Adventures in Literacy Land: Phonics

Showing posts with label Phonics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phonics. Show all posts

Putting It All Together

Can you believe spring is here and the end of the school year (for me) is in sight?!  It amazes me each year how quickly it goes.  I love the end of the year because it is a time to look at all the growth that has been made. 

But along with analyzing all of the growth, spring is an important time for me to reflect on my teaching.  This is the time of year that I begin to start thinking and planning for the changes that I want to make for the following school year.  This is such an important part of job because we are learning right along with our students.  Our teaching changes with the new knowledge that we gain, the students that we work with, and with new challenges that arise.

Last March I wrote about how my teammate, Karen, and I make nonsense words "real" in our classroom.

Over the course of this school year, Karen and I have used this technique with our guided reading groups.  As we teach, I can hear her conversations with her students and she can hear mine.  Through this unintentional listening our teaching of nonsense words evolved a little.  I realized that we were doing everything that we could to break down a "big" word but then working just as hard to put it all back together.  We wanted needed our students to really SEE the connections that we were trying to make.  This was born...

When looking at this sheet, you can see that it starts with nonsense words.  Those nonsense words become larger, 2-sylalble words.  Those 2-syllable words are in phrases.  Those phrases are found in a paragraph.
We wanted to start small but show them how all these parts come together and can be found in a paragraph.

As soon as I made it, I tried it out.  Would they make the connection?

I gave them one colored marker and (as you can see above) we used that same color all the way down the page.  Then we did this process again with a different color.

My guided reading groups loved it and really did make the connections.  My goal will be to do these sheets earlier next year now that I can see the impact that they have.

I hope that you can use these with your students and that they will help students understand the importance of a nonsense word and how often we really do use them when we are reading "bigger" words.  You can grab a free copy of these below:

Are there any other ways that you help students to "put it all together?"


Lucky 7: Vocabulary Ideas for Primary Students

Hi, This is Cathy from The W.I.S.E. Owl.

For those of you that know methis is my favorite vocabulary story. 

A parent who volunteered in my classroom came in to complain.  If you are going to teach our kids new words, you should at least warn the parents.  She explained.  Her son, Conner, was stepping out of his father’s jacked-up truck and missed the step.  When he fell his mom ran to him and asked if he was ok.  “I’m fine, Mom.  I was standing on a precipice and slipped.”  Ahhhhh, the power of vocabulary.

I love the Magic Tree House books.  I mean I really love the Magic Tree House books.  I can teach any skill using these books and I should write my first book about how to use thembut that’s another post.  This is about vocabulary.  So, Conner, the boy from the truck, had heard the word “precipice” when we were reading The Knight Before Dawn.  We discussed the word precipice.  We talked about a ledge or cliff and even walked to the playground to stand on the top of the playground equipment.  Each student stood at the edge and said, “I’m at the precipice.”  So when Jack was hanging from the precipice above the moat, my students were on the edge (or precipice, if you please) of their seat.

Vocabulary is a vital part of reading instruction.  I don’t usually throw around research, but in Bringing Words to Life, Beck, McKeown & Kucan (2002) it is the teacher’s role to “develop an interest and awareness in words beyond vocabulary school assignments in order to adequately build their vocabulary repertoires.”  One presenter stated the average child needs to hear a new word 14 times, but the struggling reader needs to hear it 44 times.  44TIMES. That means we have work to do.

Here are some ideas for sharing vocabulary.

 1.     Post-it© Vocabulary Posters

Students in the classroom or a group are given words on a Post-it©.  They are given a poster with categories.  Students can predict how the words are going to be used.  As the words are discovered in the text, the categories can be confirmed or moved.  Fancy charts can draw a student in and entice them to use a word in their writing. 
2.    Concept Muraling

Students are involved in the vocabulary from the beginning.  When introducing a unit on plants, students helped build a picture with cut-out handprints (it’s more fun to use their handprints, but that can take a lot of time from the lesson).  We made a flower with dirt first.  As we talked about what a flower needs to grow, we added the sun, the soil and the water.  The next week, when the focus was on the parts of a plant, we added the labels for seed, roots, stem, leaves, and flower. 
3.    Anchor Charts for Student Use

I have preached about anchor charts over and over and here’s a perfect time to add anchor charts for vocabulary.  Adding a picture of the book to the poster helps students make connections.  Students are encouraged to use these words in their independent writing and word hunts. 

