Saturday, 29 December 2012

Charlotte Mason Reading Lessons: Post 7 of 7 - Reading by Sound

In this, my FINAL post on Charlotte Mason’s reading lessons (at least for now!), we will talk about how phonics and spelling fit into her reading lessons.  Make sure you have read posts 4-6 on the principles of Reading by Sight and Sound first!.  This post will cover Day 2 lessons, “Reading by Sound.”  This type of lesson should alternate with the Day 1 lessons which were described in my last post.  When your reader is getting more advanced and has a longer attention span (or perhaps with a gifted child), you may be able to accomplish both the Day 1 and Day 2 lessons on the same day, and thus go faster.  

Charlotte Mason gives only one thorough example of her “Reading by Sound” lessons.  It is found in Home Education Volume 1, pages 219 to 222  (Please read it for yourself here:  If you read my last post, it is in the context of Ms. Mason’s third and most detailed example of how to conduct a reading lesson with a child.  

(all are interchangeable titles for the same types of reading activities - and though Charlotte Mason only mentions it in passing, this is also a VOCABULARY lesson!)

Note:  These lessons can take a long time!  The Day 2 lessons may need to be broken up into several days depending on the child’s attention span.  
[It is desirable that 'Tommy' should not begin to 'read' until his intelligence is equal to the effort required by these lessons. Even then, it may be well to break up one into two, or half a dozen, as he is able to take it].” (p. 221)


1.  Using the list of words your child learned in his Day 1 lesson, make a list of all the words that rhyme and are spelled the same as the words learned in Day 1.  
2.  Prepare a list of sentences you can dictate to your child will use the rhyming words and words your child already knows (preferably words that have been recently learned and need more practice).  
3.  Create word cards using the words needed for the sentences in # 2.  
4.  Have the following additional materials available:
-  Alphabet letter tiles
-  Phonogram letter tiles (have the phonograms your child will need pre-sorted and available)
-  Blackboard & chalk
-  Word Notebook

STEPS With each word learned during the Day 1 Lesson do the following:  

1.  Say the word to your child.  Have him make it with his letters from memory.  If he can’t do that, show him the word long enough for him to remember it, then remove it and have him make the word with his alphabet and phonogram letters.  
“He makes the word 'coat' with his letters, from memory if he can; if not, with the pattern word.”  (p. 219)

2.  Say the word again, stressing the first phonetic sound.  As the child to take away the first sound (keep saying it phonetically, not the letter name), and ask him what remains.  You may physically separate the first letter of the word from the other letters so the child has a visual.  
“Say 'coat' slowly; give the sound of the c. 'Take away c, and what have we left?' A little help will get 'oat' from him.” (p. 219)

3.  Ask the child how he would make a word that rhymes with the original word (the only difference in spelling should be the beginning sound).  Have the child find the appropriate letter & put it onto the ending part of his first word.  Then write it on the blackboard.  
“How would you make 'boat' (say the word very slowly, bringing out the sound of b). He knows the sounds of the letters, and says b-oat readily

4.  Repeat step 3 until you have made all of the words that rhyme and are spelled the same.  In the process, teach BLENDS and NEW VOCABULARY.  Make a column of all the new words on the blackboard.  
-  This is a great time to introduce BLENDS, which are two letters which have distinct sounds but which are often pronounced together, such as fl, bl, st, tr, etc.
-  This is also a great time to TEACH NEW WORDS and increase your child’s vocabulary.  Your child has now advanced enough in reading that he will start to encounter words in books which do not occur in normal speech.  It is to his advantage for you to explain the meaning and pronunciation of these words to him.   
“fl-oat, two added sounds, which you lead him to find out; g-oat, he will give you the g, and find goat a charming new word to know; m-oat, he easily decides on the sound of m; a little talk about moat; the other words are too familiar to need explanation.” (p. 219)
“'Stoat'––he will be able to give the sounds of the initial letters, and stoat again calls for a little talk––another interesting word.” (p. 220)

5.  Have the child read the column of all the new words up, down, and randomly.  
“He has made a group of words with his letters, and there they are on the black-board in a column, thus
He reads the column up and down and cris-cras; every word has a meaning and carries an idea.” (p. 220)

