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Featured Website of the Month (Dec.) - Reading Bear

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who longed to read. His friends were reading. His sisters were reading, but he was struggling to learn how to read. His parents didn’t know how to best help him and his teacher wanted to find a way to engage him in the learning process. Sound familiar? Sadly, this can be the start of many children’s reading journeys as reading doesn't come easily to all children.

This month’s website feature is a new tool to help struggling readers learn to read. Reading Bear is a free reading website “to teach beginning readers vocabulary and concepts while systematically introducing all the main phonetic patterns of written English”. This website isn’t supposed to replace other methods of teaching phonics, but it is a good tool to use in addition to other methods to help students to learn.

Reading Bear is a series of interactive powerpoints that sound words out at four different speeds. The words are accompanied by a sentence and a video or picture of that sentence.

There is a Teacher’s Guide which gives detailed instructions for how to best implement this resource in your home or classroom. There are also some Training Videos available to walk you through how to set up and get started. 

The Reading Bear program works best if students already know the letter sounds before starting. The purpose of Reading Bear is to help students learn the phonics rules, not to teach the letter sounds. 

Reading Bear is targeted for children between the ages of 4 and 7. It is not a high-pressure program. The lessons are short, so they are easy to fit into any timeframe. The videos can be shown to a whole-class or as independent work, allowing students can go through the lessons at their own pace. It depends on how the teacher would like to implement the website into their teaching. 

Once you are on the homepage of the website, you will see different lessons to choose from. There are 50 lessons, equaling about 12 hours of instruction. For example “Short A”, “Short E”, “Digraphs”, “Blends”, etc. Under each lesson are a, b, c options. These are different video lessons. There is also an option for a quiz. The lessons build on each other, starting with the easiest concepts and moving onto harder concepts. 

After clicking on one of the a, b, c options, you will be presented with several options for lessons. For example, “Sound it out slowly” or “let me sound it out”. There is a description of all the options, so you know exactly what to expect from the video.

The videos start by displaying a word on the screen. As the word is sounded out and read aloud, each letter is highlighted. Next, students watch as someone reads the word, so they can see how the sounds are formed on the lips. Lastly, students are given a chance to read the word on their own. 

So if you have students who are having difficulty learning to read, give Reading Bear a try and let me know how it goes. Do you have any tools in your phonics tool belt that have worked wonders for you students? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

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