Phonemic Awareness for Older Kids

Having recently reviewed Literary Resources LLC Bridge the Gap (Heggerty), I wanted to share my own approach to teaching phonemic awareness to older kids. My reading interventions provide a 5 minute daily phonemic awareness activity, designed for students ages 8-adult in reading intervention. Given that phonemic awareness is essential to decoding and that older students who struggle with reading generally lack this ability to hear and manipulate discrete speech sounds.

“There is no age where a student is ‘too old’ for phonemic awareness training‒if the skills have not been mastered, the student should get training” (Kilpatrick, David A., 2016, Equipped for Reading Success).

By providing an instructional alternative to the Heggerty program, I want to assure you that nothing is wrong with the Bridge the Gap program; however, it is an add-on instructional component. In contrast, the 5 minute phonemic awareness instruction is the first of 5 Daily Google Slide Activities in my two reading intervention programs and seamlessly integrates the focus phonemes into the second activity i.e., Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling. For example, if introducing the long /e/ sound-spellings in the second activity, the example words used, say in phoneme isolation, will include those long /e/ sounds. For my money, the more connected the program components, the better students master the instructional objectives. My integrated phonemic activities seem to apply the following recommendations to the letter:

According to Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman, “Instruction that enhances awareness of speech sounds is relevant for older students who are inattentive to the internal details of spoken words. These students may show all the symptoms listed for younger students, including poor spelling, inaccurate decoding of new words, mispronunciation of words, and difficulty remembering or recalling new words. Direct teaching with a vowel chart and a consonant chart is quite possible with students at fourth grade and up, and many can improve substantially in PA with structured practice” (Reading Rockets).

I provide two evidence-based reading intervention programs for older students: 1. Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) 2. The Science of Reading Intervention Program. The first is a comprehensive, full-year word recognition and language comprehension program (55 minutes per day). The second is the word recognition component of the first and can be implemented as a semester class (55 minutes) or a pull-out or early-late option for the whole year (30 minutes per day).

Both programs include the interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities (print copies also work just fine). Each of the 54 Google slide activities include practice Phonemic Awareness with phoneme isolation, addition, deletions, substitution, manipulation, segmentation, and reversals. The teacher completes 3 of these lessons per week (typically Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday). The teacher displays the slide for in-class instruction or shares the screen for ZOOM instruction, reads the slide information, and provides cues for unison responses. No prep required. Only teacher slides are provided for this activity. If you would like to preview the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, including the phonemic awareness drills, check out this video.

Phonemic Awareness Activities

The Science of Reading Program Phonemic Awareness Activities

The first 6 lessons focus on phonological awareness, the alphabetic code, and the history of the English language. These lessons also include links to the Animal Chants YouTube videos. The Vowel Valley Animal Chant and the Consonant Sounds Animal Chant introduce students to the proper mouth positions and sound articulations for each of the English phonemes with catchy songs and rhymes. The rest of the lessons focus on the previous day’s sound-spellings, and so provide excellent review and practice with these phonemes.

These daily lessons are profitable for all ages 8-adult struggling readers. However, some of your students will require additional concentrated phonemic awareness instruction. Plus, if teaching a full-year reading intervention program, some of your students will have been assigned to your care later in the year and will not have had the benefit of the daily lessons. For these students, the diagnostic Phonemic Awareness Assessments (see below to receive a free download right in your mailbox) will produce the relevant data to determine what needs to be taught to whom, and just as importantly, what does not need to be taught to whom. The comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) provides the individualized or small group instructional activities students need to master phonemic awareness.

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable, easy-to- teach, and science of reading-based, featuring the Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables designed for older students. The word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE

Get the Phonemic Awareness Assessments FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Heart Words

English often is referred to as a difficult language to learn to speak, read, and spell because of its irregular sound-spellings. However, contrary to this assumption, the English orthographic system is actually quite regular and reliable. Of course, there are exceptions, but not as many as teachers generally think. So, the relevant question for reading teachers is… If there are relatively few words with irregular sound-spellings, why spend so much instructional time on them when the great percentage of English words perfect match the spellings to their sounds are?

