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So my DD5 is in the very early stages of learning to read. She's beginning to sound out and blend CVC words and has learned a handful of "sight words" or HFW or whatever you want to call them. So many of the Level A or early reader level books and texts seem to use this "predictable text" structure where it will have one sentence repeated over and over like " I see a dog" "I see a ball" where the object is pictured on the page. So my (admittedly limited) experience thus far is that she will look at the first sentence, and then is just saying it over again while looking at the pictures - not reading the words. And when she encounters a text not structured this way, she is still trying to "read" it that way. Or she's looking at me telling me she can't read it. And I'm all like "of course you can't - you aren't even looking at the words!" 

So my questions are these: Why are so many of these early level texts structured this way? It's so common, I presume that it must have a reason and serve some purpose. Is it a bad thing that as soon as she figures out and is able to predict the "predictable text" that she stops really reading the words? Maybe I'm making that into a bigger deal than it really is. 

This is my first foray into teaching reading from scratch. Thanks for any input?

Jessica

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  • JessinTX changed the title to Question on Teaching Reading with "predictable text" readers

Schools nowadays don’t teach much phonics, but rather educated guessing (based on pictures, what would make sense, first letter, etc). But despite failing to teach around 50% of students to actually decode words accurately, teachers and administrators still very much want and need to show that they are teaching kids to “read”. And obviously if they are teaching word guessing as the preferred strategy, then the way to get kids “reading” is to make the words easier to guess! Enter predictable texts. 
 

For proponents of phonics (including myself and the vast majority of other classical educators) guessing words is a very big problem. This is why most phonics teaching is a combination of explicit instruction plus practice in decodable readers. A decodable reader only uses words that the child has been taught how to read. These would be series like Bob Books, Progressive Phonics (free online), I See Sam (free online), All About Reading readers, etc. As my kids start to read more than just CVC words, I also introduce buddy reading not-quite-decodeable books, with me reading any words they do not yet have the tools to read to avoid guessing. This opens up a lot more books like the We Both Read series, Dear Dragon, phonics comics, and some level 1 books...again, only having them attempt the words they can sound out without guessing. 

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I agree with @wendyroo.  If you can find it, another great series at this very early CVC beginner stage is the Now I'm Reading books by Nora Gaydos.  They're very small, the cartoon style pictures are hilarious and at the back is a (very short) list of the sounds and sight words a child needs to know to read the book so the parent can slot them into whatever phonics program they're using.  They come in tiny ring binders with ten little gently graded books.  Level one is short vowel sounds only, level 2 introduces long vowels.

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These books are not for the level your dd is working at, they are for emerging readers.   In your example, the primary goal is 'learning' the sight word 'see'  and the secondary goal is recognizing phonemes.  Everything else is gravy, and the hope is that the child will use the skill of using the unknown word's initial and final letters plus illustration to figure out the new word while getting enough repetition on the sight words to move these words into long term memory. 

In addition to Wendy's excellent advice, consider adding an appropriate dictionary and a thesaurus to your bookshelf.  The visuals they have are very good these days.  Also consider making booklets...the student gets practice in sequencing and builds fluency.

We skipped a lot of beginning readers in favor of buddy reading at the level of interest of the child, which is the level they are actively listening to a story..... but the selection had to have big enough print that there is no eye strain.  So...Dr. Suess, Henry & Mudge, Mr. Putter & Tabby, Magic School Bus.  If you come across an older phonics based reading series, its worth picking up as they often include poetry.  I taught  adult reading as a volunteer thru a community based program, pre-covid of course, and my organization uses the series I used as a child...dictionary use is taught, phonics is taught and practiced, complexity and general knowledge increases as the grade levels increase.  

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29 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

You have to know which series are decodable. In my experience, the “I Can Read!” series are actually phonetic. We like Bob books, too.

I think it largely depends what level of decodable readers you are looking for. Addy can mostly handle the "I Can Read!" level 1 books, but she already knows consonant blends, digraphs, ee and oo, r-controlled vowels and simple silent e words. But that is a long way from where the original poster says her daughter is: "She's beginning to sound out and blend CVC words and has learned a handful of "sight words". 

