EDRD 6529 Teaching Reading: Strategies of Instruction

EDRD 6529 Reflection #2

Teaching advance word patterns is, “…a powerful tool for helping students discover how words work.” (Rasinski & Padak, 2008)  This statement rings even more true for me after reading chapter six of our text.  The exploration of words, prefixes, suffixes, not only helps students decode, it also offers a window into the meaning of the word as well; word patterns offer students a key to unlocking word meanings.

Teaching affixes, the prefixes and suffixes of words, offers students a way to compare and contrast words and their meanings.  But how should they be taught?  Starting in the first grade, by teaching the suffixes (-s) and (-ed) allows students to understand basic quantity and tense.  After the first grade the text suggest students be taught approximately 50 affixes per year in grades two through eight.   As with any methods of word study, multiple methods of teaching affixes should be practiced with students.

Studying root words, or derivational patterns, is one way for students to understand where each word is derived from.  Knowledge of these patterns or roots can help student decode meaning and practice correct pronunciation.  For example, if students were to study the affix cardio- and understand that cardio- means heart, they might understand that the word cardiac related to the heart.  The student might then have a better understanding of how to pronounce the words cardiologist, cardiogram, cardiology, cardiopulmonary.  Additionally, the student would have a logical basis for assuming that the word has something to do with the heart and might be able to decode the meaning within a text.

By the third and fourth grade students typically have a good foundation of reading skills and the ability to apply meaning to the words in text.   These grade levels then provide the perfect opportunity to examine and play with derivational patterns and root meanings.  This could look like a word wall, starting with the study of part of a word, (re-) to do again, and then asking students to come up with words they that use this prefix: recycle, reduce, reuse, reconstitute.  Then the task could be to have the kids use these words in their writing for the day, their dialogue throughout the day, and in their homework.  There could be an option of finding more words to add to the list the next day; so that learning and thinking about language does not stop outside of the classroom but becomes a conscious effort in the “real world”.

As students progress in their knowledge acquisition of root words and derivational patterns they should become adept word-sleuths; Shakespeare, poetry, and other difficult text could be examined for deciphering the meaning behind the words. Understanding how text can be a representation for something different, ironic, or that some words may have hidden meanings, is an important component for achieving word-mastery.  This approach would be particularly valuable for reaching exceptional students on both ends of the spectrum. For example, students who need a higher academic challenge could word-sleuth through a Shakespearean passage, while those who might be struggling academically may find a reader’s theater play challenge enough.   Additionally, the understanding students find through acting out and absorbing text through emotion and kinesthetic activity, can help with the decoding of meaning as well.  A phenomenal example of this type of absorption of text, understanding meaning and acting out with emotion, is exemplified through The Hobart Shakespeareans a vision of teaching students led by Rafe Esquith. The documentary shares the passion and dedication of how, Rafe Esquith, a revolutionary teacher, embodies and focuses on the main idea, “There Are No Shortcuts”.  This ideology exemplifies word-sleuthing on an incredible and creative level and is a reminder that hard work can pay off.

Throughout our lecture about vocabulary on October 20, 2011, the importance of intentional vocabulary curriculum became evident; repetition of vocabulary strategies is a necessary in the classroom for students to absorb word meaning.  Dr. Beers compared a learning vocabulary to be much like a “conveyor belt”: words need to keep appearing and reappearing to become part of a student’s vernacular.  First time around the “conveyor belt” a word is unknown to the student.  The second time around, the student becomes acquainted or familiar with the word.  It is only with subsequent rounds on the “conveyor belt” that the word becomes established, for each student, on different levels.  Students will have to become confident enough in their understanding of the word to be able to use the word in their speech or writing.

Teachers need to offer creative choices and encourage and allow for diversity in learning styles to support development of word patterns, word investigation, and vocabulary curriculum.   There is no one “right way” for all students.  Differentiated curriculum, repeated word patterns, and vocabulary opportunities that encourage students to hear, see, experience and use words often is what is necessary to build and retain word sense.

