Phonics Part 4: Segmenting and Blending CVC and CVCe words

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This part of my phonics series will focus on some beginning strategies to help student apply letter-sound knowledge with predictable cvc and cvce words. Knowledge of onsets and rhymes, use of Elkonin sound boxes, the “Drive-Thru” and “The Arm” strategies are wonderful methods to accomplish this. We will look at separating sounds (segmenting), combining sounds (blending), and ways to connect to spelling/writing using these methods. Plus, I will recommend some resources to help with teaching and practicing this in your classroom.

Students are ready for segmenting and blending when they have a good concept of word, which includes these phonemic awareness routines:

  • Fun with words:  rhyming, tongue twisters / alliteration
  • Familiar with syllables:  clapping or counting # of word parts
  • Hearing and identifying # of words in a sentence: Concept of spoken word is important as a beginning reader so students track under each word a word at a time, not a syllable at a time. Example:  In this pictured sentence, does the child keep their finger under “apple” until it is done?
  • Hearing onsets and rimes:  Can the child segment cat into c + at?  Or shop into sh + op? The onset is the first part of the word before the vowel. The rime is the rest of the word starting with the vowel. The notion of word families is built on the concept of identifying onsets and rimes. Hearing these is a prerequisite to reading them later. Check out this great piece from Reading Rockets on onsets and rimes: https://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/onset_rime

Segmenting:  Segmenting is the practice of separating the individual sounds in each word. Phonemic awareness activities help students attend to this in an oral fashion. Then connecting them with the actual letters is what phonics instruction is based on.  Here are a few examples of segmenting for a phonics lesson:

  • Listen and look at the word dog. Can you take it apart sound by sound? /d/ + /o/ + /g/
  • Listen and look at the word ship.  Take it apart sound by sound:  /sh/ + /i/ + /p/
  • Listen and look at the word feet.  Take it apart sound by sound: /f/ + /ee/ + /t/

This is the skill we want students to be able to do when they are spelling/writing the words. Ask them:  “What do you hear? Say it slowly and listen for all of the sounds.” Use of Elkonin boxes and “The Arm” are helpful tools for children to visually and auditorally isolate the individual sounds. See more information about this at the end of this post.

Blending: While segmenting is a worthwhile skill, it is the actual blending we want students to be able to do quickly and smoothly so it hooks the letters/sounds together and doesn’t sound choppy as they are reading.

Here are a few methods to help with segmenting and blending:

Elkonin Sound Boxes:  A box is used or drawn for each sound in the word. To me, these are most helpful with single-syllble predictable short as well as long vowel words.  I use them often with spelling to help a child notice the different sounds. Then once the sound is identified, the corresponding letters can be put in the boxes. IMPORTANT: Draw an arrow under the sound boxes for students to trace with their finger under the letters to make sure they are not choppy, but hooking the letter sounds together (blending). Here are some resources to help with using this tool.

For cvce words, the silent e would be placed outside the last box. Why? The e does not make a sound, but it is part of the spelling. This also may give the student the opportunity to practice the “flip the vowel” strategy when reading cvce words. If they try the short vowel sound, but it doesn’t make sense or sound right, then flip to the long vowel sound.

“The Arm” Method: Take advantage of the 3 parts of the arm to model the 3 sounds in a word by pointing to the shoulder (beginning sound), inside of elbox (middle sound), and hand (end sound). Tapping each part of the arm is the segmenting portion. Then blend the sounds together by running your hand down the length of your arm as you quickly blend together to pronounce the word. Again, this provides a visual and auditory model for students.

“Drive-Thru” Method:  PLEASE watch this video from Reading Rockets showing the Drive-Thru method for segmenting and blending.  I love it! The teacher models first using a large toy car on the whiteboard as she/he “drives” to each sound, slowly at first, then faster to accomplish blending the sounds together quickly. The letters making up the beginning, middle, and ending sounds are placed at different parts of the board — but still in order. Notice the consonants are placed at the bottom, with the vowel(s) at the top.  I presume this is to give the students more of the experience of “driving” as they go from one sound to the next (as opposed to putting them in a straight line like in sound boxes). After the teacher models this with a few examples (the “I do / We do” parts of the lesson), then students practice the “you do” part with their own little Hot Wheels / Matchbox cars.

Here is the link to the Reading Rockets article and video about Segmenting and Blending. Click on the article and then you will see the short “Drive-Thru” video.  You will see cvc words, words with blends, etc.

Connecting to Spelling and Writing

  • Help students use the “arm” method to break apart or stretch out words to hear the sounds they are trying to spell.
  • Ask students:  What do you hear? Write the letters down in the order you hear them.
  • Provide students with magnetic letters and pre-made sound boxes to make the words they are trying to spell. Here is my sound box template (2 sides): Sound Boxes CE
  • Use picture cards along with sound boxes for students to spell (see resource above).
  • For weekly spelling words, make sure students can segment and blend the letters together on their own so they can do this while they are taking their spelling test.  For KG or first grade assessment (and maybe some second graders), I definitely recommend using the “arm” method or provide a sound box template for students to use.  And to help students gradually get the idea of a spelling test, I would recommend the teacher segmenting the sounds for the words involved (once), then asking students to do that out loud (as many times as they need to in order to write the correct letters). This is a scaffolded task to teach students this is what they should eventually be doing on their own.  It would go something like this on a pre-test or test:
    • Your first word is “hop.”
    • Listen to the sounds: /h/ + /o/ + /p/
    • Now you say the sounds as you write the letters. Say them over and over until you are done spelling the word.
    • Use your arm (or pre-printed sound boxes for test day) to help you as well.
    • The next word is “fog.” . . . .

My blog is still not going to those of you with “lawtonps.org” addresses. Please subscribe with a personal email address. I promise I will not contact you using that address. Edublogs is a secure site with no spam or ads, so you should feel safe providing it, but I understand if you would rather not. Remember I have a special incentive for you if you do (by the first week of February). 

Next time I will focus on substituting and deleting phonemes, and their connections to reading words with common rimes. Have a great week!!

 

Virtual math tools

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Every once in a while you come across something wonderful, and you want to share with your friends.  Well, I am doing that with this FREE website.  It is https://www.mathlearningcenter.org/resources/apps

Here is what you will find.  Click the i on each app and you get great visual instructions about the tool bar at the bottom of each app.  These can be used on your Smartboard as well as installed as an app on a laptop or ipad, etc. A few of the apps have a share / copy feature (a box with an arrow coming out). All of them have a writing tool to accompany the app.

