What should a typical reading lesson be like for a beginning reader?

First, review work from the previous lesson that the child can do.  If he can’t be successful yet with the past lesson’s work, review work from an earlier lesson that allows the child to be successful.  This gives the child confidence and eases the child into a learning situation which he may not like.

Reviewing past lessons before adding a new lesson.

Adding a new letter combination to an already learned long A sound list.

An education teacher of mine once drew two sets of circles on the board.  The first two circles were side by side, but they did not overlap.  The second set overlapped.  The teacher said the first two circles represented learning new material with no connection to what we already know.  If we read and speak English (the first circle), and we are trying to learn Spanish (the second circle) with no common words or culture, the learning is extremely hard.

But if the English circle and the Spanish circle overlap, with words in common, learning Spanish is easier.  And the more information in the intersecting part of the circles, the easier it is to learn new material.

Reviewing what is in the first circle is a good way to begin lessons.  Help the student recall what she already knows and the progress she has made so far before introducing new work.

 “Emily, you’ve learned so many letter patterns for the sound of ‘a.’  Good for you.  Now let’s learn another one.”

Next, introduce new work.  Use several approaches, if possible, and encourage plenty of hand manipulation so the new ideas stick.

The younger the child, the shyer the child, and the less confident the child, the more important it is to have multiple ways to learn and to demonstrate learning.  In school, a teacher often asks a child to read aloud to assess reading skills, but many children are not comfortable reading aloud.  Provide other ways to show mastery—matching pictures with letters or words; acting out words in mime; drawing letters with a finger in the air; moving letter tiles around; writing; or telling a story in pictures.

Third, end the lesson with a game.  If the child knows there will be a game at the end, he will endure the difficult learning for the pleasure of the game.  Plus, he will feel good about coming back for another lesson knowing he will be rewarded with another game.

You might think you are wasting time with a game, but my experience says you’re not.  I’ve played word BINGO, Scrabble, who can write the most words from the letters in a phrase the fastest, pantomimes, and games the child makes up herself.  If you can, relate the game to the topic you’ve been teaching.  Or relate the game to a favorite interest of the child—dinosaurs, for example.  Or read to the child.

In the last minute of the lesson, review one more time the new information. Research shows this is a good teaching practice that leads to retention.

Do you have a successful lesson procedure?  We’d love to hear about it.

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