I'm a Reading Tutor: 3 Ways I Teach Reading

Hello, I'm Alysa. You may think you know me, but did you know I'm a reading tutor? No? Maybe that's because I just started this year. I love it! I got my degree in Elementary Education with a minor in TESOL, and it's on that strength that I draw when reading with Kierstin.

Right now I'm taking the summer off from tutoring, (I'm moving) but I just finished tutoring Kierstin, an exuberant first grade girl. Her teacher was concerned about her reading ability and had talked with her parents about having her repeat first grade. Since I happen to be her next-door neighbor, we connected and started reading together. Happily, her reading has improved and she'll be advancing to second grade next year.
Donating some books to the library, in preparation for the move.
 Photo by Jacob Stewart.

How We Do
What do we do? We spend 30 min together, twice a week. I'd love to meet more often, but twice a week is what works for everybody right now. I've broken our half hour into 3 chunks: Dyad Reading, Sight Word Practice, and Guided Reading. 

Dyad Reading
For the first part of the lesson we read together, aloud simultaneously, from the same book. This strategy is called Dyad Reading. The point of Dyad reading is to hear the word, say the word, see the word, and touch the word all at the same time. Like when Anne Sullivan famously spelled WATER for Helen Keller while her hand was running under water, all the sensory inputs are working together to make connections in the brain.

In my initial assessment, I could see that Kierstin did not have a large sight word repertoire. She was excellent at sounding words out, but would get so bogged down stopping to decode each word that she couldn't read fluently and couldn't comprehend the books she was reading.  Dyad reading emphasizes fluency. The learning reader chooses an interesting book to her, regardless of what reading level the book requires. The lead reader (that's me!) leads her along in reading it. I read at a pace that Kierstin can keep up with, but I read in a natual way, using expressive phrasing, proper emphasis and emotion. Sometimes also voices. :) We point to the word we're on as we read.

At its start, Dyad reading is basically just the learning reader repeating what the lead reader has said. As the learner improves, it becomes a dance. It's a no-pressure reading environment. If Kierstin doesn't know a word, I'll know it and say it. The narrative continues without pause. No stopping to sound words out. It's also a high-engagement reading environment. I'll hesitate when I know we're at a word that Kierstin knows or can get, or if I see that she is looking across the room instead of at the word she's pointing to. If she is getting more words than not, I'll let her take the lead.

Sight Word Practice
For this part of the lesson, we usually do some kind of game. Since Kierstin is the energizer bunny type, I try to add a physical element to our sight word game.

I have some sight word flashcards, and it is amazing  how versatile flashcards can be.  We have spread the cards all over the lawn and then read them as we picked them up. We have had two stacks of cards on opposite sides of the room, and she has run from one stack to the other, reading sight words (a favorite!).  We have had a competition to see who could tag the sight word first in an array of flashcards. We have made our own flashcards, out of common words that Kierstin struggled with in a previous lesson. We have also played with magnetic poetry and played "spot the word" on the page or on the cereal box.

Guided Reading
Finally, we always end with some guided reading. Kierstin's teacher often sends home books for Kierstin to read -- you know the type: paperback books that are a little bigger than a 3x5 card. They're very carefully leveled and often emphasize a particular phoneme. Mean Doreen was all about the long e sound, for example.

Essentially, Kierstin does all the reading, with a little guidance from me.

To prepare for the reading, we look at the book together. Sometimes we "take a picture walk" flipping through the pages to look at the illustrations and make predictions about the book.

Then Kierstin reads aloud to me. If she comes to a sticky spot, I prompt her (not just to "sound it out" but to look at the pictures for clues, look at the context for clues, look at a first or last letter etc.). If she makes an error and continues on, I stop her at a good stopping place and we talk about the error: "That didn't make sense..." or "that made sense, but look, this word is different from the one you said." Sometimes we talk about vocabulary. Some of these texts have words that one never hears on conversation - especially books that target a specific phoneme,  Other times a familiar word is used in a new way. Mean Doreen is a chicken and she took all the feed from the other chicken. It was completely unsurprising that the first time Kierstin read that she said that she took all the "food" not all the "feed." Guided reading is where we get to stop and talk about all that.

After Kierstin reads, we'll talk about whether or not we liked the book, what we thought of the plot or the characters, or make connections between the book and real life.

And that's it! If we're lucky, Kierstin doesn't have any chores and she gets to stay and play for a while. It has been so nice having a next door neighbor the exact same age as my oldest. We're going to miss our neighbors.

But, man, writing about all these parts is just so exciting! Tutoring reading is so much fun! I can't decide which part is my favorite. I don't have to decide, do I? You won't make me pick? What questions do you have for me? Have you used these techniques before? I hope you find some of the strategies above useful in your own reading with kids. Be sure to let me know if you do.
12 Things Not to Say to Young Readers by one of my professors.
I'm a writer by me
My call for virtual moving help

I Need Your Funnies.

The library books are the only ones not packed.
I'm moving.

We're moving.

We're moving to Connecticut from Georgia in 10 days.

And moving is stressful.

But laughter is the best medicine. Share me some funny jokes or silly videos or something, ok?

I'm counting on ya. Think of it as giving me virtual moving help. (And please keep it clean.)
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