Tag Archives: learning to read

Reading improvement

Big Brother’s reading is really starting to improve; his fluency is starting to ‘kick in” and make reading easier for him.  It is much more like “reading” now and a lot less like “decoding each word”

He is reading though Little Bear and yesterday he even read a story to Little Brother.

big reading to little 8.22.13

Here are a few of the sentences he read, mostly with out stumbling or needing assistance, for his phonics today:

  • The dragon is sitting on the lunch box.
  • A camel is standing beside the cabin.
  • Rob made a model of the wagon
  • Seven ants got lost in the prison.
  • Jean shovels snow on the planet.
  • My kitten can pedal the bike fast.

I am excited about this improvement and hope this is going to turn the page for him.


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Big Brother’s reading mid-year

Big Brother is really progressing him his reading skills, both in decoding language in written form and in comprehending what he is reading.  I feel really good about where he is at the mid-point of his first grade year.

He has completed Exploring The Code Books 1, 1 ½ and 2.  We are currently working on 2 ½.  I had not planned to use this one, even other we had it, since the ½ books are opportunities to practice or remaster the skills introduced in the full number books and I felt he was ready to move on to book 3.  However, when I ordered book 3 I sent it my folks address, so since we had 2 ½ on hand, we are working on it till Book 3 arrives.

In the past week Big Brother has read sentences like:

  • Len sped past the big bus
  • Dad spills a glass of pop on Ship
  • Nell stuffs the doll in the bag
  • Bev puts on a skit in class
  • The kid flags the van to stop
  • The stag is a still as can be
  • Will you step on the flag
  • Can you stuff your clogs in a bag
  • Is the stem of a bud stiff
  • Mim slips the plug in the slot
  • Glen slams the lid on the box
  • Can you smell the hot dog and bun

And read words like:

  • Trek
  • Tram
  • Brim
  • Swam
  • Dress
  • Twin
  • Trots
  • Spots

As well as many other.  I am feeling good about where he is, he really is not branching out in to books, no matter how easy, yet, but I feel that is more his choice and maybe his uncertainty and not skill related.

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Sight Words, Reading and Word Families

We all know the old war of reading; sight words vs phonic, whole language vs phonic and so on. I have chosen to take a varied approach with our boys. We read a great deal and have a mass of books thus meeting the “rich print environment” and the “submerge them in real literature” aspects of the whole language approach (and I have a labeling obsession too). However, I admit THAT has very little to do with learning to read, and is more an aspect of our family, our parenting and our desire for the boys to love to read, rather than how we hope they will learn to read. Big Brother and I are working though a traditional phonics study, and plan to stay at it till at least 3rd (adding spelling in 1st grade) to ensure a strong and functional ability to decode, not guess at, unfamiliar words quickly and confidently as they are encountered. I have also chosen to practice ‘sight words’ with Big Brother (and Little Brother also) though we will not be depending on memorization in place of decoding and phonics as an approach to reading. Nevertheless the evidence that sight words can effect fluency of reading is strong and many English words ‘break the phonics rules’ and have to be learned outside the decoding of phonics.


A word about sight words:


A list of English sight words, The Dolch Word List, was compiled by Edward William Dolch, PhD, in 1948. The list was originally published in his book ”

Problems in Reading“. Dolch compiled the list based on words used in children’s reading books in the 1930s and 40s. The list contains 220 “service words” that must be quickly recognized in order to achieve reading fluency.

The Dolch Word List is also called Sight Words or The Dolch 220. It includes the most frequently used words in the English language. Sight words make up 50 to 70 percent of any general text.

Big Brother is able to decode simple CVC words at this point, but it not ready to dive into even the simplest easy readers. What he does need, and is ready for, is practice, practice, and more practice with CVC words. I have decided to print several sight words and also word family flash cards to use for reading practice.


