If you’re a parent who’s now faced with the challenge of teaching your child due to COVID-19 school closures, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed right now, and rightfully so. You never signed-up for the job title of At-Home Educator, yet that’s the task you now have. (Who knew 2020 would turn out to be The Year of the Homeschooler?) Your list of worries and responsibilities is long; and if you have a young child who’s learning to read, that’s probably near the top. Reading is THE most important thing to focus on with at home learning.
Reading is one of the most important and difficult skills your child must learn. And the take-home packets you got from the school can only go so far. Believe me, I understand your concerns about at-home learning; but I’m happy to say there are ways you can continue to support and encourage your child’s reading development AT HOME. It is possible to ensure they don’t fall behind while school is closed. In this post I’ll share tips for at home learning, as well as an amazing new resource to help you through this challenge.
Your To-Do List Just Got Longer
So what’s your current status? Are you navigating the “temporary new normal” of working from home, launching a job search, or are you one of those individuals who leaves the house every day to go out to a job that’s deemed essential? (If you’re the latter, by the way, thank you—you’re one of our heroes and we appreciate you!) Whatever your status, I’m sure you have a long list of tasks and responsibilities. And now on top of cooking (remember restaurants?), cleaning (ALL the doorknobs!), laundry, and strategically-planned grocery trips, now you’ve added “teaching” to your Stay at Home To-Do List.
I know it’s a challenge, but I want to encourage you and try to relieve some of your stress. You WILL get through this! Although I can’t help with laundry, shopping or doorknob cleaning, what I CAN do is share insights on teaching children at home. In my 23-year career as an educator I’ve learned a few things about teaching kids to read; so step away from the Clorox wipes, take a deep breath, and let’s talk about how you can keep your sanity while you keep those sweet kiddos reading and learning…
When it Comes to Learning at Home, Timing is Everything…
When it Comes to Learning at Home, Timing is Everything!
My first tip is for you to set a desired learning time. If you have a child or children who are in kindergarten through third grade, it’s especially important for you to have set periods of time in which you’re asking them to work. A kindergartner should only be doing about an hour of work per day, and it should not all be done at one time. Specific instructional type activities should occur in 15-minute time periods–I call them Learning Labs. So for a kindergartner, they should take part in four separate 15-minute Learning Labs in a single day.
For example: you might have your child spend 15 minutes reading and then let them take a “brain break” and go outside and play (or stay inside and play a learning game on the tablet). Next you might do a 15-minute Math lab, followed by a snack break. Later do a related math activity, followed by a break where they do a simple craft or Facetime Grandma. Then, after lunch maybe have them complete a 15-minute writing activity or have them write a paragraph or story in response to the reading they did earlier.
Break It Up and Give ‘Em a Break!
The point is, for younger children, school does not need to last all day, and the lessons they complete should be broken up into 15-20 minute chunks. Think of it this way: Back when you dropped your kindergartner off at school every day, the teacher did not expect your 5 or 6 year-old to sit in a chair and work for an entire hour without stopping. Sure they learned plenty, but it wasn’t without plenty of breaks for moving and playing and snacking! Any teacher knows that expecting a small child to sit and drink-in knowledge for hours at a time is nothing but a recipe for a meltdown. So remember: break it up into chunks, and keep reading this post for information about Guided Readers, a resource to take the work out of planning those 15-minute learning labs.
Appropriate Length of Time for Home Instruction
Every child is unique, with different learning needs and abilities, but here are general guidelines about the length of home instruction:
- Kindergartner: 1 hour per day
- 1st grade – 1.25 – 1.5 hours per day
- 2nd grade – 1.5 – 2 hours per day
- 3rd grade – 2 – 2.5 hours per day
REMINDER: Break these into separate,15-minute blocks of time for Kindergarteners and 15-25 minute blocks for 1st – 3rd graders.
