Reading Fix-it Strategies: Part 3 “Does it look right?”

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to part 3! In this post we will look at some strategies and prompts regarding the visual cueing system. When a student’s main strategy is to use the letters they see to sound out words, they are attempting to make the word(s) look right. This method is often helpful, especially with cvc words or words which are phonetic. We do want kids to know how to segment the sounds and blend them together to pronounce the word. But we don’t want them to overuse it and neglect the other 2 cueing systems. A good reader uses all 3 at the same time to cross check their reading.

If we want children to use the visual cueing system, there are several “sounding out” strategies. Children often need guidance about which of these works best. So try not to just say, “Sound it out.” This  guide emphasizes many of these strategies. Get it here FREE:  Strategy Chart full size.

  • Sound out letter by letter:  To pronounce had = /h/+/a/+/d/
  • Get the word started with the right sound.
  • Stretch out the sounds slowly (also referred to as continuous blending).
  • Use common chunks (sometimes referred to as rimes, phonograms, word families): spent = /sp/ + /ent/
  • Look for little words within bigger words: stand = /st/ + /and/
  • Flip the vowel:  If a student tried the word time, but pronounced it /t/+/i/+/m/ with the short i sound, tell the child to flip the vowel (meaning they should try the other sound that vowel makes to determine if it makes sense). This is a GREAT strategy to use without having to go into a mini lesson about vowel pairs, silent e, and other phonics rules concerning vowels.  Just say, “Flip the vowel.”
  • Think of another known word which has a similar spelling: If the child is trying to read the word were think of the word her. Trying to read the word tree? Think of the word see.

Continue reading

New reading resource

I added this new resource in the literacy section of the resources in my blog.  See the black band at the top of my home page – click on “Resources.”

Go to “This Reading Mama” by clicking on this link:  https://thisreadingmama.com/

Look for “Free Printables.”  She has one of the best selections I’ve seen for reading (especially in the primary grades). You will find sight words with sentences cards, word families, color the chunk, phonics, spelling folders, abc books, etc. — all for FREE!

Enjoy!  C. Elkins — OK Math and Reading Lady

Writing Part 5: Temporary Spelling and Word Wall

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Can u reed wut i am riting? Can u tel frum my riting that i no most uv the mane sonds in werds? I no sum site werds, i no the sonds in order frum left to rite as i strech them out. I no sum vowl paterns. I can evn spel sum 2 silubul werds by trying 1 silubul at a time. After i am dun riting, the teecher helps me pik out 2 werds to lern. Then i practis them a fu timez and add them to my speshul werd book so i can find and uz them agen.

This is an example of temporary spelling appropriate for a late KG-2nd grade student. The “student” was able to focus on the content of their writing using spelling strategies mentioned in my previous posts:

  • Stretch out sounds or use sound boxes.
  • Clap to hear the distinct syllables and spell each syllable separately.
  • Think about spelling patterns from known or rhyming words.
  • Use words posted on the word wall and/or in the individual word book.
  • Try words different ways to see which one looks right.

For this student, I would have selected these 2 words (werd/word and frum/from) for further practice because they were used often, close to the correct spelling, and only need minor adjustments. I usually have them circle the words we chose. These words only need minor tweaking and they are likely to be words needed often for future writing. When the words are added to his/her word book, they are there for reference and are more likely to be used correctly in the future. Continue reading

Writing Part 4: How to get kids to stay on topic

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I support you, OK teachers!!! I walked with you in 1990 and in 2007-2008. I feel your frustrations and have been contacting OK representatives and senators this past year on your behalf. Last in pay, overcrowded classes, lack of supplies, on and on – I experienced it myself and see it everyday when I visit classes. I am proud of you, your goals, and your actions to affect change.  I am with you all the way!!!

