During the primary school years, teachers come up with the problem of teaching a child how to do good reading. Teaching how to read is an important and yet often difficult task. Having knowledge of effective reading skill can help teachers not only to educate the students but to prepare them for their career. Some children easily grasp the words and read fluently while some have delayed language grasp. Just because these students read poor, teachers do not ask them to read in class as it annoys the whole class. The reading grades of these students starts to slip, reading comprehension becomes an issue and teachers are often commenting to parents that their child needs help with reading. Teachers and parents need to understand that the reading problem is related to child’s weak auditory skill that needs to be corrected. Reading this article, teachers can gain a good knowledge on how to work on developing an effective reading skill in the child.
A Weak Link is Auditory Skill
Researchers have been looking inside children’s brains while they do literacy tasks. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) they discovered that poor readers showed differences in brain activities than those who are literate. Some important brain areas are underactivating. A common weakness is in auditory discrimination skills. For example, many poor readers do not “hear” differences in letter sounds. To them, the five short vowels sound almost exactly alike. This causes poor readers to expend more effort for less return. They have a harder time rapidly and accurately recalling letter sounds. Inefficient letter-sound recall makes it more difficult for these children blend letter sounds to make syllables or words. Finally, their brains are inefficient in recognizing and recalling words.
However, their brains work well in other areas, which explains why they can be bright, yet functionally illiterate. The good news is that children’s brains are not etched in stone. Auditory skills and letter sound memory can be strengthened. Children can become a good reader if provided teachers’ help.
The Tri Method Instruction for Literary Success
In a perfect world, children would learn how to read using a combination of three methods of instruction: auditory training, phonics, and whole language.
It’s clear from research that using one of these methods will help only a few children. In fact, using two out of three methods will still leave numerous children illiterate. However, when auditory training, phonics and whole language are merged, literacy rates increase significantly. All three methods should be reflected in the curriculum.
Learning how to read begins in children’s ears
Most people think children learn how to read through their eyes. But, reading is actually learned through the ears. Parents lay a foundation for success in reading by talking to a child, reading books to her, and playing auditory games such as rhyming. The more books you read, the bigger her vocabulary becomes. A bigger vocabulary allows her to recognize lots of words while she reads.
Learning to Read, Reading to Learn
What is the normal sequence for children learning how to read?
- From birth to age three, children listen to lots of words spoken and learn how to talk.
- Children, aged three to four years old have growing vocabularies, and they learn how to rhyme.
- In first grade children are taught how to blend letter sounds together to “sound out” words and memorize sight words. They begin reading simple sentences.
- Second and third graders learn how to read “chapter” books and read fluently with comprehension.
Teachers and parents who say that a child does not read because of her laziness or disinterest are wrong. A child who cannot read is missing important auditory tools:
- He cannot rhyme
- She does not know the short vowel sounds-caused by her inability to hear differences in short vowel sounds. (Short vowels: a-apple, e-elephant, i-igloo, o-octopus, u-umbrella)
- He cannot put word parts together to make words-a skill used in sounding out new words.
- She has slow recall of letter sounds. She sees letter w and cannot remember what it says.
These traits are common to most children who struggle in reading. These are not traits of “laziness” but of auditory and memory deficits.
Teachers or parents can do the following games and activities to fill in the child’s auditory gaps that in turn will improve his reading skills.
Games and activities for teaching reading to children
Help the Child Improve Auditory Skills by Teaching Alphabet Letter Sounds
In order to read, every child must know the sounds of the alphabet letters. He must be able to recall them quickly – he sees the letter and says the sound without hesitation.
- Test your child’s knowledge of alphabet letter sounds by using the provided Alphabet List. Point to each letter and ask your child to, “Tell me what this letter says.”
*The alphabet list has no pictures, so the child has to rely totally on memory.
*You are asking the child to tell you the letter sound, not the letter name.
*Write down letter sounds that he or she misses. This is a good place to begin fixing the child’s auditory gaps.
- If the child needs to learn most of the alphabet letter sounds, help her create her own Alphabet Book. Staple some pieces of paper together and ask your child to draw pictures of items that begin with the sound of each alphabet letter.
- You can also teach alphabet letters and letter sounds by using an Alphabet Chart with pictures.
*Be sure to point to each letter as you are saying the letter name and letter sound.
*Review the alphabet chart once a day and soon the child will be able to point to each letter and say the sounds himself!
- When you are teaching a letter sound, be careful not to add an “uh” sound at the end of the letter. For example, letter s should sound like a snake hissing, with no throat sound. Letter s says ‘sss,’ not ‘suh.’ If your child learns letters ‘c’, ‘a’, ‘t’ as sounding ‘kuh,’ ‘aah,’ and ‘tuh,’ those sounds will not come together to say cat!
Children have different learning rates. The child may need lots of direct instruction to learn the alphabet sounds. Do not forget, he will learn letter sounds more quickly with a short daily review.
Help the Child Improve Auditory Skills by Teaching How to Rhyme
Knowing how to rhyme will help the child read word “families” such as let, met, pet, wet, and get. Notice that rhyming words have same sound endings but different beginning sounds. Some words do not look the same: ache, cake, steak but they rhyme. To teach the child how to rhyme, play a game.
Body Name Game
How to Play:
Begin by modeling how to rhyme. Point to parts of your body, say a rhyming word and your child should say the body part. This puts rhyming into her ears with a visual cue (pointing). If you point to your nose and say rose, she will automatically say nose.
