Syllable and Sentence Segmenting!

Syllable and sentence segmenting are crucial strategies to help our students become better readers and writers.  

We start by teaching them how to segment their sentences into words so they can discriminate between the individual pieces.  While this skill may seem easy, it can be a struggle for some of our struggling readers.  Think about when you are hearing someone speak in an unfamiliar language.  It can be really difficult to hear where one word stops and another begins.  

As students advance in this skill, syllable segmenting should be introduced.  The ability to break words into syllables will help your child decode the words, therefore helping them read and spell.  

Our freebie this week is designed to enhance your segmenting instruction! We have put together our Syllable and Sentence Segmenting game to make this topic fun and engaging for students.  

Who Should Be Using This?

We know that every classroom is going to have readers that are at varying levels.  That is why this game can be differentiated to fit the needs of your students.  Your most advanced students can be breaking up multisyllable words into individual syllables, while your struggling students can start with the sentence segmenting.  

How We Use It 

Sentence segmenting is explicitly instructed in our beginner curriculum.  This game is a great addition because it creates engagement and allows us to practice these skills with our students in a more exciting way.  Our students working through our intermediate curriculum are explicitly taught syllable division, so the syllable segmenting half of the game is a great addition to our lessons.  If our students are struggling in either area, we will use this game to help enhance our lessons and instruction. 

Be Prepared for This Challenge...

This skill can be really tricky for our kids, especially those that are struggling.  In the free download we have provided pages with blank white squares.  We use these and colored game chips to help our students keep track of the different words and syllables. The visual cue can help them make the connects we are trying to build. 

What You Need To Do

This freebie is only available THIS WEEK, so click here and download it now before time runs out.  If you are looking for more resources to support your Phonological Awareness instruction, you can check back next week for another freebie! You can also check out our Teachers Pay Teachers Store, or become a Smart ALEC Community Member for access to all of our resources. 

Rhyme Discrimination and Production Activities

Need help with Rhyme Discrimination or Rhyme Production? This Freebie is perfect for you!

Happy Freebie Friday! Keeping with February's theme, Phonological Awareness, our new Freebie is a Rhyming Activity! 

How Do We Use It?

This week's freebie has both rhyme discrimination and rhyme production pieces making it great for all of your students. Those that are struggling with Phonological Awareness will benefit from the rhyme discrimination portion.  We have included both pictures and words to help individualize the level of instruction. You can even play this as a game to increase the child's engagement.  Use the sorting chart and have students sort the cards into either "yes they rhyme" or "no, they don't rhyme" groups. 

If you are looking for an activity that focuses more on Orthography, the rhyme production portion will be perfect.  The student receives either a picture or a word and is asked to come up with a word that rhymes. 

What Complications Might Come Up, and How We Handle Them. 

We know that our dyslexic students often struggle with rhyming.  This is a skill that needs to be monitored and sometimes explicitly taught.  For a tip on how to teach rhyming to your students that struggle with it, check out our blog: What to do When Your Student Can't Hear the Rhyme. 

This card is intended to say "ant, plant." If your student sees the ant and says "bug" you can either go with that and say "no, those don't rhyme" or ask them to think of the bug's name that rhymes with plant.  

Something else we have noticed is that often our kids will see the pictures and mistake it for another word.  For example, on our card intended to be "ant, plant" a student might say "bug, plant."  If the child says this, then go ahead and sort it into the "no, they don't rhyme" category.  Then you can say, "what if we said ant, plant, do those rhyme?" and redirect the attention back to what the card was intended to be. You can also say, "what is the name of the bug that rhymes with plant?" for students who you feel like would benefit from rhyme production practice as well.  If your student is not at that level yet, then feel free to go with their original idea, "bug, plant" and sort that into the no category. 

What You Need To Do

Oh man! This freebie is expired, but don't worry we have tons of other awesome stuff coming your way. See what we have on tap for this week!

If you are looking for more information to support your Phonological Awareness instruction, we post a new blog and Facebook Live every Tuesday.  Click here to check out our past blogs, and here to check out our Smart ALEC Resources Facebook page! 

We will be releasing a new free resource every week, but to find helpful resources right now, check out our Teachers Pay Teachers store, or join our Smart ALEC Community! Community Members get exclusive access to our Members Only Library with hundreds of resources available for you to download. 

We hope you have a great week and we will see you next Friday! 

Phonological Awareness Skills Checklist

PA Skills Checklist Freebie Friday Giveaway

The votes are in! Last week you all voted and told us that you wanted more resources around Phonological Awareness.  For the entire month of February we will be providing information, tips and Freebies centered around just that.  Our first Freebie is our Phonological Awareness Skill Development Checklist. 

Phonological Awareness is the all encompassing term for how our students are processing sounds within words.  This can pertain to segmenting, auditory discrimination, rhyming, blending, etc. These skills are crucial for students to learn as they are the building blocks for reading as well as spelling.  