In this "I Can Read!" level 1, the first page has the words "brother" and "hospital" and in the sample they use "whole", "blue", and "emergency". All of those would trip Addy up.

If you have a child who is picking up phonics easily and intuitively, and you jump in with the words they can not yet sound out to prevent guessing, then this probably isn't too big of a deal, but the books still aren't actually fully decodable until you have a lot of phonics under your belt...a silent w in a level 1 book, really?!? There wasn't even a compelling reason to include the word "whole"; that sentence could have easily been rephrased.

 

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11 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

I think it largely depends what level of decodable readers you are looking for. Addy can mostly handle the "I Can Read!" level 1 books, but she already knows consonant blends, digraphs, ee and oo, r-controlled vowels and simple silent e words. But that is a long way from where the original poster says her daughter is: "She's beginning to sound out and blend CVC words and has learned a handful of "sight words". 

Yeah, with a kiddo starting basic words I’d switch on and off with them — they wouldn’t read every word. However, it was my experience that they were TRYING to be phonetic in a way lots of junkier early readers were not. And they include lots of really lovely books.

The one you’re linking doesn’t look great, though! I was thinking more like Frog and Toad, which has a lot of decodable words — enough that I’ve used it with very beginning readers, just picking out certain words. For me, it’s enough that there’s a good variety of words you can get the kiddo to read. I’ve never used super early readers except Bob books, anyway, since I tend to switch on/off with my younger readers. 

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7 minutes ago, Heigh Ho said:

These books are not for the level your dd is working at, they are for emerging readers.   In your example, the primary goal is 'learning' the sight word 'see'  and the secondary goal is recognizing phonemes.  Everything else is gravy, and the hope is that the child will use the skill of using the unknown word's initial and final letters plus illustration to figure out the new word while getting enough repetition on the sight words to move these words into long term memory. 

I found this a very interesting series about how predictable texts can do a very poor job even of teaching sight words.

As the original poster noted, often kids "read" the pictures without even looking at the words, which greatly reduces how much actual exposure they have to the target sight word in print.

I guess I do use repetitive texts (Brown Bear, Brown Bear; Dinosaur Roar!; Where is Baby's Bellybutton; and other board books) to let kids "read" long before they learn any phonics, but I have no expectations that they will internalize any of the words in print. It is just a way for me to solidify the concepts of "print conveys meaning", "words are read left to right", and "reading is fulfilling and fun" (and practice memorization) with toddlers and young preschoolers.

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2 hours ago, wendyroo said:

I guess I do use repetitive texts (Brown Bear, Brown Bear; Dinosaur Roar!; Where is Baby's Bellybutton; and other board books) to let kids "read" long before they learn any phonics, but I have no expectations that they will internalize any of the words in print. It is just a way for me to solidify the concepts of "print conveys meaning", "words are read left to right", and "reading is fulfilling and fun" (and practice memorization) with toddlers and young preschoolers.

and the idea that an illustration relates to what is being read outloud, and there are benefits in listening and looking....phonemic awareness, sequencing, vocab, tonal awareness, enjoyment....

 

I don't beleive books 'teach' sight words. They are opportunities for using skills and for the necessary spaced repetition to reach fluency. Some students will need more time or teacher guided involvement before they take the initiative and exercise those skills on their own.  Ever done the color word crayon sheets?  The reading objective is individualized, depending on what the child is learning and what the child is practicing to fluency.

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All very interesting...

I'm not sure these leveled books are really helping to learn or practice reading sight words because she's not looking at the words as she "reads" through them.

But like wendyroo said when I've tried to find other early readers they have crazy hard words thrown in. I looked at a set on Paw Patrol "phonics" readers (cause she LOOOOVES Paw Patrol), and they did have quite a few sight word and short vowel sound words, but threw in a bunch of other words that were definitely not decodable at this point. I actually do have the "Now We're Reading" books someone mentioned - picked them up cheap at Half-Price at some point. We'll try those. Sadly there is only one short a story and one short i story, etc. and we're moving a bit slower than that. LOL. 

