3 Ways to Build Receptive & Expressive Language Skills in the Classroom

Receptive and expressive language skills play in large part in how we communicate with other people. Students with expressive/receptive language disorders face a number of challenges in school. It is estimated that 1 in 20 students has some type of language disorder. These students are often working overtime to cope with their challenges and can go undetected or misunderstood.

The Importance of Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the sounds (or phonemes) in words. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. For example, the spoken word "dog" can be broken down into three separate and distinct phonemes or sounds: /d/ /o/ /g/.

Developing phonemic awareness is important because it creates the building blocks for spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness is one of the best indicators of how well children will learn to read during the first two years of school. Students at risk for reading challenges often have lower levels of phonemic awareness than their peers.

4 Ways to Support Visual Motor Skills

Visual motor skills, also called visual motor integration, refers to the skills that combine visual skills, visual perception skills, and motor skills. These are skills that use our eyes and hands in a coordinated way.  For example, if I was looking at a picture of square and wanted to replicate the shape onto a new sheet of paper, having strong visual motor skills will allow me to do this task correctly.  Poor visual motor skills will make this task more challenging. Essentially, we want our brain, eyes, and hands all to work together in an efficient way!

1 Reason Your Comprehension Instruction May Not Be Getting You The Results You Want

Over the past twenty years, I have observed a transformation in the teaching of reading from an approach that measured readers' successful understanding of text through lengthy packets of comprehension questions to one that requires students to think about their thinking, activating their "good reader" strategies. 

Suspect Dyslexia? The Time to Talk to Parents is Now!

Spring break is in the air and that has me thinking about summer. It will be here before we know it! This is the time of year where we begin to think about sending our students on, making them leave the nest, and preparing them for what’s to come. This time of year always has me unsettled as I think about these things.

The thought of the summer slide also leaves me feeling full or worry and anxiety. We have all seen this. We know that no matter how much front-loading we do leading up to the summer break, that if students don’t engage – even for just 20 minutes a day – with reading over the summer that they stand to lose up to three months of reading growth. This thought alone keeps me up at night. We begin every new school year setting aside the first 4-6 weeks to re-teach or review material that students have forgotten over the summer. We call this the dreaded Summer Slide.

Moving Beyond Questions to Assess Comprehension

Making meaning from text is the ultimate goal of learning how to read. Most often, comprehension questions are used to determine what students understand about the books they have read.

There are two types of questions that are used; explicit and implicit. Explicit questions are questions that are explicitly stated in the text, these are considered “right there” questions because students can look back in the text and find the answer stated clearly in black and white.

Comprehension Strategy Instruction Should be a Spiral

Comprehension is defined as making meaning from text.

Thus, readers derive meaning from text when they engage in intentional, problem solving thinking processes while reading. Research shows that text comprehension is enhanced when readers actively relate the ideas represented in print to their own knowledge and experiences.

The rationale for the explicit teaching of comprehension skills is that comprehension can be improved by teaching students to use specific cognitive strategies. Readers gain these strategies informally to some extent, but explicit or formal instruction in the application of comprehension strategies has been shown to be highly effective in improving understanding. The teacher generally demonstrates such strategies for students until the students are able to carry them out independently.

The 4 Most Common Reasons for Breakdowns in Comprehension

Reading words without understanding is a string of meaningless noise. – Don Holdaway

The ultimate goal of reading is to make meaning or glean information from text – to comprehend what has been read. For some students, reaching this level of the reading process can be quite difficult. It is important to understand the underlying causes of breakdowns in comprehension.

The 4 Most Common Reasons for Breakdowns in Comprehension

10 Must Haves for Orton-Gillingham Intervention

So I don't know about all of you, but when I started out delivering OG intervention privately I was on a tight budget to get all the supplies I needed for my students! And - I travel to see my students so I needed materials that were easy to take along with me! Many of you have been asking us - what are the materials I absolutely must have?!

Phonemic Awareness & Phoneme Segmenting for Older Students

Explicit instruction and additional practice in phonological awareness skills are a necessary component in helping older students who struggle with reading skills. This additional practice is best when used as a warm-up to reading, spelling, or vocabulary instruction.

 

Phonological awareness includes the ability to divide a word into spoken syllables, onset-rime segments, and individual phonemes.  Learning to decode and spell successfully is done with phonics which requires phoneme awareness.

The Importance of Syllable Segmenting

Children who can segment and blend sounds easily are able to use this knowledge when reading and spelling. Segmenting and blending individual sounds can be difficult at the beginning. So, our recommendation is to begin with segmenting and blending syllables. Once familiar with that, students will be prepared for instruction and practice with individual sounds.

