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Four-year-old Reading Lesson Ideas

by Cathy Angel on 05/06/20

Our focus for today will be on some ideas for reading lessons for a four-year-old. Pre-readers must be able to name the letters and say the letter sounds. Many children require a high number of repetitions to be able to attain mastery of these two skills. Continually using the same format can cause children to become disinterested and learning becomes a chore. Low interest leads to little or no focus on the part of the child. When this happens, you are losing more than you are gaining. Learning through games increases student engagement.

Initially, I like to begin to teach the alphabet using the letters in the child's name. There is a distinct advantage of using something very personal to introduce letters. Start with what is known and build on it. Place these letters on the table in the incorrect order and ask the student to name them. As soon as the child can name all of these letters, continue to add new letters one at a time. Another great strategy is to teach the letters in alphabet order while singing the alphabet song. This will enable the student to teach himself. Movements cement learning, so add meaningful movements to each letter sound. (Sound Moves)

Play Alphabet Tic-Tac-Toe by putting letters in the boxes before the start of the game. When a box is selected and the letter can be named, an X goes into the box. This same format can also be played to practice the letter sounds.

Alphabet Flash Cards using MRH Playing Cards is another way to increase the automaticity of either letter naming or letter sounds. Be sure you time your child to see how long it takes to get through the pack. Keep a graph to show improvement, and be sure to share it with the child. To provide some handwriting experience, write or show an uppercase letter. The child must write the lowercase partner.

There are so many easy games that will amuse your little learner. Do not be content to do the same thing every day!  

More another day! 

Session Seven-- Magic E Syllable, Kindergarten Style!

by Cathy Angel on 04/21/20

Dear Friends,

Today I realized that one nine-word Tic-Tac-Toe could teach the Magic E Syllable to my kindergarten grandson.  He is not at all interested in me telling him about rules and syllable types, so I have to sneak knowledge in during games. You might remember me saying that we do a quick Tic-Tac-Toe game each lesson.  He likes these games because they are quick and he wins every time.  Many times, this is the first thing he chooses to do during our lesson. Although he always asks to see his cousin's graphs before we start anything!

He is getting quite efficient at spelling and reading closed syllable words. I wanted to move him forward into another syllable type without spending a lot of time explaining it. The Tic-Tac-Toe provided the perfect opportunity. On the Tic-Tac-Toe board, I wrote these words: make, bake, time, Pete, bite, mule, woke, ride, and cape. He already knew the word 'make' from his sight word card pack, so he picked that word first. That allowed me to use his knowledge of that vowel sound to talk about the "Magic E" at the end of each of the words. It was amazing how quickly he adjusted to reading them after we sang:

"When Magic E sprinkles its dust

When Magic E sprinkles its dust

It makes the vowel say its alphabet name

When Magic E sprinkles its dust!"

He was able to read all nine words quite easily! We will see tomorrow how much he remembers!

Profound Thought # 16  One new rule goes a long way in learning to read!

Stay tuned for our next adventure! 

Session Six

by Cathy Angel on 04/16/20

My first-grade grandson is gaining many new skills! He has learned a lot about Closed, Open, Magic E, Bossy R, and Vowel Teams Syllables. He zips through the nine words on the Tic-Tac-Toe board and enjoys spelling hard words when he is playing football or baseball. The part that he still dislikes is reading the book! He is reading every story in the Frog and Toad anthology. The repetition of names and easy vocabulary is perfect for him right now. The trouble has been the length of time it takes him to read a short chapter! Up until now, he had been reading only one-half of the chapter. Being intent on increasing his fluency, I felt impelled to try for more. On Monday, we read a whole chapter. It was brutal! It took him 21 minutes. The problem was not with his ability to read, but keeping his eyes on the book! I was beginning to wonder if I had pushed him to frustration instead of just challenging him. We graphed the number of minutes it took him to read the chapter. It was the bottom square on the graph. I decided to give it one more day.

We had a breakthrough! My daughter found a "Magic Reading Bookmark!" It is the kind that has a transparent color in the middle. He had to keep his eyes on the page to keep moving the bookmark along. It was just enough to help him focus! He went from a 21-minute read to a 13-minute read! You should have seen his smile when I shared my screen and colored that graph almost 3/4 of the way to the top!

