29.12.16

Planning for Play: March - April - May

Making time for play in Kindergarten is important... even in the 21st Century! 

Grab my exclusive and FREE Yearlong Plan for Structured Play and follow along as we discuss themes for March, April, and May. 



Overview:
March is all about the Arts at my school. All students in the school are encouraged to create something involving one area of art (music, visual arts, drama, dance, and media art) to share with their class. Then, each class chooses a performance for a special school showcase assembly. This is a wonderful time for students to expressive themselves creatively and share their special talents.
My favorite TpT resource for March:

April is at the height of spring time and new beginnings. We often study animals during literacy and science time which makes it the perfect month for a Vet's Office! Students are able to develop and solve problems, show care for animals, and role play.
My favorite TpT resource for April:

May is my favorite month for play because it's the culmination of my yearlong plan! Through opening their own Pizza Parlor, students are invited to plan their play, collaborate, create, and execute their plan with organization, communication, and imaginative interaction.
My favorite TpT resource for May:


BE SURE TO CHECK OUT PLANS FOR EVERY MONTH OF THE YEAR!

February - Writing: Post Office

Planning for Play: December - January - February

Making time for play in Kindergarten is important... even in the 21st Century! 

Grab my exclusive and FREE Yearlong Plan for Structured Play and follow along as we discuss themes for December, January, and February. 



Overview:
December is a wild and crazy time of year as students anticipate the holiday season. So, why not tap into their imaginations and incorporate engineering and science? With the gingerbread engineering theme students  can collaborate, create, and problem solve while having lots of holiday fun!
My favorite TpT resource for December:


January often brings cold weather and indoor recess. This is a great time to build on the engineering theme from December and incorporate force and motion concepts using marble runs, ramps and balls, and vehicles. Students learn about the effects of force and motion through exploration and experimenting.
My favorite resources for January:
February is a time when we tend to think about relationships and letting our loved ones know how much they are loved. In spite of major advancements in modern technology, written communication remains a skill all students need to develop. With the theme Post Office students are encouraged to write, communication, and nurture relationships.
My favorite TpT resources for February:


BE SURE TO CHECK OUT PLANS FOR EVERY MONTH OF THE YEAR!


Planning for Play: September - October - November

Making time for play in Kindergarten is important... even in the 21st Century! 


Grab my exclusive and FREE Yearlong Plan for Structured Play and follow along as we discuss themes for September, October, and November. 



Overview:
September is all about providing opportunities for role playing and collaborative play. Using a restaurant theme students are able to plan for play, work together and take on familiar roles.
My favorite TpT resource for September:

October is a time to begin to incorporate important 21st Century skills and appeal to students' need for an audience. Students today watch YouTube, make their own videos, and live their lives providing a step-be-step commentary. Using a news theme gives students the chance to learn about the ins and outs of media and communication and establish what it means to interact with an audience.
My favorite resources for October:

November's travel theme helps students understand the bigger picture and realize there is a big world around them just waiting to be discovered just like the pilgrims and explored just like the Native Americans!
My favorite TpT resources for November:

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT PLANS FOR EVERY MONTH OF THE YEAR!

11.11.16

Planning for Play: Yearlong Overview

Play in the 21st Century Kindergarten classroom shouldn't just be an arbitrary assortment of toys. It needs to be well thought-out and planned, tied to the standards, and must include a wide variety of materials to maintain the engagement of 21st Century Learners. In this video we will explore what it takes to plan structured play for the 21st Century Kindergarten classroom and I will outline my yearlong plan for play.



Play themes in my 21st Century Kindergarten classroom align with academic themes and are meant to enhance learning in all areas by immersing students in real-world situations. Here's a quick glance at the yearlong plan:


Be sure to grab this FREEBIE to see my yearlong plan for these themes that includes standards connections, learning targets, and resources. (Includes blank planning pages that you can edit in PowerPoint!)

