Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sight Word Sentence Ladders

Hello! I hope you are all enjoying your summers. My summer still feels like it's just begun, which is a nice feeling. :) As always, I have a long list of things I want to accomplish this summer. I usually only get 1/4 of my "wish list" done, but I'm still hopeful that I will get at least half done this summer. Ha! One of the things that is on my list is to finish all of my sight word-related packs that I've been chipping away at for the past couple of years. I have so many phonics resources out there and never quite seem to complete my sight word packs (clearly my love of phonics is shining through-ha!) I've been extra motivated recently because my younger son, Owen, has shown a sudden interest in learning to read. He is all about it now! He loves the excitement of learning each new word, so we've been focusing on mastering sight words. (As a side note, I never recommend just focusing on sight words. You always want to make sure your students have strong phonemic awareness and alphabet recognition.) Owen is at the perfect spot right now to learning to read so it is no surprise that he has the desire. He has strong phonemic awareness (he can rhyme well, blend phonemes when we play silly word games, and can identify the initial and final sounds in words.) He also knows his letters and can identify them with automaticity. The next step is sight words, sounding out CVC words, and learning the rules our language. I'm telling you all this not to be a proud mother or an obnoxious bragger mom, but to set the stage for how you would teach a child like this in your classroom or household. 

NOTE: This is a post centered around sight words and fluency, but fluency can not be obtained simply from memorizing sight words. A child MUST be automatic with letters and sounds and have phonemic awareness to be a reader. (For information about phonemic awareness, click here and here.) Proper phonics instruction is KEY to any good literacy program (and phonics instruction starts with the alphabetic principal and phonemic awareness). This is a resource to use along with your phonics instruction. To read about WHY sight words are important, click here to read this post. 

So here's how these work. Owen has been working on his Pre-Primer Dolch words. I used my Animal Sight Word pack, but you could just use regular notecards to introduce these words. He mastered the first 15 or so and had even read some sight word phrases. But he wanted to do some "real" reading. I mean, don't we all though? Is it fun to just read words on their own with no context? Not so much. So  I made these to transition from reading sight words in isolation to the eventual reading passage or book.  Let me tell you what he first said when I showed him the reading passage with all the words. "I can't read that. I can't read." So then I busted out the pretty colored cards. The first line just has one word and it happens to be a word he's been practicing. Sweet! I can read that, he thinks. So he gets through his first card, which is repetitive (see that bright yellow card below) and is getting excited because his little confidence is building. 

Then it's time to hand over the next card. Of course I'm also teaching him to use the picture clues for certain words, like park or swing at this stage (but don't be fooled because that is only temporary- I don't want him relying forever on those!) Finally, he's read through all the cards. There are a couple that I had him read a few times until he was confident. Then I hand over the paper. "Guess what, buddy? All the words you just read on those cards are the exact words on this page. So you can read it." He gives me a skeptical look but then of course glances at it and see that, actually, he can read that page. Sight words mastered? Check. Fluency for this little story? Check. Confidence growing? Check.

Here's a fun little video of my son getting started with these. Just humor me and watch because he is pretty adorable. ;) He LOVES these stories now! He always says, "I can't do that!" when he sees the full reading passage. Then after doing the (less overwhelming) sentence ladder cards, he's fluently reading those passages. He gets so excited! It's so empowering for our students to get the chance to sound fluent when they are beginning to read or struggling with reading. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sight Word Instruction

Hi everyone! I'm officially on summer break, which means more time with my kids and (hopefully) more time to blog and create. I've been thinking a lot about fluency after going to an amazing presentation by a reading/dyslexia specialist, Barbara Steinberg. Here's the other piece: the kids I work with usually don't have it. For our struggling readers, this is a constant struggle. With my interventions, I feel like I get my students strong with their phonics and phonemic awareness skills, but that fluency is still not there. One of my earlier mistakes when I taught first grade was not putting enough time into sight word instruction and practice. Don't make my mistake! Phonics is SUCH an important part of reading instruction (and is my #1), especially with your intervention kiddos, BUT so are sight words. Why? 

So even your average beginning reader needs to see that word several times in order to read it with automaticity. Our dyslexic readers need SEVERAL more exposures to those words. We need to provide them with those opportunities to practice these words. Where to begin?

