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

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 videos 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!

Reading Routines Part 3: Phonological Awareness

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Daily explicit routines regarding phonological awareness and phonics are important, especially for KG-2nd grade levels (and beyond for those who are in need of extra intervention). Whether you are utilizing the textbook’s recommended lesson plan or seeking out on your own, I’d like to advocate for a daily routine to teach and/or practice these skills. In this post, I will focus mostly on teaching early phonological awareness routines and how they are connected to later reading, spelling, and writing success.

Phonological Awareness encompasses pre-reading skills associated with the sounds of language. If you have assessed this at the PreK-2nd grade levels, you know part of the assessment involves identifying spoken words, rhymes, syllables, onsets/rimes, and identifying, segmenting, blending, and substituting phonemes. Phonemic awareness is under the umbrella of phonological awareness with more of a focus on the latter part (onsets/rimes, and identifying, segmenting, blending, and manipulating phonemes). All of this, regardless, is based on SOUNDS only. This awareness is AUDITORY and not print related.

My opinion regarding this daily routine, is for a whole class explicit 10-15 minute lesson. During the whole class daily routine, keep mental tabs or quick notes on who has difficulty so you can follow up during small group and learning station opportunities throughout the week. Try video taping your routine for those “extra eyes.” See a link to some FREE research-based activities at the end of this post.

Spoken Words: 

I have observed frequently that young students do not always know the difference between letters, words, and sentences. I usually discover this via writing lessons. Wonder why students don’t space between words? Or spread letters within a word far apart? I think it may go back to a misunderstanding about this very basic phonological awareness concept.

The assessment for this involves the teacher stating a sentence and the child pushes chips or pennies to indicate how many words were heard. Usually this isn’t too difficult until the teacher utters a 2-syllable word. Does the child understand this to be one or two words?

Believe it or not, this is a huge key concept later when the child is reading text. You may discover errors with 1-to-1 correspondence. When reading this sentence: “The apple is good.” does the child keep their finger on apple until the word is finished, or do they move their finger for each syllable? And then, as mentioned previously, it also becomes a hindrance when writing.

As you can see then, concept of spoken word is closely tied to the understanding of syllables. The number of syllables per word is determined by the number of vowel sounds heard. Friend = 1 syllable. Funny = 2 syllables. There are several ways to count them:

  • Clap or snap each syllable
  • Count with fingers
  • Feel the jaw move

Why is knowledge about hearing syllables important to later reading skills?

  • Breaking apart words by syllables is an important reading strategy. Can the child visually see the syllable and then pronounce each part as if it was a little word (example: yes-ter-day).
  • Breaking apart words by syllables is an important spelling and writing strategy.  Hearing the sounds of the word is just as important as the visual aspects of the word. Trying to spell the word important? Can I hear the parts /im/ + /por/ + /tant/? If I can hear them, I can come closer to spelling them.

Daily teaching routine for Spoken Word and Syllables:

  1. Present a sentence orally. Step 1:  Students repeat the sentence. Step 2: Have them do one of the following to indicate # of spoken words:  clap, stomp, use magnetic chips on a the board, unifix cubes, count with fingers, or select a # of students to match the # of words and they each stand to say one of the words in the sentence – they become the sentence.
  2. State a word and have students clap, snap, or count # of syllables.
  3. Hand out picture cards and have students group together by # of syllables.

Rhyme: Continue reading

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

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