November 15, 2017

What is Your Role as Your Child Reads Aloud?

Have you ever listened to a beginning reader read aloud?  When I do, sometimes I have many feelings.  First I'm SO excited, because, well, she is reading!  Then, I may start to get a little drowsy, because it can take FOREVER to finish one book!  In the middle I get frustrated, because she keeps trying to guess words, instead of sound them out, like I know she can.  I tell you this so you can know that we all feel those things!  And it's okay.  But the best part is that I always end feeling so excited for my little emerging reader!  Watching a child put together the pieces as she learns to read is one of my very favorite things to experience! 

To help you support your emerging reader, I've created two videos on my  YouTube channel to demonstrate the cues I give as I listen to children read aloud.  

Before you watch the videos, make sure you are familiar with the terms instructional level, and sight words.  Refer to these posts to learn more:  
The Reading Sequence, Where is my Child on the Road to Reading?  
Why Sight Words?

Video #1:  How to Help Your Child Read Aloud:  BOB Books

When your child is reading BOB Books or other very easy phonics readers, you should have to give very little cues, because your child should only encounter words she can sound out or sight words she already knows.  These books are set up to give your child success. 

Some common phrases I say when helping a reader with BOB Books are:
  • "That's a sounding out word."
  • "That's a sight word."
  • "Don't guess, sound it out."

Video #2:  How to Help Your Child Read Aloud:  Easy Readers

There is a bit more coaching involved when helping a child with an Easy Reader book.  Start out knowing that your child will not be able to read every word in the book, and that's okay.  

Some common phrases I say when helping a reader with Easy Reader books are:
  • "That's a sounding out word."
  • "That's a sight word."
  • "Don't guess, sound it out."
  • "Let's sound it out together."
  • "This word says _______."
  • "What do you think will happen?"
  • "Let's keep reading to see what happens."

As you saw in the video, it's okay to stop and take a break when your child gets too frustrated.  Put a bookmark in and go back and finish later.  You are the best judge of what your child needs, enjoy the journey!

You may also enjoy this post about how to choose the right Easy Reader books for your child.

Photo credit: Audrey Livingston Photo

November 7, 2017

How to CHOOSE and USE "Easy" Readers

Is your child ready to dig into reading some books?  The first time I went to the library to pick out some “easy" readers for my oldest son, it was anything but easy!  

I decided to go with Level 1 Books.  I figured, he's just starting out, level one makes sense.  Right?  Wrong!  The first level one book I picked up was way too easy.  The next one I picked up was level one, but he could probably only read 5 words in the whole book!  Another level one seemed to be pretty close to what he needed.  I learned very quickly that all Level 1 "easy" readers are not created equal!  Many different publishers create Easy Reader Books, but they do not follow the same criteria for what is a Level 1 book.  

So what is a parent to do?!  First, don't panic.  Second, realize that there are not very many perfect fit easy reader books.  Easy readers is a new stage, a stage in which your child will likely not know how to read every word on every page.  And that's okay!

When your child just started learning how to read, you gave her one cvc word at a time.  It was a word that you knew she'd be able to sound out.  

dog                 ham               sun

As she became more comfortable with sounding out cvc words, you would give her short sentences.  These sentences only contained sight words she knew, and words she could sound out.

The  dog  sat.                          Jan  has  a  hat.

Then your child probably moved onto very easy books that you made, or set 1 of the BOB Books series.  Once again, these very easy books only contained familiar sight words and words she could sound out.

Sam has a hat.          Sam has a cat.    

Sam has a bag.          The end.

But now, your child may be getting a little bored of those books.  And you may be getting a little bored of those books.  Although your child is still in the beginning stages of learning how to read, you don't want her to loose interest because the books are too easy and boring!

At this point in reading instruction, I still make sure to work on word power with my little reader.  I still have her read sentences and BOB Books that she can read every word in.  But now I also throw in some easy readers to peak her interest.  

