How we are teaching Parker to read.

The program I’m sharing today isn’t my original idea.  It was taught to me by a spec ed teacher.  I have seen it show up in various parts of other reading programs.  I’ve taken the wheel, and instead of reinventing it, honed it to meet Parker’s unique learning style.

I started by taking pictures of objects that are part of Parker’s everyday life.  We use these pictures in our daily timelines, work boxes, etc.   I prefer to use actual pictures when possible. You could use flashcards if you wanted to.  For this post I randomly chose two pictures.

I made two copies of each picture AND two copies of each word.  On one picture I laminated the word with the picture.  The other picture was laminate without the word.  I also laminated the words alone. 

I begin by presenting one word.  I ask Parker to give it to me.  I say and sign the word.

Present another word.  It’s important the words NOT be similar.  I ask Parker to give it to me.


I present both pictures to Parker.  I ask him to give me one.  (When I actually do this I place the pictures side by side.)  When he gives me a picture I say:  Thank you Parker.  You gave me (   ).

Using the picture Parker chooses, I show it to him and tell him what it is.  I also sign ‘sleep.’  I spell the word verbally and using sign.  Then I take Parker’s finger and trace the word.  I ask Parker to give me ‘sleep’.  When he does I say:  Thank you, Parker.  You gave me ‘sleep’.

Next, I present Parker with just the wordOnce again I say it and sign it.  Parker uses his index finger to trace it.  It’s so important to incorporate as many senses as I can when I teach Parker.  I ask Parker to give me ‘sleep’.  When he gives it to me I reply:  “Thank you, Parker.  You gave me sleep”

Present the word next to the picture.  Notice that the picture does NOT have the word laminated to it.  I ask Parker to give me ‘sleep.’  Either picture he gives me is the correct answer.  They both show ‘sleep.’  When Parker makes his choice I say:  “Thank you, Parker.  You gave me ‘sleep’.

Once again I present Parker with the written word, ‘sleep’. I ask him to hand it to me.  After he hands it to me I reply:  Thank you, Parker.  You gave me ‘sleep’.   Parker traces the word with his index finger.  I sign and repeat ‘sleep’.

I present the word ‘sleep’ with a picture of a different word.  I chose a picture of a ball.  EXCEPT this should actually be JUST the picture of a ball……NOT the picture of a ball with the word laminated to it. (opps!)

Next I present the picture of the ball with the word ‘ball.’.  I ask Parker to hand me ‘ball.’  Either one is the right choice.  They both represent ball.  When Parker gives me his choice, I say:  Thank you, Parker.  You gave me ‘ball.’  Parker traces the word with his index finger.  I repeat and sign the word.

I present Parker with the word ‘ball’.  When he gives it to me I say:  “Thank you, Parker.  You gave me ‘ball’.  We trace and sign ‘ball’.

I present Parker with both words.  I ask him to give me one.  We repeat same tracing, signing, finger spelling, etc.


After Parker has mastered these two words we then add in another word while removing one of the original words.  So, I may remove ‘ball’, and replace it with ‘pants.’   Then I would repeat the steps above using ‘sleep’ and ‘pants.’

It really is simpler than it sounds.  As a matter of fact trying to write everything out was much harder than actually presenting the lesson.

If anyone is interested, I can video an actual lesson using this technique.

After Parker masters sight words that represent objects around him, I can move to the more traditional three letter short vowel sound word.  But it’s hard to teach a word like ‘sat’ without a base of understanding demonstrated above.  For Parker the word ‘sat’ is pretty abstract.

While we are learning sight words, we also review the alphabet.  I aim for mastery of the lowercase letters by sight, sound and sign because a child reads more lower case letters than uppercase.  I then aim for mastery of uppercase letters.  Then I go to matching upper and lowercase.

At this time we are also working on perfecting handwriting strokes.   Up and down first.  Side by side next.  Then circles.

I’ll show some alphabet activities soon to gain mastery of the letters.  Nothing fancy.  But activities that incorporate the senses and are very hands on.  I know most people would show the alphabet activities first.  But when have you ever known me to color within the lines.  heh.

PS:  Header picture compliments of Google Image

About Tammy and Parker

Special Needs Blogger, and homeschooling Mom, heavily involved in advocacy for all kids with special needs in Utah.


  1. This is much like what we used with Junior when we first started teaching reading. Junior is a very “concrete” learner so at times I needed to show him a physical object for him to get the connection. Now he has moved on to sentences and matches them to the appropriate pictures(he is non verbal and can’t use his hands so we have to approach things a bit differently),
    This is great and it is so good to see how others approach teaching the basics. Also that you are teaching the basics, it made me so mad when one of Junior’s first home instructors told me not to bother because he will never get it. Oh how I wish she could see him now.
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  2. The labeling of everyday objets is critical for our SN kids. Have you ever seen the word walls of the 4 blocks of literacy?

    Google it. They trace around the shape of the word to help the kids recall the words better. I have a few word walls on my site {my 4 year old has autism}, that can demonstrate how to do it.

    Keep up the great work, mama.

    You get a gold star in my book…{and I was a teacher before SAHMhood}

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this and I can’t wait to see the alphabet activities. I have just started homeschooling my daughter and I was wondering just how I would try to teach her to read. She has been accurate with all of the letters and I was thinking of starting sight words but had no idea how to start. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of these posts!
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  4. Chris says:

    We’ve been doing something similar with Nana for quite awhile. I have to also say, I sat on the fence with the “Your Baby Can Read” program for 2 years. I finally got it because I had a couple coupons for BB&B and they were running it on sale. It really has worked. I was so surprised some of the words she could read after watching the DVD’s just a couple times.

    Lakeshore makes great cards for literally everything, too.

  5. sunny says:

    We’ve been using the same method with Antalya for the last year. She is doing really well with it. I You can download and print for free the See and Learn materials from Downsed International and that’s what we have been using.

  6. Hi,

    The method you have is really effective and this is also what I am using for my students.

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