Be sure to sign up for email notifications, because this blog series is just beginning! 
Check back each week for detailed posts about every month of the year!



4.11.16

Why is P-L-A-Y a 4-Letter Word? The BIG Picture

What can you remember about Kindergarten (or first grade for those who didn't attend Kindergarten)?
When I think about my Kindergarten experience I'm warmed with memories of playing in the leaves on a fall day, sitting on the carpet listening to my teacher play songs on her guitar, color with fat crayons and writing my name with a fat pencil, heading home after lunch, and lots of playtime.
What will 21st Century Kindergarteners remember about their experience years from now? 
Will they remember taking standardized tests on the computer, learning perfect penmanship after practicing on worksheets, memorizing sight words from long lists, mastering math facts with a pencil and paper, and "Magic School Bus" videos watched from their desks?
As teachers and parents is this how we want our Kinders to remember their very first school experience? For me, I can answer that with a resounding, "NO!"
 (Okay - except maybe the "Magic School Bus" part - I love that show!)
When I first started teaching Kindergarten a few years ago I believed that Kinders in the 21st Century didn't really need playtime with half-dressed baby dolls and a hodgepodge of wooden blocks and that if I were to focus on my standards I would not have time for such frivolities. After a year or so I started to realize that, although my students were learning at pretty high levels, something was missing in my Kindergarten classroom and I found myself asking,
"Why is P-L-A-Y a 4-Letter Word?"




Watch as I discuss how I came to the conclusion that play should NOT be a 4-letter word and should most definitely be included in the daily Kindergarten schedule.








Now that we have established the importance of play I know you are asking, "HOW IN THE WORLD DO I FIT IT IN?"

That's why I'm SO excited to be planning a new series of posts all about how to implement "structured and choreographed" play in the 21st Century Kindergarten Classroom.

Do you already make time for play? What are your favorite play themes? Do you have any questions about how to plan?
Comment below!



21.10.16

Guided Reading: The BIG Picture

I have a love/hate relationship with Guided Reading, how about you? I LOVE working with small groups of students on exactly what they need, I LOVE the hum of a classroom alive with lots of small group work in action, I LOVE using leveled texts to monitor the progress my students are making with reading, and I LOVE the intimacy of talking quietly with just a few students that might otherwise never be heard in the large group setting. BUT... I hate that I feel overwhelmed by the amount of content or skills I think I should address, I hate the days when we are interrupted and my whole system gets derailed, I hate feeling like there's more I should have accomplished, and I hate that my time with small groups is so limited.


So, to "make friends" again with Guided Reading 
I try to take a step back and think about the BIG PICTURE

What do I really hope to accomplish in my small group time?
Well, I want my students to be able to read and write independently at their instructional level and I want that level to move forward.

When I think about that BIG PICTURE goal, I am able to really focus on what's most important and narrow my lessons down to the 3 Most Important Things to Include in a Guided Reading lesson.

Watch as I discuss what I have found to be the most important parts of a Guided Reading lesson.



It's really simple when you think about the BIG PICTURE!
Guided Reading Lessons should include...

Talking by the students
About stories,
About strategies,
About their thinking,
About their writing.
AND About themselves!

Writing by the students
For spelling practice,
For word work,
About stories,
About their learning
About their thinking,
AND About themselves!

Reading by the students
For a purpose,
Independently,
AND on their level...

Every.
Single.
Day.

16.9.16

Slow & Wrong Readers 4 Types of Readers Virtual PD Session 5

Let's talk about the third of the 4 Types of Readers! In this Session we will look at "Slow & Wrong Readers." These readers are behind grade level in both fluency and accuracy. How might we build on those strengths to design their small group reading instruction? Print your FREE note-taking form and watch my video below!


Using a student's Fluency (fast or slow) and Accuracy (right and wrong) rates when reading a grade level passage, it's easy to sort your students into four distinct groups for guided reading instruction. After I learned about this way of sorting students at a wonderful training with the 95% Group, I started thinking about what my instruction might look like for each type of reader. In this Virtual PD video series we will explore the four types of readers, their characteristics, their strengths as readers, and the implications on their instruction.

