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K-2 Students

Is there anything more delightful than watching a young child "crack" the reading code? Many families have asked what you can do at home. I hope the information below is helpful. Don't hesitate to reach out with questions about your child's progress in any of these areas. Thank you for the immeasurable ways you support your child's education at home. 
See the very bottom of this page for a list of all the links and pdfs referenced.  
The most important thing is to have fun reading together every day! If you take away one thing from this page, let it be that. Similar to exercise, more practice leads to more growth. Research has shown that the benefits of reading together include developing vocabulary, building background knowledge, stimulating imagination, strengthening listening skills, engaging in bonding time, and ultimately, establishing a life-long habit. 
Children can reread books "on the easy side" to others to gain confidence, read "just right" books with guidance or by taking turns, and listen to adults read too hard books. You can explicitly point out things as they come up. For example: 
    • "Listen to my voice match this scared/excited/etc. character... now you try it!"
    • "Watch how I use my finger to cover up the ending, read the word, then put the ending back on."
    • "In words like this, Y makes the sound ee... try sounding out that word again with the ee sound."
    • "When we see a question mark, we make our voice sound like this."
    • "Wow, I'm impressed with your persistence - you tried that word 4 times!"
    • "Hmm, you said X. Does that make sense? Not really, so why don't you try it again."
    • Wonderings, predictions, and connections to the story, especially Qs about why a character does something. 
The idea is to model and reinforce helpful habits and when stuck, to give them enough guidance so they can solve things themselves (rather than being told the answers) while avoiding too much frustration. Reading time should be a low-stress activity where they feel comfortable trying new things, not pressure to "get it right." See the Growth Mindset tab for more. 
If your child could use fresh motivation to read often, using a Reading Log might be fun (see the Motivation tab). They can color in a box or add a sticker each time they read a book. This webpage and this video have more about boosting a love of reading. 
Choosing Books
Just as using "good fit" weight make weight-lifting effective, finding "good-fit" books make reading practice effective. To help support book selection, see the pdf (at the bottom) with books at various levels. You can also click on the "Printable Books" tab to find books that reinforce phonics patterns. 
Currently, our wonderful librarians are offering pickup.  Contact your school for more details. The PV Library is also open for drive-through or curbside pickup - click here to hold a specific book or even to request for a librarian to "browse for you."
For practice of specific sub-skills, iReady is an adaptive online program that all PVPUSD students have access to this year. You're probably familiar with the assessment tool, but did you know that there are also lessons? After each assessment, the program creates a personalized sequence of lessons for your child. At any point, your child can log into the portal, click on iReady, choose a subject, then click "My Path" to work on lessons tailored to his/her needs. Some teachers have incorporated this into homework, and some have offered it as an extension activity. Many students find the lessons engaging and interactive! It works best as an independent activity without much adult assistance. To check their progress, click "My Progress" at the bottom.
By the end of Kindergarten:
    • Know all letter sounds
    • Read and spell words with 2 and 3 sounds using a short vowel (CVC words like sun, hit, pot)
    • Recognize many sight words and be able to read at least 16 in one minute
    • Read simple books, being persistent when stuck on a word (sound it out, look at the picture for a clue, etc. rather than freeze, mumble, or guess)
    • Understand and retell the main points of the beginning, middle, and end of a story
    • Apply all of these to be able to independently read a level C book
By the end of First Grade: 
    • Know all letter sounds and digraphs (ch, sh, th, wh)
    • Read and spell words with these patterns: short vowels, blends, silent E, bossy R, and long vowel teams
    • Read and spell simple 2-syllable words, including endings like ed, s, er, ly, and ing 
    • Read most words quickly and smoothly ("burst" the word, not needing to figure it out sound-by-sound) 
    • Read many sight words and be able to read at least 40 in one minute 
    • Be persistent when stuck on a word; notice when you make a mistake and work to correct it
    • Understand and retell the main points of a story, including the characters, problem, and solution
    • Apply all of these to be able to independently read a level i book 
By the end of Second Grade: 
    • Read and spell the types of phonics patterns listed above 
    • Read and spell simple 2 and 3-syllable words, including common prefixes like un, dis, re, and pro
    • Read and spell many contractions like we're, shouldn't, and you've 
    • Read fluency, using a smooth, expressive voice with steady speed guided by punctuation
    • Be persistent when stuck on a word; notice when you make a mistake and work to correct it 
    • Understand and retell the main points of a story or informational text; answer inferential Qs
    • Apply all of these to be able to independently read a level L book
The Reading Rope
This diagram, called the Reading Rope, demonstrates the components of reading. Below I'll discuss the three components of Word Recognition as they are developed in kindergarten and first grade. At the bottom is a list of all links and pdfs mentioned. 