The answer, of course, is that many of these words with non-phonetic spellings are on the research-based high frequency Fry and Dolch word lists. In other words, beginning readers see these words in print much more often than their total numbers would suggest. In fact, a large percentage of the 100 highest frequency words derive from Old and Middle English, and those old sound-spellings remain. Read more about “the great vowel shift” and other interesting historical developments in my article, “English Language History.”

On the Reading Rockets website, Linda Farrell and Michael Hunter summarize their helpful study on the Dolch 220 list of high frequency words. Of the 220 words, 82 were identified as Heart Words (37%).  https://www.readingrockets.org/article/new-model-teaching-high-frequency-words

One helpful development from the Science of Reading movement has been the refinement of some reading instructional terminology. One such term that has come to some degree of consensus is Heart Words. A Heart Word is usually defined as a word with one or more irregular sound-spellings or an unusual sound-spelling pattern that has not yet been taught. One important point should be emphasized: In Heart Words, the whole word is not phonetically irregular; only a part or parts is irregular. In other words, “the parts to learn by heart.”

For example, students might be taught that the Heart Word, the, is “not all irregular.” In other words, the “th” /th/ follows the rules; it’s only the “e” that does not. It is “the part to learn by heart.” Plus, when used before words beginning with vowels, the the is perfectly regular because the “e” makes the long /e/ sound for example, thē army and thē elephants in most regional dialects. https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/should-we-teach-high-frequency-words/  
The good news is that most of the sound-spellings in Heart Words are largely regular in their sound-spellings.
Noted reading researcher, David Kilpatrick (2015), comments that “the vast majority of irregular words have only a single irregular letter-sound relationship.”
For example, the Heart Word, pretty, is the 97th most frequently used reading word. Of the five /p//r//e//t//y/ sounds, only one (the /e/) is irregular. The Heart Word, together, ranks #214. Of the six /t//o//g//e//th//er/sounds, only one (the /o/) is irregular.
As a baseball player, I remember my coach always counseling, “Look for the fast ball and adjust to the curve.” That’s the foundational principle of how to teach Heart Words. Look for the regular sound-spellings first and adjust to any irregular parts. In other words, follow the rules and adjust to the exceptions.
Orthographic Mapping
In orthographic mapping, students are wiring the brain to remember all of the sound-spellings of a word in order as a unified whole. These become true sight words when they are recognized automatically by sight, and not any longer by sounding each phoneme (speech sound) out. Following are seven instructional methods I use in my reading intervention programs for students ages 8-adult to help student develop automaticity with the Heart Words.
 
How to Teach Heart Words
1. Blending
2. Segmenting
3. Spelling
4. Independent Heart Words practice
5. Decodable practice
6. Assess and target instruction! Download the FREE 108 High Frequency Heart Words Assessment at the end of this article to help you effectively differentiate instruction.
7. Game cards (not flash cards)

1. Blending: For each daily lesson, I’ve chosen two of my list of 108 high frequency Heart Words. I use Google slides to show the focus Heart Word with a heart or

Blending Heart Words hearts on top of the phonetically irregular sound-spelling(s). I slide my hand under the word on the in-class display or shared screen to blend with students. I blend the phonetically regular sound-spellings with the continuous blending technique, blending through the whole word with special attention to the stop and continuous sounds until I reach the non-phonetic part. I say, “STOP! This spelling does not follow the sound-spelling rules. We have to learn this part by heart.” I continue to blend the rest of the regular sound-spellings in the word. For example, to blend the word into, I blend through the continuous sounds of the in syllable (iinn) and follow with the stop sound /t/. At the “o” I say, “STOP! This spelling does not follow the sound-spelling rules. You have to learn this part by heart. The long /oo/ sound, as in rooster, can be spelled with an ‘o.’” Note: my phoneme-grapheme Animal Cards include a rooster card. for the long /oo/ sound-spelling.

2. Segmenting: In the next Google slide, I prompt students to tap their knees to count the number of phonemes in the focus Heart Word. The following slide givesHow to Segment Heart Words the answer and shows the Heart Word without hearts in a variety of fonts. As a weekly review, students use Sound Boxes for my spelling dictation of both the daily regular sound-spellings and the Heart Words. Students count and record the number of phonemes and type (or write if using a print copy) the “heart spellings.” After the segmenting slides, I show a slide that features three Heart Words with similar or comparable words. For example, with the focus Heart Word, into, this slide displays do, to, and tonight (each with hearts).