Today’s post will focus on moving children toward more independent writing. A strategy I love to use addresses the following writing points:

  1. Composing sentences
  2. Staying on the chosen topic
  3. Practicing temporary spelling strategies (sounding out, stretching sounds, clapping syllables, thinking of words that rhyme, using related known words)
  4. Applying conventions of print (spacing within and between words, left to right, return sweep, etc.)
  5. Using class word wall (or individual word book)
  6. Proofreading and fluency

I have used this strategy and have felt successful with it. After students have seen me model writing in various forms (example: class news or other shared writing experiences), I usually follow these steps: Continue reading

Writing Part 3: Modeling and Shared Writing

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I will share several writing strategies via this series of posts on Writing. Part 1 was a focus on the continuum and word-writing strategies. Part 2 focused on the importance of letter formation and handwriting (printing) with a way to incorporate it with concepts of print, phonics, and composing sentences. In this part, I would like to focus on a modeling / shared writing strategy I call “Class News.” I utilized this strategy with KG-3rd grade classes and will share some pictures and ideas with you. I also wrote an article about this that appeared many years ago in the Oklahoma Reader, a publication by the OK Reading Association.

What is it?  I called students together each day for math talk time. After this, we held a class news session. Writing the date was part of the routine (but it doesn’t have to be). Students took turns sharing news of importance to them – and sometimes some other news about the day was added. For younger students it was a definite time to emphasize a variety of concepts of print:

  1. Directionality and return sweep (going to the next line from left to right)
  2. Spacing within and between words (see part 2 reference to “spaghetti and meatballs”)
  3. Letter formation – tall letters vs. short letters vs. below the line letters
  4. Use of capitals and punctuation
  5. Noticing the difference between letters, words, and sentences
  6. The opportunity to think aloud about letter sounds and sight words

After a sentence was orally agreed on, I wrote parts of it and solicited help from students for parts I felt they could be successful with. This often varied depending on what I wanted to emphasize. At first it was beginning letters or ending letters. Then I would try leaving out the vowels for students to work on. Gradually, different word parts or whole words were left for students to complete (usually with a different colored marker). All the while I was right next to them guiding them.

I also kept a few learning aids handy (alphabet chart with pictures, letter formation chart, vowel pairs chart, etc.) so we could reference them when needed. I have linked some FREE mini charts at the end of this post. Example:  A student is finishing the word “toad” and is thinking of the correct vowel pair, so I show my vowel pairs chart and point to the word “boat” and say, “Do you see a word / picture that has the same middle sound as the word toad?” . . . child finds boat to see the letters oa.  I also kept a small white board (or clip board) handy. For example, if the child came to write the sight word “have” on the chart, I might ask them to write it on the white board or clipboard first to check their thinking – that way all the kinks were worked out and the news chart stayed in a non-smudged condition. I also used the whiteboard to make sound boxes for a student to work out the sounds (like for a cvc word). Continue reading

Writing Part 2: Concepts of Print and Handwriting

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I read an interesting blog post about checking children’s ability to distinguish between letters, words, and sentences. While I always considered that a reading skill related to “concepts of print,” it dawned on me that this relates strongly to a child’s successful writing experience too. This whole concept is what I will explore in today’s post – along with my opinions and ideas about teaching handwriting / penmanship.

Do you want to see if your students can distinguish between letter, word, and sentence? Try something like this from www.kindergartenchaos.com.

Here are some other links to help your children practice this.

  1.  Letter, Word and Sentence Sort (Free @ TPT)
  2. Kinderblossoms.blogspot lesson using poem to teach letter vs. word vs. sentence concepts
  3. Word, letter, or sentence cut-n-paste (free @ TPT)
  4. Pocket chart concepts of print (free @ TPT)

Using poems on a weekly basis (as with the spider poem in video from #2 above), make it easy to highlight these features (letter, word, sentence) as you continue to practice emphasizing the difference.

So when I want KG or 1st graders to write and I model how to write letters, and put space between these letters and words to write a sentence, they will hopefully have this concept under control. It seems to be pretty common that students aren’t always “seeing” this because they string everything together in one line with no differentiation in spacing between letters and words. Or they confuse letters with numbers.

