Learning to Talk and Learning to Read – Part 2

Learning to read is a process that involves both visual and auditory input.  Children must learn to match symbols to sounds and then connect those symbols to make words.  Some children have difficulty remembering the symbols if too many are taught at once.  Reading can be made easier by teaching only a few sound-symbols at a time and then using them to practice decoding simple words.  Students should practice reading short stories using the same words they are learning to decode.


Make Your Own Magnetic Letter Tiles

SnipBlog81aA while back I wrote about teaching students how to spell. The easiest way to teach spelling is in connection with reading, so children should be learning to spell the same words they are learning to phonetically decode. Spelling is a lot more fun if you teach it with a hands-on activity. My spelling game includes a list of very simple words for a student who is just beginning to read, but you can adapt it to any phonetically regular spelling list. A side benefit to this game is that your child is also gaining phonemic awareness while playing around with spelling. You can read the blog and get the spelling game here:   http://soundbytesreading.com/spelling-for-beginning-readers-part-3.html

Recently I was channel surfing and ran across a great idea.  The TV channel was ION Life and the program was “She’s Crafty” featuring Wendy Russell (11-14-2013).  I could not find a link to the specific program—but I’ll describe the quick and easy craft project she demonstrated that you can use to make magnetic letter tiles for spelling.

Use the letter tiles from an old Scrabble game for this craft.  Purchase a roll of Roll-N-Cut Flexible Magnet Tape (cost is around $6). It has an adhesive backing so it’s really easy to attach to the letters.  Cut off squares the size of the letter tiles and attach them to the back of the Scrabble letter tiles.  Now you have inexpensive magnetic letters for your kids to play with and learn to spell with (all capital letters).

Put the magnetic letters on the refrigerator and help your kiddos learn to spell while you cook. I’ve included some lists below to get you started. One list is for first graders, the others for second and/or third graders. The target spelling pattern is underlined in the first word in each list. Use whatever works at your child’s spelling level.  Have fun playing around with spelling!

SnipBlog81cSnipBlog81dPrint a PDF copy of the Spelling Word List here:


Dyslexia—What Is It and What Can We Do About It?


Is your child struggling with learning to read?  Is your child dyslexic? What is dyslexia?

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines dyslexia as “impairment of the ability to read, often as the result of genetic defect or brain injury.”  The online Encarta Dictionary defines it as “impaired ability to understand written language; a learning disorder marked by severe difficulty in recognizing and understanding written language, leading to spelling and writing problems.  It is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage.”

When a child is not learning to read, parents may wonder if there is something very wrong with their student.  Parents are often advised to see an eye doctor (not necessarily a bad idea) and/or to have the student evaluated by a specialist. While optometrists may effectively evaluate deficiency in eyesight, they are not usually trained in the causes of reading difficulties, so parents need to be cautious.

Many students who are struggling with learning to read will be doing some or all of these things:

  • Guessing at unknown words based on the first letter of the word or the shape of the word (Example: saying “horse” instead of “house”)
  • Guessing at unknown words by looking at the pictures for clues (eyes are moving all over the page—this is sometimes diagnosed as an eye-tracking problem)
  • Skipping over words
  • Sometimes saying “a” in place of “the”
  • Looking frequently at another reader’s face instead of looking at the text on the page
  • Repeating lines of text slightly after another reader (when several students are doing choral reading together)
  • Not reading fluently (reading is choppy, not smooth and expressive)
  • Not knowing what they read after reading it (low comprehension)

There is good news.  Whether or not a struggling reader has been diagnosed as dyslexic, he or she can learn to read.  Researchers have discovered that the brains of students who can read look different than the brains of students who cannot read—BUT—after those students were taught to read, their brains looked the same as the brains of good readers.  Learning to read changes a child’s brain!

