On the Beaten Path Part 1: Helping your Struggling Readers Hear Beginning Sounds

There is a little phrase about going “off the beaten path” that I have heard my entire life.

It means to try something different. Don’t keep doing the same old thing. Recently as I was talking with another homeschooling mom, It came to me that going off the beaten path is not always the best thing for a struggling reader.

What I am talking about is routine and consistency. Now, I realize that teaching a child with dyslexia may take you off the beaten path when it comes to the style of teaching you may have previously used. But you should definitely use your new style in a way that utilizes a level of review that will create a well beaten path.

When we moved into our current home we were thrilled to have my parents living in the house just above ours. There were two ways you could get to their house. The first was to take our driveway up and around. However, my kids quickly learned that it was faster to trek up the hill. Over time their consistent treks created a pathway between our two homes. This made the way more visible and easier to navigate.


In the same way we need to take the basic building blocks of reading and create mental pathways for our children.

Pathways of…

auditory phonemic awareness (Their ability to hear the sounds in words) as well as visual recognition of letters and the sounds they represent… You get the idea.

Since we are going full hog with school right now (can you tell I’m from the south?) I want to begin offering some practical tips to help you create those pathways for your struggling reader or speller.

Over the next couple of weeks I will focus on auditory drills. I usually begin my lesson time with activities that target only what is heard. In other words I don’t use letters in these activities, only their sounds. I try to hone in on 3 areas:

  1. The ability to hear the individual sounds that make up a word.
  2. The ability to hear rhymes.
  3. The ability to identify the number of syllables in a word.

Let’s break these down into groups of drills that target specific auditory skills. You will need Mondo Koosh BallShape Bean Bags or you can use a wadded up sock.

Focus #1:   The Ability to Hear Individual Sounds


  • Drill # 1 – Beginning Sounds Level 1 – Say a word as you toss the koosh ball or other object to your child. They catch the ball and make the beginning sound of the word you just said (not the letter name but the sound) – Do this over and over to warm up. You can also use consonant digraphs such as “sh” or “ch”. Example: You say shack and they make the sound for “sh“.
  • Drill #2 – Beginning Sounds Level 2 – Like in the previous drill, take your koosh ball or bean bag and say a word as you toss it to your child. Except this time they will tell you another word that begins with this sound. Example: I may start things out by saying ball. My child then tosses it back as he says another word that begins with the same sound, Like box. We continue until I change the sound by picking a word that begins with a different sound such as pan. This continues through several different beginning sounds. I would suggest that the first few times you do this drill you give a little warning before you change the sound. But eventually, you should be able to change the sound mid-stream and the child not miss a beat. So what do you do if you have said box and they say pet? You stop and isolate the sound they missed. Then go back to Level 1 and focus on the sounds that are stumping them. This level is important because often saying a new word will reveal if they are confusing the sound.
  • For a FREE printable of word lists for both of the above drills click the following link.   Auditory Word Lists.


Do you have questions about Auditory processing disorder? Do you have suggestions on some drills that have worked for you and your child? Share them in the comments below.


Jennifer and I are working on some videos that should be coming out on YouTube in the near future. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter so we can keep you updated on all of the FREE resources we will have coming your way. Just click the link below.


Until next time,
Happy Teaching


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Robin Liner is a wife, and veteran homeschool mom with over twenty years experience. She has written two picture books and actively blogs about homeschooling with an emphasis on teaching dyslexic children at crazygoodreaders.wordpress.com. and athomewithdyslexia.com Feel free to contact her at robin@crazygoodreaders.com

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