Last Friday I spent the morning doing an observation in a 1st grade classroom in Nashville, and in the afternoon I was a visiting reading specialist at my best friend's Montessori enrichment program. I had a good time reading with the students, and then testing out some of my Teachers Pay Teachers materials.
This is us playing my Rhyming Words Board Game (the kids did such a great job playing with the words!) I love seeing my stuff in action!
Lorien, for some reason, drew almost every "lose a turn" card in the stack. I was ROLLING at her reactions.
I was just re-reading through some of my old blog entries, and I found this from a few years ago:
[I was playing a game with a tutoring student.] When we landed on a space, if we read the word, we could have the M&M (if she wasn't sure how to read a word, I helped her sound it out. I don't give my kids a sink or swim ultimatum, I help make sure they swim every time.)
I have thought this for a long time, but it bears repeating: make sure your children / students experience success when they are learning to read. Don't act like a wrong answer or a wrong word is the end of the world - correct them kindly, and non-judgmentally, and move on. They're kids, and their emotions matter. Success breeds success, while feeling overwhelmed or frustrated causes an emotional disconnect. Kids who emotionally disconnect from the process are NOT going to learn anything.
P.S. Here's another comment I found from 3 years ago:
My stock answer when students are way off is "Well . . ." and then usually a statement of the answer I was looking for. The important thing when a child makes a mistake during a learning activity is to acknowledge the mistake, but in a neutral way - there doesn't have to be emotion assigned to it. Just "Well . . . actually it goes this way" or the like.
I don't ever want the kids I'm working with to be afraid to give me a wrong answer. The most awesome thing about childhood is the intense curiosity - curiosity that adults can easily kill off so easily by being negative.
I ended up writing about pros and cons to using onsets and rimes when teaching reading and spelling, so I thought I'd share that here.
1. Rimes can help students understand that words have reliable patterns, and that words that sound the same can be spelled the same.
2. Rimes are easier for students to hear and manipulate than individual speech sounds.
3. Rime patterns allow us to work on beginning blends in isolation. (One of the items in this set - shown at right - is perfect for working on blends. 27 out of the 51 rimes in the set are represented.)
4. Rime patterns introduce the idea of spelling and decoding by analogy:
if the IGHT in “light” says /ie/ + /t/, that probably means that the IGHT I see in
“night” says /ie/ + /t/ as well.
This can help students in the invented spelling stage of development.
5. Once students are comfortable with rimes, you can point out the presence of these patterns in bigger words to make them seem less scary.
1. Not all words with a certain letter pattern work out: for the -ash rime, there’s cash trash . . . and then wash.
2. A rime set doesn’t cover all the potential spellings of the sound - kite and fight have the same sound pattern. So we need to emphasize that not all words that rhyme are rimes (rhyme is sound, rime is spelling).
3. Some of our language’s most popular bad words coincide with some of our most common rimes (be careful when brainstorming -uck and -it rimes, is what I'm saying).
Then there's the case of how many "most popular rimes" there are.
Whenever I read about rimes, the number of "most common rimes" to use in teaching is 37. What’s interesting about this is that no one seems to agree on WHICH 37 rimes should make the cut. I compared 5 different lists from the internet, and each one was different. The list most referred to is by Wylie & Durrell from 1970*, but I don’t completely agree with their list, either.
Suffice to say, I made word lists, analyzed them, and then made an executive decision about which rimes I would include in this set: there are 51 to choose from. As you are the teacher, you can decide which ones to use with your class!
Here’s a list of all the rimes that are present in my set:
A. ab, ack, ag, ail, ain, ake, ale, all, am, ame, an, ank,
ap, ash, at, ate, aw, ay
E. eat, eed, eep, eet, ell, est, ew
I. ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it
O. ob, ock, oke, old, op, ore, ot, out, ow (show), ow (cow)
U. uck, ug, um, ump, unk
*Richard E. Wylie and Donald D. Durrell, 1970. "Teaching Vowels Through Phonograms," published in Elementary School Journal.
The teacher of the education class I'm taking this semester has a fascinating perspective on how we interact with children. Last week she said:
Education shouldn't be something we DO to children.
That really struck a chord with me - how often do we look at kids and think ok sit down and shaddup, I need to get through this lesson!
Rudolph Flesch, in his 1954 book "Why Johnny Can't Read" talks a lot about how we can't just force reading on kids and expect them to keep up BECAUSE I SAID SO.
Don't you see how degrading this whole process is? The child is never told why this heap of letters means "chicken" and not "giraffe" or "kangaroo" . . . Don't you know that the main question in all children's minds is the question "Why?" . . . It's "chicken" because the teacher says so. Conditioning is an authoritarian process.
Our kids deserve better than that.
The teachers in the crowd expressed a collective facepalm, but one of her friends replied "I feel so stupid...What's the problem?"
For the non-phonics nerds in the crowd, the first sound in chair is /ch/, not /k/. We don't pronounce this word "kuh-hair." CH is a team that cannot be separated.
This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about when I created my first educational product, ABC Beginners Cards.
