Saturday, April 2, 2011

When to start teaching phonics?

Since we started teaching K sight words, my plan has been to begin teaching her phonics when she is 6 or 7. I agree with articles such as this one:

that explain why a younger child will usually have difficulty learning with phonics, however, I have also heard the experiences of early sight word readers starting to intuit these rules and be able to begin to use phonics to figure out words much earlier than this. I have always found this intriguing, yet never really understood it until recently. I'm still not 100% sure, but at least I have a theory now!  Is it possible that kids can be taught phonics earlier, but with a sight word approach rather than learn phonics rules in the traditional way?  It is the only solution that I can come up with and has helped me to figure out where to go next with K's reading program. We are almost done with the Dolch word list (up to grade 3), as well as phrases that we have been working on.  Next, I am going to work on groups of phonics words. The biggest reason for my new theory?  K has started to figure out new words by herself!  The most recent example is her ability to read the word "Poc" on my older dd's helmet. This is definately not a word we have taught her. K is doing this more and more and I'm excited to see if this new direction in learning words will boost this emerging ability!


  1. I think your referring to word families? You can take a word she knows and teach her other words with the same ending. It sounds like you may have a hard time finding words she doesn't know! I taught my older two to read w/ phonics. Some kids need more instruction than others. Then, we moved onto spelling and they can learn a lot that way, too.

    My question: Was there ever a time that you weren't sure what words she could read? Goldie is not a performer. So, I have to leave her word cards out and hide around the corner to see which ones she can read. I've decided to just give her new words each week instead of trying to test her on them. Also, how do you keep track of all the words K knows?

  2. Yes, I'm sure we will end up repeating a few words when we start on this, but I'm sure a little review is OK as long as we don't repeat so many that she is bored. As for spelling, we do have a few iPad games that teach spelling & we spell with bath words, fridge magnets, etc. I have been trying to point out that words are made up of different letters, so that K doesn't see them just as whole words.

    For what seemed like a very long time, we had no idea whether K was learning or not. We started at around 6 months of age, but got more consistant at 18 months, yet she was almost 2 before she showed us she was learning. I am not a patient person & it drove me nuts not knowing. We have been so careful not to test until recently & at times it was all I could do to be patient & wait to see if she was learning! I agree - just give her new words. You don't want to let her get bored by repeating the same ones over & over. If she learns most of them, but misses the odd one, that's OK, she'll learn them eventually. We're lucky that K happily reads everything out loud. I think it might be partly because we always made it so low pressure, but also just that it is easier for her to read now.

    As for keeping track of K's words, it is hard. I am really not the most organized person - so the good news is that if I can do this, anyone can! Seriously though, we do repeat the odd word sometimes because I can't always remember. Most of the early words were in sets such as animals, vegetables, nature, so it was easier to see that we weren't repeating too many. Then we started Dolch words & kept with that list until now as well as Dolch phrases. Because they were all from the same list, we didn't repeat much. Now that we will soon be starting the word families, there will probably be a little more repeating. The other thing I have done is to take a book & teach her each word in the book. At first I would do all of the words, but now I just have her read it to me & if she doesn't know the word, I make it into a flashcard. By only doing the words she doesn't know, I shouldn't be repeating too many either. There are probably a lot better ways to keep track though!

  3. Thanks! My neighbor is teaching her little guy (2) with DS to read now, too!

  4. How exciting! I have a good friend IRL & got to hear her daughter read for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was so exciting to hear another little one with DS read!