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Welcome to my website! It is my desire to “lend a helping hand” to those involved in the art of teaching basic reading skills. I hope you’ll find these “hands-on” phonics lessons useful in the process of helping your students develop and strengthen basic reading skills. The lessons are presented in a progressive  order.

Originally, I created these lessons as a homework follow-up to classroom instruction. After retirement, I copied the complete set of lessons and used them for tutoring.  They proved to be very effective in helping my students strengthen and further develop their basic reading and spelling skills. The common spelling patterns are listed on the long vowel chart.

The lessons should not be used as an independent activity. Assisted guidance and interaction with the student is essential in following through each portion of the lessons. It is important to lend support and inspire the student as he/she pursues the task in each lesson and gains strength in the development of reading and spelling.

Knowledge of sound-symbol association is a first step in learning how to read. Throughout my teaching career, I used the Phonovisual Consonant and Phonovisual Vowel wall charts to teach and firmly establish letter-sound association by means of daily drill. Our language is 85% phonetic and definitely worth learning the phonetic rules and exceptions.

Students need to have the opportunity to apply their knowledge of basic phonics skills to reading texts that are phonetically based and experience success in the early stages of reading.

I used the five levels of Primary Phonics, Educators Publishing Service, Inc. They are decodable and progressive. This series was an excellent supplement to our district adopted reading program and books in our classroom.

Introduce new books and stories to your students in a manner that sparks interest and curiosity. Check comprehension by asking “who”, “what”, “when”, “why”, and “where” questions. (Note NEA article)

Lots of reading practice strengthens fluency. Re-reading is important; it helps in the development of word recognition and fluency. I retired after 40 years of teaching, 35 years in my last district in southern California.   I loved teaching 1st grade students.
Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. My e-mail address is

Retired teacher,
Darlene Dittus

p.s. Check out the dominoes! The domino patterns are an excellent visual tool and extremely helpful in the process of learning and memorizing basic number combinations. Also, another good site for beginning readers is starfall.

I would like to share this article published in NEA Today by Catherine Snow, Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education

"Three basic elements that build good readers:
1.  Children need to understand the alphabetic writing system —
     that words have letters and that letters relate to sounds.
2.  They need opportunities to use reading to obtain meaning from print.
3.  They need frequent chances to practice their skills to achieve fluency.

Children should be encouraged to sound out unfamiliar words. They should use context and pictures as tools for monitoring word recognition. To promote comprehension, curriculums should include instruction in summarizing the main idea, predicting events, and drawing inferences.Children need time to write every day. Invented and traditional spelling can co-exist–with the former helping children understand the sounds created by different letter combinations."


I received this cartoon from a friend in Denver, CO.
(clipping from a local Denver newspaper).
In conclusion, "Reading = Education"

Using these Lessons

I recommend teaching these lessons in the same order as listed in the index. On occasion, you may need to modify it and break it into mini-bites if the lessons become overwhelming for a hesitant, beginning reader. You need to keep the motivation and interest intact and adjust the pace. I suggest the following steps:

Mini-reading lesson steps for the student

1. Master the sounds on the Consonant and Digraph Picture Charts

2. Understand the process of blending two consonant sounds as you pursue the
    Consonant Blend Chart.
    Ex: (bl). The sound of "b" slides into the sound of "l". (Another way is to put the
    sound of "b" in one hand, the sound of “l” in the other hand, and bring your two
    hands together, blending the sound of "bl").

3. Short Vowels (picture chart)
    Learn the sound of short “a”, and then go to Lesson #1 Short (a). Continue with the
    blending process. Ex: cat. The sound of "c" slides into the sound of short "a",
    resulting in the sound of "ca"... cat. In pursuing the easy list of rhyming words, the
    left column is slightly easier than the right side. Work on reading a few of the easy
    columns. Once the student understands the process of decoding, you're bound to
    see an excited student who has just discovered the key to learning how to read
    and is ready to expand that process.

4. Go back to the Short Vowels picture chart and learn the remaining short vowel     sounds and pursue the remaining lessons as you need to. I assume the student's     level of maturity, temperament, and attitude may influence the pace of learning.

Sight Words and Text

Simple Sight Words are listed in the reference portion of the index. Sight words are not phonetic and appear with high frequency in basic reading texts. Learning the sight words tends to be an automatic process that depends largely on the number of times the reader is exposed to the words.

The text in these lessons is green if it is a sight word. After the student has been exposed to a particular sight word for about twenty times, the words are no longer printed in green.

In addition to the green sight words, the text may also be green if the word has not yet been introduced in the lesson sequence.

About the site

The lessons can be used online, but really they are designed to be printed out on standard letter-size paper from the menu bar. The only way I could control the font, format, page breaks and such was to create a separate file of pdf documents for the different lessons. On the screen the pdf's look strange but they print out OK. The site looks OK on Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and IE8. If you're using an older version of Internet Explorer, get another browser. This site is a work in progress and I welcome any corrections or suggestions to improve the content.