Whether you have a beginning, struggling or advanced reader, all parents and teachers want to discover the most effective way to get children reading accurately and efficiently.
What if I could show you how to teach those beginning steps of reading in an accelerated way that makes it stick and develops other early reading skills at the same time?
What if I gave you the solution to solve your greatest reading challenges right off the bat? Let's first flip the traditional instructional model on its head. Rather than starting with lots of teacher led instruction, we begin with the child engaging, in a playful way, with the content immediately. This engages their higher level thinking skills right away by having them create, evaluate and analyze letters, sounds and words right from the get-go!
Quickly they develop increased confidence when applying it in new contexts, by establishing a stronger understanding and forming new brain connections to imprint it into their memory.
In keeping with my mission here at Early Readers Academy to build strong foundations and accelerate reading achievement, I propose you skip the beginning stage of traditional reading instruction: teaching letter sounds in isolation.
But rather, jump to teaching letter sounds in context– more specifically in the context of words and sentences.
Now let's dive into the how! Stay with me as I show you in full detail how you can accelerate your reader's achievement showing you step by step what you can do at home or school to help your beginner or struggler learn to read faster with skill and ease!
Typical Teaching of Letter Sounds
Picture what happens every morning in most Kindergarten or Grade one classrooms. Teachers are encouraged to point to, or highlight a letter on their SMART board and teach its name and often its sound in isolation. Perhaps other letters will be reviewed and ideally they are taught in a multi-sensory way, yet the focus of the lesson will be on the letter alone, and the teacher does all of the instruction as in the following with the letter “m".
Most often the letter "m" is only taught at the beginning of a word as in: monkey, Monday, marble, meat etc.
When in reality it is in many different positions of a word: Mom, brim, bump, calm, autumn, climate, admit, alarm, anymore, basement, academic, automatic, centimetres, compliment, crumbs and more…
Most programs and teachers assume that before a child can learn to read, they have to learn the letter names and their sounds. And THEN and only then ca actual reading instruction begin.
Is that really the most effective plan?
Our experience working with hundreds of beginning, struggling and advanced readers says,
Let’s look at a better way to teach letter sounds from the very beginning.
Rather than teaching a child letter names and letter sounds seperately first, we show both beginners and struggling readers how to build one word at a time using manipulatives–first. Yes, even if they do not yet know the letter names or sounds! I know it’s totally different than what you’ve been taught!
Stay with me as I share with you each step of the ‘Build It’ process, which is just one of the activities I use, that allows you to skip past letter names taught separately and yet gives you exceptional results in teaching your child to read with accuracy and ease.
Charlotte, what do you first hear in the word, ‘mmmat’?
Yes, this sound (tapping spot) in “mmmat” is /m/. Which of these is /m/?
Even if Charlotte doesn’t know her letter sounds, she has a 1 in 3 chance of getting the right answer and she will learn her letter sounds.
It’s a framework for learning. Should she not get the correct letter, you can simply say, while touching the “m” tile is /m/, as in the word, “mmmat.”
Next Charlotte will move the “m” tile into the spot and we repeat the sequence.
Great! Now listen for the sound you hear in the second spot, when I say, /maa—–t/ (emphasizing the short “a” sound).
What sound do you hear here?
Yes, that’s right this sound (tapping spot) in “mmaat” is /a/.
Which of these (letter-sounds above) is /a/?
Yes! Pull down the /a/ and say it as you move it.
Now the task is getting easier and easier. Now we can ask Charlotte to finish building the word, “mat.”
At the end she points to each sound separately while saying the sound: /m/ /a/ /t/.
This same coaching with other words can continue with Charlotte or even with a small group or class. Not only did Charlotte learn the letter-sounds in a multi-sensory way…
She is also learning these other fundamental skills:
The English Code - how our written language code works, essentially the alphabetic principle
Individual sounds and how to decode words into their individual sounds
Left-to-write tracking, a crucial concept about print
This seamless integration of multiple beginning skills makes instructional time much more efficient.
What’s even more remarkable about this approach, which we call Build It, is that it does not only reduce instructional time, it also moves a child directly toward real literacy behavior by reading and spelling real words. Since it’s more like real reading, it makes more sense to young learners, especially those who would otherwise struggle with reading.
Teaching any new skill in the natural context in which it occurs is most often much more effective for learning’s sake.
Teach Letter-Sounds in Context
Imagine a basketball coach who begins the first several weeks of instruction by simply showing and practicing how to pass the ball.
What if he modeled how it related to himself (as in when a teacher reads “m” words), but he doesn’t ever allow the kid to dribble, or shoot?
Yes, practicing to pass the ball in isolation at times may be beneficial, but to begin basketball instruction with just that in isolation will delay many future players.
How will they learn to dribble around their opponents?
How will they know when and where to take a shot, even in a difficult position?
Without a system for getting feedback, this approach at learning how to pass or begin to play basketball, will be very inefficient. And those players who have seen little or no real basketball games before will be especially “at-risk” of getting little or nothing out of the experience of just passing a ball over and over again. All of that info about the experience may even be “filed” away in their brains in the wrong place because the isolated activity has little to do with the context of a real basketball game.
So follows beginning reading instruction as well.
Teach letter-sounds in the context of real words for spelling and reading and children will more likely:
Learn the letter-sounds more quickly,
Store their letter-sound information in the region of the brain most connected to reading, and
Not completely miss the point of the lesson!
Skip the traditional school beginning weeks or months of long reading lessons and jump right into our activity Build It. However, since this technique is so counter-cultural, you may have doubts. You may doubt whether your 3 year old Preschooler, Kindergartener, or Grade 1'er with limited literacy exposure could handle this jump.
You may be surprised to discover that traditional Montessori classrooms have been guiding their 3 and 4 year-old students to begin reading and writing instruction in the context of real words and sentences for over 100 years.
In case you still doubt, here’s an example of an advanced 3 year-old working with me on Build It
Given this information, is it possible that your child, no matter how limited his/her experience, could tackle it? Of course they can!
Possibly you’re wondering what the research communities have to say about the importance of teaching letter-sounds, phonemic awareness, and reading all together; here are some powerful influencers in the world of reading instruction:
1. The report from the National Reading Panel concluded that phonemic awareness instruction combined with decoding was more powerful than phonemic awareness instruction without letters.
2. An early reading study testing isolation vs integration of phonological instruction by researchers Peter Hatcher, Charles Hulme, and Andrew Ellis can be found here. Summary: phonemic awareness combined with reading instruction is much more effective than either phonemic awareness or reading instruction taught separately.
3. Past president of the International Literacy Association and chair of the National Early Literacy Panel, Tim Shanahan, emphatically states here that the National Reading Panel “concluded that phonemic awareness and phonics both needed to be taught and that they could and should clearly be connected.”
4. The ultra-scholarly among us can read deeply into the theory undergirding the Build It approach with Dr. David Share’s “self-teaching hypothesis.”
There's a whole lot of evidence for integrating reading skills in every lesson!
Add to that over 30 years of reading instruction from preschool to school age children!
‘Build It’ is just one of a handful of powerful reading activities that come with our complete reading system Level 1 and Level 2. Early Readers Academy integrates multiple reading skills for accelerated growth to achieve their highest learning potential!
Come along and experience reading success like never before!
Mary Printz aka Miss Mary is the co-founder of Early Readers Academy and Accelerated Potential Academy. She is a seasoned educational consultant, researcher, Reading Consultant and Developer and International speaker. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org