6.  Practice using the new words by dictating sentences to your child which combine the new words with words he already knows.  Have him find the words from a selection of word cards.  
“Then the loose words he knows are turned out, and we dictate new sentences, which he arranges: 'I-like-her-goat'; 'her-little-stoat-is-warm,' and so on, making the new words with loose letters.” (p. 220)

7.  Dictate a sentence which includes words your child does not yet know how to read.  Have your child put in blank word cards for those words.  This will give him a desire to learn more!  
Now for a new experience. We dictate 'pussy in the boat.' Consternation! Tommy does not know 'in' nor 'the.' 'Put counters for the words you don't know; they may soon come in our lessons,' and Tommy has a desire and a need––that is, an appetite for learning.” (p. 220)

8.  Repeat steps 2-7 with all the remaining words that the child learned in Day 1.  
We deal with the remaining words in the same way––'little' gives brittle, tittle, skittle: pussy, is, I, and her, give no new words. 'Like' gives mike and pike. 'so' gives no, do (the musical 'do'), and lo!” (p. 220)
“By this time he has eighteen new words on the blackboard of which to make sentences with the nine loose words of 'pussy.' Her skittle is little, her charm is brittle, her arm is warm, and so on. But we take care that the sentences make sense. Her goat is brittle, is 'silly,' and not to be thought of at all.” (p. 221)

9.  Have your child write all his new words in his Word Bank Book.
“Tommy's new words are written in his 'note-book' in print hand, so that he can take stock of his possessions in the way of words.”  (p. 221)


A.   Words that rhyme but are spelled differently:  
-  If a child suggests a word which is spelled differently, just tell him it is not spelled using the same letters, and move on.  
“Tommy will, no doubt, offer 'note' and we must make a clean breast of it and say, 'No, note is spelt with other letters'; but what other letters we do not tell him now. Thus he comes to learn incidentally and very gradually that different groups of letters may stand for the same sounds. But we do not ask him to generalise; we only let him have the fact that n-oat does not spell the symbol we express by 'note.' (p. 219-220)

B.  Words that are spelled the same but do not sound the same:

1.  If a word is very close to sounding the same or is used as a rhyme with another word in the reading selection you’re using even though it’s not a perfect rhyme, go ahead and include it in the list of words that you’re making in step 4.  Do not make a big deal of it.  
“From 'warm' we get arm, harm, charm, barm, alarm; we pronounced warm as arm. Tommy perceives that such a pronunciation is wrong and vulgar, and sees that all these words are sounded like 'arm,' but not one of them like 'warm'––that is, he sees that the same group of letters need not always have the same sound.  But we do not ask him to make a note of this new piece of knowledge; we let it grow into him gradually, after many experiences.” (p. 220-221)

2.  If a word is pronounced totally differently from the word you are using, do not include it in your group of similar words in step 4.  Notice that Charlotte Mason does NOT include the word “do” as in “do your work” in the following selection of words:  
“'so' gives no, do (the musical 'do'), and lo!” (p. 220)

FINISHING UP THE READING SELECTION:  Continue alternating Day 1 and Day 1 lessons until your reading selection is mastered.  If you have been able to keep the rhyme a secret until the child has learned all of the words, have him read it perfectly when they are all learned.  
-  “There is no stumbling, no hesitation from the first, but bright attention and perfect achievement...  Perfect enunciation and precision are insisted on, and when he comes to arrange the whole of the little rhyme in his loose words and read it off (most delightful of all the lessons) his reading must be a perfect and finished recitation. [Spirited nursery rhymes form the best material for such reading lessons.]” (p. 220-221)

Many of the activities described above are extremely detailed and time intensive.  Gifted or advanced children may not need to go through all of the above steps.  Here are some substitutions and short cuts you can use when you feel your student does not need everything described above:
-  Have your student visualize the word "in his mind's eye," air write it, and do steps 2-4 entirely in the air.  
-  Skip many of the sentences for a child with exceptional visual memory who does not need additional practice. 
-  Review the "Spelling" in Example #1 from my last post for the extremely pared-down version of this lesson, which can be used with a student with amazing visual memory.   