Before I go, I should update my language a bit. I'm taking a class on Structured Word Inquiry. Fascinating. I just learned something that blew my mind. Wait for it.... 

There is no such thing as a sight word.

Wait. What?! Isn't this a post about sight words? Let me back up a minute. What this post is really about it high frequency words that students need to master in order to improve their automaticity with reading. They are the most common words seen in children's texts for early readers. I call them sight words because that's the term that's going to catch your attention. 

The reason why there is no such thing as a "sight word" is because every word has its history and it's reason for being spelled a certain way. I could go on and on, but instead I will lead you to another post written by someone far smarter and more experienced. ;) Click here to learn more. For the sake of this post, we can call it a sight word because that's what we're all used to saying and we do, after all, want our kids to know these words "by sight." 

This is nothing new but it's always worth saying. Students need to see it, say it, write it, feel it, and hear it. I learned a tip from a dyslexia specialist friend of mine, Tamera. It seems so simple, yet I was overlooking these basic steps. First, show the student the word on a flash card. SAY the LETTERS in the word as the student TRACES the letters on the flashcard. Repeat. Say the word again. Have the student write the letters in the air AND on the table, saying the letters as they trace, repeating the whole word when they are done. To spice it up, use sand and/or add glue to the flashcards to give it a bumpier feel. After seeing and tracing the word, guide your student to try to take a "snapshot" of this word in their brain: Look at the word, counting down from 5. Then close your eyes and try to see the word. This sounds so basic, so simple but it really helps and only takes a a few short minutes. 

This is another tip I got from my dyslexia specialist friend. She always points out the tricky part of the word. Sometimes I have the students identify what they think makes the word "tricky." Other times, I point it out. Sometimes the thing that makes the word difficult, actually has a reason why it is that way. In that case, I tell the students that rule. For example, the word give and have end in e. The rest is phonetic. Did you know an English word CANNOT end in v. True story. ;) So that silent e has a purpose, just not one that they are used to. In the word, around and about, the a says /uh/ which makes it trickier. Well, that is also a phonic thing called Schwa. But back to my tip here. ;) 
Show your student the word with the highlighted "odd" letter(s). Talk about why those letters are tricky. Practice spelling the word as you did earlier (in the above tip.) This time enunciate the odd letter(s) vocally.  "W-h-A-t" You could enunciate it with a louder voice or with an accent or with a funny voice- anything to get that letter to stick!

You can find these cute sight words in my Tutoring Toolkit for Beginning Readers.

My son is in the process of learning his sight words. He is super motivated to read like his big brother but he also is motivated by these little animal cards. There are five different animals, each with several different colors. He started with elephant words (dolch pre-primer.) These words are split up into colors as well (about 10 words per color.) He started with red elephant cards, then moved on to purple elephant. Here is a little video I took of him after a few days of practice. It's exciting to see him getting it! 


This one is obvious, I know! Remember how a dyslexic child needs to see a word 40+ times? That's a lot of exposures for that little one. My challenge is always, how do I do this without boring my kids to tears?! Show them the word over and over in different ways.

You can find these editable games in my Tutoring Toolkit.

You can find these sight word spins in my Seasonal Guided Reading packs (you can see the whole thing in these old posts here, here, and here) or my Tutoring Toolkit. They include the Dolch sight word lists. These are always a hit with my students. Both of these packs have an editable version so you can put in whatever words you are working on.   

Get your students looking for those words! This can be a center, an independent activity, or a warm-up in guided reading groups. Have your kids look for a certain word in books or big poems. 


 I blogged about this picture already last year. Both of my boys loved to search for words like this. They would focus on one word and try to find it. This was nice in the beginning because they didn't necessarily have to know the other words on the page yet. They were just looking for that one word. 

I also use this in the classroom:

I've been using these for a couple years but just haven't gotten my act together to actually complete a set to bundle and sell. (Right now I only have the Pre-Primer words.) Coming soon I promise! You probably noticed I love anything that I can use with those colored transparent counters! The top picture shoes the student searching and covering the word come. The bottom picture shows an early finisher using one counter to read as many words as she can. When she comes to one she doesn't know, she leaves it on there and gets a new counter to continue on. At the end, I remind her of the words she wasn't sure of. 

UPDATE: I've posted the Pre-primer version of this. You can find them here.

 The purpose of mastering sight words is to gain automaticity with these words so that eventually your students will become fluent readers when reading a book or reading passage. BUT sometimes we skip so many steps in between. I know I've been guilty of that. Okay, you know that word,  sweet! Let's read this huge passage then. Wait! Rewind. What I mean is, let's slowly give you those building blocks so that you can read that huge reading passage. Our struggling and beginning readers can be VERY intimidated by a huge reading passage without support. With that said, many of our students  learn sight words quickly and are ready for huge passages pretty quickly. I'm more focusing on your students who need a little extra time and guidance.

Sight Word Phrases
We've talked about practicing sight words in isolation, now we're moving into reading those sight words in the context of a phrase, sentence, or reading passage. First, you can focus on sight word phrases. These are the common phrases that go together.  This is a great way to transition from word to sentence. It's  good for them to see these words in come context. You can actually find fluency phrases all over! Just google and there you will find tons.

I used these after my students had a little practice with the sight words individually (flashcards, writing in sand, trace and say, search the word, etc.) 

I'm recently updated my Tutoring Toolkit with fluency phrases to match the animal theme. You can get them as part of the huge Tutoring Toolkit OR you can buy it separately (see below). It includes the flashcards, fluency phrases, and tracking pages for Dolch words (Pre-primer-3rd Grade.)

You can find those here.

The fluency phrases will match the colors and animals in the set. This way, once your kiddos master red elephant, they can read the red elephant fluency phrases. 

Simple Sentences
I introduce sentences shortly after introducing the first few sight words to my kinders. This is one of my favorite creations for my beginning readers: Build a Sentence. I slowly introduce sight words and students build sentences using those sight words and word cards with picture clues. Even with just a few sight words, you can mix and match to make several different sentences. 

I introduce the, see, I, a. You can make sentences with the picture cards so your kids can practice building simple sentences. Then I add in We and like. Soon, they can mix different words to make a variety of sentences by matching the colors up. 

I recently updated with black-and-white sight words cards so you could print onto colored paper. I also added some CVC word cards to use in place of the picture cards. 

The picture cards are perfect for introducing the early guided reading strategies: Get your mouth ready with the first sound and look at the picture. 

Here's a little video of my son beginning to learn his sight words:


Sight Word Ladder Stories
Once students know a handful of sight words and are even reading those fluency phrases, we get a little excited about throwing them that reading passage or big ol' book to read. And yes, absolutely that is our goal and many, many kids make that transfer seamlessly and quickly. However, some need a little extra something. I made some Sentence Ladders using mainly Pre-Primer Sight words. Each card has a sentence ladder. The cards together make a short story. There are 10 stories, each with 6-10 sentence cards. I'm working on my next set with the Primer words. :) If you want to read more about these, you can click here. 

If you want to try out a free sentence ladder story from the Florida Center for Reading Research, you can click here

For more posts about sight words, click here. There, you will find ideas for the summer AND a printable pack for parents filled with ideas to practice sight words.


Here are a couple of pictures from old posts as well:

I hope this post is helpful! Enjoy your summer!!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Teaching Two Syllable Words

I love teaching two syllable words! It's always exciting when I get to that point in the year where they are ready to take that next step with reading and spelling. At the same time, it can also be a challenge for our struggling readers. I want to start this post by talking about some common errors I see when my students are starting to read and spell two-syllable words. 

How to split 2-syllable words 
These next slides are to get you started. There are so many more phonics rules for multi-syllable rules, but these will get you started for open and closed syllables.

Teaching Ideas for the WHOLE Class
Here are some ideas for how to teach this to your whole class. (The activities after this will show mainly how to teach and reinforce small group or one-on-one.)

First model several times, then start calling up kids to the board to help. To keep the rest of the class involved, use hand and body motions. As your helper is splitting the word, ask the class, "Do you think the first syllable should be open and closed?" Have them use these motions SILENTLY to answer. After it has been split, ask what vowel sounds the first syllable is. Have them silently use motions (short vowel is just a swoop of the finger showing the short vowel symbol which sort of looks like a U.)

