Phonics and Reading Blog
Following is a delightful and funny true life story told by a public school teacher who became a homeschool mom. If you are thinking about homeschooling, or if you want to improve your homeschool abilities, this article is for you.
“At first I wanted them to sit at a desk and learn like I did. I set up my classroom like a school classroom with a computer station. I began using K12. I wanted a teacher who “really taught” that particular grade to oversee everything. I had never taught elementary school. I set up a desk for each child that faced a big whiteboard at the front of my classroom. We sat in circle time at the beginning of each day and we would discuss the weather, day of the week, and all these other things. It was the most productive time of the day, but I thought it was because the kids were “fresh.” I found later that it’s because they were totally, whole body engaged. (This link is an article on the Florida Homeschool Association. When you homeschool, the whole world becomes your classroom.) They were wiggling and going to the bulletin board to put up the answers. They were lying on the floor and getting tickled when they answered. But it was what I saw in a “real classroom, so that was why I tried it.
I felt that I needed a textbook for each class, K12 provided all these textbooks and workbooks (one for each class) and I intended to use them. I watched the grades slip in spelling and I saw the boys learn the spelling rule and list of words and then forget. Their writing was full of misspelled, former spelling words. I watched my youngest hate phonics “class” to the point where he was beginning to hate reading. And I watched my oldest get frustrated by the rhythm of follow the textbook’s activities then do 2 worksheets of problems in the math program.
Facing those 3 problems: too much kill and drill/ follow the textbook/ and desk time was MUCH less productive than circle time. We redesigned our room. We are now down to 2 desks and 2 computers (for all 4 of us). We spend most of our time on the couch (in the living room), the floor (2 bean bags and 2 huge pillows), and running around than we do at desks. Plus experiments at the kitchen table, ya know where there’s a SINK nearby, just make much more sense. We can all gather round, everybody can get their hands involved. For the textbook problem I realized I would need to leave K12. So I did. (Well there were a billion other reasons for us to leave, but this is the reason that applies here)
While teaching in a public school, Video was a dirty word!! Now I know that for some learning styles it works very well (and easy to do when homeschooling). In the past few months we’ve watched many science documentaries. We’ve read books and then watched the movie and written or spoke comparisons. I’ve watched their oral vocabulary soar!! Not getting a phonics rule, a chemical reaction, and a trajectory equation? There is most likely a YouTube (a free homeschooling too)l for that! And it probably has a song about it, especially for the LOs.
I’ve also learned that my response time is much faster when teaching fewer kids. So I don’t need to teach them for 6 hours/day (another benefit made possible by homeschooling) . I can respond to their uncertainty or find a better way to explain it much faster. Or I can move to something else, take the evening looking for a better way and hit it fresh in the morning. I can be much more flexible than I could ever be in the classroom. We can go outside (without asking permission or filling out a form!!) (the blessings that come with homeschooling), I don’t have to tell anybody if I plan to blow something up!! I just do it. Then some really cool things happened:
I learned to stop giving grades. When they get above 87%, we move on. They don’t need a grade and I don’t need them to take a test in order for me to figure out they have or don’t have something.
I learned that it is okay to have my kids teach or help each other. I tried that my first few years teaching in the PSs, and I would end up having to teach it again because the group didn’t understand it well enough to teach it in the first place. But now, my oldest has had the lesson before, so it is a great review for him to teach it to his brothers. Then I can build on it and go deeper with him.
So then I needed to find a solution to those textbooks. I found the solution in my objectives!! I was looking at them the wrong way!! When I was using k12 the objectives came packaged to my door. When I went out on my own, I bought the “2nd grade science book” and the “second grade math book” and “spelling grade 3.” I created some general objectives and went on with the lessons. I followed the book.