“…using new before- and after- images that show what happens to children’s brains after they get systematic, research-based reading instruction, the images show that the right teaching methods can actually normalize brain function and thereby improve a child’s reading skills.”   See Brain, See Brain Read… American Psychological Association, January 2, 2006. https://www.apa.org/research/action/reading.aspx

Researchers believe that children who have difficulty learning to read may have more difficulty gaining phonological awareness—that is understanding how sounds map to letters of the alphabet—so they will need more explicit instruction in how that works.  That means that these students will not figure reading out by themselves and will need to be systematically taught the sounds of letters and how the letters work together to make words.

Benita Blachman, PhD, of Syracuse University, and her colleagues reported in 2004 that children in second- and third-grades with poor word-reading skills who got eight months of instruction in letter sounds and spelling while reading text (an experimental group), instead of regular remedial-reading programs (a control group), showed significantly greater gains in reading real words, non-words and passages, in reading rate and in spelling. When re-tested a year later, they had mostly held those gains. (See Brain, See Brain Read… https://www.apa.org/research/action/reading.aspx)

While there are a number of phonetic reading programs that are available, not all of them are student and parent friendly.  Some are very expensive. Some require keeping a notebook and doing a lot of copy work.  Some use special markings that are not in regular story books and which may confuse children.  Most require that a student learn all of the sounds of the phonograms (alphabet letters and combinations of letters) before beginning to read stories.  Programs like this can be difficult for students who are already struggling with reading.

If your child is struggling with reading, and you want a strong phonetic reading program, try Sound Bytes Reading. Sound Bytes Reading is affordable, student and parent friendly, and can help  your child quickly become a successful reader.  Is your child dyslexic? Struggling reader?  Not anymore!


Sound Bytes Reading: Top Ten Blogs in 2013—Part 2


6 – Diagnosing Children with Reading Problems

This blog post will begin to address the difficulties of struggling readers and how parents can begin to understand the problem and help their students.  Reading can break down at any of these points when students are not explicitly taught the sound patterns in English.  We will cover each step in the next few blog posts.  Part One in a Series of Fivehttp://bit.ly/10jioWR 

7 – Preparing Young Children to Learn

What makes children ready to learn? What can parents do to help prepare their children to learn?

Whether your children will be attending school or are homeschooled, they need to be prepared to learn.  Being prepared to learn involves many things.  This includes developing self control, learning to pay attention, managing your time so you can get assignments done, and a willingness to co-operate with others and take turns.  Educational leaders have labeled these things as “soft skills.” Read more here: http://bit.ly/14t04Li

8 – Preparing to Learn—Teach Children How to Clean Up

Children appreciate cleanliness and a sense of order in their lives—but they don’t usually know how to achieve it. It is our job to teach our children how to clean up after they play and how to keep their things organized so they will be prepared to learn when they begin school. Read more:  http://bit.ly/15dX8Pm

9 – 12 Great Activities to Help Prepare Young Children for School

Child’s play is really child’s work.  You can easily provide your children a wide variety of fun activities that will help them develop small motor coordination and finger strength and dexterity. This will also help them be well prepared for school activities. Here is a list of 12 activities that can help your older preschoolers develop their skills and prepare them for more formal learning.  Read more:  http://bit.ly/11wo55q

10 – Why Is Reading So Difficult For My Child?

Does your child frequently guess at unknown words by saying another word that has the same beginning letter? Does your child look at the pictures for clues?  Were you told he/she has “eye-tracking” problems? After reading a passage, is your child unable to tell you what it’s about (low comprehension)?  Does he/she have problems with fluency (not reading smoothly)?  But this same child may be a whiz at math, easily remember in detail anything that you read aloud, and be highly skilled in other areas.  Why does your child have so much difficulty with reading?  Read more:  http://bit.ly/1a092nC

Bonus: You Can Teach Your Struggling Child to Read – Now!

Is your child a struggling reader?  Have you tried to help your child learn to read and it just doesn’t seem to click?  Learning to read does not come easily for many children, so you are not alone.  Many people will tell you that your child just needs to wait longer—but for most kids that’s just not true!  You can help your child become a strong competent reader.  Read more:  http://bit.ly/1c0a81z


Sound Bytes Reading: Top Ten Blogs in 2013—Part 1

SnipBlog691 – All Students Reading at Grade Level by the End of Third Grade? 

The goal:  Every child reading on grade level by the end of third grade?  No!  The goal should be:  Every child reading on grade level by the end of first grade!  With this goal in mind, we must  use effective research-based reading interventions as soon as we see children start to fail—before the end of first grade—and before they have fallen so far behind their peers that many of them will never catch up at all. Teach every child to read by the end of first grade!  Read more:  http://bit.ly/145VDFK

2 – Spelling for Beginning Readers – Part 2

This blog is part of a series on spelling.  It includes a game to help your children learn to spell.  Beginning readers often ask us how to spell words they want to write.  When students ask you to spell words, you can help them develop phonemic awareness by telling them the sound of each letter in the word as they write instead of telling them the names of the letters.  This is what phonics is about—learning to associate letters with speech sounds rather than learning words as a whole unit.  The more we use the sounds associated with the letters the more quickly students will remember them and use them when trying to spell words.  Read more:  http://bit.ly/VFdeTD

3 – Spelling for Beginning Readers – Part 3

Spelling is an important part of learning to read.  Learning to spell helps students learn to read and reading phonetically can help students learn to spell.  If you give your beginning students word lists that have consistent spelling patterns, they will learn to spell much more quickly and they will not forget what they have learned.  Read the blog here:  http://bit.ly/Wj1UJV

Get the FREE Spelling Game for beginning readers here:  http://soundbytesreading.com/assets/files/Spelling-Game-for-Beginning-Readers.pdf

4 – Five Spelling Tips for Teaching Beginning Readers 

Our brains are designed to recognize patterns that make sense.  For beginning or struggling readers, learning that is based on consistent patterns will make reading and spelling new words much easier.  Here are five tips to help you teach spelling.  Read more:  http://bit.ly/11TpQcL

5 – Should You Continue to Read Aloud to your School Age Children?

Reading books that are above your children’s reading level will help to increase their vocabulary. Even though they can read for themselves, older children enjoy having longer stories read aloud to them.  Get the book list and read more here: http://bit.ly/ZlKWw

Next week: Part 2

Diagnosing Children with Reading Problems – Part 2

You can diagnose where your child begins to have difficulty with reading and you can help your child overcome these difficulties.  Last week I talked about these first three steps:

1.  Does your child know the consonant sounds?

2.  Does your child know the vowel sounds?

3.  Does your child read by decoding words or sight read?

If your child knows the consonant sounds and the vowel sounds well, and can read short CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words easily, then you can go on to the next step. This week we will talk about the next step you can take to further diagnose your child’s reading difficulty.

4.  Can your student read short vowel words that contain blends?  If your child can read all of the word lists in the previous blog post easily and accurately, ask him/her to try reading these words:

This will tell you if your child has difficulty reading short vowel words that begin with blends. If he/she cannot read these words quickly, easily, and accurately without help you will need to teach blends.

Do not teach blends to your student until he/she is skilled in the three steps of decoding words that were discussed last week.

Below, you will find a list of initial consonant blends, from the reading program, Sound Bytes Reading – Teach Anyone to Read.  Help your student learn to sound out the blends in isolation, and then practice sounding out the short vowel words that begin with blends. Next week, I’ll discuss Step 5, reading words with long vowel sounds.

Five Spelling Tips for Teaching Beginning Readers

  1. Teach spelling in conjunction with reading.
  2. Use spelling to enhance phonemic awareness.
  3. Use word lists with consistent patterns to teach spelling rather than random word lists.
  4. Use a spelling game to practice spelling words (see previous blog).
  5. Save words with difficult spelling patterns for students who are not beginning readers.

Beginning readers will learn to spell more quickly and easily if their spelling words are the same decodable words that they are reading in decodable stories. Teach beginning readers to spell words with a fun activity rather than by rote repetition.

Teach spelling by building words with letter tiles and manipulating them to create new words. This helps students to recognize the separate sounds in words.  In turn, this helps students to be able to decode words when reading.

Our brains are designed to recognize patterns that make sense.  For beginning readers and for struggling readers, learning that is based on consistent patterns will transfer more easily to reading and spelling new words.

Repetition helps to build memory. Playing a game while learning how to spell builds in the necessary repetition while keeping young students engaged. Manipulating letter tiles is a very different activity than writing the spelling words.  Each activity is of value when used appropriately.

Save the spelling words that are exceptions to the rules for older students rather than confusing your beginning readers.  For instance, the words meat, bread, and steak have the same spelling pattern in the middle of the word, /ea/, but the /ea/ in the middle of each of these words has a different sound. Do not include words in your spelling lists with  different sounds even though they may have the same spelling pattern. Teach beginning and struggling readers to spell using lists of words with the same sound and the same spelling pattern.

Spelling for Beginning Readers – Part 3

This activity will help beginning readers and struggling readers build phonemic awareness by associating letters with their sounds. When students learn to spell words by associating the sounds with the letters and to put the letters in the correct sequence, they gain phonemic awareness, which will help them become better readers. 

Students need to know the sounds of each of the letters in this word list before you try to play the spelling game.  Give your student only the letters he needs to spell the words in the list you plan to use. You may want to start with only three or four words from this list the first time you play the game.

Pronounce words slowly and clearly—but do not distort them.  It is acceptable to drag out vowel sounds, as in “c–aaa–t”, but do NOT pronounce a word like “kuuh-aaaaa-tuuh.” Do NOT drag out the consonant sounds.  Show your child how to build and change words.  He may need assistance at first to learn how to arrange the letters in the correct left to right sequence.  (Note: Letters between slashes / / indicate that you should use the letter-sound rather than the letter name.)

How to Play the Spelling Game

  1. Ask your student to tell you the sound on each letter tile.
  2. Next, ask him to find the letters with the sounds /a/ and /t/.
  3. Tell him to put the two sounds together to make the word at. If he doesn’t understand how to do this, demonstrate it.
  4. Now, ask him to find the letter that makes the sound /k/ (the letter c). Tell him to put the new letter at the beginning of the word at to make the word cat. Ask him to read the word to you.
  5. Next, ask him to find the letter that makes the sound /s/ and then change the first letter in the word cat to make the word sat.
  6. Continue in this manner to make the words hat, fat, mat, and rat.
  7. Spend only a few minutes at a time with this activity so your child will want to do it again later.

Print Spelling Game here.

Spelling for Beginning Readers – Part 2

Beginning readers should be learning to read decodable stories and they should be learning to spell the same decodable words they are learning to read.  Reading can enhance spelling acquisition and proper spelling instruction can enhance reading ability.  Spelling and reading are opposite directions on a two-way street.

Learning to spell will enhance phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and break words down into their individual sounds) and phonemic awareness improves reading ability.

Some children want to spell and write words before they can read.  Beginning readers often ask how to spell words they want to write when they draw pictures. When students ask you to spell words, you can help them develop phonemic awareness by telling them the sound of each letter in the word they want to write instead of telling them the names of the letters.

This is what phonics is about—learning to associate letters with speech sounds rather than learning words as a whole unit.  The more we use the sounds associated with the letters the more quickly students will remember them and use them when trying to spell words.

Spelling is easier for beginning readers if you teach it using phonetically consistent word lists.  Use the words from the decodable story your child is reading.  Make a game of spelling. You can purchase magnetic letters or plastic letter tiles, use wood tiles from a Scrabble game, or you can make your own letter tiles on the computer and print them onto heavy cardstock.

Look for next week’s post—a simple spelling game to try with your beginning readers.

If you wish to purchase letter tiles you can find magnetic or plastic ones here:

http://bit.ly/124GmWc    -or-    http://bit.ly/ViTbqC    -or-    www.abcstuff.com