Can Your Students Comprehend Texts That They Cannot Read?

Absolutely! Students do understand texts that are read aloud to them that are above their independent reading level. But if they are struggling to read text on their own that is too difficult for them to decode, they will not have good comprehension.  SnipBlog100Struggling students in the upper grades are increasingly expected to read texts that are above their level of reading ability, because they need to learn complex subjects. This presents a problem. Does it make sense to require students to read texts that are above their independent reading level?

Some teachers understand the futility of requiring reading at a level that is above a student’s ability, so they look for and assign books at the students’ actual reading level.  These teachers sometimes endure criticism for doing what they believe is best for their students.

With so many struggling readers in our schools, we ought to be looking at why we have this problem. We first fail when teaching our children basic reading instruction. There are many reasons why children fail to learn to read, including bad reading programs and inconsistent attendance. But we continue to pass children who have not learned basic decoding skills on to the next grade level. Then we blame the teachers in the upper grades when their struggling students fail to progress.

Students need to learn to read well by the end of first grade!  If a student is not progressing, change the program.  Students who are not reading well by early to mid-first grade should be given a phonics reading program that includes all of the Orton-Gillingham phonograms, and that uses those phonograms in decodable stories. Nearly all struggling readers who are taught to read this way can learn to read.

Students can comprehend texts that they cannot read on their own. The short term fix may include reading grade level texts aloud to students who are struggling. But to be successful, students need to be able to read on their own. When students read texts independently, they will only comprehend what they can quickly and easily decode. We may provide accommodations for struggling readers, but we owe it to them to teach them how to read for themselves.

 

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

SnipBlog70

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

Why Is Reading So Difficult For My Child?

A friend has a child who is having difficulty learning to read.  So I asked my friend about her child.  Did he frequently guess at an unknown word by saying another word that had the same beginning letter? Was he looking at pictures for clues when he didn’t know a word?  Were you told he has “eye-tracking” problems? When he read a passage, was he unable to tell you what it was about (comprehension)?  Did he have problems with fluency (not reading smoothly)?  Yep—reading problems!

But this same child is a whiz at math, can easily remember in great detail anything that is read aloud to him, and is highly skilled in other areas.  Why does he have so much difficulty with reading?

It should be obvious that a child who is highly skilled in many other things and has a very good memory for math is not learning disabled.  A child who has genuine problems with memory will also have problems with math.

The real problem lies in how reading is taught.  Children are often taught to look at the first letter of a word they do not know and make a good “guess.” They are taught to look at the picture to help them figure out an unknown word.  They are taught to skip a word and go back later so they can use context to figure out the word. These things create so-called “eye-tracking” problems, because the child was taught to look all over the page.

These things also create problems with fluency and comprehension.  When children spend a lot of time trying to guess what a word is (and usually they are guessing wrong) they will lose track of what the reading passage is about.  Some of these kids appear to be pretty good readers because they have memorized a lot of words—but they cannot figure out new words without help—and so they struggle more and more as they get older.

The only solution is to teach struggling readers how to decode words by looking at all of the letters in the word and going from left-to right. It also helps if each new sound pattern (such as ou, ow, ea, etc.) is taught separately. Kids who think in a linear, logical way need to be taught to read in a sequential manner so that each new sound pattern they learn builds on previous knowledge. Reading material should use the sound patterns children have been taught.  Stories should not be filled with sound patterns they have not yet learned.

My friend is teaching her child to decode words phonetically now, and I hope to give you an update on their progress in a few weeks.

Parents, you can help your struggling reader become a confident and capable reader in just a few weeks. It’s easy, and everything you need is available in one book, including all of the reading material. Don’t wait—get a copy of Sound Bytes Reading from Rainbow Resource Center or at Amazon and watch your child begin to experience the joy of reading at last!

 

Diagnosing Children with Reading Problems – Part 5

In the past four blogs in this series, I have shown you how to diagnose and remediate reading difficulties for your struggling readers in six areas. This week I will discuss the final step which often affects older struggling readers.

Previously, we covered how to teach skills to struggling readers who may be having difficulty in these areas:

1.  Does your child know the consonant sounds?

2.  Does your child know the vowel sounds?

3.  Does your child decode words or sight read?

4.  Can your student read words with blends?

5.  Can your student read long vowel words?

6.  Does your child have difficulty reading digraphs?

If your child can quickly and easily read all of the types of words discussed in the previous four blogs in this series without assistance, you are ready to go on to the next step.

