When a child has difficulty learning to read, the teacher’s challenge is to add practice that will also keep him interested. Activities that let him see, say/hear, and do will be the most appealing, and, since all his senses are involved, should help him learn more quickly. The following activities focus on increasing sight vocabulary. At first, a child sounds out a new word, But, in order to read fluently, those words learned phonetically must finally be read quickly as sight words. Daily phonic lessons that are supplemented with practice that will hurry this transition can only encourage the child.
Typically, reading practice includes matching the printed word to a picture illustrating that word. You can expand on this idea by printing words on plain index cards and pasting or drawing an appropriate picture on another card. Choose words that have been introduced in the phonics program as well as common words that the child would have an interest in learning. Be sure he reads the word out loud as he looks for the match, even if he is working on his own.
Remember that as the teacher, everything you write is a model for the student. If you’ve developed your own handwriting style, as many of us have, using a sort of mix of cursive and print, or perhaps using all capital letters, be especially careful to print these word cards neatly and correctly–in the form you would require of the student during a manuscript handwriting lesson.
To add some variety, separate word cards into categories: tools, animals, colors, shapes, actions, rhyming words, opposites, items in a kitchen, bathroom, living room, or bedroom, etc. Working with categories also contributes to the development of thinking skills.
To add movement:
Give the child a set of word cards in a category for which he can find objects instead of matching the picture card, a set of word cards for items in the kitchen, for example. He can then place the card on the actual object. He could do this on his own if the picture card is clipped to the word card to serve as his answer key.
Have the student choose a card from the set of action words and then act it out. Include interesting verbs that will also increase his vocabulary: stare, slump, grin, fuss, gather, crouch, wiggle, dine, etc. If the picture card is clipped to the word card, he can peek before performing, if necessary.
Some companies sell photo cards for use in developing language skills. You can label the photo with an easily removable post-it on the back of the card, or clip a word card to it that allows the student to turn over the picture and read the word. After the student has had time to look at the pictures and labels, remove the labels and have the student match the photo (picture) card to the word card (label).
Practicing by reading out loud even when alone doesn’t appeal to every student, but should be required, nevertheless. If you read to him frequently, he has a model to imitate in reading out loud to you and to others, but not to himself. If that is a stumbling block, remind him that many adults read out loud to themselves, especially when reading Scriptures. He may need to realize that silent reading does not signal maturity or success in order to become willing to use this multi-sensory approach.
All this practice building fluency with words will make it easier for the student to mentally read ahead of his speech in order to add proper expression. Sometimes, however, he may simply run all the words together, stopping only because he needs a breath or because he reaches the end of the line, rather than according to the punctuation. Gently remind him that he should only pause when he sees a comma, period, question or exclamation mark and have him reread as necessary. You might also have to tell him to raise his voice at the end of the sentence if there is a question mark.
We often forget just how many details we are expecting our children to master as they read. By providing plenty of opportunities for supplementary practice we can prevent children from becoming discouraged when the lessons in a reading program move ahead too quickly. Years ago I asked a reading teacher which program was best. She said it was always the third program that worked, whatever that might be. In other words, it’s all about practice.
For anyone able to afford ready-made word and picture cards or for those simply looking for materials to supplement practice in reading or language development, here are a few companies offering resources:
Academic Therapy Publications “Special Materials for Special Needs in Education” catalog Phone 1-800-422-7249 www.AcademicTherapy.com
Attainment Company “Options” catalog. Phone 1-800-327-4269 www.AttainmentCompany.com
Continental Press “On Our Way to Reading” catalog. Phone 1-800-233-0759. www.continentalpress.com
McGraw-Hill Children’s Publishing “Educational Materials For the Home” catalog. Phone 1-800-417-3261 www.Mhkids.com
National School Products “Classroom Resources” catalog. Phone 1-800-627-9393 | Fax 1-800-289-3960
Super Duper Publications “Fun Speech & Language Materials!” catalog. Phone 1-800-277-8737. www.superduperinc.com