Homeschooling Reading and Language Arts for Kindergarten / 1st Grade

Last year I wrote a post titled How I’ve Taught Kindergarten Reading, and now I’m following that up with our reading progress this year. I have titled this page Kindergarten / First Grade because I really don’t know what level my son is at, but I’m guessing somewhere between K and first.  If your child is five or younger, I suggest you start with that post. Now my son is six-and-a-half.

I read over last year’s post with a little trepidation. How far have we come? I can’t say my six-year-old is reading independently or that he’s excitedly delving into chapter books on his own. Frankly, he’s just not that interested in reading (or math, for that matter), but we have made good progress.  He says he likes our lessons, but he doesn’t ask for more.

Since he doesn’t balk at his lessons (like near the end of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), and he’s quite agreeable to teach, I feel we have finally gotten into our groove when it comes to learning reading (same for math).

In other words, I’m not forcing anything, but I don’t wait until he says, “I want to learn how to read” or shows an interest.  I do that for most other subjects, but I strongly feel that he’ll be more capable of doing the things that interest him once he learns how to read (and do basic math). I also feel that the earlier he can learn these skills, the easier it will be for him.

So how have I taught him?  Like always, I have used my instincts, and as for curriculum, I have pulled from many sources. I’m fortunate to have been given many educational tools!  It would be foolish for me to buy something unless I knew for sure my son needed it.

Time Spent Teaching

As far as formal reading lessons, I still alternate reading and math lessons Monday-Thursday mornings, although I’m flexible if we get busy. I also use Fridays for catch-up, if needed.  We spend about 20~45 minutes on a reading (or math) lesson.

Resources Used**

The main resource that I started out with was passed on to me from a friend who is a retired Kindergarten teacher.  Ready to Read Phonics by Educational Insights.  The reason I gave it a try is because the lessons are on cassette, and all my son has to do is follow along in a workbook and listen. I feel strongly that he is a auditory/visual learner, so I thought he would like it.  I stop the cassette and repeat some of it when it goes too fast.  The set also has some fun games and simple books to read.

This set has proven useful, but by itself, it has not taught my son to read. The instructions say to repeat the exercises until the child has mastered them. (A lot of reading and math sources say this.)  Well, my son is NOT interested in repeating anything, and I don’t blame him!  After one time, it gets boring for me too.  So I’ve done one lesson at a time, and I have followed them up with several days or weeks of other lessons going over the same material.  Simply put, I have used it as a sort of teacher’s guide.

The second main resource I have used is My Big Phonics Word Book written by Cass Hollander and published by McClanahan Book Company.  Each page spread goes over one letter blend, i.e. “-ag,” “-am,” “-ap,” etc. all the way to “-unch.”  We read each page, and then we use the accompanying stickers in a notebook, and I have him write the words corresponding to the pictures.

**These items may be old and not as accessible, so I encourage you to simply look for cheap workbooks at various stores such as Walmart, Target, a grocery store or teacher’s store. Go to library book sales. Exchange with other homeschoolers. You can adapt many simple materials to teaching basic concepts. There’s no reason to spend a lot of money.

Other than this, I have used games, videos and reading practice:

Games**

  • Long vowel “Go Fish.” ~ On index cards, I wrote out 36 long vowel words, and I made sure there were two of each long vowel sound. Deal six cards to each player and the rest goes into a pile. Player #1 asks Player #2 for a specific long vowel sound (i.e. “Do you have a long vowel e card?”) If yes, Player #2 gives Player #1 that card. If not, Player #2 says “Go fish,” and Player #1 must draw card from the pile. If Player #1 gets a match, he keeps them and sets them aside. Take turns until all the cards are used up. The player with the most matches wins. Be sure to read the words as you play.
  • Blends and digraphs “matching or memory game.” ~ I used a small blends and digraphs chart that someone gave to me, but there are many to be found on the Internet, such as this one. Simply make two copies, cut out the squares, and paste them to heavier paper, if needed. Mix them up, and spread them out on a table. Each player takes a turn turning over two cards, trying to make a match. If they find a match, they put it aside in a pile. Keep taking turns in this manner until all the cards are matched up. The player with the most matches wins.
  • My sight word game (sometimes the three-year-old plays this using letters.)
  • Sight word bingo 

**Note that you can adapt these games to teach a variety of skills.

Our favorite videos

Reading Practice

Most importantly, however, I have started a reading practice with my son. I try to get him reading even if it’s 2~3 pages in an early reader. This is where I know we’ve progressed because last year this was almost impossible for him.  Now it’s challenging, but he can read!

As we’re reading I remind him of all the phonics rules we’ve learned and the various blends. I don’t make him suffer through words if he doesn’t know them, but I do try to get him to sound the words out.

Our favorite early readers are the We Both Read Books, and my son’s favorite titles are Just Five More Minutes, Animals Under Our Feet, and Fox’s Best Trick Ever.

Language Arts

Last but not least, we make language arts part of our daily routine. I don’t have to worry about ‘teaching it’ because it’s going to happen no matter what.  Please see:

Since my son and I love stories so much, I have used this opportunity to teach him the elements of a story using a few worksheets in Story Elements by McGraw-Hill Children’s Publishing.  I’ll write more about this in an upcoming post.

Writing Practice

We don’t have a regular writing practice yet. My son isn’t particularly interested in writing at this time, but he has good handwriting skills, which luckily came easy to him. I have him write periodically for special purposes such as:

  • The phonics workbook (see above)
  • Our snake book project
  • Whenever an occasion comes up (and we take advantage of every holiday) to make someone a card or write a thank you note, I have my son make a card and copy a note in it.
  • My son also knows I’m available if he wants to dictate a story or letter for me to write for him, but so far, we’ve only done this once.

I hope this helps you think about how you can teach reading in a relaxed and eclectic manner! 

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