For more reading practice I printed the following flashcards on card stock:

  • http://practical-homeschooling.org/wp-content/files/3_word_lists.pdf – I chose this page of word cards because it offered short vowel practice – a list for each of the five main vowels and then 2 cards that are mixes. All work phonically and are solid practice on “decoding” or “sounding words out”. 
  •  http://www.kidzone.ws/dolch/preschool.htm– set one, two and three – the Pre-Primer (pre-school) list of Dolch Sight Words. We did not do sight words for pre-school so we will work on mastering this list, then move on to the Kindergarten list. There are many options for printing the DSW from, I chose this one as they are simple flashcards, no pictures, and I liked the size.
  • http://www.kidzone.ws/phonics/index.htm – I chose to print only 3 word families to start with (In addition to the other flashcards I printed, that is). The an, ap, and at families. I will return and print the other sets. (to get to the flashcards, choose the activities option for each set). I do not like that there are only 6 flashcards for each set, but I can make more later (or find others).

This printing gives us quite a stack of word cards for Big Brother to start practicing.


I then cut the cards apart and laminated them for repeated use and “play”. Both my boys like to be able to handle things, and I’d like the cards to last. After we master reading them, I can see them being used for alphabetical order dills and so on.

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Good day today.  Big Brother completed day 4 with no ‘time out’ removals.  I plan, soon to create a “Peace Spot” for him (and Little) that is more of a sensory / coping / soothing place.  I dislike time out and use it sparingly.  I feel they’d be learning more to have a ’quiet place’ to go to – something to cuddly, maybe dim light, some sensory fidgets – so they can learn to self regulate rather than just learn “this gets you in trouble”.  It is good to know “this is not ok” but that does not really do much unless they are learning another option in place of the not ok choice.  So I really have been looking at ideas for creating a spot they can choose to go, or a spot I can suggest that offers something to then rather than just removes them.  In the mean time, Big got though day 4 without a time out – at day 7 I have promised him a reward.  The ‘stay out of time out another day’ goal has been something I can quote to him to get them to STOP and THINK, which is what he needs – to stop and think.  Momma has to be responsible to be aware and remind him before he starts to cycle up and can’t think clearly.

Started Phonics Pathways  with Big Brother today; and Little Brother was hanging on my other arm joining in as he can (he’d be able to do it all if he had the speech ability).  Right now ve are talking about the 5 vowels and practicing their soft sounds (a = ant and so on).  we’ll remain on this “lesson” until he can tell me the 5 vowels off the top of his head and quickly give their soft sound as I flip the letters up for him.  The goal it is make it automatic before moving forward.  He already knows them; it is just a question of practice and practice until it is fast and automatic.

 Took the boys to the park today to enjoy some sun and fresh air.   


This past week when Little Brother saw the GI doctor, he had blood taken in the lab, it was HORRIBLE.  Poor little trooper.  He sat still, on my lap, for the first stick.  One labbie sticking him and one holding his wrist.  I had him in my lap and held his other hand.  She got the vein right off and I do not think she was ready, she jumped, sprayed blood all over and pulled the needle out (insert momma smacking her forehead here).  The female, nicest term I have, holding poor Little’s wrist says “It hurts, but you can’t jump” uh he DID NOT MOVE, I said as much and was hugging him and trying to sooth him.  I vas holding him, and he was trying to be good; HE is not the one that jumped.  Big Brother had HUGE eyes and looked like he was going to cry.  So that “assistant” left and had she not Momma would have insisted.  The Labbie said “I need help” (really, you think) and brought in an older woman.  Little really freaked as soon as they started the process on his other arm, I help him and he was screaming before she even started.  Poor little guy, momma was getting MAD.  Big Bother hid under the table and put his hands on his ears and was crying too.  She poked the second arm and then started to dig for the vein.  My head was going to explode; Little was flexing his entire body and screaming.  The older lady quickly took the needle, pulled it out a little and sank it into the vein; lucky for her she did.  Then she let the younger labbie complete the draw, she was changing syringes (not tubes like every other lab I have seen, syringes) of blood and dropped one on the floor, splattering more blood around, Big crawled out from under the table, picked it up with one hand (other still on ear) and picked it up for her and scurried back under the table.  Finally done, Little was a soaking wet rag doll, I carried him out, he didn’t even lift his head off my shoulder, the screams and tears eased down to choked sobs in my neck.  Big was a great help carrying everything out and staying right with me.  (I think the happy face on the pressure bands just adds insult to injury, myself)




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A normal MONDAY !!