Here are some tips for CHOOSING and USING Easy Readers:

#1:  Don’t expect your child to be able to read every word in the book.  BOB Books are designed for your child to read every word, Beginning Readers are not set up that way. Some words you will just have to give your child, because she has not learned how to sound them out yet.

#2:  Look for books that your child is interested in (Legos, My Little Ponies, Star Wars, Frozen, etc.) 

#3:  Most Easy Reader publishers provide a guide for picking the correct level of book.  While these can be helpful, don't forget your biggest tool as a parent helping a child to read:  KNOW YOUR CHILD'S INSTRUCTIONAL LEVEL. With the instructional level in mind, skim through the book to see if it contains many words in your child's instructional level.  Not sure what your child's instructional level is?  Read this post.

#4:  Many popular children's book series have an easy reader series.  If you have a favorite series, see if they have an easy reader series.  (Pete the Cat, Pinkalicious)

#5:  Easy Readers are great for sight word practice.  They often repeat the same sight words over and over.  Learn more about sight words in these posts:  6 Simple Ways to Practice Sight Words and Why Sight Words?

#6:  Some publishers create collections that contain many easy readers bound in one book.  If you are using a collection, try making a fun bookmark that your child can use to mark her place.  It's amazing how excited a child can get because she is big enough to need to mark her place with a bookmark!

Hopefully you can now go to the Easy Reader section at the library or search Easy Readers on Amazon, and not want to rip your hair out :) You may enjoy this post with videos on how to help a child read aloud.  

November 1, 2017

Three Books Every Family Needs

There are many books that I LOVE!  I would love to own every "Pigeon" book by Mo Willems.  I would love to own every "Pete the Cat" book by Eric Litwin!  My kids and I have many laughs over those books!  But these are not the kind of books I'm talking about today.  These three books on my list are books I only pull out at certain times.  These are books that address certain issues our kiddos will face.  (This post contains affiliate links).

BOOK #1:  "Sometimes I'm Bombaloo" by Rachel Vail

This book was recommended to me by a child therapist.  I asked for a book that could help teach my kids about regulating their ANGER.  I was so glad to hear about this book!  It is beautifully written.  There is even a part that make us laugh right out loud.  "Sometimes I'm Bombaloo" talks about a girl who normally feels great and does what she is asked, but sometimes she gets so angry, she feels out of control and has to be sent to her room to calm down.  I don't know about you, but that seems to be a daily occurrence at our house!  In fact, Bombaloo has now been added to our family vocabulary.  "Little Miss, it looks like you are Bombaloo right now.  You'll need to sit in your room until you can be Little Miss again." (said while carrying a kicking and screaming four-year-old to her room)  I'll gladly confess that I take my turn being Bombaloo and sometimes spend some time in my room to calm down.  Anyone else?  

BOOK #2:  NO Trespassing - This Is MY Body! by Pattie Fitzgerald

I first learned about this book after reading a blog post from Time Well Spent.  This mom had an incident where her boys encountered some tricky people who made them feel scared and unsafe.  After telling about the crazy incident, she went on to tell about Pattie Fitzgerald, the author of this book.

I like this book because it is appropriate for my older kids as well as my littles.  This subject can be a little bit uncomfortable to talk about, but it is written in such an age-appropriate way.  It teaches my kids that it's okay if they don't like it when certain people tickle them, and that there are private parts of our body that others shouldn't look at or touch.  In the back there is a Parent's Guide that gives tips on keeping our kids safe, and introduces the concept of tricky people.  Tricky people are people who try to "trick" a child into breaking a safety rule or engage in an activity that would give them a yucky feeling.  This is a book that we read, and re-read. 

BOOK #3:  Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids  by Kristen A Jenson and Gail Poyner

Combating pornography is a topic that has been high on my momma radar for a long time now.  I have attended classes, listened to podcasts, and read many things about how to keep our children safe.  The sad reality is that sooner or later, our kids will encounter pornography.  