I learned that my general objectives were great, but if I made my specific objectives even more specific, I was able to use them as discussion questions and move on without a test. Then I noticed that my objectives were a great jumping off point for finding books and materials. In the PS, the materials were usually the jumping off point for making my objectives. Looking at it from the flipped perspective opens up learning to a world experience. I could ask the boys to come up with objectives themselves! What do YOU want to be able to do? And boy oh boy did they provide! Using their objectives and some of mine along with a scope and sequencing guide: off we went. I would find multiple textbooks for each subject. And it was OK if we didn’t follow in order and we didn’t finish the book and we used it just as a reference for its great experiments. We might use another part next year! I could tag things that we liked, didn’t like, whatever. The world opened up to us. I began to see that the trip to the farmer’s market was a learning opportunity. We stopped “book learning” altogether for the big holiday breaks and learned through our baking, card making, gift giving. I took them to the bank and opened an account. They get a statement and we talk about it every month. Just every single day. Learning.
I’m sure my journey isn’t “done” and probably never will be. BUT now I stopped thinking like I was taught in college about how to teach the material. I’ve learned to both lead and follow. It’s brought me closer to the boys. We have many more good days now, and many fewer bad days (oh they are still there! And still make me want to rip my hair out). One of the few things I’ve kept is the diagnostic tests. We still take an online diagnostic test. Their “scores” always put them about 3-4 grade levels ahead, so I “know” that they are doing well. But mostly it’s so that the naysayers in the family just shush and let us go on……By “bluerooffarm”, on Cafemom.”
Thanks to this teacher, turned homeschool mom, for allowing me to print her personal story. She explains common mistakes that many make when they start homeschooling, and how she improved her ability to homeschool. Her story can save you and your children a lot of heart ache. Homeschool is so much more fun when you use full body engagement.
As a home school workshop leader, I am often asked questions about how to get started home schooling my child. This page is especially for newbies, but the experienced home educators can also benefit. Most parents care very deeply about their children (more so than the Department of Education). Studies show that home educated children outperform their public schooled counterparts even if the parent holds no degrees.
So, I tell parents that home school is not the classroom, and that when you home school, the whole world is your classroom. That is important, because with a little information, one does not have to spend tons of money to do a good job. Put your money where it will benefit the child the most. Following is some information that will help you
1. The very first step is to know your state laws. Your State Home School Associations are usually most helpful in this matter.
2. Knowing your child’s learning style will help you save money on curriculum that does not work with your child. Workbooks work just fine with some children (45% of the population), but do more harm than good for the rest of the children.
3. Physically involving the child in the learning process According to Dr. Amen, a physician, and double board certified psychiatrist, whole brain teaching improves the health of the brain. It also helps you teach to the different learning styles, and children with ADD/ ADHD, Dyslexia, asperger’s syndrome and anxiety disorders. As a result children learn faster, retain more, and retain their love for learning for a life time. The following story is a funny, informative and inspirational story a certified teacher experienced in her journey to becoming a home educator. It reveals a lot about what works, and what doesn’t when teaching children. My journey from Public School Teacher to Homeschooling Mom
4. There are some good free computer games on line that physically involve the children in the learning process. But they are not good for teaching phonics, because they teach some of the sounds incorrectly making it hard for some children to blend the sounds to form words (it makes phonics pointless, and many children revert to sight word recognition). It is important that you teach the child the sounds (rather than a computer), so you know they are taught the basics correctly…We have provided you free videos to hear phonic sounds to help you do just that. (for parents….not the child)
5. Here is a link to save you money: How to Write Your Own Lesson Plans . It is easier than you might think.
6. Ring Around the Phonics (game for reading, phonics and Language Arts), and Math U See’s the beginning lessons, both teach to the various senses thus improving the health of the brain. Ring Around the Phonics has also shown to teach to different learning styles, and learning disabilities as described above. What is so wonderful about home schooling is that you adjust the lesson plans to the child rather than trying to force the child into a one size fits all lesson plan.
Sometimes parents feel they are not qualified to teach their child to read. I always ask them if they can read. If you can read, you can teach your child to read. It is very easy with a little information, and the right tools.
