Teaching New Students

New students do not learn rules as quickly as remedial students, and they need a lot more repetition. However, they do not have to be retrained to look at every sound from left to right or continually reminded not to guess at words. To cut down on the amount of repetition you have to personally do, you can use the leapfrog movies The Talking Letter Factory for learning letter names and sounds. A good online program to use as a fun follow on is Read, Write, Type. If you do not have a high speed internet connection, you can find useful free phonics lessons in both written and mp3 format at Don Potter's education page.

You need to do actual reading and writing on paper, and not just electronic activities. Writing and spelling are especially important. "Invented" spelling merely reinforces bad habits. Spelling correctly reinforces the proper learning of words and sounds.

It is also very important not to teach more than 5 sight words. 40L's sight word page explains how to teach all but 2 of the most 220 most commonly taught sight words. 40L's volunteers have tutored several Kindergarten students who needed help because they were exposed to too many sight words in their phonics program.

Teaching your student to write as neatly as possible for their age helps them remember each letter's shape and learn it in a physical way instead of just the visual learning of reading. Have them write out their own name and the simple words they have learned so far. This also helps reinforce the shape and sound of each letter in the brain as they actively write the letters. Free handwriting ideas are available online at Don Potter's education page.

A good book for young students is "Phonics Pathways" by Dolores Hiskes. An easy, free method is Blend Phonics, available from Don Potter. A classic method was deleloped by one of our country's finest 1782, used widely in the 1700's and 1800's, yet still remains valuable today: The American Spelling Book, also available free from Don Potter. It can be used for teaching both phonics and spelling. It can be used for children as young as four or five, and is an excellent, time tested method. If you want your child to be a contender for a spelling bee as well as a good reader, this is the method of choice.

Speaking of spelling, it is important. Spelling and reading are two sides of the coin, and phonetically taught spelling reinforces what is learned in the phonetic teaching of reading. You should do both oral and written spelling. Until they are old enough to write well, you can do "written" spelling with magnetic letters on a metal cookie sheet. A good online spelling book for beginners is Easy Steps in Spelling by M.W. Hazen.

There are several important things that need to be taught when teaching reading with phonics. First, students need to know the sounds of letters and letter combinations. Then, they need to learn how to blend them from left to right. Blend Phonics has good directions on how to teach a child to blend a word from left to right. Using word families (at, cat, bat, etc.) can be counter-productive for some children. It is better to teach words in groups of the same vowel when learning a new vowel (at, man, sad, etc.) and then groups of mixed vowels after they have learned several vowels (at, fun, sip, etc.) to keep them focused on sounding out all the letters from left to right. An important step, absent from most phonics programs today, but widely taught in the 1700's and early 1800's, is syllables. Webster's Way really is the best way. Children taught the syllables in a syllabary and then words divided by their syllables will be able to read almost anything after working their way through Webster's Speller. They should be reading and spelling several grade levels above normal after working through Webster's Speller (how to use this free method explained here.) They can also easily read books above their grade level when the books are divided into syllables based on the rules in Webster's Speller.

For an explanation of how to teach a young child to blend and why blending is a difficult skill for some students, see 40L's blending page.

Young children need to have fun when they are learning. Play the phonics concentration game often. Use magnetic letters that they can touch and move around. Buy both lowercase and uppercase letters so your student will learn both types of letters. You can move letters around on a metal cookie sheet to make words. Give them 6-8 consonants they have learned so far and a vowel and have them see how many words they can make! Once they get good at this, see how many words they can make in 1 minute. There are free to print games available from Mona McNee on her phonics 4 free website.