While teaching young children in kindergarten phonics and the basics of any language isn’t the easiest task in the world, it certainly is one of the most rewarding. By helping children learn to read and embrace the spoken and written word, you are giving them a lifelong gift – the gift of a love of reading. Once children begin to grasp the concepts and realize what wonders the ability to read can open up to them, they will have the opportunity to engage in years of learning and exploring the world.
As parents, we all lead busy lives, whether we are working, running homes, or even continuing our own education. We don’t always have as much time as we would like to contribute to our families. Often we think that leaving education to the professionals, such as our child’s teachers, would be much easier and more beneficial than attempting to educate our children ourselves. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Teaching our children phonics can not only be an easy, fun activity, but it can be a special period of time to share on a weekend, after dinner, or on a rainy and lazy afternoon.
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Step #1 – Familiarize yourself with phonics
We’ve all been there – small children learning the world of phonics and reading, but chances are, we don’t remember very much of it. So the first task to teaching your child phonics is to go back and familiarize yourself with the concepts used today. Do some online research, pick up some children’s books, or buy yourself a deck of flashcards. Give yourself some time to use your imagination and pretend that you are learning about this yourself, from your child’s point of view. Learn about the basic concepts, such as letters sounds and letter combinations.
Step #2 – Talk to your child’s teacher
As parents, sometimes we either think that we can do right by our children no matter what, or we might think that we shouldn’t attempt to teach our children things that their teacher may already be teaching them. While that’s not always a bad way to look at things (you wouldn’t want to teach your child something that contradicts what they are learning in school for instance), it isn’t a rule you need to adopt. In order to get a good grasp of what is going on in school, the best thing to do is to talk to the child’s teacher. By speaking with the teacher about what the children are currently learning in the class, you are opening up a parent-teacher collaboration that will be beneficial for that child. The teacher might offer some pointers, or even materials such as worksheets that you can use at home to help your child learn the basics of phonics.
Step #3 – Select a few materials
Once you have the parent-teacher conference, in which you can discuss a few techniques and tips for teaching your kindergartner phonics, you can select a few quality materials that can help your child learn. This can include flashcards, dry-erase books that help the child learn to write, workbooks, and beginning readers. All of these materials are typically available in bookstores, many toy stores, and even supermarkets that have a section dedicated to books and toys. A good, quality tool to teach phonics has engaging pictures, an author with a clear grasp of the language, and easy to understand instructions.
Step #4 – Set aside some time to begin teaching
Beginning to teach your child phonics doesn’t have to be a complicated task, but at first, it might not be simple, either. You have to take some time out of your regular routine and begin to engage your child. Talk with them about what they already know, what they are learning in school, and what you are going to be working on that day. Start slowly, with single letters, talking about what sounds they make based on their positions in words. Use basic words that you and your child are familiar with. It would be helpful to invest in a decent deck of flashcards, or you can even get creative and make your own. Make sure to keep sessions short, especially at first, so that your child doesn’t get bored or lose interest. As things progress, you can make the sessions a little longer or more complicated, such as by introducing letter combinations and short and long vowel sounds.
Step #5 – Read together
Reading together can make a big difference in how a child learns about language. While reading together, point out what is happening in the story and spend some time talking about it. Don’t rush through stories. Make sure to engage your child by asking questions, such as “What is the cat doing?” or discussing the child’s own personal experiences – “Do you remember when you went to the dentist? Can you tell me about it?” Doing this will encourage your child to apply what they have done to things going on in books, helping to relate to the story. Talk about words in books that they might not know. Look for books that have a reading guide in them that might give you some ideas of activities to do that go with the story.
Step #6 – Keep at it!
While it might be tempting to back off as your child begins to get a grasp on phonics, keep teaching them, even if it’s through subtle means. Talk about words, and continue to introduce them to words they might not know. If your child has a difficult time with a word, help them sound it out – this is beneficial for helping them remember the word. Let your child see you enjoying reading, especially since children at the kindergarten level often find themselves wanting to engage in many of the same activities as adults they are close to.
Remember – by teaching a child early reading skills such as phonics, you are beginning them on a lifelong path of learning and enjoyment. Once a child learns these skills, they will continue to use them and build on them for the rest of their lives.