Teaching the Alphabet / Letter Sounds Online

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

How do you go about teaching your online students about the alphabet and letter sounds when you can’t be with them in person? That is the topic of today’s blog.  By no means do I have all the answers, so please chime in with your ideas too!

In an actual classroom, your students would have opportunities to manipulate and sort objects by letter or beginning sound, to write under your watchful eye and guidance, to find the letter used in actual text, and experience fun learning center-type activities to immerse themselves.  Maybe it’s not as hard as you think — below are some possible teaching strategies (and some FREEBIES) you can use with your students to help teach the letter sounds and alphabet. By all means, ensure this instruction is a regular and systematic part of your teaching routine.

Before I go on, one important piece of equipment in case you are working from home and not at school would be a document camera.  I know from my experience that physically holding something up to the camera for a student to see isn’t always a good idea.  For one thing, it covers your face. It wiggles when you hold it.  It can appear backwards (unless you uncheck “mirror my video” if using Zoom). While the type of document camera purchased for your classroom is likely too costly for home use, there are many small portable ones (see Amazon) in the $100-200 price range that connect to your device via a usb port. With their downloaded software you will be in business!  I use one from Ipevo which I love!

My document camera has been crucial to online teaching. It allows me to show strategies in real time, read text together, play games, show pictures, etc.

  1. Alphabet cards:  Cards that are colorful and a good size to show students under your document camera are essential.
    • Present when teaching the letter / sound for the first time. Show how to form the letter. Use cards easily for frequent review. These are like the type you might have posted on the walls in your traditional classroom.
    • Here is an editible FREE set from TPT. Editable alphabet cards with pictures  While the pictures shown are very good, I did notice on the vowels some of them are using a picture to represent the short sound (apple, elephant, umbrella) while some pictures represented the long sound for the vowel (ice cream, orange).  In some cases, this would prevent me from getting the set — but it’s FREE and you can edit it to change the picture.  Or better yet, for the vowels show 2 pictures (1 to represent each sound).
    • Here is another set from a TPT author who is very early-childhood friendly and has a ton of good free stuff (you may have to join her blog to get access to the free stuff).  I like her alphabet cards because they have a few pictures to accompany each letter.  https://thisreadingmama.com/mega-pack-free-phonics-cards/
  2. Alphabet – how your mouth should be formed:

    O says /o/ like this:

    This is a critical aspect of teaching letter sounds.  It matters how the lips, teeth, and tongue are coordinated to produce the sound.  For example, many young children have difficulty with /l/ and can often be corrected by physically showing them where to place the tongue (behind the front teeth).  You can show them how their lips, etc. should look with each letter.  It’s ok to exaggerate a little bit. And by all means, when working on the next item in my list (video), make yourself visible so they can see how to form the letter with their mouth and you can check via your screen if the child is forming their mouth correctly.

  3. Alphabet videos:  I am sure most all of you have used videos from youtube for your students.  Here is the one I recommend because of the repetition of the letter sound and pictures starting with that sound.  In each video (devoted to only one letter at a time) the student gets dozens of opportunities to say the sound and objects with background music that is motivating to get children to participate.  Here’s one for the letter Mm: “Have Fun Teaching” Letter M /m/ video on Youtube
  4. Alphabet pictures:  With a document camera, showing pictures (or real items) with the beginning sound you are teaching is easy.  Here’s a set (6 b/w pictures for each letter) that can be sent to students to put together as a mini book for each letter, or printed and cut apart for you to use for teaching.  A Dab of Glue Will Do (Blog) Free alphabet booklets  The word is printed with each picture making it easy for you to point to the first letter for emphasis.
  5. Alphabet writing:  If your online students have a whiteboard, you can use your document camera to model how to write the letter, let them practice, and then hold up their board to show you.
  6. Alphabet in text:  It is super important to include opportunities to see the letter you are working on in text.  I recommend using the child’s name, class member names, easy patterned text, or short poems.  Show the text under your document camera or pull up from a licensed site you have access to. Have students find the letter wherever it appears in the text. This shows students how letters are being used.
  7. Alphabet sorting and review:  Using pictures (like from #4 above), you can show a picture (cover the word though) and have students name the letter, hold up a letter tile, or write the letter on their whiteboard to show you. You can also display 2-3 letters (magnetic, tiles, or written in column form on a whiteboard) and help students sort pictures by telling you where to place them. This is also a good video to review all of the letter names, sounds, and pictures/words with that beginning sound:  Jack Hartman Alphabet song
  8. Alphabet practice:  There are a lot of resources you may already have that can be transformed to a digital format via boom cards or Seesaw, etc. Some teachers also print up packets at school for weekly distribution to parents (worksheets, cut-n-paste, sorting), and these could be included as supplmental to your online teaching.