  • Fractions: Fraction bars or circles
  • Geoboard:  3 different boards, put stretchy bands on (no more worries about breaking them with this app), use for area, perimeter, shapes, arrays, area of irregular shapes
  • Clock: Program the hands and the clock (Roman numerals, minute guide), shade parts of the clock, show elapsed time
  • Math Vocabulary Cards:  Great for review or quiz. Adjustable for different math topics and grade level. 3 parts on each review question:  Term, definition, picture
  • Money Pieces:  Display and hide coins.  The coins can be shown as part of a block to relate to base ten blocks. The coins do seem a little small in size, however.
  • Number Frames:  5, 10, and 20 frames, 100 grid, counters, and objects.  The 100 grid can be adjusted to make any size array (up to 10 x 10).
  • Number Line:  Use for skip counting, addition, subtraction, fractions
  • Number Pieces:  This includes base ten pieces. These can also be used to show the area model for multiplication.
  • Number Rack (aka Rekenrek):  A great tool for primary grades. Based on use of 5 and 10 as benchmark amounts. Use 1-10 Rekenreks. Count by 5’s, Count by 10’s. Practice sliding the beads – it’s fun!  Here is a link from my blog on ways to use a Rekenrek:
  • Pattern Shapes (Blocks): Compose and decompose shapes. Create using the blocks: Duplicate, rotate, change colors! The sillouette shapes enable you / students to use blocks to fill in.  Plus for intermediate grades:  There is an angle measure tool. Measure angles of the polygons presented.
  • Partial Products Finder:  Make arrays. Slide the bar on the bottom or side to partition the rectangle into smaller parts. Tap on a section to see a different color.

I will add this link to my instructional resources for future reference.  Enjoy!

I’ll get back to phonics next time.  Have a great week!

Phonics Part 3: Vowels and Consonants

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

The 5 vowels make up just 19% of the letters of the alphabet, but have 38 different spellings (for the short and long sounds).  The vowels are much like the “glue” that hold words together. The 21 consonants, on the other hand, make up 81% of the letters of the alphabet, and have 54 different spellings (not including the digraphs). Here again is a 44 Phoneme chart 44Phonemes to illustrate this (from Orchestrating Success in Reading by Dawn Reithaug, 2002.)  Stay tuned for other resources and FREEBIES.

Some other interesting vowel and consonant trivia:

  •  “A vowel is a sound that is produced with no obstructions. The air simply floats through your mouth and has very little interaction with your teeth, your lips, or other structures. On the other hand, a consonant has some degree of air obstruction.” (Dr. Molly Ness, Linuistic expert). So now is everyone trying that out like I did? It’s true!  Producing vowel sounds require little or no lip / tongue movement. Whereas most consonants require specific lip and tongue placement.
  • Each syllable is made up of one vowel sound. This is how we count and divide multi-syllabic words (one vowel sound per syllable).
  • While most single consonants only make one sound, there are a few exceptions such as:  c = /s/ or /k/; g = /g/ or /j/; y = /y/ or /long e/ or /long i/; s = /s/ or /z/; x = /ks/ or /z/ . This reveals the letters c and x don’t have their own unique sound.

Then there is this interesting information about how we say the consonant letter names vs. the sound the letter makes — no wonder kids get confused! Here’s a previous blog post going into more detail on this fantastic research. I think it’s a must read for all elementary teachers: Alphabet Letter and Sounds Research (Cindy’s Blog)

Letter names starting with short vowel sound when pronounced:

  • f = /ef/
  • l = /el/
  • m = /em/
  • n = /en/
  • s = /es/
  • x = /eks/
  • r = /ar/ — not exactly a short vowel sound, but close

Letter names with long a sound when pronounced:

  • j = /jay/
  • k = /kay/

Letter names with long e sound when pronounced:

  • b = /bee/
  • c = /see/
  • d = /dee/
  • g = /jee/
  • p = /pee/
  • t = /tee/
  • v = /vee/
  • z = /zee/

Letter names with pronunciatons not using their letter sound:

  • h = /aych/ —  the letter sound is pronounced /h-h-h/
  • q = /kue/ — the letter sound is /kwuh/
  • w = /double u/ — the letter sound is pronounced /wuh/
  • y = /why/ — the letter sound is pronounced /yuh/

The article on Alphabet Research I referenced above has some excellent instructional guidelines for introducing and teaching the letter sounds. If you are a “letter of the week” teacher, this may shed some light on what newer research has revealed.

Here are some good strategies for vowel and consonant instruction in the classroom. Please share some of yours that aren’t on my list!!

  • Check out Kate Garner’s “Secret Stories.”  https://www.katiegarner.com/ She has a fantastic approach to help students notice what their mouth is doing when saying a sound and links it to fun phrases and actions.
  • POST an alphabet chart in the classroom which includes pictures, big enough to be seen across the room.  A good thing to look for is one that has 2 pictures for the vowels, or has the vowels in a different color. To me, this is a MUST in pre-K, KG and first grade classrooms. A poster close to your group teaching station is also highly recommended for easy, quick reference.
  • Here’s a desk alphabet chart that is handy for use at your small group station. FREE alphabet chart from TPT (Mrs. Ricca’s Kindergarten)
  • Learn letter formation steps that can be repeated. Here’s an idea from Pinterest: Lower case letter formation rhymes and Uppercase rhymes for letter formation
  • Provide lots of alphabet books in the reading center for individual reading time.
  • Learn the sign language finger spelling for letters of the alphabet. Here’s a link: ASL Finger Spelling Charts
  • Match upper and lower case letters.
  • Match pictures (beginning sounds) with letters.
  • Do picture sorts with 2-3 letters/sounds at a time.
  • Use object sorting tubs.
  • If working on 2 sounds at a time, give children those 2 letters on cards or with letter tiles. Teacher says the word or shows a picture and the students must descriminate between the two to hold up (all students engaged).
  • In shared or guided writing, have children supply the beginning consonant or vowel sound instead of the teacher writing. Example:  If writing the sentence We will go to the library today, the teacher could get students to help with spelling parts of the words (the w, l, t and perhaps the e, i, o  in we, will, and go).
  • Look for particular vowels and consonants in short poems (see Phonics Part 1 for resources).
  • Make alphabet books.  These could be individual or a class big book which can be viewed over and over again during center time.
  • Refer to one of my favorite bloggers / TPT authors for young children (This Reading Mama): https://thisreadingmama.com/teaching-letter-sounds/
  • Making letters with play-dough or in an art related activity should always be connected with pictures and sound practice so students can connect the sound to the letter.

Finally, using knowledge of beginning letters along with picture cues can help a child read easy texts and verify the correct word was used. Here are two examples:

  1. Look at the ______.  If a child only looks at the picture, it might be read as “Look at the rabbit.” But asking the child to confirm by looking at the first letter should reveal the word can not be rabbit because the word shown begins with the letter b.
  2. I can see my _______. If a child only looks at the picture, it might be read as “I can see my coat.” But asking the child to confirm by looking at the first letter, and prompting the child like this:  “What else could that word be that begins with the /j/ sound?” If the child does read the word jacket correctly, the teacher could ask the child, “How did you know that word wasn’t coat?” This would enable to you to determine if the child was using first letter clues, or just guessing.

