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Phonics in 10 Minutes

This post is for parents concerned about their child’s reading; for news and social media junkies who want to intelligently respond to current events, such as the recent dramatic improvement in Mississippi reading scores due, largely, to a re-emphasis on phonics; for elementary teachers who never had a phonics course in their teaching credential program; for secondary teachers who wonder, “Should I be teaching phonics to my frosh English students who can barely read?”; and for literacy coaches and reading specialists, like me, who want a quick start user guide to present to parents and teachers. In this 10-minute read, you’ll find out what the following terms mean and what they have to do with teaching phonics, enough to keep you from sounding stupid in any job interview or lunch conversation with other parents, principals, teachers, language coaches, and reading specialists.

Think of this as a Quick Start User Guide to Phonics. In order of appearance: phonics, phonemes, graphemes, decoding, encoding, synthetic phonics, explicit and systematic phonics, sound-spellings, decodables, sound-by-sound blending, slanted /lines/, consonant blends, consonant digraphs, analytic phonics, onsets, rimes, word families, diphthongs, embedded phonics, implicit and incidental instruction, cueing systems, MSV, guided reading, r-controlled vowels, silent final e, instructional phonics sequence, continuous sounds

Definitions

Let’s begin by defining phonics. Simply put, phonics is how we use the 26 letters of the alphabet as a code to represent our English phonemes (the fancy way of saying the 43 or 44 speech sounds). We put together these written speech sounds (called graphemes if you want to sound impressive) to read words. This is known as decoding. The Latin prefix, “de” means away from or out of, which helps us remember that decoding is making meaning out of the letter combinations. The other side of the language coin from decoding is encodingThe Latin prefix, “en” means in or into, which helps us remember that encoding is making the graphemes into words. To keep it simple: Decoding is sounding-out the words to be able to read them, and encoding is spelling the words.

Now that we have a definition of phonics, let’s take a look at the three approaches to phonics instruction. In our brief analysis, you’ll learn the key components of phonics instruction in the key instructional activities and the methods used by each phonics approach to teach them. To be clear, each approach helps students learn the phonics rules; it’s the how they are learned that differs. As an aside, these three methods of teaching phonics are the main points of contention in the never-ending Reading Wars, and the battles within each approach are just as contentious as those among the three approaches.

Types of Phonics Approaches

Animal Sound-Spelling Cards

1. Synthetic Phonics: In this approach, teachers help students learn how to convert the 26 letters of the alphabet into the 43 or 44 English phonemes (speech sounds) and then blend these individual sounds to read words. The teacher introduces the graphemes (the spellings) for each of these phonemes in explicit, systematic instruction. Explicit means direct and sometimes isolated instruction that is unconnected to text. Systematic means planned, structured, and sequenced instruction.

Key Instructional Activities: The sound-spelling card (to the right) is a key instructional component of synthetic phonics. For example, students first learn the sounds and spellings listed on the three cards. (Previously, students had learned the /s/ on the seagull card and the /n/ on the newt card before the teacher introduces the sn_ on the snack card.)

Another key instructional activity is sound-by-sound blending. The teacher asks students to say the consonant blend sounds on the snack card; say the vowel sound on the iguana card; say the  consonant digraph sound on the cheetah card; and then blend the word, snitch. Students are taught the phonics rule that the _tch spelling follows short vowel sounds.

A third synthetic activity is the use of decodables. Decodables are short books, designed to practice specific sound-spellings introduced in the sound-by-sound blending activities. Decodables also review previously learned sound-spellings. Typically, a limited number of non-decodable sight words are used so that students build confidence in using their phonics skills.

*Note: The slanted /lines/ indicate sounds. The _blanks_ indicate that other letters must come before and/or after the spelling. A consonant blend is two or three consonants that frequently appear together at the start or end of syllables. A vowel, most commonly a, e, i, o, and u, appears in every syllable. A consonant digraph is two consonants which form one sound.

Rimes

Word Families

2. Analytic (Analogy) Phonics: Teaches students to look at the whole word, especially the onset (the beginning letter or letters) and rime (the sound pattern known as a word family), and to compare to similarly structured words which are already known.