Finally, please read this Alphabet research I summarized.  Alphabet Letter and Sounds Research (C. Elkins Edublog)  Very eye opening and beneficial in my opinion. You will come to understand why children get confused with learning the alphabet.  Example:  “F” is pronounced with a short vowel sound before the letter /ef/ while “J” is pronounced with a long vowel sound after the letter /jay/.  “Double you” = /w/.  “Aych” = /h/.  You will find a great 1 page teaching template for teaching letter sounds which focuses on aspects I mentioned above (Here is the letter, here’s how it sounds, here’s how to write it, here it is in text).  

Take care!  Hope you are all well and safe. Looking forward to your comments!

Back to school stories

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

WELCOME BACK!!

Whether you are participating in an online or traditional classroom setting, building classroom community is still important. As part of building a classroom community, you likely will have many discussions about diversity, friendship, and showing respect in various ways.  Here are some great resources for literature that might emphasize the point you are trying to make.

Weareteachers.com 14 books with great follow-up ideas.

  • This site is one of the best because it doesn’t just give a summary of the story, but it provides very practical follow up ideas include a get-to-know-you bingo, anchor charts, self-portrait, writing, posters, brainstorming, drawing, etc.
  • For the above book, “Dear Teacher,” she suggests writing a postcard to a friend or family member telling them about the first week of school.
  • For the book, “Name Jar,” the article suggests brainstorming and creating a poster showing different ways to greet a new student.  

5 Back to School Books for 3rd Grade (Pinterest from notsowimpyteacher.com):

  • There might be some new titles here that kids haven’t heard in previous years.

Back to school books for upper elementary (teachingtoinspire.com).

  • This teacher provides some printables to accompany the books she recommends. These deal with more advanced issues such as kindness, diversity, perseverance, homework and writing.
  • One of the books she features is “The Important Book” by Margaret Wise Brown. It’s been around for awhile (for a good reason). A perfect book for getting kids to write details around one topic. Text in this book follows a pattern similar to this: “The important thing about a crayon, is that you can color with it. They come in many colors. They make your pictures come alive. They can be big or small. But the important thing about a crayon is that you can color with it.” This can actually be used any time of year – not just the beginning. Send me a message and I will send you more information about this book and its link to writing possibilities! Or, of course, I can help you do a lesson using these any time of the year.

In the next post, I will share some ways to do number talks via an online format.  Stay tuned!  Let me know how you are doing!

Also, feel free to share my blog with parents who might be working with their children at home. My articles focus on reading and math strategies (with modeling of the steps involved when necessary) from KG through upper elementary.

Helpful reading and math aids for parents

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

With so many parents taking on the role as teacher, I thought I would provide some resources you can pass along to parents.  In this post you will find some reading strategy help via one-page parent friendly guides (for primary and intermediate). I also included resources for math to provide some practical activities at home as well as some fun card and dice games that emphasize math skills.  Feel free to pass them along. Enjoy!

Reading

Math

On another note:

I am in the process of moving from OK to Arizona!! We have lived in our home for the past 35 years . . . but we have this opportunity to be closer to our family (two sons, a daughter-in-law, our only grandson, and my sister).  I am taking all of my teaching materials with me and still plan to continue my blog, develop more instructional resources, and provide PD via online platforms. I hope you all will stay tuned!!  Stay safe everyone!!