Blog update for lawtonps.org users:  I did determine that lawtonps.org subscribers did receive two of my December blogs (the last one being Dec. 18) but both times you were immediately unsubscribed right after receiving the blog.  Therefore, you did NOT receive the blog I posted on Dec. 22 (Phonics Part 2).  Neither the blog hoster or LPS have been able to resolve this.  So as an incentive for my Lawton Public School friends, if you subscribe with your home email address (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc.), I will put your name in a drawing for a free $25 gift card to a place of your choice (TPT, Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, Staples, etc.). That drawing will take place at the end of January or beg. of February. Thanks for your understanding and patience!!!!

 

Phonics Part 2: What are Phonemes, Graphemes, Blends, Digraphs, and Diphthongs?

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

With 44 different phonemes (sounds) in our English language, no wonder some students have a hard time learning to read! Click on this link to get a chart to show all 44: 44 Phonemes This list shows the 5 vowels, 18 consonant sounds (remember the letters c, q, and x don’t make their own distinct sound), the combinations of vowels (digraphs, diphthongs and r-controlled), as well as the consonant digraphs. See the end of this post for some freebies. And be sure to reference Phonics Part 1 for some other cool resources and videos for teaching phonics.

Below are some commonn phonics terms that often get confused.

Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound. Phonemes can be made up of more than one letter. Phonemic awareness experiences are those in which students listen to or produce these phonemes that are heard in words. Here are some examples:

  • Phonemes can be made up of one or more letters: /d/, /sh/, /ow/
  • The word dog has 3 phonemes:  /d/ + /0/ + /g/.
  • The word ship also has 3 phonemes: /sh/ + /i/ + /p/
  • The word cow has 2 phonemes: /k/ + /ow/

Grapheme: The letter or letters used to write the sound (think about the “graph” part of the word). What obviously gets confusing is that many phonemes can be represented by different graphemes such as:

  • Long a:  sayrain, gateeight
  • /f/:  phone, farm, enough
  • /k/:  cat, Christmas, kick

Blend:  A combination of 2 or 3 consonant letters in which each consonant sound is voiced, but blended together.  Blends are often found at the beginning and/or ending of words. Sometimes blends are referred to as consonant clusters.  Here are some common blends:

  • r blends:  br, cr, dr, fr, gr, kr, pr, tr   Be on the alert for students who actually hear /jr/ or /chr/ when looking at words with “dr” or “tr.”
  • l blends:  bl, cl, fl, gl, kl, pl, sl
  • s blends:  sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw
  • 3 letter blends: scr, str, spl

Consonant Digraph:  Two consonants which work together, but make one sound. These are made with the letters ch, sh, ph, th, wh, kn, wr. The “graph” part of the word “digraph” deals with the concept of writing / spelling (ie graphics, grapheme).

  • Often these are introduced early in phonics since they are present in many sight words: sh, th, wh, ch

Vowel Digraph:  Like consonant digraphs, vowel digraphs are the written vowel pairs or teams which work together to produce one sound.  Some vowel digraphs are vowels combined with consonants (such as ow, ay, aw). Here are some examples:

  • ea:  team, reach, bread
  • oo:  foot, soon
  • ai:  chain, bait

Diphthongs:  The sound created when two combined vowels are pronounced differently.  The word diphthong comes from the Greek language meaning “two voices” or “two sounds.” Most common diphthongs are spelled with the digraphs ou, ow, oi, oy.  Notice how your mouth changes or glides as you make these sounds. They aren’t long a (as in ai, ay) or long e (as in ea, ee), etc; but usually a sound that cannot be classified as a long vowel or short vowel sound.

Here are some cool charts (FREE) which are handy to keep at your teacher table to show the different letters, digraphs, and blends you are likely to reference:

This is my last post for 2019.  Happy Holidays! Thank you subscribers for coming along for the ride!  See you in 2020!!

Blog interruption announcement

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Those of you who are lawtonps.org subscribers were all abruptly unsubscribed about 10 days ago due to some type of technical glitch from the web-hosting company or the district.  Therefore, those of you with a lawtonps.org email address did not receive my automatic posts the last two times. It has now been fixed (cross your fingers), so I am arranging this to be sent out Tuesday night to check. Once I see it is ok, I will schedule it back to Sundays. . . but I will take a couple of weekends off around the holidays.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!!  Happy Holidays!!

P.S.  The fix from the webhosting site did not work. 🙁    So, I’m working on Plan B.  In the meantime, if any of you who were subscribed with your lawtonps.org address switch over to your personal email, I will put your name into my next $25 gift card drawing.  This will be held late January. I’ll keep you updated. Please email me when you have done that if your email address name doesn’t reflect who you are (so I can keep track and not have to resubscribe you when the lawtonps.org address becomes active – IF it becomes active.) Thank you!!!

Phonics Part 1: Getting Started

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

The National Reading Panel has named five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. To be a reader, a student must learn how to decode words and also comprehend them. As I encounter students in my consulting practice, many are at a loss regarding ways to decode words and thus fall further and further behind. According to numerous educational articles about the science of teaching reading, teachers are also often feeling they didn’t have the proper background information from their university experiences about how to teach children to read. Plus, many of my subscribers are alternatively or emergency certified and have not had this information presented to them either. Check out this article. Notice how explicit phonics instruction is a central focus: https://www.nctq.org/blog/The-Science-of-Teaching-Reading

Most reading classrooms utilize a balanced literacy model, trying to devote an equal amount of time to the above 4-5 components. Often times due to time constraints, phonics is “covered” through the spelling lessons or through individualized computer programs. This is not enough. Many commercial reading series provide some phonics instruction, but the lessons are often not to-the-point, rely too much on worksheets, and have too much teacher talk (in my opinion). Many teachers with whom I work have expressed they don’t feel adquate in their attempts to help students beyond saying, “sound it out.”

So let’s see if we can tackle this beast for the next few posts.  Here’s what I plan to focus on:

  • What are the sound / letter combinations students should know?
  • Why are letter sounds and spelling them often difficult?
  • Do students know the difference between vowels and consonants?
  • What is the benefit of helping students know what their lips and tongue are doing as they make various letter sounds?
  • What are some of the best rules of phonics?
  • How many of the “rules” actually work?
  • There are many different ways a student can “sound out” a word. What are they?
  • What to do if a student’s only method is to sound out each letter one at a time?
  • What role do the 3 cueing systems play in reading instruction. How is phonics involved?
  • What are some helpful resources for the teacher as well as the students?
  • How often and what should be included in an explicit phonics lesson?
  • How can the teacher monitor a student’s progress with regard to phonics knowledge?
  • How can the teacher assist the parents so everyone is on the same page regarding helpful strategies?

Here are three wonderful easy to use systematic resources that will help us get started:

Free phonics lessons:Lots of words (and sentences) to practice each phonics skill. The phonics skill is also explained.

Free video phonics reading lessons:Watch the blending procedure and practice in short video clips.

Explicit Phonics Lessons (from W. Virginia):These lessons focus on how to physically articulate the sound (where is the tongue, what are the lips doing?) as well as an I do, we do, you do approach. An easy to implement routine.

Reading Routines Part 5: Phonics (OK Math and Reading Lady)This is a previous post of mine. We will revisit some of the comments made there throughout this series.

What phonics instruction concerns and questions do you have? Please feel free to comment (click on speech bubble at the top of this post). 

