Wednesday, March 1, 2017

BUILDING CONFIDENT READERS {a week of lesson ideas}

I wish it wasn't so, but the truth is learning to read just doesn't come easily to everyone.

For all my older kids, the book 100 Easy Lessons worked pretty well.  It was just a matter of eliminating distractions, putting in about 15 or 20 minutes a day and viola!  Out came a reader.

For my youngest; however, that just wasn't the case.  After spinning my wheels for a while, I realized I needed help.   

I turned to the only reading expert I know, my sister, Dale.  Dale has a lot of practice implementing programs to bring under level readers to level in the classroom; was nominated for Teacher of the Year and now both trains teachers and establishes new schools.  Yep, she's a real smart cookie!   

Dale is the super smart looking one on the right!

Her approach allowed us to make real progress, build confidence and cemented the phonograms I could not previously get to stick. 


Right away when Dale assessed Hailey she let me know that struggling to read has nothing to do with laziness.  When we are frustrated and our kids are frustrated, that can be pretty encouraging to realize. 

The truth is, all of their guesses are real effort, but somewhere along the way something didn't click.  And it was time to get clicking.


With Dale's help we came up with a new plan.  Dale encouraged me to slooooow down.  I don't know about you, but when I feel behind I start rowing faster.  Rowing faster is not what Hailey needed. 

Dale said instead we were going to focus on one sound/ word family/ phonogram sound a week.  And over the year, that slow work has really added up! 

She had me subscribe to Reading A-Z which provides both slowly incrementing Decodable books along with lesson plans and activities. 

This is what one of the books look like printed.  Mine are usually in black and white, this in color business was kind of a fluke, but it looks pretty if you have the ink. 

We've worked our way through from the very earliest books.  I think we started at book two or three.  And they increment very slowly which helps emerging readers.

There are instructions for book assembly at Reading A-Z, but basically you cut the cover and back page, fold the inside pages, staple together and tape over the staples.

Tada.  This weeks book along with the lesson plan and provided cards to reinforce our new sound /x/.


1.  Introduce New Sound

One of the first things on my list is to introduce the new sound and elicit words from my student that have that sound.  Sometimes I help her or give her a 'rhymes with' word, then I write the words we come up with on a white board she can see.

Often the lesson plans from Reading A-Z will also have a list of words, some with the new sound you are working on and some without, and as you read them you can ask your student to listen for the /x/ sound and clap or give a thumbs up if they hear the new sound in the words. 

You could always Google "Word Family -at" for example and do this on your own. 

My sloppy writing.  Some of the words for this sound were from the word cards provided from Reading A-Z.  X is a tough one!  Sometimes I Google Word family and the family we are working on for help.

This is also a great time to do a word family sort.  The cards below are from Reading A-Z and was a printable with the book we are working on.  This activity helps the students to differentiate between the words with the sounds they are learning that day from other word sounds.  

Again, you can create this same thing using 3x5 cards and a Google word search.  If you are working on -at sounds that week, you could Google that word family ("Word Family -at") and "Word Family -op" for example.  You want them to look different enough that sorting the cards won't be too difficult.  Here is a Word Family Chart, but they are easy to find. 

2.  Use manipulatives to make words using the new sound

Each week I type up a homemade Spelling with Stickers worksheet using eight new words and sometimes words from a previous week so that Hailey can use letter stickers to make the words herself.  I usually get these words from the new book or the word cards Reading A-Z provides.  It only takes a few minutes to make but keeps her busy for a while.  Worth it.     

A quick custom worksheet made in Word.  It's not fancy but it works.  Behind my worksheet a Reading A-Z worksheet.

Stickers from the Walmart craft area and letter sorter purchased in the Walmart jewelry department.  Sorting letters is the kind of job I do at night, but you could solicit an older kiddo to do it.  

While Hailey works on Spelling with Stickers  I can cut out the other resources for the week and tuck them in my reading box. 

Once Hailey is done, we read the sticker words together.  Then I save the sticker words for a later activity (Rainbow Roll).    

Next, I will have her go through her new book and underline words with the new sound.

3.  Read the Book

At the earliest levels, I might read the book to Hailey for the first go through and talk with her about the pictures.  As her reading got stronger, I would read the first sentence on the page and she would read the next. 

And that is the end of day 1. 

The plan for Days 2-4 are basically the same steps, but if you are like me, I want to see photos of how each step is done.  Once you read day 2 you can skip ahead to the printable cheat sheet and resource links at the end of this post or you can hang in for the nitty-gritty details!

1.  Reinforce the New Sound using Manipulatives

One of the first things I do on day two is to work with the new sound to reinforce it.  Usually there is a learning mat and letters to print with each lesson (remember the cutting out on day 1?).  Using these along with the word cards or the words from the Spelling with Stickers sheet used the day before, Hailey can create new words.

You could easily use magnetic letters, Banagram letters or other letters you have on hand to try this. 

I have her spell the words from the word cards and then we sound each one out. 

The Learning mat and related letter cards are usually with each new decodable book at Reading A-Z.

2.  Reinforce the New Sound using a Word Work Activity

I choose another Word Work Activity to reinforce the new sound.  If I have at least two Spelling with Stickers pages done (these have 8 words each), I can choose to have Hailey work on Rainbow Roll (which has 16 slots).  Worksheets can be purchased along with the entire Word Work package I use at Teachers Pay Teachers. 

