What Makes a Reader?

The Question:
I have taught Kindergarten in the states for four years. I am now teaching in Russia. The director of the school wants me to jump right into teaching the 4-6 years olds reading, not to bother with teaching the letters, then sounds, then blending, all mixed with sight words. Nope – throw a few sounds a week at them and get them to read. Have any of you done this? Do you know any wonderful sites to do this? 
The Answers:
Leischen Celsur
 No comment … shaking head
Janice Barge Yackovich
 Seriously!?
Carolyn Zimmerman 
Come back to the states- WTH?
Marisa Martinez-Lusinchi 
Readers Workshop. it is based out of Columbia, but gosh, teach the letters and sounds, please.  Check out Lucy Calkins, Columbia NYC. Teach from your heart too!
Becky Contenza
 This is the only way I teach! My kids get letter recognition through my modeled writing. But I get them to read by sending home 3 sight words per week as homework, reinforcing those in school & beginning guided reading groups very early in the year! I choose books that have simple predictable text that includes word wall words they should know! IT WORKS!!!
Mary Rosiak Thompson
Karen Burnat
This is how we taught BEFORE all of our test scores went down. We called it WHOLE Language. Go for it! I think you will be surprised at the results!
Talea Doner
 Look into the PALS program. Starts them right off with sounds and sight words! LOVE IT!
Jenna Lee 
Research shows that it is best to combine Whole Language with Phonics.
Karen Burnat 
I have been teaching a Loooooong time and what “research” shows has changed dramatically throughout the years and swings back and forth so that publishers can continue to sell new programs. Yes, that is how these “research” projects are paid for. I think any experienced kindergarten teacher will tell you that “research” is wrong about now. Our kids are testing out lower than almost anytime in history. You can’t tell me that current “research” is correct. Look to Finland! They do NOTHING like we do and their kids pass us in all academic areas. HMMMMMM…..
Kelli Swan
 You may want to research the Carden Reading Method. I’ve been using a reading program based on the method for six years and have seen VERY positive results.
Amanda Blankenship
 I have used Jolly Phonics, where you teach 5-6 sounds a week. I have had huge successes with Jolly Phonics. If you do it exactly how they tell you it should work wonders. Another resource is Fountas and Pinnell phonics.
Doris Hight Falk 
I teach letter & sound and daily journal writing every single from day one. I use the Spalding method of phonics, along with Hooked on Phonics, Dr. Jean CDs and a few other musical aids. LETTER of the week Charting for both letter & sound which focuses on building Vocabulary and English proficiency. Drop Everything And Read is alive and well in my room. My Kindergarten students are reading by Nov. or the middle of Dec. (before Christmas Break) Journaling helps me to know if they are picking up “sounding out words ” or if I need to give a little more one on one instruction.
Kayla Rae
 We use Fountas and Pinnell, which is pretty rapid fire when it comes to teaching children to read. We start our guided reading groups on Monday, some are ready, some aren’t. But we provide intervention for those who aren’t ready and the idea is that they pick it up through a lot of exposure and modeling.
Erin Handy Armstrong
 Omg… That sounds like a hot mess…Of course you need to teach phonics & phonemic awareness as a foundation which bridges into reading. As the teacher, I would stand my ground with this for sure!!!!
Tracee Mendenhall 
Thanks all, I was also asked to only give the students the sound, not the name of the letters…..
Jessica Keim
That is a special ed technique. Why do they need to know the letter name anyway?
Tandy Lynn Braid
 Spelling…
Celina Norris Davis
Sounds like Zoo Phonics could work (it only takes a couple of weeks to learn sounds).  But, I always have kids who know their letters and sounds and still are not ready to blend the sounds to read the word.
Becky Wallace Greene 
I think if you skip teaching letter sounds you will have gaps later in with decoding and phonics. You would gather data to show the importance of this.
Erin Herward Thurston 
Where are you teaching in Russia? My husband and I were in St. Petersburg from 2003 to 2005 and I did some volunteer work for the Anglo-American School.
Kellie Walshaw Evans
 Balanced Literacy……teaches phonics and whole language at the same time. Use poems that they learn, and while working on those note the letters and sounds. Incorporate sight words, and a letter sound….. This can work….