Discovering Decimals Part 2: Addition & Subtraction

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Last week, we looked at some ways to gain number sense about decimals. This post will address using decimals in the operations of addition and subtraction . . . and how to model concretely and pictorially. You can also download the color grid pages along with a free decimal math game in this post. Part 3 (future post) will address multiplication and division of decimals.

If you missed last week’s post, please review it first before continuing with this one. Before performing various operations with decimals, students must have a basic understanding of how to represent them concretely, pictorially and numerically.  Example:  .8 = .80 can be proven with base ten blocks and with 100 grid drawings. This understanding should also be linked to fractions: 8/10 is equivalent to 80/100. Click here for pdf of Representing Decimals page.

Addition  

For concrete practice, use a 100 base ten block to represent the whole (ones), the tens rod to represent tenths, and unit blocks to represent hundredths. Construct each addend and then combine them. Ten tenths’ rods become one whole. Ten hundredths cubes become one tenth.

In a pictorial model, shade in the ones, tenths and hundreds on hundred grids. Use different colors to represent each addend. Click here for pdf of Adding Decimals page.

The concrete and pictorial models will also prove .8 = .80, reinforcing the concept that adding a zero to the right of a decimal does not change its value. This will be an important factor when moving to the standard algorithm vertical addition model.

Using an open number line is also a good pictorial model to use when adding decimals, especially if students are already familiar with its use regarding addition of whole numbers. This method reinforces number sense of the base ten system because you continually think, “What goes with .07 to make a tenth?” (answer = .03); or “What goes with .9 to make a whole?” (answer: .1).

A method called partial sums should also help students gain place value number sense along with addition of decimals. Each step is broken down (decomposed). 

Estimating will also be a critical addition problem solving step focusing on number sense. If adding 34.78 plus 24.12, does the student realize their answer should be somewhere close to 35 + 24? Are they thinking, “Is my first number closer to 34 or 35?”  What is halfway between 34 and 35 (34.5 or 34.50)? Where would 34.78 fall if it was on a numberline between 34 and 35? (See my post on rounding for more details.) Continue reading

Decimals: Part 1 – The Basics (revised)

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Number sense regarding decimals usually starts with fourth grade and continues with more complex operations involving decimals in fifth grade and beyond. It is this extension of the place value system and then relating them to fractions and percentages that often perplex our students (and the teachers, too)!  Read ahead to get your freebies (Decimal practice notes, anchor charts, and Discovering Decimals Number of the Day / Game activity).  I have revised this previous post and included some more freebies below.

Students must understand  this base-ten value system extends in both directions — between any two values the 10-to-1 ratio remains the same. When using place value blocks in primary grades, students recognize the 100 square as 100, the tens strip as 10, and the units cube as 1.  Then with decimals, we ask them to reverse their thinking as the 100 square represents 1 whole, the tens strip represents a tenth, and the unit cube represents a hundredth.  This may take repeated practice to make the shift in thinking — but don’t leave it out. Remember the progression from concrete (hands-on) to pictorial to abstract is heavily grounded in research. Students will likely gain better understanding of decimals by beginning with concrete and pictorial representations.

I am sharing my decimal practice notes, which highlight some of the basic concepts to consider when teaching. Pronouncing the names for the decimals is not in these notes, but be sure to emphasize correct pronunciation — .34 is not “point three four.” It is “thirty-four hundredths.” Use the word and for the decimal point when combining with a whole number.  Example: 25.34 is pronounced “Twenty-five and thirty-four hundredths.” I know as adults we often use the term “point,” but we need to model correct academic language when teaching. You can get also the pdf version of these notes by clicking here: Decimal practice teaching notes. Continue reading

Teaching a Comprehension Lesson (ME, WE, TWO, YOU)

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I have recently revised a great resource titled:  Eight Critical Attributes of Teaching a Comprehension Lesson. I do not know the original author, so I can’t give her/him credit.  I did made some modifications to the original and provided some examples of how to apply it (with fact/opinion and cause/effect skills). See the link below for the full 3 page document.

Click here for the document:  Eight Critical Attributes of Teaching a Comprehension Lesson It is a 3 page document which highlights a ME, WE, TWO, YOU scaffolded gradual release model. Page 1 is shown above. Pages 2 and 3 give actual ways to implement these regarding two important comprehension skills. The stories mentioned were taken from Journeys 2nd grade.  The Jellyfish story (fact/opinion) is from Lesson 10. The Super Storms story (cause/effect) is from Lesson 8.

When focusing on comprehension, I have a few other general tips to pass along – especially for grades 1-3:

  • State the skill being emphasized before reading the story.  Example for skill of character analysis with 2nd grade Journeys Lesson 9:  “Today we are going to read a story called How Chipmunk Got His Stripes. When we read it we are going to find out details about our 2 main characters, Bear and Brown Squirrel. Let’s look at the way the characters look, how they act, what they say, and what they are feeling to help us know more about them.”
  • Then the questions I ask should be directed toward that objective.  “On page ____, let’s read to find out how Bear is feeling. . . . On page _____ read to find out how Brown Squirrel acted toward Bear. . . . etc.”  I believe if we give students a purpose for reading before they read the page, they have a focus on what to look for.  The focus is on application of the comprehension skill and not necessarily the content of the lesson.
  • After each page or 2, check for understanding by asking students to tell who and what they just read.  Yes, you could ask all of the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why), but that’s a bit too much. You are trying to train your students to ask these key questions on their own automatically . . . so you have to help them do it at first.  It might be beneficial to have them turn and talk to a neighbor after every couple of pages to tell them who and what happened in just a couple of sentences (which helps to practice summarizing).  This advice comes from authors of “The Daily 5.”
  • Follow up after the first reading of the story (on Day 2 perhaps) with use of a graphic organizer to record what was discussed regarding your skill. With the above example, I used a graphic organizer as we recorded these 4 things about the 2 main characters:  Description, Feelings, Behavior, Personality.

Graphic organizers play an important role to help students “visualize” the text structure and train the brain to think of how details are organized. Click here for my previous Blog post on Graphic Organizers

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!  I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

 

Literacy center resources (free)

by Cindy Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

What is the purpose of having literacy work stations in your classroom? If you answered, “To provide meaningful, engaging, rigorous, differentiated opportunities for students to learn” then you are on the right track!! Aside from the task of deciding on the literacy station procedures and routines you want for your classroom is the problem of actually providing and organizing those quality activities.

I know most of you regularly visit the TPT store and Pinterest for ideas.  There are a TON of great things out there. However, not everyone has a color printer or has the means to drain their bank account to pay for these items.

So, here is a FREE resource I think you will like. It does not require a color printer, and it addresses pretty much every literacy skill you need to teach and/or provide practice for (KG-5th grade). It is the Florida Center for Reading Research (www.fcrr.org). Click on this link: Student center activities which takes you directly to the K-5 reading center activities page.  The following are available — all for FREE!!