FINAL RESULTS of these reading lessons:
- Large stock of words memorized
- Power to attack new words because of knowledge of familiar combinations
- Positive results will give him a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that he is able to keep learning.  
“By the time Tommy has worked 'Little Pussy' through he has quite a large stock of words; has considerable power to attack new words with familiar combinations; what is more, he has achieved; he has courage to attack all 'learning,' and has a sense that delightful results are quite within reach.” (p. 221)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Reading Post 6 of 7: Charlotte Mason Reading Stage 3: "Reading At Sight" Lessons

Charlotte Mason gives three examples of her “Reading at Sight” and “Spelling” lessons in Home Education Volume 1 (Please read them for yourself here:  
1st Example:   pages 204 through 205 (broken up with a bit of philosophy in the middle).  
2nd Example:  pages 211-214
3rd Example:  pages 217-222

Charlotte Mason gives us many great activities for teaching children to read!  Some children will need more work with memory - usually younger ones or beginning readers - and for those children, she presents more activities.  Other children will take to reading easily and memorize words quickly.  Those children may find many of the activities boring.  

Fortunately, Charlotte Mason’s examples are presented in increasingly detailed order.  She starts with instructions for children who need the least amount of help with memorizing and visualizing (likely more advanced readers or gifted beginners), and progresses to children who need most help with memorizing and visualization (likely beginners).

In this post I will focus on the “Reading at Sight” lessons.  These are to be interspersed with “Spelling” or “Word Making” lessons, which I will go into in my final post!  

Feel free to leave comments!  

ADVANCED READER (Example 1):  

Day 1, Advanced Reading at Sight Lesson:
1.  Teacher reads 2 lines (not more than 10 words), pointing to words.  
“Say––  ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star,  How I wonder what you are,’ is the first lesson; just those two lines. Read the passage for the child, very slowly, sweetly, with just expression, so that it is pleasant to him to listen. Point to each word as you read.” (p. 204)
2.  Ask student to read individual words that you just read, in random order.  
“Then point to 'twinkle,' 'wonder,' 'star,' 'what,'––and expect the child to pronounce each word in the verse taken promiscuously.” (p. 204)
3.  Continue Step 2 until all the new words are mastered.
“then, when he shows that he knows each word by itself, and not before” (p. 204)
4.  Let the student read the two lines perfectly.
“Let him read the two lines with clear enunciation and expression: insist from the first on clear, beautiful reading, and do not let the child fall into a dreary monotone, no more pleasant to himself than to his listener.”  (p. 204)
5.  Let the student say the two lines from memory.  
“Of course, by this time he is able to say the two lines; and let him say them clearly and beautifully. In his after lesson he will learn the rest of the little poem.” (p. 204)
6.  Word hunt to reinforce new words (key:  teacher guides to the general location):  
“The child should hunt through two or three pages of good clear type for 'little,' star,' you,' are,' each of the words he has learned, until the word he knows looks out upon him like the face of a friend in a crowd of strangers, and he is able to pounce upon it anywhere. Lest he grow weary of the search, the teacher should guide him, unawares, to the line or paragraph where the word he wants occurs. “ (p. 205)
Day 2, Next Reading at Sight Lesson PLUS an Advanced Spelling Lesson:
1.  Repeat all of Day 1’s activities with the next two lines of the selection.  
“The next 'reading at sight' lesson will begin with a hunt for the familiar words, and then–– ‘Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky,’ should be gone through in the same way.” (p. 205)
2.  Require the child to spell (from visual memory - eyes closed) any new, shorter words (and eventually, new longer words, too!).   
“As spelling is simply the art of seeing, seeing the letters in a word as we see the features of a face––say to the child, 'Can you spell sky?'––or any of the shorter words. He is put on his mettle, and if he fails this time, be sure he will be able to spell the word when you ask him next; but do not let him learn to spell or even say the letters aloud with the word before him.” (p. 205-206)
3.  Check for comprehension.  
“As for understanding what they read, the children will be full of bright, intelligent remarks and questions, and will take this part of the lesson into their own hands; indeed, the teacher will have to be on her guard not to let them carry her away from the subject.” (p. 206)

Characteristics of an “Advanced” student:
-  Will learn to read new words simply by having them pointed out and read to him while he is paying close attention.  
-  Will be able to close eyes and easily spell the new words he has learned to read.
-  Will not need many additional exercises to master both of these subjects!  

If your child does not display these characteristics, read on for more reading and spelling activities!  Most children will need additional activities to build their visual memory for excellent reading and spelling capabilities.  

Average Beginning Reader (Example 2):  

Goal:  “The point is that he should see, and look at, the new word many times, so that its shape becomes impressed upon his brain."