I must be the only one who just doesn't like BOB books. Something about the illustrations just rubs me the wrong way. LOL. Anybody ever used the Usborne phonics readers? What are they like? 

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1 hour ago, Heigh Ho said:

I don't beleive books 'teach' sight words. They are opportunities for using skills and for the necessary spaced repetition to reach fluency. Some students will need more time or teacher guided involvement before they take the initiative and exercise those skills on their own.  

What might this teacher guided involvement look like? If there is a way to make these readers more effective, since I have them, I'm interested. 🙂

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30 minutes ago, JessinTX said:

But like wendyroo said when I've tried to find other early readers they have crazy hard words thrown in. I looked at a set on Paw Patrol "phonics" readers (cause she LOOOOVES Paw Patrol), and they did have quite a few sight word and short vowel sound words, but threw in a bunch of other words that were definitely not decodable at this point.

My experience is those are really bad for some reason. Like, all those popular "early readers" have very few words, but the words are HARD. 

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7 hours ago, JessinTX said:

Anybody ever used the Usborne phonics readers? What are they like? 

False advertising! 🤣  Way too long for a kiddo who's just getting going on CVC words, and not phonically controlled (as in, contains lots of sight words phonemes that haven't been introduced yet).  Here is the text of the first three spreads from book one, Big Pig:

Big Pig gets a letter.  "Look for this hat".  Big Pig sees the hat.  There is a map in the hat. Big Pig runs to Fat Cat.  "Fat Cat!  Look at the map in this hat."  "It shows where to dig, Fat Cat."  "Where to dig?  Dig for what, Big Pig?" "Gold!" grunts Big Pig.  "Old gold."  "But I am a cat.  Cats need to nap.  I am a napping cat."  "You dig, Big Pig.  Be a pig on a dig."

 

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5 minutes ago, caffeineandbooks said:

False advertising! 🤣  Way too long for a kiddo who's just getting going on CVC words, and not phonically controlled (as in, contains lots of sight words phonemes that haven't been introduced yet).  Here is the text of the first three spreads from book one, Big Pig:

Big Pig gets a letter.  "Look for this hat".  Big Pig sees the hat.  There is a map in the hat. Big Pig runs to Fat Cat.  "Fat Cat!  Look at the map in this hat."  "It shows where to dig, Fat Cat."  "Where to dig?  Dig for what, Big Pig?" "Gold!" grunts Big Pig.  "Old gold."  "But I am a cat.  Cats need to nap.  I am a napping cat."  "You dig, Big Pig.  Be a pig on a dig."

Hmmm, this doesn't seem too bad. What's wrong with it? Which phonemes are supposed to be introduced at this point? 

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23 hours ago, JessinTX said:

So my DD5 is in the very early stages of learning to read. She's beginning to sound out and blend CVC words and has learned a handful of "sight words" or HFW or whatever you want to call them. So many of the Level A or early reader level books and texts seem to use this "predictable text" structure where it will have one sentence repeated over and over like " I see a dog" "I see a ball" where the object is pictured on the page. So my (admittedly limited) experience thus far is that she will look at the first sentence, and then is just saying it over again while looking at the pictures - not reading the words. And when she encounters a text not structured this way, she is still trying to "read" it that way. Or she's looking at me telling me she can't read it. And I'm all like "of course you can't - you aren't even looking at the words!" 

So my questions are these: Why are so many of these early level texts structured this way? It's so common, I presume that it must have a reason and serve some purpose. Is it a bad thing that as soon as she figures out and is able to predict the "predictable text" that she stops really reading the words? Maybe I'm making that into a bigger deal than it really is. 

This is my first foray into teaching reading from scratch. Thanks for any input?

Jessica

It might or might not be bad. 🙂

I prefer to teach dc to read with a good phonics method, and to use trade books (books you'd find in the library or in a book store) instead of vocabulary-controlled basal readers.

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On 11/29/2020 at 11:36 PM, JessinTX said:

So many of the Level A or early reader level books and texts seem to use this "predictable text" structure where it will have one sentence repeated over and over like " I see a dog" "I see a ball" where the object is pictured on the page. So my (admittedly limited) experience thus far is that she will look at the first sentence, and then is just saying it over again while looking at the pictures - not reading the words. And when she encounters a text not structured this way, she is still trying to "read" it that way. Or she's looking at me telling me she can't read it. And I'm all like "of course you can't - you aren't even looking at the words!" 