4.     Text Gradients

I think text gradients are fun.  Most people think of text gradients for older students, but they can be used in kindergarten classrooms, as well.  Students can handle lessons on different gradients for "big" and "little."  We talk about how big and little are great words, but they can be overused.  Just like they wouldn’t want to eat the same food every night, they don’t want to use the same words. Using paint chips in pockets on a bulletin board or in a writing center can give students a colorful visual cue to use “exciting” words.
5.    Frayer Model

Years ago, we had a vocabulary initiative in our school.  Each week, every grade level had a focus word.  They did the Frayer Model during the literacy block daily.  This initiative guaranteed a constant curriculum for the entire grade level.  The Frayer model shows the definition and facts, as well as the examples and non-examples.  We posted the words on the poster for classroom display and the students also had a vocabulary notebook with empty Frayer Models to fill in the vocabulary center.
6.    List Group Label

Starting at the beginning of the year, teachers must teach students to sort by known factors.  Practice with sorting can easily evolve into the List-Group-Label activity.  This activity can develop categorizing skills, build background knowledge, activates critical thinking skills, and grow vocabulary skills in the process.  Students are asked to brainstorm a list of words on a topic.  Then, they group and label how they are grouped.  The picture illustrates how the same list can be labeled in several different ways.
7.    Brace Maps

Finally, I’ve talked about my love of thinking maps and a Brace Map is perfect for developing vocabulary.  Creating a brace map for a clock can help introduce “new” meanings for a face or hands.
As with any exercise, the proof is in the pudding or the lesson is in the writing.  When students are using the vocabulary words in their writing, then you know you made an impact.  My second favorite vocabulary example was used in a Squiggle Center (click here to read all about Squiggles).  While reading Thanksgiving on Thursday, we discussed the word “spit,” but in early December I knew they understood when a student used the word and illustration in their Squiggle Book.  “I see the fish kukg on the spit.  The fish is ovrr the for.” 

Ahh, that is the sweet satisfaction of success.

I hope you have an idea or two to add to your vocabulary instruction.


January CVC Center and Assessement

Let’s start 2015 off with a bang.  What else could be more of a bang than making sure our earliest readers and writers are using what they know and what they hear to write cvc words correctly.  I typically teach students to write cvc words using a stoplight.  For a complete explanation of Stoplight Writing, CLICK HERE!.  It is imperative that students are using these skills consistently and correctly.

As a Center

This January CVC center is perfect for an ABC Center or a Writing Center.  I originally created the center to be used as a center that was printed in color and laminated.  Students get a board and the letters appropriate for that board.  Each student gets a different board to ensure students are doing their own work.  Each student uses the cards to spell the words and a dry erase marker to write the words.  The students work is checked before they clean up the center.  This center can be used for 5 weeks, as each week the students choose a different board. 
If dry erase markers and reusable letter tiles aren’t for you, you can use this center as a cut and glue.  Each week the sheets are copied and put in the center for students to complete and turn in for checking.

As an Assessment

If you need an assessment for report card data, using this as a cut and glue assessment is an easy way for the students to demonstrate understanding.

If you would like the January cvc FREEBIE, CLICK HERE!

If you would like to look at the full Spotlight Writing Set on Teachers Pay Teachers, CLICK HERE! 


How to Make Letters Fun!

With the school year in full swing now, my kindergartners and I are up to our eyeballs in letters! At the beginning of the school year, I assessed all of the kindergarteners on letter recognition. This is how I determined which students would be in my intervention groups. Many of my students are quickly picking up their letters, but a few of my friends need a little more practice. We have done letter names and sounds just about every way you can imagine. I will show you a few of these ways below.

One of my students' absolute favorite ways to practice their letter names and sounds is with the Pancake Game. I used the die-cut machine to cut out 26 brown circles to be the pancakes. On one side of the "pancake" I wrote the lowercase letter. On the other side, I wrote the capital version of the same letter that was on the front. 