I was tired of seeing flashcards that just made NO sense. Don't tell a kid learning the alphabet that "elephant" starts with E, "giraffe" starts with G and "hippopotamus" starts with H. First of all, kids should be learning the HARD G sound first (gate, gift, get) to avoid confusion. Second, did you know that kids who don't know much about letters and spelling think that "elephant" starts with L? Say the word out-loud - the letter L is the first thing you hear.
Here's the crux of my argument: I think it makes MUCH more sense to teach beginning letter sounds with small, easy to read words that kids will be familiar with - when kids see the words dog, cat, hat, and egg on flashcards, they believe that reading is approachable. After they've learned beginning letter sounds, moving on to final consonant sounds and medial vowels is EASY, with the same words they've already been working on.
Plus, we all know that kids love to ask questions and skip ahead of what you PLAN to teach them. YOU try explaining the phonics reasoning behind "hippopotamus" or "elephant" to a 4 year old when he gets curious about the rest of the word.
I realized years ago that if I was going to help kids learn to read, I couldn't always depend on corporate resources - a graphics designer might make cute pictures and throw together cards that LOOK perfect, but a TEACHER comes to the table with knowledge of the subject and how kids learn. That's why I create my own stuff. And that's why I'll always choose resources from Teachers Pay Teachers over my other options.
So for Valentine's Day, I made a digital scrapbook page to post to my mother-in-law's Facebook wall, because she always sends us cards in the mail - for every holiday! She is just lovely. I worked hard to make a really pretty design, and was quite proud of it!
The next day, I was writing directions for a game I designed, and found myself writing "Always correct with kindness." I didn't realize what I was writing as I wrote it, but then I sat back and thought: HOLY COW! This needs to become the core of who I am as a teacher! So many times, students are really trying to learn something, but they just don't GET it. As teachers, our job is to figure out how to HELP them to understand - and to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of getting annoyed.
So anyway . . . yeah. I opened that scrapbook page back up in Photoshop and changed it up a bit - now I have this. (And for posting on the web, I had to add my name to it. Share if you want, it's all good.)
Another thing we worked on yesterday was inflectional endings. I adore my Wednesday student - he's very energetic like my son, loves baseball, and always has something very interesting to tell me. But he has this habit of skipping over inflectional endings!
(What's an inflectional ending? When we add letters to the end of a word to change its meaning. Some examples are changing verb tenses by adding -s, -ed, and -ing, making a word an adverb by adding -ly, or making a noun plural by adding -s or -es.)
This dear child will see the sentence: The cats played in the tree.
And he will read: The cat play in the tree.
He's CLOSE, but he's missing important stuff in those words! So I've been trying to figure out how to get him to notice these letters and how their presence changes a word. Last night we focused on verbs: I had him read some sentences I wrote, identify the verb, and then write the verb in the correct column, according to its ending. He loves writing on the white board, so he happily wrote the lists.
I'm working on making something cool that we can come back to and practice with. Stay tuned. :)
UPDATE: I created a file folder board game with two verb focus options: inflectional endings, or helping verbs. These 2-4 player detective- themed games are perfect for literacy centers, small group work, or independent play. Assemble as file folder games.
In the first game, students draw a card, read the sentence, identify the helping verb, then move their piece to the space on the game board with that helping verb.
In the second game, students draw a card, read a sentence, find the action verb, and identify the inflectional ending (s, ed, or ing.) The same 117 sentences are used (some are modified) for both games.
And I especially love working one on one with struggling readers, and being able to take the time after reading a new book to talk about a word that tripped him up. (How many words do students struggle with every day, but just have to ignore them to rush forward?) I wish all students could have someone work one on one with them where they struggle. But that's a dream for another day.
Anyway, we talked about how we can chunk the word "exactly" to sound it out - and how if we write "act," it's a word in its own right! Then we can add EX for "exact" and THEN add the -LY to make yet a bigger word. Words like this are cool because when you chunk them, they can stand alone as separate words.
I like using marker boards because when my kids make a mistake, there's no fighting with a pencil eraser and hoping the paper doesn't rip. Mistakes on a marker board just don't really feel like mistakes! Unfortunately I let my son spin his Beyblades on this board, so there are bumps and divots . . . but it still gets the job done. :)
I've talked about my original Reading Practice Sentences before - they're an easy, step by step way for kids to practice sight words and reading sentences.
The jump between reading sentences and reading books is a hard one. Some kids make the transition pretty easily, and some really struggle. With my kids who struggle, I use a lot of books that don't put too much pressure on them: just a sentence or two per page. Mo Willem's "Elephant and Piggie" series is great for this. I also use Frank Asch's "Moon Bear" books.
Mostly because I needed more material to use with my students who need practice reading passages about the length of a paragraph, I made Reading Practice Sentences: PART TWO. These 48 text cards (with matching pictures) contain many sight words, use simple language, and are about everyday topics that students can relate to.
There are four sets of cards: red, orange, yellow, and green. Each set consists of color images (1 sheet with 12 images), and sentences sets (3 sheets with 12 cards total), to be printed in black and white. (So 48 cards and images, total.)
This product comes with two different ways to play with these cards. The first is in Tic Tac Toe format, which works well when a teacher is working with one student. The second is a game board designed for two players; assemble as a file folder game.