Posts Tagged ‘reading game cards’

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.  

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.


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.


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