  • Sections clearly labeled Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension — with multiple activities for each sub-skill
  • One page overview for each activity (objective, materials list, and directions with illustration showing the activity in use)
  • Flexibility options to use materials as a teaching tool and/or as a practice or review activity

These are some of the types of activities:

  • Tons of letter, picture, and word cards for sorting, matching, pocket charts, concentration, rhyming, word work, etc.
  • Game boards
  • Fluency practice items (from common syllables to phrases)
  • Recording sheets – to record results of activities when appropriate
  • Graphic organizers which can be used with any book – especially for grades 3 and up.

A teacher’s guide is also available with more detailed directions, background information, and literacy station organizational ideas.

I also bookmarked this site in my Resources section (top of the blog in the black band) should you need to refer to this site often. Enjoy!!! Let us know about your favorite FCRR activity or how you are using them in your classroom! Just click on the comment speech bubble.

Multiplication facts: What happens when students don’t or can’t memorize them?

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

If you teach 3rd and above, I am positive you have students who have not memorized their multiplication facts. So what do they do to try to get the answer? From my experience, most students seem to know that repeated addition, drawing equal groups or arrays, and skip counting are strategies to try. I do believe those are very helpful for students to conceptualize what multiplication is all about. But here is what is frustrating:

Let’s say the problem is 6 x 7:

  • Do they write 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 and then add each part at a time? Or a little better, do they add 7 + 7 three times?
  • Do they draw a picture such as 6 circles with 7 items inside each one? The main difficulty with this is most students using this method count each object one at a time, making this a counting practice, not multiplication practice.
  • Do they draw an array? If so, do they correctly line up the rows and columns? Do they count each item in the array one at a time? Or do they group some together (which is a little better because they are at least thinking of equal groups)?
  • Do they skip count by fingers or write the sequence on paper? And what happens then? They may start off okay with 7, 14, 21 and then repeatedly count 7 fingers to get to the next number (21 + 7 = 28, then 28 + 7 = 35,  then 35 + 7 = 42, etc.).

With all of these strategies, students can get the correct answer, but they are often not really even using multiplication. Their method is often counting the objects in each group one at a time.  And when skip counting, if just one number is missed in the sequence then the total is obviously off. In addition, students often spend so much time with each of these that they get frustrated and give up.

In previous posts, I mentioned different ways for students to skip count while focusing on the patterns numbers make (Click HERE) and ways to use arrays to break it down into smaller equal groups (Click HERE).  So those methods are a little more productive toward using multiplication than the above. Today, though, I will steer you toward a unique strategy which does the following:

  • Allows students to use readily known facts (especially the 5s and 2s)
  • Adds a pictorial component which builds on subitizing, number sense, and decomposing of numbers
  • Applies the distributive property so students are using multiplication and addition together

The strategy modeled here is based on facts students already know. This is likely to be different among your students. Some will say they are great with their 4s or 3s. But most students I work with are proficient with their 5s and 2s (and can skip count quickly and accurately if they haven’t memorized these). So a lot of the problems shown will focus on use of 5s and/or 2s.

Again, let’s look at 6 x 7.  The student doesn’t know their 6’s and doesn’t know their 7’s. So we will decompose 6 or 7 to include a group of 5’s, which is known (I’ll show both ways).

  1. Decompose 6:  Six is made up of a group of 5 and a group of 1.  This is a pictorial method to build on subitizing using a dot pattern to show 5 and 1 (similar to a domino piece).
  2. See how the connection to the familiar ten frame can illustrate 7 x 6 (7 groups of 6) in this manner.
  3. Condense this concept to this representation which shows 7 x 5 plus 7 x 1 (35 + 7 = 42)

To see 7 decomposed instead of 6: Seven is made up of a group of 5 and a group of 2.

  1. See what this looks like on a ten frame to illustrate 6 x 7 (6 groups of 7):
  2. Condense to the “domino piece.” This shows 6 x 5 plus 6 x 2 (30 + 12 = 42):

Click on this link Multiplication Strategy pictorial CE for a FREE copy of the pictures above and below which are used in this post (for easy reference later). Here are a few more examples. Some use 5s and 2s, while others will show other combinations using 3s or 4s. The use of dots instead of numbers inside the “domino” is suggested to keep it a little more pictorial and less abstract. Plus, it builds on knowledge of subitizing (which is recognizing quantity without physically counting). Numbers alone can certainly be used, but the quantity of numbers might frustrate some students.

 

Practice activity:

  • Use a set of dominoes and digit cards 1-9. Turn over 1 domino and 1 digit card. Write the problem and then the decomposed version. See photo for example. Click on this link Digit cards 0-9 for a FREE copy of the digit cards.I’d love to hear if you are able to try this with your students. Let me know if it helps. I have worked with a couple of classes so far with this and they have loved it.  It opened a lot of eyes!!

Have a great week!

C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Sight Words Part 2: Activities and Resources

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This post contains some of my favorite sight word activities and resources to help your students practice those sight words and high frequency words.  If you haven’t read part 1, be sure to do that as it contains information about research based teaching strategies. Here goes!!

  1. Sight word tic-tac-toe:
    • Played with partners or teacher vs. students
    • Materials needed:  tic-tac-toe template on a small whiteboard or on a laminated page
    • Two-color counters so each student can mark their spot
    • Select 9 sight words you would like to review.  Have students write them in randomly in the 9 tic-tac-toe spaces
    • Each player selects a word to read.  If read correctly, they can put their counter on the space.  You may also require students to use the word in a sentence.
    • 3 in a row wins the game. Then play again!
    • You may choose to give corrective feedback regarding missed words:  Example:  “No, this word is ________. You say it.”
  2. Sight word sentence cards:

    from thisreadingmama.com

    • Using the words in sentences (or phrases) helps students put the word into context.
    • Try these sight word cards from a blogger I follow (www.thisreadingmama.com).  If you subscribe to her blog, you will find these and dozens of other good reading resources for free. Check out: Sight Word Cards with Sentences (Link to free resources)
  3. Sight word teaching routine:
    • Please take a look at this KG teacher’s routine for teaching and practicing sight words.  It is called “Sight Word 60” because through this routine, students get a chance to hear and use the word 60 times during the week. Sight Word 60 by Greg Smedly-WarrenLook for videos for each day, plus center and celebration activities. This routine can also be followed in 1st and 2nd grade classes or small groups.  Especially good for use with tutors, paraprofessionals, or volunteers!
  4. Sight word path game:
    • This simple path game scenario is well-researched. You are likely to find several versions available. Here is mine (also pictured below): Reading Race Track for Sight Words CE   In part 1 (last post), I linked one from another popular blogger (Playdough to Plato). Here is another editable one from Iowa Reading Research: Reading Race Track (editable).
    • Teacher fills in the words being practiced (5-7 words repeated 4x each placed randomly).
    • The track can be used by students for practice (they can roll a die, move to the space, pronounce the word, and perhaps use it in a sentence).
    • The track can be used by teachers and students for timed practice after they have been introduced. A recording sheet is included with my version as well as the Iowa version.

      Page 2 of Reading Race Track by C.E.

