How to Use McGuffey Readers Part 1


I was first introduced to the McGuffey readers through Easy Peasy all-in-one homeschool website (I highly recommend!) If you are not familiar with the McGuffey readers, they are old school books from the late 1800’s. They are still around as reprints and are very cheap to buy. I think I found mine on Amazon for $20 for the whole set (kindergarden-12 grade reading level). Since they are now over 100 years old, the copyright has expired so you can also find them for free on pdf online. There are 2 different sets, the original and the revised. I use the revised. I would love to eventually own the originals.

abandoned-architecture-blackboard-752395When children used these charming readers in the 1800’s, they were predominately self taught. The pupil was to master each lesson before advancing to the next lesson.  The words and phonetic sounds are printed at the beginning of the lesson. Each lesson has a list of vocabulary and spelling words and a story to go along with the list. So the goal is for the child to master the words and sounds that make up the story. See why I love this method?! It uses both memorization and phonics. So fluency is mastered as well. The primer is the first reader. It is kindergarten-1st grade reading level. You will want to teach your child the letter sounds before starting the readers.

There are many methods on getting a child to master the lesson. It all depends on your child’s learning style. Some children are visual learners, some are hands on, and some auditory. Like I said before, a child needs to master the lesson before progressing. This depends on each child. It usually takes my daughter 3-5 days but I have known others to take longer or shorter. The child should be able to read the story well with swift and correct flow.children-cute-drawing-159823

Some methods to master the lesson are copy work, dictation and narration. These are very frugal and yet very effective methods. Copy work is exactly what it sounds like, copying. Depending on your child’s age or skill, have him/her copy the story a sentence or two at a time. This will also teach handwriting skills! Again, mastery based. Have him/her do it as neatly as possible. Work up to having them copy the whole story. For the first day, I have my daughter just copy the new words a few times then work my way up to the story.

Dictation is when you say the word or sentence and then the child writes it. This is to ensure spelling and punctuation. Now, for the youngsters, this can be a little difficult so I do a word recognition exercise. I write down a couple of sentences of the lesson then cut the words. Then the student has to unscramble the words while I read the sentence.

Narration is putting the story in your own words. Its a summary. So after reading the art-art-materials-draw-398257lesson, ask your child “what was the story about?” Ask the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why). This teaches reading comprehension, a very important skill in reading. Its easy to get kids to read, but more challenging to get them to actually understand what they read. If there are any words that the child doesn’t understand, define it for them and practice using that word in conversation. Have the child write their summary down and draw a picture of their narration. For littles, I help them write it and give them ideas on what he/she should draw.

architecture-beach-coast-247506The McGuffey readers have so many cute stories. I always encourage additional activities that enforce what is going on in the story. For example, There is a story in the primer about a lighthouse. My daughter asked, “mommy, what is a lighthouse?” YouTube assisted in this one. We spent the next hour watching videos on lighthouses. It was quite fascinating! Now my daughter tells me she is going to live in a lighthouse someday so she can help ships get home. This way of learning really brings the stories to life! And adds excitement to reading!

alphabet-close-up-communication-278887Spelling can be practiced by using letter tiles. Have the child spell out each new word. The first day or 2 make it light hearted and help them. As the week progresses, challenge them to figure it out on their own. For older pupils, a spelling test can be done.

This all may seem so much. Remember, this is done over a week’s time. And, one method may work more efficiently than others. If a child masters the lesson in 2 days, by all means, skip all the activities and move on to the next lesson. If they are struggling, take 2 weeks. No biggie. The lessons should not be very long (about 15 minutes tops). You want your child to love doing the lessons. I gave my daughter a little party after she finished her Primer. It was a big motivator.  Happy learning!

(See my next post How to use McGuffey readers part 2 to view what a lesson looks like)







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