Learning the alphabet is the first prerequisite to reading. Starting simple is key when teaching a kid how to read. I’ll share with you my tips for teaching phonics in this series of posts. We will first start with how I taught my kids the alphabet and the sounds the letters make. This is the first step for kids to learn how to read using my favorite method: phonetics.
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When my oldest was three years old, she expressed interest in learning how to read. I immediately felt a rush of overwhelm and panic. We had already made the decision to homeschool while living in Korea but she was only three now and I wasn’t prepared to begin a formal education for her.
Eating An Elephant
In my mind, when she would start kindergarten, it would be simple, fun, and loaded with mostly art activities and games. Needless to say, tackling reading at three years old left me feeling completely incompetent. I didn’t know where to start so I told her I would teach her next year. I felt terrible. Here was my sweet little girl wanting me to help her grow and I didn’t know where to begin.
There is an old saying by Desmond Tutu that goes “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” I was looking at teaching my daughter to read as an enormous, daunting task that I had no teaching skills in. That was my first mistake, I needed to take this one step at a time. My first recommendation to you is to start with the basics and don’t focus on the end goal, instead figure out how you want to take the first step.
Finding What Works For You
I consulted with other moms that had taught little readers. My sister and dentist homeschooled and they used and loved the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I bought the book and it wasn’t my style, even though it had a phonics based approach. I struggled just looking at the pages. That book sat on my counter for weeks on end. I would see it and think I should do this, but I disliked it so much, so I ignored it.
This takes me to my second recommendation find a teaching style and method that you enjoy. You won’t teach well if you don’t enjoy it yourself. I realized my issue wasn’t that I didn’t want to teach my daughter, but rather, I didn’t like the method I was using.
If You’re Excited, They Are Excited!
I got on the internet and read about other ways to teach kids to read, hopeful to find something that would work for me. I fell in love with a different curriculum that also used a phonics approach. After all, that is how I learned to read, so it felt familiar.
She already knew her letters but didn’t know the sounds they made. So, we got to work and I made learning the sounds into games. You can probably guess my next recommendation, make it fun for you and your child! Reading is a wonderful tool that lays the foundation for success in their education.
I also recommend that you don’t spend too much time each day, especially at this stage. Little kid’s typically have a short attention span and this can cause frustration to you. They also won’t retain as much if it is in long drawn out sessions. Keep it short and fun.
If ever I get frustrated or it seems difficult to teach a concept in reading, I immediately set things down and we take a break or just call it for the day. I don’t want to teach this important subject with a feeling of frustration for me or my kids. It should be engaging and fun, free of stress for both of you!
Celebrate The Progress You Make Together
This is important to me because teaching phonics can be boring at times for you, even when you love the curriculum. But don’t overlook the importance of acknowledging their success, even if it is a small one. Reading is the first subject I teach my kids. Everything else is just for fun in the beginning for our homeschool. We put so much focus on reading because it is the foundation to all other subjects.
Resources I Used For Teaching Phonics
- A game I made up for my hyperactive son was to write the ABCs on sticky notes. I would place them on the wall at his eye level in 2-3 rooms. After going over the alphabet, or a group of sounds, I would ask him to go find the letter or the sound we were working on. He would run in excitement and bring me back his answer. This reinforced his learning through a kinesthetic application.
- I used a DVD from LeapFrog: Letter Factory. It reinforced my kids understanding through visually engagement and through auditory, with song. I find that my kids memorize things much easier to a tune!
- I took this free Learning Style Quiz when she was three. It was helpful to learn how she and my other kids learn. However, if you want to know how most kids learn, it is usually through kinesthetic, or hands on. The second most common is visual.
Recap For Teaching Phonics
- First, try not to get overwhelmed as you start teaching phonics. Take baby steps and remember it takes 3-4 years for a child to start reading independently and more advanced. But this investment will pay back 10-fold for you and your children.
- Second, Don’t spend hours a day teaching reading. Children typically do better in spirts or in small increments of engaged learning. Surprisingly, more will stick the less time it takes each day. We spend anywhere from 5-10 minutes a day at this stage of reading.
- Third, pick a method of teaching that you enjoy. There are so many programs out there that work, but they won’t work for you if you don’t like them. Take time to find your style.
- Fourth, enjoy the journey and if you or your child ever get frustrated – put down the book, paper, or whatever materials you are using and come back to it later!
Let me know in the comments below if you will be teaching phonics to your kid(s)?
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:7
You have the alphabet and their sounds down, now what? Read my next article How to teach phonics: Blending Part 2!
I have 2 favorite things I could talk about endlessly. One of them is homeschooling! I can really nerd out over all the beautiful options of curriculum, school supplies, and getting organized! I just love it all so much! It wasn’t always this way for me. When I decided I’d be homeschooling my daughter, I was scared, lacked confidence, and felt overwhelmed. If you are starting out your homeschooling journey and feel a little lost on where to start, click the link below. This is the blog post I wish I had when I was getting started.
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