How to Spell Heart Words3. Spelling: All too often teachers focus on decoding without application to encoding. If I had to choose reading the Heart Word, into, ten times or spelling the word once. I would go with the spelling. Both reading and spelling are essential, but spelling is the key to developing automaticity and the acquisition of into as a sight word. In addition to the Sound Box spelling dictations, I have student spell each blending word immediately after blending on the next Google slide. Students use the squiggle tool to print (or pencil if you use print copies) and are guided by proper letter formation models.

4. Independent Heart Words Practice: After my Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling Activity, students completeHow to Practice Heart Words independent work (drag and drop and fill-in-the-text boxes with sounds to spelling matches, word sorts, and nonsense word practice along with audio files) with the lesson’s regular sound-spellings. After this slide, students work on the two lesson Heart Words. Students sort similar or comparable irregular sound-spellings to match the two focus Heart Words and open up doors on the Google slide to check their answers. Next, students identify the “parts to learn by heart” with similar or comparable Heart Words by dragging and dropping the hearts above the phonetically irregular sound-spellings (or they draw the hearts if using print copies).

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

5. Decodable Practice: In my 54 decodables, the Sam and Friends Phonics Books, each story includes plenty of practice in the lesson’s focus regular sound-spelling patterns and the two Heart Words. Plus, the back page includes a 30-second Word Fluency with built-in timer to practice these words and record the number of words read per timing.

6. Heart Words Assessment: In the second half of my full-year reading intervention program, I provide mid-year diagnostic assessments. One of the assessments tests mastery of the 108 high frequency Heart Words. This assessment will pinpoint the Heart Words that students cannot yet read and spell accurately. “If they know it, this (assessment) will show it; if they don’t, it won’t.” The assessment provides the data for teachers to differentiate instruction.

Heart Word Flash Cards7. Heart Words Game Cards: NOT FLASH CARDS. The teacher prints the 108 Heart Word Game Cards and distributes only those cards which the Heart Words Assessment has determined as yet-to-be-mastered for each student. For example, Ryan may get 48 cards and Selma only 22. These 108 Heart Word cards feature the irregular sound-spellings in red and list similar or comparable pattern words. One of my favorite Heart Word games from the program is Make ‘em Legal.

Make ‘em Legal

For this game, students pair up and each places one of their unknown Heart Words Game Cards on the desk or table. Each student uses their own set of Animal Cards, which feature the regular sound-spellings, to build a word around the Heart Word. For example, one of the students might select the into Heart Word Game Card. The “o” is printed in red because it is the irregular sound-spelling. That student might build the word, undo, around this Heart Word Game Card and lay out these cards left to right: Buffalo /short u/ – Newt /n/ – Dog /d/ – Heart Word Game Card into to form the word, undo.

The partner needs to find the phonetically regular sound-spelling on their Animal Cards to Make ‘em Legal, or correct, the phonetically irregular sound-spelling of the Heart Word Game Card, into. If the partner displays the rooster card, the partner wins a point, because rooster includes the legal sound-spelling of the long /oo/ sound. If the other partner can’t find the card to Make ‘em Legal, no point is awarded. Partners trade off, each using their own sets of Heart Words they need to master. Perfect differentiated, assessment-based instruction and… fun!

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable, easy-to- teach, and science of reading-based, featuring the Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables designed for older students. The word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE. See all seven Heart Word Activities in action!

Get the Heart Words Assessment FREE Resource:

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Sound-Spelling Cards

Reading teachers know the value of picture mnemonics to help students master phoneme-grapheme relationships. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sound-spelling cards can make the sound to print connection for beginning and struggling readers.

Sound-Spelling Cards

Animal Cards

In my set of sound-spelling cards, the Animal Cards each have a picture of an animal which features the focus sound, the /sound/, the mouth formation for proper speech articulation, and the common spellings of the phoneme (the speech sound). When students learn the phoneme-grapheme (sound-letter) correspondences with embedded mnemonic pictures (see the research of Ehri and Wilce), the cards are useful tools for building phoneme awareness because the abstract sounds and symbols are now tied to concrete representations. Dr. Tim Shanahan also emphasizes the importance of sound-pictures.

