1st grade reading help — The Bump
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1st grade reading help

I am having trouble with my daughter's reading level. After the first quarter grades came out, she was reading at the level she should be at, but when I received her 2nd quarter report card, she went back a level. What the heck? I get frustrated a bit with her when she is reading to me because she sounds every single letter out in a word but still has trouble saying the word. She also does not remember rules (i.e. ea sounds like ee) so it gives her a hard time. I try to be patient but it becomes very very difficult, especially when I tell her a rule or she reads a word and she forgets almost immediately.

Her teacher has noticed this but has not said anything except for small notes on classwork saying "Do over" or "study". She comes home with 40% on quizzes that involve filling in the blank. I have spoken with her teacher because I was out of ideas and she told me that the reading teacher is going to try a different approach with her. But I am beginning to worry that she may not be passed to 2nd grade since there is less than half a year to go.

Any teachers out there? What should I do? Tutoring? Please help.

Re: 1st grade reading help

  • I've been teaching elementary school for 9 years and taught kindergarten for 3.  I'm by no means an expert at teaching reading, but I did pick up some good stuff from my grade level partners since I went in knowing nothing about that age group!

    It sounds like your DD has trouble with blending: putting together the sounds to make words.  An easy game to play to help reinforce that is called Guess My Word, and you can play it anywhere.  You make the sounds, with about a one-second pause in between, and she puts them together to guess your word (so you'd go, "/c/..../a/...../t/" making the sounds, NOT saying the letters, and she'd go, "Cat!").  At first, she may not get it and you might have to drag out each sound for her until they run together, but she'll catch on.  Do only simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words at first: fox, dog, cup, big, not, etc.  Then you can start adding in words with blends: stop, brick, plate, etc. 

    It also sounds like she knows her basic letter sounds but struggles with blends, digraphs, and vowel pairs.  Here is a chart I saw on Pinterest that you could practice with her at home, either by asking her to point to (or poke, flick, kiss...whatever keeps it fun) the letters that make the sound, or by pointing to each one and naming its sound:


    With vowel pairs, an easy guideline to teach is that they'll usually make the sound of the first vowel, but sometimes you have to try both its long and short sound and figure out which one makes sense.  For example, "ea" does make the "ee" sound in "bead," but in "dead" it makes the short e sound. Rather than memorizing every team and all its variations, it may be siimpler to just say to look at the first vowel and try both of its sounds.

    Once she gets a handle on that, then we start working on tackling big/hard words by "chunking"--looking for chunks we know.  So, given the word "stacking," you'd want her to notice that she knows what "st" says, she knows what "ing" says, and she knows that "ck" make one /k/ sound together.  Then she can sound it out in chunks, not letter by letter.

    I hope that helps some.  The second link in my sig is to a simple blog I made for my kinder parents that lists tips for teaching sight words and early reading skills, and there might be more info there that would help, too.  Just try to keep it positive and know that she will get it if you keep practicing! =)

  • I am a licensed K-6 teacher as well as a K-12 licensed reading teacher. I taught 1st grade last year and 2nd grade currently. I agree with the PP about working with your daughter on those skills regarding decoding words.

    I also have to say that as the year goes on, expectations go up. For example: For the 1st quarter she may have met the goal but as the move through the year the goal increases. I don't know if the levels your daughter is being measured at are by number or letter but here is an example: 1st quarter goal: Level E. 2nd quarter goal: Level H. Your daughter may not have made enough growth in the 2nd quarter to now be considered on grade level.

    Also reading levels aren't just measured on how well a student can read. It is also measured on how well a student can comprehend what they are reading. I'm sure your daughter's teacher does some sort of assessment that measures both. I have had students who can read really well with great accuracy, but then when it comes to telling me about what they read or answering questions about what they read, they can't tell me anything. A way you can help your daughter is by asking her questions about characters, plot (beginning, middle and end), setting, problem/solution, etc after she reads. Before reading a story you can do a picture walk and make predictions about the story. You can also help her by asking her questions in order to connect the story to her. Does this story remind her of anything? All of these skills are essential to being a good reader.


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  • I'm not a teacher but my dd is in first grade and really struggled with reading at the beginning of the year.  In the fall she was testing behind.  She saw a reading specialist at school from Oct-Jan and she is now testing at the level she needs to be at the end of the year, so she's ahead!  The reading specialist was mostly working on the things that are listed above, just helping her remember the rules and lot of practice.  Hopefully your school offers something similar!



  • I am a first grade teacher with 18 years experience kindergarten -3rd.

    I would suggest tutoring - you could try a local program, see if there is a college/university program or student who tutors.

    I would also check into Spalding Phonograms.  I use them daily.  Here is a video of my previous Kindergarteners running through the Phonograms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70ujJPmCH24&list=UUW_gSHKWchlJ-YUXk5ZtuKQ&index=25&feature=plcp

    I think they are helpful - it helps kids spelling and reading.  There are lots of videos online to show you how to use them and even have your daughter practice them so you wouldn't even have to buy them.  I don't think they're too expensive, but why pay if you don't have to.  This will help with decoding.

