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Heart Word Flash Cards

Call it false advertising, but the title of this article, Heart Word Flash Cards, is misleading. The resource I’m providing is Heart Word Game Cards. A distinction without a difference, you ask? No, quite the contrary is true. I’ll also provide a free Heart Words Assessment toward the end of this article.

Why the Heart Word Game Cards Are Not Heart Word Flash Cards

We’ve learned a considerable amount over the last few decades of reading research about how we learn to read. We’ve also learned just as much about what does not work and why.

We do know that the more we focus our reading instruction on mapping the phonemes (speech sounds) to their graphemes (spellings), the better for all beginning and older, struggling readers. However, we also know that memorizing whole words does not provide readers with the transferrable mental skill set that is needed to apply to unknown words. Our alphabetic code provides the means to make that transfer. In other words, phonics.

The Heart Word Game Cards, when used properly, can provide an important assist to an explicit, systematic, synthetic approach to phonics instruction.

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. 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.”

Far from being phonetically irregular words, Heart Words are largely regular in their sound-spellings with usually only one irregular part.
Noted reading researcher, David Kilpatrick (2015), comments that “the vast majority of irregular words have only a single irregular letter-sound relationship.”

For example, students might be taught that the Heart Word, into, is “not all irregular.” In other words, the short /i/ “i” follows the rules, as does the /n/ “n” and /t/ “t”; it’s only the long /oo/, as in rooster, “o” that does not. The long /oo/ “o” is  “the part to learn by heart” in the word, into.  https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/should-we-teach-high-frequency-words/  

Students need to learn that that most of the sound-spellings in Heart Words have perfectly regular sound-spellings. Reinforcing that which we know works, i.e. decoding, builds confidence in readers.
Noted reading researcher, David Kilpatrick (2015), comments that “the vast majority of irregular words have only a single irregular letter-sound relationship.”
Teaching students that following a rule and adjusting to exceptions is sound advice in academics and in life. For example, stopping at a stop sign is a rule; however, when a police officer tells you not to stop, that is an exception. Using my Heart Word Game Cards as flashcards would ignore the rules and treat every word as an exception.
Now, although we don’t want to emphasize whole word memorization, we don’t want to build automaticity. We want the word, into, to become a word that is processed by sight. We don’t want readers to sound out every component of every word forever. Phonics is a means to an end, not the end itself. Teachers may wish to read my related article, “How to Teach Heart Words” to learn how proper Heart Words instruction can help students map words to their orthographic memory as sight words. In orthographic mapping, students are wiring the brain to remember all of the sound-spellings of a word in order as a unified whole. Using the Heart Word Game Cards can help build this orthographic memory if used as I will describe.

Heart Word Flash CardsHow to Use the Heart Word Game Cards

The Heart Word Game Cards consist of 108 Heart Words. As the picture to the left indicates, each card features “the part to learn by heart” in red. Next, a rhyme with all regular sound-spellings is provided to assist pronunciation (some words have no rhymes). The regular sound-spellings of these rhymes reinforce the code and show students how the “part to learn by heart” should be pronounced. At the bottom of each card a sentence, using the Heart Word, is provided.

I suggest teaching the Heart Words in the context of other focus sound-spellings in a coherent instructional scope and sequence, rather than relying on parents to “drill and kill” their children with the whole list at once. However, we teachers all know how much parents love lists. Parents may be unwilling to read with their child, but they will get word lists or multiplication cards memorized:) 

However, once the Heart Words have been introduced and practiced in the context of the teacher’s instructional scope and sequence, or if the parent demands for the word list cannot be delayed any longer, I suggest administering a Heart Words Assessment to weed out the words already known and to concentrate on those not-yet-mastered. Parents can certainly administer this assessment. It tests word recognition (multiple choice with an audio file) and works especially well if students are instructed to identify the “parts to know by heart” by drawing hearts over the non-phonetic sound-spellings. With the results of this assessment, students practice what they do not yet know, not what they already do know.

Heart Word Card Games

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!

Circle the Spellings

Students select unknown Heart Word Game Cards from their Heart Word Assessment and circle the non-phonetic spellings in pencil. The teacher checks and students correct if necessary. Then students use a crayon or colored pencil to shade in the non-phonetic spelling.

Match the Sound

The teacher writes a phonetically-regular word and highlights a vowel sound-spelling. Students draw cards from the Heart Word Game Cards to match the vowel sound.

Sort the Hearts

Sort unknown Heart Word Game Cards from the Heart Word Assessment by their vowel sound-spellings.

Write on the Cards

The object of this game is to help students understand why each Heart Word breaks one or more of the phonics rules. Identifying why the Heart Words have irregular parts helps students focus on the code-breaking portion of the word. To identify the troublesome letters, students draw hearts over the irregular sound-spellings on the cards and write how the Heart Word should be spelled, according to the spellings on the Animal Cards, below the word rhymes on the cards. For example, the Heart Word, should, has a short /u/ sound and a silent “l.” The word should be spelled “shud” or “shood.”

Note: I provide more Heart Word Card Games in my two reading intervention programs. The Heart Word cards combine with short vowel, long vowel, diphthongs, r-controlled, and consonant blend cards. Plenty of other spelling and vocabulary cards, as well.

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Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

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

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Reading Readiness

Big topic for a small article. With big topics, such as world peace, global warming, or the problem of evil, authors usually find it expedient to narrow things down a bit. Not so with reading readiness. With few exceptions, the following big picture advice applies equally to teachers of four-year-olds, fourteen-year-olds, and forty-year-olds. Of course, there are differences that need to be considered for each age group. Preschool/kinder/first grade teachers, intermediate and middle school reading intervention (RtI) teachers, and adult education teachers know how to teach to their clients’ developmental learning characteristics. Similarly, English-language development teachers and special education teachers know their student populations and are adept at how to differentiate instruction accordingly. But, my point is that the what of reading readiness instruction is much the same across the age and experience spectrum.

