Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beginning Reading with Phonics

Just about every homeschool curriculum company is going to have a phonics program as part of their package. Since I'm not a big fan of following a certain set of curriculum (school in a box), I like to use a variety of fun ways to learn phonics. Here I will let you in on what I like to use to teach phonics at our house.

If I use any actual curriculum with my children, it is ABeka. If you did not learn to read with the phonics method, or if you just want to make sure you are teaching the phonetic sounds properly, it may be a help to you to get the cd of phonics sounds for yourself. As much as I don't like curriculum and work books, for most of my kids who enjoy getting to do something "schooly" looking when they are little, it turns out to be pretty fun to go through those colorful phonics workbooks in K and 1st grade. You may have to open an account on ABeka's website to see these links. Don't worry, there are no strings attached to do that. Their website is the only place you can purchase their curriculum, unless you are looking for used.

A lot of people like Explode the Code. I've bought it in the past and like the format, but it doesn't seem quite as organized and systematic as ABeka. It is made up of many smaller workbooks, which makes for a lot of repetition and practice for a child who may be starting young (preschool), and needs that. The inside of the workbooks is black and white, so it's also not as colorful as ABeka. But, like I said, if you want to start "workbook" phonics with them before Kindergarten, you will probably need something like ETC, or you may go too fast, which could lead to a frustrated little one. Personally, I recommend using the DVD's and games I will list below with a preschooler.

Apart from actual workbooks and a reading program, the best thing in the world that I have found to teach phonics is a card game. As far as I can tell, the Hooked on Phonics company no longer makes The Phonics Game. But it would be well worth your effort to find one used via amazon or ebay. This is an incredible way to learn to read! I can't say enough good about it, really. If you did not know one thing about phonics or how to teach it, you would learn right along with your child. The game comes with cassettes, VHS tapes, books, and sets of playing cards. The only potential drawback is making a way to watch VHS and listen to cassettes if you don't have the "older" technology to play them on.

Leap Frog has made some phonics DVD's that practically teach your phonics for you. The kids love to watch them, and since all of the letters sounds are easily memorized because of the songs in The Letter Factory, your kids have them memorized in a matter of days! The next step is the Talking Words Factory, where they put the sounds together to make words. I would just make sure that the child has mastered the sounds before trying to put the sounds together to make words, with any program you use. If the child forgets the sounds they learned from the first DVD after taking a break from it for a couple weeks, they have not internalized it enough yet to move on to the next DVD. I bought mine at Walmart, so they can be found just about anywhere.

Bob Books are great first readers. They are easy to find. I got mine at Barnes & Noble. The order each sound is introduced makes sense, and nicely accompanies any of the other phonics tools I've mentioned. The books come in sets, and if you are moving along with your phonics studies, you should only need the first two sets, and then the child will be able to start reading regular books. I have a Bob Books Magic Lite free app on my iPad that the girls play too. That's fun!

From what I've studied, I've come to feel very strongly that sight words should not be introduced until the child has begun to make sense of putting some short vowel sound words together and understanding how to sound out some three letter words, like those that would be introduced in the initial phase of any phonics program. Learning words as a picture verses sounding the word out are two completely different skills, and it makes most sense to me that sight words introduced before an understanding of sounds is present, can lead to confusion down the road.
I do not advocate teaching a child to read too early. In fact, here is an article I've come across lately that explains some of the reasons why. I've read much more than this on the subject, but haven't kept track of the data, so I am referencing the latest thing I've come across. And here is an article that references Dr. Raymond Moore's philosophy on not rushing into learning too much, too early.

Teaching reading can be the most rewarding and most fun part of homeschooling, especially if you have found a good phonics program and watch your child's cues for readiness to avoid frustration. Enjoy those precious "learning to read" moments!

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