The Secret Every Good Teacher Knows…
My next tip involves a secret that every good teacher knows. (By the way, If you didn’t have it already, I hope by now you’ve developed a deep respect for teachers. They work so hard and are really dedicated to helping your children reach their learning goals and potential.) The secret that every seasoned educator knows is that consistency is a teacher’s best friend. Trust me, it’s the only reason pure chaos doesn’t ensue in a traditional classroom of 20-30 seven-to-eight year-olds!
While straight rows of one-person desks may not be used in the majority of classrooms any more, there’s still a consistent plan for both the time schedule and class layout. Knowing where and when things will happen allows students to feel secure and helps teachers plan effectively. And it doesn’t have to mean the drill-sergeant approach–flexibility and grace make all the difference. The same applies to at home learning.
Learning at Home? Location, Location, Location!
How can you use that same consistency to your advantage as you teach your child at home? It’s important to pick a specific location in your home where your child will do their work every day. Whether it’s the kitchen table, the child’s bedroom, or a desk, the important thing is to keep it consistent. When your child sits in that same spot every day, it sends a signal to their brain. “OK, this is the same every day. This is what I do when I sit here in this spot!”
Learning at Home?
Location, Location, Location!
It’s a simple strategy, but I promise it will help you establish a workable schedule and will help your child to understand that when they’re in that location, it’s work time. Consistency applied can result in a meltdown averted.
A Newbie to At Home Learning? Let’s Be Real…
Finally, a tip to encourage you to just breathe: Be realistic with your goals and expectations. As the great Winston Churchill famously said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” I know you love your kiddos, and you want to do the best job you can as you supervise their at-home learning! But remember, these are uncharted waters. The stress and uncertainty you’re experiencing are real, and the multitude of responsibilities you’re juggling is enormous. You’re not a professionally trained educator, so no one expects you to win Teacher of the Year. Give yourself some grace.
When you do that, you’ll be able to give your child plenty of grace, too. In addition to missing friends, teachers and school routines, they’re trying to adjust to new atmosphere of change at home. How can you help them to navigate these choppy seas of their little world? Keep your heart soft and your expectations reasonable, and just breathe.
“Where Do I Even Start?”
I know! The task of taking charge of your child’s learning can seem insurmountable. You may not even know where to begin. But let me remind you of this one essential principle: Reading is of the utmost importance. If you’re at home with a child who’s between kindergarten and grade 3, the most important thing you can do to help them is to have them read for 20-30 minutes per day. Read, read, read, and then read some more!
If a child tries to tackle science, math or social studies activities without a solid foundation of reading fluency, learning will continue to be a struggle. Ensure that your child spends time reading every day, five days a week, and I can assure you that they will not have fallen behind the curve when they return back to school in August or September.
Focus on the Reading Essentials
If you want your child to grow into a strong reader, there are several essential areas to focus on. I’ll briefly list them here, but I’ll give you a better, more in-depth explanation of each in my next blog post, and I’ll share tips and strategies on how to help your child master these skills.
- 1. Just as the name implies, sight words are words that readers need to learn and recognize by sight. They’re frequently encountered words that may not follow typical rules of phonics and decoding, so they can’t be “sounded-out” using typical decoding strategies. In my next post I’ll give you some tips on how to help your kiddo learn these words. Knowing the full list of sight words can give a reader more brain power to focus on decoding other new and unfamiliar words they come across in the books they read. To help your child become a better reader, teach them their sight words!
- 2. Phonics refers to the relationship of letters and sounds. As your child begins to learn the basic principles of phonics, he or she will begin to understand how letters make sounds and how those sounds (called phonemes) blend together to make words. A solid understanding of phonics will build a better reader. Learn more about how to help your child with phonics my next post!
Reading Fluency and Decoding
- 3. Fluency is the ability to read with an appropriate rate of speed and expression. Decoding is the ability to use knowledge of letter-sound relationships in order to read and pronounce words. In order to comprehend what they are reading, your child needs to have a good foundation in both decoding and fluency. In my next post I’ll share more about how to help your child learn to decode and increase in fluency.