The animal theme is accessible to both younger and older students, and the photographs are less juvenile than illustrations. With most of the cards, the initial sound of the animal name corresponds to the most common spelling. For example, eagle is the picture for long /e/.

The blank line in a spelling indicates that a sound-spelling appears in that position of a syllable or word. Examples: On the cow card, the blank in “ou_” shows that the “ou” with that sound begins a syllable and must have an additional spelling or spellings in the blank, such as in “ouch.” The “_ow” indicates that the “ow” with that sound ends a syllable, such as in “plow.” On the eagle card, the “_ie_” means that spellings must come before and after the “ie” with that sound, such as in chief. The “e_e” signals the consonant final “e” spelling, such as in “discrete.”

Brackets indicate optional spellings. For example, on the goose card, the g[a, o, u] shows the hard g spelling options of words such as gas, got, or gut. On the jackrabbit card, the g[e,i,y] indicates the soft g spelling options of words such as gentle, ginger, or energy. Note that the soft g spellings are not found on a gerbil card, because the Animal Cards represent the phonemes.

The cards are color-coded. Green borders indicate short vowels; red is for long vowels; black is for consonants; blue is for consonant digraphs; purple is for diphthongs (two-sound vowels); and yellow is for r-controlled vowels.

Students are introduced to the names, speech articulation, and corresponding sounds of all 45 Animal Cards within the first two weeks of instruction. Videos and songs help students learn the key components of the Animal Cards.

Audio files lead students through the practice with the card names, mouth positions, sounds, and spellings. Accompanying videos and audios explain the mouth positions for proper articulation through silly songs. For example, check out the “Consonant Stop Sounds Song.”

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable, easy-to- teach, and science of reading-based, featuring the Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables designed for older students. The word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE.

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Heggerty Bridge the Gap Review

Phonemic Awareness has achieved quite a resurgence within the reading community as of late. In some respects it seems to be the only area of agreement among structured literacy and balanced literacy advocates.

Literacy Resources, LLC has published four sets of wildly popular Heggerty phonemic awareness programs: Pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and the Bridge the Gap intervention program for grades 2 and beyond. These programs are solid, yet hardly innovative curricula. Pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade teachers, as well as special education and reading intervention teachers, have used similar practice activities for years. Nothing new under the sun here.

My own teaching and writing experience is in reading intervention, so for the purposes of this comparative review, I’ll focus on the Heggerty Bridge the Gap intervention program © 2020, Literacy Resources, LLC and compare it to my own reading intervention programs. The Heggerty intervention program is designed for second graders and beyond; mine are similar (ages 8-adult).

Let me begin by saying that the Heggerty Bridge the Gap phonemic awareness intervention program is wonderful. However, its limitations and instructional delivery may make other reading interventions a better choice for reading intervention teachers. Of course, as a publisher, I’m biased and making a sales pitch for my own reading intervention programs; however, I hope you’ll find the review to be accurate and informative, especially if you are considering purchase of the Heggerty program and using their professional development program.

Comparative Review: 5 Main Points

First, the Heggerty placement assessments are excellent. However, they are individually administered and take about 12-15 minutes per student. Most ages 8-adult Tier 2 and 3 intervention classes have a dozen or more students. Middle and high school reading intervention classes have more students. Let’s do the math: In my last seventh grade reading intervention class of 22 students, the Heggerty Bridge the Gap assessments would take 4-6 hours to complete. My Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention) program includes 5 phonemic awareness assessments and can be easily administered whole-class. Each assessment includes an audio file and takes about 5 minutes. Let’s do the math: 5 x 5=25 or 30 minutes tops. BTW, my newly released The Science of Reading Intervention Program uses the same placement assessments.

Second, the Heggerty Bridge the Gap assessment results necessitate differentiated small group or individualized instruction. Nothing wrong with that. My Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention) does the same, integrating assessment-based phonemic awareness activities with other rotating workshops, such as phonics workshops, fluency workshops, vocabulary workshops, etc. In contrast, The Science of Reading Intervention Program includes daily phonemic awareness lessons for every student. If you have a large class, limited instructional time, or are not yet skilled (or interested) in teaching a rotating workshop model of different phonemic awareness activities for different kids, take note of the following.

