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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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FREE Reading, Spelling, Vocabulary, and Grammar Assessments

Diagnostic Reading Assessments

Following are accurate and teachable reading assessments and corresponding recording matrices to help teachers determine what students know and what they do not know. All but one assessment (fluency) are whole class assessments. Each assessment is comprehensive, not a random sample, to enable teachers to teach to the results of each test item. The author’s reading programs provide resources for assessment-based whole class and individualized instruction. Click on the blue links for the assessment resources and check out the author’s programs, which provide the instructional resources to teach to each assessment.

Phonemic Awareness Assessments (Printable Copies) 

Use these five phonemic awareness (syllable awareness, syllable rhyming, phonemic isolation, phonemic blending, phonemic segmenting) and two awareness assessments (upper and lower case identification and application) to determine reading readiness. Each of the seven assessments is administered whole class. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding phonemic awareness and alphabetic awareness activities to remediate all deficits indicated by the assessments.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

(Printable Copy with Links to 10:42 Audio File, Google Forms, and Google Sheets)*

Printable and digital testing options: 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.

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment

(Printable Copy with Links to 12:07 Audio File, Google Forms, and Google Sheets)*

Printable and digital testing options: 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.

Heart Words Assessment (Printable Copy)

Use this 108 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common English words with one or more “parts to learn by heart.” The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies structured literacy intervention program includes small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this 15-minute assessment. The program includes 3,000+ Google slides with two Heart Words in each of the 54 lessons, plus special interactive practice with these tricky words. The program also provides heart Words game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

Rimes Assessment (Printable Copy) 

Use this comprehensive 79 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common English rimes. Memorization and practice of these word families such as ack, eck, ick, ock, and uck can supplement an explicit and systematic phonics program, such as found in the author’s Teaching Reading Strategies structured literacy intervention program to help students orthographically map these key word parts. Experienced reading teachers know that different students respond differently to reading instruction and some remedial students especially benefit from learning onsets (such as consonant blends) and rimes. The program includes small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this 15-minute assessment. The program also provides rimes game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

The Pets Fluency Assessment (Printable Copy) *

The “Pets” expository fluency passage is leveled in a unique pyramid design: the first paragraph is at the first grade (Fleish-Kincaid) reading level; the second paragraph is at the second grade level; the third paragraph is at the third grade level; the fourth paragraph is at the fourth grade level; the fifth paragraph is at the fifth grade level; the sixth paragraph is at the sixth grade level; and the seventh paragraph is at the seventh grade level. Thus, the reader begins practice at an easier level to build confidence and then moves to more difficult academic language. As the student reads the fluency passage, the teacher will be able to note the reading levels at which the student has a high degree of accuracy and automaticity. Automaticity refers to the ability of the reader to read effortlessly without stumbling or sounding-out words. The 383 word passage permits the teacher to assess two-minute reading fluencies (a much better measurement than a one-minute timing).

* Placement Assessments

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RECOMMENDED READING INTERVENTION PROGRAMS APPLYING ASSESSMENT-BASED INSTRUCTION

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 and evidence-based, the program features the 54 Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables for each lesson and designed for older students. The digital and print word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program. Both programs include the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities.

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

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

Following are accurate and teachable spelling assessments and corresponding recording matrices to help teachers determine what students know and what they do not know. Each assessment is comprehensive, not a random sample, to enable teachers to teach to the results of each test item. The author’s spelling programs provide the resources for assessment-based whole class and individualized instruction. Click on the blue links for the assessment resources and check out the author’s programs, which provide the instructional resources to teach to each assessment.

Administer part or all of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (American English Version) test items, according to grade-level criteria.

  • Grade 2: K-1 spelling patterns (#s 1‒41)
  • Grade 3: K-3 spelling patterns (#s 1‒55)
  • Grade 4: K-3 spelling patterns (#s 1‒64)
  • Grade 5: K-4 spelling patterns (#s 1‒82)
  • Grade 6: K-5 spelling patterns (#s 1‒100)
  • Grade 7: K-6 spelling patterns(#s 1‒102)

Administer part or all of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (Canadian English Version) test items, according to grade-level criteria

  • Grade 2: K-1 spelling patterns (#s 1‒41)
  • Grade 3: K-3 spelling patterns (#s 1‒55)
  • Grade 4: K-3 spelling patterns (#s 1‒64)
  • Grade 5: K-4 spelling patterns (#s 1‒82)
  • Grade 6: K-5 spelling patterns (#s 1‒100)
  • Grade 7: K-6 spelling patterns(#s 1‒102)
  • Grade 8: K-7 spelling patterns (#s 1‒106)

The test items are grouped by spelling patterns e.g., the four long /i/ spellings, to make posttest analysis simple. All spelling words are multi-syllabic to prevent students from identifying the words by “sight spellings” and to require recognition of the sound-spelling patterns within the context of syllables.

Assessment Formats

Choose the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment format which best suits your needs:

1. Printable Only: Teacher dictates the number of test items assigned to the grade levels, following the written administrative protocol. Students take the test on binder paper. Teacher corrects assessments according to directions and records spelling deficits on the Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix.

American English Resources: Diagnostic Spelling Assessment teacher administration form; Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix.

Canadian English Resources: Diagnostic Spelling Assessment teacher administration form; Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix.

2. Audio and Printable: Teacher plays the “normal speed” Diagnostic Spelling Assessment audio file for grades 4, 5, and 6 students or the “quick version” Diagnostic Spelling Assessment audio file for grades 7 and 8 students. The audio file includes all administrative directions. Students take the test on binder paper. Teacher corrects assessments according to directions and records spelling deficits on the Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix.