- 4. Writing in response to various reading material is extremely important as well. It connects the reading and writing process and allows a child to have a deeper level of comprehension of what he/she read. So, written responses to what your child reads is important to keep those skills fresh and allow for a deeper contextual understanding the stories/texts he/she reads.
It’s a Big Job, But Guided Readers Can Help!
These are the skills and strategies your child would be learning every day during reading instruction if school were still in session, and I’m happy to tell you they’re things they can still be learning right now while they are at home with you.
I’ve created a site called Guided Readers, a place where you as a parent can find all the resources you need to provide engaging and effective at-home reading instruction for your child. I made Guided Readers super easy for parents, because I know that with during this stressful situation many parents don’t have the time or energy to sit for hours and teach their children. This may be where you are. You’re a loving parent who understands the importance of helping your child stay current with their reading progress, yet there are only so many available hours in your day! Guided Readers was designed with you in mind.
A Shelf Full of Books…
A Shelf Full of Books…
When you join Guided Readers your child will have a virtual bookshelf full of hundreds and hundreds of books to read. When they go to the Guided Readers digital bookshelf and use a simple two-picture log-in, they can read the story, listen to the stories being read, or even read the story and even record themselves reading and then listen back.
The most important thing Guided Readers can give you as a parent is the assurance that your child can keep making progress in their reading journey, just as they would be doing if they were in the classroom. Best of all, you can be the teacher, or you can leave it to Guided Readers! Each of the lessons that your child will take part in includes teacher led audio instructions (included in Google Slides) so your child can complete the lesson independently on their own. However, you can be as involved as you like, thanks to the helpful Parent Guide that comes with each Guided Readers lesson. Work one-on-one with your child, using the instructions found in the parent guide, or allow them to gain a little independence (and allow yourself a break!) by having them follow the teacher-led directions .
Google Slides® Lessons with Teacher-led directions –
Let us do the teaching for YOU!
Sight Words, Phonics and More…
Either way, I can promise you that with Guided Readers your child can be successful with at home learning. They’ll make real daily progress as they work on sight words, learn phonics, read stories and answer text-dependent questions to connect their comprehension to the story. Comprehension is such an important aspect of reading; and with Guided Readers your child will have the opportunity to read and respond to what they’ve read on a daily basis! There are also daily writing exercises your child can take part in.
Reading Every Day
Guided Readers provides a huge library of professionally illustrated fiction and nonfiction books that your child will love. And again, they’ll be reading on a daily basis, meaning they’ll keep up their reading skills and avoid falling behind. With Guided Readers, children have the opportunity to read and respond to their reading every single day. Your kindergartner may be asked to draw a picture of their favorite part of the story, or your third grade child might be asked to retell the story using SWBST. (SWBST is the “Somebody Wanted But So Then” structure that students can use to help summarize the stories they read.) And if desired, everything can be completed independently with teacher-led directions. This allows you to focus on being your child’s parent and chief encourager rather than their teacher.
Read the story independently.
Listen to the stories as the words are highlighted.
Record themselves reading the story and listen back to their recording.
Take a comprehension quiz.
Complete the Teacher-Led lessons within the Google Slide® Activities.
You Can Do This…
These are tough times, I know, but Guided Readers can take a huge weight off your shoulders as you release the worry of how to educate your child at home. You’re a good parent, and you’ve got this! Just do yourself a favor and let Guided Readers help.
We are here to HELP YOU navigate At-Home Teaching and Learning
We are here to help SUPPORT PARENTS during this time of at home teaching. If you would like TEACHER SUPPORT where you can ask questions to EXPERIENCED TEACHERS, join us in our private Facebook Community called Teaching My Child to Read! CLICK HERE to join!
Teaching My Child to Read
Private Facebook Community to HELP and SUPPORT PARENTS during this at home learning situation.
JOIN US 🙂 It’s Free and we are here to Support YOU!
We’re all in this together, and I want to help. Let me know if you have questions about how Guided Readers can benefit you and your child.
In the meantime, I’m cheering you on…