I purchased a very cheap spatula at the dollar store. To play the game, I call out a letter name or sound, and the student has to "flip" the pancake with the corresponding letter. We have perfected our pancake flipping technique. Students place one finger on the front as they scoop and then flip. 

Another favorite of my students is the card game SNAP! In this game, I made a separate card for the lowercase and uppercase versions of every letter. Then, I made about 6-7 "SNAP!" cards. Students draw a card and have to say either the letter name or sound. (Depending on which I ask for!) If students answer correctly, they get to keep the card. When someone draws a SNAP! card, he or she has to put all of their cards in the discard pile. It is hilarious how excited they get about such a simple game!

Another activity we work on is matching capital and lowercase letters using clothespins. First, I made a card for each lowercase letter of the alphabet. I super glued these cards onto clothespins.

Next, I made large cards with the capital versions of each letter. Students have to pin the clothespin with the lowercase letter to the corresponding capital letter. 

I also use this activity to practice letter sounds by asking students to match the cards for the letter that makes the sound /b/. These are just a few of my students' favorite letter ID activities. There are endless ways to practice letter names and sounds.

What are some ways you practice letter names and sounds?


Phonics or Sight Words? The Verdict is Out!

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars here with some thoughts about using phonics AND sight words to help with reading instruction.

The other day at our library's story time, a friend of mine who homeschools her children and I started talking.  She wanted to "pick my brain" since I am a reading specialist.  I love moments like these because it gives me a chance to help parents out who are in need of it.

She said that she was struggling with teaching her kids reading and could barely get through 15 minutes of a lesson and would love to know how we did it as teachers!  The question that hit me the hardest was

Phonics or Sight Words?

My answer was "a little of both!"  Both have importance in learning to read and need to be taught for students to be successful in learning to read.  Though there is so much more to reading and writing success, these are two aspects that many teachers argue are both important.

Learning to read with phonics instruction helps with the following:

1.  Left to right progression ~ When students attend to all parts of the words, they realize they read words from left to right.

2.  Sounding out unfamiliar words ~ Many times when students come to an unfamiliar word, they make something up if they have not had solid phonics instruction.  With phonics instruction, the students have a chance to learn letter sounds and can work through words to sound them out.

3.  Blending sounds in words ~ Readers who do not have a solid foundation in blending words will struggle with reading.  My son is the perfect example of this.  He was not taught to blend words and still has a hard time with that when reading.

4.  Fluent reading ~ We may think of students who have to sound out words as being disfluent, but once they learn the onsets and rimes of words, they can use them to read words more fluently.

5.  Spelling words more accurately ~ Using a word study or similar approach helps students to see patterns in words and then use them to spell words more accurately.  Come back tomorrow when Carla tells us all about word study!

The picture below shows some examples of phonics instruction I use that helps students with learning phonetic principles.

Knowing sight words is also important for success in reading instruction.  There are two commonly used lists:  Dolch and Fry.  Either way, both word lists have the high frequency words students need to know.  Sight word instruction helps with the following:

1.  Many high frequency words cannot be sounded out phonetically.  Since words like "have" and "gone" do not follow normal patterns.  Knowing those words are beneficial for children as they learn to read.

2.  Much of what children read are sight words.  50-75% of what we read is comprised of these high frequency words, so it helps with fluency as students learn to read.

3.  Confidence building ~ Children who can read sight words in context feel better about what they can read.  Knowing those words automatically helps with reading more confidently.

4.  Fluency ~ Being able to read and spell  those high frequency words automatically helps them to read more fluently.

5.  Chunking words ~ When students know sight words, they can use them to help them read longer words. While I was working with the student I tutor the other day, he got stuck on the word "onto".  He can read both "on" and "to" automatically, so I helped him find those words within the word.  The next few times he saw the word, he read it with no problems!

Here are some examples of how I use sight words when I teach reading.

So, which do you use ~ phonics or sight words ~ when teaching students to read?  And what are some of your methods for teaching them?  I would love to hear your ideas!


Using Music to Teach Reading Skills

Hi everyone! It's Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead. You probably know by now but I love finding creative ways to teach reading and I love bringing other types of learning into the classroom beyond the basics that I have to teach. Today I have some ideas to share with you about using music to teach reading skills.

