Thursday, February 09, 2006

The First R - Reading

I posted yesterday about AlphaPhonics. Karen and Lindsey asked in a comment how I used it to teach my children. For those that may not be familiar, AlphaPhonics is a simple book designed by Samual Blumenfeld to teach reading. You start with a short 'a' sound and build from there. The pages are simple black and white letters on a page without any pictures.

My daughter was fairly easy to teach. As a typical first born with a hyperactive overachieving mother, she was reading shortly after she was born. (Amazing but also untrue.) But she was an eager learner and I a determined mother so we did begin fairly early. We would sit down for about 15 minutes everyday and go over a lesson. Once she mastered the lesson we moved to the next lesson. As we read the lesson, she would also copy the letters or words onto a piece of paper. After a few lessons, I would then dictate words to her and she would write them out. In the beginning the words were simple like am, as, at, ax, an. It never took very long and she was very compliant. Some lessons went a little slower than others but overall she moved quickly and was reading in a short amount of time.

My next two were boys and a whole different matter. I tried a similar strategy with them, but I had to be a lot more creative. Along with the daily phonics lesson, I also made little posters that I placed on the wall in the kitchen directly opposite their seats. The posters contained the words from the lesson. I never made them "read" them but I found that by just placing new words in front of them from the lessons the would attempt them on their own. I also was a little more creative with dictation. Simple pencil and paper dictation wasn't quite their style. So I tried to come up with more creative "paper and pencil" ideas. I used a thin layer of cornmeal on a dark pan. They could draw the letters or words out with their fingers. That was a favorite because if they made a mistake all they had to o was shake the pan a little and start over. We also made letters out of legos and k'nex and used those to build simple words. I also didn't try and teach them letter names as well as their sounds. I went strictly for the sounds. Using refridgerator magnets I would pretend that letters were "animals" in the zoo or a farm. I hold up a letter and say its sound. Then I'd put two together in a cage and say their sound. We would build a 'zoo' of words. They loved that game. We would also use the magnets to play the memory game. We started by putting a few letters in a row and taking one out. We took turns trying to guess which letter to put in by the sound of words we could make up.

The boys were a little slower at their reading pace. I tried not to be frustrated but it's hard. I worried that somehow a different approach or something new might be the trick. But nothing replaces just simple repititon and consistency.

The next two girls picked up a lot from being around while I was teaching the boys. They were reading on their own fairly easily. I'm not even sure I completed the book with my fifth child.

One of the things that I did while I was teaching them phonics was make sure that I read to them a lot. We don't watch TV so it wasn't too difficult to get them to sit for a reading time. I would often have the child learning to read sit right next to me. They could then follow along in the book. As they became more proficient readers they would begin to read small sections. This was a real boost for them. But even as they became proficient readers I still read aloud to them. The joy of reading comes as books are shared with each other.

I remember what my son Joshua said after he was reading fluently on his own. I told him how excited I was that he was reading so well. He replied flatly, "Learning to read is great, but God wants to know what I'm going to do with it." Learning to read isn't the end of the process it's the first step in a bigger process. Once a child can read a whole new opportunity to learn about God and His creation is open to them.

I'm not a reading expert. My only credential is that I have taught my five to read. If others would like to share their tips for reading. I'd love to hear them. I still have atleast one more to teach.

Elizabeth B. - recommends the Phonics Page

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