Reading Bear, a project of WatchKnowLearn.org, is a program online to teach beginning readers vocabulary and concepts while systematically introducing all the main phonetic patterns of written English, all using innovative rich media.
How does it work? In each presentation—playable either as a video or as an interactive slide show—we introduce one or a few related “phonics rules.” Presentations are available in seven different versions. In the fullest version, we sound out a word slowly and quickly, then blend it slowly, and finally (after an optional prompt) blend it quickly. As sounds are pronounced, the corresponding letters are highlighted. Then we display a picture illustrating the word, show a sentence (with the individual sounds again highlighted, karaoke style), and finally show a video illustrating the sentence. Presentations give this treatment to around 25 words, though some have more and some have less. The result is a thorough yet painless introduction to phonics principles, while at the same time teaching vocabulary.
Reading Bear is used in a non-stressful, non-pressuring way. Learning to read can be fun and easy, if you go at the child’s pace instead of some pre-determined pace.
What age level is Reading Bear for?
Reading Bear is aimed mainly at children learning to read at the traditional ages of 4-7. The concepts, vocabulary, and length of the presentations were designed especially with these ages in mind. But even younger children do enjoy and get something out of Reading Bear.
Is Reading Bear meant to be a high-pressure program?
Absolutely not! It is best if the student proceeds at his own pace, using the program in many short and easy sessions instead of long, difficult sessions. The program can be played as a video that demands nothing from students, and at first, for many students, that is probably how it should be used. The program’s fifty presentations are gradual and cumulative, and the several options within each presentation enable the student to thoroughly learn the phonics rules without pressure, mystery, or difficulty. Progress can and should be gradual and easy every step of the way.
How is Reading Bear supposed to work?
Reading Bear combines carefully-matched text and audio with pictures and videos, to show the student precisely how each letter is sounded out and what words mean. This will, we hope, “unlock the mystery” of reading for young students both in terms of phonics and comprehension.
The student can systematically begin with a very easy presentation type—”Sound It Out Slowly”—and even have all the words demonstrated in advance, with no participation required. For the next step, the student hears the words blended slowly and is asked only to blend it quickly. By the third step, the student has heard the words two or more times apiece and has very likely begun to internalize sounds being taught. So the student is ready to start blending the word with only a quick sounding-out of the word as a prompt. In the last step, the student both sounds out and blends the words with only the text as a clue.
The student can then practice fluency by using flashcards and quick, easy quizzes. The quizzes alone are apt to be useful for many students.