First Grade: Reading for Life, with Mrs. Karkainen

Eastside Christian School students consistently demonstrate reading test scores (along with math scores) well above the state and local district levels. One of the reasons for this is the differentiated instruction that our teachers use, beginning in the earliest grades. Additionally, our First Grade teachers use reading curriculum from A Beka Books, which ensures that students are taught new material along with a daily review of previously-taught materials. Our first grade students spend time learning:

· phonics (correlating sounds with individual letters or groups of letters)

· rhyming words (and their related spelling patterns)

· punctuation and capitalization

· root words, syllables, prefixes, and suffixes

· compound words

If you dropped in to Mrs. Karkainen’s classroom during reading instruction, you would find her adorned with a colorful “Cat in the Hat” hat while addressing her students. She begins the morning by choosing a different student each day to be her up-front helper, and together the entire class reads aloud the Phonics Cards posted on the bulletin board. Each card has a variety of reading rules listed, each one with the letters for the rule and an example word. For instance: -ing, as in raining (see photos).

The students can be heard reciting ALL of the rules they have learned so far in the year EVERY morning! If you hear the chorus of little voices saying each rule together, it will bring a smile to your heart. They are tucking their learning away in a stronger way by rehearsing the rules each day.

After reviewing the rules they have learned so far, Mrs. Karkainen turns her attention to the day’s new rules. She moves to her projection screen that allows her to teach while projecting an enlarged image of her instruction book up front so all can easily see. The teacher, self-described “Word Detective”, now helps her students be detectives themselves as they work as a group to learn their new language rules. One day the rule of the day may be to “double the final consonant” before adding the “-er” ending. The next day it might be “drop the silent –e” before adding the “-ing” ending.

For the next hour, students will work independently on their reading seatwork and also meet in a small group setting with the teacher. Students are expected to learn using a variety of modes each day: reading aloud, listening and repeating, writing worksheets, question & answer, etc. The A Beka Books curriculum includes the use of rich literature, enjoyable poetry, tactile/hands-on activities, and challenging exercises to help all students learn via their best learning style.

When asked about teaching reading, Mrs. Karkainen had this to say:

“The A Beka Books curriculum does a beautiful job integrating character traits and Biblical values into the 10 reading books. The method we use to teach reading has six easy steps: recognize short vowels, recognize consonants and their sounds, learn to blend, learn one vowel rule, learn to sound two-vowel words and learn and apply the special phonics sounds.  Students are reading above grade level by the end of the year, between second grade and fifth grade reading levels. This program has worked for every student I have taught.”

Thanks to dedicated and experienced teachers like Mrs. Karkainen, our students are very well prepared for learning in the next year and for life!

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