Ask yourself, how many children know the alphabet at a young age- age two  for example? Probably most of them know it because someone thought to set the alphabet to the song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". The tune, the rhythm, even the rhyme, helps ingrain the letters in kids' brains.

Music can be used to help students learn the alphabet,  the sounds of letters, develop phonemic awareness, build phonics skills and vocabulary and more! There are many songs to teach grammar skills and folks have used nursery rhymes as songs to teach basic spelling patterns and print conventions. Fountas and Pinnell once wrote that our students should "sing songs of such delight that the lyrics remain in the memory forever". What songs do you still remember from school (Hello Conjunction Junction!)?

Besides listening to songs, singing songs, and watching music videos, some teachers have their students rewrite familiar songs as a lesson to learn sounds or rhymes.

I found a great website that is an amazing resource of songs for teachers. It's called Songs for Teaching: Using Music to Reinforce Learning. It is a treasure trove of songs and song lyrics (click on any title to hop over and see the song).  There are songs that teach the alphabet letters such as Fran Avni's Dinosaurs to Dinner.  There are songs specifically for vowels and consonants such as  Get Your Own Goat by Avni and Vowel Sound Hound Dogs 1.  A song I plan to use this week is one for R controlled vowels called Rock and Roll Star by Fun Phonics Songs.

With all the technology out there, maybe you are able to show videos to your class. Here are just a very few on what seems like millions of videos, new and old, that use music to teach reading skills.

Want a new twist on the alphabet? Try Usher's Alphabet Song! (by the way, does Elmo's voice scare anyone else's dog?)

Phonics Songs with 2 Words

Electric Company-  Silent e - I bet you remember this:  "Who can turn a can into a can, who can turn a pan into a pane?"

Schoolhouse Rock - Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here 

Schoolhouse Rock - A Noun is a Person Place or Thing

Schoolhouse Rock Conjunction Junction- the sentimental favorite!

Electric Company's  N Apostrophe T: I personally played this several times this year and my students love it! Who needs fancy technology to enjoy music and a video (and learn while we're at it)?

Beans and Franks TV - Rhymes

Ocoee Middle School's Gotta Keep Reading: A fun, creative take on Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling which is really fun, catchy, and inspires kids to read (great to motivate them for the summer break) !

Finally here are a few music teachers' blogs. They are worth a look, even if you're not a music teacher. Teacher blogs are always full of treasures!

Amy Abbott's Music a la Abbot 
Tanya's Kodaly Inspired Blog 
Lindsay Jervis's Pursuit of Joyfulness
A collaborative music teacher blog: Kodaly Corner 
Mrs. Miracle's Music Room 
Allison's Music Blog

I hope  you have a few new ideas for how to incorporate music in your reading lessons. How do you use music in your teaching? Please comment below and let us know!


Keep Kids Active and Engaged While Learning Reading Skills!

Hi everyone! It's  Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead. Before my school vacation started, I had been thinking a lot about movement. In New England we had a VERY long winter in which we rarely went outside for recess. I had come up with new ways to get my kids moving and new brain breaks, but I had been thinking of ways to get movement involved during the academic blocks. Why save it just for breaks?

Today I have compiled a resource of some activities that will get your kiddos moving while they are working on their reading skills. Sometimes it is just a little movement, but if you want to really go all out, some of them require you actually going outside to the playground! Most of the ideas are not mine - many have been around for years, so I have no idea who came up with the ideas originally. Some I found recently so I will share with you where and give you a link and a few I thought up myself, although I am sure the idea came from somewhere - someone did something similar or with the same material but I am using it in a different way. You also may have your own great ideas or ones that are not here so please comment and let us know!

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Catch it! For this, students stand in a circle (or sit) and the teacher says a one syllable word. She tosses a bean bag or small soft ball to a student, who catches it and says the initial sound, tosses it to another student who says the medial sound, and tosses it to another student who says the final sound. The whole group says the whole word again as the bag gets tossed back to the teacher and she picks a new word to try.

Dribble the Sound or Syllable: Dribble a ball (and say each phoneme in a word or each syllable in a word.
Dribble ball, switch from left to right hand, as say phonemes in a word or syllables in a word for extra challenge and brain work, switch hands as you say each sound or syllable).