This next activity is always a fun one. To get the rest of the  class involved, they could be writing the word and splitting it using their own white board or in a notebook.

Mix and match two-syllables to make words. To make this a whole class activity, place magnetic dots on the back of your index cards. Place the 1st syllable on one side of your magnetic whiteboard and the 2nd syllable on the other side. Sound out all syllables. Have students come up and match two syllables. After they read them as a word, determine if it makes a real word. (This activity would also be good for those who are having a hard time blending the two syllables together.)

I hope these tips help and get you started with teaching two-syllable words. :)

Teaching Ideas for Small Groups and RTI

I've created a pack of activities specifically designed to give students tons of practice reading and spelling open and closed syllables.

(This pack focuses on open and closed syllables- not all 7 syllable types.) This is geared toward struggling readers, but it would benefit all students. Sometimes students don't have problems reading multi-syllable words, but they do have issues spelling them. It will provide your students with a  great foundation to reading multi-syllable words. :)

To begin, use these letter tiles to introduce the concept of open and closed syllables. There is also a visual for each, explaining what happens to a vowel with open and closed syllables. You do not have to buy this pack to use this in small groups! Simply print letters on colored paper and laminate. 

Step 1: Build Syllables to introduce open and closed syllables: In this photo, you can see an open syllable (on the left) and a closed syllable (on the right.) These do not need to be words. They are syllables. Quo is not a word, but it is the first syllable in quotation quota. After building this, teach students that the o says it's name because it is not closed in by a consonant. This makes it an open syllable. In the example on the right, the vowel is closed in by the consonant t so it cannot say its name. Instead it says its short sound.  Do several examples where you build the syllable for your group and the determine if it is open or closed. Discuss why each is open or closed and what sound the vowel says. Then, you can say a syllable and have your students build it on their individual "boards." 

There are a few more activities to help kids distinguish between an open and closed syllable.  


The next two activities give kids practice reading open syllables, then closing them with a consonant, changing the vowel from long to short.


Step 2: Build Words to Practice splitting up words by syllable
On the next page, you can build two-syllable words. Teach students how to break up the word into its two syllables. In this word, we want the a to be a short vowel, so it must be closed by that s. After reading the word and teaching students how to break it up (two consonants between vowels are split apart) then put the tiles back and have the student write the 1st syllable and the 2nd syllable.  See the syllable splitting rules above to learn more. 

Now it's time to practice reading two-syllable words! These activities give plenty of practice chunking each syllable. This is always the hard part. Kids often want to blend beginning and ending sounds, leaving out a few of the middle sounds. picnic=pinic, dentist=denst, etc. Many of our students need to trained to break the word up. 

To do the activity below, you must teach the rules for splitting open and closed syllables. First, find your vowels. Count the consonants between the vowels. If there are two consonants, you split between the consonant. Exceptions: Keep digraphs together and blends with l or r stay together (example: reflex= re-flex. The f and l stay together instead of being separated so the e is open and says its name.)

Reading and spelling should go hand and hand. Your students should be practicing that spelling component just as much. As I mentioned above, teach them to clap or tap out the syllables first. Focus on each syllable separately. Say the word more than once! After writing the first syllable, train your students to say the whole word again, clap it out again, then say the 2nd syllable and stretch it out to hear all the individual phonemes.  

Finally, when you feel like your students are ready, provide them with some practice in the context of a sentence and a short story. 

Click here to get this pack of activities!

Important Note: If you are a reading specialist or tutoring someone one-on-one and you suspect dyslexia may be involved, please visit Susan Barton's or another Orton-Gillingham sight. Using an approved and research-based program is BEST! These are all activities meant to supplement, but having the real thing is the most beneficial for students with dyslexia. They need systematic, sequential phonics activities with a clear scope and sequence. This pack is not meant to replace those research-based programs for our dyslexic students. :) I just found myself creating these activities for the past two years because I wanted to provide more practice opportunities for my students. The repetition seemed to help, kids were engaged, and I've found success with these supplemental activities. I hope you do too. :)