When my dc were at this stage I wrote their sentences to read into little stapled paper booklets. They would read the sentences and illustrate, showing they were comprehending what they were reading.

Reading is a dynamic process, with multiple components the dc has to process all at once. They decode, they form the word, they visualize, they relate that to what they already know, they ask questions. Public school reading instruction is tackling a wide variety of issues in kids, with kids coming in with language disabilities, averse childhood experiences, low language/literacy exposure, etc. etc. So while the ps methods have serious weaknesses (not teaching decoding adequately, literally telling kids to memorize lists or guess/check by looking at the beginning and end of the words and the pictures, etc.), reality is the methods, when properly done, are building in enough supports to address ALL the components of literacy and becoming a fluency, comprehending reader.

I have one dc who needed none of those supports, who could just DO it, and another dc who has needed EVERY support. It's crazy.

So reading is very complex and I wouldn't knock the fact that there are pictures. Pictures are there for lots of good reasons. But it IS important that the dc actually be reading. You are VERY WISE to do fluency work without pictures. You want to drill words, phrases, sentences to fluency. At least words. You decode/encode together using manipulatives, whatever you want, and then once she fully understands the words and can decode them you drill them to fluency. Then you get them into contexts and make sure she's comprehending. Reading and illustrating sentences shows her comprehension. Being able to ask questions shows her comprehension. (what might happen next, what words did you not know, has that ever happened to you, etc.)

Is your reading program giving you enough supports for building fluency? What program are you using?

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19 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Hmmm, this doesn't seem too bad. What's wrong with it? Which phonemes are supposed to be introduced at this point? 

Most phonics-based programs I'm familiar with teach simple consonant sounds - F says /f/ as in fish - and short vowel sounds - A says /a/ as in cat - first.  And first books contain three letter words that follow these rules.  "The" is commonly taught as a sight word because it's not pronounced as /t/ /h/ /e/ but it's hard to write a story without using it!

A kid who's learned to read three letter CVC words usually needs time to build fluency with just these before adding consonant blends (two or more consonants whose sounds are said smoothly together), digraphs (sh, ch, th, ph, ng - consonant teams who make a new sound) or long vowels (a as in lake, vowel teams like ea, ai, ay, oi...), or longer words.

In the selection I posted, a kid who's at the CVC stage would probably not be able to read: look, sees, there, this, shows, where, what, grunts, need, napping or you.  A kid at this stage might also struggle with "letter" and "napping", because they are longer words, and "be" because it's a long E instead of a short one (not /e/ as in egg).

Different programs do introduce phonemes in different orders, but this reader is allegedly designed to practice short vowels and these are almost always taught first.  It would be unusual to need practice with words like big, pig, dig, cat, nap, but already be able to read the trickier words I mentioned above.

To be clear, though, this book would have a place for someone who has used a "whole language" approach - knows lots of "high frequency" or "sight" words and can already read - and who is now going back and explicitly learning the rules that govern the words they can already read.  I'm suggesting that it would not suit the OP since she is using a phonics approach, not that it has no place (and indeed, I was able to quote it because a box of them is sitting on my shelf, alongside my other early readers!).

 

 

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8 minutes ago, caffeineandbooks said:

Most phonics-based programs I'm familiar with teach simple consonant sounds - F says /f/ as in fish - and short vowel sounds - A says /a/ as in cat - first.  And first books contain three letter words that follow these rules.  "The" is commonly taught as a sight word because it's not pronounced as /t/ /h/ /e/ but it's hard to write a story without using it!

A kid who's learned to read three letter CVC words usually needs time to build fluency with just these before adding consonant blends (two or more consonants whose sounds are said smoothly together), digraphs (sh, ch, th, ph, ng - consonant teams who make a new sound) or long vowels (a as in lake, vowel teams like ea, ai, ay, oi...), or longer words.