What To Do When Your Student Can't Hear The Rhyme

We know that one of the core deficits of dyslexia is a lack of sensitivity to phonemes thus making phonemic awareness skills such as rhyming very difficult to master.

In school, students are often asked to do rhyming activities in small groups or as a whole class. This has great benefits for practicing rhyming skills, but one drawback is that this can also allow a student who struggles with rhyming to go unnoticed or fly below the radar. It is important that phonemic awareness skills are screened in a one on one setting until mastery is reached. For students who struggle with these skills, they must be developed and at times, explicitly taught.

A Lack of Phonemic Awareness Skills Can Drastically Impact Older Readers

Phonemic Awareness skills play a critical role in reading success regardless of the student's age. 

Phonemic Awareness refers to the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the sounds (or phonemes) in words. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. For example, the spoken word dog can be broken down into three separate and distinct phonemes or sounds; /d/ /o/ /g/

Developing phonemic awareness is important because it is the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first two years of school instruction. Students at risk for reading difficulty often have lower levels of phonemic awareness than their peers.

5 Clues Your Student May Need a Different Approach to Reading

 5 clues that you may need to change your approach to reading. 

Do you have a student who just doesn’t seem to be progressing his reading ability? Or a student who speaks with beautiful vocabulary but then her writing looks far below her grade level?

First, I want to start off by saying this isn’t because of your teaching - you are a rockstar teacher. I know this because you are reading blogs about teaching! Here’s the bigger surprise, it’s not your student’s fault either. It’s likely that there is a disconnect between the curriculum being used in the classroom and your student’s learning style.

It’s also likely that you have more than one student in your classroom struggling to learn to read or write at a level you would expect from that child.

So how can you pinpoint and identify these struggling students? We have five tips to get you started on identifying these students immediately. Don’t forget to download or mini-assessment to get a really solid picture of which students you likely need to keep your eye on.

 Signs to watch out for

1. Your student rocks the spelling test (or they don’t and that’s a major clue in itself) and then doesn’t apply any of those spelling rules to his or her writing.

2. When you read along with your student he or she may struggle with the actual words substituting words like mom for mother, the for a, of for from, and other little changes to the print in front of them. Often your struggling or at-risk readers CAN read but they are providing clues that they will struggle later on when they can’t memorize all the words and need a different approach.

3. Your student reads slowly or is consistently repeating words, phrases, and/or entire sentences. When students rely solely on visual memory for reading and don’t have other strategies locked down you will likely see really labored reading. Difficulty with tracking, which impacts fluency, is a major clue that something’s not quite right.

4. Your student memorizes sight word lists in isolation but seems to be unable to recognize those same words in sentences or passages.

5. Your student frequently runs into a “tip of the tongue” phenomenon trying to describe around a concept because he or she just can’t think of the word he or she wants to say quickly. This lack of word finding ability is a big clue that your student may need a more structured and systematic approach to reading and writing.

 

Grab the Simple Screening Tool here.

Syllable Division Strategies

We teach decoding and encoding skills through instruction of the six syllable types. Knowledge of syllable types helps students anticipate what sound vowels will make in different words or word parts. Thus, they can approach that word confidently for reading or spelling.

We teach the six different syllable types in a systematic and cumulative manner meaning that we begin with the easiest concepts and progress to more complex concepts. We teach specific phonogram rules within each syllable type.

An integral part to this instruction is teaching students how to correctly divide unknown words into syllables to break the word down into decodable chunks.  We refer to this as animal division.

We know that students with dyslexia benefit from having anchors to their learned information. Assigning animal names to the different syllable division rules helps students remember and differentiate between the rules, but the animal names themselves also refer to the specific strategy that is used to break the syllables.

We teach the following animal rules: Rabbit, Reptile, Tiger, Camel, and Hornet.

This is helpful when students approach an unfamiliar word or a nonsense word. For even the most experienced reader, unfamiliar words can become a reading pitfall – unless you know how to syllabicate the word into decodable chunks.

Rabbit Division: rab / bit

When you have one or more consonants stuck between two vowels, divide between the consonants so that each vowel has its own consonant.

Examples: sunset, cobweb, index

Reptile Division: rep / tile

Always divide syllables a way that will keep your VCE syllables together as one unit. We hear one talking vowel and therefore you must keep that syllable together.

Examples: devise, expose, sunrise

Tiger Division: ti / ger

Whenever you have two vowels with only one consonant stuck between them you need to try tiger syllable division. Your first choice is to divide after the first vowel to make the vowel open so that it makes its long sound.

