Back to School – Setting Up Your Own Homeschool Reading Program
Are you struggling to put together your own reading curriculum for your homeschool? TJ offers some tips and advice for the frugal/freebie homeschooler for getting started from scratch.
The task of creating a reading curriculum for your homeschool students may seem daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be. Here is what I do to put together our homeschool reading curriculum.
1. Ask myself: “What is my purpose for teaching reading?”
(When I speak of reading curriculum, I am speaking of a course of study for students who are pretty fluent readers and ready to begin examining literature, approximately 2nd – 12th grades).
Are you simply trying to put together a reading curriculum because that is what is done in schools? If so, it’s likely that your students won’t get very much out of it other than just having the satisfaction of having gone through the motions to feel as if their education is equal to what they would have received in public schooling.
Without a purpose, how will you know what materials to select? How will you know what to teach?
So, it is imperative, for effective instruction (and peace of mind) that we establish our personal goals. Some of my goals are:
-to expose my kids to a variety of literature that they may encounter in the real world so that they can understand it and use it effectively.
-to help prepare my kids for academic testing by exposing them to literature found on those tests as well as to literary elements that they may be questioned about
-to use literature to expose my children to life and living, human nature, and history
-to help my kids acquire new knowledge through reading expository materials on a variety of subjects
Knowing your reasons for teaching can help you select your reading material more effectively and help you make your plans more effectively.
2. Decide concepts/skills you need to teach/provide instruction in
For me, the basic skills that I seek to teach are comprehension skills and literary elements as well as improving fluency. For these, for example, I have used free reading skills workbooks that I have found online such as the McGraw Hill Reading Treasures Workbooks, (available for Grades 1-6).
In addition, you can look up curriculum maps or scope and sequences for lists of reading skills. Then, you can find worksheets to help teach/reinforce these concepts.
Again, these resources are geared for the frugal/freebie homeschooler. If you can purchase workbooks, that can open up a lot more convenient/readymade resources.
3. Select your reading material
I take a more untraditional approach to selecting my reading materials. I primarily use reading selections from state standardized released tests. I like to use these because they provide a very nice variety of fiction and nonfiction, short selections on subjects that are of interest to kids their ages. These selections also include several comprehension and reading skills questions at the end. I go through several years’ worth of tests, extract the reading passages and then put them the together in one file.
(you can see my standardized test label here at the blog for links to standardized released tests, and I have posted a few lists of reading selections here under “reading” as well)
In addition, I google online for “grade x reading passages.” Some of the places I have found great reading passages are:
Superteacherworksheets.com (Grades 1-5)
ICRMS (Grades 3-5)
- 4th Grade: http://ced.ncsu.edu/ircms/fourth.htm
- 3rd Grade: http://ced.ncsu.edu/ircms/third.htm
- 5th Grade: http://www.ncsu.edu/project/lancet/fifth.htm
The above resources are for the freebie/non library user. If you can purchase books or have library access, you can google “grade x reading lists” and find out selections that are typically used in schools.
For formal reading, I primarily use shorter texts instead of novels and just let my kids read novels for pleasure. Sometimes, we use free study guides I find online if we decide to use a novel for formal studies. I got more encouragement/validation for this approach that I was already using when I came across the trade book entitled “Less Is More Teaching Literature With Short Texts — Grades 6-12”
4. Schedule the readings and work
1. I work up a basic weekly schedule to follow week by week.
Day 1: Reading skills workbook or worksheets; fluency practice through repeated readings
Days 2 and 3: Reading passage 1; fluency practice through repeated readings, if time permits
Days 4 and 5: Reading passage 2; fluency practice through repeated readings, if time permits
(alternatively, you can assign a reading skills workbook page each day instead of just one day) in addition to any reading passages. If I follow a workbook, I just do it in the order it comes, but then try to draw out any of those reading workbook skills from our reading passages.
2. I plot the readings on a yearly week by week plan form.
As you can see, I generally allot two days per passage (again, they are short texts).
I created an “Interacting with Literature Teacher Cheat Sheet” to assist in developing assignments for the reading passages. In general, they read the passage, answer any comprehension questions (if it is from a standardized test) and then have them complete reading journal activities by assigning items from the “Interacting with Literature Teacher Cheat Sheet.” For the kids’ use, I created a basic template of response prompts for them to follow (based upon the “Interacting with Literature Teacher Cheat Sheet”) which is helpful because I often don’t have time to sit down and go over each reading passage in detail with them, so the template helps them explore the passage more on their own and they don’t have to sit waiting for me.
As far as scheduling the readings, you might:
-select two selections from the same genre each week, thus giving the student a chance to reinforce knowledge of elements of that genre as well as to compare them.
-alternate back and forth between fiction and nonfiction (odd weeks fiction, even weeks nonfiction)
-allot the first day of a reading passage for student’s reading of the passage and to respond to prompts for selected literary elements, and then sit down student on the second day and discuss the work (use the “Interacting with Literature Teacher Cheat Sheet” for discussion prompts) or, if the selection is extremely short, allot just one day per passage.
-assign creative (lapbooks, projects) or essay assignments that help students explore aspects of the text more (such as subject matter or specific literary elements).
This is a simple to moderate approach to setting up a reading program and can help you get up and running relatively quickly, especially if you have to rely on free resources. I’ve heard about homeschoolers whose programs range from letting kids simply read all the way up to a more traditional schooling approach complete with reading textbooks, anthologies and workbooks. For me, the method I outlined above has proven to be effective for us and gives me the satisfaction of feeling as if I have provided my kids with a free quality reading curriculum that aids in preparing them for real world reading and academic testing, which are my two primary goals.