Showing posts with label phonics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label phonics. Show all posts

I used to HATE the nonsense word fluency portion of the DIBELS assessment.  Like HATE it.  I thought it was pointless.  Afterall, I didn't care if my kids could read nonsense words.  

I wanted them reading REAL words!

But then, my science of reading journey hit me across the forehead again with another big learning AHA!  

Nonsense words are the building blocks of multisyllabic words.  

Let me say it a different way: Words with more than one syllable often are built by putting two or more nonsense one-syllable words together.

Like COMPUTER.  This word is built with 3 nonsense words.

COM-PU-TER.  So, if we want kids reading longer words, they need lots of practice reading short, nonsense words.

My absolute favorite way to practice decoding both real and nonsense words is playing the Word Chunks Game.

What You'll Need

This word work game is super low prep.  All I need is onset and rime cards and a way to record the words.  This can be as simple as writing sound chunks you are teaching on sticky notes and using dry erase boards to record words.

Or, you can use these premade word building cards that include all of the phonics sounds from short vowels and blends to vowel teams and diphthongs. All I have to do is laminate the onset and rime cards and store them in a bag.  I love using the different themed word building cards each month to make the game fresh and new for the kids!

Once you have the game prepped, you are ready to play this game with kids no matter what their decoding level!  Each of the word chunks game sets are differentiated into short vowel words, CVCe and ending blend words, and vowel combo words.  All sets include consonants and blends and digraphs as the onsets. 

Just grab the bag with the skill cards your kids need to work on and you are ready to play!

How To Play The Word Chunks Game

Lay out the headers "real" and "wacky" words and talk to kids about what this means.  After decoding each word, they will need to determine if the word is a real word or not.

Then, make a pile of the onset words and the rime word cards.  Kids will take turns turning over one of each to build the word.

(NOTE: I put an orange dot on the back of my rime cards so I could easily sort the cards into onsets and rimes)

Once the kid builds the new word, they will decide if the word is real or wacky and move the word card under the correct header.

Then, they will write their word on the recording sheet under the correct header.

You play as long or as short as time allows.  When time is up, the person with the most REAL words wins!

More Word Work Practice

If your kids need more word building practice, there are 3 premade sorts included in each month of the Word Chunks Game.  And they are themed for the month and match the levels included for each game set!

Use the sorts for independent practice, sub plans, morning work, and more!  You can find the October Word Chunks Game here or get the bundle for a huge discount here.

Do you have kids that are struggling decoding CVC words?  Do they know their letters and sounds, but they just can't seem to put it all together to read words with short vowels?  

Kids must have multiple exposures to words in multiple contexts to map words and read them with automaticity.  So, it's helpful to have multiple interventions in our toolkit to help kids decode.

Today, we're chatting about my favorite--Science of Reading aligned--ways to help your kids learn to decode simple CVC short vowel words.

The Blending Slide

Phonemic awareness is the foundation of decoding.  Without being able to blend and segment sounds kids hear, it is next to impossible to blend and segment even the simplest words.

Let's start with one of my favorites: The Blending Slide.  I start this routine whole group from week 1.

I chant, 

Slide, slide, slippety slide.

I say the sounds.

YOU make it glide!

/c/ /a/ /t/

I touch my shoulder, elbow, and hand as I say each sound.  Then, without saying anything else, I slide my hand down my arm from shoulder to hand and the kids blend the sound.

As I'm touching each sound on my arm and blending, they are touching their arms in the same way at the same time.  This Total Physical Response is crucial to helping kids solidify their learning.

The sliding arm is MAGIC!  We use it for just phonemic awareness (sounds only).  And we use it as we begin reading.  And I see those little arms pop out all the time while they are practicing reading.  Especially for my tactile learners.  It is a HUGE built-in manipulative and support for them.  And when they reach automaticity, that arm no longer is needed!

Segmenting on Arms

At the same time we are working on blending, we are also working on segmenting with a chant called, "Break It Down."

I start this routine whole group from week 1 also.  I snap to the beat and chant,

Break it down (snap)

Break it down (snap)

Break. It. (snap) Down. (snap)

I say the word,

YOU say the sounds.


Then, we all stick our arm out in front of us.  We use our other arm to touch our shoulder, elbow, and hand while saying each of the sounds we hear in the word CAT.

/c/ /a/ /t/, CAT!

When we say the word at the end, we slide our hand all the way down our arm as we blend our word. You can read more about how I use the Break It Down and Slide Chants for reading intervention here.

Don't skip this practice, y'all.