In the selection I posted, a kid who's at the CVC stage would probably not be able to read: look, sees, there, this, shows, where, what, grunts, need, napping or you.  A kid at this stage might also struggle with "letter" and "napping", because they are longer words, and "be" because it's a long E instead of a short one (not /e/ as in egg).

Different programs do introduce phonemes in different orders, but this reader is allegedly designed to practice short vowels and these are almost always taught first.  It would be unusual to need practice with words like big, pig, dig, cat, nap, but already be able to read the trickier words I mentioned above.

To be clear, though, this book would have a place for someone who has used a "whole language" approach - knows lots of "high frequency" or "sight" words and can already read - and who is now going back and explicitly learning the rules that govern the words they can already read.  I'm suggesting that it would not suit the OP since she is using a phonics approach, not that it has no place (and indeed, I was able to quote it because a box of them is sitting on my shelf, alongside my other early readers!).

Got it, thanks! We've only ever used 100 Easy Lessons, which do things in their own order. So I never know what the "standard" order is -- 100 Easy Lessons does long e's early, for example! I think it's possible they do order of phonemes by frequency or something like that? I'm really not sure. 

I did supplement 100 Easy Lessons with DD4, and then we'd always buddy-read for that -- there was no way to find books with PRECISELY the phonemes she already knew from 100 Easy Lessons, anyway. So then to me, a text in which my kid would be able to read 50% of the words seems great, lol. 

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

Got it, thanks! We've only ever used 100 Easy Lessons, which do things in their own order. So I never know what the "standard" order is -- 100 Easy Lessons does long e's early, for example! I think it's possible they do order of phonemes by frequency or something like that? I'm really not sure. 

I did supplement 100 Easy Lessons with DD4, and then we'd always buddy-read for that -- there was no way to find books with PRECISELY the phonemes she already knew from 100 Easy Lessons, anyway. So then to me, a text in which my kid would be able to read 50% of the words seems great, lol. 

I also find that really early part tricky.  In order to get enough practice we use books from more than one program, so I might teach a word like "be" as a sight word initially, and then a few lessons later our phonics program might tell them that if a little word ends with a vowel, the vowel says its name.  You don't need to be a purist 🙂 

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4 minutes ago, caffeineandbooks said:

I also find that really early part tricky.  In order to get enough practice we use books from more than one program, so I might teach a word like "be" as a sight word initially, and then a few lessons later our phonics program might tell them that if a little word ends with a vowel, the vowel says its name.  You don't need to be a purist 🙂 

I was a purist with DD8, lol, because she flew through 100 Easy Lessons at age 3 😲. And she didn't like practice outside "reading lesson time," so then we didn't read together except in the book itself. However, she's currently learning to read in 2 other languages simultaneously, and it's taking her on the order of months, so she was apparently not normal 😉 . 

But DD4 needed more practice... which was very reasonable, but I didn't expect it after my total outlier of a first kid! So then I had to look for books to match what she already knew, and it was totally impossible, lol. 

I think the book itself actually starts with some words as "sight words" and then updates them to phonetic words! As you note, some words are hard to avoid! 

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On 11/30/2020 at 9:39 PM, caffeineandbooks said:

False advertising! 🤣  Way too long for a kiddo who's just getting going on CVC words, and not phonically controlled (as in, contains lots of sight words phonemes that haven't been introduced yet).  Here is the text of the first three spreads from book one, Big Pig:

Big Pig gets a letter.  "Look for this hat".  Big Pig sees the hat.  There is a map in the hat. Big Pig runs to Fat Cat.  "Fat Cat!  Look at the map in this hat."  "It shows where to dig, Fat Cat."  "Where to dig?  Dig for what, Big Pig?" "Gold!" grunts Big Pig.  "Old gold."  "But I am a cat.  Cats need to nap.  I am a napping cat."  "You dig, Big Pig.  Be a pig on a dig."

I agree that that is a horrid example for an early beginner reader.  Every single one of the bolded words is inappropriate for a child just reading simple CVC words.  It is reminiscent of the old Dick and Jane books.  

I taught all of my kids to read with Sing, Spell, Read, Write.  The readers are controlled in such a way that all the words are decodable until sight words are introduced.

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