In my last post I talked about the importance of setting a foundation for reading in the early years, and listed some ways that you can help your child to practise their decoding skills. I have another list of ideas to share with you today! While I have tried to group the ideas in order of progression, you know your children best, so if you think they’d benefit from starting with the activities in this post and then moving onto the ones from last time, that’s great! Otherwise, I recommend beginning with the ideas from Part 1 and then trying some of these ones once your child knows their alphabet. Remember, learning to read takes time, so be patient with your children and try to focus on making reading time an enjoyable experience for you both. The more that they practise, the more confident they should become with each activity.
Words Are Everywhere – Point Them Out
Here’s a nice easy one for you to start with. You know all those signs, labels, lists and packages you come across each day? Point the words out to your children. Words are everywhere! Instead of ignoring them, use the opportunity to draw your child’s attention to them. Hopefully it won’t be long before they start noticing and pointing out the words they see on their own.
Sing It Loud
Songs are such fun when it comes to learning. They help children with memorization through repetition. Plus, they build excitement about the topic you’re teaching! If you do a bit of research it’s easy to find songs that help children with decoding simple words. Here’s one I found to help you get started: The Spelling Song. (And yes, it will probably stay stuck in your head all day.)
A digraph is a combination of two letters making one sound, such as ph. Through my experience as a teacher, I have seen the effectiveness of taking a phonetic approach to teaching children sounds. There are a lot of digraphs and combined sounds in the English language, and while it can seem overwhelming to teach your child all of them, slowly working through them together will be so helpful when your child is presented with more complex words. One of the simplest ways to introduce digraphs to your child is through having a ‘sound of the week’. This way, your child is able to see different examples of words using the same digraph, and is more likely to remember the sound you’re working on. It can be fun to put the words onto flashcards like these to help keep your child engaged. Once the words are on flashcards, you can also use them to play ‘Write the Room’, where you hide the words around the room for your child to come across and write down throughout the day.
Puzzles are fantastic toys for developing problem-solving skills, and can be used when learning to read too! Simple, three-piece cards like the ones below work as a good starting point, giving your child the opportunity to problem-solve until the pieces are in order and then use decoding to read the word. Having a separate letter on each piece also means that if your child needs to ‘break apart the sounds’ they can physically split the letters up again and sound them out that way, before putting the whole word back into sequence.
Roll & Read
I have used ‘Roll & Read’ activities in my classroom for students up to 10 years old who need practice with their reading, and they always found them engaging! Simply roll a die and then read one of the words that correspond to the number you rolled. You can cover or colour each word once it’s read too. This helps children become motivated to try new words, and can be a fun little game that you can join in with! You can find this cute lollipop-themed roll & read set here.
Play ‘I Have, Who Has?’
In keeping with the theme of lollipops, here’s another sweet game you can try called ‘I Have, Who Has’. This usually works best in classrooms with larger groups of students. I explained how this game works in my Special Addition Series, if you’d like to find out more. Although I was using it as a Maths activity last time, it’s just as effective for English lessons! Side-note: the first time you play this game with your class, allow more time than you think you’ll need, as it can take children a few rounds before they’re confident enough to respond instantly.
Once your child is able to recognise some simple words, try moving onto sentences. One way to do this is by using word cards, jumbling them up, and asking your child to order them. This allows them to focus on one word at a time, while eventually being able to read the full sentence. Here are some low-prep, mixed-up sentence cards to get you started.
I hope you’re having fun exploring some of these activities with your children as they begin to read! Use the links to buy your own copies of the resources I’ve referenced.
Still after some more ideas? Stay tuned for the final post in this series: Meet The (Word) Family – Developing Decoding Skills Part 3.
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