As your child moves further into elementary school, standards for midyear progress become more concrete than those for Pre-K and Kindergarten. But the same underlying question remains: how can you help your young reader have a great second half of the school year?
In this post, I’m sharing skills and abilities that educators are pretty much universally looking for by the middle of the year. If you know your child is struggling with reading, you can check out some of the activities in the Pre-K and Kindergarten version of this blog. And if any of these descriptions raise a flag for you, it’s always better to contact your child’s teacher about it sooner rather than later.
But regardless of where your child is with reading, the tips for at-home practice in this post will set them up for solid reading growth between now and the end of the school year.
Regardless of where your child is with reading, the tips for at-home practice in this post will set them up for solid reading growth between now and the end of the school year.
Many children start learning decoding in Kindergarten, and 1st-grade readers should be able to decode basic CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words like “man” and “run” by midyear.
But this skill doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And some who kids start out doing great with decoding simple words then struggle when they start learning more complex phonemes (like th- or -ang) or phonics skills like Magic e.
Whether your child is a grade level behind or a grade level ahead at this point, they are still in the thick of strengthening their decoding skills. And I have some of quick, easy games to build those reading muscles!
Grab some letters (or write some on small pieces of paper), draw three boxes, and you’re all set for this game. Make a CVC word above the three boxes, then have your child say the sound of each letter as they pull it into the box. Then have them run their finger under the word from left to right and “say the word fast.”
This activity helps your child break down each step of blending, and the kinesthetic aspect of pulling the letters into the boxes really helps decoding “click” for emergent readers.
Draw a ladder with several rungs. Write a starting word on the bottom rung, then take turns changing 1 letter in the word to make a new word. But it has to be a real word. So “bug” can turn into “bun,” but not “bux” or “gug.”
Make the ladder higher and start with more complex words as your child’s reading skills improve. This game really helps your child break down the decoding process.
Children in the middle of 1st grade should be getting really good at (in order from easiest to hardest) phoneme addition, deletion, and substitution. This is the easiest game to play because there are no visuals. You can even do it in the car!
Phoneme Addition Example:
Phoneme Deletion Example:
Phoneme Substitution Examples:
Important! Notice those backslahses around the sounds? That’s to remind you to say the sound the letter makes in this game, not the name of the letter itself. DON’T say something like “Say pet and now replace the t with an n.”
Whether your child is a grade level behind or a grade level ahead at this point, they are still in the thick of strengthening their decoding skills. Playing quick, easy games to build those skills pay off big time when your child sits down to read a text.
Great news! Basically every tip and game I just gave you for first grade can be leveled up to help your 2nd grader.
These are all still great for 2nd grade because learning new phonemes isn’t going anywhere. In fact, 2nd graders start learning morphemes as well (like the simple prefixes un-, in-, and re-). And all of this in addition to a bigger emphasis on fluency and comprehension.
Learning new phonemes isn’t going anywhere in 2nd grade. In fact, 2nd graders start learning morphemes as well! And all of this in addition to a bigger emphasis on fluency and comprehension.
The added cognitive load of comprehension is a big transition for a young reader’s brain, but I’ve found two simple tricks really help mid-year 2nd graders rise to the challenge:
Embrace the re-read! You can even refer to a child’s first time reading a book to you as a “practice read” or a “rehearsal.” Give them a chance to struggle through decoding the harder words, then let those words sink in with a quick review. If you’re subscribing to Ello, this could look like re-reading each book 1-3 times.
These questions guide young readers to the parts of a text they need to comprehend it.
Write out cards with each W question word on them. Have them on hand when your child is reading (or re-reading) a book. Ask them to grab the applicable W word when they read something that would answer that type of question.
For example, if a sentence says, “Long ago (grab “when?”) a little girl named Red Riding Hood (grab “who?”) lived on the edge of a forest (grab “where?”). Then have the child tell you the when, who, and where of the sentence they just read.
It’s crucial for 2nd graders to have the opportunity to practice their reading skills a lot, and being motivated to re-read by something like Ello is key to strengthening their fluency and comprehension.