Before starting this Virtual PD be sure to download and print this FREE Handout for note taking!








Sessions in this series:
5) Slow and Wrong Readers

13.9.16

Fast & Wrong Readers 4 Types of Readers Virtual PD Session 4

Let's talk about the third of the 4 Types of Readers! In this Session we will look at "Fast & Wrong Readers." These readers are benchmark for fluency and below benchmark for accuracy. How might we build on those strengths to design their small group reading instruction? Print your FREE note-taking form and watch my video below!

Using a student's Fluency (fast or slow) and Accuracy (right and wrong) rates when reading a grade level passage, it's easy to sort your students into four distinct groups for guided reading instruction. After I learned about this way of sorting students at a wonderful training with the 95% Group, I started thinking about what my instruction might look like for each type of reader. In this Virtual PD video series we will explore the four types of readers, their characteristics, their strengths as readers, and the implications on their instruction.

Before starting this Virtual PD be sure to download and print this FREE Handout for note taking!








Sessions in this series:
4) Fast and Wrong Readers
5) Slow and Wrong Readers

9.9.16

Slow & Right Readers 4 Types of Readers Virtual PD Session 3

Let's talk about the second of the 4 Types of Readers! In this Session we will look at "Slow & Right Readers." These readers are benchmark for accuracy and below benchmark for fluency. How might we build on those strengths to design their small group reading instruction? Print your FREE note-taking form and watch my video below!

Using a student's Fluency (fast or slow) and Accuracy (right and wrong) rates when reading a grade level passage, it's easy to sort your students into four distinct groups for guided reading instruction. After I learned about this way of sorting students at a wonderful training with the 95% Group, I started thinking about what my instruction might look like for each type of reader. In this Virtual PD video series we will explore the four types of readers, their characteristics, their strengths as readers, and the implications on their instruction.

Before starting this Virtual PD be sure to download and print this FREE Handout for note taking!







Sessions in this series:
3) Slow and Right Readers
4) Fast and Wrong Readers
5) Slow and Wrong Readers

6.9.16

Fast & Right Readers 4 Types of Readers Virtual PD Session 2

It's time to dive in and explore the 4 Types of Readers! In this Session we will look at "Fast & Right Readers." These readers are benchmark for fluency and accuracy. How might we build on those strengths to design their small group reading instruction? Print your FREE note-taking form and watch my video below!




Using a student's Fluency (fast or slow) and Accuracy (right and wrong) rates when reading a grade level passage, it's easy to sort your students into four distinct groups for guided reading instruction. After I learned about this way of sorting students at a wonderful training with the 95% Group, I started thinking about what my instruction might look like for each type of reader. In this Virtual PD video series we will explore the four types of readers, their characteristics, their strengths as readers, and the implications on their instruction.

Before starting this Virtual PD be sure to download and print this FREE Handout for note taking!








Sessions in this series:
2) Fast and Right Readers
3) Slow and Right Readers
4) Fast and Wrong Readers
5) Slow and Wrong Readers

2.9.16

4 Types of Readers Virtual PD Session 1

Are you ready to start guided reading groups, but still feel uncertain as to how to sort your students... even with all that beginning-of-the-year-data? We've all been there!
Using a student's Fluency (fast or slow) and Accuracy (right and wrong) rates when reading a grade level passage, it's easy to sort your students into four distinct groups for guided reading instruction. After I learned about this way of sorting students at a wonderful training with the 95% Group, I started thinking about what my instruction might look like for each type of reader. In this Virtual PD video series we will explore the four types of readers, their characteristics, their strengths as readers, and the implications on their instruction.

Before starting this Virtual PD be sure to download and print this FREE Handout for note taking!





