Archive for October, 2012

Reading Pathways Update

October 25, 2012 Leave a comment

The first Reading Pathways pyramid I did with Ella was like pulling teeth.  The second one got better.  We’ve done each of them a few times.  This evening we did the third one (pictured below).

The e Pyramid

Tonight she zipped through the top part doing it exactly as expected.  Previously she wasn’t getting the pattern of sounding it out as she moved from left to right.  The light came on this evening, though.  That is part of the beauty of teaching her to read.  There are many times where I get to see that realization of understanding, which excites her every time.

I’d been having her go back up to the top to sound out words again as needed.  This evening she started doing that on her own, showing that she is starting to pick up some of the strategies we are using.  It is amazing what a little practice can do for a beginning reader.

Earlier today I had Ella read one of the higher-level Bob Books since we are waiting for tomorrow’s delivery of the first set.  She ended up reading the entire book with a minimum of trouble.  I think I may regret the purchase of the first level books because she may well read right through those books.  I anticipate her being very excited as she blazes through them so that will probably be worth it.

Reading Resources and Some Frustrations

October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

The book series I’m using with Ella is Bob Books.  I like these books because they are very basic and allow Ella to read books successfully using only the alphabet phonograms.  Our library has the first five sets.  Unfortunately, I had to return the books after Ella read the first four books.  I like them enough that instead of waiting, I just ordered them from Amazon.  If you know me, that would tell you a lot (free from the library vs. spending my money to purchase).

I am looking at another resource discovered on Michelle Breum’s blog Beginning Reading HelpReading Pathways looks like an excellent resource to help children with blending the phonograms.  After going through the first pyramid in the book, it is apparent that Ella will benefit greatly from using this resource.  Here is the link to Michelle’s blog post:  My Daughter’s Path to Reading.  Michelle discusses her daughter’s learning to read experience and how Reading Pathways was helpful.  I recommend following Michelle’s blog as she consistently recommends new resources.

We signed Ella up for last spring, but quit paying when she quit using it consistently.  She wants to start using it again, but I think we will sign her up for instead.  Starfall has some excellent online books, much like Bob Books, but Starfall is able to model sounding out the words for your child as well.  Some of those can be read with a free account, but there is much much more content with a paid account.

Even with Ella reading now, I still deal with frustrations related to expecting too much.  Once I hear Ella learn a phonogram, I want her to never forget it again.  She is four, though, and content she has learned is not yet internalized.  This is especially true of ‘b’ and ‘d’.  The biggest frustration with those two letters is that she almost always says the opposite sound.  It is amazing how consistent this is.  Lately, she has struggled with phonograms that she has known for months.  For example, for ‘s’ she has been giving me the sounds of ‘c’ lately.  For ‘t’ I sometimes get ‘f’ and for ‘u’ I sometimes get ‘n’.  The last two are understandable because of shape, but some of the others are just inexplicable (other than that she is four).

Why is patience so much more difficult with our own children?

A Key Strategy

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

In working with Ella on sounding out the phonograms, we discovered that blending is much more effective than sounding.  When Ella sounded out, each phonogram was sounded out separately, i.e.,  S – a – m.  She was not able to catch the word from this method because she was hearing three independent sounds rather than a word.  Listening to her do that I could see why she struggled a bit, although I don’t remember either Lauren or Hayden having the same problem.  I guess this is why I was concerned that Ella would struggle with reading.

I told Ella to draw out the sounds she could and allow them to blend together, like this,  Sss – aaaaa – m.  When doing this, she got the words quickly and easily.  It was difficult to get Ella to make a habit of blending the sounds this way, but she is much more consistent now.  For a while, every time she did this her face would light up when she realized she had read the word.  More benefits to teaching Ella to read.

The phonograms are awesome!

Motivation and Tools

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve probably mentioned before that about 11 years ago my son Hayden was motivated to read 100 books in order to earn a PlayStation.  He read books and took tests at  That was after he had already learned to read, though.  With Ella, I was searching to find something to motivate her to learn to read.  She had learned enough phonograms to start reading, but was just not interested.

Motivation is very important when learning to read.  Ella LOVES Angry Birds and I had tried to limit her playing as a motivator months ago (post Ella Refuses to Blend the Phonograms!!!! from Feb 12th of this year).  When advised of this, Ella just shrugged her shoulders and didn’t play Angry Birds.  That was a negative motivator.  I recently used Angry Birds again, but in a positive fashion.

There are books at the library called Bob Books, which are very basic readers using only the single-letter phonograms.  I told Ella that if she would read the first four of those books, (Mat, Mac, Dot and Sam) I would buy her Angry Birds Space for the Nook.  This excited her, and we worked our way through Mat and Sam.  Ella was excited about reading, even though it was difficult, but for various reasons the final two books were not being read.  Last week she decided that she wanted to finish this goal and start playing Angry Birds Space.  We sat down in the evening and read through Mac and Dot within 30 minutes.  Upon completing both books, Ella was extremely excited.  If it had been solely for Angry Birds, I’d have been a little disappointed, but it was apparent that she was excited for multiple reasons; completing the books, reaching a goal and Angry Birds.  Seeing that excitement was awesome!

Another key to Ella starting to read was the use of Winflash (, an excellent flashcard program I had used as a teacher.  I recently showed Hayden an application online for studying vocabulary words for his upcoming PSAT test.  After working with that a few days, I realized that the same concept might be used for Ella, both with learning the phonograms and with sounding out words practice.

I tried using the online application, but it didn’t allow me to add a sound file as part of the answer.  I remembered Winflash and how powerful it was so I downloaded and installed it.  Within an hour I had created a “deck” of words from Mat and Ella was practicing sounding out words from the story.  She would try the word and then get aural feedback when she checked her answer.  Using the flashcards prepared her for success when she switched to reading the book.

It is important to clarify that the flashcards were not used to memorize the words.  I’m not a believer in learning sight words.  I would much rather Ella learn the 70 phonograms and then sound out new words versus try to memorize hundreds of words.  She is already adding sight words to her vocabulary by rereading the books and seeing the words over and over.

I’ve been waiting a long time for Ella to learn to read.  Being part of it is as rewarding as I remember it to be from the experience with Lauren and Hayden.  I can’t recommend the experience enough!

Ella is Reading!!!!

October 19, 2012 Leave a comment

The patience has paid off because Ella is now reading!  It has been about eleven years since I have had the joy of witnessing a child read for the first time.  This is definitely why when I heard about our surprise baby one of my first three thoughts was that I get to teach her to read.  It is absolutely awesome to watch your child realize she can read and I’m glad I got to do it again.

Sometimes I doubted, as I gushed about the phonograms, whether it really is as easy to teach a child how to read as I’d remembered from the first two children.  There was much frustration, as you can glean from the blog, but it was never difficult.  Worth all the frustration to see Ella’s face as she realized she was reading.

I have a lot to share about the process we went through and will take a few blog posts to share it all.  I want to share Ella’s motivation, the books we used, a flashcard application that was helpful and a key strategy that made a huge difference.  I’ll try to get all these blog posts out ASAP.

Coming soon will be a new domain named  I’m planning to use this domain to share videos related to the phonograms.  A few videos to lay the groundwork and then video lessons based on the 18 lessons on the Learning to Read CD.  I’ve thought about creating these videos for a long time, but watching Ella learn to read using the phonograms is motivating me to share and get it done.

Gotta love the phonograms!!!