These [Heggerty] lessons are designed to be part of a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention. Lessons can be taught one-on-one or within a small group (5 learners or less)… The lessons are not written for Monday through Friday instruction, but rather the curriculum structure includes 3 parts, with each part increasing in difficulty.

-Literacy Resources, LLC

Both Bridge the Gap and my programs teach phoneme isolation, addition, deletions, substitution, manipulation, segmentation, and reversals. However, the quick, daily phonemic awareness activities taught whole-class in  The Science of Reading Intervention Program may work better for you. My take is that all students, even those who pass the phonemic awareness assessments can benefit from manipulating spoken sounds.

Third, Heggerty’s Bridge the Gap is an add-on program. Add-0n programs often present management (time, materials, and resource) problems for reading intervention teachers. The Bridge the Gap phonemic awareness activities are not aligned with an instructional phonics sequence and no Heggerty program accomplishes their own recommendations:

Lessons are meant to take 5-7 minutes; an oral warm-up as one part of reading intervention. We recommend follow-up with phonics instruction and opportunities for reading decodable texts.

-Literacy Resources, LLC

Reading intervention teachers know that concurrent, coordinated oral phonemic awareness and speech-to-print synthetic phonics activities produce the best results. My Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention) and The Science of Reading Intervention Program  achieve that perfect coordination between phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, and syllabication instruction. Plus, Heggerty also specifically recommends the use of decodable texts. Both of my programs include 54 Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables that align with each phonemic awareness and phonics lesson. Students practice the focus sound spellings and 2 Heart Words (words with one or more irregular sound-spellings), along with 5 comprehension questions, margin notes, and a 30-second word fluency with each book. The decodables have been designed for older readers (ages 8-adult) with teenage characters and plots, beautifully illustrated by comic artist genius, David Rickert.

Fourth, the Heggerty program directors strongly recommend their professional development series. Here is another major time investment for teachers. While every moment of PD may be valuable, not every reading intervention teacher aspires to be a reading specialist. It is certainly true that most upper elementary, middle school, high school, and adult reading intervention teachers have taken a paucity of reading classes in their teacher preparation program. And Dr. Louisa Moats is correct in claiming that the science of reading is “rocket science.” However, good teaching resources don’t necessitate rocket scientists to teach them if they are designed well.

Having supervised reading intervention teachers for years, I know that easy-to-teach program materials don’t have to produce substandard instruction and learning. You could do a great job of teaching my phonemic awareness activities right now without any prep. Read the example lesson to confirm that I’m right. Simply read the scripted lesson and interact with your students. An easy-to-teach 2 or 3 minute lesson.

Phonemic Awareness Activities

The Science of Reading Program Phonemic Awareness Activities

Fifth, the Heggerty Bridge the Gap program is reasonably priced at $59.00. However, unlike their three grade-level curricula, there is currently no digital version. Bummer. Some Heggerty teachers have filled this gap during the pandemic and distance learning with YouTube videos.

In contrast the 54 phonemic awareness lessons in my two programs are formatted as Google slides, perfect for the teacher in that the phonemic awareness teacher slides slide into the morphological awareness activities, into the blending, segmenting, and spelling activities, onto the sounds and spelling lessons, next to the Heart Words lessons, and finally to the Sam and Friends Phonics Books decodables. In other words, integrated digital curriculum–perfect for accelerated reading instruction. (Print the slides if you wish.)

By the way, students have their own set of practice slides to accompany these Daily 5 Activities, including independent practice with type in text boxes and drag and drop activities for the focus sound-spellings and Heart Words, the printable and tablet/Chromebook/phone displays of the decodables.

Fifth, the Bridge the Gap program provides a balanced approach to the many forms of phonological and phonemic awareness. This is not a phoneme isolation-only program. Similarly, my programs include practice in phoneme isolation, addition, deletions, substitution, manipulation, segmentation, and reversals; however, students learn in the whole-class setting.

In summary, Heggerty’s phonemic awareness materials produce helpful arrows for the reading teacher; however, other programs may accomplish the same instructional objectives with 1. Less assessment and instructional time 2. Whole-class instructional options 3. Integrated and coordinated phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling lessons and 4. Digital instructional options. Plus, 5. The same balanced

Phoneme Awareness Research for Reading Intervention

Phonemic awareness is central in learning to read and spell.

Ehri 1984

The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant of the likelihood of failure to read.

-Adams 1990

Phonemic awareness is the most potent predictor of success in learning to read.

-Stanovich 1996, 1994

All children can benefit from being taught directly how to break up spoken words into smaller units and how letters represent sounds.

-Shaywitz 1999

There is no age where a student is ‘too old’ for phonemic awareness training‒if the skills have not been mastered, the student should get training.

Kilpatrick 2016

Phonemic awareness training provides the foundation on which phonics instruction is built…

-Blevins 2017

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable, easy-to- teach, and science of reading-based, featuring the Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables designed for older students. The word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE.

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8 Great Spelling Song Videos

8 Great Spelling RulesIntroducing the Eight Great Spelling Song audio files and YouTube video links to 8 memorable songs. Help your students (and you) remember and apply the spelling rules in their writing. Turn ’em up! Your kids of all ages will love these. By the way, your upper elementary and middle school students still need spelling instruction. Don’t believe me? Administer my Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and you’ll change your mind. The assessment pinpoints each spelling pattern deficiency.

Break down the components of each spelling rule and elicit other spelling word examples from your students. Look for exceptions to the rules. Even though there are exceptions, it’s much better to start with the rule and works most of the time and adjust to the rule-breakers. If you’re a baseball fan, you know that hitters “look for the fastball and adjust for the curve.”

Yes, these are available in my spelling programs. See promos below. Thanks!

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).

The i-before-e Spelling Rule

YouTube Video

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).

 The Final y Spelling Rule

YouTube Video

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).

 The Final Consonant-e Spelling Rule

YouTube Video

4. The Double the Consonant Rule

Double the last 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).

The Double the Consonant Rule

YouTube Video

5. The Ending “an” or “en” Rule

End a word with “ance”, “ancy”, or “ant”  if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (vacancy, arrogance) 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).

 The Ending “an” or “en” Rule

YouTube Video

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).

The “able” or “ible” Rule

YouTube Video

7. The Ending “ion” Rule

Spell “sion” for the final zyun sound (illusion) 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.

 The Ending “ion” Rule

YouTube Video

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).

 The Plurals Rule

YouTube Video

from The Science of Reading Intervention Program, Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention), and Differentiated Spelling Instruction (American English and Canadian Versions)

Canadian Spelling

Spelling Programs for Canadians

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

 Reading Intervention Program Teaching Reading StrategiesIntervention Program Science of Reading

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Decodables Criteria

Reading specialists and reading intervention teachers have long advocated the use of decodable text for struggling, vulnerable readers… especially those in upper elementary, middle or high school, ESL/ELL, special education, and adult literacy classes. Teachers of beginning reading have either favored decodables, leveled readers, or predictable text.

I’m going to present the argument and criteria for decodables. (Full disclosure, I’m the author of a set of decodable readers for older students which I will use to apply the criteria for effective decodables and will promo at the end of the article.) My take is that it seems like common sense that if we are going to teach decoding (phonics) and encoding (spelling), our students should practice these skills in the context of authentic text. However, many have argued that decodable are anything but authentic, in that they are written for a contrived purpose. Additionally, we all know that common sense is often a poor substitute for evidence-based practices. Unfortunately, the reading research on decodables is quite minimal, according to noted reading researcher, Dr. Tim Shanahan. Shanahan comments:

There have been only a handful of studies into the effectiveness of decodable texts since the term was first used back in the 1980s. And, truth be told, they are kind of mess; with little evident agreement about what decodable text is, what it should be compared with, and what outcomes we should expect to derive from it (https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/should-we-teach-with-decodable-text

So, in the “handful of studies” mentioned above, are decodables effective or ineffective? How so relative to other forms of text, such as leveled readers with controlled vocabulary, predictable texts etc.?

Shanahan again:

Mesmer (2005) found that kids were more likely to try to decode decodable text (duh), but leveled texts (less decodable) led to greater fluency (Mesmer, 2010). Some studies (Cheatham & Allor, 2012; Compton, 2005) concur with the first Mesmer study, but that’s okay because others support the second (Priec-Mohr & Price, 2017). And, then there are those with mixed results (Chu & Chen, 2014).