Key Instructional Activities: For example, the teacher might teach the consonant blends br, cr, dr,  and fr as onsets and the rime, own (rhymes with down). Students practice combining the onsets and rimes as br-own, cr-own, dr-own, and fr-own. In the next lesson the teacher might teach the consonant blends gr, thr, and the consonant digraph sh as onsets and the rime, own (rhymes with phone).

Analytic phonics may include explicit and systematic instruction. Teachers introduce the rimes (word families) by syllable types.

*Note: The “ow” spelling in “own” as in brown is a diphthong. A diphthong is a vowel team in which two sounds are made. However, the the “ow” spelling in “own” as in shown is a vowel digraph. A vowel digraph is a vowel team in which only one sound is made.

3. Embedded Phonics: Teaches students phonics within the context of reading as needed to cue the pronunciation of a word. In contrast to the explicit and systematic instruction of the synthetic and analytic approaches, embedded phonics utilizes an implicit, incidental methodology. Phonics skills are learned deductively from the whole to the part as one of the three cueing systems for comprehension i.e., 1. M = Meaning 2. S = Structure (sentence structure, grammar, word order) 3. V = Visual (phonics, onsets and rimes, sight words).

Key Instructional Activities: The teacher groups readers by reading levels and students chorally and individually read a book together. When students struggle with the pronunciation of a word, they apply specific strategies to logically guess the pronunciation. For example, “What’s the sound of the first letter in this word? What word would make sense withe other words in the sentence? What hint does the picture on the page provide as to how to say it?”

The r-Controlled Vowels

A typical embedded phonics lesson might be planned as a mini lesson from a guided reading lesson on a book which uses a number of r-controlled vowels. After an initial reading, the teacher might ask students to search for and create a sorted list for all words using the /ar/, /or/, and /er/ spellings found on the cards to the right. Often, teachers use running records assessments of oral readings to determine the content of the mini lessons.

Silent Final e

 

Teachers may share the silent final rule in which the final at the end of a syllable makes the preceding vowel say its name (a long vowel sound) when a single consonant is found between the vowel and the final silent final e. For example, using the cards below, teachers could ask the group for example words of the a_e, i_e, o_e, and u_e spellings to create a word wall. Students might then write a story, using as many silent final words as possible.

Instructional Phonics Sequence

Generally speaking, all three phonics approaches follow a similar instructional order.

1. The most common sounds are introduced prior to the least common sounds.

  • Short vowels and consonant sounds
  • Ending consonant blends and “sh” and “th” voiced consonant digraphs
  • Beginning consonant blends, “wh” and “tch” consonant digraphs, “sh” and “th” unvoiced consonant digraphs
  • Long vowel sounds and silent final e
  • Long vowel sounds and r-controlled vowels
  • Diphthongs

2. Order of instruction separates letters that are visually similar e.g., p and b, m and n, v and w, u and n.

3. Order of instruction separates sounds that are similar e.g., /k/ and /g/, /u/ and /o/, /t/ and /d/, /e/ and /i/.

4. The most commonly used letters are introduced prior to the least commonly used letters.

5. Short words with fewer phonemes are introduced prior to longer words with more phonemes.

6. Continuous sounds e.g., /a/, /m/, are introduced prior to stop sounds e.g., /t/ because the continuous sounds are easier to blend.Check out Pennington Publishing’s Instructional Phonics Sequence with sound-by-sound spelling blending:

Get the Instructional Phonics Sequence FREE Resource:

Get the Animal Sound-Spelling Cards FREE Resource:

*****

My take? Synthetic phonics is the most efficient means of teaching the alphabetic code and should be taught systematically as part of any beginning reading program or reading intervention program. However, good reading and spelling programs provide additional analytic phonics activities, such as syllabication and spelling pattern word sorts. Plus, while most students learn with a synthetic approach, others respond best with an analytic approach. Good teachers also use incidental embedded phonics instruction as teachable moments to study words in depth as they use shared and guided reading. The best means of determining whether any method of reading instruction is working? Assessment. Flexible teachers use data to inform instruction and the instructional approach to meet the needs of individual students.