1) Phonemic Awareness
The foundation of reading and spelling is phonemic awareness (related to phonological awareness). It is the ability to hold, identify, and manipulate spoken sounds in your mind. I think about it like the mortar that holds bricks together, while the bricks represent sounds/letters. 
Some tasks that rely on phonemic awareness are:
    • How many syllables are in your name? What rhymes with cat? 
    • What starts with the same sound as cat? What's the last sound of cat? 
    • What word does this make: nnn  aaa  ppp (called blending, key for reading)
    • Slowly say each sound of cat (segmenting, key for spelling)
    • Say lip. Now add fff to the beginning (addition)
    • Say grab. Now change aaa to uuu (manipulation)
Children strengthen this starting from infancy and usually it is fully developed by third grade. They are first able to manipulate words with 2 sounds, then 3 sounds, then 4 sounds, and so on. If a child has learned all the letter sounds in a word but still has trouble reading or spelling it, it is likely tied to their phonemic awareness abilities. For example, a child who spells log like "lg" or nest like "nst" or "net" is not yet hearing in their mind all the sounds in isolation.  
The take-away for parents is that this skill can be strengthened! Let's imagine that a child spelled camp like "cap." Rather than simply telling them the answer, here are some prompts you can use to nudge them in the right direction, listed in order from the least to most amount of support: 
    • Hmm, say the word camp slowly to double-check your spelling. 
    • There is one sound missing from camp. Can you figure out what's missing?
    • The sound that's missing is between the A and P. 
    • Listen to me say the word slowly. Can you find what's missing in your word? cccaaammmpppp. 
    • Listen again. ccc  aaa  MMMMMMM  pppp. 
In Reading Club, we practice segmenting sounds.  This reinforces the ability to hear each sound slowly in their mind while spelling. Another useful activity is to have a child determine if a word has 2, 3, or 4 sounds before they spell it.
An idea for K and early 1st grade is to print the Robot Gameboards pdf (below). Use game pieces and dice to move around the board. When you land on a word, you say each sound of that word slowly, like a robot. (Once they can do that easily, make the task harder by spelling that word on paper). 
As children get older, strong phonemic awareness will help them read and spell all the syllables of a long word, such as notification or geometrical. 
2) Phonics and Letters
If phonemic awareness is the mortar that holds sounds together, then phonics is the bricks! The first step is to memorize the letter sounds. Assigning a picture or key word to a letter can help. Note that it is important to teach children the true sound of the letter - for example, don't say "muh" for M. Instead, say "mmm."  The sound of L is "llll," not "luh," and so on. This makes it easier for them to later sound out and spell words. 
See the the pdfs at the bottom for a printable chart and cards. One card set has both the letter and picture, and the others have either the letter or picture. Children can match the cards, play memory, cut apart the upper and lowercase letters then match them to each other, match the pictures to magnetic letters, sort them into "sounds I know" and "sounds I'm learning," or come up with their own creative games. There is also a pdf of a blank gameboard; you could write in letters that they're working on, then move around the board using dice and game pieces. 
The five most important letters are the vowels - A, E, I, O, and U (and sometimes Y). Vowels literally open our mouth, so every word has to have a vowel (actually, every syllable has a vowel!). In English, each vowel can make multiple sounds. We first teach the "short vowels," which is their most common sound (see a separate vowel chart pdf):
A like apple 
E like egg (or elephant)
I like insect (or igloo)
O like octopus 
U like umbrella (or up)
The first words to practice are simple words made up of 2 sounds, using a short vowel. These are called VC words (standing for vowel, consonant). Examples are at, an, am, egg, in, it, if, on, and up. Once a child can sound out and spell VC words, they are ready to try CVC words with 3 sounds. Common CVC words include sun, dog, hat, man, leg, pin, run, etc. 