If you want to make your own activities, the book Words Their Way has a lot of ideas for games and other ways to Work with Words.  You can also search "Words Their Way" on the Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) site.  I started with Words Their Way and was making my own board games, but over time I fell into using things already created for speed (shown below). 

Using Rainbow Roll, students roll a dice, then write their word in the color they roll.  You could chose to have them write the words in lowercase, but I'm ok with doing some of both.

My Rainbow Roll supplies tucked into a $1 Pencil holder from Dollar Tree and in the Word Work May Do Box.

My Word Work boxes.  I love, love, love these locking boxes from Walmart.  They are just $3.88 and keep all of my reading tools handy and compact.

 3.  Read the Book

 Usually on day 2, Hailey will slowly read through the book herself.  If that seems too much you could try reading the first sentence on the page and letting your student read the next. 

And that is the end of day 2. 


1.  Reinforce the New Sound using Manipulatives

This is where you can choose to do something your kiddo enjoys.  Some options would include the Reading A-Z word mat with letters pictured above, Banagram letters, Magnetic letters, listening for their new sound in a poem or string of words and clapping- the choice is yours!

Using magnet letters, salt box writing, pipe cleaner letters, play-doh letter cut outs, letter beads- you name it.  Choose a hands on activity to reinforce their new sound and words. 

2.  Reinforce the New Sound using another Word Work Activity

This is another easy to prep Word Work activity, called Squiggle Spelling (again, these are all in one very inexpensive, printable package at TPT) which I keep tucked in my "May Do" box for the week. 

It's a little hard to see, but we are getting more milage from the Reading A-Z word cards for the week.  Hailey uses them to fill in a new word for each shape. 

 3.  Read the Book Independently

By day 2 or 3 the student usually feels confident to read the book independently.  It may be slow but it will continue to speed up each day.

And that is the end of day 3. 


1.  Reinforce the New Sound using Manipulatives



2.  Reinforce the New Sound using another Word Work Activity

The title ghost words is silly but the fun of this activity is the kids write their words using a white crayon, then colors over it with a marker.  The same technique as paint resist applies here. 

3.  Read the Book Independently

And that is the end of day 4. 


Read, Read, Read!  This is the day we read the weekly book, then pull a book or two we have mastered and read those to Mama or a sibling.  Kids earn tickets if they read to a sibling-  the reader gets a ticket and the patient listener get a ticket because I want to encourage that process!  And see how I just bought myself some time?    


Hailey's school cart has an "I Can Read" section filled with books she's mastered!  I plan to show you the kids school drawers again soon so you can see what we are using for the youngers.

Pep Talk
Chances are if you have a struggling reader, they are a bit emotionally exhausted with trying.  And just as likely, you are too.  When we are feeling blah about school work I often talk to my kiddos about stamina.  I remind them that people don't buy running shoes then go sign up for a 10K race, but if they work little by little the hard will get easier and easier because they are building stamina.  I encourage them that reading is the same way, if we work, what's hard today won't be hard later! 

Pros and Cons of Reading A-Z

  • The books increase in difficulty very slowly so the student feels successful (finally!  Even leveled library books jump too fast, right?)
  • The pictures relate to the words which is really helpful for emerging readers
  • Each new sound and book comes with a lesson plan and activities so you are not trying to come up with lesson plans yourself-  hooray!
  • There are actually a ton of other books for all level of students available with a subscription.  We are about to move into the leveled books (I'll keep you posted) and they are all right there!   

  • The subscription is $100. for the year.  It's expensive but honestly I was desperate enough to fork over the money and I feel like it was totally worth it.  Because it's really geared for a classroom (20+ students per license), I'd feel fine about families going in together or you could plan to print and binder all the lessons and use them again and again with the kiddos that will come afterward.  A big binder filled with lots of page protectors and dividers (just  found them for 47 cents a package at Walmart) and you've created your own reading program you can use for multiple kids.   
  • You need to print resources and assemble the books- this wasn't a huge issue for me but for some people it might feel like it's a negative


Resource Links
Reading A-Z Decodable Books (with Lesson Plans)
Word Work Activities from Teachers Pay Teachers
Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT Store)- tons of lessons and activities at inexpensive prices made by teachers. 

As always, Leading Little Hearts Home does not take funds from vendors or sponsors.

Printable Cheat Sheet
Here is a link for a one page summary of the sequence we are following.  I love having a cheat sheet close by.   

Reading Sequence

What's working for you?  Want to see more Word Work activities or hear about how to assess readers?  Let me know!


Rebecca Jones is a believer on Christ, passionate about God's Word and applying it to life.  She and her High School sweetheart have been married for 25 years and have 5 daughters (yes 5!).  Rebecca has a degree in Marketing, has been home educating for 15 years and writing since 2008.  Her oldest daughter is presently attending a Christian college while the other 4 daughters continue to school at home. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this post! I have 6 kiddos. I really feel like I didn't even teach reading to the first 4. Lots of reading aloud, a few instructions and they were off and running! The sixth child is heading the same way. Number 5 (7 years old), however, learns very differently. She struggles and I don't know how to help her. Dyslexia has been suggested, but even to begin assessing for that starts with a year long wait. I feel out of my depth and expensive programs are out of our budget just now. You have provided some great tips in your post. Any advice on how to assess where my girl is at and how to move forward with her would be appreciated!