Sessions in this series:
1) 4 Types of Readers Overview


26.8.16

The TRUTH About Reading Assessments

It's that time of year again! It's time to get to know our students and gather all that baseline data so that we can monitor growth, pinpoint struggles, and search for ways to challenge our students. When it comes to reading our assessments can run the gambit from computer based tests, to timed fluency assessments, to paper-pencil tasks. BUT, do these sorts of assessments REALLY tell us how our students read?

Do you want to really KNOW your students as readers?

Would you make time for an assessment for your students that could tell you...

About their fluency,
About their expression and phrasing,
About their problem solving strategies,
Whether they attend to punctuation,
Whether they use picture clues,
How well they know sight words,
How they attack new words,
If they are reading on grade level,
If they read with accuracy,
AND
Their level of confidence about reading in general???


Of course you would! And it's really VERY simple!



WOW! We can learn SO MUCH about our students just by taking the time to listen to them read!
It's worth the time and effort because listening to our students read is the only way to truly assess their reading on an individualized level. Do you make time to listen to your students read?

18.8.16

No More ABC Flashcards!

When I learned about using an Alphabet CHART instead of flashcards at my last reading interventionist training I thought, "This is SO simple and makes SO much sense! Why didn't I think of this?!?" Of course any mind-blowing thing I learn I have to share... I believe we should ALL share ideas and resources... interventionists and classroom teachers are all on the same team. 



Using an Alphabet Chart instead of flashcards for practicing letters fosters lots of pre-reading skills:

  • Concept of Word vs. Letter
  • Tricky Sight Word "the"
  • Left-Right Directionality
  • Top-Bottom Directionality
  • 1:1 Correspondence
  • Tracking
  • Using Picture clues
  • Text-Wrapping
Can ABC flashcards do ALL THAT?!?

Of course, I couldn't share this awesome tidbit 
and leave you empty-handed!
Grab a FREE Alphabet Chart for your students HERE

26.7.16

Is "Calendar Time" a Thing of the Past?

One of my most favorite parts of teaching Kindergarten and first grade is Calendar Time.  It's a wonderful way to start the day with routine, a good time to review math skills, and go over the day's schedule. As a first grade teacher ten years ago, I prided myself on my calendar bulletin board.  It was all-inclusive; covering topics from the days of the week to the changing seasons to classroom jobs and everything in between.  It was expansive; filling an entire bulletin board! Above all, it was cute, color-coordinated and trendy. (Of course!) I loved that board and the time my students and I would spend every morning reviewing concepts, sharing, and prepping for the day ahead.

When I returned to the classroom from an intervention position to teach Kindergarten a few years ago I set up the board of all boards! I bought new date cards, learned new songs, created streamlined flip charts, added Velcro to my money chart, and re-bundled my straws for the tens/ones chart. I was determined to make my Calendar Time awesome! I just KNEW my students would LOVE it as much as I did!

BUT, I was SO disappointed!! 
My students weren't engaged, weren't singing/playing along, and (worst of all) weren't learning! 
I was stumped! What was keeping them from engaging? 
In my few short years out of the classroom had Calendar Time become obsolete?!?

I knew my techniques, activities, routines were good. I consulted other teachers, read books and articles on the topic and came to only one conclusion...
Calendar Time was the SAME, but my students were DIFFERENT
They engaged through technology and the lessons I planned that incorporated my SMART Board were quickly becoming their favorites (and my most successful). I knew there had to be a way to
  bring my beloved Calendar Time into the 21st Century. 
I searched for a program or product that would accomplish what I wanted, but there wasn't much out there. So, I started from scratch and created my first (very primitive) calendar file for the SMART Board. Once I saw how engaged my students were (with the same concepts I was trying to teach using my old-fashioned bulletin board, mind you)... I kicked my creative juices into overdrive, abandoned my bulletin board calendar, and NEVER LOOKED BACK!

