Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reading Lessons

Thanks to the information shard by Penny Gardner our reading lessons this year have been enjoyable, productive and easy.
I had been using Phonics Pathways but for our family it was not a good or enjoyable fit and I ended up avoiding it out of frustration rather than pushing through the lessons. After reading the advice given by Penny I purchased a copy of Reading Reflex and promptly devoured its concise, highly informational contents as soon as it arrived.
Not only did it fill in the gaps that I felt were missing from other programs it also exposed the areas in which my kids where not making progress but able to slide by without my inexperienced teacher eyes noticing. I have noticed the most improvement with Thomas; when teaching him using a phonics method he breezed through certain portions of it because he has a very good and well used visual memory. But on occasion I would catch him not knowing how to sound a word out and blending sounds inappropriately.
With the phono-graphix approach outlined in Reading Reflex I have been able to stop this trend and take him back to the basics of the sounds. As they frequently point out our language began not as an alphabet but as sounds blended into words. The focus is not that "A" says "c(a)t" but that this (A) is a picture for the sounds "c(a)t", (a)rrow, and (a)lter. It is very easy for children to realize that a picture can represent different things; for example a child has no problem understanding that a rose, a carnation and a dahlia are all flowers even though they look very different. In the same manner a child can easily comprehend that there are different sounds that have the same word picture.
At the beginning of the book the have a few tests that help you to know exactly where your child's knowledge base is at. Although initially this was rather discouraging to me it was also a good prognosis of Thomas's problems in reading.
Over the past several months we have continued on through each of the games in the different levels laid out very clearly in the book. This is something else that has made this book such a gold mine, we spend our time (15 mins) playing games! Each game has a stated purpose and a goal to reach but is broken down in such a way that both teacher and child find the process fun.
Initially I would spend 15 mins. 4x a week with both Thomas and Alissa but now we have found a better schedule with a reading lesson on Mon-Wed-Fri and reading practice on Tues-Thurs. They have both made great progress and are reading very fluently on their own. I will be excited to see where they test out at the end of this school year as compared with when we started.
If you have been struggling with a phonics program and don't know where to turn I would highly recommend not only Penny's article and other ideas but the book Reading Reflex as well.

I also have employed Charlotte Mason's suggestions on teaching sight words (they do exist in our language) and have found good success with that as well. While I don't advocate it as a sole approach it has been very helpful especially to give the added boost to the children's reading confidence.

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