  5. Sight words in context:
    • Of course students benefit from practicing sight words in context.  In your guided reading group, allow students to use mini magnifying glasses (check the dollar stores) or those fancy finger nails that slip over a finger to locate sight words you call out.
    • My favorite way to practice sight words in context is through short, fun poetry. Here is a great resource (sorry, it’s not free) full of poems which target specific sight words. I’m sure there are others out there – let us know of ones you have found! Sight Word Poems for Shared Reading $4 TPT
  6. SWAT!
      • Find some new flyswatters.  If you are working with a small group, you just need 2.
      • Lay out 4-8 sight words you are working on (table top or floor). You could also write them on the board. Teacher calls out a word.
      • The object is for the students to locate and hold their swatter on the word you call out.
      • The student who found it first will have their swatter under the second student’s swatter — proof of who found it first.
      • This is also great for other vocabulary practice or math facts!!

    Find the word “said”

  7. Memory / Concentration:
    • Make 2 copies of each sight word on index size cards. You might limit to 8 cards for KG students and 12 cards for 1st or 2nd.
    • Arrange the cards in a rectangular array.
    • First player selects 2 cards to turn over and read. If they are a match, they can keep them.
    • STRESS to students to just turn the cards over and leave them down — don’t pick them up. This is because the other students are trying to remember where these are located – and they need to be able to see them and their location. It’s a brain thing!!

Notice all of these methods, the students need to read and/or recognize the word (and perhaps use it in a sentence). Have FUN!!!

Sight Words Part 1: Teaching Strategies

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Sight words are those which students can identify automatically without the need to decode. They often do not follow phonics “rules.” Examples: who, all, you, of. They may include some high frequency words (HFW). High frequency words are those which occur most often in reading and writing. By learning 100 of the HFW, a beginning reader can access about 50% of text.  According to Fry, these 13 words account for 25% of words in print:  a, and, for, he, is, in, it, of, that, the, to, was, you.

When are students ready to learn sight words?  According to the experts from Words Their Way (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton), student need to have a more fully developed concept of word.  Concept of Word is the ability to track a memorized text without getting off track, even on a 2-syllable word. In other words, does the child have a one-to-one correspondence with words? When tracking, does their finger stay under a 2-syllable word until it is finished, or are they moving from word-to-word based on the syllable sounds they hear? In the sentence shown, does a student move their finger to the next word after saying ap- or do they stay on the whole word apple before moving on? Students in the early Letter-Name Stage (ages 4-6) start to understand this concept. It becomes more fully developed mid to later stages of Letter Names (ages 5-8).

Students with a basic concept of word are able to acquire a few words from familiar stories and text they have “read” several times or memorized. Students with a full concept of word can finger point read accurately and can correct themselves if they get off track. They can find words in text. Therefore, many sight words are acquired after several rereadings of familiar text.

Instructional Strategies KG-2nd Grade

1. To help children gain concept of word:

  • Point to words as you read text to them (big books, poetry on charts, etc.).
  • Invite children to point to words.
  • Pair memorized short poems with matching word cards for students to reconstruct. Using a pocket chart is helpful.

2. Explicit Instruction: Dedicated time each day for sight word work

  • KG: 1-3 words per week; 1st grade: 3-5 words per week
  • Introduce with “fanfare and pageantry”.
  • Read, chant, sing, spell, write.
  • Use them in a sentence and ask children to do the same.
  • Use letter tiles, magnetic letters, word cards.
  • Use with a word wall (see more info later in this post).
  • Locate in text you are reading (poems, big books, stories in small group).

    a box of juice

  • Many sight words are hard to explain the meaning (the, was, of). Associate with a picture such as: a box of juice.
  • Reinforce with small group instruction.
  • Practice at learning stations:  CAUTION — activities should be done with previously learned  words to promote fluency. If the words are not known, then stamping them in playdough or writing them multiple times may not help you achieve your objective. Saying them correctly along with visual recognition is key. Go to this blogger’s link for many free resources for reinforcing sight words.  http://www.playdoughtoplato.com/pirate-sight-word-game/   She has a simple path board game which is editable. You can put in 1-5 sight words to practice – students must say the word to their partner to advance along the path. She is a great resource for KG-2nd grade!!
  • I (and experts) do not recommend using sight words on weekly spelling lists. Research suggests  spelling words should follow typical orthographic patterns, which many sight words do not have (ex: who, was, all, of). If you practice sight words in ways mentioned above, students will get better at spelling them or can refer to the word wall when needed for writing assignments.

3. Flash Card Practice (Research based method) with no more than 10 words: Continue reading

Ten Frames Part 4: Multiplication

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Yes, you can even use ten frames to teach multiplication concepts! Here are my mini ten-frames with dot cards from 1 – 10:  Click HERE to get a free copy. These are helpful to use, especially if you don’t have enough tens/ones blocks . . .  or you prefer manipulatives that are slightly easier to manage. These provide a strong connection to place value, and the commutiative and distributive properties.

I recommend two sets of the cards 1-9 per student. Each set has multiple copies of the same number. They can be laminated, cut, and placed in a baggie for ease in handing out and storage.

Multiplication Examples:

  1. Single digits (basic facts): 
    • For the problem 3 x 6, the ten frame is really helpful for the student to see 3 x 6 is almost like 3 x 5 with one more group of 3 added on (by being familiar with the fact that the top row on a ten frame is 5).
    • Because of the commutative property, I know these two facts will have the same answer. But which of these below do you think might be “easier” to solve? Students don’t often know they have a choice in how they can use the numbers to their advantage!
  2. Double digit x 1 digit:
    • Use of these also provides a strong connection of place value and multiplication. Notice how students can see the breakdown on the 4 x 12 problem (4 groups of 12 = 4 x 10 plus 4 x 2). Great introduction to the distributive property of multiplication!
    • Here is where application of the commutative property also comes in handy. Which of the methods below would you rather use to solve: count by 4’s or count by 12’s? Again, show students how to use their strengths to decide which way to think about solving the problem.
    • Even though the number of total pieces might seem to be a little overwhelming, it definitely is worth the effort for a few lessons so students get a visual picture of the magnitude of the products.
  3. Here are other ways to model multiplication problems with manipulatives like base ten rods or base ten disks.

Continue reading

Ten Frames Part 3: More addition, subtraction, and place value

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to Part 3 of my Ten Frame series. This will continue with some more ideas on using ten frames for addition and place value. Be sure to grab my free set of mini ten frame dot cards and Place value mat with ten frames to use with these activities.

Add 9:

How often do you see students counting their fingers, drawing tally marks, or other figures to add 9? But what if they could visualize and conceptualize adding 9 is almost like adding ten, but one less? This is where the ten frame comes in handy.