Get the Diagnostic Reading  and Spelling Assessments FREE Resource:

I’m Mark Pennington, author of  the Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program). This program provides all the resources teachers need for flexible, student-centered reading instruction. The program is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

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The Phonics Wars

Phonics Wars

The Phonics Wars

The Reading Wars have largely centered on one key issue of contention: How to Teach Phonics. More aptly named, the Phonics Wars have been going on since the 1950s. Different sides will occasionally declare victory when new research comes out or when new test results are released, such as the recent Mississippi NAEP improvement, and claim that the wars are over. Locally, among your district, county, or state colleagues, there may be a ceasefire; however, nationally and internationally the wars continue to rage on. The best evidence to support this fact? Facebook reading instruction groups. Believe me, the battle lines are still drawn. Even within the same type of phonics, some of the toughest battles are being waged e.g., the current International Dyslexic Association v. International Literacy Association accusations and name-calling.

This post is designed to get you up to speed about the three approaches to phonics, the key instructional activities, the programs and supporters, and the lingo used by advocates. My instructional goal is help you classify reading strategies, lessons, and activities according to the three approaches to phonics.

Three Approaches to Phonics

1. Synthetic Phonics: Teaches students to convert the 26 letters of the alphabet into the 43 or 44 English phonemes (speech sounds e.g., /sh/) and then blend these sounds to read syllables and words. This is known as decoding. Students also learn to use the graphemes (the letters or groups of letters which represent the common phoneme spellings, also known as sound-spellings) to spell the syllables and words. This is known as encoding. Both decoding and encoding are taught together in synthetic phonics.

Example: Individual sounds: sh-ow-n Blended sounds: shown

*Note: The slanted /lines/ indicate sounds. The _blanks_ indicate that other letters must come before and/or after the spelling.

Key Instructional Activities: Sound-by-Sound Blending, Sound-Spelling Cards, Decodable Book Practice, direct spelling pattern instruction

Programs and Supporters: Read 180®, Open Court, SRA, LETRS, Success for All, LiPS®, Wilson Reading System® and Fundations, Orton-Gillingham, Language! Live®, Hooked on Phonics®, Saxon Phonics®, Fundations, SRA Corrective Reading, International Dyslexic Association, International Literacy Association

Lingo: The Science of Reading, structured, explicit, systematic, sound-out, alphabetic code, , word identification, word attack

2. Analytic (Analogy) Phonics: Teaches students to look at the whole word, especially the onset (the beginning letter or letters) and rime (the sound pattern known as a word family), and to compare to similarly structured words which are already known.

Example: sh-ock like the words st-ock and kn-ock

Key Instructional Activities: Word sorts, word family flashcards, rhyming books, spelling patterns

Programs and Supporters: Words Their Way®, Making Words, International Literacy Association, Dr. Seuss

Lingo: Word families, onsets and rimes, word sorts. “Get your mouth ready…”, word recognition, high frequency words, whole to part

3. Embedded Phonics: Teaches students phonics within the context of reading as needed to cue the pronunciation of a word. Phonics skills are learned deductively from the whole to the part as one of the three cueing strategies for comprehension i.e., 1. M = Meaning 2. S = Structure (sentence structure, grammar, word order) 3. V = Visual (phonics, onsets and rimes, sight words)

Example: “What’s the sound of the first letter in this word?” From the other words in the sentence, what would be your best guess as to how to say it?

Key Instructional Activities: Mini lessons, predictable texts, picture walks, guided reading, shared reading

Programs and Supporters: Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention, Reading Recovery, HMH Journeys , HMH Into Reading, Units of Study for Teaching Reading Series

Lingo: Whole Language, Balanced Literacy, Structured Literacy, guided reading, shared reading, leveled books, authentic reading, word walls, high frequency sight words, strategic guessing

*****

My take? Synthetic phonics is the most efficient means of teaching the alphabetic code and should be taught systematically as part of any beginning reading program or reading intervention program. However, good reading and spelling programs provide additional analytic phonics activities, such as syllabication and spelling pattern word sorts. Plus, while most students learn with a synthetic approach, others respond best with an analytic approach. Good teachers also use incidental embedded phonics instruction as teachable moments to study words in depth as they use shared and guided reading. The best means of determining whether any method of reading instruction is working? Assessment. Flexible teachers use data to inform instruction and the instructional approach to meet the needs of individual students.

