Our budget was pretty much nonexistent during our first year as a homeschool family. Not only did it take almost every penny we had saved to start our own business, but me and my husband decided whatever money we did have to dedicate to homeschool would go toward experience rather than a boxed curriculum. So we took field trips, we traveled, we took classes, and we invested in martial arts training for our kids.
How on earth did we survive without a boxed curriculum? We’ve been asked this question before. My answer is this: We used any free resource we could get our hands on to teach our kids. This included books from the library. After a bit of research, I realized I had enough information to put together an emergent reader curriculum for my then kindergartner. Today, I want to share some of the steps I took with you! Now be forewarned that this is not a comprehensive curriculum, but a great guide in helping you create your own.
Keep reading if you’d like to know the eight steps I used to set the foundation for my emergent reader curriculum. I had to dig deep in the back of my closet and pull out my portfolios for this one, so I hope you like it!
How I Taught My Child to Read for FREE!
In 8 Simple Steps
1. Where do I begin? Researching “Standards of Excellence.”
First, I accessed my state’s Department of Education website and researched their standards for kindergarten English and language arts. I did not follow this curriculum-outline verbatim. I simply highlighted the standards that aligned with our goals for emergent reading. Here are the following standards I adopted into our homeschool from the Georgia Standard of Excellence (GSE):
• Knows and understands print concepts.
• Demonstrates phonological awareness.
• Demonstrates phonics and word recognition.
• Recognizes high-frequency sight words.
• Can read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
Adopting these standards simply meant that these five bullet points became the goals we expected to achieve by the end of our child’s kindergarten year.
2. Getting Started | Is My Child Ready to Read?
Before we jumped the gun in teaching our kindergartner to read, we looked for signs of reading readiness. According to GSE, reading readiness occurs when a child demonstrates an understanding of the organization and basic features of print. Here are some indicators that your child is ready to read:
• Can follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
• Can recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters.
• Can understand that words are separated by spaces in print.
• Can recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet (and their sounds).
Additionally, other signs that demonstrated reading readiness in our home were that our son began pretending to read books, started inquiring what certain words said, and began asking how to spell certain words.
SPECIAL NOTE: It is highly recommended to teach your child letter sounds first, rather than letter names. Teaching letter sounds make learning how to read easier for the child.
3. Learning CVC Words.
Our first official lesson started with CVC words. CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant words. The words “bat” and “pot” are two examples of CVC words. I don’t think we spent any more than two weeks on these lessons, as my kindergartner mastered these words pretty quickly. In addition, most CVC words belong to word families, so I simply decided to move on to teaching word families. Here is a free CVC Word List. You can print this list and divide the words up according to how many you want to teach per week. Some of the free resources we used are no longer available, but here are other games and resources we found helpful:
4. Introducing Word Families.
Word families are words that have the same combination of letters and a similar sound. The words “back” and “pack” are two examples of words that belong to the “ack” family. Learning word families was a great introduction to decoding words. We used the following Word Family List and learned four-word families per week, leaving Fridays for review. Additionally, the following resources helped my son to practice and master these words:
5. Mastering Sight Words.
Sight words are the most commonly used words in a given text. I taught sight words a little differently. Instead of simply memorizing the word (which is how they’re traditionally taught), I chose to show my son a few decoding techniques for better understanding. Here is a link to an awesome Sight Word List that helps ease your lesson planning by breaking down sight words by the month. This list only shares about 50 words. We, however, learned 100 sight words using flash cards (about 5 every week). Here are some great free resources for sight word practice:
6. Embarking on Long Vowel Sounds.
My son started noticing that not all vowel sounds were created equal. After stumbling across a YouTube video on the wonders of Super E, he begged me to start teaching him about long vowel sounds. This was not a part of our lesson plan, so I had to adjust. I started with printing out this Long Vowel Rules List. I studied all the rules of long vowel sounds and then broke them up into palatable lessons for my kindergartner. We did not get to cover all of the rules, but we did focus on words that end with “e”, as well as double “e” vowel words like “feet.” Some resources we used included:
7. Becoming a Fluent Reader.
By this time, my kindergartner was more than ready to begin reading. We started with short passages, taking advantage of the many freebies that Teachers pay Teachers (an online educational resource) had to offer. To this day, my son is still required to do reading comprehension practice every morning. Repetition is key to fluency. Here are some of the free resources we used for kindergarten.
Additionally, our favorite emergent reader books are from the I Can Read collection. My kindergartner’s favorite series from this collection included Charlie the Ranch Dog and Frog and Toad. You can find these books for free at your local library.
8. Testing Knowledge.
Of course, hearing my kindergartner read was proof enough that he had mastered the GSE standards we adopted. However, I did use the Sonlight Reading Assessment to gauge what level he was reading at. He tested for Grade 1 level at the end of his kindergarten year. Another method I used to evaluate my son’s reading progress was noting the levels on the types of books he was reading. For instance, for I Can Read books, he went from the emergent reader level to reading level 1 & 2 books confidently all by himself. You can also use Book Wizard to find out what level your child is reading at.
And that’s it! Those are the eight steps I took to help my emergent reader! Here are some key points to take home:
• We waited until our kindergartner was ready.
• We focused on decoding words rather than memorization.
• We used comprehensive word lists to help guide us along our curriculum.
• We read a TON of books daily.
• We practiced until mastery.
I would not advise a DIY curriculum if you are not up to the task. Please seek out a free virtual curriculum if you are on a tight budget but do not want to create your own reading curriculum. Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool is a great place to start. They offer a pretty decent emergent reader curriculum free of charge. Check out my Free Homeschool Curriculum Deals for more info on free homeschool curricula.
For more free resources, check out my online store Nike Anderson’s Classroom at Teachers pay Teachers!