant). He practiced building words by using one starter card at a time and changing the vowel pattern card after reading each word that he built. He did a great job and once he got the hang of it, was rapidly building words.
We then discussed that some words have multiple meanings. Today I selected three words that contain multiple meanings to discuss with Tony, I asked him to tell me the meaning of each word and how many meanings he could come up with for it. On all three words, Tony told me the first definition of a word immediately; however, coming up with additional meanings was a bit of a challenge. Once I informed him of other meanings, a light bulb seemed to go off in his head and he was able to link the word to more than one meaning.
Tony then read two short stories for me. Both stories he read very easily and it was nice to see him get excited about reading a story so quickly. I can see from this session how his stories of the week are really going to increase his fluency and confidence while reading aloud.
Tony and I then worked on reading sight words. Starting with commonly used words, he read through a list of words. When he could not read a word we made a flashcard for it, which he can use to study from until our next session. Tony really enjoyed making the flashcards and promised he would practice using them daily. After we made a flashcard, I would have him study and read the word aloud and discuss any spelling rules it may have. Then I had him write the word down on his whiteboard and then write it in the air with his finger. Today Tony did an excellent job on all of these reading exercises.
It was great getting to meet and work with Tony today! I can really see how the Targeted Reading Program is going to help him tremendously. The program is really going to build upon the reading skills he already maintains and is going to make him a stronger and more confident reader. I am really looking forward to seeing the growth that is going to occur within Tony over the next twelve weeks and am looking forward to sharing it with you as well!
BEST PRACTICE: The part of the session that really helped him
Tony was having trouble pronouncing the AD (words that have AD in them like: sad, mad, had) pattern while reading one of his stories of the week. As Tony read he added an extra short u sound /u/ as in up, so it sounded like sadu, hadu. I decided to stop reading the story and focus on the AD sound blend. I placed a vowel pattern card with AD on it next to a card with a single consonant on it. With the two cards next to each other, Tony could build words. After building many words with the AD vowel pattern, Tony was able to drop the extra sound and read his story fluently without stopping once!