Let me say it louder for the teachers in the back:  DON'T SKIP PHONEMIC AWARENESS.

Especially for intervention, the Science of Reading tells us it's super important that kids have opportunities to blend sounds together without having to think about the letter-sound correlation.  Don't worry, we are about to talk about connecting it to letters.... that's the end goal after all, right?

Connect It To Letters

In addition to manipulating sounds, we know from the science of reading research that kids should also be connecting their blending and segmenting skills to letters--and as soon as possible!  Sometimes, that comes immediately after manipulating sounds by asking, "And what letter makes that sound?"  

And sometimes it's a stand-alone phonics lesson.

This can be as simple as writing a CVC word on the board and having kids hold out their arms to say and blend the sounds.  

Another way I like to do this is by using magnetiles.  I love this intervention because I can use it for decoding CVC words all the way up to multisyllabic words (read those details here).

No matter how we connect it to letters, I have found that continuing to use the arm as a manipulative to blend the sounds helps kids tremendously!

Making Words

Decoding one word at a time using dry erase boards or magnetiles is perfect for kids starting to decode.

Once kids' decoding skills are increasing and they are in need of LOTS of decoding repetition, we move to making words.  Making words gives us the chance to manipulate and decode more words in a short amount of time so the focus is on automaticity and fluency!

If we do this whole group, I use dry erase markers to speed up the gathering materials process!

But for intervention groups, I still love using magnetic letters and the tactile learning it adds.

Making words is a word building game that makes phonics practice more like a puzzle so the kids are hooked from the first word!  You can read more about how I use this intervention in this post.

And you can find the premade lessons and mats that I use here.

Decodable Texts

Once kids are getting faster and more automatic with making words, they are ready to read in context.  For these kiddos, decodable texts are the ONLY way to go!

I LOVE giving kids authentic ways to practice decoding as soon as they are ready!  These decodable texts give kids passages and booklets to practice CVC short vowel words, but with silly stories that will entertain your kids!

Find decodable word lists, passages, booklets, and checkups for CVC words here!

Elementary phonics aligned with the science of reading looks like tubs of manipulatives, sound box cards, pointers, poem posters, and dry erase boards with markers, and, and, and... :)

All. The. Things.

And then if you are going to do phonics intervention during small groups, you either need to have a separate stash, or you need to remember to move all the things back and forth.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  Digital phonics changed my life for this very reason and more.  So let's chat about the 4 Reasons I started teaching phonics DIGITALLY!

1. Digital Phonics Means No Prep

Don't get me wrong... I have my stash of phonics materials.  But it's organized neatly in my small group intervention area. 

I never worry about gathering all the things as my kids are rushing to the carpet.  Or rushing to my back table to grab one more thing in the middle of the lesson!

Can you relate?

One of the things I love about digital phonics is that all of the manipulatives and supplies are digital and a part of the powerpoint file.

By making it digital, I don't have to sacrifice hands-on or the interactive experience that we know kids need to map words!

For decoding practice, the slides play one phoneme at a time.  

Elkonin boxes are on the spelling pages.

There are plenty of sorts with moveable photos or words.

And there are plenty more interactive parts of the digital phonics lessons that you can see in this video.

2. Digital Phonics Means Putting Down Scripts

If you've been around for a while, you may know my story about getting stuck in the script and HATING it!  I couldn't memorize the script that changed each day.  And I also couldn't read from the script and teach effectively AND manage my squirrely first graders.

That's the exact reason I created digital phonics.  Because I needed to look up and teach while still being confident that what I was doing was backed by the Science of Reading.  

Having prepared slides helped me look up at my kids and focus on teaching them better.

Each of the slides has a notes section (in normal view) for me to refer to in case I forget what we are focusing on for that slide.

But I rarely had to glance at the notes section after the first week or so because of reason #3...

Digital Phonics Means Consistency

Consistency is HUGE for me.

And it's even HUGER for kids (Yes, I know that's not a word.... but it should be!)

Consistency in digital phonics instruction means that we are doing the same routine every week, just with a different skill.

Poems will always be introduced on Tuesdays for first graders.  And we will do the same things with them each Tuesday... just with a different poem!

The content changes.  The routines do not.  And that's where the magic happens.

Kids have a finite amount of space in their brains to learn.  If half of that space is used up learning new routines every day, then only half of their brain power is available for actual learning.  Actual science of reading aligned phonics skills.

Let's pause for a story for a moment.  When I interned in kindergarten, my mentor teacher (whom I LOVED) planned 10 centers every week.  And they were different centers every week.  Like we just found 10 random activities that tied into what we were learning that week.  

On Mondays before centers began, we spent about 20 minutes showing the kids how to do all of the centers.  And what do you think happened the rest of the week during centers?  We got constant questions on what they were supposed to do.  They couldn't remember.  Or it wasn't blatantly obvious.  Or they were absent on Monday.  Or they were spinning circles during directions.  Or, or, or... :)

That's the problem with inconsistency.  And that's exactly why I was adamant about keeping Super Phonics consistent from week to week.  Consistency is one of the things I hear over and over from teachers who use my Super Phonics digital curriculum.

Digital Phonics Means Online Flexibilty

Anyone heard of a little thing called CoVid? :)  Phonics instruction was unaffected by teachers who were using a digital phonics curriculum.  My teachers continued to teach Science of Reading aligned phonics over zoom calls and even assigned phonics lessons for kids to go back and do on their own in Google classroom.

Super Phonics comes as a PowerPoint download, but it can be uploaded into Google slides.  Some of the automatic timing on the decoding slides is lost because Google Slides (at the time of this blog post) doesn't yet support those tools, but it is closely the same.

If you still aren't sure if digital phonics is the way to go, try it out!  For FREE!  Just click the image below to get an entire week of digital phonics for either kindergarten, first grade or second grade sent straight to your inbox!

Are you confident and ready to jump in with Super Phonics?  Grab the entire year for kindergarten, first grade or second grade below.

kindergarten super phonics 

Decodable is the new buzz word of literacy thanks to the Science of Reading.  Decodable texts are any kind of text (lists, passages, books...) where at least 90% of the words are decodable with the focus sound or sounds previously learned.

I first fell back in love with decodable texts 4 years ago when I was doing a maternity leave in kindergarten.  Kids were using their decoding skills to read, making connections to new phonics skills they learned, and searching for heart words in their texts.  But most importantly, they were GROWING readers.  By leaps and bounds.  In 12 weeks, I saw growth like I'd never seen in 10 years of teaching first grade because it was so widespread with so many kids making amazing progress.

But decodable isn't just a buzz word.  It's a must have in your primary classroom.  If you want your reading instruction to be aligned to the Science of Reading, then you better invest in decodable texts.  And once you get started, you'll find there are SO many ways to use them in your classroom.  Let's talk about just 5 ways to use decodable texts in your primary classroom.

Whole Group Reading

This is how I first started using them during my 12 week job in Kinder!  At the end of our phonics lesson on Wednesday, I pulled out one of our decodable books that focused on the sound we were learning.  I read the book aloud to the kids on the carpet using our ELMO projector.  

Then, we reviewed the expectations.  They were to read their book one time.  Then, go back and highlight the focus sound and circle the sight words listed on the front of the book.  Then, they were to read the book two more times.  

When they finished this routine (read, highlight, circle, read, read), then they could illustrate their pictures. 

While the kids were working, I circled around to each table and listened in on as many kids as I could read the text.  I had a class list with the title of the book and I recorded how the kids were reading that I had listened to on this recording sheet

TEACHER TIP:  If I was listening to a kid who was just copying how the friend beside her was reading, I would ask her to start back at the beginning or a previous page for me. :)

When our time was finished (this took about 15-20 total minutes), the kids would put the booklets in their book boxes to read when they finished other work early.  

Targeted Reading Groups

The nice thing about doing the on grade level decodable book as a whole group is I could quickly see who was thriving or struggling with the on grade level text.   At the end of our reading time, I quickly analyzed the running records and wrote notes for who needed what.

I used our Wednesday small group time to pull kids that were struggling.  Sometimes, we did some extra word work using making words with the focus sound.  

Sometimes, we practice our heart words.  

Depending on what my running record showed they were struggling with.  Depending on the amount of strugglers and the reasons the struggled, I might have 1-3 groups of kids to meet with.

We start with some skill practice (making words or sight words) for 5 minutes or less.  Then, we get our same booklet and reread together.  Then, I let them independently read by stagger starting them and listen in as they each read.  

For kids that read the decodable reader with at least 95% accuracy, but maybe weren't fluent, I would note that during our whole group time and pull them to reread and practice fluency.  For kids who were fluent, I might try the matching passage that is the same text as the book, but in a passage form without pictures!

Each reading group would be 10-15 minutes.  Short and targeted so that I could meet with as many kids as possible.  I was almost always able to meet with all of my kids to reinforce our focus skill, or work on fluency or even comprehension for higher kids.

