Last year I began to teach my 5 year old son to read. He is bright, articulate and had already learned the letters and their sounds by himself a year earlier, so I thought this is going to be a breeze. Boy was I wrong. I was just figuring out how this all goes together so I just stuck to the book I had on hand and felt confident it would be our path to success. After all it was a phonics based book and we believed phonics was the best route to reading. However, Max read the words backwards, he guessed a lot, and we had a very hard year. I decided he had dyslexia. Since I knew little about how to help someone with dyslexia, I prayed and waited for a way to approach it. I read The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis and many online articles but none of the information fit us.This year my 4 year old twins (Zak and TJ) and my oldest (Max), now 6 years old, learned phonics together. By this time I had phoneme cards and allot of ideas about how to make learning the sounds hands-on, creative, and visual. We spent the first term playing with letters, making the letters in every way you can imagine, playing fun games, doing art and now all three are very good at letter recognition, their sounds etc. So then what to do…..Just about this time I opened up my email and noticed that freebie of the day was all new for this week, so I log on and discovered some thing there that was a God send for us. Because I subscribe there is a special freebie for me. (Anyone can subscribe for free…it is well worth the trouble) It was Don Potter’s website of remedial math, writing and reading materials. ALL FREE
If you knew me you would know that I am not the best in fundamentals, steps, details. So the Three R’s is not my forte. Now you will know why I was thrilled to find someone who could “staff my weakness”. Don Potter was just the man to help us. He has been teaching the Three R’s for years and has tried lots of approaches and seen something he calls whole words dyslexia reversed when phonics first instruction is implemented. Whole word dyslexia he explains comes about when the child is introduced to sight words, look say methods, when whole words are presented to decode, but direction of where to begin decoding is not reinforced, or when reading a word by guessing what it is by the context or pictures Is allowed or encouraged. I had been using a book which was supposedly phonics only….but we read funny styled letters, learned site words, and were asked to decipher meaning from context and were provided pictures to aide in comprehension. My 5 year old simply found decoding each sound tedious and thus chose the easier route of guessing and trying to memorize whole words.
Blend phonics was written by Hazel Loring an elementary teacher in the 1900’s. She taught for over 20 years. Here is what Mrs. Loring says:
"All of my teaching experience has confirmed my belief that directional guidance, inherent in the blend phonics system, is the key to success in teaching reading."
Don Potter adds:
“Hazel Loring's method is different from other phonics method I have seen. It is taught from the chalkboard or overhead. Students learn to blend the sounds of the letters from left to right, one after the other. They do not see the whole word at a glance; therefore, they are required to look at each letter in proper sequence. The blending is done in this order, for example "bat:" b-a, ba, ba-t, bat." Students are reading from the "sounds" rather than from the "meaning." I teach the letter names along with the sounds (phonemes) and spell the words as I write them on the board. The students are constantly reminded of Mr. Potter's Secret of Reading: "Look at all the letters the right way, and no guessing." Loring's "blend phonics technique" can actually be used with any phonics program. It has a precise way of teaching students to look at words (perceptual development); and from that viewpoint alone has serious theoretical value beyond its particular scope and sequence. The technique is of universal application.”
I have begun teaching all three boys using this little Blend Phonics booklet (25 pages). Don Potter has provided student reading books, a teachers manual, flash cards of all the words used so you can create games. See my other posts called up the ladder, break through and roll and read for how we used them. He has also provided decodable stories, a cursive version of the student text, progress charts and completion certificates. All for FREE!
What I love about blend phonics is the simple way so many things have been incorporated. At every step all the letters of the alphabet are used so the student practices all letter sounds at every step. For instance when reading through words with the short “a” sound the word list begins with bat, ban can etc ending with words like tad, quack, and zig-zag. So each sound is repeated multiple times for good practice.
I added a writing portion to the lessons because it reinforces the learning process by adding more senses and repetition. I bought startwrite a program for about $40 to create handwriting sheets in cursive of all the words they are reading. So our lessons are now more thorough. We read the words, write the words, and then play a game with the words at the end of each step. (about every two weeks)
There are Six steps in all progressing from simple decoding to more complex decoding. You can be through all six steps in four months. What a confidence booster for your young reader. At which point you can teach sight words, begin reading books and begin another more in depth set of phonics lessons called Word mastery if you like.
Step 1: Short vowels; Consonants
Step2: Consonant blends; diagraphs
Step3: Long Vowels (VCE)
Step 4: R-Controlled vowels
Step 5: Vowel diagraphs; Diphthongs
Step 6: Irregular spellings
Thus far I am pleased with the success of this with my boys. They are doing the short lessons I assign and seemingly thus far showing no signs of dyslexia. My oldest has begun to self correct his writing. My 4 year old kinesthetic random son is reading! What a timely gift from a God who sees my kids need for education, their mothers weaknesses to provide it, and gives us a gift we did not know we needed yet, and all for FREE!
If you would like to read more about whole word dyslexia and how to correct it and prevent it, or maybe you would like a more in depth explanation about how to teach reading I highly recommend Why Our Children Can’t Read by Diane McGuiness.