Teaching Children to Read/How We Use Sing, Spell, Read and Write
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 4, 2010
When we talk about phonics, the first thing we need to emphasize is keeping things in perspective. One of my favorite sayings goes like this: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom—not phonics.” (Mary Schoalfield.)
Keeping things in perspective: Phonics (especially before the first grade) are NOT the be-all end-all to homeschooling. Don’t over-emphasize phonics! Don’t make phonics the focus of your homeschool! Don’t overlook other important learning in favor of phonics! And DON’T feel like a failure if your child isn’t reading before Kindergarten (or by the end of first grade…or at the end of second grade…or even later! Some children don’t master reading until age 8-10.) Instead of stressing so much over teaching reading, we should remember to balance the need to teach our children to read (along with our other academic goals) with the needs of the whole child. We also need to be sure we keep first things first, remembering our most important goals–building Relationships. We should be most focused on:
~Teaching our children about the Lord, and helping them develop a personal relationship with Him.
~Growing strong relationships between family members, especially parent/child and child/siblings.
~Helping our children develop Godly character traits and good/helpful habits.
Learning to read is very, very important. But remember that readiness is truly key to reading/academic success AND to maintaining a love of learning. We need to respect the God-given timetable within our children, and let them retain their love of learning by being very careful not to push.
That being said, here’s how we teach our children to read–using Sing, Spell, Read, and Write.
Why I like Sing, Spell, Read and Write— I have used Sing, Spell, Read and Write to teach all four of our children to read–with great success (well-my youngest are still “in progress.”) Here are the reasons I like it:
- It is multi-sensory, using games and music to teach phonics (bells and whistles!)
- It tackles words from left to right, the way we attack the words when we read. Many curriculums concentrate on teaching the sounds that come at the end of words (_at, _in, _ate.) This doesn’t make sense to me, since we read the beginning sounds first, and then add the endings. Sing, Spell, Read and Write teaches the beginning blends first (the easiest first, such as ba, be, bi, bo, bu, and later, harder blends such as tra, tre, tri, tro, tru etc–tr, sl, sm, sn, scr….you get the idea.) You can still teach the word families (most kids pick up on them, anyway–) but I personally, I believe that it makes more sense to start at the left side of the word.
- The order of the lessons is logical and systematic.
- It includes readers that reinforce the words children are learning.
- It does NOT include very many sight words; it DOES teach the words that are “rule-breakers.” (I prefer to concentrate on a phonetic approach, instead of memorizing hundreds of sight words the way the public school kids do.)
This is how we used Sing, Spell, Read and Write—When our children start Kindergarten (age 5 or 6–no sooner), we buy the First-Grade Kit (I thought the preschool kit was a total waste of time…nothing but a bunch of “worksheets”, which are inappropriate for young children. I didn’t think the Kindergarten set was necessary, either.) The First grade kit comes with two books: Off We Go, and Raceway. We used the Off We Go book (almost exclusively) for Kindergarten. We used it to “cement” the letters and sounds, and to make an alphabet book. (Off We Go contains no blending.)
We completed about one letter a week (sometimes more, sometimes less), leaving the last 10 weeks or so of Kindergarten to begin the songs and games from the beginning of the Raceway book. If I believed the children were ready, we would start blending letters to make words (we spent a long time on this step–beginning blending–singing the “Ferris Wheel” and playing the blending games–“Blend-o” and “Pick a Sound from the Merry-go-round”.)
Back to the Off We Go book: For each letter there is a coloring page, a cut and paste page, a dot to dot page (alphabet order dot to dot), and a page of handwriting (we usually did only one row or two rows of writing practice.) My kids liked the cut and paste pages best (which picture goes with the letter?–Which doesn’t belong?) After they were done with the pages, we glued two of them into a 12 X 12 scrapbook. Around the edges, we glued pictures that I gleaned from old magazines and old picture books from Goodwill. This turned it into their “alphabet book.” (Note: If you only want to purchase the Off We Go book, you can find it on Amazon very inexpensively.