RTI/Intervention Time

You might be thinking.... isn't that what you just described for small groups?  

And, yes, it is!

But that was just for the on grade level focus sound for that week.

Other days of the week, my small group time is spent filling decoding gaps or extending kids as needed.  I pull kids that maybe are still struggling on last week's skill....or the first week of school's skill.... IYKYK... :)  I keep all of our decodable books close to our reading group area so I can get to the book I need quickly and with little prep!

So how did I keep up with who needed what and how often and who I met with and didn't meet with and, and, and...???  That's all in detail in this nuts and bolts blog post.  

How do I figure all of the groups and their focuses out?   By ASSESSING!!  And that's the next way I use decodable texts in the classroom!

Assessing Decoding and Phonics Skills

Assessing is key to getting the most out of your small group or intervention time.  And if we want to know the decoding holes or gaps students have, then we have to use decoding assessments.

My favorite decoding assessments are these screeners.  I love that they are quick and easy to see the exact phonics skills kids are doing well, and the holes we need to fill.

I also assess our current focus skill on Fridays during small group time using these decodable checkups that come with each set of decodable readers.

Take Home Reading

The last way (I'm chatting about in this post anyway!) to use decodable readers in the classroom is to send them out of the classroom....HOME!

I've sent books home for parents to read after reading with them in class or in a group so that parents can stay involved.  

And I've also heard from many teachers who love sending the books or passages or wordlists home to parents who are asking for extra work!

So where can you find a TON of targeted decodable readers for kindergarten through second grade?  Shop all of the individual sets here!

If we want kids to read and spell fluently, then we need to give our K-2 students adequate time for word building during phonics instruction.  The large body of research for the Science of Reading tells us that kids need repetition with word building for a focus sound so that they can map the spelling and sounds in their brain. 

One of my favorite first grade phonics activities to do is making words.  (And it is a must-do activity for kindergarten and second grade too!)

Making words is a word chaining activity which targets a specific phonics skill or sound.  During a making words lesson, kids are building and manipulating words by changing one sound at a time.  For CVC words, they might start by spelling bat and then change one sound to make the word sat.  

This makes word building accessible to all learners because you are just changing one sound at time.  It's less overwhelming and it allows us to really focus in on that target sound or sounds.

I LOVE using making words in my classroom.  The routines stay the same and the sounds change to make the activity feel like more of a game.  Let's chat about 3 low prep ways to implement making words in your kindergarten, first grade, or second grade classroom.

Print Mats & Magnetic Letters

My first year teaching was in 2006, which doesn't seem like long ago at all, but it does when I remember that an overhead projector was the highest form of technology in my classroom. :)

Anyone besides me remember these pretty things???

"It's a beaut, Clark!" :)

Anyways... when I first started teaching, we used magnetic letters or letter cards for word building.

The GREAT thing about magnetic letters with our printable word building mats is that it is very tactile.  It gives kids something to hold, manipulate, and move.  And that is SUPER important.

The downside to letter cards or magnetic letters is time!  I ended up doing word building like this in small groups only because the time it took to pass out letters was about as long as the lesson itself!  

In small groups, I had baggies with the correct letter cards for each lesson with the coordinating mat and that definitely minimized the passout time, but it also took up some extra space!

Print Mats & Dry Erase Markers

The second way I've done making words is with dry erase markers.  This was the main way I did making words when I first started teaching because it took very little pass out time.  There are no letters to pass out.  Kids just have to grab their dry erase markers and a mat and they were good to go!

These printable mats already have the corresponding letters for the lesson on them with the correct number of Elknonin sound boxes so it's ready to go.

But while these printable making words mats are nice and cute, they aren't necessary!  I've used dry erase boards only in a pinch and had kids make lines for the number of sounds in each word!

Digital Mats & Google Classroom

Eventually, the overhead projectors went into the storage closets and the Smartboards were installed.  And then came Google Classroom.

And suddenly, making words was an EASY way to do word work with absolutely zero prep!

Now, kids can open the digital making words mat that corresponds with our lesson and focus sound on an iPad or on a laptop in Google Classroom and they can immediately build words.

Or, we can pull up the digital making words mat on our smart board and do the word building lesson together as a whole group by clicking and dragging letters into the Elknonin sound boxes.

I LOVE this way because it takes so little prep and cleanup time!

Whether you want to save prep and cleanup time and go digital with making words, or you want to pull out the tactile magnetic letters and go old school, word building is a must-do in your primary classroom to help kids map words permanently in their brains!

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