Monday, June 29, 2015

Beginning Reading Right

Beginning Reading Right

Swen Nater (summarized from Why Our Children Can’t Read, McGuinness)


For most children, reading kicks into gear at age 6. At that time, or whenever it happens, a child needs to be equipped to unlock the English written code (the letters).  


3 Skills Needed to Unlock the English Written Code

Letters are symbols for sounds. In spoken words (e.g., cat), there is a sequence of sounds (first /c/ then /a/ last /t/). The Code for that word (the letters) is arranged from left to right (first “c” then “a” last “t”). Children who know how to unlock “cat,” match the letters to their sounds, in order. Children who can’t do this usually guess at words they don’t know.


There are three tools a child needs to unlock the code. (Remember, this does not need to be done overnight. Take it one skill at a time.)

  1. Segmentation (separating the sounds with the ears, in order)

Letters c, a, t are on the table in random order, not “cat.”


Teacher: What is the first sound you hear in cat?

Child:  /k/.

Child takes cut out “c” and puts in front of him.


Teacher: What is the next sound you hear in cat?

Child: /a/

Child places “a” to right of “c.”


Teacher: What is the next sound you hear in cat?

Child: /t/  

Child places “t” to right of “a.”


  1. Blending (making a word out of individual sounds)

Cut out letters are placed on table in the form of a word (e.g., cat). Teacher (pointing to first letter): What sound is this?

Child: /k/


Teacher (pointing to second letter): What sound is this?

Child: /a/


Teacher (pointing at third letter): What sound is this?

Child: /t/


Once all the sounds are identified, teacher points to, and asks for sounds, faster this time.


Teacher: What is the word? (If he can’t read it, have him say the sounds faster, or help him say them.)

Teacher: Write each letter and say the sound as you write that letter.

Child does that.

Teacher (pointing at the word): What word is this?

Child reads the word.


  1. Moving Sounds Around (hearing the same sound in different parts of the word)

Cut out letters (2 vowels and 4 consonants he knows) are placed on table.


Teacher: Spell cat.

Child arranges cut-out letters to form the word.


Now change cat to bat.

Child removes “c” and replaces with “b.”

Example of a sequence: cat, bat, mat, mot, pot, pom, pam, tam, bam, bom.


A child who is taught in this way, will understand how the code works and will have the skills to unlock new words. No guessing necessary.  


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