From the archives...
A customer wrote us to ask:
I have been doing Foundations with my son from two years now. We are almost at the end of Foundations B. He just turned six and is in first grade. We study consistently in school breaks like summer, fall and spring break, but other part of the year we sometimes miss weeks. But so far he is doing great with me at all the concepts we have studied.
Recently at school they told me that he is litte behind in reading because he can't read all the required sight words as fast as required in 1st grade. This discouraged me a lot. I have never been a fan of sight words and I know he takes time to read because he figures out which sound of the phonogram fits better and make sense.
I was just worried whether is it normal to begin like this or am I missing something which I should follow to help him read better? I know I need to be more consistent with not missing lessons for many days, but anything else?
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
That's a good question. You are on the right track!
In one way, of course, what you are doing is not "normal" -- you are teaching him the tools to read any word, step by step, rather than memorizing a small number of them, and so he can already probably read thousands of words that many children who only know sight words and one sound per letter can't. On the other hand, since you are only at the end of B and won't have taught him all the tools to read all those sight words until late in C, there will be a small number of words that children in a sight word program can "read" (that is, have memorized by sight) that he can't yet. You can get a good visual image of this, and how much more quickly students increase the number of words they are able to read when they learn accurate phonics rules rather than sight words, in the chart on the bottom of this page.
What is normal right now in our culture is to focus on memorizing a small number of words and developing guessing skills for all the words you haven't memorized, but it's an ineffective and inefficient way to teach reading.
One thing to keep in mind is that if there's a particular word you want to help him sound out that uses a phonogram he hasn't learned yet, you can always just say "Oh, this word uses a phonogram we haven't learned yet! EY says /ā - ē/. This word says /TH - ā/, 'they.' Is it using the first or second sound of /ā - ē/?" Then add EY (or whatever phonogram it is) to your phonogram practice if you want, or set it aside and don't worry about it until you get to it in the lessons. But he's going to get all the tools he needs for 98% of English words on C, so don't get too bogged down in doing that all the time, or at least don't worry about whether or not he remembers those phonograms or words right now; keep going through the lessons as fast as he can comfortably and happily take it all in. That is my number one suggestion: just keep progressing through Foundations, teaching him all the phonograms and helping him gain fluency in using them, as steadily as you can!
And in terms of fluency development: he is doing exactly what he needs, sounding out words and using his tools. This is how the brain develops true decoding fluency. He is training it for a lifetime of reading and writing success.