Since the structure of school has changed due to COVID-19, many parents are spending a lot more time teaching reading to our young students and struggling readers. A question that has come up over and over again is, “What do I do if my child doesn’t know a sound when we are reading together?” Often, we want to jump right in and tell them the sound to avoid embarrassment or continue moving along. However, if you are reading with your child for instructional purposes, this approach is not likely to help them remember the sound next time. Instead try this:
1. Ask a Question
If they are struggling with the letter M, say something like, “What does the letter M say?”.
This is the really challenging part! After asking the question, wait for 30 seconds to a minute to give children time to process your question, locate the answer and respond. Studies show that even teachers only wait an average of 1.5 seconds after asking a question, but longer wait times produce better academic outcomes. Once they are given a little more time to think, children may come up with the answer. Then they can proceed to sound out the word. If you wait and they don’t come up with anything, or if they tell you an incorrect sound for M, move on to step 3.
3. Look up the Sound
We want students to feel a sense of ownership and agency over their own learning. To accomplish this, students can make their own Picture, Keyword, Sound Dictionary. Here is an example and a link to a template that you can use:
Download Complete Letter Dictionary Worksheets
Students create a picture clue linked to a keyword that helps them remember the sound. So, if they don’t know a sound, they can just look it up.
By using this method, even young students have a way to become more self-regulated in their learning. Instead of being provided with the answer, they have everything that they need to find the answer on their own. Over time, this self-sufficiency will help them to gain confidence in not only their reading but in their ability to solve their own academic problems.