Bright seven year old, who could not read just over three weeks ago, as she tried to sound out each word one letter at a time, and so became confused and frustrated every time she met the word the. The immediate progress once irregularity was explained has been noted below, as has her wish to read Alice in Wonderland, which we started on Monday, once we had finished Good Little Wolf. GLW is an excellent teaching book, as it introduces longer words, such as comfortable and unfamiliar, in the context of simple sentences, with plenty of excellent illustrations, and not too much text on a page. The only edition I had of Alice was in a paperback complete stories, about three inches thick.
Beginning at the beginning, I used a paired reading approach, with BSY joining in - I waited for her to read each word - and then going back and trying to read each new paragraph on her own, with me joining in again once she got stuck. (This is a variation on the original paired reading approach, but has some of its key principles - support is immediate an unobtrusive, and the child does as much as he or she can, with the security of knowing that they won't be allowed to fail.). This worked very well. I noted and picked out any words BSY struggled over, and she made rapid progress in identifying them and in phrasing her reading. A very satisfying page and a half later, we called it a day.
An adult who was observing noted BSY's determination to read the book, which was itself a huge jump from the previous one, and one I'd hesitated before using. Parent's verdict was "brilliant," and BSY left greatly satisfied. We'll go over the beginning again next lesson, and I've recommended the fantastic pop-up picture book as a Christmas present. BSY had made good progress with the two-times table, but the school had moved to counting fives in multiples. This remains in my view an error, as it makes the table harder to learn. We started on threes.
With the seven year-old boy in London, I plugged a small microscope into my laptop, and left it where he could see it while we did the 2 and 3 times tables. A lot of work needed to stop him from losing his place, but good progress, particularly when he'd worked out the questions I was likely to ask him and had his answers ready in advance, to beat me. We looked at coins and his little finger through the microscope - What was that black speck on his little finger? Surely not dirt? - and then started to read the title of the accompanying book - Usborne Science and Experiments. The world of the Microscope, which he learned to read very quickly.
Using conversation to build up understanding of meaning around the text was crucial in both cases. BSY found unfamiliar easier once I had explained the link with family, and similarly could read helium and hydrogen after we'd discussed their properties. Phonics alone could not explain why helium is pronounced differently from hedonist (or indeed hydrogen from hystamine), but unpacking the use of vowels in English, and the reasons why we can't always be sure whether a vowel is long or short, enabled her to try both versions and read the words. The young man found science much easier to understand and read once I'd unpacked the Latin scio, and was pleased to tell his dad abou the influence of Norman French on English.
In order to teach more advanced reading, we need to do much more than just teach the reading. We need to open up the world for the child, in terms he or she can understand.
Afterthought on the phonics of hydrogen and hystamine - the phonics tell us much of what we need to know, but not all of it. We need to know which of a limited range of possibilities applies in a given word. Hydrdogen is like hydrangia, dehydrated and others. Hystamine is like hysterical, hystrionics etc. Once we make a small group, each word in the group reinforces the others.