  • To be most efficient with adding 9, help students to add 10 (or a multiple of 10) to any single digit.  Example: 10 + 7, 20 + 4, 50 + 8 . . .
  • Show a problem such as 9 + 7 as part of your daily Number Talk. Observe and listen to how students are solving.
  • Introduce this strategy by showing two ten frames – one with 7 and the other with 9. Check for quick recognition (subitizing) of these amounts on each ten frame.
  • Move one counter from the ten frame with 7 to the ten frame with 9. This will complete it to a full ten frame. Then add 10 + 6 mentally.
  • The purpose is for students to visualize that 9 is just one away from 10 and can be a more efficient strategy than using fingers or tally marks.
  • Practice with several more +9 problems.
  • For 3rd and up try mental math problems such as 25 + 9 or 63 + 9.  Then how about problems like 54 + 19 (add 20 and take away one)?
  • Can students now explain this strategy verbally?

Subtract 9:

  • Let’s say you had the problem 14 -9.  Show 2 ten frames, one with 10 and one with 4 to show 14.
  • To subtract 9, focus on the full ten frame and show that removing 9 means almost all of them. Just 1 is left. I have illustrated this by using 2 color counters and turning the 9 over to a different color.
  • Combine the 1 that is left with the 4 on the second ten frame to get the answer of 5.
  • Looking at the number 14, I am moving the 1 left over to the one’s place (4 + 1 = 5). Therefore 14 – 9 = 5

Use of the ten frame provides a concrete method (moving counters around) and then easily moves to a pictorial method (pictures of dot cards). These experiences allow students to better process the abstract (numbers only) problems they will encounter.

Place Value Concepts: Continue reading

Ten Frames Part 2: Addition and subtraction

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Last week’s focus was on using ten frames to help with students’ number sense and conceptual development of number bonds for amounts 1-10. This post will feature ways to use ten frames to enhance students’ understanding of addition and subtraction. Look for freebies and a video!

There are many addition and subtraction strategies to help students memorize the basic facts such as these below. The ten frame is a very good tool for students of all grade levels to make these strategies more concrete and visual. I will focus on some of these today.

  • add or take away 1 (or 2)
  • doubles, near doubles
  • facts of 10
  • make a ten
  • add or sub. 10
  • add or sub. 9
  • add or sub. tens and ones

Doubles and near doubles (doubles +1, -1, +2, or -2): If the doubles are memorized, then problems near doubles can be solved strategically. 

  • Show a doubles fact on a single ten frame (for up to 5 + 5).  Use a double ten-frame template for 6 + 6 and beyond.
  • With the same doubles fact showing, show a near doubles problem.  This should help students see that the answer is just one or two more or less.
  • Repeat with other examples.
  • Help student identify what a doubles + 1 more (or less) problem looks like. They often have a misconception there should be a 1 in the problem. Make sure they can explain where the “1” does come from. Examples:  7 + 8, 10+11, 24+25, 15 +16, etc.
  • For subtraction, start with the doubles problem showing and turn over the 2-color counters or remove them.

Facts of 10: These are important to grasp for higher level addition / subtraction problems as well as rounding concepts. Continue reading

Ten Frames Part 1: Number Sense

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

The focus in this post will be an introduction to ten frames and ways they can help your students gain number sense. Then stay tuned because ten frames can also be a great tool for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Subitizing: This is the ability to recognize an amount without physically counting. Looking at the picture of red counters: If the top row is full, does the student automatically know there are 5? Doing a Number Talk is a great way to practice subitizing using a ten frame:

  • Use your own or pre-made dot cards. Flash the card for 1-2 seconds. Observe students. Are any of them trying to point and count? Or do they seem to know right away? Here’s a great video I recommend: KG Number Talk with ten frames
  • Tell students to put their thumb in front of their chest (quietly) to signal they know how many there are.
  • Ask a few students to name the amount.
  • Then ask this very important question, “How did you know?”
  • For the top picture you might hope a child says, “I knew there were 5 because when the top row is full, there are 5.”
  • For the bottom picture, you might hope for these types of responses: “I saw 4 (making a square) and 1 more.” or “I saw 3 and 2 more.” or “I pictured the 2 at the bottom moving up to the top row and filling it up, which is 5.”

The idea is to keep building on this.

  • What if I showed 4 in the top row? Can the student rationalize that it was almost 5? Do they see 2 and 2?
  • What if I showed 5 in the top row and 1 in the bottom row? Can the student think “5 and 1 more is 6?”

Here are some resources you might like to help with subitizing using ten frames.

Number Bonds: Using ten frames to illustrate number bonds assists students with composing and decomposing numbers. Students then see that a number can be more than a counted amount or a digit on a jersey or phone number. Here is an example of number bonds for 6:

  • 6 is 5 and 1 (or 1 and 5).
  • 6 is 4 and 2 (or 2 and 4).
  • 6 is 6 and 0 (or 0 and 6).
  • 6 is 3 and 3.

Teaching strategies for number bonds using ten frames: Continue reading

Printing at home for less

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I am unable to add a new blog post today, so I am slipping in a previous post that might be helpful and save you $$ on printing!

Do you want to make task cards and cool colorful activities for your students, but can’t afford the cost of the color ink to print these things? I feel I just have to pass this tip along to you because it has been a real money saver for me.

When I bought an HP home printer, I enrolled in their HP Instant Ink plan hoping it would save me money on ink costs. With an HP Instant Ink plan, I can choose a 50 page a month plan ($2.99), a 100 page a month plan ($4.99), or a 300 page a month plan ($9.99). The best thing is that I can print color or black, whatever I choose, and HP monitors my usage (via wireless) so I can check at any time. There’s no extra cost for printing in color!! When the system sees I’m getting low on ink, they mail new cartridges to me in plenty of time so I never run out. And they provide an envelope to return the used cartridges. Any unused pages are rolled over to the next month. If I go over the allotted pages, I am billed $1 per each set of 20-25 pages.

I can cancel or change plans any time I want to. For example, during the school year I use the 300 page plan each month, but during the summer months, I use the 50 or 100 page plan. In essence you are paying for the number of pages you print, and not the ink cartridges.

Because I think it’s such a great plan, I want to pass along the information. If you are interested, click on the link below. If you enroll (check to make sure your printer is eligible) using my link below please, you will get 1 month free (and so will I).

USE GOOGLE CHROME or FIREFOX for this link ——————— NOT INTERNET EXPLORER

Click this link for more info. If you sign up, we will each get 1 free month: try.hpinstantink.com/gLHdm  

I am not getting paid to make this statement (other than bill credit if you enroll)– just trying to help us all out with teaching expenses any way I can!

Be sure to check out my new links to my free downloads (in the black bar on the home page).