PA Skill Development Checklist

While all of the individual pieces of Phonological Awareness are important, we found that we were having a difficult time tracking where our students where at with each individual skill.  We developed this easy to use checklist to help us stay organized and we know that it will help you too.  This is a great tool for both teachers and interventionists that work with students of all ages.  (If you read our blog on Tuesday you will know why this is crucial for older students.  If you haven't read it yet, you can find it here).  

How We Use It

The checklist tracks 12 different skills (everything from sound discrimination to phoneme manipulation).  There is a box to track the date the skill was introduced, and a box to track when it was mastered.  We use the rule that a student must be able to complete each skill without support over the course of three consecutive sessions, for us to consider it mastered.  

What Complication Will Likely Come Up, and How We Handle It. 

As much as we would love our students to be able to always apply a skill correctly over 3 consecutive sessions once we introduce it, we know that this is not always the case.  Our students need our support in learning these different skills and we want you to feel empowered as an educator to help your students get there.  If a skill doesn't seem to be sticking, you may need to take a different approach, or add in additional supports to your lesson.  We will be releasing a new resource for you to try every Friday this month. 

What You Need to Do.

Well rats, this freebie has expired, but not to worry we have lots of great Phonological Awareness activities coming your way.  If you are looking for more games and activities to support your Phonological Awareness Instruction, we have countless resources in our Members Only Library and on Teachers Pay Teachers.  As mentioned earlier, every Friday in February will be dedicated to sharing more of our favorite PA resources with you! Check out this week's freebie!

Letter Y - Vowel Sounds

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Letter Y can be so tricky for our students because it makes so many different sounds. It's the only letter in our alphabet that acts as both a vowel and a consonant (some teachers will also say the letter W can act as a vowel too, but it can never act as a vowel on its own - it can only pair with other vowels to become a vowel team...anyway we digress).

Back to Letter Y - as a consonant it says /y/ as in yellow, but as a vowel it can have a number of sounds depending on how many syllables are in the word and the type of syllable. Usually we see letter Y acting as a vowel in open syllable words in other words, the Y is at the end of the word.

At the end of short words (one syllable) the letter Y will say I as in cry, shy, sky, fly. At the end of longer words (two syllables or more) the Y will say E as in baby, gravy, shaky. Y can also say /i/ as in gym when it's found in the middle of a closed syllable word but we usually don't teach that explicitly until much later on.

Because this is a tricky concept for our students we have a few different ways to help them remember:

Letter Y the Robber Guy, Steals the Sounds of E & I

We have a fun free resource using this term over at TPT if you want to grab that.

We also use the Key Phrase:

Cry Baby

To help them remember that Y says I in short words and E in multi-syllable words. We have this fun cry baby activity and word sort that WE LOVE that you can use to help support your students through this tricky lesson. You can make this more advanced by using the phrase "Cry Baby in the Gym" if you want to teach the vowel short sound of Y.

So all that to say, Y is HARD! It has 4 sounds including 1 consonant sound and 3 vowel sounds! Good luck - let us know if you need any other strategies for this one!

Nuts! This freebie has expired. Don't worry though you can see what we have this week here! Consider joining our Membership Site to get access to all of our amazing resources.

Using Stories to Guide Literacy Instruction

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So we love nothing more than pairing structured, systematic learning with reading that's actually fun! Using storybooks to ground instruction can be so powerful, especially for our early readers.

For our early readers, we like to focus on developing the skills needed to set a strong foundation for reading and writing.

Typically we start by reading the book aligned with our planned activities. As we are reading we are always thinking about pointing out sounds and letters that our students should be familiar with. We are also asking questions, "How do you think Little Billy Goat Gruff is feeling right now?", "What do you think might happen next?" "What lesson do you think could be learned from this story?"

We always want to make sure that reading is an active process and not just a passive experience for our early readers. After reading the story we jump into our activities. For this particular storybook unit, we practice with writing warm-up activities, counting syllables, and memory with initial sounds, which is great for sound identification and to support those early spatial memory skills, we love activities that support multiple learning targets! We also target final sound identification and blending phonemes which are great phonological awareness and beginning decoding activities.

Finally, we practice comparative concepts which are helpful in developing the language skills that are necessary to become a successful reader and student and we practice vocabulary development and basic comprehension to remind students that reading is not a passive process. Rather, it's a process in which we need to spend a great deal of thought and effort in order to get the most out of it.  And, if you need to get the book, you can get it on Amazon by clicking on the image of the book (full disclaimer we do have an affiliate link for the book (which means we get a tiny portion of the sale at no extra cost to you, and clearly we wouldn't recommend it if we didn't obviously love it ourselves!).

This weekly freebie is expired!! But GREAT NEWS - you can still grab this freebie over at our TPT Store.

Also check out this week's Freebie Friday!

Free Writing Paragraph Practice

Free Writing Paragraph Practice Prompts.  Informative, Narrative, AND Persuasive. 

One of the most important things for us to see is that our students' skills are generalizing. We often teach spelling rules and patterns and pray that our students are actually applying these rules outside of their controlled spelling lists. One of the best ways to monitor growth is to simply let students write. We love seeing what our students come up with on these free writes.

Whenever we ask our students to free write we are monitoring their output. Typically we are scoring or looking for:

1. Appropriate theme development

So they need to have an introduction, three key details (each with their own sentence), and concluding sentence.

