Saturday, January 20, 2007

Charlotte Mason Reading Instruction

Here are a few thoughts about teaching reading using Charlotte Mason’s methods.

We started out using Throgmartin’s "Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books" and Beechick’s little reading guide, because I wasn’t confident about doing the "CM way" without a more concrete plan.  Throgmartin’s book has some similarity with CM’s methods, and Beechick’s does too, but each also deviates from her recommendations in significant ways.  For some children that won’t matter, but for others it may so *if* you use one or both of those resources you might also get very familiar with CM’s recommendations first and adjust as needed.

After just a few lessons, I switched to a straight CM reading plan (with some help from a group of moms who are working on documenting it), which is actually very easy to do.  Pick something fairly easy to read, not necessarily with easy words but with just a few words.  That’s the important thing.   Make your little cards for the words and teach those words to the child.  Within a 15 minute lesson, the child should be able to read all the words (assuming you didn’t start with too many) and then read them put together in order.  Then the child can read the sentence out of the book. Yay!  That is very confidence-building.  The next lesson works on spelling the words learned in the first lesson, and you might follow that with a third lesson working on building new words from the same word families as some of the first words.

I know people are leery about trying this because it doesn’t come in a nice, neat package, but if you read through the applicable sections in Volume 1 and take notes, it doesn’t take long to make a simple lesson outline that you can use with any text you have around.  We started with "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" because it has a lot of repetition, but some people would be horrified by that choice!  But it didn’t take us long to progress to Stevenson and Rosetti poems once my dd’s confidence was built and her store
of words was a little larger.

This *is* a phonics-based program, because the word-building exercises are teaching phonics rules, just not explicitly.  Like so much of CM, you have to trust the child to make connections without insisting that you the teacher have to make the connections for the child.

This really, really worked for us.  We’ve done reading lessons sporadically, no more than twice a week for about 15-30 minutes each time, and many weeks not that much time, for less than a year.  My dd is almost 6.  She is reading and decoding quite fluently now, reading the Boxcar Children books completely on her own (and comprehending them quite well).  We’re still doing reading lessons to learn more of the phonics rules (still doing it the CM way though) and to work on her spelling (which is also taught through
this same 3-part lesson format).

I know it’s hard sometimes to use a format that isn’t spelled out in a teacher guide, and it’s hard to trust CM and let the connections be formed by the child independently.  But I can attest that it works, it’s gentle,
and I believe it has a long-term payoff.

***One other thing:  don’t overlook CM’s recommendation to do some simple word-building *before* the first reading lesson.  This helps prepare the child for the lessons, and also helps you gauge reading-readiness.  Read her tips on teaching letters and their sounds, too, if that hasn’t been picked up gradually.

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