I read recently that Calendar Time is a thing of the past and that it is among a list of "Old School" practices that should be stopped... Well, I couldn't disagree more! Since switching to an interactive, SMART Board version I found that my Calendar Time has become even more vital than before! 
My students learn SO MUCH MORE than the days of the week during Calendar Time now...
They learn calendar basics, weather and season characteristics, celebrate birthdays, and cheer every Friday!
They learn basic math skills and cover standards involving counting, base ten concepts, and graphing!
They learn to use technology to demonstrate what they know and interact with new content!
They work as teams to problem solve, use discussion to explain and communicate, encourage each other through collaboration, and develop leadership skills as they take their turn as calendar leader!

Interested in how I used my SMART Board to bring Calendar Time out of the dark ages?
Check out my YouTube Demonstration Video!

Then download my SMART Calendar FREEBIE and try it for yourself! Your Kindergarten and First Grade students will thank you!

Do you teach calendar in your primary classroom? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

22.6.16

I HATE SIGHT WORDS!

There are SOOO many resources "out there" for teaching sight words, SOOO many lists, and SOOO many opinions on the matter that I thought I would add my thoughts to the mix...
And I HATE them!
There. I said it once and for all. I hate sight words. I mean, they break all the rules, they are easily confused, and they are a pain to assess and keep organized! As a teacher I hate feeling like a failure when we go over and over words like "the" and "what" and "said" and many of my Kinders or struggling readers still don't know them.  As a parent I feel pressure to suffer my own children through flashcards and list reviews just to be able to compete with other kids or earn a reward for finishing a set of words. As an interventionist I hate that my hard-working students' reading abilities are judged by the number of words they can call in isolation.

I'll bet you have felt some of those same things, but just didn't say them "out loud." So, if that's the case, then why oh why do we devote so much time and energy into teaching sight words?!?

Or maybe you think I'm crazy and you LOVE sight words?!? 
There are certainly many schools of thought on the matter.

Those who love sight words may believe some of the following:

  • Sight words are not decodable there for the only strategy for reading them is to memorize them.
  • Sight words (or more specifically high frequency words) account for more than 50% of printed material.
  • Knowing sight words with automaticity quickly improves reading rate and fluency.


I concede that these are all very good points and there must be a place for sight word instruction in our literacy curriculum. But, I oppose the notion that sight words must be learned in a rote manner and must be acquired at a mind-boggling pace in Kindergarten and First Grade. So, I present 

5. We are missing the bigger picture! When we emphasize memorization of whole words we tend to neglect the idea that words are made up of smaller sounds (or phonemes).  Young readers need to understand that words are  made of parts and when they know lots of parts they can figure out lots of words (without having to memorize them all).
4. We are unfairly judging our students. There are lots of ways to solve words and memorizing them is only one way.  If we classify, rank, or even reward our students for memorizing lists of words and equate quantity of memorized words to reading ability we are being very unfair. What about all the other ways readers solve words?!? Words can be solved through phonics, context clues, picture cues, and a strong grasp of oral language.
3. We are putting undo pressure on everyone!  The idea that Kindergarten students need to know X-number of sight words just causes stress.  Teachers, parents, and students should not feel stress or pressure to memorize words at a young age. That often just results in a lot of frustration for everyone that, if we really think about it, is unnecessary.
2. We are wasting too much time! It's hard to make time for sight word assessments because they take so long, they have to be completed one-on-one, and there are always a few words that need to be rechecked. We could probably find a much better use of our instructional time if we really stopped and prioritized.
1. We are instilling in our children that they have to "KNOW" all the words.  Nothing makes me more sad than for a struggling reader to tell me, "I can't read that story because I don't know all the words." Kids are perceptive.  When we pull them aside or send them in the hall over and over to review lists upon lists of isolated words... they know when they aren't "getting them" and they begin to believe that that CAN'T read because they haven't memorized the words.  They internalize this idea and think that reading is just memorizing... and they couldn't be more WRONG!

Have you joined me yet? 
Do you hate sight words, too? 
Are you still not convinced?

Either way, I'm issuing a challenge to reading teachers. As you are planning your next bit of literacy instruction replace time spent on sight word flash cards, sight word list reviews, and sight word assessments with... Reading! Beginning readers need to be paired with actual books that are on their level.  Books for early readers are rich in sight words and typically have patterned text.  Through repeated interactions with these texts students will vicariously learn sight words because they will be faced with them often.  But, instead of memorizing them in isolation, students will begin to recognize them in-context while reading and making meaning.  Learning words in this way will result in faster acceleration through reading levels and a more firm grasp of the words as they are encountered in a variety of ways. Students will be much more confident in themselves as a reader because they are learning through the act of reading.  Students will also realize that good reading means solving words using lots of strategies... not just memorizing them all.
After putting a stronger emphasis on and spending more time actually reading and less time memorizing words for awhile... Go ahead... assess your students using a list of sight words and I'll just bet that you will find your students (especially the struggling ones) know more of those pesky words with an even faster recall. Imagine that! *Wink, wink!

Be sure to check out my other posts on how becoming a reading interventionist completely changed my views on reading development and instruction!
    

26.4.16

3 Reasons Phonological Awareness is KEY

As a Kindergarten teacher I knew
Phonological Awareness to be the cornerstone to beginning reading skills.  As an interventionist I have learned WHY that is so.

First - What is phonological awareness?
Phonological Awareness is the understanding that words are made up of sounds and that those sounds can be manipulated (separated, changed, isolated, etc.)  Phonological Awareness IS NOT Phonics.  Phonics is the understanding that those sounds can be associated with printed letters.
An easy way to remember the difference is that Phonological Awareness can be taught in the dark.  It only requires listening for and producing words and sounds. Phonics cannot be learned in the dark because it addresses letters. BUT, Phonics cannot be learned without an understanding of Phonological Awareness. (More on Phonics Later!)
A sub-skill of phonological awareness is Phonemic Awareness. This is the understanding that words are made of a group of individual phonemes (or sounds).
Research shows that students can master Phonemic Awareness skills in about 20 hours of instruction and practice.  It is very important to provide opportunities for practice with each level on the phonological awareness continuum during the primary grades.

Second - Why is Phonological Awareness so important?
Phonemic Awareness in particular has implications not only in reading, but also in writing.  Once a child can articulate each sound in a word, he or she is ready to assign a letter (or letters) to those sounds in order to spell and write (that's where Phonics comes into play). Likewise, students who can segment words better understand how to blend sounds when reading.
For some students hearing the separation between phonemes (sounds) is very difficult. Delays in speech or hearing development can significantly complicate the process and they may need extra practice with the skill of articulation. HOWEVER, firming Phonemic Awareness skills is crucial to success in reading and writing.

Third - How can we teach Phonemic Awareness?
There are many different ways to practice phonemic segmentation with students, but one tried and true way is through the use of Elkonin boxes. To use these boxes students segment and push chips into a box as they say each sound.



I created these Elkonin boxes for my struggling Kindergarteners. After drawing the boxes, I added a pipe cleaner before laminating. The action of "pushing sounds" over the little bump was all it took to help them "feel" the breaks.
Watch as my daughter tries it out!

Here's a few other fun ways to practice phonemic segmentation!
Karate Chop Each Sound
Ride a Roller Coaster and go up/downhill on the middle sounds
Count sounds on fingers
Clap or tap sounds on desk/lap
Use exercises like toe touches or jumping jacks to physically move with each sound.

Phonological Awareness is KEY in literacy development because...
1. It provides students with a basic understanding of how words work before they begin to actually read and write.
2. When they understand that words can be manipulated, students begin to realize that words are made up of individual sounds in a specific order.
3. When students understand that words are made up of individual sounds and then "chunks" of sound they are ready to assign letters to those sounds.  This is writing! (And students are ready to learn to write while simultaneously learning to read! More on that later.)

