In order to become an effective reader, children first need to understand the relationship between letters and sounds. Once letter sound correspondence is firmly ingrained in a child’s head, they will start to recognize familiar words effortlessly and figure out new words. Some children start to understand the relationship between letters and sounds on their own, but most children benefit from direct phonics instruction.
Phonics is one of the most commonly used approaches to reading instruction. Students learn letter-sound relationships, how to sound out words, and exceptions to common rules.
Children who struggle with reading may avoid tasks in a variety of ways. These can include: talking, playing with objects, looking elsewhere, saying a task is too hard or boring, crying, or refusing to complete the work.
Here are some other clues that a child is struggling in reading or in developing early reading skills:
- Difficulty remembering letter sounds
- Sounds out words very slowly
- Has trouble connecting sounds in words
- Makes guesses based on one or two letters in the word
- Difficulty remembering letter patterns (e.g. cat, bat, rat, sat)
- Puts so much effort into sounding out words that the meaning of the text is lost
Here are some teaching strategies to try with a child showing the signs above:
- For a young child, point to letters anywhere in her school, home, or community, and ask her to name them and tell you the sound.
- Help the child connect words he sees at home or in the community to words he is learning at school, by pointing out rhyming words or words with similar spelling.
- Encourage the child to write or spell words to the best of her ability before telling her how to spell a word.
- Explain that there are “irregular” words that she’ll come across when reading, which cannot be sounded out phonetically. These are called “sight words” because they must be remembered at first sight. Example include are, said, and was. A fun game for practicing sight words is Zingo Sight Words by Think Fun. In this game, children learn to recognize sight words while playing bingo.
- Have the child sort pictures that correspond with a particular sound. For example, all pictures that end with the”L” sound, go in one pile, all pictures that end with the “X” sound can go in another pile. Have the child say the letter sound each time she sorts a picture. You can cut the pictures out from magazines, or purchase picture cards such as Smethport Categories Language Cards or Smethport Photo Language Cards Nouns.
- Engage the child in reading and writing activities that encourage her to apply the phonics rules you are currently teaching. For example, if you teach the “ch” sound, have the child write sentences or read stories with words like chase, chair, and chew.
Remember to be patient even if the child is not understanding something that you think she should. If you get angry or frustrated it will lead to similar feelings in the child, which will make it harder for her to learn.
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