7.  Does your child have difficulty reading longer words or multi-syllable words?

There are two parts to this step.  The first step, reading compound words, is quite easy to remediate.  Compound words look long, but they are really just two shorter words that are connected to make a longer word. Can your child read these compound words?

If your child cannot easily read compound words, cover the second half of the word and ask him to read the first part.  Then uncover the second part of the compound word and ask him/her to read the second part.  Next, show your child how to combine the two words into one longer word.

Some children have been taught to look for little words within big words that are not compound words—but this strategy does not work well for many words as illustrated in the example below.

If your student was able to read compound words without difficulty, ask him/her to try reading this list of longer words that contain some prefixes and suffixes.

Older struggling readers are often sight reading and because they have memorized so many words, it is hard to determine where their reading difficulty begins.  When these students get to the upper elementary grades or into middle and high school, they constantly need to learn many new words. They cannot keep up if they do not have the skills to decode new words on their own. Many students who struggle with reading longer words have not learned all of the decoding skills that have been previously discussed.

Spelling is also difficult for these students.  As with younger students, they need to know the vowel and consonant sounds, they must be able to sound out words with short and long vowels and with blends, and they need to recognize the many letter-sound combinations within words.

Older students who read well at all of the other levels, but begin to struggle at this level of reading should be taught prefixes and suffixes and some rules that will help them to break larger words down into syllables so that they are able to sound them out more easily.

There is too much material to cover on this last topic to give specifics on remediation in one blog post, as I have mentioned.  This level of reading, which includes instruction on prefixes and suffixes and breaking words into syllables, is not covered in the Sound Bytes Reading program. Use a program such as Megawords to remediate students who need specific instruction at this advanced level of reading.

 

Diagnosing Children with Reading Problems – Part 4

In the last three blogs I have shown you how to diagnose and remediate reading difficulties for your struggling readers in five basic areas. This week I will discuss a sixth area in which a reader may be having difficulty.  The steps previously covered are:

1.  Does your child know the consonant sounds?

2.  Does your child know the vowel sounds?

3.  Does your child decode words or sight read?

4.  Can your student read words with blends?

5.  Can your student read long vowel words?

If your child can easily read all of the types of words discussed in the previous three blogs in this series, you are ready to go on to the next step.

6.  Does your child have difficulty reading digraphs?

Digraphs are combinations of letters that appear as a unit in words and have specific sound patterns.  A few examples are:  /oy/ in boy, /oi/ in spoil, /ay/ in stay, and /ai/ in sail.  Some of them have more than one sound for the spelling pattern such as /ow/ in snow or in cow.  There are also longer combinations such as /igh/ which makes the long i sound in words like sight, might, and tight.

The following word list can help you determine if this is the level at which you child needs help with reading.  Can your child read each of these words easily and accurately without your help?

Spelling patterns should be taught individually and then students should read them in words.  There are 70 sound-spelling patterns (including the letters of the alphabet) and this topic cannot be covered adequately in this blog.  However, it is important that struggling readers learn to recognize each letter-sound combination as a unit so they will recognize them in words and be able to decode words accurately and efficiently.

If your child is struggling with reading at this level you need to use a good systematic synthetic phonics reading program such as Sound Bytes Reading that will make it easy for you to teach these concepts step-by-step at this level.  This program includes a story with each sound-spelling pattern so students can practice reading the new words in context.  This is the easiest way to fill in the gaps your student may have in advanced phonics skills at this level.

Next week, I will discuss the final step in diagnosing reading difficulty.

Diagnosing Children with Reading Problems – Part 3

Learning to read is a process that includes several major steps. Following these steps in a logical manner will help students become strong readers. Students can begin to have difficulty with reading if any of these steps are skipped or not covered sufficiently.

The reading steps we have discussed in the previous two blog posts are:

1.  Does your child know the consonant sounds?

2.  Does your child know the vowel sounds?

3.  Does your child decode words or sight read?

4.  Can your student read words with blends?

This week we will discuss how to help your student if he begins to have difficulty when reading long vowel words. This step is an important one, but it can be learned quickly.

5.  Can your student read long vowel words?  Ask your student to read these words:

If your student can read the short vowel words, but has difficulty reading the long vowel words, or reads each pair of words as if they are the same word, you need to teach the silent e rule so they know the difference between these two kinds of words.