Now watch as Leah segments and then assigns letters to each sound using her boxes.

ALL young students need practice with phonolgical awareness and it's a skill ALL students can and should master by second grade.
If you are looking for a way to add more practice with literacy skills into your school day and you have a Smart Board, then check out my monthly Literacy Practice files over at TpT!
(Files also sold separately here!)
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/NEW-MEGA-Literacy-Practice-Bundle-for-Kindergarten-1984659


11.4.16

Stop Saying, "Sound it out!"

You heard me correctly!  I said, "STOP telling readers to sound out words!"


When young children are reading aloud to us and come to a word they don't know or are unsure about we (teachers and parents alike) typically have one of two responses. Until my recent training in Reading Recovery (read about that here), I responded in these ways, too. BUT, I never really thought about what I was actually communicating to my students (and my own children) when I reacted in these two ways.


One knee-jerk reaction is to just tell the child the word with which he or she is having trouble. The other response we have is to tell the reader to, "Sound it out," when they come upon a new or difficult word.
 
Let's think about these responses together...
What are we conveying to students when we simply tell them the word with which they are having trouble?
Imagine if you were working to try a new recipe and Bobby Flay (or worse, Gordon Ramsay!) was over your shoulder watching your every move.  Would you be nervous or self conscious?  I would be! Now imagine that every time you stopped to consult the recipe, double check what you had added last, or went to the spice cabinet, Bobby swiftly stepped in and told you exactly what to do. For awhile this might be nice, but what if the next day you needed to make the same dish and Bobby wasn't there?!?  Would you remember what to do?  Would you have the same questions? More importantly, would you BELIEVE that you could recreate the recipe?  Probably not!  After all, Bobby is an expert chef and you are just a novice.

Think about how this applies to helping a young child read...
When we jump in and give words while children are reading we communicate that we are the "expert over their shoulder," and we don't believe they can figure out the word on their own. We provide a safety net that does NOT help to foster reading growth.  From our action children learn that if they stop or even hesitate THE EXPERT (us - not them) will be there to give them all the answers... if we continue this pattern, how can we expect students to EVER learn new words or know what they should do when that safety net is gone?!?


Instead of telling a reader the troublesome word immediately we should...
Wait (at least 3-5 seconds) AND Watch the child...
notice what he or she is trying alone so that you know how to jump in and help.
If the child is hesitant to try the word alone, prompt him or her to TRY something (really anything) such as look at the picture, read past the difficult word then go back, start the sentence again, etc.


BUT DON'T SAY, "Sound it out!"
When we prompt young readers to "sound out words," what are we really communicating to them?
We are essentially saying, "start at the beginning and say the sound each letter makes in order to solve the word." And when we use this phrase repeatedly we are really saying, "you should do this every time you come to a tough word because it is the only thing that works."
WHOA! Hold the phone!
If what we just said is true, then what about words with more complex letter combinations, silent letters, schwa sounds, affixes, and those dreaded SIGHT WORDS (man I really HATE those)?!?!
Research shows that accomplished 2nd grade readers attack words in over 60 different ways and most of the time they DO NOT start at the beginning and sound out words letter by letter.


Instead of telling students to sound out words we should...
Prompt children to use their eyes to search the difficult word for clues.
If the child is hesitant to try on his or her own or is unsuccessful, give specific clues within the word that may help such as digraphs, affixes, beginning sounds, words-within-words, etc.


NEW! Check out this accompanying YouTube video with teacher/student examples!







As we are helping young readers learn we have to remember our hope is they will gain skills so that the next time they read and we aren't there to help them, they will have the confidence and skills to solve new and difficult words ON THEIR OWN!

NOW, the next time you are listening to a young reader take note of your reaction to their struggles... When you are careful with your response what happens? Comment below and let me know - I can't wait to hear about your experiences!