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Bee’s Knees Reading Method, Home School

Bee’s Knees Reading Method

Teaching Early Reading

What next?  Your young learner knows the letters of the alphabet and their matching sounds. Whether we call them Magic Words, Sight Words or High Frequency Words doesn’t matter. Some people claim that sight words are a bad thing. Their argument is that they are very hard to learn. I haven’t found that in my teaching work. A child needs to see a word 40 to 60 times to recognise it – or so the theory says. Children learn quickly and many know their sight words so fast that this knowledge springboards them into reading simple texts quickly. The time to worry is when a child is not able to learn them. But give them time. You’ll know if they are learning because you can monitor progress by keeping written records.

Terms Used in Education

The term ‘magic words’ is for the children and ‘high frequency words’ is a mouthful, but we get the idea.  So I’ll settle for the term ‘sight words’ here. And a further point: only 20% of the first 100 sight words do not follow one of the twenty-two spelling rules. This is mainly for historical reasons. The student can sound out h – i – m . And as for words like my, teach them as a sight word in Prep and Grade 1. By Grade 2 the student will learn try, cry, fly and others by applying the rule learned in Prep and Grade 1. Children will learn the rule instinctively. And later, the child picks up that the letter  y can make three different sounds, as in happy,  y as in yes and y as in  the word “I”. Rote-learning first (Oh, that terrible condemned phrase!) followed by understanding. It’s not always the other way round.

From Sight Words To Text

  • Sight words help to move your child to reading quickly.
  • Simple stories using sight words and 3-letter words give the child confidence in reading.
  • Word Wall will help your child to master the sight words. Here is the link:


Print in A3 to stick on a wall, or A4 for a folder. They are named WW1, WW2 and so on. They are hand-printed in black marker.  From these you can make flash cards.

How to Make Flash Cards

Flash Cards and the the Word Wall pages can reinforce each other. They can be used separately as well. And no pictures on the flash cards — Bee’s Knees Reading Method tells us we are teaching the reading of symbols not reading of pictures!

Step 1.

If you have some lead time with your child going into Prep, buy white card from the stationery shop. Cut it into rectangles. A small guillotine from the stationery store is useful when teaching at home. From personal experience using a scissors is hard work.

Step 2.

A bit of practice is needed on paper first. Get your printing style right. Use a permanent black marker with a thick tip.  How To Teach Handwriting will help you get the basics in order. The reason is that you are modelling hand printing for your child. Neat and even letters are the key. Use whatever style is taught in your child’s school or state. Here is the link to this post:


Step 3.

  • Measure with your eye where you need to write each word on that card. The aim is to get the word centred in the space.
  • Copy each word from the Word Wall. You could use the list that comes home from the school.
  • Colour code each set with a colour in one corner. The children get to know what colour group they are doing well and are keen to move to the next set.
  • When placing each card in front of the child, you want immediate recognition. So test your child to see which words are known without hesitation. That’s your starting point.
  • You can keep a record. Write the date across the top so record when you tested. It’s nice to know how long a student takes to learn them. Very satisfying.

Teach Using Flash Cards


  1. place each card in front of your child and say the word yourself. Go through this once or twice.
  2. Then go through again. Say each word again. Ask your child to repeat each word after you.
  3. Do this about three or four times. Or until the child is tired [but try to build your child’s staying power].
  4. Then test. Again, place each word in front of your child. See what they recognise. Tick off on your own records for that date if your child recognises a word immediately on sighting. Or keep a record of the ones they don’t know. You may just get to know where they are at if you are doing it on a daily basis.
  5. Repeat this process every day or every second day. Expect some regression after a holiday break but this is normal.
  6. Don’t wait for your child to know every word before moving on to the next set. You may have three sets going at one time. In the sight word packs I use, I often repeat words.

Pictures To Symbolic Systems

The Ancient Egyptians had a pictorial system of writing. Today, the Chinese have a written communication system that is derived from pictures. We don’t want to go back to pictorial systems. We have a symbolic alphabet in which individual letters or letter combinations work to represent sounds.

So I ask myself why so many classroom materials for children require extensive use of pictures. Often, a teacher will ask a child to use the pictures in the story as a prompt in decoding the text. This is a hang-over from the period of Whole Language. And Whole Language was the dominant theory directing classroom teaching from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. This link provides further reading on this influential theory (now out of favour and rightly so):


It is phonics knowledge that should guide children in decoding text. Pictures act like page props. We need to progressively remove the props so children become readers of text. Diagrams and pictures should compliment the text and further inform the reader and that’s all. We should not be teaching our children to ‘read’ the pictures.

Texts Designed for Children

In classrooms today, children often get little grabs of text. A lot of material for children is laid out in boxes, in columns or with bullet points. Reading material is sprinkled with cartoon-like characters and drawings. This may make it more interesting and yet we don’t know if it does. It is just the new norm. It means the child’s eye jumps around the page. The eye is not trained to read left to right, top to bottom. Many texts have beautifully produced coloured pictures as well. These look great but are also the most expensive part of book production. Again, they act as props in the text.

If a child hesitates in decoding, the teacher often instructs the child to look at the picture. In fact, this encourages the child to depend on pictures. We want children to learn to read text not read pictures.

In Conclusion

I have touched on the importance of sight words in the early years. There is help here in making flash cards and in using them.

The literacy packages available on this website are all original. The story is the basis of the unit of work. The activities draw on the words, spelling patterns and writing conventions in that text.  For early literacy items, the story is written to the spelling patterns and not the other way round. Some stories are full of  particular spelling patterns, such as  oo  and  ee . There is a line drawing or two in each unit that children can colour in or that enhance the text.

I hope everyone looking for help and suitable literacy material will find it on my website.