Learning Phonics Rules
Note: The children need to be proficient and comfortable with phonic sounds and reading before teaching the phonics rules. Otherwise it is like telling a child they must know how to assemble and disassemble a bike before riding…it is too overwhelming.
Consonant letters: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, z and often y. Each letter usually stands for one sound.
The letters c and g have two sounds each called hard or soft. Example:
When either c or g is followed by e, i, or y, the sound is usually soft – cent gem. Other wise the sound is hard – can go.
Consonant digraph: two consonant letters that together stand for a single sound different from either consonant sound alone: chop ship phone think
Silent Letter if two letters together represent the sound of only one of them, the other is “silent”: knot, write, ghost, scent.
Vowel Letters: a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. Each letter stands for more than one sound. One is called a short sound, and the other is called a long sound (hear phonic sounds for free)
When a short word (or a syllable) ends in a consonant the vowel sound is often short: Hat, hen, hit, hot, hut hymn.
When a short word ends with an e, the first vowel is long and the e is silent: cape, Pete, bite, note, tube dye.
Vowel digraph: two vowel letters that together stand for a single sound: (hear phonics blends)
When a word has two vowel letters together, the first vowel is usually long and the second vowel is usually silent: paid, pay, meal, meet, die, boat, toe
The letters ea can also stand for short e as in bread
When a word or syllable has only one vowel and it is at the end, the vowel is usually long: she, go, sky, pi-lot, so-lo
Vowel diphthong: a vowel blend made up of two adjoining vowel sounds:
When a word has the following vowel combinations, these sounds (diphthongs) are the most common:
ai cain au cause ow cow, crow
ou loud, soup ew knew ei eight
Vowel followed by r: When a vowel is followed by r, the vowel is different from either the long or the short vowel
These have the same sound:
Plural: more than one – cats, glasses
Inflectional endings: s, es, ed and ing are added to base words to indicate number or tense.
play: plays, played, playing
When you add ed or ing to a base word that ends in e, drop the e first:
wave: waved, waving
Compound word: two or more words joined together to make a new word.
sidewalk, outside raindrop
Contraction: two words written as one. An apostrophe replaces the missing letter(s)
can’t for cannot I’ll for I will
More Phonics Rules:
Syllable: a word or part of a word pronounced as a unit. Each syllable contains one vowel sound.
Synonyms: words that have the same, or almost the same meaning.
boat, ship jar, bottle over, above
Antonyms: words whose meanings are opposite, or almost opposite.
good, bad up, down thin, thick
Homonyms: words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings.
here, hear hare, hair to, too, two
Base word or root word: a word without prefixes, suffixes or inflectional endings.
Note: Learning root words can be even more helpful than learning the phonics rules. It can help with reading and spelling. Many words are made up of a root (or base word) and a prefix. Some words also have a suffix. For example, the root word port means to carry or to bear. Attach the prefix ex, meaning out or out of, and you have the word export, to carry out. Attach the prefix im, meaning in or into and you have import, to carry in. Attach the prefix trans, meaning across, and you have transport, meaning to carry across. Now let’s attach the suffix able, meaning able to be, and you have importable, exportable, and transportable. Thus an excellent way to teach spelling, especially to the dyslexic, is to teach root words first, and then add prefixes and suffixes. Ring Around The Phonics is used to teach spelling.
prefix: a word part that can be added to the beginning of a word to form a new word with a different meaning.
suffix: a word part that can be added to the end of a word to form a new word with a different meaning.
tasteless sharpen joyful
Schwa: the vowel sound heard in unstressed syllables, sometimes called a “mummy vowel”.