Cindy Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

Reading Routines Part 5: Phonics

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Research supports the fact that explicit systematic phonics instruction is highly beneficial to students. In other words, phonics instruction should make up part of the daily reading routine . . . especially in primary classrooms. Here is Reading Rockets take on the Alphabetic Principle: “Alphabetic principle is the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. It differs from oral language and phonemic awareness because it is introducing students to letters and incorporating what they have already learned (sounds). It is showing them that the sounds they have learned have letters and can all be put together.” Here’s some more info from RRockets on this subject: Alphabetic Principle

Phonics instruction starts with matching letters with sounds as well as naming the letter. Here is a summary I wrote regarding some  fantastic research on alphabet learning (to change from the former letter-of-the-week method): Alphabet Letter / Sounds Research

  • Some of the most significant parts of the research for me was the realization that saying the letter name results in a variety of added vowel sounds such as short e sounds /em/ = m; /ef/ = f; or sometimes a long a /kay/ = k; /jay/ = j; or sometimes long e /dee/ = d; /tee/ = t; or something all together different such as /aich/ = h; /double u/ = w.
  • Sometimes the letter name is close to the sound assigned to it, and sometimes it’s not.
  • The research provides some evidence that letter of the day instruction with 5 to 6 cycles of instruction was very beneficial. Each cycle had a different focus such as letters common in the students’ names, most frequently used letters, by the ways letters are formed, etc.

In my last post on phonemic awareness (see Reading Routines Part 4), I shared the progession from sound boxes to letter boxes and included a couple of good videos. These are very helpful with cvc words and other one syllable words. The goal in all of this is to move from letter-by-letter sounding out to continuous blending and chunking.

So what do explicit phonics instructional programs look like? Although not set in stone, there is usually a progression of skills that look similar to this:

  • Letter and sound matching
  • CVC with short vowel practice
  • CVCe with long vowel practice
  • Beginning consonant blends
  • Beginning consonant digraphs
  • Vowel pairs
  • R controlled vowels
  • Vowel diphthongs
  • Multi-syllablic words

Starting in 2nd grade, the emphasis is more on the vowel patterns (such as different ways to spell the long a sound) as well as consonant combinations, both beginning and ending (such as ck, ng, str). Grades 3 and above focus on these as well, but improve and apply to multi-syllablic words. Most textbooks have a daily phonics lessons to help you keep your instructional explicit and systematic.

These are at the core of all phonics instructional programs:

  • Connecting phonics instruction to weekly spelling patterns and learning centers helps students practice a specific set of words and apply the skill to other similar words.
  • Moving away from sounding out words letter-by-letter to try continuous blending and chunking (by looking for common parts or patterns)
  • Using knowledge of one syllable words to apply to multi-syllablic words
  • Relating known words to new words (often called an Analogy Strategy). Here is an example I used with a 5th grader recently who was trying to read the word “wren” in a portion of text. Obviously this bird species is not well known, and the context didn’t help her with the pronunciation.  I just simply wrote the word “write” on my little white board because I was positive she knew it – and she recognized it immediately. Then I said, “Use what you know about this word (write) to help with the word in your text.” She was able to make the analogy quickly! I didn’t have to go into a phonics lesson on how to pronounce words with wr, etc.

Your phonics instruction is strengthened via fix-it strategies which are embedded in your day-to-day teaching situations (guided reading, etc.). Here is a link to my fix-it-strategies post: Decoding fix-it-strategies Continue reading

Reading Routines Part 4: Phonemic Awareness

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This is Part 4 of a series about daily reading routines I recommend. Previously we have looked at read alouds, independent reading, and phonological awareness. Today’s focus is Phonemic Awareness. Some videos and freebies via TPT are linked below.

See link #3 below for FREE task cards from TPT

Phonemic Awareness is under the umbrella of phonological awareness. This encompasses pre-reading skills associated with the sounds of language. Phonemic awareness is the part dealing with individual phonemes and how they can be identified, segmented, blended, and manipulated to create recognizable units or words . . . . the auditory portion. Students need a firm foundation with this aspect before they can adequately apply it to phonics and reading (which is where the visual aspects of the letters that make these sounds appears). So here are some basics about phonemic awareness:

  • Phonemes are the basic sound units. In the English language there are 44 of them (the consonants, the vowels, digraphs, etc.). Here is a good, short list from Orchestrating Success in Reading by Dawn Reithaug (2002).: 44 Phonemes However, if you want to go more in depth, then this link should satisfy your curiosity (or make you want to quit teaching spelling) from The Reading Well44 Phonemes in Detail
  • Onsets/rimes:  The onset is the part of the word before the vowel. The rime is the part of the word including and after the vowel. Examples: In the word shop, /sh/ is the onset and /op/ is the rime. In the word bed, /b/ is the onset and /ed/ is the rime.
  • Identifying: When presented with a word orally, can a student identify the beginning sound or ending sound? Example: What is the beginning sound in the word moon? /m/.  What is the last sound in the word jump? /p/. The brackets are used to represent the sound – the child is not asked to name the letter.
  • Segmenting: When presented with these words, can a student take the parts or individual sounds apart orally (segment)? Examples: bed = /b/ + /ed/ or /b/ + /e/ + /d/.  Students would NOT be asked at this point to identify the letters that make those sounds, just the sounds.
  • Blending: When presented with these sounds, can a student put them together orally (blend) to form a word?  Examples:  /k/ + /at/ = cat; or /sh/ + /o/ + /p/ = shop
  • Manipulating:  This involves adding, deleting, or substituting sounds. Example:  What is /ap/ with /m/ added to the beginning? (map). What is /land/ without the /l/ sound? (and).  Change the /b/ in bed to /r/. . . (red).

Daily teaching routine for Phonemic Awareness:

  1. If using a reading series, check to see if there is a daily practice with words (like the examples above). Just a few minutes with the whole class is a good introduction and chance for you to observe / listen to who is or is not grasping these tasks.
  2. Use simple pictures (such as fox): Ask students to do some of the following when you feel they are ready:
    • Name the picture and tell the onset and rime. /f/ + /ox/
    • Orally say all of the separate sounds /f/ + /o/ + /ks/.  Use the length of your arm for these cvc words: tap shoulder and say /f/; tap inside elbow and say /o/; tap the wrist and say /ks/.  Then run your hand along the whole arm to blend them back together.
    • Use an Elkonin sound box to show the distinct sounds. For fox, use a 3-part box. Push a chip into each box as each sound is being made (no letters yet, just chips, beans, cubes, pennies, etc.). Then blend all the sounds together. (I like to put an arrow at the bottom of the boxes and run my finger along it to remind students with a visual that the last step is to blend the sounds together.)
    • Change the /f/ to /b/. What word does that sound like? /b/ + /o/ + /ks/ = /box/
    • Change the /ks/ to /g/. What word does that sound like? /f/ + /o/ + /g/ = /fog/
    • Change the /o/ to /i/. What word does that sound like? /f/ + /i/ + /ks/ = /fix/
    • If you remove the /f/ sound, what is left? /oks/ or /ox/
    • Be sure to use short and long vowel words, digraphs, etc. because it’s all about hearing the separate parts – not about matching up the letters that make those sounds.
  3. Follow up these same routines during guided reading and work station time. Here are 2 links from TPT (FREE) with some great sound box practice opportunities:

Here is a great short video I recommend regarding the Elkonin sound boxes: Sound boxes

When you are ready to progress from sound boxes to letter boxes, these two videos should be very helpful.

These routines will be very important once you feel they are ready to associate the letter(s) that make these sounds (via phonics, spelling, and writing). A phonics routine will be the next topic. So stay tuned!