Get the Diagnostic Reading  and Spelling Assessments FREE Resource:

I’m Mark Pennington, author of  the Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program). This program provides all the resources teachers need for flexible, student-centered reading instruction. The program is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar/Mechanics , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reading Intervention Programs

When teachers and administrators are looking for a reading intervention program, they will find no shortage of expensive, “research-based,” high tech options. Countless districts and school sites have invested huge slices of their annual general funds to purchase big publisher programs that have produced minimal gains in reading achievement. Perhaps the “You get what you pay for” truism doesn’t always deliver with regards to effective reading intervention programs.

The Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes comparable or superior resources to reading intervention programs costing thousands per student per year. What’s the difference, other than price?

  • Less computer-based instruction and fewer bells and whistles, but more teacher-student interactive instruction and learning. The Teaching Reading Strategies program uses pencil and paper diagnostic and formative assessments, rather than computer adaptive assessments, to guide instruction and monitor progress. The teacher makes the instructional decisions, not the software.
  • Other than the YouTube modeled reading fluency passages, the digital display Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, and the digital display game cards, the instructional resources are designed for classroom display or print. Not every teacher has a PC, tablet, or Chromebook for each student. Plus, not every teacher wants the computer to be the primary teacher of reading to their students.
  • No huge teacher edition to have to reference constantly to plan lessons.
  • No need for multiple training days with publisher sales reps/trainers to learn the program.
  • Finally, this 1283 page program has been written by and field tested by a teacher just like you, Mark Pennington MA reading specialist.

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program) featuring the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students.

This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, vocabulary worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each books includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

Detailed Teaching Reading Strategies Product Description

Simple Program Placement

The Teaching Reading Strategies program includes four assessments to help teachers properly place students in the program: the *Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, the *Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessments, the *Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, and the Individual Fluency Assessment.

*Audio Files

Sound-by-Sound Spelling Blending

he scripted sound-spelling blending instructional sequence will help students learn to read all of the common sound-spellings in just 18 weeks of synthetic phonics instruction.

Syllable Transformers and Syllabication

Students practice sound-spelling syllable transformations and syllable patterns with whole class interactive practice and syllable worksheets.

Reading Fluency Practice 

Students practice reading fluency (modeled readings, repeated practice, cold and hot timings recorded on timing charts) with 43 expository articles, each written about a common or uncommon animal.

Each of the engaging articles is composed in a leveled format—the first two paragraphs are at third grade reading level, the next two are at the fifth grade reading level, and the last two are at the seventh grade reading level. Slower readers get practice on controlled vocabulary and are pushed to read at the higher reading levels, once the contextual content has been established. Faster readers are challenged by the increasingly difficult multi-syllabic vocabulary.

The Teaching Reading Strategies program provides two options for fluency practice: 1. Small group choral readings (no technology required) and 2. YouTube videos with modeled readings at three different speeds for each of the 43 articles.

Comprehension Worksheets

The SCRIP Comprehension Worksheets help students learn and practice comprehension cues (summarize, connect, re-think, interpret, and predict) to independently access the meaning of texts. The 43 expository articles are the same as those used in the reading fluency practice. Each worksheet includes five text-dependent comprehension questions and three context clues vocabulary words.

Reading, Spelling, and Vocabulary Game Cards

The 644 Reading, Spelling, and Vocabulary Game Cards are used in instructional activities and games. Three formats are provided: 1. Print and Cut 2. Phone Display 3. Tablet and Chromebook Display. You and your students will love the card games. Who says we can’t learn and have fun at the same time?

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Teacher lessons, guided reading practice, and Reading Strategy Worksheets will help your students learn to self-monitor their reading and improve comprehension. Examples: How to Identify Main Idea and Determine Importance, How to Identify Fact and Opinion, Read-Study Method, How to Summarize, Authors and Readers’ Purpose, Close Reading, How to Infer, How to Visualize Text, Cause and Effect, and more.

Diagnostic Assessments

With canned reading intervention programs, teachers wind up spending too much time teaching what many of their remedial readers already know and too little time helping students practice what they do not know.

The 13 whole-class diagnostic reading assessments pinpoint the specific reading deficits for each of your students. Everything you need to teach (or not teach) is assessed and instructional resources match every assessment item.

