Behind the Scenes ~ Guided Reading

Behind the Scenes ~ Guided Reading

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed the comments on the How Do I Teach My Child To Read post. So many teachers {classroom and homeschool} joined in with experiences and advice. So many new homeschoolers asked great questions. I was even reminded of things I forgot to include in the original post!

One things I forgot to mention is the actual method I was trained in while teaching school, Guided Reading. I didn’t even think to mention it as it comes so naturally for me now, I honestly forgot there was a book that I used when I was trained!!! It was required reading {as well as many workshops and training seminars} back in the day and I am glad it was!

Guided Reading is a classroom method that can easily be adapted to homeschool. The book is full of amazing information about teaching your child to read. It is geared toward classroom teachers, but you can just ignore those chapters! The book is expensive at retail price on Amazon, but I bet you could borrow it from a teacher friend or keep your eyes open at used book sales, or even on eBay, or here it is on

One of the awesome things about this program was the method they taught for decoding unfamiliar words. I recall having a hand print up in my classroom that the children referred to, with each strategy on one finger to remind the kids. They also had their own printable bookmark with the strategies on it.

Of course I had to make my own for us and for you! Here is the poster I made which can be hung up in your homeschool, or just used for you to refer to. Guided Reading Strategies

I also added a smaller version which can be cut into a bookmark for your child. I recommend laminating this one if your child will be touching it!Guided Reading Strategies1

You can print these here on my Misc. Preschool Printables page!

More info about Guided Reading

Are you trained in Guided Reading? Former teachers—did you use this method while teaching? Comments are open for any other thoughts, questions, or advice!!!

A few more reading related posts:

How do I Teach My Child to Read?

How Do I Teach My Child To Read

This is a question I get a lot, via email and in comments ~ “How do I teach my child to read?”  Although I have only taught one child to read from birth 😉 and am working on my 2nd and 3rd, I did teach many children to read while teaching Kindergarten for 5 years! Teaching reading is one of my favorite things in life-I just love when a young child finally makes the connection and gets excited about the new world opened up before them in BOOKS!

My answers may not jive with you, and especially those of you who have different views based on your own successes and failures with teaching reading. I’d love to open up the comments below so we can all share together. There are no RIGHT or WRONG ways to teach reading-every child is different and every teacher/parent is different. There are many ideas and we can all glean wisdom from one another. I am even open to learning still-although I am college educated in this subject! Learning as a teacher is never ending!IMG_3670 copy

So, how did I teach public school children and my own son to read {and how am I currently teaching Krash}?

I use a mixture of a Whole Language approach, along with phonics . For those of you unfamiliar with the different approaches, here is Wikipedia on the topic of Whole Language. Here is a basic definition,

A whole-language approach represents a philosophy about reading rather than any one instructional method. According to this philosophy, language is a natural phenomenon and literacy is promoted through natural, purposeful language function. It has as its foundation current knowledge about language development as a constructive, meaning-oriented process in which language is viewed as an authentic, natural, real-world experience, and language learning is perceived as taking place through functional reading and writing situations.” (p. 458) (Lapp, D. & Flood, J. (1992). Teaching reading to every child. (3rd ed.). New York: Macmilliam Publishing Company.)

Here are a few more links if you want some in depth info about the subject and the different methods…

I taught Kindergarten for 3 years with a Whole Language approach and for 1 1/2 years with a Phonics approach {the school I was teaching with switched to Open Court} so I have seen all types of kids use both methods. Since I was college educated during the Whole Language movement, I was actually taught to an extreme. I remember being at the NAEYC conference and sitting in a workshop about how horrible Letter of the Week programs were! Anything that pulled letters, sounds, etc. out of natural context was BAD BAD BAD! I didn’t completely buy into that theory and then a few years later when a phonics method was forced upon me, I naturally learned to balance the two.

When it came time to teach Pac Man to read, I knew I had actually already started to teach him. When literacy is integrated into a child’s life from birth, reading is a natural progression. Pac Man was not an eager reader, and did not read early, but he is a wonderful reader now. I believe strong comprehension makes a wonderful reader! This is where I feel a Whole Language approach greatly benefits children. Pac Man has good phonics knowledge and continues to learn more and more, but most importantly he has great comprehension.


What exactly do we do?

We READ!!!!! Seriously, that is the very best thing you can do to teach your child to read. Teach Mama has a wonderful reading section on her blog. Another great blog to read is This Reading Mama, who also shares a very similar philosophy.

Here are a few basic pointers to get you started…

  • Read to your child multiple times daily {I know this seems like a DUH point, but seriously, don’t slack on this}. Read with enthusiasm, talk about the text {increase comprehension}, ask questions, discuss the pictures, point out letters and words, and enjoy the read aloud time together!
  • Integrate reading and literacy activities into normal life as much as possible, in a fun way! One simple idea is to begin doing a Morning Message with your child{ren}. This is something I did as a Kindergarten teacher, and then adapted for P when he was younger. I need to start this back up now that K is in this stage!
  • Have some easy readers available for your child who is interested in learning to read. If you are short on cash, print off your own or even make your own. I include a free printable easy reader with each Raising Rock Stars Preschool unit! Even if you don’t use the entire program, you can print just the mini books! There are also many online for free, here’s a few on Hubbards Cupboard. If you are interested in purchasing some easy readers, here is our Amazon bookstore with our favorites {you’ll notice some are phonics based, some aren’t}.
  • Work on sight words! Learning sight words is a big part of learning to read and really helps a child with confidence! The You Can Read program I developed is focused completely on teaching sight words in a fun way to young children.image
  • Integrate phonics into your teaching, but not in an unnatural and forceful way…try to make it fun! Work with word families {cat, mat, rat, pat, etc.}, teach phonetic sounds, watch Leapfrog Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Code Word Caper. Bob Books are a great tool for working on letter sounds while learning to read! Here’s a post I did about teaching short vowel sounds. Word Families are another way to emphasize phonics.
  •  Starfall is an amazing and free website that we used TONS with Pac Man and now use with Krash and even Ladybug a little bit!


All children are different and some will benefit from a strong Whole Language approach with minimal phonics instruction. Another child will be totally lost without direct phonics instruction. I think an approach that attempts to merge the two is a great place to start and then you can adjust as you see fit. Also-almost all kids will catch up with each other by 2nd or 3rd grade. Just because your friend’s 3 year old can read and yours can’t- don’t stress!!! Krash is WAY more interested in reading than Pac Man ever was. However even at age 4 I am not pushing Krash. He will learn at his own pace and I am in no big rush to push him. Pac Man caught on slowly but once he caught on he went wild ~ quickly! He now has the most amazing comprehension skills, vocabulary, and reading ability!

As for an actual program for homeschool, I began reviewing All About Reading in 2011 and love it.


You can see more about why we chose to review this program here in our Current Curriculum post, look under FAQ. Ladybug is using All About Reading Pre Level 1, and Krash is using All About Reading Level 1.  If you feel the need to have a complete program to assist you I highly recommend All About Reading.  You can see all of my posts including All About Reading here.

Technology is another great tool when it comes to learning to read!  We personally own an iPad and use it a LOT for schooling.  You can see many great literacy apps for children here in my educational iPad apps post, and also here in iPad Apps part 2!

If you have more questions that I did not answer, feel free to leave a comment. Also-if you have input-please jump in, I am certainly not the only one who knows something about teaching kids to read!!! I highly recommend seeking out other moms online who are also educated in this area {educated either by college or experience}.

A few more reading related posts:

Happy Teaching!!!

This post was originally written in June 2010, it has since been updated in 2012, and again in 2014

Labeling Your Home {school}

Labeling your home for early literacy development

Being a former Kindergarten teacher, my brain thinks in classroom mode sometimes, and early literacy development is on my mind a lot. But, my home is not a classroom, at least not by decorating standards ;-). I don’t think my husband would appreciate a house full of Kindergarten classroom decor.

However, there are ways to modify ideas that are wonderful for Pre-K and K students in a visually appealing way that doesn’t make your home look like 25 kids need to move in.

When I saw this post on Teach Mama I remembered my little tacky labels from teaching {that I actually used for Pac when he was homeschooled K}. I loved the sticker labels Amy used, but knew I couldn’t afford to do that! I saw the simple labels she made and offers for download {which are perfect for those of you who don’t want color or design} and loved them.

Labeling the classroom {or home for homeschoolers} is a wonderful way to bring print awareness into a child’s life in a natural way. A child automatically knows how to “read” the word since it is attached to a known object. This process increases a young child’s confidence and makes print come alive in a very real way. From these simple labels, many activities can be done, which I hope to share more about in the future.

I was inspired to make some home-decor friendly labels for our home {school}




I printed on white cardstock, laminated and put a tiny removable mounting square on the back {so I can easily take them down when we are done with them, but I can also pull them back out when it’s time for Ladybug to have them up}. The mounting squares I have are 1”, but I cut them to be smaller. They do carry smaller ones also. You can get them on Amazon or I have seen them at Target.

Supplies I used

Of course I can’t make something without sharing with you, right? You can download the labels I made here on my Misc. Preschool Printables page.

House Labels image

If you don’t like teal and orange {obviously I do}, you could print on grayscale for a black/gray/white version ;-).

A little giggle for you…my husband walked in after work on the day I put most of the labels up and came upstairs and told me he thought he walked into Sesame Street ;-). So much for making them home friendly huh? He giggled and told me he loved them.

Teaching Short Vowels

Teaching short vowels came VERY easy for me! I owe it all to Leap Frog – Letter Factory…the DVD took care of it for me! Seriously, P learned all of his letters, and sounds in just under 3 weeks back when he was around 3-4. But now I am tutoring a little girl from the church we work with and she is way behind in school and I am having to reteach her basic skills, such as short vowel sounds. She is watching the Leapfrog DVDs but can’t watch them as much as P was able to (I let her borrow ours). So, I have her 1 hour per week and in that 1 hour I am trying to fill her brain with all sorts of tricks to make this relearning easier for her.

Last week something hit me as we were working together (P works with us too since they are friends from church). I thought I would share it here in case anyone else needs any ideas for teaching short vowel sounds. We used these photos below to make a simple book for her, with the clues of how to remember the sounds. She and P posed for the photos demonstrating what I had taught them. I made up these clues on my own, although I am sure they have probably been used somewhere before 🙂 but yesterday they all came out of my brain and into action! Feel free to copy the ideas in any way you’d like and if you have any questions, let me know!

A: we called it “scary A” and we scream ahhhh when we see it!E: I taught her that her ear is similar in shape to an “e” and she can hear a long eeee in the word ear. When you want someone to speak up you say, “ehhhh.” I: see their arms are the shape of a lowercase i, with their fists being the dot. They are “itching” their arm, to remind them of the short i sound, as in itch.O: open wide for the dentist, say ahhhh, see your mouth makes an O to remind you of the letter sound you’re making!

U: we had 2 tricks for the short u. Their arms are in the shape of the U, they are pushing up. The other way is to imagine they are doing a pull up and it’s really hard and they are saying ugh.I hope that all made sense, it is really helping her a lot, and giving P a great review! This worked for me, for other Works for Me Wednesday ideas, visit Rocks In My Dryer!

Inspired Ideas ~ Morning Message/To-Do List

First, a thank you to the following sites for giving me the beginnings of this idea:
Little Blots Blog, which led me to…
Mrs. Nelson’s Class, which led me to…
K Crew’s Buzz Book, which altogether turned into this…

I have been narrowing down my ideas for a daily morning routine with P and over the past year we have tried many different things. Up until today our “thing” was to use a big dry erase board in our schoolroom to write our daily to-do list on and also a little personal note. Nothing too fancy and I knew I wanted to do more. The sites above got my wheels spinning and I think I like my new idea and P seemed to really like it today. Here’s what we’re doing…

I am creating a 3 ring notebook for him to keep these in. In this notebook I will store these:
This is the front, I made it in Microsoft Publisher. I plan to write P a Morning Message on this each day and we will use it to work on various skills. My main goal is to try to use as many of his word wall words as possible to give him extra practice.

Here he is working on the Morning Message, today I had him fill in the missing letters, and circle his weekly sight words. I plan to do different things each day.
And, here is the back…his daily to-do-list with check off boxes. He gets to decide how to mark the boxes each day (stickers, checks, smiley’s, etc.) Today he chose to mark with crosses.

Thanks to those of you who inspired my idea!