Regarding the effectiveness of decodables versus other text constructions, the Ohio Department of Education produced a helpful list and example slides of pros and cons for decodables, leveled readers, and predictable text readers. Note that the advantage of decodables seems clear to me (and them) in their presentation:

http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Learning-in-Ohio/Literacy/Striving-Readers-Comprehensive-Literacy-Grant/Literacy-Academy/1-05-Matching-Text-Types-to-Students-Part-2.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US

Design and Instructional Component Criteria

As mentioned above, I’ll use my own decodable series to exemplify what I consider to be appropriate criteria for decodables for older readers.

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

  • The Sam and Friends Phonics Books consist of highly decodable and systematic text to help readers learn, practice, and develop reliance upon the alphabetic code. Decodable means that a high percentage of words will be phonetically regular. Systematic means that each reader includes and reinforces only previously introduced sound-spellings to scaffold instruction.
  • Each of the 54 books introduces the focus sound-spellings and 2 Heart Words of the daily Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling activity in the author’s two reading intervention programs:
  • The books use the most widely-accepted, research-based instructional phonics sequence.
  • Each book introduces two high-utility Heart Words (high frequency words with one or more phonetically irregular sound-spellings).
  • The language de-emphasizes idiomatic expressions (ideal for English-language learners).
  • The stories use non-predictable, non-repetitious, and non-patterned language to minimize over-reliance upon context clues and knowledge of text structure.
  • The SCRIP comprehension strategies (Summary, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, Predict) are embedded within the text pages, not at the end of the book, to promote reader-author conversations and internal monitoring of text. Many require higher order thinking skills. The books include five higher level comprehension questions for each story.
  • The back page includes 30 second word fluency practice on the focus sound-spellings and sight words with a systematic review of previously introduced sound-spellings and
  • Heart Words
  • Each book consists of eight pages in 5.5 x 8.5-inch booklet form. Books are formatted to be copied back to back on two separate 8.5 x 11 pages for easy copying and collation. Just one fold creates the take-home books. Staple if desired.
  • The books are also formatted for tablet, Chromebook, and phone display.
  • The books are also available as Google slides with comment or question text boxes for interactive monitoring of the text.
  • Collections A, B, C, D, and E focus on remedial sound-spellings and sight words; whereas, Collection F: Syllable Juncture and Derivational Influences Books 45-54 is appropriate for all students reading below grade level.
  • The books have been designed with older students (grades 4 to adult) in mind. Students will enjoy reading about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also Sam’s dog, Pug.
  • The plots for each self-contained story reinforce positive values and character development and feature multi-ethnic teenage characters.
  • Each book is cleverly illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The illustrations do not explain the text. They entertain.

Your students will love these decodables for older readers: the Sam and Friends  Phonics Books, and more importantly, by using these readers, students and parents will see measurable progress in their reading skills. If interested in the characters, settings, and themes of the books, check out this sister article: Decodables for Big Kids.

The Sam and Friends Phonics Books have been designed to support systematic and explicit phonics instruction, such as is included in the author’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

Intervention Program Science of Reading

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Decodables for Big Kids

The Sam and Friends Phonics Books have been designed to support systematic and explicit phonics instruction, such as is included in the author’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

The Sam and Friends Phonics Books have been designed to support systematic and explicit phonics and spelling instruction. The eight-page books will help your students master all the common sound-spelling patterns and 108 high frequency Heart Words (words with one or more irregular sound-spellings), while improving their reading fluency and comprehension.

What makes these decodables ideal for older students?

For years I served as an upper elementary reading specialist and middle-high school reading intervention teacher. I, like others who teach older, vulnerable/struggling readers, simply could not find decodable stories which specifically helped students practice the sound-spellings I was teaching.

Using the “Bob” books, Dr. Seuss, or the ilk was out of the question. Nothing de-motivates an older student more than primary age-appropriate illustrations and/or story themes in books or in reading curriculum.

Yes, many of these older readers do need to know how to sound out “c-aa-t,” but “there must be better ways to practice the /k/, short /a/, and /t/ sounds and c-a-t spellings,” I thought. I searched high and low, and no… High/Low readers were not the answer. I searched the Reading Rockets decodable links in vain. I wanted targeted, pure (as much as possible) decodables with focused sound-spellings and minimal Heart Words that respected my students ages and maturity levels. There simply are no other decodables I could find that met my personal criteria.

I had to write them.

Of course, I can’t draw an engaging illustration to save my life. But David Rickert, the comic artist, certainly can. A true partnership developed. I wrote the stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also Sam’s dog, Pug. The plots for each self-contained story reinforce positive values and character development and feature multi-ethnic teenage characters. David illustrated each of the 54 Sam and Friends Phonics Books.

Now, David is a high school ELA teacher, in addition to being an illustrator. He found it interesting that I insisted on illustrations which did not add meaning to the stories, but only entertained the readers. If you are knowledgeable about S0R (the science of reading), you will understand why we don’t want developing readers to be overly-dependent upon pictures to explain what the text means.

What are the characters like and what are some of the themes in these books?

The four characters and dog interact in and out of the high school setting. Two of them, Sam and Kit, develop a semi-romantic relationship throughout the 54 books. The multi-ethnic characters run counter to many cultural stereotypes. For example, both Tom and Kit are the athletes. Deb, an African-American, is the smart debate club champion with math and science as her strong suits. Sam’s dog, Pug, is a trouble-making, but lovable, pooch.

The story themes take place in a variety of settings: in school, at the lake, at the ocean, in the forest, at the coffee shop.

In one story, Tom and Sam create a snow tubing business; in another, Deb and Kit run a race; in a story featuring Pug, the dog chases the ice cream truck. In each story, positive values are emphasized. There is nothing overly controversial in these stories… they teach the values of friendship, respect to parents and teachers, loyalty, honesty, etc. However, these aren’t preachy stories, although in one story all four friends visit Deb’s church. The stories won’t elicit any parent or student complaints… they teach your students to read and even enjoy the practice.

Also included in these stories are the focus sound-spellings, Heart Words, 30-second word fluencies, 5 higher level comprehension questions, and comment or question text boxes. Each of the 54 stories connects to the sounds and spellings instructional sequence from my two reading intervention programs. No, I don’t sell the Sam and Friends Phonics Books separately. They are completely integrated into my two programs listed below. Yes, the books are formatted for interactive reading in Google slides, but also may be printed as eight-page booklets or viewed on tablets, Chromebooks, and phones. So many ways to read these stories and practice what you teach!

These phonics books are ideal for guided reading and independent practice in all reading intervention instructional settings. Check out this quick video, featuring one of the Sam and Friends Phonics Books: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6qxzT6OoOI  Now, once you’ve watched the video… if you are a reading nerd like me, you’ll want more technical reading stuff about just how decodable these books are, and just how aligned the series is to the science of reading. Check out Decodables Criteria and nerd out!

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable, easy-to- teach, and science of reading-based, featuring the Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables designed for older students. The word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE

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The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Intervention Program Science of ReadingDownload 2 FREE lessons (178 slides and a 15 min video) to check out The Science of Reading Intervention Program. Effective. Evidence-based. Accelerated program. Easy-to-teach. Affordable.

This evidence-based, SoR-aligned, accelerated program has been designed for struggling readers ages 8-adult. The 54 lessons each include 5 Daily Google Slide Activities:

5 Daily Google Slide Activities (55 minute lessons, 3 days per week, 18 weeks)

    1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology: Advanced phonemic awareness drills and Greek and Latin Anchor Words to help students learn the high frequency prefixes, roots, and suffixes (5 Minutes).
  1.  Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling: Continuous blending of 4-8 words to learn phonetically regular focus sound-spellings and 2 Heart Words per lesson, plus syllable and spelling rules (10 Minutes). Includes audio and video files.
  2. Sounds and Spellings Practice: Independent practice with text box typing and drag and drop activities for the focus sound-spellings (10 Minutes).
  3. Heart Words Practice: Independent practice with text box typing and drag and drop activities for the 2 words with phonetically irregular sound-spellings (5 Minutes).
  4.  Sam and Friends Phonics Books: Decodable stories with teenage characters and plots for each daily lesson with comprehension questions, margin annotations, and word fluency practice. Beautifully illustrated by noted comic artist, David Rickert. (Slides with text box typing and PDFs in Tablet, Chromebook, and Phone Formats) 25 Minutes

Written for teachers by a teacher. Completely aligned to the science of reading.

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