The 13 program assessments include…

Syllable Awareness, Syllable Rhyming, Phonemic Isolation, Phonemic Blending, Phonemic Segmenting, Alphabetic Upper and Lower Case Letter Match and Alphabetic Sequencing, Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment, Outlaw Words Assessment, Rimes Assessment, Sight Syllables Assessment, Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, and an Individual Fluency Assessment

All assessment data is recorded on two comprehensive reading recording matrices for simple progress monitoring and placement in flexible small group workshops. Each workshop activity has a brief formative assessment to determine whether students have mastered the skill or need more practice.

Phonemic Awareness Workshops 

The Teaching Reading Strategies program includes extensive phonemic awareness activities which perfectly correspond with the phonemic awareness assessments. Students fill in the gaps to ensure a solid foundation for learning the phonetic code by learning to hear, identify, and manipulate the phonemes.

Workshops include alphabetic awareness, rhyming, syllable awareness and manipulation, phonemic isolation, blending, and segmentation.

Phonics Workshops 

Teaching Reading Strategies provides 35 phonics workshops, targeted to the vowel and consonant sounds phonics assessments.

Spelling Pattern Workshops

The 102 Spelling Pattern Worksheets correspond to each test item on the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment. Students complete spelling sorts, rhymes, word jumbles, and brief book searches.

Guided Reading: The Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Sam and Friends Phonics Books Hi-Lo Readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

The Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books features 54 eight-page decodable stories with teenage characters, high-interest plots, and non-juvenile cartoons. Each book has embedded reading comprehension questions, word fluency timings, and accompanying running records. The books are formatted as booklets for printing and digital display on phones, tablets, and Chromebooks.

Each book has focus sound-spellings (the same ones as in the Sound-Spelling Blending activity) and sight words. Students learn the blends and practice them in the decodable Sam and Friends books. The 5 comprehension questions per story are ideal for guided reading instruction and parent-supervised homework.

Additionally, all 54 books provide a 30-second word fluency practice on the focus sound-spellings and sight words with a systematic review of previously introduced sound-spellings and sight words. Your students will improve reading fluency as they develop automaticity with the common sound-spellings and high utility sight words.

Each story has a custom-designed running record assessment with 200 words. Teachers may choose to complete running records on unpracticed or practiced books and may decide to assess with every book, once a week, or at the end of the phonics collection.  

Writing Strategy Workshops

The Writing Strategy Worksheets will help your students learn how both narrative and expository texts are structured and composed at the sentence, paragraph, and chapter levels. Great practice for understanding textbooks! Understanding the reading-writing connection will improve both reading comprehension and writing.

Vocabulary Workshops

The 56 Vocabulary Worksheets used in this workshop focus on the CCSS Vocabulary Standards:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

You can help turn struggling and vulnerable students into confident and skilled readers with the Teaching Reading Strategies program.

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

FREE DOWNLOADS TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

 

 

 

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

 

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W Vowels and Y, L, H, M, R, and N While We’re At It

The W is a Vowel Sometimes

Save the W!

Save the w! (As a vowel, that is)

 
Wow, it’s rare for me to disagree with Grammar Girl… As a reading specialist, we love rules. If a word doesn’t fit, we figure a way to make it do so:) My speech therapist colleagues will back me up on this generalization.
 
In a related article, Grammar Girl reminds us that a vowel is a sound, not a letter. Nicely done! We form these sounds into two ways. 1. Some vowel sounds are made with the mouth in one position and with one sound. These vowel sounds are called monophthongs. Examples: got, go, know 2. Other vowel sounds start with the mouth in one formation as one vowel sound and slide into another formation as two vowel sounds. These vowel sounds are called diphthongs. Examples: coin, joy, out, and cow.
 
Grammar Girl states that “you could argue that W does indeed represent a vowel.” She cites the diphthong /ow/ as her example. But then she continues, “maybe to you the word ‘cow’ sounds like it ends with the consonant ‘wuh’ instead of the vowel ‘oo.’” Just as with the diphthong ‘oy,’ phoneticians disagree.”
 