A.  Type all the words of your story into the computer.  Format them into little cards that can be cut apart.  Print 6 copies.  Make sure you keep them in the order they appear.  You may separate them according to progressive lessons - about 10 new words in each lesson.  
First, I bought a dozen penny copies of the 'History of Cock Robin'––good bold type, bad pictures, that we cut out.  Then we had a nursery pasting day––pasting the sheets on common drawing-paper, six one side down, and six the other; so that now we had six complete copies, and not twelve.” (p. 211)
B.  Cut apart the words for your first lesson, about 10 new words total.  Store in a marked envelope.  
“Then we cut up the first page only, of all six copies, line by line, and word by word. We gathered up the words and put them in a box, and our preparations were complete.” (p. 212)
C.  Continue cutting apart words for subsequent lessons, storing & marking appropriately.  
D.  Get a blackboard ready wherever you will work, large enough so you can write 10 words on it in a long column.  
“I always use a black-board in teaching the children.”  (p. 212)

Day 1 Lesson:  
1.  No distractions.  
“Bobbie and I are shut in by ourselves in the morning room.” (p. 212)
2.  Choose the most interesting word or name.  Write it on the blackboard in print writing.  
“I write up, in good clear 'print' hand, ‘Cock Robin’.  Bobbie watches with more interest because he knows his letters.  (p. 212)
3.  Say the word you have written.  Have child repeat.  
“I say, pointing to the word, 'cock robin,' which he repeats.” (p. 212)
4.  Word Find among word cards for just this lesson.  
"Then the words in the box are scattered on the table, and he finds half a dozen 'cock robins' with great ease.” (p. 212)
-  Note:  you don’t want to have too many cards, or the child will get frustrated.  
5.  Repeat steps 2-4 with all words for the lesson (up to 10 words, total).  Leave all 10 words up on the board, in column form.  
“We do the same thing with 'sparrow,' 'arrow,' 'said,' 'killed,' 'who,' and so on, till all the words in the verse have been learned.”
6.  Have the student read, in many different orders, from the blackboard, all the words he has learned .
“The words on the black-board grow into a column, which Bob reads backwards and forwards, and every way, except as the words run in the verse.”  (p. 212)
7.  Have the student play a “matching” game by finding all the words from the lesson from among the word cards & arranging them into a column, the same as you wrote on the board.  
“Then Bobbie arranges the loose words into columns like that on the board.  (p. 212)
8.  Allow the student to make his own column, in any order he would like, from his word cards.  
“Then into columns of his own devising, which he reads off.” (p. 212)
9.  Dictate a sentence slowly, and let the student find the right word cards and make them into a sentence.  
“Lastly, culminating joy (the whole lesson has been a delight!), he finds among the loose words, at my dictation,
'Who killed Cock Robin
I said the sparrow
With my bow and arrow
I killed Cock Robin,'
Arranging the words in verse form.” (p. 212)
10.  Have the student read the sentence out of the book you’re using.  
“Then I had still one unmutilated copy, out of which Bob had the pleasure of reading the verse, and he read it forwards and backwards. So long as he lives he will know those twelve words." (p. 213)
11.  Have your student read words from the book as you point at them randomly.  
he read it forwards and backwards.” (p. 213)
(Note:  Charlotte Mason recommended reading it backwards to ensure that the child really knew each word and was not reciting from memory.  However, that may cause a child to be confused about which direction he is supposed to read!  I suggest pointing at word randomly to check that your student knows each individually.)  

Day 2:  Spelling Lesson (more details in my final post in this series):
“Though many of our English words are each a law unto itself, others offer a key to a whole group, as arrow gives us sp arrow, m arrow, h arrow; but we have alternate days––one for reading, the other for word-building––and that is one way to secure variety, and, so, the joyous interest which is the real secret of success." (p. 214)

Day 3 Reading-at-Sight Lesson:  
1.  Repeat all of the Day 1 activities with the next lines in the selection.  
2.  Review the words from the first day(s) by pointing to them randomly and having the student read them.  This ensures he will not forget them.  
"When we have mastered the words of the second verse, Bob runs through the first in the book, naming words here and there as I point to them. It takes less than a minute, and the ground is secured." (p. 213)

Repeat days 2 & 3 until the selection is finished!  When done, have the child read the entire selection.

