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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!

Day One: Lessons with Reluctant Readers

by Cathy Angel on 04/03/20

This unprecedented time has gifted me with a unique, powerful opportunity. As many of you know, much of my life has been dedicated to reading instruction. My passion during the last twenty years has been focused on beginning and struggling readers. My newest endeavor of providing daily, half-hour reading sessions with each of our four youngest grandchildren has focused this passion. If you have been a teacher or parent of young children, you may guess that the two girls, ages four and six, are extremely excited about these daily sessions. The two boys, ages six and seven, do not share the same desire to become great readers! I am quite sure they love their grandmother, and that is probably why they are ‘putting up with’ these daily lessons. When something becomes personalized, there is more power in the experience!

In the next few weeks, I hope to post what I am learning from my ‘boys’. Hopefully, this will enable you to become better teachers as well. Although I have their attention most of the time, approximately two-to-three times during each half-hour session I hear this comment, “Are we done, yet?” Although this tends to pierce my heart, it has given me a new appreciation of the limitations of these thirty minutes. I would like to share some of these thoughts with you in the blogs to come.
Profound thought Number 1: Every moment is important and must be utilized to its greatest capability. Did I mention that my two boys are NOT excited about learning to read? They are outside, sports boys. The idea of sitting for half an hour without friends or balls of any kind is devastating to them! One is in first grade and one is a kindergarten student. I feel the need to pack each half-hour with as much learning as possible! So, my half-hour sessions must be fast-paced and dynamic! They will learn one new concept and review many others. However, there is little power in me spewing forth rules and knowledge unless they are given the chance to apply what they are learning. The potency of my lessons come when they attempt to actively apply the learning both in reading and WRITING! Plus, a great teacher never assumes anything! I need to find out what they already know about reading and spelling our language.
1st-day rules taught/reviewed:
What is a syllable?
What two kinds of letters do we have?
What is a vowel? Sing/learn the vowel song to ensure they know them.
Learn: Every syllable has to have a vowel!
Talk briefly about Closed Syllables and show the Door Slammer and Big Clue charts. Provide examples of Closed Syllable words.
Profound thought Number 2: The lesson must be short and varied! Even though I do have quite a bit of knowledge about the Six Types of Syllables, this knowledge must come in very small segments and the key to keep them coming back is their engagement. We spend approximately ten minutes reading a book they have selected that is just a bit above their independent reading level. We spend ten minutes on an engaging game. Both boys love the Tic Tac Toe game. It is played the same way a normal Tic Tac Toe game is played except the grid is filled in with words. These words must support the concept of the day. Ideally, the child would tell me the type of syllable, before reading the word, but since we have only learned the very basic rules of a closed syllable, I say, “Which closed syllable word would you like to read first?” If they read the word correctly, they get to put an X in the square. If they misread it, I get to put an O for me in the square. Did I mention they are both super competitive? We are doing the lessons on Zoom, which has some limitations, but also many benefits. Finally, I might add that they both get discouraged very easily, so providing prompts and support is crucial! Since the Tic Tac Toe is a reading game, we need to finish with some spelling. The Closed Syllable spelling words I give them tend to be above their reading level, but with my help and MRH's instructional routine; Clap, Touch and Write, they even impress themselves!
Profound thought Number 3: Success is never boring. If I can’t provide successful experiences for these two, they will not be with me long!!!
That is all for now. Watch for the next post soon!