Yikes! Houston, we’ve got a problem. In fact, we have a few. To be picky, it’s not the consonant, “wuh.” All consonants have clipped sounds. When we teach students, we blend /w/ /e/ /s/ /t/ (four sounds), not “wuh” est. Also, the vowel “oo” does not have the /ow/ sound, it has the /oo/ as in rooster or /oo/ as in foot sound.
 
Now the to meat of the matter regarding the w vowel sound. Okay, vegetables for my vegan friends.
 
To say that “…phoneticians disagree that the w is not a vowel, but may indeed be a consonant” is news to me. If so, these phoneticians are certainly making exceptions to our cherished rules. In fact, they have now added a new sound-spelling for the /ow/ sound: the _o or o_ as in /c/ /o/ /w/. They also have violated our CVC syllable rule, because their new /o/ is certainly not a short vowel sound.
 
Furthermore, Grammar Girls offers this solution to the problem of identifying a w as a vowel at the end of the diphthong: “So my recommendation is just to say that the combination O-W represents the diphthong “ow,” and stop there, just like we did for the O-Y and the diphthong ‘oy.’”
 
This solution seems an “easy out” to the argument as to whether or not the w can serve as a vowel, but in the real world of teaching students to read, this solution is counterproductive.
 
Somehow, Grammar Girl took us back to letters, not sounds, for vowels. Grammar Girl recommends saying, “The O-W represents the dipthong ‘ow’ …the O-Y… the diphthong ‘oy.'” No. We’ve already established that vowels are sounds and that the diphthong /ow/ has two distinct sounds. It really does matter that the w is a vowel.
 
Practically speaking, beginning readers, remedial readers, students with auditory processing challenges, and ESL, EL, and ELD students need to learn not only the a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y monophthongs, but also the diphthongs as well. Again, a vowel sound may actually have two sounds and students have to practice their mouth formations, sounds, and the sound-spelling options.
 
When students read cow, we want to hear three separate sounds: one consonant /c/ and two vowel sounds distinctly pronounced as /ow/. Without all the mumbo-jumbo, we teach students that cow has two vowel sounds spelled as a vowel team.
 
Now that we’ve saved the w as a vowel sound, let’s stir stir up the pot a bit more. Other letters (in addition to our cherished w) may also serve as vowels. Examples: h and y as in rhy/thm, l as in bu/gle, r as in mur/der, ar/mor, mir/ror, m as in bottom, and n as in mutton.
Linda Farrell has a nice article on the difference between digraphs and diphthongs with plenty of examples HERE.
 *****

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the Teaching Reading Strategies intervention program and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

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How to Use Running Records with Decodable Text

Running Records with Decodables

Running Records with Decodable Text

Running records provide an effective means of reading assessment. Using running records helps teachers determine the strengths and challenges of individual readers. From these periodic  observations of the reading process, teachers can make informed choices as to how to help students improve their reading. Running records also help teachers select which books and reading resources will provide optimal instructional and independent reading levels within, as Vigotsky termed, the individual’s zone of proximal development.

The MSV (meaning, structure, and visual) cueing strategies readers use to make meaning of text provide the teacher a window into the complex process of reading. Good readers apply a balance of semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic skills to interact with the author and comprehend narrative and expository text.

Frequently, the visual (or graphophonic) cueing skills require remediation with below grade level readers. The visual cues rely upon auditory cues to map phonemes (the speech sounds) to the orthographic (spelling) rules and patterns. Because learning the sound-spelling system is a complex skill, a multitude of reasons may contribute to phonics deficits, including but not limited to a lack of phonemic

Remediate reading

Catch up and keep up!

awareness, the lack of explicit and systematic phonics instruction in kindergarten-second grade, ear infections, little literacy support at home, school attendance, transiency, poverty, etc. However, the good news is that sound-spelling deficiencies can be effectively remediated to enable students to develop the automaticity necessary to fluently attend to the meaning of the text.

All too often teachers and parents assume that if children are reading and spelling (decoding and encoding) below grade level after the primary grades, these students will be doomed to remedial or vulnerable reader status for the rest of their lives. This is not the case if prescriptive diagnostic assessments determine individual strengths and weaknesses, and caring and informed teachers and parents provided the appropriate assessment-based instruction to address to build on the strengths and teach to the deficiencies. Indeed, students can catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction. Running records can be helpful formative assessments to monitor the effectiveness of interventions and to adjust resources and instruction to best meet the needs of the individual student. Running records can be particularly helpful to monitor phonics and sight words acquisition.

First of all, before we get into the how-to section about using running records, let’s first agree that no one teacher, reading guru, or reading program has cornered the market on what must constitute running records, how to use running records with or without guided reading, and how often teachers should do running records with their students. Running records are simply one helpful instructional tool to improve reading; there are other ways to do so without using running records. Now that these caveats are out of the way, following are a few tips to make the most of running records with your students. Following these tips, I’ll provide a nice running record form that works especially well with decodable text. Of course, the form also works for leveled books. Plus, since our focus in this article is on decodable text, I’ll provide three FREE Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books for you to use with your new running record form. See the end of the article.

How to Use Running Records with Decodable Text

1. Determine which students need decodable text and specific instruction in the alphabetic code. In other words, which of your kids have not yet mastered their phonics? You could certainly use running records for a month or two to determine which sound-spellings each child knows and does not know. However, a diagnostic assessment gets those results quicker and more efficiently. Remember that running records are primarily formative assessments, not diagnostic. I strongly urge teachers to use comprehensive, not random sample, diagnostic assessments. A random sample phonics inventory or spelling inventory which indicates problem areas necessitates further, more refined assessment to pinpoint teachable sound-spellings. Why not give comprehensive, teachable assessments up front to any of your students whom you suspect may need visual (graphophonics) instruction. Good assessments will indicate which levels of decodable books will be appropriate and not appropriate for your individual students. You don’t want to force Johnny to read short vowel books if he only needs help with his diphthongs. Teachers can assign these books and teach individually, or teachers can group students with the same instructional needs and teach them the un-mastered sound-spellings in guided reading groups, perhaps in rotating literacy centers, early-late reading sections, reading intervention pull-outs, etc.

The author recommends two diagnostic placement assessments to place your students in the right decodable texts with the reading resources that will improve your students’ reading in the shortest amount of time: The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment and The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment. Go ahead! Download both of these assessments (each even has an audio file including test directions and the assessment itself to make life easier) to ensure that you are placing your students in the right books.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

Use this comprehensive 52 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of short vowels, long vowels, silent final e, vowel digraphs, vowel diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any vowel sound phonics deficits. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment (10:42) *

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment

Use this comprehensive 50 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of consonant digraphs, beginning consonant blends, and ending consonant blends. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any consonant sound phonics deficits. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment (12:07) *

2. Decide why you want to use running records with decodable texts. If your purpose is to measure progress, assign an unpracticed decodable story which introduces a specific sound-say the /ow/ as in cow sound and complete a running record. After teaching the book or books which focus on the different /ow/ sound-spellings, post-test on the introductory story to measure progress. However, if your purpose is to monitor progress, use practiced decodable stories to determine what has been learned to mastery and what requires still more practice.

3. Decide how often you wish to complete running records and with which students. A few guidelines will be helpful: If a student has severe phonics deficits and is working on short-vowel and consonants/consonant blends mastery, running records should be performed more often than if the student has mastered all short vowels and consonants, consonant blends, long vowels and vowel teams, diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels, but is still working on derivational language sound-spelling patterns, such as the schwa. Keep in mind that assessing with running records is instruction, but you do have other subjects to teach! Once per week for more needy students and once at the end of a phonics collection-say, diphthongs, for less needy students makes sense.

Logistics

4. Where you do running records matters and deserves some planning. Ideally,  a quiet corner of the classroom or a table and chairs outside the classroom, if weather and classroom supervision so permit, make sense. Running records takes concerted concentration for both student and teacher. By the way, assessing with running records is not rocket science. A well-trained instructional aide or parent can be a life-saver in helping you with running records. Of course, you the teacher need to analyze the results and adapt instruction accordingly.

5. Find the decodable texts that will match both your students’ instructional needs and level of maturity. Please don’t use primary stories with primary characters and illustrations for older readers. Yes, these older students may need work on the short vowel /a/, but every effort must be made to provide dignity to struggling readers if we want to keep them motivated to learn and become life-long readers. Additionally, find running records which include the text of the student’s story or scan, paste, and copy the story to a blank running record or form. Ideally, use running record forms which include word counts. I personally don’t believe that a student needs to read the entire story to give the teacher the necessary data for a running record. Most teachers have students read from 150-250 words during a running record reading to ensure an adequate sample size. I use exactly 200 words for each running record in my Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books to avoid word counting and minimize calculations. (KISS) Keep it simple, stupid, always works for me.