I had heard a lot about this book, and when I finally read it, I couldn't believe I had waited so long to check it out.  "Good Pictures Bad Pictures" is a book that I read to my 7 and 9 year-old-boys like a story.  We would only read one or two of the short chapters at a time, and then we would discuss.  Sometimes we would read a chapter the next day, and sometimes we would wait a few days to move on.  It is a book I will read with my daughters when they are a few years older.  It is a book we will continue to revisit.  I love that this book does not just say that pornography is bad, it talks about how bad pictures can hurt our brain and cause problems later in life.  It also provides a plan for keeping our brains safe from bad pictures.  As I write this, I realize it's probably time to do a re-read of this book with my boys.

And there they are. These are probably the books I talk about the most with my friends and family. It's a bummer that we have to discuss hard topics with our kiddos, but I'm grateful for great books to help out!  What books are you reading to discuss hard topics?

October 24, 2017

6 Simple Ways to Practice Sight Words

Pinterest is loaded with fun sight word activities!  Today I'll share the 6 simple sight word activities that I use the most.  I have a master set of laminated sight word cards that I use for these activities.  It can be found here.  (This post contains affiliate links).

You've probably seen this easy game before, I first learned of it when I was going to college.  Start by laying out the sight words you are working on.  Give your child something to slap with, such as a fly swatter or a spatula.  Call out a sight word and have your child identify the word by slapping it!  Who doesn't love a chance to whack things?

I bought this changeable dice several years ago from Amazon and have used it for so many different learning games.  It comes in a 3-pack, which I split with my sisters.  A few years later, the Dollar Tree started selling these dry erase dice, which are another great option.  First load the die with sight words, then take turns rolling the die and saying the sight word.  To make it a little more interesting, we put a star sticker on one of the words and choose an action.  Whenever we roll the star, we read the word and do the action.  Some silly actions we have done are:  bawk like a chicken, clap your hands, jump up and down, and twirl like a ballerina.

A word wall can come in many varieties.  This chalkboard door (that has seen a lot of love and needs re-painted) is in my kitchen.  I will write sight words that Little Miss is working on, and she will at random times tell me what they are, trace them, re-write them, and play sight word slap with them.  A word wall can also be created using pocket charts, bulletin or magnet boards, or just fun tacking word cards to a wall.  Sometimes we put up all the sight words we know, other times we put up just the words we are currently working on.

I love this game because it can be adapted to whatever your child's interest is.  I lay out many sight word cards on the floor.  We gather Little Miss' favorite toy (in this case it is ponies).  Then I'll say, "Put Rainbow Dash on we.  Put Twilight Sparkle on and."  We have also played this game with cars, Lego figures, and action figures.  

I found this game from Little Family Fun and changed it to go with sight words.  It was a favorite Thanksgiving game in my preschool, but we would also play it year-round.  Print or draw a turkey on a card.  Put the turkey and sight word cards in a bag.  Take turns pulling out a card and saying the sight word.  If you pull the turkey out, everyone jumps up and moves around like a turkey, yelling "Gobble!  Gobble!  Gobble!"

In this game, you roll the die and move your piece.  If you land on a sight word, you say what it is.  If you land on an action space, you do what it says (put on a hat, slither like a snake, etc.)  These board games can be found here.

Well those are my top 6 ways to practice sight words, but there are many other great ideas out there!

Check out these links and my Sight Word Pinterest Board for more fun  activities and resources.  And feel free to leave your own sight word ideas in the comments!  

You might also like my post, "Why Sight Words?"

October 17, 2017

Why Sight Words?

Sight words.  You've probably heard of them.  You may roll your eyes at them.  Your child might even know many of them.  But what is the purpose of sight words, and WHY do we have to make our kiddos memorize them?

Sight Words are words that show up most frequently in print.  Some examples are:  the, said, here, for, are, of, was.  We encourage readers to memorize sight words because they encounter them all the time!  

