How Do you Know what to Teach Kids that are Struggling with Reading?

I get asked this question all of the time.  Well, even though each child's reading difficulties may come in many different forms and in different areas, I am able to look at how they succeed with the 5 pillars of reading.  If there is an area that they are specifically struggling with, then I provide instruction in that specific area.  I love being able to help all kids who struggle with reading and make it easier for them.  Most kids who I have worked with has had a strong desire to get better.  This makes instructing them extremely easy.


Here are more details about each of these pillars.  Does your child struggle in any of these?



The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

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Should Letter Sounds be Taught with Letter Names?

Should Letter Sounds be Taught with Letter Names?

When I was a kid people taught letter names before they taught letter sounds.  If you visit a Montessori school you will find that they do not even teach the names of the letters, they only teach the letter sounds.  So the question, "Should letter sounds be taught with letter names," is a valid question.

The answer is yes according to The National Reading Panel's report that was released in 2000.  According to the NRP,


It is essential to teach letters as well as phonemic awareness to beginners.  PA training is more effective when children are taught to use letters to manipulate phonemes.  This because knowledge of letters is essential for transfer to reading and spelling (2000).

Therefore, it is important to teach not only the letter names, but also the letter sounds.  Yesterday we took a look at a fun way to teach letter names with the names of our family members.  So if we were taking a look at the name grandpa, we could say, "The name of the letter is g, the sound of the letter is /g/.  Do you hear it?  /g/ /g/ /g/ grampa"

Not only can the names of family members and friends be used, but you can also teach the letter names and sounds by playing fun games.


Bingo - Choose a 3 x3 Bingo grid or a 4 x 4 Bingo grid.  Write some letters of the alphabet that your child knows and some letters of the alphabet that your child is working on in each of the boxes on the board.  Use the alphabet card deck to call the letters or the sounds and have the child put an x on each one that is called.  Whoever gets a straight row is the winner.

Memory - Use two decks of alphabet cards (just print out two of these).  Flip the cards over so that the white side is showing and the letters cannot be seen.  The child flips over a letter and says the sound that it makes.  If the child does not know the sound, then tell her the sound it makes.  Then, the child flips over another letter and looks to see if they match.  If the letters match, then the child gets another turn.  The person with the most matches at the end of the game wins.

Go fish - Use two decks of the alphabet cards and mix them up.  Deal 3 cards to each player.  The youngest player starts and asks if you have a certain letter or sound.  If you have the letter, then you need to give it to the child and the child goes again.  If you do not have the letter, then the child gets to pick a letter from the pile and it is your turn.  Whoever is out of cards first is the winner.

Learning the names of letters and sounds can be so much fun.  The more fun that you make this activity the less it will seem like learning or work for the child.  What are some of the creative ways that you teach letter names and sounds?


It All Starts with the Right Reading Assessments Part I

It All Starts with the Right Reading Assessments Part I

For the next month you are going to get the first peak at my program called Phonics the Easy Way.  All of the content will be shared on these

pages and you will learn everything that you need to know about teaching children phonics.  Our English language can be quite complicated, so it is going to be my goal to demystify this complicated process into small bits and pieces that are easy to understand.

It all starts with assessment, but not just any kind of assessment.  It starts with specific assessments that meets the needs of your child.  Another name for this is diagnostic assessment.  For instance, if you know that your child knows all of the letters of the alphabet, then it would be fruitless to test this skill.  Here is a list of skills to think about that children need in order to learn how to read.

1.  Rhyming

2.  Blending sounds

3. Segmenting sounds

4. Letter names - Capital and Lowercase

5. Letter sounds- lowercase

6. Sight Words

In order to be ready to read it helps to be able to do most of these skills.  Rhyming, Blending sounds without letters and segmenting sounds without letters fit into the phonemic awareness category.  These are prereading skills that help a child to start learning about the reading process.

Our brain is a pattern detector.  One of the first reading patterns that we develop is the ability to rhyme.  Later on kids will be able to use their knowledge about words they know to figure out new unknown words.  Kids that are in 2nd grade and are unable to produce rhymes and identify rhymes are at risk for reading at grade level.  So whether your child is just starting out in reading or is struggling with reading, you will want to check if they are able to produce and identify rhymes.  Here is a rhyming assessment I have created that you can use.

Another phonological skill that is useful for kids to master is blending sounds with out letters.  This is not an activity that is done with letters, it is only done with sounds.  For example, if I said /c/ /a/ /t/, then you would put it together and make the word cat.  Once one adds letter to this activity it becomes a more advanced skill.  So, in the beginning it is important to do this without any letters.  Here is a blending sounds assessment to identify if this is a skill that your child has mastered.

A more difficult task is to give the child a word and have her tell you each of the sounds.  This activity is called segmenting sounds.  Sometimes a child will get just the first sound and not the rest of the word.  This will count as a point for the child.  Here is a segmenting sounds assessment that you can use with your child.

Rhyming, blending, and segmenting are some of the pre-reading skills that kids need to master before they can learn to read.  These skills will help them with the more complicated tasks they will be required to do once they start putting letters and sounds together to make words.  If your child has not mastered one of these skills, then you will want to provide instruction in that area and reassess once you think that your child has mastered it.

Have you ever known a child that has struggled with these skills?  What was your experience.  What are some things that you did to help him/her to master them? Tell me about it in the comments section.

Tomorrow we are going to begin to take look at letter name, letter sounds, and sight word assessments.  You will also learn how to do ongoing assessment to determine how much each child has learned and if the instruction that you are providing is working.