This past year, I taught 2 classes of remedial reading with the help of volunteers from my church. While teaching the second class, I made highly scripted, idiot proof instructions at the request of the volunteers I was working with so they could continue on with the program after my move to Santa Monica, California this summer. (They specifically wanted idiot proof, and said the more scripted and idiot proof, the better!)
They are now complete and posted on my new "How to Tutor" page. The idiot proof instructions are about halfway through, in this paragraph:
Your number one task is to get them to stop guessing and start sounding out each and every word from left to right. Nonsense words are key, they help prevent guessing. Here is a free website that generates nonsense words. Syllables are also helpful, I would use the Blend Phonics Reader (it helps show how guessing is a bad strategy by showing words with similar configuration together) followed byWebster’s Speller. Here is a step by step guide to using Blend Phonics that also adds in syllables, spelling and phonics rules, syllable division rules, and syllable division exercises. There are also readings from Hebrews 12 that can be added to show progress through the program.In a further attempt to clone myself, I have started a joint blog with Don Potter where people can share their phonics teaching experiences, whether they teach 1 or 100 students. The volunteers I worked with actually came up with a lot a great ideas, especially the ones with 3 or more children/grandchildren, they are wise in the ways of children!
A quick rundown of their most effective ideas:
- Banning pencils and switching to oral spelling (10% of the children were taking notes usefully, the rest started drawing and stopped listening.) The oral spelling was also much quicker and prone to peer pressure to be involved.
- Switching from a long teach/small group work cycle to a cycle of 1-2 minutes of teaching and 3 to 5 minutes of working with 2 or 3 students for each volunteer.
- Parent involvement. The last class, parents were part of our volunteers. (They could opt to either work with their own children or other children, their preference.) This taught them how to work with their children at home on their own and also let them see the phonics in action. The best improvement I've seen from any student in my 15 years of remedial phonics tutoring came from a student whose mom worked with her diligently on the days we did not meet--she was reading 3 grade levels above her grade level when we finished!
It's really easy to tutor. Sixteen year old girls used to teach all their students to read while teaching the rest of the R's to their other students, and they didn't even have idiot proof instructions! (Of course, they would have seen it taught 5 or 6 times in their one-room schools.)
It's great to see the students change as their self-confidence improves and they learn to read well. It's also easy to make big changes with Webster's Speller. Using Blend Phonics and the Speller in two 2-month courses, twice a week for 90 minutes, had the spring and fall classes we taught improving, on average, 2.3 and 1.5 grade levels per student!
(If you were wondering at my lack of posts, I was tutoring, making idiot proof instructions, and homeschooling my daughter. It's now summer and my idiot proof instructions are complete. Of course, now we're moving, there's always something...)