6. The teacher writes the student’s name, date, and teacher’s name on the running record form and instructs the student to concentrate on reading the story for meaning. Help the student relax and enjoy the one-on-one time.

7. Say, “Ready, begin.” The student begins to read the story and the teacher uses coded responses to assess the student’s reading performance. Please note that the teacher may choose to use some or all of the marks for different running records.

Key Running Record Marks

  • E = Error
  • SC = Self-Correction
  • M = Meaning (Semantic Miscue)
  • S = Structure (Syntactic Miscue)… sentence structure and grammar issues
  • V = Visual (graphophonic)… phonics, onsets and rimes, and sight word problems

The student reads the story until the 200th word has been read, or teachers can allow the student to finish the story if time permits. At this point the teacher may choose to ask the student to do a re-tell if the entire story has been read or not.

Analysis

8. The teacher uses tally marks in the columns to the right of the story text to tally the errors, self-corrections, and categorize the types of errors (Meaning, Structure, or Visual) and types of self-corrections (Meaning, Structure, or Visual).

  • E Rate = How many errors out of the words read
  • A Rate = Accuracy Rate… Words read, e.g. 200 – (errors ÷ 2) = % of accuracy
  • A Rate is used to adjust reading levels for leveled books
  • SC Rate is the self-corrections + errors % self-corrections to develop a ration of 1: ____
  • Word fluency is the # of words read correctly, including self-corrections, but excluding teacher-prompted words

9. The teacher then determines the error rate, accuracy rate, and self-corrections rate, using the formulae on the running records form. Teachers familiar with running records will especially appreciate the design of the FREE running record provided at the end of the article. Each running records assessment has exactly 200 words. No counting is necessary! The first 200 words of each story constitute the running record. And it’s all on one page!

Reader Observation Remarks

10. Make additional pertinent comments on your running record observations. Because running records affords teachers with such an intimate look at the student’s reading process, it would be a shame to ignore this qualitative data and solely concentrate on the quantitative data. For example, the graphophonic data themselves include both decoding and sight words. Making note of these different error miscues certainly makes sense. The fluency, inflection, attention to punctuation, concentration, posture, eye movement and other factors may be important to note, remediate, and monitor. My running record form includes these components as check boxes to serve as reminders and to save the time it takes to write out comments.

11. Have the student complete a re-tell of the story or section of the story read. Make comments on the students’ knowledge or story structure, sequencing, and comprehension.

12. Ask both recall and inferential questions about the text and make comments on the students’ answers. Stay text-dependent; don’t wander away from the text with application questions on how the story relates to another story or the student’s life. Of course, these are interesting questions and may build comprehension, but the purpose of running records with decodable text is to assess a particular reading and the sound-spelling skills taught in the text. Note that the FREE decodable books at the end of the article each have five embedded comprehension questions, one for each of the SCRIP comprehension strategies (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict).

13. The teacher may write evaluative notes and recommendations for interventions and/or resources in the Comments/Interventions/Resources section at the bottom of the running records form. Remember that assessment without assessment-based instruction is simply paper-pushing. Make use of your running records to refine instruction for each student.

Note that the last step when using running records for leveled readers is to determine whether the level of text is too easy, too hard, or just right for instructional guided reading and/or independent reading. The teacher move students up a level if the student has read at an independent level or down a level if the student has read at a frustration level. However, because  decodable readers are not leveled readers (determined by vocabulary, sentence length, etc.), level re-assessment is not needed.

Good decodable books have a sound-spellings and sight words instructional sequence in which successive books build upon and review the sound-spellings and sight words in the previous books. Each book is a link in the chain which should build a solid reading foundation in the visual (graphophonic) cueing strategy for your students. Many teachers who use guided reading instruction choose to allot two days per week to decodable texts and two days per week to controlled vocabulary leveled books.

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the Teaching Reading Strategies intervention program and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

 

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,