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How to Teach Sight Words

Why Teach Sight Words?

Sight word instruction involves rote memorization of non-decodable high frequency words (outlaw words), word families (rimes), and common Greek, Latin, and English affixes (sight syllables). Although most of the rimes and sight syllables are decodable, their high frequency in text makes rote memorization desirable. The goal is reading automaticity.

Sight word instruction is not a substitute for explicit, systematic phoneme awareness and phonics instruction. The “Look-Say” reading method is not an efficient nor effective reading methodology.

Why is sight word instruction important?

Because older students generally have a more advanced vocabulary and bank of sight words than do younger students, it is important to draw upon these strengths to improve reading ability. It would not be wise to “start from scratch” with remedial readers. Teachers shouldn’t narrow instruction to solely remediate phonemic awareness and phonics deficits. Remedial students should quickly “fill in the gaps” as indicated by sight word diagnostic assessments through concentrated practice. The teacher should teach to these deficits concurrently with other program components.

Why don’t some students know the sight words and how does this affect their reading?

Some students have auditory processing, visual processing, or language processing problems which interfere with rote memorization of sight words. Inability to discriminate between speech sounds (phonemes) may have prevented fully developed phonemic awareness. Students may have difficulty in identifying the symbols or with the spatial arrangement of letters in words. Others may have problems connecting the alphabetic symbols to meaning.

Since phonemic awareness is a prerequisite to effective reading, students who lack this ability will have severe problems learning how to pronounce words sound by sound (decoding) and spell words (encoding). Inability to automatically process non-decodable outlaw words and non-decodable sight syllables retards reading fluency. Students spend time trying to pronounce words and syllables that are impossible to decode. Inability to rapidly recognize the analogous relationships of the rimes also retards reading fluency.

Can remedial readers with learning disabilities learn sight words?

Yes. The phonemic awareness and phonics instructional strategies will help students build on their strengths to ameliorate their relative weaknesses. A multi-sensory instructional approach will be particularly beneficial. Individual sight word study cards with large print can assist remedial reading students.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of  the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies.Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops,comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance. 364 pages

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The Top Ten Syllable Rules

Knowing the Top Ten Syllable Rules can help improve reading, pronunciation, and spelling.

1. Every syllable has only one vowel sound. Some syllables have just one vowel; others have two. But even when there are two vowels, there can be only one vowel sound in each syllable, so the two vowels say one sound.

For example, out-side.

2. When the vowel’s at the end of a syllable, it has a long sound. Reading specialists call the Consonant-Vowel (CV) pattern an open syllable.

For example, be-low.

3. When the vowel is not at the end of a syllable, it has a short sound. Reading specialists call the Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) pattern a closed syllable.

For example, bas-ket.

4. Divide syllables between doubled consonants, unless the doubled consonant is part of a syllable that is a base word.

For example, din-ner and tell-er.

5. Usually keep vowel teams together in the same syllable.

For example, boat-ing.

6. Keep the silent final “e” and the vowel before in the same syllable. The silent final “e” makes the vowel before a long sound if there is only one consonant in between the vowel and the “e”.

For example, basement.

7. Keep the r-controlled vowels (ar, er, ir, or, and ur) in the same syllable.

For example, or-al-ly.

8. Keep the consonant-“le” sounds (ble, cle, dle, fle, gle, and ple) in the same syllable. These syllables have the schwa sound between the consonant and the “le”. The schwa sound sounds like a nasal short u.

For example, cra-dle.

9. All words have one syllable that has a primary accent. The vowel in the accented syllable receives the stress. Words may also have secondary accents. The primary accent is usually found on the vowel in the root, not the prefix or suffix. Also, the syllable before a double consonant is usually accented.

For example, slów-ly and swím-ming.

10. Unaccented vowel sounds frequently have the schwa sound, especially when there is only one letter in the syllable. All vowels can have the schwa sound.

For example, a-boút.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of  the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies.Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops,comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance. 364 pages Also, check out the diagnostic assessment and corresponding spelling activities/workshops in Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary. 315 pages

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , ,

The Eight Great Spelling Rules

Although the American-English spelling system has evolved from many sources, there are definable patterns that are well-worth learning. These spelling patterns, or spelling rules, all have exceptions; however, they are minimal. It is always efficient to memorize the rule, rather than all of the exceptions. In baseball, batters are taught to “look for the fastball, and adjust for the curve.” The same is true in the American-English spelling system. The following are the key spelling rules that work most of the time in the American-English spelling system.

1. The i before e Rule

Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell e before i after a c (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).

