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Session Six

by Cathy Angel on 04/16/20

My first-grade grandson is gaining many new skills! He has learned a lot about Closed, Open, Magic E, Bossy R, and Vowel Teams Syllables. He zips through the nine words on the Tic-Tac-Toe board and enjoys spelling hard words when he is playing football or baseball. The part that he still dislikes is reading the book! He is reading every story in the Frog and Toad anthology. The repetition of names and easy vocabulary is perfect for him right now. The trouble has been the length of time it takes him to read a short chapter! Up until now, he had been reading only one-half of the chapter. Being intent on increasing his fluency, I felt impelled to try for more. On Monday, we read a whole chapter. It was brutal! It took him 21 minutes. The problem was not with his ability to read, but keeping his eyes on the book! I was beginning to wonder if I had pushed him to frustration instead of just challenging him. We graphed the number of minutes it took him to read the chapter. It was the bottom square on the graph. I decided to give it one more day.

We had a breakthrough! My daughter found a "Magic Reading Bookmark!" It is the kind that has a transparent color in the middle. He had to keep his eyes on the page to keep moving the bookmark along. It was just enough to help him focus! He went from a 21-minute read to a 13-minute read! You should have seen his smile when I shared my screen and colored that graph almost 3/4 of the way to the top!

He asked if I would show the graph to his cousin that afternoon. I did and relayed his cousin's excitement today. So, guess how fast he read today? It only took him 12 minutes and 29 seconds! Hallelujah! He was not opposed to reading today at all. He was very excited!

Profound Thought #14 Sometimes even a bookmark can make a difference! Profound Thought #15 Seeing your progress visually can really be a motivator--especially if your cousin gets to see it, too!

Session Five

by Cathy Angel on 04/13/20

Session # 5:

As I continue to work with my reluctant readers, it is evident to me they both have many of the necessary skills, but for some reason, they are both unwilling to practice these skills independently!  I see some attention issues with both boys, as well as a lack of desire.  This is pretty typical for active boys!  I have also noticed when either one of them makes a mistake there will be some sort of “shut down”.  Did I mention that they are both competitive?  So, how do we deal with that? 

It is impossible to help a child grow without challenging them.  When we challenge them, they will make mistakes!  How do you avoid the ‘shut down syndrome’?  This question uncovers a deep concept that master teachers must be aware of! 

Profound Thought # 12 There is a fine line between challenging and frustrating students.  Excellent teachers challenge but do not frustrate. 

Some children are so motivated to learn and excel they are not easily discouraged by incorrect answers.  This would be my two granddaughters.  If they make a mistake, they are fine with just trying again.  They have good self-concepts in the realm of reading and can bounce back after an error.  My boys do not have the same mindset.  For them, a mistake is devastating!  It might mean we accomplish nothing else for that lesson!  Whoa!   

I have solved this problem in both the football and baseball spelling games that we play!  First of all, by linking the spelling to a sport, motivation is provided!  Second, within the sports of baseball and football, there is no one-and-done situation!  You get three tries, strikes, in baseball, and four tries, downs, in football.  This small adjustment to the game has allowed the boys to adopt more of a growth mindset.  It is no longer overwhelming when they misspell a word!  It is just “Strike 1” or ‘Second Down”. I provide helpful feedback by reading the incorrect word exactly as they spell it.  If necessary, I will give another clue.  Both boys seem fine with it and try again.  Hallelujah!

Profound Thought # 13  Use students' mistakes to teach basic concepts! Most of the time, my boys are pretty sure they have spelled their word correctly. I am quite certain to hold their attention when I read the word the way they spelled it.  This eliminates me having to tell them they spelled the word wrong.  I can infuse more intense learning by having them spell four or five carefully chosen words, than talking for ten minutes about rules or concepts!  Providing correction at the moment they write it, provides immediate feedback, authentic learning, and direct application!  These are all important characteristics of a great lesson!

More another day! 

Session Four

by Cathy Angel on 04/10/20

Profound Thought Number 9:  Put a timer on it!  If you have competitive boys, they can’t resist trying to beat their own time.  My kindergarten student’s teacher would like his sight words automatic. So, we do them once each day and time how long it takes.  Typically, it takes less than three minutes.  Considering how many times he will read these in print, I’m fine with spending three minutes per session to acquire automaticity! Without a timer, this activity could take 5 minutes or more—depending on his attention. 

Profound Thought Number 10:  Research about ‘sight words’ The Fry Sight Words list is a more modern list of words than the Dolch list, and was extended to capture the most common 1,000 words. Dr. Edward Fry developed this expanded list in the 1950s and updated it in 1980. It is based on the most common words to appear in reading materials used in Grades 3-9. Learning all 1,000 words in the Fry list would equip a child to read about 90% of the words in a typical book, newspaper, or website.

According to Fry's research, completed in 1996, the first 25 words make up about 1/3 of all items published. The first 100 words make up about 1/2 of all the words found in publications. The first 300 words make up about 2/3 of all written materials. Can you see how making these automatic will go a long way to helping a struggling reader become fluent?

Our Level A and Level B Outlaw words in our Dictation Sentences include all of the non-decodable words in Frey’s 1st 100 list.  Many words like; when, then, them and than, which are not included in our lists, are decodable if you know the digraphs ‘th’ and ‘wh’. We do not believe in having decodable words be part of our Outlaw Words because they can be decoded instead of memorized. 

Although we do spend 2 – 3 minutes reviewing the pack of Outlaw Word cards, I also have students read orally to me so we can practice fluency.  

Profound Thought Number 11:  Did you know a dyslexic child will make many mistakes on easy sight words and do fairly well decoding harder words?