Some children are already able to sight read most or all of these words, but you can give a test of nonsense words to find out if your student is decoding both short and long vowel words accurately.

If your student cannot easily, quickly and accurately read the words in the lists above, you need to teach him/her how to read long vowel words that have a silent e at the end of the word.

How to Teach Students to Read Words with Long Vowels

Teach all five long vowels (a, e, i, o, u) at the same time.  Most students learn the silent e rule quickly and will have no difficulty decoding a large number of words in one sitting once they understand the difference between these two types of words.

Make a list of long vowel words. Start with long a words like: cake, make, rake, bake, take, same, tame, lame, fame, lane, made, wade. Underline the long vowel a in the middle of the word “cake” with a red marker.

Say: “Sometimes the vowel-sound is the same as the vowel-name in words. When that happens, there will usually be an e at the end of the word. At the end of many words the e doesn’t make a sound. We call it the silent e.”

Say:  “Look at this word.  In this word the vowel says /ā/.”   Point to the letter a in the middle of the word.  “Now look at the last letter.” Point to the letter e at the end of the word.  Say: “This letter e, at the end of the word, is silent.” Draw a slash through the final e. Say: “The final letter e doesn’t make any sound, but it changes the sound that the other vowel in the word makes. It makes the letter a take the sound of its name. Instead of saying the short sound (/a/ as in “cat”), this letter will make the long sound (/ā/ as in “cake”) when you see the silent letter e at the end of the word.”

Slowly pronounce the word ‘/k/…/ā/…/k/’ while moving your finger under each letter of the word. Ask your student to read the word. Sound out the word together:  ‘/k/…/ā/…/k/.’  Read a few more words in the same manner.

Ask your student to use what he/she has just learned about the silent e to sound out the words in the list below. You can also teach these short words that have a long e sound:  he, she, me, be, we.

If your students understand what you are asking them to do, they will respond fairly quickly and will be able to sounding out each word. If they do not understand at first, explain it again and continue to help them through the lists of words, sounding them out together.

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.

Diagnosing Children with Reading Problems

Many children have difficulty learning to read.  If your child is one of them you can become discouraged by all the suggestions that never seem to help your child’s situation. Recently I’ve been perusing Facebook Homeschool groups and I see questions by parents who really want to help their students who are behind in reading but don’t know where to begin.

This blog post will begin to address struggling readers and how parents can help their students.  Begin by diagnosing where your child’s reading problem begins. Here are the steps we will cover in the next few blog posts:

  1. Does your child know the consonant sounds?
  2. Does your child know the vowel sounds?
  3. Does your child decode words or sight read?
  4. Can your student read words with blends?
  5. Can your student read long vowel words?
  6. Does your child have difficulty reading digraphs?
  7. Does your child have difficulty with longer words or multi-syllable words?

Today we will discuss the first three reading checkpoints.

1.  Does your child know the consonant sounds?  Find out if your child knows the sounds of each of the consonants and vowels. Show your child each of the alphabet letters, one at a time, and ask him/her to tell you what the sound of each letter is.

Many struggling readers will know consonant sounds very well–but not vowel sounds. If your child does not know the sounds of the letters, teach this first. If your child knows consonant sounds but not vowel sounds, you must teach the vowel sounds.

2.  Does your child know the vowel sounds?  If your child knows all of the sounds for the letters of the alphabet well, then ask your child to read these words:

If your child cannot read all of these words quickly and accurately without any help, he does not know the vowel sounds well. You need to teach the sounds of the vowels.  Teach only one vowel sound at a time. Then have your student sound out simple words that use that one vowel. Make a word list like the one below and help your child practice reading the words.

3.  Does your child decode words or does he sight read?  If your child has no difficulty reading the simple short vowel words above, ask him to try reading these words:

This will tell you whether your child is decoding words letter-by-letter from left to right or sight reading. If your student is sight reading, he/she will usually have trouble reading these words as well as the words in the next list.

Many words look similar and many words are made up of the same letters but in a different order. Some words have only one or two letters in them that are different from another word. Students who are able to decode words rather than relying on sight reading have a huge advantage, especially when they begin to read bigger words.

What to do if this is a problem for your student? Try covering each word so that your student can only see the first letter of the word.  Move the paper over as you ask the student to sound the word out, from left to right, one letter at a time.  Practice sounding out some words that have four letters and only short vowel sounds.

Next week we will discuss step four in diagnosing reading difficulty.

 

 

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.