Let's say your new reader was reading these sentences:

The blue underlined words are sight words.  If your new reader did not know the, is, and, upon seeing them, think how much longer it would take her to read these four sentences!

When a reader can recognize and say a sight word upon seeing it, she will improve in fluency, and she will be less frustrated as an early reader.  

If Little Miss were reading the above word sentences and was stuck on is, I would make sure to say, "That's a sight word."  If she were stuck on the word, Pam, I would say, "That's a sounding out word."  In the first 10 BOB Books that my child will read,  I highlight all of the sight words yellow.

Another reason to teach these words as sight words is because some of them are irregular, and many follow a vowel pattern that won't be taught until much further into the reading sequence.  Let's look at the word was.  If a child were to sound out was, it would sound like wass.  We save the child a lot of grief by having her memorize that was says /wuz/.

Ever wonder why everyone doesn't use the same list of sight words?  There are two main lists that sight words come from, they are the Dolch Basic Sight Vocabulary, and Fry's Instant Words.  Many teachers come up with their own lists, combining the two.  Here is the Sight Words List 1 that I use. How did I come up with my list?  Well let me tell you.  I considered the words on the Dolch and Fry lists, and then I chose the words that I used most as I created resources for teaching my beginning readers.  Color words, number words, and names can also be sight words.  

Did you know you don't have to wait until your child is ready to read to introduce sight words?  Sight words can be introduced when a child is still learning letter sounds.  When I taught preschool, we would work on a new sight word every couple of weeks.  By the end of the year, I had students who weren't sounding out words yet, but they knew over 15 sight words!  

It is best to only introduce a few sight words at a time, and to make sure they don't look similar (don't introduce saw and was at the same time, that's just asking for it!) 

This is what introducing a sight word could look like:   

First I would have a dialogue like this:  "This sight word says are.  Say it with me, are.  A-r-e spells are.   This sight word says see.  Say it with me, see.  S-e-e spells see.  Point to are.  Point to see.  What is this?  (see)  What is this?"  (are)  

Next I would use sight word pages from my reading packets.  We would also spend some time playing games to review sight words already introduced in past lessons. 

Hopefully sight words don't cause you, or your child to panic.  In fact, sight word instruction can be really fun!  How do you make sight word practice more fun?  You might enjoy this post:  6 Simple Ways to Practice Sight Words

October 11, 2017

Building Word Power

For some reason, we really want to have our child reading so many books right away!  I get it, it is so exciting when a child starts to “get it” and instinctively we want to go right to books.  While there is nothing wrong with reading books, I have noticed that I can build stronger readers through word power.  I like to focus on having a child read MANY words, some sentences, and a few books. I try to work on word power every time we do any reading instruction.   

One day I was working with a child who was struggling with reading.  In fact, he dreaded reading!  I pulled out a Bob Book, and immediately he shut down.  The task of reading a whole book seemed impossible to him.  He thought it was going to take forever!  So I pulled out my bowl of words for his instructional level.  It was so simple.  A  bowl from the Dollar Tree, full of beginning blend words, folded in half.  He would pick out a word and read it.  Then I would pick out a word and read it.  Pretty soon, he had read 20 words, and he asked if we could keep going!  

I call this very simple activity, WORDS IN A BOWL.  When Little Miss and I do Words in a Bowl, we like to use a die.  She rolls the die to see how many words she will read on her turn.  Then I roll and see how many I will read on my turn.  In no time, we've read the whole bowl of words.

Another simple way to strengthen word power is with WORDS ON A RING.  Kids love to flip through things on a ring.  It's almost like a toy to them.  Words on a ring can be made two different ways.  1) By laminating and hole punching a word card, then attaching to a ring.  2) By writing or gluing words to cards already on a ring, like those found here (won't be laminated).

WORDS IN A WALLET is another silly way that Little Miss and I like to strengthen word power.  I made some word cards on green paper, and grabbed a duct tape wallet we had made years ago.  Each word that Little Miss could read, she would put in her wallet.  It was her "money", and she wanted to see how rich she would be.  We also put the "money" in a play cash register or a large toy piggy bank.

WORDS ON A PAGE.  Yes.  Sometimes we even just read words on a page.  But I try to make it a little more interesting with these ideas:
  • Put a colored bingo chip or penny on each word you can read.
  • Place a piece of cereal on each word.  Eat the cereal off the words you can read.
  • Stamp or color the words you can read.
As you work to build word power, make sure you are working at your child's instructional level.  Read this post to learn more about the instructional level.  Click here for some short a, short o, and short i word strip printables.  

So, how are you going to add word power to your child's reading routine? 

Check out my TpT store for my Help a Child to Read Intermediate Packets, full of many activities to build word power.
Set 1:  -ck and -ll Endings
Set 2:  Beginning Blends
Set 3:  Ending Blends
Set 4:  Consonant Digraphs

October 6, 2017

The Reading Sequence—Where is My Child on the Road to Reading?

While teachers are amazing, so are parents!  I believe that any parent can help their child to read.  All you need is some tools and some time.  The mother of all tools in your toolbox is this:  ALWAYS KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILD IS IN THE READING SEQUENCE.  This is called the instructional level.

Reading is best taught in a sequence, and guess what, there isn't a universal sequence that everyone uses.  I've tried a few variations, but this is the order I like to use for teaching reading:

But what in the world does cvc stand for?!  And what is a consonant digraph?  Here's some definitions that might be helpful.

Cvc words:  Consonant, vowel, consonant words (pat, cup)  All vowels in cvc words make the short vowel sound. 

Beginning Blend:  two consonants that appear together at the beginning of a word, each retaining its sound when blended (pl, sn)

Ending Blend:  two consonants that appear together at the end of a word, each retaining its sound when blended (ng, sk)

Consonant Digraph:  two consonants that together stand for one sound (sh, ch, th, wh,)

Vowel Pattern:  patterns that occur in words to produce vowel sounds other than short vowel sounds (silent ‘e’ in bake, ‘ee’ in green, ‘aw’ in paw)

Life gets busy, and I don't always spend as much time working with Little Miss as I'd like to.  In fact, we had such a crazy summer, I really didn't work on reading at all!  But this fall, I was ready to get back to it, and I needed to know what her current instructional level was.    

I have a list of word pages I use to asses where a child is in the reading sequence.  I began by having Little Miss read the words on the first page.  It turns out she was blowing through those, so I went to the next page.  She flew through those as well, so I continued.  When I got to the ending blends page, I was all of a sudden hearing some funky words like "flist" and "tush".  I let her read a few more words and then I realized, bingo!  Little Miss needed to work on ending blends.  That was her current instructional level.

If your child has started learning how to read, but you're not sure what his current instructional level is, you can find out by having him read through some assessment pages found here

My next step was to get right in and work on ending blends with Little Miss.  Well, it can be super boring for a kid if you just give her a list of words to read!  And she gets frustrated if I try to just have her read book after book.  So instead I try using a variety of ways to have her read MANY words.

Today she did word puzzles.  I love these puzzles because they help her to segment each sound.  She loves the puzzles because, well she's doing puzzles.  Little Miss also pulled word strips out of a bowl to work on word power.  Learn more about word power in an upcoming post.

I have created reading packets to go along with each step of this reading sequence.  These puzzles, word lists, and other activities are found in each packet.  Click here to try my -ck and -ll endings sample packet for FREE.

Other packets are available to buy in my TpT Store.  This series focuses on reading MANY words, several sentences, a few books, and sight word instruction.   If you don't find a packet you're looking for in the store, that means it is under construction and I hope to have it finished soon. 

Check back for more tips and printables.  And best of luck on the reading journey!