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Strategies for a Struggling Kindergarten Reader

by Karen Hollowell

Kindergarten students begin the year with varying degrees of reading ability. Some already know the alphabet and several sounds, and can read a few words. Others may have trouble remembering letters and sounds or may not be able to hear individual sounds in words. It's these children who teachers target for reading interventions, which are individual and small-group activities that teach and reinforce specific skills. You can help your child at home with similar activities.

Letter Naming

Letter naming fluency is a crucial reading skill. Although students do not have to know the names of letters to read, they do have to understand that letters represent sounds. Your child must know the names of the letters so he can relate their corresponding sounds when he does begin to read. Kindergarten teachers use letter tiles, magnetic letters and flash cards for quick alphabet drills. You can buy these resources at dollar stores or online educational sites. If you want to target two or three letters, write or print nursery rhymes and have your child circle the letters. You can also use old magazines and let your child cut out the targeted letters.

Initial Sounds

Your child must be able to identify and produce the initial sounds of letters before he can sound out words. If your child is struggling with this skill, you should work with him frequently for short periods. Write the letters "m," "t" and "s" on separate index cards. Then on other flash cards, draw pictures that begin with these letters. Place these on a table and have your child match the letter with the corresponding object. Get some post-it notes, write letters on them and get your child to stick them on household items that begin with the sound of the letter, such as "s" for "stove," "t" for table and "d" for door.

Phoneme Segmentation

Phoneme segmentation is the actual sounding out of a word, letter by letter. Help your child with this skills by choosing simple, three-letter CVC -- consonant-vowel-consonant -- words. For example, say each sound in the word "wet," then say the word. As you say each sound slowly, clap your hands. When you say the word, put your hands on the table or your legs. Ask your child to repeat. Other methods include holding up a finger or tapping the table as you say each sound. This helps him understand that isolated sounds can be blended to make words.

Sight Words

Sight words are frequently used words that occur often in print. Since these words will be in almost every book your child will read, he needs to know as many as possible to help him become a fluent reader. Print a list of these words and focus on a few at a time. Demonstrate how to say the word, spell it, and then say it again. As he learns the words, write them on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Every day have him pull one, say it and use it in a sentence. When you read to your child, ask him to point to any sight words he knows.

About the Author

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.

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