Last time we discussed where to begin in phonics instruction for first-time readers in Kindergarten. Now we’ll look at instruction for students who have advanced past using simple phonics readers to reading real literature.

Using Real Literature

When students have mastered initial phonograms including the alphabet, consonant blends, diagraphs, soft c, soft g and the three sounds of y, they need the experience of decoding a wider range of words in real literature. At this point in phonetic instruction, each new phonogram can be taught as a brief mini lesson just prior to reading. The decoding practice remains an integral part of reading, but the practice needs to be varied.

Rather than using simple phonetic readers which contain limited and simplistic storylines, students can, at this point, follow and need the practice following, more complex stories in real books (e.g., Little Bear, Blueberries for Sal, Stone Soup). Using books like those in Memoria Press’ First Grade Curriculum, follow these steps:

  1. Look over the section to be read.
  2. Write on the board any words you think will be challenging.
  3. Syllabicate these words, teaching your class how to divide the words into more manageable chunks.
  4. Show them also to recognize any  of the 44 phonograms within these syllables, thus looking for “phonetic chunks” they know.

Take Time to Read, and Repeat

Many classrooms only take 20 to 30 minutes for a reading lesson with a class of 20 students or more. This is a problem.

A student cannot get the decoding practice needed to be a good reader by reading only a sentence or two a day. Focused decoding practice needs to be much more than that. Even if the assigned reading passage must be read two or three times during a single reading period, that is fine, if it means every child is given several sentences to practice their decoding skills. Students will not mind the repetition.

In fact, the repetition is good, especially for a student who struggles with reading. The struggler gains confidence because the passage is now familiar. The student who doesn’t struggle decoding should use the repetition to focus upon speed, fluency or expression.

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Let Their Fingers Do the Reading

During reading, the class should all have their books open and their “reading fingers” following as their classmates read.

By doing this, the student engages through auditory learning as they hear words being decoded and read. It engages them visually, because their eyes are on the word being decoded. Kinesthetically, they are moving their finger as the words are read, enforcing left to right progression.

More Practice, Individually and in Groups

When each student has had an opportunity to read several sentences aloud in class, give a written assignment, such as illustrating a scene from the story or completing a phonics worksheet.

First, students should re-read the text silently that was just read in class. Then they should complete their individual work.

While students work quietly, have smaller groups of students, ideally 4 or 5, come to a table and read the same passage again. Thus giving students another opportunity to syllabicate, decode, and read!

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