Teaching children how to read and spell can be a challenging task, especially if you're relying solely on worksheets and traditional methods. In this article, I want to share how I teach reading in the easiest, fastest, and most engaging way, without the need for worksheets as the essential tool. Instead, we'll focus on tactile learning and multisensory techniques that have proven to be highly effective in helping children build a strong foundation in reading.
The Importance of Building Blocks
When teaching reading, it's important to remember that children don't need to learn every single sound or spelling rule in order to start reading.
Instead, we can think of sounds as building blocks, and by focusing on the most important ones, such as short vowels and consonant sounds, we can lay a solid foundation for reading success.
Start with Short Vowels
Assuming that your child already knows the ABCs and can identify the letters, we'll begin by teaching the short vowels. Write each vowel on an index card. I recommend using a different color for the short vowels and incorporating hand gestures to help children remember the sounds. For example, for the sound "a," you can have them put their hand under their chin and say "a-a-a". For "e," they can use two fingers and say "e-e-e like an elephant". For "i," they can scratch their nose and say "i-i-i itchy". For "o," they can open their mouth wide like they're going to the dentist and say "o octopus". And for "u," they can put their thumb up and say "uh" like going up.
By associating each sound with a specific hand gesture, children can make a tactile connection that helps them remember the sounds more easily. This approach has been particularly effective for children who struggle with similar-sounding phonics.
After you've practiced the short vowels, you can create cards for the consonants. You can even have the child create the cards with you! Then, use some exercises and games from my shop to help them learn the consonants even better.
Add Sound Blending
Once children are familiar with the short vowels and consonant sounds, it's time to teach them how to blend the sounds together to form words. This is where tactile learning and multisensory techniques come into play.
To begin, choose one vowel and two consonants to create a CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word. For example, you can choose "s," "a," and "t" to create the word "sat." Instead of simply saying the sounds, encourage children to engage their senses by using Play-Doh or kinetic sand. Have them smash the Play-Doh for the sensory part, say the sounds "s," "a," and "t," and then squeeze the Play-Doh together to blend the sounds and form the word "sat."
Repeat this process with different CVC combinations, keeping the vowel and ending consonant the same while changing the first consonant. This helps children practice blending sounds while focusing on the consistency of the vowel and ending consonant.
Once children are comfortable with blending sounds, you can introduce consonant blends at the beginning or end of words. For example, you can teach them words like "fast" by blending the sounds "f," "a," "s," and "t" together. Always ask children how many sound balls they need to create the word and have them squeeze the Play-Doh together to form the blended sounds.
As children become more proficient in blending sounds, you can introduce digraphs, which are two letters that make one sound. Examples of digraphs include "sh," "th," and "ch." By this point, children should be familiar with the concept of sound balls and understand that they need to blend these two letters together to form one sound ball. For example, they can blend the sounds "ch," "o," and "p" together to form the word "chop."
Shifting from Reading to Spelling
To reinforce spelling skills, it's important to shift the focus from visual recognition to auditory processing. One effective method is to have children spell words using sound balls without the aid of visual cues. So you'll do the same exercises, but without the sound cards. First ask your child, "How many sound balls do you need?" Then let him or her create the words themselves using the sound balls.
This approach helps children slow down the spelling process and allows them to break words apart by relying on their auditory skills. By incorporating tactile elements, such as Play-Doh, children can associate the sounds with a physical sensation, making it easier for them to remember the spelling.
Download My Free Scope & Sequence Worksheet
Download my free Scope & Sequence worksheet I've created based on my experience, training, research, and trial and error. It combines elements of Orton Gillingham and various phonics and spelling assessments to focus on the most important sounds for reading success. It has about 20-21 stages, which you can customize to suit your child's needs.
In addition to the sequence, I also provide an activity choice list that includes games and multisensory ideas to keep the learning process engaging and varied. This helps prevent monotony and keeps children motivated to continue learning.
One More Tip
One important tip to keep in mind when teaching consonant sounds is to avoid adding the "uh" sound at the end. For example, instead of saying "B" as "Buh," simply say "B." This helps children avoid spelling words with the "uh" sound and ensures they focus on the correct pronunciation.