 

Phonics Part 7: Word Analogy Strategy

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I have been a fan of using a word-analogy strategy to help students decode words for a long time. Actually ever since I saw a video and read more about Irene Gaskins Benchmark Word approach years ago.  She even had a school in which she practiced this approach. Word analogy is the process of using a known word to apply to a new word.  Think of it as being a word detective. Sometimes word families are envoked, but more often similar vowel patterns are analyzed.

Here are ways I have used it recently with students:

  1. A first grade student came to the word far in a sentence. He stopped and didn’t try anything. There was no picture. Skipping the word and reading on would not have helped in this case. I wrote this word “are” on a small whiteboard (knowing the child knew this common sight word). I asked:  “What is this word?”  Child responded correctly with “are.”  I underlined the are in the word and said, “Use this part of the word to help you.” The child could immediately and correctly respond with “far.”
  2. A fifth grade student came to the word wren in a sentence. She did not recognize the word, and again there was no picture, even though from the context she could tell it was a type of bird.  I wrote the word “write” on the board, suspecting she knew it. She did, immediately. So I underlined the wr and said, “Use this part of write to help you with this word you don’t know.” She quickly surmised it was wren.
  3. A second grade student came to the word termite in a sentence and stopped. I had the student cover up the ending (mite) to expose ter.  Still nothing. So I wrote “her” on a small whiteboard I always keep handy with my teacher materials.  She knew it quickly. Then I told her to apply that “er” part to the tricky word. She was able to quickly say “ter” and then used the picture to confirm the correct word was “termite.”

These are specific examples to help children realize they can apply something from a known word to a new word. . . . without the teacher giving a mini lesson on vowel sounds, decoding rules, tricky r’s, sounding out letter by letter, etc.  It’s very helpful when dealing with whole words or word parts. This is exactly what we want students to be able to do on their own as they make their reading journey.

Here is an article from the University of Illinois about the methodology:  Look closely at pages 9-11 for application in the class. Here is an excerpt regarding decoding the word “momentum” in this sentence:  “The falling object gained momentum as it fell.” Students use the key known words go, ten, and drum to relate to the syllables in the unknown word. Get the article here: A Metacognitive Approach: Using what you know to decode words you don’t know

The typed word analogy chart pictured below is a handy reference.  I keep a copy (in a plastic sleeve) close by to pull out when needed. I point to a known word on the list and then help the student use that to help with a new word. When I don’t have the chart close by, I write a word I feel is known on a little white board, show it to the student, then show how to apply it (as in examples above). Here’s a FREE copy of the chart (word document): Benchmark word analogy list

I have also presented this small chart as a larger version on a poster board for all students to reference in the classroom.  It’s a different version of a word wall.

Give it a try, and let us know what you think!

 

Phonics Part 6: Open and Closed Syllables

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

We used 2 snow days here, so we had some extra time to catch up (or sleep in).  This gave me time to reflect on my past phonics posts and determine that information on open and closed syllables might be helpful for this one. For those who use the Literacy First Assessment, this skill is tested in first and second grade. So what are open and closed syllables? And what are some ways to help students decode them? How can students apply this knowledge to multi-syllabic words? FREE activities below.

Closed Syllables

  • The vowel is closed in (or trapped) between two consonants and usually makes the short vowel sound.
  • Examples in one-syllable words:  cvc patterns such as hot, big, mat, pen, tub
  • Examples in two-syllable words: picnic (pic-nic), rabbit (rab-bit), pencil (pen-cil), tablet (tab – let)

Open Syllables

  • The vowel is open at the end of a word or syllable and usually makes the long sound.
  • Examples in one-syllable words:  go, she, glue, tree
  • Examples in two-syllable words:  lion (li – on), baby (ba – by), local (lo – cal), music (mu – sic), tiger (ti – ger)

Reading Open and Closed Syllable Words:

  1. If it is a closed one-syllable word, I advise students to try the short vowel sound first to see if that sounds right and makes sense. If not, flip the vowel sound to the long sound.
  2. With a two-syllable word: Use a small post it, a masking card, or your finger to block off part of the word so only the first syllable is exposed. This is often 2-4 letters. If it looks closed (vowel between two consonants), try the short sound first to see if it sounds right and makes sense. If it looks open (one vowel at the end of a syllable), try the long sound first to see if it sounds right or makes sense. If not, flip the vowel.
  3. Apply this to 3 and 4 syllable words (looking at one syllable at a time). Common rimes or chunks might be revealed in the process.
  4. Practice breaking words apart to hear the two syllable and the vowel sounds. Here is a matching activity I made which you can get for FREE. Click here for the Closed syllable matching 4 pages (2 pages of pictures, 2 pages of matching words). Click here for the Open syllable matching 4 pages (2 pages of pictures, 2 pages of matching words).
    • You can match the whole word to the picture.
    • You can cut the words apart by syllables and match picture with both syllable parts.
  5. Try this game format using some of the same above words. Click here for a FREE copy of the Open and closed syllable game.

Stay tuned!  Next week I will focus on a fabulous strategy for decoding (making analogies).  And . . . watch your email (and the next post) to see if you are the winner of the $25 gift card I announced early in January!!!!

Phonics Part 5: Manipulating Phonemes and Letters

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Add beginning letter(s)

Manipulating phonemes refers to the abilty to add, delete, or substitute them orally. This is a prerequisite skill to visually manipulating letters in order to read and write (the phonics part). First grade programs should include both of these routines on a daily basis – and at other grade levels with struggling students. Skill with manipulating letters relates to a child’s ability to use a known word (or word part) to read and write new words. Stay tuned for 10 ways to work on manipulating letters (whole class or small group) as well as some free resources to accomplish your goals.

Add phonemes – phonemic awareness (examples — letters inside / / represent the sound):

  • “Say /at/.  Now add /k/ before /at/. What do you hear?”
  • “Say /un/. Now add /f/ before /un/. What do you hear?”

Add letters – phonics (examples):

  • “Write at.  Now add the letter c before at.  What word did you make?”
  • “What other letters can you add before at to make new words?” (suggest b, f, h, m, p, r, s)
  • “Write un. Now add the letter f before un.  What word did you make?”
  • “What other letters can you add before un to make new words?” (suggest b, g, n, r, s)

Delete phonemes – phonemic awareness (examples):

Manipulate ending letter.

  • “Say fat. Take off the /f/ sound.  What part is left?”  (at)
  • “Say run. Take off the /r/ sound. What part is left?” (un)

Delete letters – phonics (examples):

  • “Write track. Take off the letters tr. What part is left?”
  • “What other words can you write with the letters -ack?” (suggest back, smack, lack, tack)
  • “Write sting. Take off the letters st. What part is left?”
  • “What other words can you write with the letters -ing?” (suggest sing, ring, fling, thing)

Substitute phonemes – phonemic awareness (examples):

  • “Say like. Take off the /l/ sound and trade it for the /b/ sound. What word do you hear now?” (bike)
  • “Say hop. Take off the /p/ sound and trade it for the /g/ sound. What word do you hear now?” (hog)

Substitute letters – phonics (examples):

Manipulate middle letter(s).

  • “Write like. Change the letter l to a b. What word did you write?” (bike)
  • “Write like. Change the letter i to the letter a. What word did you write?” (lake)
  • “Write like. Change the letter to the letter f.  What word did you write?” (life)

You will notice that manipulating letters also links directly to identification of onsets and rimes.

  • With onsets and rimes, we want students to be able to identify the rimes. This means they have to separate it from the beginning of the word.  Example:  sh + op
  • We also want students to be able to recognize and produce the rimes or common “chunks”  in other words. This involves deleting and substituting letters. Examples:  hop, mop, drop, helicopter. If they can’t hear it, they most likely can’t read it or write it.

