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    Whiteboard Reading Lessons

    October 4, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Once upon a time, I was a twelve-year-old girl whose parents most graciously informed her it was time to get a job. I think the idea of a junior higher wasting away another summer was more than they could bear. And I’m sure they thought it would be good for me, which it was. After much thinking, I decided to teach reading. After all, my preferred method of “wasting” time was to read a book, so why not inspire little innocent children to do the same?

    All of this paved the way for homeschooling, which is quite interesting to me, looking back on it. You see, I am the type of person who enjoys older children. I especially enjoy children who aren’t really children at all, but simply adult-quality thinkers in young bodies. Back in graduate school, before I learned that E. was in my future, I seriously considered pursuing a career as a professor. Whereas many homeschooling moms I know talk of feeling intimidated by the idea of teaching their child high school someday, I think it will be a great adventure! I already have five extensive research/writing assignments in my head that I can’t wait for them to pounce on {in about twelve years or so}.

    It’s getting them there that scares me. Somehow, E. has managed to learn his colors and numbers and letters and all the little kids stuff he is “supposed” to know. But the early years intimidate me much more than the later. And the idea that I won’t ever get them there frightens me.

    I think that I would have been completely put off by homeschooling my young children had it not been for this reading business I owned in my youth. With that experience, I was able to feel competent in at least one area, and it happens to be the one area that can help my children reach a lot of goals in a lot of other areas, so this is a Good Thing.

    When I was young, I used Hooked on Phonics, I handmade flashcards for sight words, and I made sure to read out loud to the children. I sent flashcards home, along with notes to parents begging them to read to the children every day {most didn’t}.

    When E. was getting interested in reading, I discovered a little gem of a book called Give Your Child a Superior Mind by Siegfriend Englemann that explained the basics of what I now know is the DISTAR method. So, using what I remembered from my youth and what was contained in Englemann’s book, I grabbed a whiteboard and our reading lessons began.

    All of this was leading up to the whiteboard. The whiteboard is huge. It sits in our dining/play room on a bench. I have no where else to put it, so it stays out all the time. I think that has ended up being a great asset.

    We only have lessons for fifteen minutes or so each day. I try to only write the lesson on the whiteboard once {E. takes great pains to pick the perfect color of markers each time}. If the lesson doesn’t take {usually this means that he was unable to master that day’s book}, I try to leave all the details up on the board. This is for the sake of efficiency. And it has become a great ritual to erase it all when he has finished the required learning.

    But a side benefit has emerged. As long as A. doesn’t sneak up onto the bench and erase the board, the lesson is always there to greet him if he is playing in that room, or during dinner {because his chair happens to face the board}. This means that he is constantly practicing. Usually, the board has combination sounds {phonics lessons} on the left side and sight words {we call them “words that don’t follow the rules”} on the right side. At every meal, he insists on reading all the sight words, followed by the phonics sounds and accompanying words.

    I never told him to practice. I never required him to practice. I want him to love reading the way that I do, and so I am careful to try and balance my insistence that he continue learning with not overdoing or asking too much too soon. What I have noticed, however, is that this habit of practicing means that he masters his books much quicker than before. It also means Dad stays involved in reading lessons because E. reads him all the words, and sometimes Dad can gently correct if needed {we have a rule around here about practicing something incorrectly}.

    In all, I have learned that not having a place to put away the whiteboard has been a blessing in disguise. The extra practice is of great benefit, and wholly initiated by the child. What teacher could ask for more?


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    1 Comment

  • Reply comedyken October 5, 2006 at 4:04 am

    I remember how the county wanted to collect $100 from you for a business license and I threatened to make sure the story of how they wanted to put a small child out of business would be published in every newspaper in the state. If I remembered right I told them to arrest you. Needless to say they dropped their requirement.

    What fun. I need a zazzer zopper too.

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