Beginner Reader who needs help to build visualization & memorization skills (Example 3):  

Do everything as in Example 2.  In addition:  
E.  Prepare up to 12 sentences which you will dictate to the child and the child will find the words.  Ensure you have word cards for all of the words.  For any words your child does not yet know (1-2 at most each session), have blank cards to put in as place holders for the not known words.  
F.  Obtain a special notebook which will be the student’s “Word Bank” of words he knows.  

Day 1:  Reading-at-Sight Lesson
1.  Choose the most interesting word or name.  Write it on the blackboard in print writing.  
We write up in good big print hand 'Pussy.' Tommy watches with interest: he knows the letters, and probably says them as we write.” (p.218)
Extra:  Have your child say the phonetic sounds of the letters as they are written on the board.  If writing a phonetic combination, say it as you write it so the child does not go wrong.  
2.  Say the word you have written.  Have child repeat.  
“We simply tell him that the word is 'pussy.' Interest at once; he knows the thing, pussy, and the written symbol is pleasant in his eyes because it is associated with an existing idea in his mind.” (p. 218)   
3.  Have your child look at the word until he is certain he knows it.  In other words, until he can visualize the letters in his mind’s eye.  
“He is told to look at the word 'pussy' until he is sure he would know it again.”
4.  Have the student find the letters in the word from memory (from among his letter box).  
“Then he makes 'pussy' from memory with his own loose letters.”  (p. 218)
Extra:  If you have made letter squares with phonograms (2 letters together that make a special sound), have him use the phonogram squares to make up the word.  (See my earlier posts for details.)  Since there are so many phonograms, try to pre-select the ones he’ll need.  
5.  Word Find among word cards for just this lesson.  
“Then the little bag containing our two lines in loose words is turned out, and he finds the word 'pussy'” (p. 218)
-  Note:  Again, don’t have too many cards, or the child will get frustrated.  
6.  Word Find among the line of the poem for the word being learned.  
“Lastly, the little sheet with the poem printed on it is shown to him, and he finds 'pussy,' but is not allowed yet to find out the run of the rhyme.” (p. 218)
7.  Repeat steps 2-4 with all words for the lesson (up to 10 words, total).  Leave all 10 words up on the board, in column form.  
“'Coat, little, like, is, her, warm, I, so,' are taught in the same way” (p. 218)
8.  As the student finds each word on a word card, have him arrange one of each just like the column on the blackboard.  
When each new word is learned, Tommy makes a column of the old ones” (p. 218)
9.  Have the student read, in many different orders, from the blackboard, all the words he has learned .
“and reads up and down and cris-cras, the column on the blackboard.”
8.  Allow the student to make his own column, in any order he would like, from his word cards.  
9.  Dictate a sentence slowly, and let the student find the right word cards and make them into a sentence.  
“He knows words now, but he cannot yet read sentences. Now for the delight of reading. He finds at our dictation, amongst his loose words, 'pussy––is––warm,' places them in 'reading' order, one after the other, and then reads off the sentence. Joy, as of one who has found a new planet!” (p. 218-219)
10.  Continue with about 12 dictated sentences, but not directly from the selection if you are keeping it a secret (see #11).  
“Then, 'her-little-coat-is-warm,' 'Pussy-is-so-little,' 'I-like-pussy,' 'Pussy-is-little-like-her-coat,' and so on through a dozen more little arrangements.” (p. 219)
11.  Optional:  Keep the selection a secret until the child has learned all the words for the entire nursery rhyme!  
“If the rhyme can be kept a secret till the whole is worked out, so much the better. To make the verses up with his own loose words will give Tommy such a delicious sense that knowledge is power, as few occasions in after life will afford.” (p. 219)
12.  If you’re not keeping it a secret, now is the time dictate to the child the entire sentence from the selection and allow him to make it with his word cards.  After that, let the child read the sentences containing the words he has learned directly from his book.  
13.  When you are at the end of the final lesson for all of the words in the rhyme, allow the child to make up the entire verse with his own loose words as you dictate it to him, and finally read it directly from his book.  
“To make the verses up with his own loose words will give Tommy such a delicious sense that knowledge is power, as few occasions in after life will afford.” (p. 219)

Next and Final Post:  “Spelling” or “Word Making” lessons!