I'm Going on a Camping Trip: You know the song! Sit in a circle and clap with a steady beat. Go around the circle and everyone repeats the sentence - "I am going on a camping trip and I am going to bring (fill in blank)". At each student's turn, he says the word of what he is bringing. Each student could think of a word with the same initial, medial or final sound as a word you are working on, or a rhyming word.

Twister with Blends: I have found phonics and other reading games for Twister all around the web, but this is a new "twist" (haha!) on it. Head over to  Apples 4 Bookworms to get the simple and easy (and really fun) directions!

Walk this Way: The teacher says a simple sentence like"The lion roars".  Students repeat it and take one step forward for each word in the sentence. Then, students say how many words or steps there are in the sentence. It might  help for students to hold up a finger for each word to help them count the number of steps/words. A variation is that students can also walk backwards or  sideways for this activity.

Sight Words

Move, Groove, and read: This game is from the blog Mom to 2 Posh Lil' Divas. She has some terrific, creative ideas for learning games.  Head over to her blog for details but it involves target words, music, and lots of moving. I want to play this one!

Word Family Slam: This one was spotted over at the blog Toddler Approved, but I think kids well into elementary school would enjoy it. You could even do it indoors with a free wall and a soft ball. Head over to get the info.

Twister Sight Words: A variation on the Twister game I mentioned that would work well for phonics skills. You use sight words instead. I am not claiming this idea either - A Year as a Reading Teacher has a great post on it. Head over to her blog to read it.

Beach Ball Sight Words: You probably have seen or heard of this idea before, but grab a beach ball, a permanent marker, and write your target words. Toss the ball and read whichever word your finger (or thumb - choose one in advance)  lands on!

Hopscotch: Have hopscotch on the playground? Why not use chalk and on each spot, write a sight word, then toss a pebble, read the word it lands on, and hop away, skipping that space.

Bean Bag Toss: If you have bean bags and one of those bean bag toss goals with the holes in it, try labeling each hole (with a taped on sticky or index card) with a target word and kids have to read the word they are aiming for and then read the word (it might be a different one!) that they actually toss the bag into. What else could you use if you don't have something with holes in it already? I bet someone has a creative and easy idea - let us know!

Sight Word Bowling - use dry erase markers to write sight words on an indoor bowling set, and after knocking pins down, students read the words on the pins they have to stand back up for the next player.


Jump Roping Rhymes: With your group, create a jump rope rhyme with antonyms, synonyms, homophones etc. (or words from a word family you are working on), then go outside and try it. Kids can teach their classmates at recess, too!

Step Forward/Back: Group could line up and students could suggest antonym pairs (students would take one step forward and one step back for each word in the pair) or synonyms (2 steps forward)


Sound Marching: Teacher says, "We are going to say some words that have more than one syllable. We will march as we say each part of the word." Model by saying the whole word, such as "doorknob" , marching first with your right foot as you say "door" and then with your left foot as you say "knob." Practice together and then try some words with students. After each ask them "How many marching steps did you take for the word? That is the number of syllables."

Raise Up: Teacher says a two (or more) syllable word. Students repeat the word as they raise both their arms above their heads. Students drop one arm as they say each syllable.

Vocabulary and Comprehension

Students move like the animals in the story they are reading

Teaching prepositions using movement

Using body language to show how characters are feeling in the story

Playing charades to review main ideas

Role play or pantomime to retell important story parts

Letter Recognition

Alphabet Hunt on the Go: With clipboards, pencils and papers walk around the school looking for examples of each letter of the alphabet. Kids could write the letters as they see them or you could provide them with a checklist.

Also, any of the Read the Room and Write the Room activities you see all over the web, at TPT and so on are great for getting students up and moving.

Here are a few other resources I found with some terrific ideas:
RMC Health - great post on the importance of exercise and movement based learning opportunities in schools - useing movement andmusic to improve  insttuction - resources on movement and learning - lesson plan resources that involve movement
Dr. Martha Eddy's resources for incorporating movement in the classroom

Please comment and let us know how you use movement in your language arts lessons. The more ideas we have, the better our instruction can be!