If Your Child Is Having Trouble Reading, But Knows Their Phonic Sounds
Today way too many children know their phonic sounds, but have trouble reading, struggle as slow readers, difficulty blending the phonic sounds to form words, and/or poor spellers. There can be many reasons that can cause children to have trouble with reading and spelling, such as hearing problems, and vision problems. However, as a tutor, I have found the most common cause is as follows:
Computer games teach several of the following phonic sounds incorrectly: B, C, D, G, H, J, K, (occasionally M), P, T, W. Computers add an u sound at the end of many of these letters to make them more audible to the listener. We do not say Hu-a-Pu-Y for happy, nor do we say Du-a-du-y for daddy. Think about how difficult it is to hear happy when pronouncing it as hu-a-pu-y. Most of the struggling readers I have helped were pronouncing one or more of these sounds incorrectly.
For one child, it was simply the letter w. Because she was having trouble sounding out words with w in them, she concluded that something was wrong with her. It became a self-fulfilling prophesy. She freaked out every time she was asked to read from her early reader books… proclaiming, ” I can’t”. By using the game “Ring Around The Phonics, I re-taught her the correct way to say the sound of the W, and also used the board to help her blend the sounds. Because games are [whole brain teaching]), stress was reduced, and she quickly learned.
However at first, the books still stopped her in her stacks. She still had trouble reading from books even though she could read any word placed on the board game. So once I was sure she knew the phonic sounds, and could read words placed on the board, we stopped playing the game and did as follows:
When she came to a word in the book that stressed her, I simply placed that same word on the board using the static cling letter cards provided. She could read it on the board, but not the book. So I kept pointing to the word on the board, and then to the same word in the book. I repeated this process until she finally realized she could read! She went from failing to top reader, and the teacher even said it improved her spelling. [(Click Here To See The Teacher’s Review)]
So don’t underestimate the problems that phonic sounds learned incorrectly can cause. It does not effect all children. So if they have learned the phonic sounds incorrectly, and are not having trouble reading, don’t fix it. But for many children, it is important to get the basics right. Therefore we recommend you, the educator (not an electronic device), teach the phonic sounds so that you are sure they are learning the basics correctly. Click Here To Hear The Phonic Sounds (video format for adults). And remember that we are always here for you. Feel free to contact us.
Phonics Reading Games Can Improve Brain Health, And Ability To Learn?
Studies show that whole brain teaching (example: our phonics reading game) improves brain health, and the ability to learn. Yet, many schools are still not using this simple method. Many educators now understand that each person prefers different learning (and teaching) styles. However learning styles are not written in stone. One can actually strengthen the less dominant learning (and teaching) styles. Why is this important?
According to the latest brain research: Learning is as natural as breathing, and it is possible to either weaken or strengthen a child’s natural desire and ability to learn in different life situations.
Researchers, using brain-imaging technologies, have been able to find the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style. For example:
1. Visual/ spatial learners prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding. This style develops the occipital lobes at the back of the brain. Both the occipital and parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.
2. Aural learners (auditory – musical) prefer using sound and music. They have developed the temporal portion of the brain. The right temporal lobe is especially important for music.
3. Verbal learners prefer using words, both in speech and writing. This learning style is managed within the temporal and frontal lobes, especially two areas called the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (in the left hemisphere of the temporal and frontal lobes.)
4. Physical (Kinesthetic) learners prefer using their body (hands and the sense of touch). These children have a well-developed cerebellum and motor cortex which is at the back of the frontal lobe.
5. Logical learners prefer logic reasoning and systems. Studies show that these children have well-developed parietal lobes, especially on the left side of the brain.
6. Social learners prefer learning in groups, or with other people. These children have developed the temporal lobes.
7. Solitary learners prefer working alone, and using self-study. The frontal and parietal lobes, and the limbic system are very active with this style.
Important Studies On The Frontal Lobe
The frontal lobes play a very important role in regulating our emotional sates and judgments. It is the critical thinker…. the part of the brain that thinks about the consequences of an action, and it is not fully developed until the mid 20s. Children who are hindered in developing this part of the brain can exhibit serious emotional problems.
It was once believed that if you encouraged a person to express their angry emotions, it would “get it out / process it”. However a 15 year study of prisoners commissioned by the government, revealed that if you got an angry prisoner to express his anger, he became angrier. It also revealed that if you educated him, you got an educated criminal….he did not rip you off with a gun anymore, he ripped you of with a computer.
So what did work? Developing the frontal lobe worked. How? It was discovered that even though we all have some degree of false ideas, criminals have more. For example: criminals (like many children) responded, “Well everyone is doing it”. The response from the psychologist was, “Well it depends on who your friends are. Mine aren’t doing those things.” In other words, to develop the critical thinking (frontal lobe) is simply to replace a dysfunctional idea, with a functional one (“As A Man Thinketh”). A healthy frontal lobe helps one to override the execution of automatic behaviors, and of potentially destructive illegal or immoral behaviors that are sparked by emotional biases
While it is highly important to provide plenty of opportunity to reach each child through their preferred learning style, it is equally important to exercise the whole brain…use it or lose it. Research shows that by involving more of the brain during the learning process, children remember and retain more of what they learn. According to Dr. Amen, whole brain teaching even improves the health of the brain (use it, or lose it).
The public school system uses mainly the “conventional method” of teaching: workbooks, lectures, flash cards, reading and multiple choice — sit down a desk type work. Not only does this not improve the health of the different parts of the brain, but it is a disaster for some children. For example: Very bright “hands on learners” (38 % of the population) are often labeled as slow learners, problem children, ADHD, or called dumb by their class mates simply because the conventional method does not work for them. As a result, they often become convinced that “something is wrong with them“. However give these children a hands experience (like our phonics reading game), and they shine.
Applications For Whole Brain Health And Development
So it has become evident that it is important not to just develop parts of the brain, but to develop the whole brain. Studies show that with whole brain teaching (involving as many of the senses as possible), children learn faster, retain more, dropout rates decrease by 90%, and the health of the brain is improved.
1. Emotions simply exist; we don’t learn them in the same way we learn telephone numbers, and we can’t easily change them. But we should not ignore them. Children can learn how and when to use rational processes to override their negative emotions, or to hold them in check by developing the frontal lobe area of the brain…learning that there are consequences to one’s actions. This part of the brain is almost totally ignored in today’s classroom setting.
2. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.
Emotionally stressful environments (for the educator and the student) are counterproductive because they can reduce children’s ability to learn. http://www.mayoclinic.org/stress/art-20046037
3. Learning is influenced by the natural development of the body and brain. According to brain research for example, there can be a five-year difference in maturation between any two “average” children. Gauging achievement on the basis of chronological age is therefore inappropriate, and counterproductive.
4. The brain understands and remembers best when facts and skills are embedded in natural spatial memory, we remember what we experience. This principle can be applied to every subject through games (like our phonics reading game), activities and real life experiences: involving as many of the senses in the learning process as possible. This is particularly important for the “hands on learner“. Educators should not exclude lectures and sit down at a desk type work; but they should make them part of a larger experience.
5. Each brain is unique. Teaching should be multifaceted in order to attract different interests, and to develop the whole brain. Helping children find their passion is a major part of their future success.
6. The objective of brain based teaching is to move from memorizing information to experiencing information.
7. Empower educators to do whatever is in the best interest of each individual child. One size does not fit all.
Even though these things have been recently learned by way of cognitive science’s brain scans, the method has been around over 30 years, and known as “Total Physical Response“. It has been well known that, with this method, children learn faster, retain more, drop rate decreases by 90%, and the health of the brain is improved.
For a real life example: “My Journey From Public School Teacher To Homeschooling Mom“: http://www.read-phonics.com/how-to-teach.html
Ring Around The Phonics is a reading game that physically involves the children as they learn. To you, the educator, the child is learning. But to the child, they are having fun. They literally beg to play
Reading Phonics Games blog post in Jacksonville, Florida.