After that, they start to learn: 
  • Digraphs, which are the sounds ch, sh, th, wh, ph, ck, and ng (king, long, hung)
  • Blends, which isn't a new sound but simply two consonants next to each other. Common beginning blends include fl (flip, flush), gr (grape, grub), sc (scarf, scuba), and more. Common ending blends include mp (camp, bump), nt (went, hint), st (last, fist), and more. Often the trickiest ones to learn are dr (dress, drum) and tr (train, trim) since they don't quite make their usual sounds. Eventually they'll be able to spell triple blends, too (scrape, stream, splash). See the phonemic awareness section for tips on guiding them to hear all the sounds in a blend. 
  • Endings: s, es, ing, ed, er, ly. 
  • Silent E, which is one way to make a long vowel sound. Long vowels simply say their name. (So, the long A sound is "ay," like in cake or rain). We imagine that the silent E at the end of a word jumps over to the vowel and says, "hey, don't say your regular short sound anymore! Say your long sound, your name." Then the E jumps back to his spot and is silent. This turns pin into pine, mat into mate, not into note, etc. 
  • Long Vowel Teams, which is the other way to make a long vowel sound. Once they've mastered Silent E, they learn that "when two vowels go walking, the first one (usually) does the talking." This means that the first vowel in the pair says it's name (long sound) and the second vowel is silent. The most common pairs are:
      • AI and AY (make the A sound, like rain and play)
      • EE and EA (make the E sound, like teeth and leaf)
      • OA and OW (makes the O sound, like boat and bow... ow can also make a different sound, like in cow)
      • UE and OO (make the U sound, like glue and boot... oo can also make a slightly different sound, like in good and hook). 
  • Bossy R: When a vowel is followed by the letter R, the R is "bossy" and changes the sound of the vowel. The vowel and R now make one sound together. There are 3 bossy R sounds:
      • AR like car
      • OR like fort
      • ER, IR, and UR which all make the same sound (her, girl, burn)
  • Diphthongs are introduced towards the end of first grade. These are a different set of sounds. There are 3 main sounds, each spelled 2 ways:
      • OI and OY like oil and boy
      • AW and AU like claw and August
      • OW and OU like how and out (ow can also make the long O sound, like in snow)
  • And of course, that's not all! Kids will learn other combinations like -dge (ridge), -tch (watch), igh (right), gh (high or cough), when C and G make one sound versus the other (it depends on the vowel after it), silent combos like wr (wrist), kn (knot), and mb (comb), and special syllables like -le (purple), -tion (motion), -cian (musician), -ture (future)... the joys of English! 
Parents don't need to be phonics experts in order to be a great reading support. If your child is stuck on a particular sound in a word, simply tell them what it is. Ex. For the word zombie, say "in this word, IE makes the eee sound. Try the word again." For the word coin, say "in this word, OI makes the sound oooiiii. Try the word again." You might use your fingers to draw attention to or cover up/reveal certain letters. (And, of course, keep enjoyment of books as the top priority - it's ok to let some errors go uncorrected!) 
Some books, called decodable books, are designed specifically to practice a certain phonics pattern ("the cat is on the big mat," "the king has a long string," etc). This set is easy  - start with Book 1 and continue to meet all the characters. Bob Books are another a long-standing favorite. You can find other sets in my Printable Books tab. 
One resource for short videos of phonics patterns is called Sue's Strategies. Or, for phonics practice on a phone or iPad, the "Simplex Spelling" family of apps are trusted by educators. I believe each app is $5.
Another fun way to practice is with these phonics cards. Three sets are included in one pack, with CVC words being the easiest. Game 1 - show the cards with the word facing out. They choose a card and try to read it. Flip it over to reveal the picture. Game 2 - show the cards with the picture facing out. They choose a card and try to spell it. Flip it over to reveal the spelling. 
P.S. One common question is how to help children who mix up b/d. This video shows a strategy they can use while spelling - to make that sound, does your mouth first make a straight line? (b) Or a round shape? (d) So to write b, make a line first, and to write d, make a circle first. She starts the demo at 6:00.