Another blog I was reading had a great visual that I started trying regarding ways to teach spacing within words and between words when writing. Call it “spaghetti and meatballs.” When writing words, the space between the letters (within the word) should be really close (so that a skinny piece of spaghetti will fit in between). When writing a sentence, the space between the words should be the size of a meatball. Placing an uncooked spaghetti strand is a great visual aid! Regarding the meatball, however — I would tell students, “We can’t lay a meatball on our paper, but one or two fingers might work because they are about the same size.” Or if possible, provide a popsicle stick to each student to use as their spacer. Continue reading

Writing Part 1: How to get students to write

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

So many teachers have asked for assistance with writing – so here is Part 1. Stay tuned for more parts devoted to helping students become better writers.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with writing. Do you have these thoughts?

  • What type of paper is best? Lined, unlined, wide rule, college rule, dotted lines?
  • How much should I help them with spelling? Does it need to be spelled correctly?
  • Should I use prompts or free choice journaling?
  • How do I get students to space correctly?
  • How do I get students to stay on a topic?
  • How do I get students to use the conventions we have worked on (capitalization, punctuation, etc.)
  • What do I do about handwriting issues?
  • How can I connect it with reading, math, or other subjects?

At the root of all of these issues above, I believe the following are musts for any grade level:

  1. Students must be exposed to quality literature which highlights a variety of writing styles. This is accomplished through the books you use in guided reading, whole group reading, and especially your daily read aloud time. Through this rich exposure to literature students become familiar with various authors and their styles of writing, as well as how authors use their “voice” to relay their message. Voice is the ability to project the way you talk into print. (More info in later posts about books that really show different types of “voice.”)
  2. Students can’t be expected to write if they don’t see the teacher model writing. Through modeling, teachers can use dozens of “think alouds” to share the decisions they are making. In this way, the strategies a writer (the teacher) uses are being exposed. Then the students are more likely to emulate these strategies.
  3. Writing needs to be scaffolded in the same way as other lessons: I do – we do – you do. Students observe and watch the teacher as he/she models various writing strategies. With shared writing, the teacher and students work together to “share the pen.” Then we gradually release students through guided writing sessions before expecting independent writing. This is a year-long process.
  4. Sometimes your writing strategy lessons might best be accomplished through your small group literacy time. Students are probably grouped based on their reading needs, so they likely have similar writing needs. From my experience, it’s a lot easier to monitor 4-6 students’ writing than a whole class. In this case a  goal could be to write once a week as part of your weekly routine. (Example: Monday and Tuesday are spent on the guided reading text for the week, Wednesday on word work, and Thursday for writing.)

Continue reading

Sight Words and Word Walls

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 Continue reading

Early Childhood Resource

Here is a resource I think early childhood educators will love. Click on the link and it will take you there. If you subscribe to this sight,  you will have access to dozens of free activities. Looking for activities dealing with letter sounds, blends, digraphs, cvc words, sight words? This is where you will find them. They are perfect for small group instruction, individual, or centers. I will also add this link to my reading resources.

http://www.playdoughtoplato.com/

Alphabet Letter and Sounds Research

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I was browsing through some research on reading and came across this article about instructional practices concerning alphabet letters and sounds. Click here for a pdf of this article: Enhancing alphabet knowledge instruction: Research implications and practical strategies for early childhood educators.

This article discusses the concept of letter-0f-the-week instruction vs. another researched method. I know many KG teachers who implement the letter-of-the-week method with great success. During most of my teaching career, I know this was a pretty common method – even my own children learned this way. However, as research became more prevalent and relied upon to make instructional decisions, this method of teaching one letter a week came under fire. I kept hearing this, but never read any research which supported it, refuted it (or advised what to do instead) until seeing this article. So please have an open mind KG and 1st grade teachers. I like this quote by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Here is a summary of the article:

  1. The letter-of-the week method is largely based on tradition rather than research.
  2. With a letter per week, it takes 26 weeks of school (often until March) to complete the cycle, which disadvantages at-risk students.
  3. Many students don’t need a whole week to learn a letter.
  4. With 26 weeks for one complete instructional cycle of the alphabet, this only leaves 10 weeks to review the letters, sounds, and symbols.