- Tell the child, “We are going to play a rhyming game. Rhyming words have the same sound endings. I am going to point to something on my body, and say a word. You are going to say the body part that rhymes. Okay?”
- Give her two examples: “I’m pointing to my leg, and I say beg. You say leg. I am pointing to my nose. I say rose, and you say nose.
- Here’s a list of body parts and rhyming words:
- When the child is able to do this, turn it around. Point to your knee and your child will say a rhyming word such as bee or me!
When the child rhymes body parts, play this game:
- Say, “I’m going to say a word and you’ll tell me as many rhyming words as you can. I say bee.” The child then says words such as “he, she, we three, free, or agree.”
- Choose one-syllable words that are easy to rhyme with such as had, rat, man, fall, ten, red, big, fill, hop, dog, bug and sun. All of these have multiple words that rhyme.
Help Your Child Put Sounds Together to Make Words by Playing “Connect Three.”
This game will help your child connect sounds to make words. This skill is used when he sounds out new words.
How to Play:
- Tell your child, “I am going to say three sounds. I want you to put the sounds together and say a word. For example, I say c-a-t and you say cat. I say d-o-g and you say dog.” This is a little tricky on your part because you have to think of words that can be said in three parts. Words such as me or go will not work. Longer words such as party can be par-t-y or p-art-y. You might want to practice ahead of time to say words in three parts.
- Here is a list to get you started: begin with nouns-things that can be visualized and advance to words that do not create mental pictures.
Getting Back into Books and Real Stories
Since, the goal is improving the child’s reading skills, we need to get her into books. Choose four words from a short reading selection (one page of a book) and say each word in three parts to your child. Ask her to put the words together. Now help her find those words on the page, and read them together. You are making a connection between the words she put together and what they look like in print.
A common mistake that teachers make is to insist that a child read a whole chapter or several pages. It is far better to help a child reread a short selection to excellence. A short selection is one or two pages from an easy book or one paragraph from a higher level book. If the selection is on the correct readability level for the child, he should make no more than one or two mistakes per twenty words. Any more than that will cause him frustration and will actually block the reading progress.
We do not want the child to practice bad reading. That is why you want to do the following:
- Read the short selection to him twice.
- Read the same selection with him twice.
- Finally, ask him to read it by himself twice.
Phonics versus whole Language
Phonics is one method of teaching children how to read. Children are taught how to “sound out” new words by learning the following items:
- Consonant letters sounds: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z
- Blend sounds: br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr, wr, bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl, scr, str, sm, sn, sp, sc, sk,
- Short vowel sounds- a, e, i, o, u (Always teach short vowel sounds first: a – apple, e – elephant, i- igloo, o – octopus, u – umbrella)
- Digraph sounds- sh, ch, th, wh (Two letters combine to make a totally different sound).
- Double vowel sounds- ai, ea, ee, oa. These pairs say the name of the first vowel.
- Other double vowel sounds: oi, oo, ou, ow
- Silent e: Silent e is bossy, it doesn’t say anything but makes the vowel before it say its own name.
- R controlled vowel sounds- ar, er, ir, or, ur. Notice that er, ir and ur makes the same sound.
Phonics is a series of rules that children have to memorize and apply when they are sounding out new words. Children are taught a rule, i.e. Silent e, and then they practice reading words with Silent e. Then children do skill sheets at their desk highlighting the Silent e rule. Children must learn letter sounds to an automatic level – they must be able to see the letter(s) and say the sound immediately.
Critics point out that the reading/practice materials are not very interesting, “See Spot run. Run Spot run. Spot runs fast.” It is a contrived atmosphere of reading practice using the phonic rules.
Here is the bigger problem: children who struggle in reading memorize phonic rules, and then are unable to apply phonic rules to connected print. To remedy this problem, two things must happen:
- Only the most important phonic rules should be taught in the least complicated manner possible. For example, in teaching vowel sounds, it is distracting to talk about “short versus long” vowels. Instead, a child should be taught the short vowel sounds first. Then when a child encounters a long vowel as in the word find, tell him, “That vowel says its own name.”
- Phonics must be taught in a way that allows these children to immediately practice phonic information in real stories. Every time a child is taught new phonic information, he should be given a short reading selection that highlights the phonic rule. Completing a skill sheet is good, but even better is to help the child practice applying the phonic skill to connected print.
A child cannot learn to read without proper knowledge in phonics. It is the foundation for success in reading. She will succeed to read if she knows phonics.
Whole language is a “whole – part” method of teaching children to read. (Phonics is a “part – whole” reading method.) Teachers use connected print to introduce reading to children. Children are encouraged to memorize words as whole units. They do hands-on activities such as writing in journals, and analyzing words in context, by using pictures, for meaning.
Whole language has strengths in that children begin to write early. They are involved in connected print, and they are using personal language skills making the process of reading more interesting. The weakness of whole language methods is that some children never get a full phonic foundation. They are unable to decode unfamiliar words. Research has shown that good readers always use phonics to decipher new words.
Combination of Phonics and Whole Language
Reading is best taught using a combination of three methodologies:
- Auditory training – training for the ears to prepare the child’s brain for phonics.
- Phonics – knowledge of letter(s) sounds.
- Whole Language – immediate application of phonics into connected stories.