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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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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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