2. The Final y Rule

Keep the y when adding an ending if the word ends in a vowel, then a y (delay-delayed), or if the ending begins with an i (copy-copying). Change the y to i when adding an ending if the word ends in a consonant, then a y (pretty-prettiest).

3. The Silent e Rule

Drop the e (have-having) at the end of a syllable if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the e (close-closely) when the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “ous” or “able” (peaceable, gorgeous), or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye” (freedom, shoeing, eyeing).

4. The Double the Consonant Rule

Double the consonant, when adding on an ending (permitted), if all three of these conditions are met: 1. the last syllable has the accent (per / mit)  2. the last syllable ends in a vowel, then a consonant (permit). 3. the ending you add begins with a vowel (ed).

5. The Ending “an” or “en” Rule

End a word with “ance”, “ancy”, or “ant” (vacancy, arrogance) if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound or if the root ends with “ear” or “ure” (clearance, insurance). End a word with “ence”, “ency”, or “ent” if the root before has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (magnificent, emergency), after “id” (residence), or if the root ends with “ere” (reverence).

6. The “able” or “ible” Rule

End a word with “able” if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable). End a word with “ible” if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (reducible, legible), after an “ss” (admissible), or after an incomplete root word (audible).

7. The Ending “ion” Rule

Spell “sion” (illusion) for the final zyun sound or the final shun sound (expulsion, compassion) if after an l or s. Spell “cian” (musician) for a person and “tion” (condition) in most all other cases.

8. The Plurals Rule

Spell plural nouns with an s (dog-dogs), even those that end in y (day-days) or those that end in a vowel, then an o (stereo-stereos). Spell “es” after the sounds of /s/, /x/, /z/, /ch/, or /sh/ (box-boxes) or after a consonant, then an o (potato-potatoes). Change the y to i and add “es” when the word ends in a consonant, then a y (ferry-ferries). Change the “fe” or “lf” ending to “ves” (knife-knives, shelf-shelves).

Find  spelling rules with memorable raps and songs on CD, with a comprehensive whole-class diagnostic spelling assessment, enabling 4th–12th grade teachers to differentiate instruction with 35 remedial and 32 advanced spelling-vocabulary worksheets, spelling word lists/tests,  Greek and Latin affixes/rootssyllable practice, and spelling-vocabulary games, and more in Mark’s book, Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary. Also check out Differentiated Spelling Instruction, the complementary fourth through eighth grade (Levels A-E) standards-based spelling series, designed to integrate instruction in spelling, structural analysis, and vocabulary. Each level has 32 weekly spelling pattern lessons and all the resources needed to differentiate spelling instruction: spelling pattern word lists with spelling sort worksheets, formative and summative assessments with recording matrices, review games, memory songs with MP3 links, supplementary word lists, and more.

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How to Differentiate Reading Fluency Practice

Educators value the importance of reading fluency practice. High fluency scores are positively correlated with high reading comprehension scores. However, practicing repetitive reading passages with one-size fits all fluency recordings does not meet the diverse needs of your students. Instead, save some money on expensive fluency programs and truly differentiate your fluency instruction.

First of all, find multiple reading level fluency passages on the web or from your favorite educational bookstore. Assess fluency rates of your students at their instructional reading level (85-95% word accuracy). I suggest two-minute timings to insure accurate assessment. Then, form ability groups of 4–7 students based upon their reading levels and fluency scores on these assessments. Separate students who can’t cooperate or who will disrupt the class.

Example

  1. Hufflepoof < 150 words per two-minute timing below grade level reading
  2. Griffingtor 151–180 words per two-minute timing at grade level reading
  3. Syltherfine 181–210 words per two-minute timing below grade level reading
  4. Ravensbeak >210 words per two-minute timing at grade level reading

Have students each create their own fluency folders (a simple file folder is fine) and put a bar graph inside the folders. A quick web search will bring dozens of fluency bar graphs for your selection. Select a bar graph that best matches the fluency speeds of your students. If in doubt, pick the higher level bar graph, because students tend to “overestimate” their scores on the fluency timings. Collect the fluency folders.