American English Resources: Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with the “normal speed” 22:38 audio file; Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with the “quick version 17:26 audio file; Spelling Patterns Assessment Matrix.

Canadian English Resources: Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with the “normal speed” 21:12 audio file; Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with the “quick version 18:53 audio file; Spelling Patterns Assessment Matrix. Audio files recorded by a Toronto teacher. Thanks!

3. Google Forms: Teacher shares either the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Google Form with the “normal speed” for grades 4, 5, and 6 students or the form with the “quick version” for grades 7 and 8 students. Note that incorrect spellings with be accompanied by the Google red squiggly line indicating a spelling error. Students may be tempted to right click the word and select the correct spelling; however, if the teacher tells the students the purpose of the test and directs them not to self-correct, students will generally follow instructions. Telling students that they will receive the same amount of credit whether the spelling is accurate or not, and using the “quick version” audio also helps students avoid the temptation of cheating. Teacher uploads the students’ Google Forms into the Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix Google Sheets.

American English Resources: Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Google Forms with the “normal speed” 22:38 audio file for grades 4, 5, and 6 students or the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Google Forms with the “quick version: 17:26 audio file for grades 7 and 8 students; Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix Google Sheets.

Canadian English Resources: Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Google Forms with the 21:10 “normal speed” audio file for grades 4, 5, and 6 students or the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Google Forms with the 18:53 “quick version” audio file for grades 7 and 8 students; Spelling Patterns Assessment Mastery Matrix Google Sheets.

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RECOMMENDED SPELLING PROGRAMS APPLYING ASSESSMENT-BASED INSTRUCTION

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 American English Programs

Canadian English Programs

Vocabulary Assessments | Academic Language Tier 2 Words

Following are free diagnostic academic language assessments in self-correcting Google forms to help teachers determine what students know and what they do not know regarding the grade level Tier 2 words. The Tier 2 vocabulary has been derived from the research-based Academic Word List (AWL).  The author’s grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits provide the corresponding instructional resources to teach the grade level Common Core Vocabulary Standards L. 4, 5, 6.

The Academic Word List has been ordered into grade level lists by frequency of use. Each grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Academic Language Assessment includes 56 Tier 2 words. The Tier 2 words are the academic language words that are most-often generalizable across the academic domains. For example, the word analyze is used in English-language arts, social science, history, science, math, and the arts.

Academic Word List Criteria

Dr. Averil Coxhead, senior lecturer at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies developed and evaluated The Academic Word List (AWL) for her MA thesis. The list has 570 word families which were selected according to certain criteria:

  • The word families must occur in over half of the 28 academic subject areas. “Just over 94% of the words in the AWL occur in 20 or more subject areas. This principle ensures that the words in the AWL are useful for all learners, no matter what their area of study or what combination of subjects they take at tertiary level.”
  • “The AWL families had to occur over 100 times in the 3,500,000 word Academic Corpus in order to be considered for inclusion in the list. This principle ensures that the words will be met a reasonable number of times in academic texts.” The academic corpus refers to a computer-generated list of most-frequently occurring academic words.
  • “The AWL families had to occur a minimum of 10 times in each faculty of the Academic Corpus to be considered for inclusion in the list. This principle ensures that the vocabulary is useful for all learners.”

Words Excluded From the Academic Word List

  • “Words occurring in the first 2,000 words of English.”
  • “Narrow range words. Words which occurred in fewer than 4 faculty sections of the Academic Corpus or which occurred in fewer than 15 of the 28 subject areas of the Academic Corpus were excluded because they had narrow range. Technical or specialist words often have narrow range and were excluded on this basis.”
  • “Proper nouns. The names of places, people, countries, for example, New Zealand, Jim Bolger and Wellington were excluded from the list.”
  • “Latin forms. Some of the most common Latin forms in the Academic Corpus were et al, etc, ie, and ibid.” http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist/information

ACADEMIC LANGUAGE ASSESSMENTS (Self-Correcting Google Forms)

Grade 4 Academic Language Assessment

Grade 5 Academic Language Assessment

Grade 6 Academic Language Assessment

Grade 7 Academic Language Assessment

Grade 8 Academic Language Assessment

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RECOMMENDED VOCABULARY PROGRAMS APPLYING ASSESSMENT-BASED INSTRUCTION

The Common Core State Standards emphasize a balanced approach to vocabulary development. Each of the grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits include fillable 56 worksheets, along with vocabulary study guides, and biweekly unit tests in self-correcting Google forms to help your students collaboratively practice and master these Common Core 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)

Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments

Following are accurate and teachable diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics assessments and corresponding recording matrices to help teachers determine what students know and what they do not know. Each assessment is comprehensive, not a random sample, to enable teachers to teach to the results of each test item. The author’s grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and high school grammar, usage, and mechanics programs provide the corresponding resources for assessment-based whole class and individualized instruction.

Diagnostic Grammar and Usage Assessment with Recording Matrix (Printable Copy) 

Use this 45 item assessment to determine student’s knowledge of parts of speech, subjects and predicates, types of sentences, fragments and run-ons, pronoun usage, modifiers, verb tenses and verb forms.

Mechanics Assessment (Printable Copy) 

Use this 32 item assessment to test students’ ability to apply correct usage of commas, capitalization, and all other essential punctuation.

Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessment (Google Apps)

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RECOMMENDED GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS PROGRAMS APPLYING ASSESSMENT-BASED INSTRUCTION

Choose among three instructional formats:

1. The traditional grade-level programs (with printables and Google apps) Teaching Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and High School

2. Interactive Notebook for grades 4-8 Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

3. Literacy Centers: Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center Extensive Program Samples

Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center Extensive Program Samples

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Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , ,