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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

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How to Teach Reading {Part 3 of 3}

If you've been following along with the How to Teach Reading series, you know that this is the final article! We laid the ground work with Pre-Reading for Preschoolers in Part 1, we discussed how to tell if your child is ready to read in Part 2, and now we are going to cover how to actually teach your child to read!

The good news is that once your child shows all the readiness signs I discussed in Part 2, there are literally a million different ways to teach him or her how to actually read!  And for the most part, they all work! Some work better than others, though, and that's what we're going to discuss here.

Research shows that the best reading instruction combines 3 elements: word study, phonics and decoding, and meaningful stories. This means that your reading lessons should include sounding out skills (word families, word meanings, rhyming, etc) AND sight words AND meaningful stories with these first two elements in them.  There are virtually unlimited ways to do this!  Each of my children, and other children I've taught, have learned through a different method.

As a homeschooling parent and/or classroom teacher, you basically have two options: 1- use a pre-made curriculum or 2- create your own. I'm going to address both of these.

First, How to Teach Reading with Pre-Made Curricula:

There are a LOT of amazing curricula available to teach reading! As long as the program includes the three elements I talked about above, your kids will be fine. Here are my personal favorites (in no particular order, I HIGHLY recommend both of these programs):

1- Reading Eggs: Reading Eggs has interactive lessons online, a set of readers that you can order that correspond to the lessons online, a set of corresponding workbooks, and a set of maps and reward stickers for each level. I purchased the readers for one of my 6-year olds and both she and my 3-year old (at the time) LOVED them. If your child enjoys online games (or your schedule needs you to share the teaching responsibility), this program is a great fit! I still recommend buying the physical workbooks and readers because the more senses you use, the better kids remember what they're learning. The child that I purchased these for did the online lessons at her leisure, read the books and did the workbooks with me, and then supplemented the lessons with a little extra sight word practice (read below for more details...our "practice" is quite fun). 

2- All About Reading from All About Learning Press: This is a physical curriculum that comes with readers, teacher script, magnetic manipulatives, a puppet, and more. I have two favorite things about this curriculum: 1- The readers are FANTASTIC! The stories are very creative and my kids really enjoy them. 2- The whole system uses an Orton-Gillingham (or multi-sensory) approach. This has been very helpful for my kids that were more dyslexic than the others because it required them to physically connect with and manipulate the letters and words they were working on. If you want to learn more about All About Learning programs, HERE is my affiliate link

Both of these programs literally tell you what to do in every lesson--teaching reading could not be easier!  You can supplement with topics or letters your kids are particularly interested in, some of the activities I share below, or just stick to the outline!

I have also looked at and used several curricula made by teachers and parents online. Again, as long as you've gone through the checklist, your child is ready, and the curriculum you are looking at includes all three elements, you should be good to go!

And remember you can do lessons at the kitchen table, a desk, on the floor, in a tent, outside, or anywhere else you want! Keep it fun!

Secondly, How to Teach Reading with Your Own Reading Curriculum:

Making your own reading curriculum is not difficult. Here is a step-by-step on what I would recommend:

1- Set aside 20 minutes a day for reading lessons. Plan to spend half of that in hands-on learning activities that review the concepts you've introduced in the first half. If your child is particularly excited, you could have two 20-minute sessions in a day. ;)

2- Print a list like this one of the 44 phonemes in English as a planning reference. Simply check off each phoneme as your child masters it. Keep this in your teaching materials.

3- Choose a set of readers. It is VITAL that your child has little books to read! You can buy the readers from either of the curricula I discussed above (without buying the whole curriculum), check some out from the library, buy a pre-owned set, find some online, or even make your own! Look for books that only introduce 1 or 2 new letters and only 1 sight word with each book.

4-  Make an outline of the order you want to teach the letters and sounds. I always start with my child's name--those are the most meaningful letters you can find for your child!  Then I go in the same order as the reader set I'm using.  This is a common order I've used, more or less (often my kids will be interested in a letter out of order, and I always go with what they're interested in!):

I only introduce one or two sounds for each letter at a time. I like this order because it lets them form words immediately, during the first lesson! But, since I'm flexible with the order, it's handy to have the phoneme chart in #2 to keep track of what sounds you need to cover.

5- During your lessons, introduce a new letter or review a letter you're working on. You can do this by writing, reading, or playing games. Then introduce and/or review sight words. This can also be done by writing, reading, or playing games!  I use the sight words in the readers we're working on or a list like Dolche's or Fry's.  Finally, end with a chance for your child to practice written activities that include the letters and words in your lesson.

Here are a few activities that you can use to teach and/or reinforce letters and sounds

Alphabet Hop (I love that she went with the random letters her daughter wanted to use!)

Letter Sorting
Magnetic Letter Sorting

These activities reinforce different phonics skills:

Rhyming Word Family Game (I LOVE that she used lavender in her bin--the sense of smell activates memory centers in your brain!)

And these activities can be used with sight words.

Tactile Spelling (for sight words)

I'm sure you can start to imagine the HUGE variety of ways you can teach reading! 

I'm going to throw in just a few more notes about what I've learned working with dyslexic readers:

1- They CAN learn to read beautifully!

2- They NEED hands-on, kinesthetic activities to learn the fastest. Letter cards, blocks, and tiles are extrememly helpful.

3- The more senses they use, the better! This is why I love All About Reading. Look up Orton-Gillingham if you want to learn more about multi-sensory reading activities.

4- Small letters on crowded pages are literally painful for these kids to read. We learned this the hard way when we tried a popular reading curriculum that just doesn't work for dyslexic kids. The "white space" around the letters you're working with is extremely important.

5- Don't give up! Dyslexic kids process reading differently than other kids--you just need to give their brains a little time to wrap around the process. If you find yourself struggling, don't be afraid to reach out and get help. Every school district has people specially trained to help dyslexic kids learn to read--giving them a call is not a sign of giving up!

Be confident and patient with your kiddos--your confidence will build theirs, and you'll have little readers in no time!

Learning to read and being part of the teaching process is an exciting adventure to go on with your kids!

I hope I've made the process a little more approachable with this series, and that you and your children have a wonderful time learning to read together!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of the posts in this series--you can always leave a comment, send an email, or catch me on Facebook or Instagram! <3 

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

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KEYWORDS: pre-reading, how to teach reading
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Is My Child Ready to Learn to Read {How to Teach Reading Part 2}

This is the second article in my 3-part series about How to Teach Reading. In this article I am focusing on how to tell if your child is ready to sit down and focus on explicit reading lessons.

It is amazing to me that so many people want very young children to read. Yes, some very young children are ready to read very early, but... others are not! A lot of research has been done during the last five decades about how children learn to read, and we have learned A LOT of things. Sadly, this research has not translated into educational policy. One of the motivators for me in writing this series is to help parents and teachers understand how to teach reading better so there is less stress and more confident, relaxed parents and teachers. 

Let's begin by looking at what we know about reading based on research that has been done:

1- Children are ready to read at different times. Most children are ready sometime between four and seven years old.

2- Reading skills tend to equalize around 3rd or 4th grade. If you sampled a classroom of 4th graders, you would not be able identify, based on their current reading ability, which children started reading at four years old and which started reading at six.

3- The biggest predictor of whether a child will be successful at reading is if he or she is read to frequently.

4- When a child's reading instruction integrates word study, decoding AND meaningful stories to practice those skills, that child has higher reading achievement as a teenager than children who learned to read without integrating those three areas. (more info)  This will become more important in Part 3 when we look at beginning reading instruction.

5- Many different parts of  the brain and the white matter that connects them must be sufficiently grown and developed before a child (or anyone) can read fluently. This happens at different rates for different people and can be affected by many things. (more info here)

Since we know that children are ready to read at different times, I thought it would be helpful to make a checklist of indicators that might help you know if your child is ready to learn to read. 

If you can answer "Yes." to most of the following questions, your child is probably ready to move on to Part 3, and begin explicit reading instruction. If you are answer "No." to a lot of the following questions, don't stress! Keep reading and playing with your children--they will be ready sooner than you realize!  (The exception is if you suspect a learning disability--you may want to get your child services sooner than later.)

Reading Readiness Checklist

I have divided this checklist into 3 areas with a total of 18 questions. The 3 areas are...

Phonological Readiness
Mental  & Physical Readiness

In most cases these questions are not quizzes of information your child has memorized, but skills that your child has developed that will make learning to read an easy activity. They are indicators that the brain is ready to take on a major learning project that integrates many different regions and skills.  

Here is the checklist (18 questions):

Phonological Readiness:
Can my child...
1-- recognize and create rhyming sounds?
2-- identify the little word "car" inside the bigger word "carpet?"
3-- hear me say "lllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnddddddddddddd" and figure out that I mean "land?"
4-- identify the first or last sound in a word? (for example, an "m" sound at the beginning of "map" or a "d" sound at the end of "road")
5-- recognize the letters in his/her name in other locations (like books or signs)?
6-- write his/her name?

Mental & Physical Readiness:
Can my child...
7-- remember and explain something that I told him/her two days ago?
8-- identify and perpetuate patterns?
9-- predict the story in a picture book based on the illustrations?
10-- alter his/her behavior based on cause/effect information I give him/her? (for example, if I tell him/her that a pan is hot, will he/she avoid touching it?)
11-- follow 3-step instructions?
12-- roll across the room on his/her side or doing somersaults?
13-- skip?
14-- tell me at least 2-3 things that happened during an hour? (for example, after a gymnastics class, your child might tell you that their favorite parts were playing in the ball pit and jumping on the trampoline. Or, after a trip to the playground, your child might tell you their favorite parts were the swings, slide, and playing with another child.)
15--tell me a story about something that happened to him/her or summarize a book or show he/she recently enjoyed?
16-- focus on one activity for 10-20 minutes?

17-- Does my child want to read?
18-- Does my child "read" by opening a book and narrating the illustrations?

All of the skills associated with this list are discussed in Part 1(Pre-Reading) of this How to Teach Reading series. If you have questions about why Cause & Effect are important, why interest matters, or anything else in this list, please read through Part 1. I spent a lot of time explaining my rationale for these items there. ;)  

I personally do not start reading instructions with my kids until I can answer a YES! to all 18 of these points, but if you are answering Yes! to most of them (especially #17!), then your child is probably ready to  move on to Part 3!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

KEYWORDS: pre-reading, how to teach reading
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Pre-Reading for Preschoolers {How to Teach Reading--Part 1 of 3)

This is the first article in my 3-part series about How to Teach Reading. In this article I am focusing on ways to teach the pre-reading skills that preschoolers (3-6 year olds) need to learn before they can sit down and learn how to sound out words or focus on dedicated reading.

I think it is important to point out that I focus on pre-reading skills with preschoolers. These are skills that are essential for reading and make learning to read easy. Once a child has mastered all of these skills, learning to actually read only takes a few weeks. But, learning these skills can take years.

Like any skill important for a preschooler's life, these should be taught through play. Play is a young child's work, and they take it very seriously when they are having fun! You can click HERE to learn more about how a young child's brain works and how they learn best--the take-home message for this topic is that children learn pre-reading skills while they are playing. If they are not enjoying themselves, you need to change your approach!

Most people group "pre-reading" skills into the following six categories: Vocabulary, print motivation, print awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills, and phonological awareness.

These six categories are important, and they are covered in my approach, but I prefer to emphasize a few different other topics that I think are the most important for young children. **If you are curious about my reasoning, just keep reading--I explain all the reasoning behind the methodology at the end of this post. :)

Right now, I want to share my own 6 Pre-Reading Areas of Focus.  These are based on my own experiences as a licensed teacher, research about how young children learn, research about how the brain behaves when you learn to read, and my experiences teaching my own children to read. Each of these six focuses are absolutely vital for a child learning to read. The beautiful thing is that many parents are already teaching their children in these areas, and thus, naturally preparing them to learn to read.

I will list the six Focus Areas first, then introduce each of them thoroughly, explaining what they are, why each is important, and some playful ways you can teach each focus area skill.

The Six Pre-Reading Focus Areas for Preschoolers are:

1- Patterns, Predictability, and Rhyming
2- Cause & Effect
3- Phonological Awareness
4- Eye & Ear Balance
5- Communication
6- Reading for Fun

#1: Patterns, predictability, and rhyming. This skill requires children to observe, recognize patterns, and predict what will come next. It is important in reading because it helps children anticipate words, check their "sounding out" attempts, and learn to recognize word families more quickly. This helps them develop reading fluency faster. My favorite way to "teach" these skills deliberately is through playing with my preschoolers.  For example, use blocks to build a road for your village. Comment to your kiddos, "My road is a rainbow pattern! Here is a red block, then a blue block, then a yellow block, and another red block, then blue, then yellow, and another red, then blue...what color should I use next to keep my pattern going?"  Use simpler patterns for younger kids. Even toddlers can be exposed to patterns without the dialogue--when you create patterns with toddlers, they see the patterns and revisit them to process again later. The more often they see patterns, the more solid "pattern pathways" become in their brains, and the easier it will be for them to recognize and recreate them later.

You can also help children practice predicting by creating routines in their days. For example, I teach a preschool Music & Active Movement class once a week. My girls know that on Monday mornings we do music. They also expect Music Time to start with a "Hello Song," then a song with scales, and end with parachute activities and a "Goodbye Song."  They recognize the repeating pattern every week and expect to see it. You can also create smaller routines that help them practice predicting their schedule. For example, we go shopping after we go to gymnastics, we eat pizza and watch a movie on Friday nights, and on days when we're home we give the baby a nap after lunch.

Rhyming is a microcosm version of pattern recognition and prediction. The two ways we consistently work on rhyming are 1- reading rhyming picture books. Just reading them will help your child learn to rhyme, but you can also occasionally pause (instead of saying the rhyming word) and let your child fill in the missing word. 2- During the day we randomly make rhyming lists. For example, if I'm putting ham on a sandwich, I might narrate it by saying, "And now I'm going to get some HAM. Ham, Jam, Sam!" Then I look at my kids with a bit of a challenge look, and they usually add a few more rhyming words.  Rhyme or Slime is another rhyming game you can play with your kids and The Great Boat Float is a rhyming game combined with a STEM activity.

#2: Cause & Effect.  This requires children to recognize that certain actions and events cause others. This is a HUGE skill that actually is extremely useful in many areas for your kids! (Not the least of which is following instructions!)  In reading it is necessary to see that each letter "causes" a specific sound, and certain combinations of letters changes the way those sounds work. This is easier for children to understand if they are accustomed to seeing and affecting cause and effect events in their lives. My favorite way to teach this is to let children do age-appropriate science experiments. Preschoolers love mixing colors, textures, and safe kitchen chemicals. Squeezing lemons makes lemon juice come out. Adding baking soda makes it fizz. Adding food color changes the color. Each action produces a change. Let your children make the changes, touch the changes, and tell you about them! Ask them what they did and what effect or change that made.  I have a huge list of things that pop, fizz, and explode here -- these are some of our kids favorite things to experiment with cause and effect!  You can also give your child a chance to predict effects by asking them what they think will happen if they  (fill in the blank)  .  For example, what do you think will happen if we add red paint to this blue paint?  Or, what do you think will happen if we clean this room happily?

#3: Phonological Awareness.  Phonological Awareness it the ability to recognize and manipulate phonemes (or distinct units of sounds, like the /p/ in "pirate").  Children begin developing phonological awareness the day they are born, as their brains start processing and developing language every minute they hear it! (I have more information about how children learn here.)  Here is a list of phonological skills I have made during the last few years that are important for learning to read. Like everything else on this list, these are SO important, that I would not even begin formal reading lessons until your child has mastered these skills:

==> Dissecting sounds and words: separating the sounds in a word. You can incorporate this into play too. When you pick up a train, for example, say, "I have a tr---," and let them fill in the rest by saying "train" or "ain." Or when you're reading a book, cut words in half and let your preschoolers fill in the second half.

==> Building sounds and words: This is obviously the opposite of dissecting, and you will work on it any time you work on dissecting, but since it is a separate skill I'm listing it out too. ;)

==> Combining sounds to create words: This is the obvious precursor to sounding out words. You can help prepare your child for this by dragging out sounds occasionally when you talk or read. For example, you can say, "Do you want to go to the sssssssssstooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrre?" Drag out all the sounds you can when you say "store," or any other word you're in the mood to experiment with. ;)  "Do you want a baaaaaaaaaaaaaanaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?"  Throw in extra pauses sometimes too: "B (pause) a (pause) n (pause) a (pause) n (pause) a (pause)" sounds different than banana, and it prepares preschoolers to sound words out when their brain is already comfortable assembling sounds into words.

Singing, dancing, and listening to music also particularly help this area because it extends sounds in ways we don't usually do while we talk.

==> Identifying syllables: words are chunked into syllables, so if your kids can recognize syllables reading is easier. My favorite way to work on this is to sing and dance. Many songs have lyrics that are separated by syllables, and clapping, dancing, or moving with the rhythm helps your child recognize them. You don't even have to talk about them! You can also work on this by occasionally breaking up the words you say or read into syllables. You also might want to try this Syllable Tic Tac Toe or this syllable counting activity!

Here are three more fun phonological awareness activities: this mom plays a Phonemic Awareness Game with her daughter at bedtime, this song is excellent for practicing phonological awareness, segmenting and syllabifying (even without the pocket chart)! And this is a fun collection of Segmenting and other Phonological Awareness Activities too.

#4: Ear & Eye Balance.  This is a huge part of pre-reading that is often overlooked! Inside the retina is a small pit called the fovea, where layers of the retina literally move aside so that light lands directly on the cones in the eye. This gives you the clearest image, but you can only focus the fovea on a very small area at any one time. This means that in order to read a whole word in the clearest possible focus your eyes have to focus, readjust, and focus again several times! Each time your eyes focus on a new letter, they have to send that image to the brain, process it, analyze the sound it should create, decide if it is combining with another letter in the word, and then focus on the next letter and repeat the process--all within a second or two! When children are not ready for the intense eye exercise that learning to read presents, they may get eye-aches and/or headaches. Many struggling readers I've worked with have told me that reading "hurts my head."  Also, inside the ear is a fluid that helps regulate the vestibular system, which helps with both balance and control of the eye.

In order to prepare for the visual and neural workout that reading is you can encourage your preschoolers to engage in lots of large-muscle, gross-motor activities that require them to focus their eyes on lots of different things in rapid succession. Also encourage activities that activate the vestibular system, like rolling, turning somersaults, cartwheels, hanging upside down, climbing, swimming, skipping, and swinging.  There was actually a time in our country when one of the requirements to pass kindergarten included physical activities like skipping! A child who can skip usually has the balance, eye strength, and neural coordination to handle the rapid foveal movements that you need for reading.  When you add playground and gymnastic play into your schedule, you are not just getting physical exercise, you are also growing important pre-reading skills!

Also, crafts like this Owl Babies Craft are great for eye exercise and focus practice. You can also set up activities like this Find Your Name Breakfast Game for your kids to practice visual discrimination skills.

Here is some more reading on the Vestibular System & Ocular Development.

#5: Communication.  Reading is a form of communication--it only becomes meaningful as children learn to communicate--to absorb and share information and ideas! Reading requires a strong working memory so that children can remember a word that they sounded out two minutes earlier or a sight word that they learned two days earlier.  One easy way to strengthen working memory and improve communication skills is to tell stories with your children. You can tell them stories and encourage them to tell you stories! Encourage and help them develop intricate plots. Ask them what their main character is going to do next or how they felt about different events. Ask them to tell you stories they heard at church, or re-tell the events of their day during dinner or bed time. Let them exercise their memory muscles on a frequent basis with meaningful conversations about their lives! Also, point out letters, numbers, and print around you! 

#6: Reading. Read to your child! Read! Read! Read! Read picture books and poetry books and classic literature and chapter books and anything else that you enjoy! Enjoy them with your preschooler! Building a love of books and reading is perhaps the most important part of a pre-reading lifestyle! It is the process that will motivate your preschooler to want to learn to read independently, and that desire to read is more important than memorizing all the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. That desire is what will drive your child to put in the time to learn to read, which is absolutely vital to become a fluent reader. 

You can pick out books with your preschooler, for your preschooler, or let them choose! If your 5-year old is bored with one book, let them move on to a different one. If your preschooler wants to "read" a picture book, encourage it! If your 3-year old want to stand on his head while you read, encourage it! You can actually combine all six focus areas if he stands on his head while you read and talk about the book!

While you read, sometimes look at the pictures and talk about them. Other times, move your finger under the words you read them. This help develop print awareness, or concepts about how printed books work (left to right, top to bottom, words separated by spaces, ideas separated by punctuation).

Some children seem born with a love affair with letters; others learn to enjoy reading because of shared reading experiences with a parent or caregiver they love.  

If your preschooler is already obsessed with letters, encourage him or her with activities to spell his/her name and letter recognition games. Some kids might even enjoy writing in workbooks or notebooks. If your child is not interested in letters, absolutely do not stress it! You can still surround them with and expose them to letters (like in this construction game), but don't worry if they don't seem to remember the letters. When they are ready to read, they will learn the letters very quickly (check out Part 3 of this series for more details). You will notice that none of the 6 Focus Areas was to memorize all the letters in the alphabet. This is just not necessary to do before starting reading lessons, and it is certainly not as important as loving books and being able to identify sounds in a word. Reading will be easier if your child has seen all the letters and is ready to put a name label on them, but surrounding your kids with books and letting them see the letters as you read meets this need as well.  You can also reinforce letters and sounds that your child is starting to recognize with activities like this Llama Llama Print Awareness Gross Motor Game or Say & Spray (gross motor letter and/or word recognition) or What's in the House? (actually, this activity can be customized for any skill you're working on).

Pre-Reading Focus Areas Rationale

You might be wondering how I chose the six focus areas for teaching pre-reading skills, so I'm going to tell you!

As I mentioned above, they are based on research about how children learn to read, my observations in teaching children to read and working with struggling readers, and my own experiences as a public school teacher and a mother of five children. 

Here is a break-down of the "traditional" six pre-reading skills, and why I do not focus on them:

1- Vocabulary. I think this is too narrow of a focus. Yes, a large, strong vocabulary makes reading MUCH easier, but if you focus on communication skills (my #5) and read frequently to your preschoolers (my #6), your preschoolers will have a vocabulary that is wonderful.

2- Print Motivation. This is an interest and enjoyment of books. If you take the time to enjoy books with your children (my #6), they will develop print motivation...and a lot of other healthy skills too!

3- Print Awareness. Your children will develop this naturally as you enjoy books together (my #6 above).

4- Letter Knowledge. As I mentioned above, this is overrated in the preschooler's life. They absolutely do not need to know ALL the letters before they start learning to read, HOWEVER, if they have seen all the letters frequently, it will be much easier for them to learn the letters quickly when they are ready to read.  My favorite reading programs actually introduce the letters 1-3 at a time as they focus on the sounds they make. And your children will pick up the letter knowledge they need as you read with them. At the same time, if your children enjoy learning about letters, absolutely do more letter-learning activities with them! Some kids even enjoy worksheets--if that is your children, let them do worksheets!

5- Narrative Skills. This is important, but it is also too narrow. Your child will develop narrative skills if you focus on communication skills (my #5) with him or her. Then, in addition to narrative skills, your child will also be a stronger communicator, a better reader, and a better writer.

6- Phonological Awareness. This is a big category that deserves its own attention. That is why it is #3 on my list above. :)  

As you can see, the traditional six pre-reading skills are important, but some are too narrow and others can be combined with other skills. Additionally, these traditional pre-reading skills do not help children develop pattern and predictability skills, cause and effect skills, or a strong vestibular system with sufficient eye and ear balance to focus on print. My six areas of focus cover the traditional six and add in these important pre-reading areas.

As you add scheduled activities into your day, remember these two guidelines:

1- There is value in introducing new activities and skills into your child's day. This helps them create new frameworks with which they can interpret the world.
2- Preschoolers (and all children) learn best when they are happy. Especially with young children, it is never worth the potential "learning" to make them stop an activity they are enjoying just to "get in" reading skills before the day is over. If they are happily engaged in an activity of their choice, join them, and talk about what they're doing! You're now "getting in" reading and having fun with it.

Above all, enjoy spending time with your child and enjoy books during that time! As you notice your child acquiring the skills addressed above, use my checklist in Part 2 to see if it's time to begin formal reading lessons.

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

KEYWORDS: pre-reading, how to teach reading
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Saturday, October 26, 2019

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How to Teach Reading

How to teach reading: Is there a more controversial topic in preschool and kindergarten?!

There are a few skills that we get to share with our children that are incredibly life-changing. They open up new possibilities and opportunities for independence and growth in ways that most other lessons can only approach.  

Learning to read changes a child's life as much as learning to speak or use the bathroom!

It is one of the last major milestones of early childhood, and it propels a child into a new world that they can learn about and decipher, to a large measure, without an adult explaining everything for them.

Watching this new skill become part of a child is thrilling! I have, however, seen many people feel more overwhelmed by the responsibility of the idea than excited about the potential. Is this you? 

Have you ever wondered, 

"How do I teach my child to read?" 
"Should my child be reading already?" 
"How do we get ready to read?" 
"Are there pre-reading skills I need to work on?"

If so, this series is for you!

I have three articles in this series:


#1: Pre-Reading for Preschoolers.  In this article I will share 6 important areas to playfully teach pre-reading skills, and hands-on ideas to help your preschooler develop these foundation abilities. 

#2: Is Your Child Ready to Learn to Read?  Just because your child turns five, does not mean he/she is ready to read! I look for signs of reading readiness in the following three areas: phonological awareness, mental and physical readiness, and interest. I also share a free checklist that helps you decide if your child is ready enough in those three areas to begin a deliberate reading curriculum.

#3: How to Teach Reading.  Once your child has the foundation skills discussed in the pre-reading post and shows the signs of reading readiness discussed in the readiness post, it is time to sit down with your kiddo and share some explicit reading lessons.  When kids show the readiness signs, the actual teaching process is easy! This post covers the basics that you will want to know before you start teaching, shares a few curricula that I've enjoyed, and even gives you the information you need if you want to create your own reading curriculum! I also share a few things I've learned about teaching dyslexic readers. 

When I think of a child learning to read, I usually place that child in one of the following four groups:

1- Pre-Reading
2- Reading Basics
3- Intermediate Reading
4- Advanced Reading

Pre-readers are working on the skills that I discuss in Pre-Reading for Preschoolers.  The earliest phonological awareness skills, attention span skills, memory, and communication skills do not require writing, but are vital for being able to learn to read. They are learned through play! These skills are discussed in the first two posts above.

Children in the second group, Reading Basics, are beginning to manipulate letters and words. These kids can begin to sound out CVC words, identify letters, and identify uppercase and lowercase letters. Teaching Reading Basics is the most exciting level because it is when kids realize that they can decipher the written world! Teaching how to read at this level is what I discuss in the third post above.

Intermediate and advanced readers are still learning new words and skills, but they are reading well enough that they can actually continue to learn independently. 

This is a good place to mention that no matter how good your children get at reading (or how old they get), they still enjoy being read to! Play with your children, incorporate the skills that I'm about to share, and read with and to them! Above all, the greatest purpose in our reading education is to teach joy! When children enjoy books and know how to engage with them, learning to read will come naturally and joyfully.  

I hope you will join me for this look inside the world of how to teach reading, and come away excited and confident in your ability to teach and your child's ability to learn how to read.

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

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KEYWORDS: pre-reading, how to teach reading
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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Spider Songs for Preschool Music & Active Movement

Last week our preschool music class theme was Spiders. It's one of my favorite October themes every year!  Our music class combines songs and movement to teach basic music concepts like pitch and listening skills while letting our preschoolers sing, run, and play! 

We also have toddlers or older kids join us too...just adapt the activities for your group's abilities!

I'm sharing my lesson plans here in case anyone else wants some ideas for Music Time!

Themes we've already done for our music class are Moon & Space, Dinosaurs, Ocean, and Leaves!

This lesson is already tested--we had a great time! This is a 40-minute class, and includes transition and movement time. :) 

Theme: Spiders

Gathering Activity: Play with musical instrument toys.

Hello Song: Hello Song:   
Hello *kid's name*
Hello *kid's name
Hello *kid's name*
We're glad you're here today!

to the tune of "Goodnight, Ladies."

Warm-up SongWhen I Sing La, La, La by Janeen Brady with sock puppets. Check out my Moon & Space Music Time post for more background on this song! We like to open our mouths really big like the puppet when we sing, lift the puppets high for high notes, and lower the puppets low near the floor for low notes.

Action SongThere's a Spider on the Floor by The Kiboomers. Before we sang we talked about where we find spiders and what locations we like to see them in. Then we made wiggly spiders with our fingers, and let them crawl around to all the places and body parts mentioned in the song.

Instrument: Rhythm Sticks. We sang "I Wish I Were An Eensy Weensy Spider" to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" using the rhythm sticks for the claps. Afterward, we always "play" our rhythm sticks however we want to--it's adorable to see the different ways the kids play their sticks!

Instrument: Shaker Eggs: I'm not sure why, but we always do a shaker egg song after a rhythm stick song! Of course, we talked about how spiders lay eggs, and how sometimes those eggs are even laid in the fall and wait until spring to hatch!  This week we used "Shake! (Your Shaker Egg)"  by We Kids Rock.  

Instrument: Bells: I absolutely love the Preschool Prodigies music curriculum, and pull their bells out whenever I can! This time I wanted to try letting the kids play a song they knew! So first we sang Incy Wincy Spider with Maple Leaf Learning to review the words. Then we pulled out the C, D, and E bells--we had the C's play whenever we sang "eency," the D's play whenever we sang "up," and the E's play whenever we sang "climbed" and "down." There are other notes we could have them play, but this was perfect for our first bell playing project!

Parachute Fun: We absolutely adore parachute games and songs! I already wrote up our spider-themed, rhyming, singing parachute song and game in lots of detail HERE!

The Spider Game: We play some version of this every week--the kids LOVE it! Start out by choosing one or two "spiders." Everyone else will sit with the parachute on their laps and their feet under the parachute. The spiders crawl around under the parachute "catching" kids by touching their feet. Once they're "caught" the kids become a spider too! We played this about five times in a row--it works out because each time only takes about 30 seconds and everyone wants a turn to be the first "spider!"

Finally, we practiced lifting the parachute high above our heads, pulling it down to our ankles, lifting it high again, and then sliding our bodies inside it while sitting on the parachute. The parachute mushrooms over our heads and forms a cool "trap" -- just like a trap-door spider!

Walk Around (the Moon) by Music With Nancy: I love ending our parachute time with this! We sadly did not have time for it this week... and it is the first time in over a month that we haven't been able to do it! I am adamant about ending on time!

Goodbye Song: I'm doing the same tune for this as the Hello Song, just singing "Goodbye *name*."  

I know I've mentioned this before, but it's related so I'll tell you again! If you're looking for a music curriculum that teaches all the music basics like pitch, rhythm, and even reading notes I have a program that I 100% recommend!  Here's my affiliate link: Preschool Prodigies is absolutely "open and go!" AND your kids learn a musical instrument (bells) through the program! We are actually using this as well, and ALL my kids LOVE it (this includes my preschoolers, elementary kiddos, and my middleschooler)!! In addition to the bells curriculum for preschoolers, they have lessons for recorder, ukulele, and more!  I am super excited about this program and am sharing it with everyone I know! I simply have not seen any other system as fun and effective for teaching music. 

I hope all of this is helpful for you! Let me know if you use any of it in your Music Time!!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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