He asked if I would show the graph to his cousin that afternoon. I did and relayed his cousin's excitement today. So, guess how fast he read today? It only took him 12 minutes and 29 seconds! Hallelujah! He was not opposed to reading today at all. He was very excited!

Profound Thought #14 Sometimes even a bookmark can make a difference! Profound Thought #15 Seeing your progress visually can really be a motivator--especially if your cousin gets to see it, too!


Session Five

by Cathy Angel on 04/13/20

Session # 5:

As I continue to work with my reluctant readers, it is evident to me they both have many of the necessary skills, but for some reason, they are both unwilling to practice these skills independently!  I see some attention issues with both boys, as well as a lack of desire.  This is pretty typical for active boys!  I have also noticed when either one of them makes a mistake there will be some sort of “shut down”.  Did I mention that they are both competitive?  So, how do we deal with that? 

It is impossible to help a child grow without challenging them.  When we challenge them, they will make mistakes!  How do you avoid the ‘shut down syndrome’?  This question uncovers a deep concept that master teachers must be aware of! 

Profound Thought # 12 There is a fine line between challenging and frustrating students.  Excellent teachers challenge but do not frustrate. 

Some children are so motivated to learn and excel they are not easily discouraged by incorrect answers.  This would be my two granddaughters.  If they make a mistake, they are fine with just trying again.  They have good self-concepts in the realm of reading and can bounce back after an error.  My boys do not have the same mindset.  For them, a mistake is devastating!  It might mean we accomplish nothing else for that lesson!  Whoa!   

I have solved this problem in both the football and baseball spelling games that we play!  First of all, by linking the spelling to a sport, motivation is provided!  Second, within the sports of baseball and football, there is no one-and-done situation!  You get three tries, strikes, in baseball, and four tries, downs, in football.  This small adjustment to the game has allowed the boys to adopt more of a growth mindset.  It is no longer overwhelming when they misspell a word!  It is just “Strike 1” or ‘Second Down”. I provide helpful feedback by reading the incorrect word exactly as they spell it.  If necessary, I will give another clue.  Both boys seem fine with it and try again.  Hallelujah!

Profound Thought # 13  Use students' mistakes to teach basic concepts! Most of the time, my boys are pretty sure they have spelled their word correctly. I am quite certain to hold their attention when I read the word the way they spelled it.  This eliminates me having to tell them they spelled the word wrong.  I can infuse more intense learning by having them spell four or five carefully chosen words, than talking for ten minutes about rules or concepts!  Providing correction at the moment they write it, provides immediate feedback, authentic learning, and direct application!  These are all important characteristics of a great lesson!

More another day! 

Session Four

by Cathy Angel on 04/10/20

Profound Thought Number 9:  Put a timer on it!  If you have competitive boys, they can’t resist trying to beat their own time.  My kindergarten student’s teacher would like his sight words automatic. So, we do them once each day and time how long it takes.  Typically, it takes less than three minutes.  Considering how many times he will read these in print, I’m fine with spending three minutes per session to acquire automaticity! Without a timer, this activity could take 5 minutes or more—depending on his attention. 

Profound Thought Number 10:  Research about ‘sight words’ The Fry Sight Words list is a more modern list of words than the Dolch list, and was extended to capture the most common 1,000 words. Dr. Edward Fry developed this expanded list in the 1950s and updated it in 1980. It is based on the most common words to appear in reading materials used in Grades 3-9. Learning all 1,000 words in the Fry list would equip a child to read about 90% of the words in a typical book, newspaper, or website.

According to Fry's research, completed in 1996, the first 25 words make up about 1/3 of all items published. The first 100 words make up about 1/2 of all the words found in publications. The first 300 words make up about 2/3 of all written materials. Can you see how making these automatic will go a long way to helping a struggling reader become fluent?

Our Level A and Level B Outlaw words in our Dictation Sentences include all of the non-decodable words in Frey’s 1st 100 list.  Many words like; when, then, them and than, which are not included in our lists, are decodable if you know the digraphs ‘th’ and ‘wh’. We do not believe in having decodable words be part of our Outlaw Words because they can be decoded instead of memorized. 

Although we do spend 2 – 3 minutes reviewing the pack of Outlaw Word cards, I also have students read orally to me so we can practice fluency.  

Profound Thought Number 11:  Did you know a dyslexic child will make many mistakes on easy sight words and do fairly well decoding harder words?

More another day!