Kate Paradee Roberts 
You should tell him that the whole language phase ran its course in the states and bombed big time. Hence the reason we went back to teaching phonics. That’s nuts!
Joanne Dunphy Baudin 
Kristin Murray
 You can teach blending as you teach the sounds. Start with easier sounds like m, s, t, p, a…. And teach them to blend and segment with those first. I don’t have a program though.
Joanne Dunphy Baudin 
Fast Track does two sounds a week and is based on sound, not letter name. Gets right into blending after first 5 letters.
Carolyn Lerner
 I used a program called Beginning to Read, Write and Listen …it came with letter books for each letter for each kid, CD activities and enhancements. It teaches letters with c first than a than t….then they start blending sounds to read. Only downside is it doesn’t do much with sight words, so I had to incorporate those myself.
Secondly, I was taught to read with whole language, and in college had to teach myself phonics for my teaching courses. I grew up as a bad speller and hated writing for years.
Becky Wallace Greene
 I have used Balanced Literacy and I liked it also.
Shauna Cannon 
I love her attitude! Way to be willing to try!
Diane Smith
 I start teaching cvc words in November. So they are learning reading right along with letter names and sounds.
Peggy Vaughan Grier
 We use Saxon phonics but we do two sounds a week instead of one and it has sight words in it too. The first 4 letters are l o g t…..they start blending those letters…it is very successful.
Katherine Bone 
We use Saxon phonics, too. It was very successful last year and even with just a few letters behind us like Peggy said they are already blending to make words and eager to read!
Darla Schmidt Epperson 
Lippincott used to have a program years ago where it started with a vowel, add a consonant to make a word; and another consonnant for a short vowel, three letter word, and so on. You start there, making words that can eventually can be made into a simple sentence. I can help…just write back if you need more tips
Kristy Platt
 Your attitude is beautiful.
Wendy L. Acker Harsin
 After reading all this, I think I love teaching elementary PE even more!
Katherine Bone 
And we love that you do Wendy!!
Janelle Potts Ewigman 
We do Jolly Phonics. One sound a day for 42 days. Surprised at how well the kids are doing
Kim Beehler Aman
 They need to be taught simultaneously. We jump right into reading words, but we are always working on the sounds. It is embedded in the reading. The kids will constantly be making connections between the two.
Kathy Timson 
I grew up in the 50’s and was taught to read with intense focus on phonics and high frequency words. I have always been good with spelling because of the skills I learned with the phonics approach. The high frequency words helped me build on those early successes. Over the years of teaching, I have never given up on this approach.
LaShera McElhany 
Write with them every day! According to research, emergent readers who write first will learn to read faster. They are using more letter/sound correspondence than when they read. Of course, reading is important, too. They need a balance of phonics and whole word instruction.
Margaret Wilkins 
@Becky…That’s how I do it too. We still do a letter a week where I’ll go over the sound and letter. I jump right into sight words the second week.They read those words in books. My kids are reading right away. I told them yesterday ” You are all readers”. Of course you have different levels of readers. I find that out by reading with all individually. I also agree with LaShera. Writing is also important.I ramped up my writing this year.
Tammy Elder
The book, No More Letter Of The Week. You can buy it on amazon for about 20.00. I am using it this year and that is just what it does, teaches it all together.

2 thoughts on “What Makes a Reader?

  1. Students who don’t have a certain level of reading or writing fluency would get overwhelmed and frustrated by whole language. I teach a high number of ELL students who have NO phonemic awareness or letter recognition and I use a system called Project Read.com that quickly teaches them both skills quickly so they can apply it to reading and writing for the rest of the year. Use your professional judgement after assessing your students’ needs first before choosing a method of instruction. Good luck!

  2. I’ve been teaching this way for years. It works well. Many reading programs, such as Reading Street also use this method. Teaching letter and sound in isolation is a dated method for teaching reading.

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