We also added some of their favorite art to their books (the last pages)— especially self-portraits drawn at the beginning and end of the year (to show how the children had matured.)
You could even turn a scrapbook into a sort of “school journal”, recording your favorite activities and art experiences. Here is one of our rare, cut-and-paste-for-a-set-result type of craft:
Back to phonics: We use the Raceway book for first and second grade–sometimes through third. By the time the children complete it, they have the tools they need to sound out anything.
About the “teacher’s edition”–We don’t follow the long, detailed lesson plans. We don’t spend the amount of TIME the teacher’s edition recommends, either (we keep the lessons down to 10-15 minutes max for first grade…less for kindergarten…it’s best to leave them wanting more, versus overwhelming them.)
We don’t follow the lesson plans as written. We just sing the songs, play the games, and then read the words once the sounds/rules are mastered. When we are first starting the Raceway book, all we’ll be doing is playing games and singing songs. Gradually, as more “steps” (sets of words) are mastered, we’ll add reading new words, writing them, spelling them, reading the phonic story books aloud, etc.
We let ourselves feel free to skip any pages that we consider to be “busy work” (things I know they’ve mastered). Some of my children have used Explode the Code (which mostly goes in the same order as SSRW) to supplement/practice spelling, handwriting, etc as needed. If the kids ever “get stuck”, we just play the games and sing the songs until they “get” it (children often seem to learn in spurts.) Once they start to read, we give lots of practice reading aloud via the simplest books. This gives them a chance to feel successful, and to learn to read fluently and with expression.
About spelling–Most of my children reached a point at some time or another when their ability to master spelling the words didn’t match their ability to learn to read the words. When that happened, we’d let them go ahead with their reading, while continuing to practice their at spelling at the level they needed to—even if they were several steps “behind” in spelling (SSRW suggests children should be able to read, write, and spell each of the words before moving on to the next step.) By allowing the children to move along, they can progress and experience success with their reading while simultaneously continuing to practice their spelling. Later on, perhaps even the next year, we would go back and review all the spelling words, making sure they were mastered.
A final word about phonics and readiness–Many families try phonics program after phonics program, to no avail. They become more and more frustrated with the programs and their children. They often come to believe a common myth about curriculum: The myth that “if we could only find just the right curriculum, then my children would learn to read” (or learn their math facts, or get interested in history, etc.) Some might start to think that perhaps their teaching is at fault; others might start to believe that there could be something wrong with their children. But then, low and behold, once the third or fourth expensive curriculum package has been purchased and tried, suddenly something “clicks” and the child starts to read! Some children even seem to teach themselves. The truth of the matter is simple. In all likelihood, it wasn’t the “curriculum’s fault” at all. It was a simple matter of readiness. Trying program after program, however frustrating and expensive it was, allowed enough time to pass for the child to mature and develop readiness.
In my experience, reading is very much a “developmental” task, just like learning to walk or learning to swim. Before children develop readiness for these new skills, it is useless to try to teach them. They balk; they fight you; they become frustrated or even afraid. Most certainly, all the joy is driven out of the task (we sure don’t want to take the joy out of learning or reading!) But once they are ready to learn, you can barely hold them back. Reading is very much like that. Don’t make the mistake of starting too soon. It will only frustrate you and your child. It will take the joy out of learning. If your children are struggling or resistant, just set aside phonics for awhile, and then try again later. Let readiness have a chance to develop before you spend money on another phonics program.
If this happens in your family, remember that children who learn to read later learn more quickly and easily than younger children do. So why spend YEARS teaching letter recognition and phonics (starting in preschool, as many parents do) when you could teach it in only a few weeks or months when your children are older?
It’s something to think about, anyway.
A note about curriculum reviews: Remember that I don’t receive any money for my reviews. Also remember that my personal curriculum choices might not work for you or your family. If you are looking for a back-to-basics phonics program with no bells or whistles, there are numerous programs that might work for you…you might start by investigating Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.