So in keeping with this big picture advice, let’s begin with a definition of reading. More specifically, what is reading and what is not reading.

What is Reading

Reading is making and discovering meaning from text. It involves both process skills and content. It is both caught and taught.

What is Not Reading

Reading is not just pronouncing (decoding) words.

Reading is not just recognizing a bunch of words and their meanings (memorizing and applying sight words).

Reading is not just content.

Reading is not just applying the reader’s understanding of content by means of prior knowledge and life experience.

Reading is not just a set of skills or strategies.

How Reading is Caught

Plenty of studies demonstrate a positive correlation between skilled readers and their literate home environments. However, because it would be impossible to isolate, we will never be able to determine precisely which features of a literate environment positively impact reading and which do not. From my own experience as a reading specialist and parent of three boys, I offer these observations:

Reading to and with your child or student certainly makes a difference. Yes, reading pattern books, picture books, and controlled-vocabulary books are advisable. But having your child or student read to you (and others) is more important than you reading to them. Apologies to the read-aloud-crowd, but the goal is not to build dependent listening comprehension. The goal is to build independent readers with excellent silent reading comprehension. By the way, although it is nice for children, adolescents, and adults to have warm and fuzzy feelings about reading, it is certainly not necessary. All three of my boys hated reading and being read to at points, but my wife and I still required plenty of reading. All three are now avid and skilled adult readers.

Modeling reading as a reading readiness strategy is highly overrated. Having your child see you read and discuss text will be a by-product of a literate environment. Reading a newspaper in front of your child will not create an “ah-ha” connection in your child that will turn that child into a life-long reader. Similarly, having a teacher read silently for thirty minutes in front of a group of students doing Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) or Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) will not improve student reading. The students would be better served if the teacher spent that time refining lesson plans or grading student essays. Or more importantly, shouldn’t students be doing the bulk of independent reading at home? Charles Barkley was right to this extent: Role models are overrated for some things in life, and reading is one of them.

Turning off the television is not a good idea. There is no doubt that we gain vocabulary, an understanding of proper and varied syntax, and important content by watching the tube. Now, of course, a Rick Steeves travel show or the nightly news does a better job at oral language development than does Sponge Bob, but silence teaches nothing.

Talking with your child or students is a huge plus in reading development. A ten-minute conversation exposes children and students to far more vocabulary and content than does a video game. Of course, reading is the best vocabulary development, but we are talking about reading readiness here.

Word play, such as nursery rhymes, verbal problem-solving games (Twenty Questions, Mad Libs®, I See Something You Don’t See), board games, puzzles, jokes, storytelling, and the like teach phonological awareness, print concepts, and important content.

How Reading is Taught

Preschool (home or away), but preferably with other children and a trained teacher, has no easy substitute. A tiered approach to reading intervention, based upon effective diagnostic data is essential for struggling pre-teen or adolescent readers. The social nature, structure, and accountability of a reading class for adult learners has a much higher degree of success than does independent learning or tutoring.

Phonological (Phonemic) awareness must be taught, if not caught. In my experience, most struggling readers do not have these skills. Effective assessment and teaching strategies can address these deficits and even jump-start success. The mythical notion that reading is developmental or that a child has to be cognitively or social ready to read has no research base. The earlier exposure to sounds and mapping sounds to print, the better. Children simply cannot learn to read too early.

Don’t teach according to learning styles and beware of bizarre reading therapies. There just is no conclusive evidence that adjusting instruction to how students are perceived to learn best impacts learning. Focus the instruction of what readers need to learn, less so on the how. 80% of reading process and content is stored as meaning-based memories, not in the visual or auditory modalities.

Teach according to diagnostic and formative data. Build upon strengths, but especially target weaknesses. Even beginning reader four-year-olds can benefit from effective assessment.

Teach a balance of reading approaches. Certainly sound-spelling correspondences (synthetic phonics with continuous blending), explicit spelling strategies (encoding), sight syllables, rimes, outlaw words (irregular sight words) are time and experience-tested. Despite what some will say, learning sight words will not adversely affect a reader’s reliance upon applying the alphabetic code. Work on repeated readings, inflection, and fluidity to develop reading fluency. Teach comprehension strategies and help your child or students practice both literal and inferential monitoring of text, even before they are reading independently.

Take a close, hard look at expensive reading intervention programs such as READ 180 Next Generation and Language!® Live. These expensive programs promise the moon but what reading intervention students need most is solid assessment-based reading resources. Playing video games and creating cool avatars does not trump good old-fashioned assessment-based reading instruction. Check out Comparing READ 180 and Language! Live for a biased comparison of these programs to the author’s own Teaching Reading Strategies.

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Pennington Publishing provides two reading intervention program options for ages eight–adult. The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is a full-year, 55 minutes per day program which includes both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). The word recognition components feature the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spelling Independent Practice 4. Heart Words Independent Practice 5. The Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables 1ith comprehension and word fluency practice for older readers. The program also includes sound boxes and personal sound walls for weekly review.  The language comprehension components feature comprehensive vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and syntax, syllabication, reading strategies, and game card lessons, worksheets, and activities. Word Recognition × Language Comprehension = Skillful Reading: The Simple View of Reading and the National Reading Panel Big 5.

If you only have time for a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) program, the The Science of Reading Intervention Program features the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, plus the sound boxes and personal word walls for an effective word recognition program.

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