After a month of kindergarten homeschooling, I’m happy to report that Lydia is reading chapter books!
Our preschool homeschool approach has been pretty laid-back. We have lots of library visits and discussions about interesting topics. Without using any formal curriculum, Lydia learned the basics: colors, shapes, numbers 1-10, recognizing capital letters, etc. Since she learned all of this with a very unstructured approach, I thought she might spontaneously start reading, too, but that didn’t happen.
Lydia will turn six this September, and would be starting kindergarten in August if we were using the public schools. Last spring we got our feet wet with beginning reading instruction. Actually, it was more like just our toes getting wet. We sat down and worked on “reading” a few days a week for about five minutes at a time. (Just toes, remember?) In June, we started spending more time each day, probably 20-30 minutes.
A good teacher (that includes homeschool moms!) is wise to ask for ideas from others. I put out a Facebook post wondering what other people suggest for beginning reading instruction. The approach I will outline for you over the next few days is a result of combining some of those ideas along with my own experiences from the five years I was a public school kindergarten teacher. This is by no means the only way to teach reading to a kindergartner, but I hope this can help someone else getting started, too!
So, let’s back up to last spring, when we got our toes wet by doing a five-minute reading lesson per day. Lydia had a folder which contained an alphabet chart, a sign language alphabet chart, and sight word index cards.
Exciting, huh? We used the letter chart to learn letter sounds. Each week we added a new row. She would say the name of the letter, the letter sound, and do the sign language at the same time. It seems like a lot, but I found when teaching kindergarten that when the students had a physical action to do when saying the sound, it stuck better. They needed something more concrete than just a sound. Lydia, however, seems to be an auditory learner (meaning she learns best by hearing), so I have recently stopped making her do the sign language with the sounds. The sound on this video isn’t great, but I hope it gives you an idea of what I mean.
I found this letter chart online. An important thing to remember when choosing a letter chart is that the word featured for each letter should be the hard consonant sound (cat, not cent) or a short vowel sound (egg, not eagle). Make sense?
Another fantastic way for kids to learn letter sounds is through the video LeapFrog: Letter Factory. Several people suggested this video to me, and it is wonderful. The letters and sounds are set to fun music, and even three-year-old Luke knows all the letter sounds now. We also just discovered another Leap Frog video on Netflix, which teaches letter sounds, too: LeapFrog: Phonics Farm.
We also learned two new sight words per week. We flipped through the index cards, and she would read them to me. Sometimes we would look through books and find words from our stack of cards. Sometimes I would read the book and stop on a word she knew and let her read that one. I wasn’t using words from any specific sight word list; I was just choosing words that I know are very common. We even threw in some words that she wanted to learn, like baby and Jesus.
Like I said, all of this, the letter chart and the sight words, would happen in about five minutes. It was a great way to introduce just a little bit of structure into our learning times without getting overwhelmed. It also laid the foundation for reading real books a few months later! More on that tomorrow…..
Please share your own ideas of how to introduce letter sounds and sight words!