I. COULDN'T. BE. HAPPIER!
Maybe it was the company (thanks, Abby Roach Connally), maybe it was the topic, maybe it was the hands-on activities, or, heck, maybe it was all the free chocolate, but I had a great time today in PD.
Today we tackled units 3 and 4. (We will finish 4 tomorrow). The main focus was on the importance of decoding, spelling, and word recognition. In fact, the title of unit 3 is:
Unit 3: Reading Foundational Skills Standards: Teaching Decoding, Spelling, and Word Recognition, Part 1
Fancy that, huh?
As you might know, decoding is basically the sounding-out of words. It's a reading strategy with which I'm sure you are familiar. You've probably been doing it since kindergarten, and might even be using it even now when you read the newspaper. (Maybe it's just me, but some countries' names are a little tricky.)
If it's a strategy with which you're comfortable, then I'm sure it comes as naturally to you as breathing. Hardly worth a second glance.... unless you understand the behind-the-scenes of decoding. It's not as simple as it looks. In fact, the first step in reading and decoding has nothing to do with your eyes, and everything to do with your ears.
Let me throw two vocabulary words at you:
Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound
Think of phonemes as being the atoms of words. All spoken words are made up of phonemes, some more than others. The word CAT had 3 phonemes (sounds): C-A-T. The word RAIN also has 3 phonemes, since it is created with 3 sounds: R-AI-N.
Grapheme: a letter or group of letters representing a phoneme
Graphemes are how phonemes are created. CAT has 3 phonemes, so it also has 3 graphemes since it took 3 letters to create it. RAIN also has 3 graphemes since it takes 3 letters, or groups of letters, to create it.
Once you can hear a sound (Phonemic Awareness), you learn to recognize the letter that makes the sound (Phonics). Once you learn the letters and their sounds, you learn how letters can be combined while still hearing the individual sounds (Blends) or when the combined letters make a single sound (Digraphs). Combine all those, and now you are ready for SYLLABLES.
6 Types of Syllables
1. Closed Syllables- a syllable that ends in a consonant sound or sounds. (cat, top, brisk)
2. Open Syllables- a syllable that ends in a long vowel sound spelled with a single vowel letter. (be, no, he)
3. Vowel-Consonant-e Syllables- includes a vowel immediately followed by one consonant and the silent letter 'e'. (ate, rope, bike)
4. Vowel-r Syllables- vowels immediately followed by the letter 'r' in the same syllable
- er, ir, and ur are pronounced /er/
- ar is pronounced /ar/ in an accented syllable (argue) and /er/ in an unaccented syllable (dollar)
- or is pronounced /or/ in an accented syllable (orbit) and /er/ in an unaccented syllable (doctor)
5. Vowel Team Syllables- includes vowel sounds spelled with more than one letter. Vowel teams are made of two or more letters to represent a vowel sound. (ai, ay, ee, igh, oa, ow, ue...etc)
6. Consonant -le Syllables- ends with a consonant immediately followed by -le (bundle, giggle, uncle, able)
When I was in school, I was taught to "clap out" syllables. Words had beats, my teachers told me, and clapping them out helps you to hear just how many syllables each word contained.
Well that's all fine and dandy, but inevitably there would be that one student whose southern accent is so thick that the word "hi" sounds like it has 5 syllables. Or the jokester of the class who thinks he's in a rock band and starts clapping to the beat in his head.
Instead of clapping, might I suggest Duck Lips? To successfully accomplish Duck Lips, one must purse their lips, then pinch them. Once you have done this, then hum the word whose syllables you are counting. Students will be able to hear and feel the syllables with their Duck Lips.
Here's an example of Duck Lips:
What a wonderfully astute and brilliant child. His parents must be so proud! :)
What's next? Ah, yes. Now we must practice.
As we learned yesterday, teachers must share information through Explicit Instruction if they really expect their students to learn. Simply follow these steps:
1. Model/ Demonstration (I do)
2. Guided Practice (We do)
3. Individual Practice (You do)
But to this we must add something more. Something to really get our lesson across and stick with our students for the rest of their lives. Get ready, everyone. We're about to get crazy up in here.
1. Manipulate objects- allow students to use things like magnetic letters or index cards, tap their fingers, slide chips or tokens; anything that lets kids manipulate and move things. Let students know that the items represent letters or letter sounds (of they are blends or digraphs) in order for them to make words.
Check out these websites for letter tile printables:
2. Movement with Verbalizing- build associations through movements
It's like when teachers taught their students the months of the year using the Macarena. Movement with a purpose helps students learn information.
Many teachers now use Whole Brain Teaching, which has students use hand motions to help them remember words, facts, and details.
Whole Brain Teaching: Kindergarten
3. Engage all senses- see, hear, tough, and talk.
Move it ------> Say it -----> See it
The more your students are engaged, the more they are learning. Better yet, if they can teach it to a peer, then you know they have full comprehension. Give students opportunities to manipulate, explore, and move. This can be done in whole group, small group, or in pairs.
One more question before I leave you alone.
Do you ever feel a little.... irregular? Feel that something just isn't right? You're going along in life, feeling like you're on top of the world only to realize that those rules by which you ran your life were all... lies?
Welcome to the world of Irregular Words, my friend.
Remember the rule "I before E, except after C"? That is a load of malarky.
So, you see, they're really more like guidelines anyway. :)
The reason we don't have any real tried-and-true rules in the English language is because our language isn't really ours. Relatively speaking, America is a young country. We were settled by peoples from different nations and language backgrounds, who were, in turn, founded by peoples of different nations and languages... and on and on back through history. Here are some examples:
Anglo- Saxon Words
- short, commonly used words
- basic colors, basic body parts, numbers, compound words
- follow strict structure: prefix+ root+ suffix= in-vis-ible
- often include schwa (flat sounding vowels like the 'a' in adapt)
- "ge" = /zh/: barrage, genre, beige, rouge
- "ch" = /sh/ : charade, chic, parachute
- "que" = /k/ : antique, critique, unique
- "ine" = /een/ : machine, limousine, marine
- "ch" for /k/ : chorus, technology, Christmas, anchor
- "ph" for /f/ : graph, sphere, epitaph, phase
- uncommon vowel split" chaos, create, poetry, zodiac
Is it any wonder why foreigners find English so hard to learn? Add syntax, accents, and slang and you've got a recipe for confusion.
All the more reason for teachers to be explicit in their instruction and parents to be diligent in their concern for their child's education.
I'm exhausted now. Time for me to get in my Drop Everything And Read time before bed! Tomorrow is the last day of training!