Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Learning to Learn to Read

Sometime in February, Agent 004 informed me that she was ready to read.

Actually, she handed me a book (I wish that I could remember which) and said, "I will read this." And then she asked me what each individual word said.

When we finished reading that book I asked her if she wanted to learn how to read all kinds of books. She said yes, so we started in on a new adventure together.

Due to its glowing recommendations, we started with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Agent 004 thought it was a lot of fun to say things fast and then say them slow, but I wasn't such a big fan. It just felt too stilted and didn't fit into the rhythm of our days. There is no set "preschool" time at our house; I consider each moment of their lives educational. Teach Your Child to Read might well be effective, but I am not quite ready to have my three-year old involved in a formal reading curriculum with structured lessons. We quit within two weeks.

But, as I told you a few weeks ago, my little princess is starting to read. What has worked for her? Word families.

Not simply "sounding it out," word families help children to see the pattens in words (see Literacy Connections for more information). We start with two letters -- a common word ending like "-at." Agent 004 and I sound the letters out together. Then I whip out the "word-o-matic,*" a strip of cardboard with the word ending written on it. The initial consonants are written on a slip of paper that slides through two slits on the cardboard. We slide the paper up and down reading each new word as it appears.

After learning the "-at" words, she read her first book -- a printable from Hubbard's Cupboard called In My Hat. The next day I wrote her a very silly book called The Cat that Sat on a Hat, which she read with glee.

I wanted to make sure that she could have instant success by reading real books. She is very proud of new found ability.

Of course, she is still learning through exploration as well. I recently made her a set of Montesori-style** movable letters following these instructions at ehow.***

Here are some "-at" words that she spelled out on the table.

Here is Agent 002 trying out different initial consonants. Whenever he came up with something that made a recognizable word, he would get excited and ask us all to look.
The cards clean up easily into their very own filecard box with alphabet dividers. As an added bonus, the kids are learning alphabetical order as they clean up.

*I have since learned that these are called "word slides," and are commonly used in elementary school phonics. I was so proud of myself for coming up with these all on my own! Reinventing the wheel again :)

** Yes, I am aware that Montessori purists would cringe to hear these called movable letters since they are on cards. We use a lot of Montessori methods in our schooling, but do not follow the Montessori Method.

***I made two modifications to these instructions -- (1) I made a small yellow dot (ala Handwriting Without Tears) in the top-left corner of each card to prevent letter reversals and (2) I made a template to ensure equally sized letters by cutting a small-letter-sized rectangle from an extra index card.


Stephanie said...

Wow, I'm impressed! I'm going to file this post away for later - so many good ideas!

Heart of Wisdom said...

This is great!
Good Job Mom!

Jenny said...

I checked "Teach Your Child to Read" out from the library and I found it completely overwhelming. Learning with word families seems SO much simpler- is there any rhyme or reason to which ones you start with? We just have a Montessori "flavor" here as I like to call it, so I really liked the index cards- thanks for the great ideas!

Amy said...

This is a good idea. My little one is starting to want to read as well. Bookmarking to refer back later ...

Marie said...

Great idea, I will have to try that for my son. We have the Hooked on Phonics set, and he may really want to read, but that set is about useless.

reprehriestless warillever said...

We have been working with short vowel sounds, introducing two "families" at a time (such as "-at" and "-an") so that the kids don't just assume that all "-a-" words end in "-t"

Otherwise, we have been working slowly through the word families. Carl's Corner is a good source for materials, and I get lists of words by typing in combinations into a word list generator.