P.P.S. Another common question is how to support handwriting. Proper pencil grip and sequence/direction of strokes help a child write faster and with less effort. It is easier to gain the proper "muscle memory" while young than it is to retrain habits when they are older. This process is best supported one-on-one with an adult. Handwriting Heroes is one program that offers Youtube videos and workbooks. Their method is to group letters into 5 families based on the first stroke. For example, all "skydiver" letters start with a straight line from top to bottom (l, t, k, i, j). All "cannon pop" letters start like a c (c, o, a, d, g, q). 
3) Sight Words
English has many irregular words that cannot be sounded out - who, was, said, from, and dozens more. I call these words "rule-breakers." As children become familiar with more and more sight words, reading books becomes easier. If they are reading a book and get stuck on an irregular word, don't prompt them to sound it out. Simply say "oh that word is a rule-breaker. The word is X. Isn't it funny how this letter is in it, even though we don't hear it? Now you try reading the word." When they finish the page or book, you can revisit the word to see if they remember it. 
The most effective method of memorization is often to practice with flashcards. See below for a word list pdf (and the specific list doesn't matter much; your child's teacher might provide a different list). Have your child try reading them from the beginning, and circle the words he/she doesn't yet instantly recognize.  Select 5-10 words they don't yet know, write them on index cards, then practice them 5-10 min. each day until they are ready to move on to a new set. Once they are familiar with a set of words, you could review them by playing games like Go Fish or Memory. Or, make and print your own game here. 
Research has shown that adding one simple step to flashcard practice can make a world of difference, since it activates their visual memory. Here are the steps. They win the "game" by collecting all the cards from you.  You can also see a demo in this video: 
1) Use a stack of 5-10 words. Hold up a card. What is this word? 
2) If they know it right away, great! Give them the card. 
3) If they start to sound it out or say an incorrect word, simply say "this word is X. Say it again."
4) Then say "now study the word and take a picture of it with your mind."
5) *This is key* Hide the card or cover it. Say "imagine the word X. What letters do you see?"
6) The child attempts to spell the word aloud. Often their eyes go upwards as they access their memory. 
7) Now don't tell them if they're right or wrong. Say "you check it" and show them the card. 
8) If they're right, great! Have them read the word again for reinforcement then give them the card. 
9) If they're wrong, simply say "take a picture again," hide the card, and have them try to spell it again.
10) For further reinforcement, with the card hidden, ask things like "what is the first/second/last letter you imagine?" "What comes before/after the X?" "If you erase the X and add a Y, what word would that make?" 
If after going through the stack of cards you are still holding some, say "now it's the challenge round! Let's try these again!" The "game" ends when they've earned all the cards. (Which they will, every time).  
Another game idea is to print the blank gameboard pdf (see below), write in words they're working on, then move around the board using game pieces and dice. 
For an app, "Sight Words Made Easy by EBLI" is highly regarded since it highlights the phonics patterns in the sight words. The adult chooses which words to work on and there is an optional handwriting component. I believe it is $5. One more well-designed app is "Sight Words by 22learn," which I believe is $3. 
One more resource are these Jack Hartman Youtube videos, which can help foster memorization (and kids love them!) 
4) Fluency
The end goal of applying the sub-skills above is smooth, fluent reading. Fluency is considered the "bridge" from decoding words to comprehension. The term fluency refers to:
    • using a smooth voice, not needing to stop and sound out each word
    • using a voice with intonation that stresses appropriate words, not monotone 
    • using a voice with expression that matches the characters, for fiction
    • using the punctuation to guide pauses 
    • using a good speed 
The best way to help your child develop fluency is to read together. When you read, they hear model of what good reading sounds like. When they reread a page after you or reread a familiar book, they get to practice. You can gently point out things like "let's make our voice sound like the characters," or "watch how I pause at the commas and stop at the periods." This short article says more. 
More Information
These are some resources for more info and inspiration: 
Reading Rockets Website101 Guide, and Youtube Channel
And here are all the previously-mentioned links in one place: 
iReady - log in to the school portal and click the iReady icon