Here are 10 ways to work on letter manipulation in the classroom or with small groups:

  1. Utilize some of the above examples as part of your daily word work routine.
  2. Use sound boxes and magnetic letters or letter tiles to model manipulation of the letters.
  3. Use post-its to practice manipulating words.
  4. Provide word family practice like these rimes -op, -and, -it, – un, -et, eet, -oat, -ine, and so on.
  5. Give students letter cards to hold and arrange to make / change words.
  6. Break words apart (and put back together).
    • Break apart letter by letter.
    • Break apart onsets and rimes
    • Break apart beginning / middle / ending
  7. Explore words by making a word chain. Write it or use letter tiles to help. How long can you make the chain go on?

    Word chain starting with cat.

    • Start with one word such as cat.
    • Change just one letter at a time to make a new word (this can be the beginning letter, middle letter, or ending letter):  hat
    • Change it again (just one letter): hit
    • Change it again: bit
    • Change it again: big
    • Change it again: dig
    • Change it again: dog
    • Change it again: dot
    • Change it again: hot
    • Change it again:  pot
    • Change it again: pet
    • Can you keep going???
  8. Use spelling words to make changes. After all, the purpose of spelling is not to just spell the words on the list, but to apply the generalization to other words.  Spelling word is wide? Try these: slide, hide, bride . . .  Spelling word is eat?  Try these:  meat, seat, treat . . .
  9. Give pairs of students word family lists to partner read (-ake:  bake, cake, lake, take, make, rake, snake, shake, wake . . .)
  10. Check out some of these FREE resources from TPT:

As always, please share your favorite manipulating phonemes or letters activities!!

 

 

 

 

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!!

 

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!!

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). 

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.

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 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!

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 Routines Part 2: Independent Reading Time

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

This is part 2 of a series about reading routines I believe are important. The focus in this post will be on establishing a daily independent reading time. This independent reading time (or partner reading) will help extend some of the benefits of your read aloud routine.

According to Houghton Mifflin, “Research into effective literacy instruction has often noted that the best teachers of reading have an extensive collection of books in their classrooms (Allington & Gabriel, 2012; Morrow & Gambrell, 1998; Reutzel & Fawson, 2022). In large-scale national studies, researchers found that students in more effective teachers’ classrooms spent a larger percentage of reading instructional time actually reading; additionally, exemplary teachers were more likely to differentiate instruction using their book collections, so that all readers had books they could read accurately and fluently, with understanding and motivation (Allington & Gabriel, 2012).” This comes from an excellent, easy read from Houghton Mifflin Harcout: The Value of Independent Reading: Analysis of Research

What are the benefits? The child . . .

  • Gets a choice in what he/she reads.
  • Is able to practice concepts of print.
  • Is exposed to a wide range of books. This exposure is important in motivating children to read. I’m a strong believer that a child who doesn’t read just hasn’t found the right book / type of book yet.
  • Has the chance to make connections (with characters, places, situations).
  • Can explore all types of genres to include fairy tales, poetry, fantasy, and non-fiction.
  • Becomes more fluent when rereading a favorite book.
  • Increases vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Is able to apply knowledge about sight words and reading / decoding strategies at their own pace.
  • Becomes more confident, experienced, and committed.
  • Builds background knowledge.

Other ways to extend the benefits of independent reading time:

  • Check out the Daily 5 routines to get started. Here’s a summary:
    • Independent reading requires stamina. Start out with a brief time and observe when students start to get restless (5 minutes??) Then gradually add time, always taking cues from the students about how long is too long? Of course the optimum time is based more on age / grade level. But I would recommend you aim toward a goal of 15-20 minutes per day (more for older students).
    • What does independent reading look like? Which books can they choose? How to get them out and put them away. Where can I sit? What if I didn’t finish my book and want to keep it a little longer? If I don’t know the words yet, can I just look at the pictures?
    • How to choose a “just right book.”  Independent reading is most beneficial when a child chooses a book they can read, but we have to be careful not to make it too regimented and requiring only certain levels. A “just right” or “good fit” book is not too hard, not too easy, is on a topic you enjoy, and you can read most of the words.
    • Check out the Daily 5 / Daily Cafe links at the bottom of this blog.