More another day! 

Session Three

by Cathy Angel on 04/07/20

Session 3:

So far, I have addressed the Tic-Tac-Toe game that we have been playing every lesson.  The boys both love this game because it is quick, and they can beat me! They are so successful that the score is usually 8 to 0!  That is a great thing for competitive boys!   Today I am going to talk about the WRITING that must be included in every lesson!  At first, I was just using the Making Reading Heavenly Spelling program and we were writing six words per day.  That worked, and the boys actually liked the writing part better than reading in their books.  However, I decided to put a little more motivation into our lessons, and it has lessened the number of times I have heard, “Are we done, yet?”

The writing is disguised by calling it Baseball.  I have drawn a Diamond on a 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet which I slipped into the small magnetic whiteboard.  I use a round magnet as the ball.  My grandson needs to tell me who is up to bat.  Then, I ask if he wants the batter to hit a single (a two-letter word), a double (a three-letter word), a triple (a four-letter word) or a home run. What would you guess the boys always choose to have their runner hit? I rather underestimated their competitiveness!  I sincerely thought they would select all singles, which on one bad day, my kindergarten boy did do.  However, when he realized it took a lot more words, he went straight to the home run!  My first-grader ALWAYS selects HOME RUN!  This is an amazing opportunity! 

Profound Thought Number 8: No matter how hard you try you can never tell someone they are smart!  They must prove it to themselves.  If you are a first-grade student and you can spell fantastic, it goes a long way toward convincing you that you are smarter than you thought!  Especially when you show it to mom and dad and their response is one of amazement! 

The thing most teachers don’t realize is that fantastic is not any harder to spell than three three-letter words. fan, tas, tic.  Some more sophisticated students might struggle with the final syllable trying to spell it tick, but your reluctant reader will usually spell it with either a ‘c’ or a ‘k’, but not both.  To help provide more success, I might add this prompt: “There is no ‘k’ in this word.”  So, it is a win-win!  They don’t freak out when you give them huge words, because they have asked for them!  I also only give them words that contain syllable types we have worked on.  The success level is super high.  The other great thing about baseball is that the batter gets three strikes.  Although I encourage them to touch the sounds before they show the word to me, typically they do not.  If they write the word incorrectly, I simply read the word as they have spelled it and say Strike 1!  We might have a bit of a discussion, and then they try again.  It has eliminated the defeated ego when missing it the first time, because, after all, it was only Strike 1!

We are making great progress in so many areas!  More another day!!

Session Two

by Cathy Angel on 04/06/20

Profound Thought Number 4:  When beginning or struggling students are first learning the Six Types of Syllables, they do need an introduction to the rules of that syllable type, but a long session is probably not very helpful.

Making Reading Heavenly’s Big Clue posters give only the essentials about what they need to know about each syllable type.  Many of the current reading programs do present this information adequately in some format.  The downfall of the majority of phonics programs is the lack of continuous review of the essential pieces of the rules that have been introduced.  By playing Tic Tac Toe each day with my boys, I can review the rules, simply by giving them clues for sounding out the words.  My word choice for the Tic Tac Toe game determines if their “rule knowledge” will turn into application!  For example, my first grader has learned Closed, Open, Magic E, Vowel Teams, and Bossy R syllable.  I would say his knowledge of them right now is quite shallow.  However, what I say to help him decode words containing these syllable types will turn rules he can ‘parrot’ back to me into helpful processes.  Here are the words from his Tic-Tac-Toe today. If he reads the word correctly, he gets an X

                       burn•            light•          card•

                  soap•           mule           crack

                   si•lo         de•mand        fund•

There are eight chances for Tic-Tac-Toes when he reads the nine words.   First, he selects a word; “Top row, middle word.”  Next, I will underline the piece that he needs to focus on.  In the word light.  I underlined the igh.  I said, “This is a vowel team.  You have seen this in other words you know.”  Immediately, he was able to read the word.  Do you see how I am stating the syllable type as well as giving him something that is helpful for him to successfully read the word?

Profound Thought Number 5:  Reluctant/beginning readers are not able to pick out the word parts/patterns they could recognize from other words.  By pointing out the igh, he was able to see that pattern and could easily read the word! 

I have underlined each of the clues I provided in the rest of the grid.  In burn and card, we talked about Bossy R and the sounds they make.  For burn, I just mentioned the three main Bossy R sounds are spelled with er, ir, and ur.   For soap, we talked about Vowel Teams and how many times this chant will work:  When two vowels go walking then the first one does the talking and he says his alphabet name.  For the word mule, there was only one dot, so he knew it is one syllable.  “What syllable type has two vowels, but always ends in an 'e'?”  Magic E!  “And we know the vowel in a Magic E syllable always says the alphabet name!”  The word crack contains -ck. The rule for this spelling type is “The ‘c’ doesn’t say a sound of its own but tells you “There’s a short vowel in front of me!”  Silo is a great example of two open syllables.  Demand is the hardest word on the board.  I was not surprised that he waited until the end to select it.  It is an open syllable and a closed syllable.  "Open syllables always say their ‘alphabet’ name." Once I underlined and, it was easy for him to read the second syllable.  Fund is a closed syllable word that he was not familiar with but using his rule knowledge that ‘nd’ slams the door making the vowel say the short sound, he could read it easily. 

Look at the vast learning he got just by decoding these nine words!!! 

Profound Thought Number 6: Quality trumps quantity with reluctant readers!

Profound Thought Number 7: Using words students aren’t familiar with when practicing decoding builds vocabulary!  It is like a two for one deal!