How can I help my child with phonics?
Phonics is linking the sounds of language to the written letters and letter combinations children see in text. Being able to decode words phonetically according to the “rules” will help children read and spell better.
- Practice “Nonsense Words.” Use index cards or card stock to make letter cards – one letter on each card. Put the cards in three stacks (a stack of consonants on each end and vowels in the middle.) Randomly change letters to practice reading nonsense words (and sometimes a real word sneaks in, too!). This activity reinforces each letter’s individual sound and helps with blending sounds together. Help your child remember that vowel sounds in the consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) pattern always have the short vowel sound (cat, bed, pig, dog, run).
- Play “Pick a Vowel.” Your child can use a dry erase marker and board or paper. Give your child a starting and ending consonant (or blends / digraphs for older students). The child gets to pick the vowel that goes in the middle and they get a point if they made a real word.
- Word Families. Use plastic letters, index cards, word wheels (available at abcteach.com), or Easter eggs to practice reading words that have the same ending sound. (Easter eggs? Yes, it’s easy! Write an ending (like “in”) on one half of a plastic egg near the middle. Now write letters or blends that will make words with that ending (like “b,” “f,” “p,” “w”, “sk, “tw,” “ch,” and “gr,” on the other half of the egg. Spin the egg to match up each letter with the ending and read the words (bin, fin, pin, win, skin, twin, chin, and grin.) Make a different word family for each egg.) Help your child remember that words with the same sound pattern at the end are rhyming words!
- Spell it Out! Practice spelling words that follow phonics rules with magnetic letters, a “Magna-Doodle”, magic slates, shaving cream, dry-erase boards, a sand tray, sidewalk chalk, gel bags, etc.
How can I help my child with fluency?
Reading fluency is the ability to read with accuracy, expression, phrasing, and appropriate rate. Students who are fluent readers are better able to devote their attention to comprehending the text, and gaining meaning from the text is the goal of reading.
Here are a few things that you can do to help your child become a fluent reader:
- Model fluent reading. Continue to read aloud to your child throughout the elementary school years. Read with lots of exaggerated expression. Change your voice to represent different characters. Use a high squeaky voice for the mouse and a sweet, loving voice for the princess. You are modeling what a good reader sounds like.
- Try echo reading. Choose a book that your child has read several times. You read the first short sentence or phrase aloud using an appropriate rate and expression. Then have your child echo you, copying your rate and expression. Younger readers need to point to the words when echo reading so that they are attending to the written text. Continue reading the book in this manner. You read the next sentence or phrase, and then have your child echo you.
- Try choral reading with your child. Choose a book that your child has read several times and read it aloud together. Be very expressive when you read, and emphasize phrasing.
- As you read with your child, point out the Super Signals that good readers use. An exclamation point or bold print tells the reader to raise his voice and read with emphasis. A period or comma tells the reader to pause. A question mark signals the reader to sound like they are asking a question. Explain to your child that fluent reading sounds like the reader is speaking to you.
- Reread a familiar book with your child. Have your child choose one character’s part to read; you choose a different character. Discuss the characters’ feelings throughout the story. When the character is angry, use an angry voice. When the character is frightened, make sure that you sound really frightened. Have fun reading each part with lots of expression. You may want to invite other family members to join in the fun when there are several different characters within a story.
- Success breeds success. Show your child his progress. Time your child for one minute as he reads a new book. Count the number of words he read correctly. Now have your child practice those same pages again and again. You may want to read these same pages to your child as a model. After he has had a lot of practice, time him again for one minute as he reads these same pages. Count the words he has read correctly this time and compare to the number he read the first time. Shout for joy as you celebrate his improvement!
- Have your child reread books that he/she has read before. Many experts believe that repeated reading of familiar texts is the best way to improve fluency.
How can I help my child with comprehension?
When good readers read, they think about the story so they will be able to remember the order of events and details about characters, setting, problems, and solutions. In order to fully comprehend a story, readers often make connections to the story, ask questions, make inferences, and visualize details and events.
- After your child reads or listens to a book, have them start at the beginning and retell the story in order using as many details as they can remember. You can prompt them to help as they get better at this skill: “What happened at the beginning? ” “What happened next?” “What happened after he/she __________” “How did the story end?” etc.
- Use the who? did what? when? where? why? model of retelling a story.
- As your child reads, ask them to think about and relate their own experiences and knowledge to the story or text that they are reading. They connect the text to their own lives. Stop reading every now and then to allow your child to share with you the connections that he is making. He should say things like, “This part reminds me of ______.” Share your own connections, too, as you read with your child.
- As you read with your child, ask him/her to predict before and during the reading, wonder about why characters do what they do, predict alternate ending or sequels to the story, etc.
- Help your child practice visualizing, making pictures in their mind of what they are reading. When you notice a particularly descriptive paragraph or passage, describe what you see in your mind as you read. For example: The air was warm and fragrant with the perfume of flowers. There were roses of various colors all across the field. You might say to your child, “I am picturing some red, pink, and white roses covering a huge patch of land that stretches as far as I can see.” Ask your child to describe or draw the mental images he has as he reads or listens to a story.
- Practice inferencing by playing “PROVE IT!” Make up a short story like the examples below. The story should give several hints about what is happening without stating it explicitly. After sharing the story with your child, have them infer what is happening. Then say “Prove it!” and ask them to tell you at least two clues from the story that helped infer what was happening.
- The little girl stomped to her bedroom, slammed the door, and screamed as loudly as she could.
- He swung the bat as hard as he could and watched the ball soar toward the stands. He quickly ran around the bases and slid into home plate as the crowd stood and cheered.
- She put on two pairs of socks, buttoned up her heavy coat, slipped on her mittens, and covered her ears with her hat.
- Soon the doorbell rang, and each child eagerly ran in holding a special present for Jamie. They played games, ate cake and ice cream, and watched Jamie unwrap her gifts.
How can I can I help my child build a stronger vocabulary?
You can encourage indirect learning of vocabulary in two main ways. First, read aloud to your child; no matter what age. Students of all ages can learn words from hearing texts of various kinds read to them. Reading aloud words best when you discuss the selection before, during, and after you read. Talk with your child about new vocabulary and concepts and help them relate the words to their prior knowledge and experiences.
The second way to promote indirect learning of vocabulary is to encourage students to read extensively on their own.
Another way you can help your child develop vocabulary is to foster word consciousness–an awareness of and interest in words, their meanings, and their power. Word-conscious students know many words and use them well. They enjoy words and are eager to learn new words–and they know how to learn them.
You can help your child develop word consciousness in several ways. Call attention to the way authors choose words to convey particular meanings. Encourage your child to play with words by engaging in word play, such as puns or palindromes. Help them research a word’s origin or history. You can also encourage them to search for examples of a word’s usage in their everyday lives.