      Anonymous source from Microsoft Clip Art

  • Periodically allow students to share something about a book they like (a book talk) to perhaps interest others. This could be while students are in a circle, or just a couple of students each day.
  • How about partner reading? This might be helpful with reluctant or new students to show them the procedures. Or a once-a-week treat.
  • For intermediate students (grades 3-5), be sure they have extra time to peruse / try out a book. The cover can entice them, but once they start reading, they need permission to trade for another if it doesn’t grab them. Also consider book clubs. This is when 2-3 students read the same book and have the opportunity to engage in discussion about their book.
  • Allow a classroom book to go home via a check out bag.
  • Make up special take home bags for special occasions (birthday, holiday, etc.).  I had two rotating bags that were sent home. My classroom name was “The Magical Mice.” One bag was painted with cute mice. Several books with a mouse theme (fiction and non-fiction) were included. A book log was included which included mouse poems and notebook paper for the child and/or parents to write a note. I even had a recipe to make mouse-shaped cookies in the bag. The student of the week got to take it home and keep it for the week. The other bag was for birthdays and included similar items with a birthday themed stories.

Thank you, Mrs. Seely!!

How to organize your classroom library to help your routine go smoothly:

  • Sort books into categories and label (using small easy-to-carry tubs). Find child-accessible shelves to keep them within reach. For PreK, KG, and 1st grade, consider labels with pictures also. Here’s a link to TPT for free and $ book labels: TPT Classroom Library Book Category Labels
  • If students’ desks are grouped together, rotate some tubs daily so students don’t have to leave their seats to get books. We all know this can get out of hand if students are constantly getting up.
  • Daily 5 suggests that each child have their own book collection box using a cardboard magazine holder (or you can cut an empty cereal box and cover with contact paper). Their box contains their school library book, leveled books, guided reading book, and free choice books they are reading. This might also be a great place to keep their writing journal (another reading routine I will blog about soon).
  • If not using the individual boxes (above), think about what you want to happen when independent reading time is over and a child wants the chance to finish their book. I had a small tub for each group. The student would put their personalized, laminated bookmark in the book to claim it for the next independent reading time. This valued their right to finish a book they had become engrossed in without someone else “stealing” it.

What are you as the teacher doing during this independent reading time?

  • You can enjoy your own book to model independent time.
  • This might be a good time to listen to individual children read to you (not a whole book, but just a few pages). It will build the teacher / child relationship and allow you to monitor and assist them with strategies.
  • Less desirable, but often necessary —  time for some independent assessments (for new students, at the end of the quarter, etc.

Some recommended links to launch your independent reading time:

Have a great week! Tell us about your independent reading routine!

 

Reading Routines Part 1: Read Aloud

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Read aloud time is an important daily routine (for PreK – 5th).  It’s not just for primary students. According to an article in Reading Rockets (https://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-aloud-build-comprehension), Reading aloud is the foundation for literacy development. It is the single most important activity for reading success (Bredekamp, Copple, & Neuman, 2000). It provides children with a demonstration of phrased, fluent reading (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996). It reveals the rewards of reading, and develops the listener’s interest in books and desire to be a reader (Mooney, 1990).

What are the benefits?

  • Teacher models good reading (not an internet book)
  • Reading is for enjoyment – so this is a story outside of the assigned reading curriculum for the week
  • There are great books available to spark the imagination and provide motivation to read
  • Students get practice making mental pictures (when listening to a chapter book)
  • Enhances listening comprehension
  • Vocabulary can be introduced in an informal way
  • Students learn about the author’s voice and point of view
  • Books can be compared (author, characters, genre)
  • Characters can be explored deeply if reading a series by the same author
  • Great comprehension skills to reflect on informally:  predict, cause-effect, sequence, compare-contrast, inference, theme
  • A calm atmosphere
  • Students feel more free to discuss aspects of the read-aloud (because there aren’t worksheets or tests involved)
  • Able to listen to books above independent reading level
  • Builds connections and classroom community (Example:  “This is a book about . . . .  What experience have you had with this?”)
  • Got a problem to solve (Friendship, etc.)? You can probably find a book about that topic
  • Younger students learn valuable concepts of print by participating in the shared reading of a big book

I know this precious read aloud time is often omitted due to tight schedules. If so, please examine your schedule to see if you can shave a little time in other places to include this important routine. Here’s a great article about ways to fit read-aloud time into your busy schedule: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/juan-gonzales/17-18/3-ideas-on-how-to-create-more-read-aloud-time-the-classroom/

At the beginning of the year when you are establishing procedures, be sure to make an anchor chart for read aloud expectations.  Refer to the Daily 5 for great ideas. Things to consider:

  • Will children be on the floor or at their desks?
  • Will you allow doodling while you read? (There are differing opinions on this.)
  • How will you handle blurting (or not blurting) and discussion time?
  • Videotape yourself to analyze your reading — Do you enjoy listening to yourself?  If your voice sounds varied and interesting, your students most likely will be actively listening (rather than disrupting or falling asleep).
  • Choose books which encourage mental visualization. Check with your librarian if you need some advice.
  • With chapter books, choose those with interesting characters and riveting chapter endings (makes studens eager to listen the next day).

Final research note: The U.S. Department of Education Commission on Reading took into account over 10,000 studies and found that the most important activity for building the skills and background for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children (see Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985). Children who are read to are usually the very best readers in the classroom, and they acquire large vocabularies, write well, and do better in other subject areas, as well.

What are your favorite read-alouds? Please share! (indicate grade level range too)

Some of mine for 2nd-4th graders:  A Toad for Tuesday (by Russel Erickson), the Flat Stanley books, Snot Stew (by Bill Wallace)

Text Structures Part 3: Sequence and Descriptive

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to the third text structure post.  Today’s focus will be on sequence / chronological order and descriptive text structures. Here are some graphic organizers to keep in mind.

Sequence / Chronological Order

1. Sequence refers to a particular order in time. This can be:

  • Information presented minute by minute, hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.
  • Providing information by dates (a timeline)
  • Steps of how to complete something (first, second, third, etc.)
  • A retelling of events in the order they happened: First, next, then, finally or beginning / middle / end.  It may be helpful to use a “retelling rope”.   Use a section of rope or nylon cord (approx. 1 foot long). Tie several knots along the length of it (3-5). At each knot, retell part of the story or events in sequence.
  • Observing how things / people have changed over time
  • Non-fiction and fiction selections
  • Arranging events in order using pictures

2. Connecting sequence to strategies:

  • Predict what will happen next in the sequence.
  • Visualize the steps involved.
  • Make personal connections regarding your own experience with the sequenced topic.

3. Sequence / Chronological order main idea / summarizing sentence frames:  Suppose I read an article telling about the seasonal journey of a pod of whales.  Again, the topic is whales — but this is NOT the main idea.

  • (Main idea):  Whales travel to different locations each season to find food and a mate.
  • How to ________ step by step.
  • The timeline of _________________.
  • There are several steps to ______________. First, _________. Then, ___________. Last, ________.
  • The life cycle of __________.
  • Many things happened during _____________’s life.
  • (Summarize): Whales travel to different locations each season to find food and a mate. In the spring, they ________. In the summer, ______________.  In the fall, _____________. In the winter, _________.
  • To make ________, follow these steps: ________________.
  • The life cycle of a ___________ includes these stages: _______________.
  • Many things happened during _____________’s life. In (year), he/she_____________. After that, _____________. Then, ________________. Finally, ___________________.

Descriptive Text Structure

1. Descriptive structures give details.  These can be:

  • Details or descriptions about a person, a place, a thing, an idea, an animal, an event, etc.
  • A web graphic organizer is a good model to visualize, with the topic in the center and the supporting details branching outwards.

2. Connecting to strategies:

  • Visualize what is being described, especially if there are no pictures or photos in the text.
  • Ask questions about the topic such as:  “I wonder . . .”
  • Analyze the point of view:  What is the author’s point of view. Is he/she presenting a one-sided view of the details presented?
  • Make connections to the topic.

Continue reading