The research suggested the following 6 cycles of alphabet learning (meaning each cycle is completed in 26-30 days) and repeated with a different focus for up to 5 more times throughout the year. With each cycle,  the order and reason in which letters are presented is varied. So students experience 6 different opportunities (instead of one) to focus on unique features of the letters to learn the letter name, sound, how to write it, and locate it in text.

1st 26 days: By frequency of initial letters in students’ names. Determine the letters used most often in your students’ names and start with those first. Example:  You have several students whose name begins with M, L, and K. So begin with those letters with your daily instruction. This is very motivating for students and helps with name recognition. Continue reading

Concepts About Print (PreK – 1st grade)

By Cindy Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

A child’s concepts about print (CAP) shows his/her understanding of how to orient text and their readiness to read. Click on the following link for a printable version of this CAP article. The last page of the article is an assessment which I found on MS Clip art (free). It was designed by Jen Jones @ www.helloliteracyblogspot.com. Click here for a free copy of the following 2 CAP posters (8.5 x 11″ each).

Concepts about Print include:

  • Title
  • Author and illustrator
  • Front and back cover
  • Where to start reading
  • Directionality: left to right, top to bottom, return sweep
  • One-to-one correspondence (voice-print-match)
  • First and last part (of sentence or story)
  • Difference between letter, word, and sentence
  • Capitals / Upper case vs. lower case letters
  • Punctuation (Please call them by their correct names – not “Mystery Mark” or “Happy Mark”)
  • Pictures (which help determine meaning)

How to teach and practice CAP: Continue reading

Listening to Your Students’ Reading Part 3: Visual Cueing System

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

monkey-visual-cuesThe third cueing system is the use of visual cues (V) to decode words. This means the reader is mostly focused on how a word looks.  A best-case scenario is when the student is cross-checking by using meaning, structure, and the visual aspects of the word to make a correct response. See previous posts regarding Part I (Meaning) and Part II (Structure).

 If a child mainly relies on this visual cueing system, he/she may become slower and lose comprehension because he/she is so focused on the pronunciation and not the meaning.

 In an earlier post from “Listening to Your Students Reading Part 1,” I referred to this sample sentence: Jack and Jill had a pail of water.

If the child said pill or pal instead of pail, then that child was primarily using visual cues because those words look very similar. Unfortunately, neither of those examples makes sense. Continue reading

Listening to Your Students’ Reading Part 2: Structural Cueing System

By C. Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

See Part I – Meaning (posted Sept. 17th)

The second cueing system is the use of (S) Structure or Syntax of our English language. Much of a child’s knowledge about language structures comes as a result of speaking or listening to how language naturally sounds. A reader attempts to make it sound right. Here are 3 possible scenarios: Continue reading

Listening to Your Students’ Reading Part 1: Running Records and Meaning Cueing System

 

By C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady – with adaptations from Marie Clay and Scholastic

As an undergraduate, I know I had coursework in reading related to Miscue Analysis. I remember having a whole book devoted to this study. However, I don’t remember really applying this knowledge until after having taught for 15 years. I attended a Reading Recovery workshop at that time, and heard from two teachers who described how to take a running record and then analyze the results to determine which strategies students were using or neglecting. That one workshop forever changed how I listened to my students read, and how I talked to parents about their child’s reading successes or difficulties.  About 8 years after that I had formal training in Reading Recovery methods (after my kids were grown and I could go back to school) and completed a Masters in Reading all because of that workshop!

So, what is a running record?

  • Written documentation of a child’s oral reading
  • Identifies accuracy of reading (independent, instructional, or hard)
  • Provides a record of strategies, errors, corrections, phrasing, fluency
  • Helps teachers identify cueing systems the child is using / neglecting
  • Documents progress over time

Continue reading