Different Ways to Teach Reading

“Read, Read, Read,
The more you read, the more you know, The more you know, the more you grow.
So, Read, Read, Read.”  Author Unknown


As mentioned previously, there are four basic ways to teach reading to children. I’ve used all of these methods as a classroom teacher, mostly in the primary grades, to teach reading. I felt that I wanted to offer different ways for children to learn to read because individual pupils learn in different ways and in their own style. That way, I’m giving every child a better chance at success and also they may learn that another way to look at things would suit them as well. I liked to give them lots of ways and experiences in learning to read.


The Look & Say Method

The Look and Say Method also called the Whole Word Approach has been known to be the most natural way to learn. When a parent or teacher reads a word or sentence, the child repeats it, while pointing to the word or sentence. This is a technique that requires good memory skills. It’s considered learning by rote. Reading and practicing with flashcards is popular with this type of reading.

This method is particularly effective with Sight Words. These are words that don’t necessarily follow phonetic sounds and some sight words can’t be decoded in the usual way. They need to be memorized.

However, not all children have a good memory, and can find this method difficult when learning to read. It takes a great deal of practice.


The Language Experience Approach

The Language Experience Approach is where the child’s experience or observation is printed and then read back. Because it’s about the child’s own perception, it’s said that they’d learn it more easily. They use their own words and dictate a sentence which the teacher or parent will print on chart paper, the blackboard or on a pad of paper, as the child says it. The teacher reads the sentence and the child would repeat it. Word cards can be made of those words in the sentence and practiced.

At the beginning of a school year, in my classroom, I’d make sure each child had a Journal where they would do their “Picture and Story”. After drawing the picture, a child tells what the picture is about and I’d print it underneath. First the child would overwrite my printed words. Then there’d be space for the child to copy and print the sentence by him/herself. Reading to oneself or to a friend would help to reinforce the words.

Another form of Language Experience reading I’d do with my class is to make a chart story. It could be about something that happened in class that we all saw or did. Many times we’d make a chart story about a trip or neighborhood walk we’d had together. Or even about the weather. It could be about a family event or gathering.

We’d practice reading the chart many times, boys only then girls only. Or children on this side of the room then the other side. Then individuals would volunteer to read the chart. There’d be lots of practice reading. We’d pick out words that were the same and underline them with the same color marker, or put a box around them etc..

For their worksheet, I’d give them copies of what we wrote on the chart, while leaving out some of the main words we learned. Then the children would print them in the correct spaces on their worksheet. These words would be in a box at the top of the worksheet where they could see and remember them and select the right word from there. Sometimes we’d have a copy of the chart story and cut it into sentences, so we’d have to put them back in proper order, for sequencing. Then it would be pasted into each child’s scrapbook.

Sometimes these sentences would be cut into parts and words would have to be put back into sentence order.


The Context Support Approach

The Context Support Approach was not one of my favorite ways to learn to read. The children did have an opportunity to choose a book from our classroom library or the school library to read during “Silent Reading Time”. If at the beginning of this reading time, they didn’t have a book, the child would look around the class library, perhaps taking up most of the reading time. If the child was already reading a book, they would sit and read to themselves for twenty minutes. Sometimes children would simply waste time during this period.

I’d have the children come to me to read several paragraphs from the book they had chosen.This 20 minute period was practiced everyday and I’d keep track of the children I had listened to each day, and make note of their progress. Usually I’d hear 5-6 in the time allotted. I wasn’t too happy with this method because it seemed that not much teaching was involved. It was simply the child learning by him/herself, which many times did not seem to occur very often.


The Phonics Method

My favorite method of teaching reading was The Phonics Method where children are taught letters and their sounds.

After teaching a lesson in phonics, perhaps it was consonants or vowels, it was most gratifying to see little children who are delighted when they “get it” and it’s almost like a light bulb goes off in their heads. They become so proud of themselves. I couldn’t help but hug them at those times.

The basic sequence for teaching phonics is to start with the alphabet names. I usually taught them separately from their sounds but some teachers teach both together. If you are interested in details of how I teach phonics, see my book called “Phonics or Fonix”.

Consonant letters come next with short vowels interspersed. Then long vowels followed by blends, and digraphs would probably cover these topics up to the second grade. Letter combinations or dipthongs would complete most phonics up to the third level.

My experience was to follow a system of teaching consonant sounds and then the short vowel sounds, followed by long vowels.

s, t, m, f, b, p, l, c, n, g, d, r, j, h, w, k, v, y, q, x, z

Of course, this isn’t written in stone and can be taught in a different sequence. On the internet you’ll find several suggestions for teaching the consonant and vowel sequence; sites such as Jolly Phonics or Zoo Phonics. Look at your options and find one method you like best and follow it.

Using Flash Cards of Letters Mom and Child

There are many exceptions in phonics and children should be reminded of that so not all words follow the phonetic rules. These are taught as they arise in reading passages, taught incidentally.

Sight words are taught while other reading exercises are covered, for example when a child is doing his “Picture and Story” or the class chart story. Words like ‘the, and, is, was, then’ are used daily in their writings, so they are seen regularly and practiced by rote with flashcards or reinforced when playing reading games. My Phonics Games book would give you explanations and ideas for phonics games and phonics activities. Sight word activities are also available there too.

When learning phonics, a child must learn the sounds that the letters make. Some letters make more than one sound (long and short vowels and ‘c’ and ‘j’ have two sounds), some letters are combined to make one sound (sh, ch, th, wh), other letters are blended to make sounds (st, bl, cl, pr, str, etc.) and some letters are combined to make other sounds (oi, oy, ow etc). 

Phonics must be taught in sequence and at a regular, frequent pace. Organize the letters into the order you’ll follow so the child can learn to recognize simple three letter words.

Children need frequent review and practice so the alphabet sounds are well memorized and ingrained in their minds so they are known spontaneously. With this success, reading will naturally develop when confronted with new words. Other reading skills such as comprehension and fluency will be handled without difficulty.

Writing and spelling will also improve because the child can now sound out words. Other subjects, like math and science will be affected by the child having learned phonics because there will be greater comprehension. Reading success is certain.



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