  1. Show students a list of the fluency groups on the board or overhead with an asterisk by the first Fluency Leader chosen for each group. Inform students that you will rotate Fluency Leaders and that these students have two duties: Collect and return the group materials and ask the teacher when a student in their group needs help or has a question. Ask the Fluency Leaders to get the materials (fluency folders, pencil box, and one fluency passage) for each student in their groups. They should also get the CD and CD player if you are using these.
  2. As the Fluency Leaders gather and distribute the materials, show students the location of their fluency group and the desk/tables and chairs configuration on the board or overhead. Tell students that they will move desks/tables and chairs to form their fluency groups as shown. To signal readiness, the students will raise their hands. Inform them that fluency groups will receive participation points and incentives for “quick, quiet, and cooperative” transitions. Tell students to now move into their fluency groups.
  3. When all groups are ready, award participation points for “quick, quiet, and cooperative” transitions. Tell students that they will read the fluency passage out loud, but softly, for a two-minute timed “cold” (unpracticed) timing. Ready the stopwatch or use the second hand of the clock to time. Say– “Point to the first word of the fluency passage. Ready, begin.” As students read, monitor the groups to ensure that students are reading quietly, but above a whisper. All words must be said out loud for effective practice. After two minutes, say “Stop and Record.”
  4. Tell students to tally their words and record their “cold timing” score on the fluency bar graph in pencil. Model how to record the timings on the board or overhead. Inform students that after they finish recording the “cold timing,” they are to continue reading where they left off, then re-read the passage over and over until the teacher visits their group.
  5. Visit the lowest level fluency group and quickly pre-teach a few challenging words from the passage by saying the word and asking students to repeat the word. Briefly define the words, if they are necessary to the meaning of the fluency passage.
  6. Begin a choral reading of the fluency passage to model correct pronunciation and expression, at an appropriate challenge rate. Model read about 30% faster than the slowest reader in the group. When students are reading out loud at the appropriate rate, lower the volume of your voice.
  7. Tell students that the Fluency Leader will lead the group at the reading pace set by the teacher and finish choral reading the fluency passage. Have the Fluency Leader say “Ready, begin” and begin reading. When the group is following the direction of the Fluency Leader and is reading at the appropriate rate, move on to the next group. Afterwards, they are to re-read the whole passage together one more time.
  8. After the second fluency practice, students are to individually re-read the passage out loud as fast as they feel comfortable until the teacher says, “Stop.”
  9. After the last group visited by the teacher has completed its two choral readings, interrupt the class to complete a two-minute “hot” reading of the passage. Have students tally their words per minute and record their score in pen on the fluency bar graph, directly above the “cold” timing.
  10. Tell Fluency Leaders to collect materials, while the groups re-organize the desks/tables. When all students have returned to their seats and all materials have been properly collected, award participation points for “quick, quiet, and cooperative” transitions.

Helpful Hints

Work on attention to punctuation and expression. Students should read softly, but above a whisper. An entire class reading at this level provides a “white noise” that promotes individual concentration. Play the CDs at reasonable volume levels or use headphones.

Assess progress by examining the day to day recorded “cold” readings. Although students may tend to “inflate” their “cold” and “hot” timing differentials, emphasize improvement in the “cold” timings over time.

Use your Fluency Leaders! Only Fluency Leaders get out of their seats during Fluency Remediation to gather materials or ask the teacher questions.

Integrate fluency and comprehension instruction. Teach students to “talk to the text” as they read to improve concentration and understanding. Periodically do a “Think-Aloud” to model interactive, metacognitive reading. Teach comprehension questions that will emphasize reader independence.

Also tie in vocabulary development by having the students write context clue sentences for the vocabulary words that you pre-teach.

With these procedures, your fluency groups will thrive and truly allow the exceptional teacher to differentiate fluency instruction.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of  the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops,comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance. 364 pages Also, check out the wonderful vocabulary resources in Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary. 315 pages

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How and When to Teach Phonemic Awareness

Why is phonemic awareness important?

If children cannot hear and manipulate the sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, they will have a very difficult time in learning how to attach these sounds to letters and letter combinations.  The lack of phonemic awareness is the most important causal factor contributing to children with reading disabilities.  (Adams, 1990)

Phomemic awareness is the most powerful predictor of reading success.  It is more highly correlated with reading success than socio-economic status, general intelligence, or listening comprehension. (Stanovich, 1986, 1994; Goldstein, 1976; Zifcak, 1977)

How is phonemic awareness related to learning to read, and can it be taught with measurable success?

Phoneme awareness is related to reading in two ways: (1) phonemic awareness is prerequisite of learning to read (Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986; Yopp, 1985), and (2) phonemic awareness is a consequence of learning to read. (Ehri, 1979; Read, Yun-Fei, Hong-Yin, & Bao-Qing, 1986)

Several studies have demonstrated that children can be successfully trained in phonemic awareness. (Cunningham, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1991; Yopp & Troyer, 1992)

Phonemic awareness training was shown to positively affect both reading and spelling achievement in kindergarten and first grade children. (Lundberg, 1988; Bradley & Bryant, 1983)

Who needs phonemic awareness training?