Little Brother was excited to return to classroom (he attends classroom 2x a week, 2 hours each time) he had missed Mrs. D his teacher and Miss Em the SLP.  Last night I asked him about it, and he ran and got his shoes and coat right then, he is making great strides in attempting to communicate (ASL, gesture, pictures, and attempting speech) and the time in the classroom 9and his one on one time with both Mrs. D and Miss Em) has really pushed him in that area – or maybe a switch finally just flipped on in his head and he just matured in to it; either way it is an exciting change.  It vas stunning to cut thought the school hall, over head Little in Speech with Miss Emily and hear him clearly say CAR.  His speech is developing and his willingness to try is improving. 

Here at home he is intrigued by ASL and quickly picking up signs.  Not all of them are useful in daily communication (hippo for one doesn’t come up too often) but his interest and the spark is carrying over to other terms (cheese for example) that does help daily communication.

In classroom today, Little Brother went yup toe ht S on the Alphabet poster and made an ssssssss sound, the teacher was all excited and Little Brother showed her a few more.  Currently he can identify all 26 letters (when shown the letters can point to the one requested) and make about 12 of the simple phonics sounds independently.  The SLP and the classroom teacher were both impressed. 

Big Brother did a great job on his school this morning, he and Momma get two devoted hours on Monday’s while Little is in classroom, then Big goes to his ST appt when we picks Little Brother up.  Big is demonstrating a really strong ability to correctly identify the beginning sound of words.  Once we finish up the rest of the sheets I already have mode for “starting sound” I am not making any more.  At some point I will again, for blends, but not at this point; endless images of cats and hats, lizards, tubs and whales and he gets the correct starting sound each time.   Big Brother has also shown competence in matching the upper case and lower case of the same letter.  Again, once he is done with the sheets I have copied or printed for him thus far I do not expect to make any more until Little Brother is ready for them. 

One thing Big Brother does not excel at is numeral recognition.  We do counting activities and he can count the correct number of objects, but above 6 or maybe 7 does not recognize the current numeral to choose.  A current goal for Big Brother is to get him counting to 100 (both counting and able to count 100 manipulative) and also to recognize the written numeral.  Big Brother has the ability to do simply math in his head – 2+2 and 3+4 and so on; the lower math facts; but he is unable to do them written because of his lack of ability to ‘read” numbers consistently and also he is still limited by his handwriting. 

Tonight Daddy and Big Brother talked about positive and negative charges (like batteries) and played with the magnets to demonstrated charges that “pull” and ones that “push”.  I am considering this painting with magnets activity as a tie in, for tomorrow.  I do not have magnet marbles (my dad does, I bought them); but I may be able to come up with something; I have the wands.

Finally tonight, Big Brother wrote, all by himself this note:

It says “I love you”.

Ah Big Brother is really growing up. 🙂


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Today the boys and I worked on phonics.  We got out letter tiles out (one letter per tile, one capital and one lower case and one object card for each letter).  First Big Brother and I went though the 52 letter tiles, he named the letter, the sound and then today’s challenge was to think of a word that started with that letter.  Little Brother ran up to his place by the sofa as soon as we started and while he can’t yet name any of the letters (speech) he did over 10 of the correct sounds.  He stands there so bight eyes and holds his little chubby hand out for his tiles when he gets a sound right; and oh the GRIN.  Big Brother did a pretty good job thinking of words: for S he rattled off ‘snake, sand, sun, summer’ right off.  Some he was confused by (g and j of course) and we spiked ‘X’: it is a lot more difficult to think of words off the top of one’s head vs. choosing a letter to match a given picture; it was fun to watch him have to really think.

After that I had him take the tiles to the table and sort them, capitals together and lower case together.  Not real challenging for him, but a few of them he has to think about.  After he did that 4 times (the final 3 times on his own “can I mix them up and do it again?”) I had him start matching the pairs up.  I think he could do all 26 pairs, but it is a bit overwhelming, all 52 card laying out there.  He did about ten pair then wandered off and I did not challenge him to keep going.  Today is the first day all week the boys and I have done more than practice ASL since they have been sick, and so I didn’t push it.  Emotions were still rather fragile today and by bed the fever had returned so I was glad I left it to him to leave the task.

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Grandma P arrived today to spend 14 days with us.  Grant Pat and Pa Pa arrive late tomorrow night, but the boys think they arrive Thursday morning.

We have a new tubbie time game.  Little Brother is finally ‘tuning in’ to interactive games, he is 3 now and playing games with me Big Brother engaged in at 18 months.  Different kids.  We now, nightly, play “Show Me…”. Version one:  I hold 2 different toys (like a blue cup and a red triangle stacking cup) and ask “Show me the RED” or “Show me the CIRCLE”.  We do colors, shapes and sizes.  Big Brother races to grab the right answer, and I try to explain to him to let Little have a chance.  Big insists “I am helping him, you help me” and I have yet to get him to see the difference in DOING and HELPING.  Nevertheless Little gets caught up in it and tries to race Big Brother and they both have fun.  To be honest Little doesn’t get many of them correct, even given the opportunity, but his score is improving and now that he is interested in engaging with us in such a way he’ll get there.  The other version of the game is for me to put out my hands and say “give me BLUE” or “give me BIG” and if I get the wrong thing, and Big Brother delights in intentionally giving the wrong object, I drop it and say “noooo that is ____ SILLY” and both giggle about that.  In that version of the game, since Big is so intent on getting the ‘wrong’ reaction Little does get a chance to get the right object more often.  It is just a new thing, and quite a wonderful thing, to have Little so engaged, watching me, getting excited about a “GOOD JOB, that is RIGHT” and giggling about a “nooooo” .

Little Brother is working on mastering his phonic sounds and has recently tuned in to letter in his world.  He turned 3 only a month ago; Big didn’t really start to demonstrate a connection between specific letters and their sound till 4.5 or later.  Again, different kids.  The Boys watch Letter factory (by Leap Frog) and word Factory in the van a good amount.  Recently he has started bring me letter magnets off the gun safe and making the correct sound.  The boy has about 3 words and communicates mostly in screech but he can correctly produce a K, R, S, T, C, Z and H sound (heard them all today); and maybe others.  The letters he can’t make the sound for he still brings to me, to have named, then giggles and run back for another.  Also, we have a set of phonics flash cars, we’ve had for a long time, and Little Brother loves them.  He flips though them, he leaves them all over the house for Momma to pick up, he carries them to me and once in a while if I ask for a specific letter he can go find it (and he usually enjoys trying even if he is not correct).  He is constantly pointing out letters (in books, and on my sweatshirts) and demanding they be named, over and over and over again.  I am really interested to see what his skills look like when he master speech better, that is going to be really exciting.

Daddy and Big Brother did a science “lab” and lesson on electricity today.  They discussed amps vs ohms.  They discussed that electricity will be conducted by metal but not wood or plastic.  Then they got to use Daddy’s amp / ohm meter.  Daddy used a small stretch of copper wire to show how wire works; then they made predictions about things (the table, the tool bag, the screwdriver, etc) and then tested them.  By the second or third “trial” Big Brother was nailing each prediction on the head.  Afterwards, Big Brother was frustrated not to be allowed to romp the house “testing” things with the house.  Daddy covered safety, and how much stronger house hold current is that the 9 volt battery they were learning with, and afterwards Big Brother was able to tell me that electricity is dangerous and can make you have to go to the hospital and stay there.  He was also able to tell me it does not go though plastic or wood only metal and even showed me the difference in the rubber/ plastic handle of the screwdriver and the metal end of it.

Big Brother has been trying to sound out words a lot.  He has the concept – sounding out each letter – but not the “end” of the sounds becoming a word.  He so wants to read, he will “sound out” BATMAN on his coloring book and read it to me.  So today I pulled out HOP ON POP to give him some easy practice.  He sounded out the first 6 pages; and pointed out all the rhymes to me and told me “they rhyme because they end the same”.  We stopped as soon as he asked to, and I read to him for a while.  This is certainly his thing, all I am here for is to facilitate and try to offer things to allow him to be success (like Hop on Pop and very basic and easy book).  I do not think the switch has flipped for him yet, but he so wants it to, and he tries.  Soon, very soon, I am going to have a reader.


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