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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Mason, Ph.D.

Suddenly Home Schooling? Here Are Some Tips for Teaching Reading

Strategies to Help your Child with Reading

May parents are struggling with school closures. Your child does not need to fall behind when they are out of school! While your child is out of school, I recommend that they work on reading five or hours a week.

A K-2 good reading program incorporates instruction on phonological awareness, phonics, sight words, reading comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. The amount that you spend on each area depends on the child’s grade and the child’s individual needs.

If your child is in third grade or higher, and is working at, or close to, reading level, your focus should be primarily on reading comprehension and vocabulary. Depending on the needs of your child, fluency might also be addressed. However, if your child is a struggling reader, I recommend that you look closely at the First-Grade lesson plans (regardless of the age of your child). Children who are struggling with reading frequently have issues with phonological awareness, phonics, and/or learning sight words. These issues need to be remediated to help your child become a better reader.

When I do educational therapy with children, I always do a thorough assessment, so I can develop individualized interventions for the child. If you know how to complete reading assessments, it will help you greatly in deciding what areas to focus on and what strategies to use. If you don’t know how to assess your child, ask your child’s teacher what your child needs to work on. Many teachers are still working this week, so email them now with your questions. I give some tips on how to assess your child’s reading comprehension in the FREE lesson plans.


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I have developed week-long lesson plans for children K-2 for parents that can be re-used for many weeks. You can find them here: Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade.

These are good starting places for most children. However, if you find that the material is too difficult for your child, you can go down a grade level in one or more areas. If you find that the work is too easy, you can go up a grade level, or look below to see the next steps in the reading sequence.

You do not have to follow the lesson plans exactly. You can re-do the activities your child needs more practice on or the ones your child likes. I like to prepare the lessons once a week, but you can prepare daily or a few days at a time.

I think the hardest part is scheduling. You can do it for one 60-minute session, two 30-minute sessions, four 15-minute sessions, or 6 ten-minute sessions. Or a mix of these. I do recommend that you keep the same schedule daily because having a routine helps you and your child. If you are doing longer sessions, I also recommend that you change activities every five to fifteen minutes. Little ones can’t focus on one thing for more than 15 minutes, and much of the time, that can’t focus that long. I also recommend doing more than one active activity. Also, it works better if do the most challenging activities at the beginning of a session if you are going to work in one hour or half hour blocks. Your child will be fresher at the beginning of the sessions.

I have links throughout the lessons to various pages on the internet. All these activities are free. I wanted to only attach free lessons because this is a free resource. However, there are many low-cost resources on the internet. Teachers Pay Teachers has a wide variety or resources both paid and free. Reading Rockets has tons of free activities and games. Reading Works has a ton of reading passages with comprehension questions at every level. I really like Moffat Girls. This Reading Mama, Miss Giraffe, and The Measured Mom all have excellent free resources. I have not bought any of their resources, but the quality of their free resources makes me think their paid resources would be very good.

Each lesson plan incorporates all or most of these areas of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, sight words, reading comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. Here are some more details.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear different sounds in oral language. It is different than phonics because phonics matches the sound to the letter. Until a child has a firm grasp on phonological awareness, phonics can be challenging. On the other hand, phonics instruction can support phonological awareness. However, phonological awareness is considered a precursor to phonics.

For the kindergarten lessons, I provided activities for onsets and rimes. For the first-grade lessons, I gave you options by referring you to a web page that provides many activities. Choose one. If your child finds these activities too difficult, go down a level. For instance, do a search “Phonological Awareness Sound Blending”. You should be able to find plenty of resources. I also highly recommend that you go to this website and scroll down to middle of the page and look at the classroom strategies. There are many activities that you can do that support phonological awareness at home.


I think everyone knows what phonics, but just to clarify, it is the ability to match sounds to letters. There are so many fun ways to teach phonics, and there are many games that you can get for free and for low prices on the internet. There are also free and inexpensive worksheets on the internet.

Sight Words

Sight words should rightly be called high-frequency words because these words are the most common words used and printed. Officially, sight words are words that cannot be sounded out. However, most programs include words that can be sounded out on their sight word lists because the words are commonly used. If you know what your child’s reading curriculum is use the sight words provided by that curriculum. Do an internet search for the list of those sight words if your child’s teacher has not provided them. I have provided a link for the Fountas and Pinell Assessment. If you do not know what your child’s reading curriculum is or cannot find the sight word list, I have provided links to assess using Fry Words or Dolch Words. Both lists are commonly used in schools.

Fluency is having the correct volume, intonation and pacing while reading. Some children need to practice this, and some do not. If your child reads slowly, you definitely need to incorporate fluency skills in your lessons. I am recommending three days a week, but your child may need more practice.


For kindergarteners and first graders, vocabulary is primarily learned and taught orally. In this age group, hold a lot of conversations with your child, sometimes explicitly teaching them something, but other times just in casual conversations. If your child tells you they don’t understand, or seems not to understand something, rephrase or explain in more detail

Another way to improve children’s vocabulary is through reading stories to them. The stories that you read to your child should be at a higher level than the books they are reading on their own or with you (this can be done at any age level). Children can understand things they hear that they cannot read yet. When you read stories to your children, ask them comprehension questions (see Reading Comprehension). As you are reading, also ask them if they know what specific words mean, and, even better, how they know what that words means. Sometimes, they know a word because of previous teaching and experiences. If this is the case, take some time out from reading the story and talk about it. If they know what a word means because they used the context of the word (the words around the word), then praise them for using such an advanced strategy!

From second grade on, student still learn vocabulary orally, but as children get older, more vocabulary learning is done through reading. For the second-grade and older, I recommend checking books out of the library about topics in the California Frameworks for Science and History/Social Studies. This way your child is developing vocabulary and reviewing information learned the previous year.

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension is the being able to understand the content of what you are reading. All the other reading skills need to be developed to help students understand what they read.

Scholastic has great reading comprehension questions for parents here. Ask the questions orally and have your child answer them orally. You can also go to Read Works. There are many reading passages at every level that include written reading comprehension questions.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.


Click here to get your free K-2 Lesson Plans.

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