Percentages of children requiring specific training in phonemic awareness vary slightly according to different research studies, but the amount is still a significant percentage of early readers.  Ehri (1984) found 20% lacked requisite phonological awareness, Lyon (1996) cited a figure of 17%, and Adams (1990) concluded that 25% of middle class kindergartners lacked this ability.

Fletcher et al., (1994) found that poor readers most always had poor phonemic awareness.  The National Institute of Child, Health, and Human Development (NICHD) longitudinal studies support this conclusion, stating that the major problem predisposing children to having reading disabilities is lack of phonological processing ability. (Lyon, 1997)

When should phonemic awareness training take place, and how should it be introduced?

Children should be diagnosed by mid-kindergarten to see if they are able to identify and manipulate phonemes.  If early learners do not have this ability, they should be given more intensive phonemic awareness training (Ehri, 1984)

Research shows that if schools delay intervention until age seven for children experiencing reading difficulty, 75% will continue having difficulties.  If caught in first or second grade, reading difficulties may be remediated 82% of the time.  Those caught in third to fifth grades may be improved 46% of the time, while those identified later may only be treated successfully 10-15% of the time. (Foorman, 1996)

There appears to be a consensus in the research that a specific sequence of instruction in phonemic awareness is most effective for early learners.  Treiman (1992) found that children learned to be consciously aware of and were able to manipulate onsets and rimes more easily than individual phonemes.

Find other reading strategies, including fluency assessments and multi-level fluency passages on seven CDs with corresponding comprehension worksheets, as well as complete diagnostic reading assessments on two CDs, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops,  390 flashcards, posters, games, and more to differentiate reading instruction in Teaching Reading Strategies. Also, check out the diagnostic assessment and corresponding spelling activities/workshops in Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary.

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How to Do Sound-by-Sound Spelling Blending

Learning how to do sound-by-sound spelling blending takes a bit of practice. Position your students such that your body does not obstruct their views of the board. Use black or blue markers for the consonant sounds and red or orange for the vowels. Write blanks to indicate spellings that require other sounds before or after in the same syllable.

Each day, begin the class by blending two or three words from the previous day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending activity. Then, introduce three to six new words from a carefully planned instructional sequence that conforms to the instructional sequence criteria that follows. Make sure to clip, and not elongate, the consonant sounds. For example, don’t say “bah” for /b/. Follow this script for effective whole-class sound-by-sound spelling blending:

  • Teacher: “You say and blend the sounds I write to make words. First, I write the spelling; then you say the sound. For example, if I write m [Do so], I will ask, ‘Sound?’ and you will answer ‘/m/.’ Let’s add on to that sound. [Write a on the board after m.] ‘Sound?’” [If students say long a, ask "Short sound?"
  • Students: "/a/"
  • Teacher: [Make a left-to-right blending motion under the ma.] “Blend.”
  • Teacher and Students: /m/ /a/ [Blend the two sounds]
  • Teacher: [Write t on the blank.] “Sound?”
  • Students: /t/
  • Teacher: [Make a left-to-right blending motion under the mat.] “Blend.”
  • Teacher and Students: /m/ /a/ /t/ [Blend the three sounds]
  • Teacher: “Word?”
  • Students: “mat”

Instructional Sequence Criteria

  1. The Sound-by-Sound Spelling Blending sequence of instruction has been carefully designed to reflect years of reading research and teaching experience. Criteria include the following:
  2. The most common sounds are introduced prior to the least common sounds.
  3. Order of instruction separates letters that are visually similar e.g., p and b, m and n, v and w, u and n.
  4. Order of instruction separates sounds that are similar e.g., /k/ and /g/, /u/ and /o/, /t/ and /d/, /e/ and /i/.
  5. The most commonly used letters are introduced prior to the least commonly used letters.
  6. Short words with fewer phonemes are introduced prior to longer words with more phonemes.
  7. Continuous sounds e.g., /a/, /m/, are introduced prior to stop sounds e.g., /t/ because the continuous sounds are easier to blend.

Find other reading strategies, including fluency assessments and multi-level fluency passages on seven CDs with corresponding comprehension worksheets, as well as complete diagnostic reading assessments on two CDs, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops,  390 flashcards, posters, games, and more to differentiate reading instruction in Teaching Reading Strategies. Also, check out the diagnostic assessment and corresponding spelling activities/workshops in Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary.

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , ,