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As you learned last time, Charlotte Mason’s reading lessons used two approaches: sight words and word-building. To add variety and keep things interesting for the student, Charlotte alternated lessons between the two. Last week we described how to do a sight-word lesson. This week let’s take a look at a word-building lesson.
Word-building lessons are a great tool to help your child learn to break words down into their smaller components. These type of lessons are also a wonderful opportunity to let your child discover that not every word with the same letter combination will be pronounced in the same way. Yet all of this is done in an interesting and gentle way. Here’s how.
For the word-building lessons, you’ll need the loose letters and a chalkboard or white board. You might also want a blank notebook or small journal to use as your child’s Word Notebook. Let him decorate the cover, if he would like to.
- Write on the board one of the words your child learned in the previous sight-word lesson. For our example here, we’ll use “twinkle.” Ask your child to read the word.
- Erase the word on the board and see if your child can spell it from memory with his loose letters. If not, simply write it on the board again so he can look at it as he creates it with his loose letters.
- Write the word on the board, if it is not there already. Say the word slowly and ask, “What do we have left if we take away tw?” Erase the beginning letter(s) and help your child get “inkle.”
- Ask, “What would you add to “inkle” to get “tinkle?” Have your child add a “t” to create the new word with his loose letters. Use the same process to make “sprinkle” and “wrinkle” and any other “inkle” derivatives that you can think of. Remember, you don’t have to do every possible combination. Choose words that will mean something to your child, and discuss them as you go along.
- Write on the board all the words you make, forming them into a list for your child to read aloud. Review this list in various orders as you go through the lesson.
- Repeat the process with all the sight words your child learned last time. In this case, you would do word-building with “star” and “little,” as well. “Star” could produce “jar, bar, car, far, mar, par, tar, war, scar, spar, char,” etc. From “little” you could make “brittle, spittle, whittle.”
- Let your child notice exceptional pronunciations within the word lists; for example, “war” is pronounced differently than “jar, bar, car” in the list above. Don’t feel like you have to explain the reason a word is pronounced differently even though it looks the same. Simply point out how each word is pronounced, and your child will form his own mental guidelines.
- Use all the words your child has learned to create more sentences. As you progress through the lessons, you’ll have a large storehouse of words to use. Write new sentences on the board and have your child read them aloud.
- You can also keep a record of all the words your child has learned by writing them in a notebook or journal. Use the Word Notebook for review and to celebrate his progress.
What about the Phonics Rules?
You may have noticed that we haven’t said a word about phonics rules in all these reading lessons. That’s because Charlotte did not emphasize them. Yes, she included some phonics guidelines as they would be helpful to the child, but she did not teach them as rules with multiple exceptions. She encouraged the child to form his own general mental guidelines based on his experiences with sight words and word-building. She trusted the children to deal with language capably.
The fact is, we become so familiar with the words we see often, that we recognize them at sight, even whn they are mssng lttrs. And that is what makes a fluent reader: recognizing words quickly as you see them. When we come across an unknown word, we try to figure it out based on components that we recognize. And those are exactly the strategies that Charlotte’s reading lessons emphasize.
Yes, phonics is one tool we can use to help a child get to the place where he will recognize words as he is reading. Studies have shown that phonics guidelines can be very effective when introduced as needed, rather than as a list of rules to be memorized. But keep in mind that phonics are not the only tool we have.
With Charlotte Mason-style reading lessons, we can give our children multiple tools to help them learn to recognize words and to enjoy reading.
Next time we will tell you about an exciting new resource created to make it easy for you to give your child Charlotte Mason-style reading lessons!