Works Cited
Rasinski, T. V., & Padak, N. D. (2008). From Phonics to Fluency-Effective Teaching of Decoding and Reading Fluency in the Elementary School. Boston: PearsonEducation, Inc.


EDRD 6529 Teaching Reading: Strategies of Instruction

EDRD 6529 Reflection #1

Phonemic awareness (PA) and the ability to successfully deconstruct words phonemically, can sometimes stump me.  Learning to teach the smallest sounds that make up speech, in order to blend together sounds to create words, is fascinating and challenging.  If this is the case for me how can I make it easier for my future students?  Throughout the reading it was obvious that PA most directly impacts the learner in Kindergarten through Second grade.  Recognizing the importance of nurturing PA, it is imperative to develop a curriculum that is: adaptable, concise and attainable for these young students.  Developing PA is the expected outcome when progressive and specific activities are incorporated into curriculum to support accurate understanding.

Support for these young students for the development of PA comes in the form of explicit focused activities that build skills progressively: sound matching, sound isolation, sound blending, sound substitution, and sound segmentation.  But what do these activities actually look like?  Sound matching is supported by having students come up with words that start with the same sound. With the teacher providing a starting point, i.e., words that start with the sound /t/, students and the teacher can work together to develop a list of words: tree, toilet, Tommy, time, tea, toothbrush, travel, etc.  By allowing students to brainstorm the list they are able to make the personal connections to make learning meaningful on an individual basis.  The brainstormed list could then be displayed on the wall for students to refer to; additional words could be added throughout the day, week, and month.  Another example of exploration of sound matching is by examining three words, two that start with the same sound and one that is different.  The task for the students is to circle the one word that has a different sound beginning than the other two.  For example the words could be hat, cup, hot.  The student would need to explore the sounds that the words begin with to be able to circle the word cup as the odd one out.

Sound isolation requires students to understand the beginning, middle and ending sounds of words.  By offering students a list of three letter words to explore that start with the same sound, tin, tan, tip, ton, tab, and asking students to tell you what the first sound is sound isolation is occurring.  To develop this skill further the students can then provide the middle and the ending sounds. The next step in understanding PA is to introduce sound blending.  The text offers an exploration of sound blending through games that use a “sing-song” or riddle type format.  For example the teacher could present the students with a riddle, “I am thinking of something that I drink my coffee out of and here are the sounds in its name:  c-u-p, what is the word I am thinking of?”  The students would hear the sound blends and answer with the word “cup”.  After students have practiced this sound blending activity and seem to have an understanding of the game, the teacher could ask students to come up with riddles for the class to solve or riddles to stump the teacher.

Sound substitution examines a student’s ability to change the sounds in words by adding or subtracting sounds.  For example a student is given the word cat and asked, “What do you get if you take the /c/ off cat?” or conversely, “What do you get if you add /t/ to all?”  These sound substitutions can be explored through middle and ending sounds as student’s skills of sound substitutions develops. Lastly, sound segmentation provides an opportunity to, “…go beyond isolating one sound in a word to determining all the constituent sounds.” (Rasinski & Padak, 2008)

Sound segmentation should be examined only after a thorough understanding of the other four sound techniques are in place.  In a classroom sound segmentation would begin by having students break works into segments depending on the onsets and the rimes.  For example book would break into two segments the onset b and the rime ook.  After students has successfully grasped two part sound segmentation, then sound segmentation that breaks word sounds down by each specific sound can be introduced.

Each of these sound specific techniques needs to be practiced and re-visited often through thoughtful curriculum and a variety of games that keep student interested.   A routine that adds short games throughout the day seems to offer a way of developing skills and keeping students attention and interest.   Although these are just a few examples of PA specific activities there are hundreds more that might be useful in an elementary classroom.  It is however extremely evident that PA is the foundation for successful readers and writers.

Works Cited
Rasinski, T. V., & Padak, N. D. (2008). From Phonics to Fluency-Effective Teaching of Decoding and Reading Fluency in the Elementary School. Boston: PearsonEducation, Inc.