    Also read read read with her.  Read to her, have her read to you.  If her teacher doesn't give you enough books ask your local librarians to help you find books at her level.  Have her read to you out loud so she can hear herself read.  

    Ask questions about what she is reading, what she thinks will happen next.  Have her retell stories she reads and you read with lots of details.  Who was in the story, where was the story, what was the problem, how was it solved and then encourage her to retell it in sequence. This will help with comprehension.

    Good luck. 

  • "I get frustrated a bit with her when she is reading to me because she sounds every single letter out in a word but still has trouble saying the word. She also does not remember rules (i.e. ea sounds like ee) so it gives her a hard time. I try to be patient but it becomes very very difficult, especially when I tell her a rule or she reads a word and she forgets almost immediately."

    I could have written this exact thing last summer... 

    My daughter really struggled with reading last year (K) so we started tutoring this past summer (between K-1st grade).  She was suspected as Dyslexic by myself & her Speech Therapist & so we had her tested at the end of K & she is...I am NOT saying your DD is but in our case, it was pretty obvious she was struggling way more than she should for her intelligence & had all the other symptoms too.  Anyway she sees an Orton-Gillingham tutor twice a week & has dramatically improved over the past 9mo.  Her reading readiness scores (Dibels) went from way below benchmark to way above in almost all categories.  She's reading twice as fast & with a 97% (up from 84%) accuracy from just 3mo ago.  The improvement is that dramatic.  It is pricey (her tutor charges $100/hr) but it's made an amazing difference.  She knows the phonics rules inside & out now...every sound, what sounds break the rules ("jail words"), all the blends, etc...she knows it all so much that the teacher now says she's the start student.  So if you can afford it & the school isn't getting the job done...I highly suggest a qualified tutor.  Good luck. 

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  • I agree with PP about working on decoding and chunking skills.  In my classroom most of the students are able to do that at this point in the year.  Is she seeing a reading specialist at her school?  My kiddos who are struggling with reading are pulled daily by a reading specialist. 

    Also,  I noticed that you said you are 'worried' about her not going on to 2nd grade.  As a first grade teacher I really want parents to understand that retention is not a bad thing.  A lot of the time it's exactly what the child needs not only to build on their skills but to build confidence.  Think of it is as helping your child NOT hurting her.  I think 1st grade is absolutely the best grade to retain in because there is so much taught in 1st and most kids at this point are really to young to understand (whether it's the retained child or the peers who move on).  We are retaining my 6 year old stepson next year due to these same issues and also due to immaturity because he's a summer baby which makes him almost a full year younger than many of his peers.  Next year he'll be the older one and will already know what's going on and that will build his confidence.  I had to talk with BM for her to realize that we are helping him now so he won't have to struggle later.  In my opinion, why send a child on who is struggling and will continue to pile on more struggles as the years go on.  Just something to think about.  Sorry this is so long but it's a hot button issue with me. 

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  • Thank you to everyone for your input. I'm kind of taking bits and pieces of all your advice. I talked to her teacher and she gave me one the the basal reading books that the kids' workbooks are based on, that way we can work with her on what she will be doing in school. And I wish I could afford a private tutor, but that is just not in the cards currently. She is slowly getting better, because when we read at home, she does very well and can even answer questions about the story, but she still struggles with schoolwork. We will just have to take it one day at a time I guess.

    Thank you all again :)

  • The best thing you can do at home is to read to her and with her. Don't worry about all the "rules". If she is sounding out every letter, just say to her "think about the story" and if she does and can't get the word pretty quickly, just tell her. If you are trying to teach her how to figure tricky words out and her teacher is, she might be getting different messages which will confuse her even more.

    Chances are she knows you are frustrated which will make her more stressed and frustrated. At her age you just want to instill a love for reading, you want it to be fun. Otherwise she won't want to read unless she is forced to and that certainly will not help her become a better reader.

    All I would do is get books she enjoys and read them to her. If she can read them to you, great. If they are too difficult, read them to her. Leave the teaching to the teacher and instill the joy of reading at home. Talk about books as you read so the focus isn't just on reading the words.

    If you're having a hard time finding books she can read, ask the teacher for suggestions or to send books home. As far as the fill in the blank quizzes, I would not worry about those. That's a terrible way to assess what a young child knows/is capable of doing. It's a shame that she's being assessed like that and then told to "study more" or "do over". That teacher is doing a great job of making school fun and motivating (insert big eye roll).

    I've been teaching first grade for 8 years. Wink

  • @Osgirl:

    I love reading to her because I also have a 5 year old who can't read yet, so it is something we can do altogether. I guess I just feel that if I keep reading to her, she will never get it on her own (almost an "enabling" feeling). Does that make any sense for a 1st grader? I don't know the answer to that one, but since I first posted, she has improved. I am trying to change up my practices with her so she excels rather than feels like no matter how hard she tries, she just can't do it. I never want to make my child feel that way. So thank you for your advice, I will have me and my husband read to her more often and hopefully it helps her pick up her own reading. Big Smile

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