Monday, October 26, 2009

Learning Strategies for the Home Schooler~ Reading


Learning Strategies for the Home Schooler~
We often hear and learn about accommodations needed for our learners in the classroom. Within the classroom there are many more children (in most cases) with very different needs and abilities. Strategies and accommodations are commonplace but what about a learner at home?
Children who learn from home may not need the same kind of accommodations as they may need within a structured classroom, however, they are still learners who have individual needs and at times, we need to find ways to help our own children learn from home.
I wanted to spend some time talking about this because I think it can sometimes be overlooked. ~
We bring our children home to learn for many different reasons. When a child has a learning disability learning at home can have many advantages. Over the past few years that we have been homeschooling, I have been able to find some really helpful strategies or accommodations that help them learn and enjoy what they are learning.

Here are some things I do in our home learning with regard to Reading: ( I was going to list all the subjects but realized I have too much to say about each subject so I am going to break them down subject by subject for each posting ).


Reading is probably one of the most important areas we have worked hard on over the past few years. Both boys are dyslexic and also have auditory processing disorder so reading can be a struggle but the right remediation, reading can be successful in your home.

Find a comfortable “spot” for reading: We use our den which is off our kitchen it is quite cozy. I keep many books on the coffee table for their reading interests, ie., gross science books, “why” science books, American History books, Time Almanac for kids, etc., ) During winter we even pull out our blankets and wrap up nice and cozy and cuddle while reading. For my boys (our youngest especially) this helped encourage a more comfortable connection between his reading and the task of reading itself.

Reading is everyday in our home. (both quiet reading and oral reading) We have built up the time starting off with short time allowances for reading and slowly working our way up to an hour or more at a time. J This should be done VERY gradually. Never pushed and when your reader seems to be fatigued in any way it is time to stop. (even if your reading out loud time was only 10 minutes- then that means that they “only read for 10 minutes”) with home learning we can always take time to set aside later or if your child is having an “off” day, sometimes waiting for the next day may be much better.

When teaching decoding be sure to speak softer and a bit more slower and deliberate with your words, it helps your learner to stay focused and also process a bit better.

Give words freely while doing oral reading. When the boys are reading to me and if they are having trouble decoding something, I offer to help immediately if they want me to. This eliminates a lot of fatigue and frustration when our oral reading is being done and I am able to “guide” them by “modeling” how to decode the particular word.

Reading out loud is important. I have found that not only is reading out loud fun but it offers benefits of “modeling good reading” to the boys and also offers an opportunity to teach vocabulary orally and more naturally than learning it from a workbook or worksheet.

Sometimes having extra books for them to follow along is really helpful. When I do this I will use something called Popcorn Reading whereby I will before hand ask a child to follow along and

then when we see a certain animal talks like when we read “Mr. Poppers Penguins” they need to pop up and say what the penguin says. There are several advantages to this one is that it helps with their visual tracking and following along with the story, it also helps with focus/attention with the story and lastly it keeps things fresh and most important FUN. J We always ended up laughing when we would do this.

Another reason to have the extra books for following along is you can use it more extensively for modeling. Pointing out grammar and usage, authors writing style and show them how our voice needs to fluctuate to make the story sound much more interesting.

Allowing them to draw or doodle while I read. At first I wasn’t too sure about this. I was always taught that good concentration meant a child should be looking or following along what your reading or doing. This is definitely not the case with my boys. I tried this and found that when they were allowed to doodle or draw while I was reading something their own understanding and comprehension of the topic or story was actually much better. At times our youngest will draw the story or will draw a diagram of what I am actually reading about.. we then started using these drawings for his episodic notes, which are very helpful.

Oral/Written Narration helps with reading comprehension. When we read I will ask certain questions about what they had just read OR what I have just read to them. In the beginning this can be hard but explaining that it is just like telling me what a movie was about, helped them understanding the “telling back” of a story or information. They were not used to this coming from public school, but orally or drawing or writing or even all three really helps them us to understand what they have processed and what they did not about a story or a particular topic. It can be as quick or as simple as you may want to make it. For example I may decide to go and ask them about a science video they watched while I make dinner and they set the table. It works great!

Keeping a journal of skills introduced and applied: I keep a daily journal of what we do in every subject or what they do during the day since learning seems to be everywhere around us and it at times doesn’t need to come from a program or a book. It is just there, and when an opportunity arises to teach something I do.
For reading I will jot down skills/topics we have gone over, and write down any trouble spots and then when we are reading together I can use those same skills we learned as a way of reinforcement. For example, we were reading The Littles and I decided to pull a few of the words out with regard to antonyms. We were actually “using” something he just learned and in turn, can create a real image of what this word means and how we actually are using it in real life.

Another thing I do is to reinforce our reading remediation steps for decoding while reading. I will use the same tact that our reading program uses to decode a word, use the same words they use for reinforcement so that eventually the words I use (looping, prefixes, suffixes, digraphs, vowel and consonant blends, breaking the word apart, etc..) all have real meaning and become automatic for them to use as skills and not some random pieces of information from a workbook. They are able to create a connection or relation to the teachings and their materials.

Audio Books are a real gift at times. Books on tape or CD can be so wonderful to curl up and listen to when we are just not feeling well or on days when mum might be having a crazy day or just because they are great~! Take some time to check these out at your library.

Other strategies for reading are;

Using a pencil as guide for reading instead of a finger, to help with visual tracking.

Colored overlays or a reading focus card can be helpful for struggling readers. ( we use cover overlays when the print is a bit smaller than usual- I do plan to get the Reading Focus Cards if I see we need them as I think these cna be very helpful for some struggling readers.

Larger font sized books.

Encourage the learner to read their own directions if they can. Then take a hi-lighter or pen and give visual clues to the directions or better yet have the child do this for better understanding. (ie., Circle the nouns and underline the articles; here you would put a circle around the word nouns and would underline the word articles) – very helpful with children who may have memory issues and are visual learners.

Books that are considered hi/lo, meaning they are high in interest but low in readability. There is also curricula out there that has been created this way as well. One publisher that comes to mind quickly is PCI Publishing.

Fluency can be helped by finding stories that are repetitive in their words. Books like Cat in the Hat and A Kiss for Little Bear are some good examples. This isn’t cheating… really it is not this builds automaticity through sight word recognition and even more importantly build confidence in your young little reader J .

Reading more “short stories” or essays from childrens magazines is a fun way to hinder anxiety and create more interest.

Online reading sites that read the story to you as you follow along are a fun change of pace.

When reading a book that a child really likes and is involved with, check out the author’s site to see if there are any fun activities that they can do with their favorite characters.

Play games for reading is also great for reinforcing new skills. (bingo etc..)
I am sure I will have forgotten some of the things I do, but I hope these have helped add a few more things to your home reading program that make it a bit more enjoyable if not successful~ J
Happy Reading~

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