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    For When You’re Worried: 4 Tips on Teaching Reading

    September 12, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Let’s say you have a student that doesn’t take as “naturally” to reading as some of your others. Let’s say that he’s old enough for lessons (six or seven or eight, even), and he’s making enough progress that you know that he’s ready … but still. He concerns you sometimes.

    When he tries to sound out a word on his own, he occasionally begins in the middle (or even at the end!) of the word.

    Or maybe he is a little old to still be writing some of his letters backwards (especially if he’s nine).

    When he’s reading, his eyes wander … to the pictures in the book … to the window … to the floor … and so on.

    It's NOT dyslexia, but it IS a problem? Here are some simple practices that might help as you teach your student to read.

    But he’s learning, so you’re not too concerned.

    And yet you are concerned.

    So let’s talk.

    I do not pretend to be a dyslexia expert, so please don’t mistake me for one. I’m talking about some basic issues that I’ve seen before that were not dyslexia, though they were problems that I shouldn’t ignore.

    Here are some of my basic tips, and if you do this with all of your students when you begin their very first lesson, it will go well with you. This assumes, by the way, one-on-one, tutoring-style reading lessons. If you are teaching in front of a class (and I know that some of you are), you will have to figure out an equivalent.

    1. Sit to the left of the student. We read from left to right. You know this. If you are sitting to the left of the student, they will have to turn their head slightly to the left. The binder and/or book can be on your lap (if you’re casual like me and teaching on a couch) or on the desk or table. If you are holding the book, again, it’ll naturally be a little to the left of the student. I find that this position helps resistant children get accustomed to starting at the left and moving to the right.
    2. Cover up all of the pictures. Bob Books have some cute pictures and pictures do draw the eye, and if they are drawing the eye of your student while he is trying to read, your student is forming bad habits. Attention must be trained, and this is one obstacle you can easily remove (compared with the windows, for example). I tell my students who need this that they can see the pictures after they have finished their lessons for that book.
    3. Point for them when they are reading. My current five-year-old student wants to read “all by myself.” This includes holding the book herself and reading it herself (for the second reading, especially) with me looking over her shoulder. She’s a strong, natural-reader type of child with no bad habits that I’ve noticed, so I’m fine with this. But when I have a student showing a tendency toward bad habits, I make sure that I take over (or don’t loosen the reigns if I started right). I don’t care if you are eight-years-old, you cannot hold your own book during tutoring if you have these problems! I hold the book with one hand (and thank God that Bob Books are so light), and I point under each word as we go along.
    4. When you point at a word, make sure that you begin at the left, not in the middle. Most of you probably do this naturally, but every once in a while I notice people who think that pointing in the middle shows that we are pointing at the whole word. I suppose it does, but since we decode from left to right (and not as wholes, for the most part), pointing at the first letter and working to the end in a moving motion (rather than a stand-still point and then skipping to the next work) is a better approach.

    Sometimes, little things like these can make a big difference.


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