Examples: spider, even, super

Camel Division: cam / el

Whenever you have two vowels with only one consonant stuck between them you need to try two syllable division strategies. Your first choice is Tiger Division, your second choice is Camel or keep the first vowel closed by the consonant so that it makes its short sound.

Examples: finish, robin, model

Hornet Division: hor / net

Whenever you have two or more consonants stuck between two vowels you want to divide between the consonants so that each vowel has its own consonant. But remember that the r-controlled vowel makes a different sound, or no sound at all.

Examples: order, garlic, harvest

Rabbit Syllable Division.PNG

 

CLICK HERE to see our animal division posters – an excellent tool and visual anchor for your classroom!

Understanding the Six Syllable Types - Stable Final Syllables

 Stable Final Syllables

Stable Final Syllables

Stable Final Syllables or C-L-E syllables are the last of the six syllable types that we introduce to our students at Ascend Learning using Smart ALEC Resources.

What is it?

This is a word that has a consonant followed by le. You will hear a schwa sound /ul/ in these syllables preceding the le. An example is the word table. Notice how the –ble sounded like /bul/? This is due to the schwa sound before the le.

How do I teach it?

We call this the Turtle Rule and teach students that when they spot a word ending in –le, they need to check to see if a consonant comes before the –le. If it does, they have a Consonant-le. We model how to count back 3 to divide this syllable starting at the last letter and counting back.

Step 1 – Spot and dot your vowels

CLE 2 step.PNG

Step 2 – Consonant – l – e Count Back 3

CLE angled.PNG

Step 3 – Cover your second syllable while you read the first, then cover the first and read the second. Blend the syllables together.

Details on this syllable type:

C-L-E words have at least 2 syllables.

When dividing C-L-E words we start at the end of the word.

Some of our favorite games to use when practicing this syllable type are: C-L-E Collect 3, Syllable Type Sorts Game which are available on our Membership Site and on TPT.

Other helpful resources for teaching this syllable type: Interactive notebook pages, syllable type posters which are available for free on our Free Resources page.

Understanding the Six Syllable Types - Vowel Teams

Vowel Team Syllables

 Vowel Teams

Vowel teams are the fifth syllable type that we introduce to our students at Ascend Learning using Smart ALEC Resources.

What is it?

Vowel Teams (more formally they are called vowel digraphs and diphthongs) most often include two vowels that work together to make one sound. Sometimes W sneaks into these vowel teams and sometimes a vowel paired with other consonants like IGH work together to create a “vowel team” type pattern.

How do I teach it?

I explain to students that we have two vowels touching and working as a team. Sometimes only one vowel will do the talking and sometimes they work together to create a new sliding sound.

We mark vowel team words by placing a dot above each vowel if it makes a single sound we will connect the dots with a line. If it is a sliding sound, we will connect the dots with a squiggle line. Let’s practice marking!

Vowel teams angled.PNG

We teach vowel teams in the following progression:

-ai, -ay, -ee, -ey, -oa, -oe, -oi, -oy, -oo, -ou, -ow, -ea, -au, -aw

Several of these vowel teams follow a pattern that students can generalize. Some vowel teams only come at the beginning or middle of a syllable, where other vowel teams that makes the same sound only comes at the end of a syllable.

For example, ai comes at the beginning or in the middle of a syllable whereas the vowel team –ay (that makes the same sound) only comes at the end of a syllable.

We anchor all our phonogram rules with key words and images that create a visual and auditory, anchor to this information. For the –ai phonogram, we use the word and image for rain. For the –ay phonogram, we use the word and image for play.

When introducing vowel teams that follow this pattern of placement within a syllable, we teach them separately at first. This means that we use one lesson to teach –ai, explicitly. In our next lesson, we will teach –ay, explicitly. If the student demonstrates mastery with these phonograms in isolation, we combine these words within our word lists.

We wait to integrate word lists but we do introduce the other vowel team. It can help begin to warm students up to the idea that when they are spelling and hear the /a/ sound in the middle of a word, it is spelled –ai. But, when they are spelling and hear the /a/ sound at the end of a word, it is spelled –ay.

Other vowel teams that follow a similar pattern are: ee and ey, oa and oe, oi and oy

Some of our favorite games to use when practicing this syllable type are: Play In The Rain, Find the Keys, Destroy the Poison, Look at the Moon, Make Trout Soup, Snow Plow, Eat Bread and Steak, Yawn – I Have To Do The Laundry, Vowel Team War, Syllable Type Sorts Game which are available in our Membership Site and on TPT.

Other helpful resources for teaching this syllable type: Interactive notebook pages, syllable type posters which are available for free on our Free Resources page.

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