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)

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