2. Appropriate use of COPS.

We are checking for appropriate usage of capitals at the beginning of the sentence and proper nouns and we are checking for additional capitals that don't need to be there. We are checking for appropriate organization and spacing of words. We are looking for appropriate use of ending punctuation, introductory commas and commas in a series. We are looking for appropriate spelling or at the very least identification of words that may be misspelled.

It is really important to us that our students begin to self-edit for both theme development and COPS in their writing. By providing these types of passages we are holding them accountable for previous learning and monitoring for ourselves what's sticking and maybe what's not in order to further guide our instruction.

Oh nuts, this freebie is expired! But check out this week's Freebie Friday!

Authentic Literature: Henry and Mudge

Authentic Literature Henry and Mudge

Today, a teacher asked me, “When do you do the reading? When do you tie in books?”

This is a great question. Our Smart ALEC curriculum emphasizes the five essential elements of literacy instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) in every single lesson. However, this work is in the word, phrase and sentence level. So, this teacher was naturally wondering, “When do I bring in the texts for my students?”

We are big advocates of sharing authentic literature with our readers. We want to point out that authentic literature is different from decodable texts. While decodable texts have an important role in helping our emerging readers learn how to read, they vary greatly from an authentic piece of literature.

You may have a group of students in your classroom who aren’t at the sentence or text level yet with their reading. You can still share authentic literature with them through read aloud, partner reading, or by sharing excerpts from a text.

Students gain so much from experiencing stories in terms of skills, but this exposure also nurtures a love of reading. This, in my opinion, is the greatest gift you can give a child.

If you have a group that is not ready to approach a text on their own, you can scaffold this learning by selecting one sentence from the text to share. This may be a sentence that models great word choice, evokes an emotional response, or is just a solid model of a well written sentence. Students can read, mimic, and enjoy this excerpt and this can be a spring board for skill work in your instruction.

This same idea can be expanded to extracting a paragraph or passage from a text and having students work with just that portion of that book. You can build skills from this passage or use it to model a writing style.

The beauty in this is it helps our struggling readers see themselves as readers. This gives them the opportunity to interact with some of the same texts their peers are reading or have talked about. Perhaps this exposure will ignite an interest with your student and move them to check out the book on their own after getting a small taste of the story?

When using authentic literature, it is important to measure your students’ comprehension and understanding of the text. The ultimate goal of reading is to make meaning from text, and you want to keep a pulse on this as your student is reading in texts. We have developed a comprehension activity that can follow a reading of Henry and Mudge – The First Book. This activity develops a variety of different comprehension strategies so that you can hone in on which areas need to be targets for growth.

Depending on your student’s ability to approach this text independently, you can read this to your student, allow them to ear-read this story here, or support them as they read the text out loud to you.

Oh nuts, this Freebie is expired. But grab this week's Freebie Friday here!


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We all know that this can be such a sticking point for our dyslexic kiddos. It's important to note that many students display difficulty with b/d until the end of second grade or about the age of 8. By the time a child is 8 years old the dreaded b/d reversal should be pretty much gone.

However, for many of our students they continue to struggle with b and d, and sometimes even p and q long after their peers have figured out those crazy letters. There are many tips and tricks to tackle these reversals. The important thing to note is that most often these reversals are caused by difficulty with orthography - recognizing the letter and processing it from a visual perspective to a language output perspective.

Different fonts have been widely touted as the best way to help dyslexic students discriminate between B/D but unfortunately, the difficulty goes beyond just the visual presentation and dives deeper into the language centers of the brain. So, if a different font works, great, but really we would like to see students begin to generalize b/d/p/q knowledge regardless of the font.

We created this visual to help solidify the tricks we use in our sessions. It all comes down to letter formation so when we are writing a "b" we start at the top, down to the bottom and around. We can add an extra bump at the top to see if our lowercase b turns into an uppercase B if so - we've got it right. We can use this trick for reading too by simply asking the student to add the upper bump to determine if they have a B or D. A "c" always turns into a "d". Again, letter formation needs to be correct for this to work. If the student can find a c in the letter they have a "d".

For "p" we have a visual in which the pig digs down into the mud. Because pigs are digging our line should be dropping below the bottom line of the writing paper.  A "q" should always be hugging or reaching out to his best friend "u". This visual can lay out during a session to help provide a visual anchor for students.

We also have a few additional practice pages students can try in order to quickly recognize and discriminate between those tricky letters! 

This Freebie has expired.  But don't worry, you are in luck - you can still find it for free on Teachers Pay Teachers, and don't forget to check out the current Freebie Friday!

Affix Deck

Affix Deck Freebie Friday 

If you have tried the Smart ALEC curriculum, you know that review is a huge component for us.  One of our favorite resources to review with is our Affix Deck. 

As our students learn different suffixes and prefixes, we like to use this deck in a few different ways to check in and make sure our students are understanding and remembering the affixes that we have introduced. 

How We Use It

You can use this deck in a couple of different ways. 

Option 1: As you go through the deck, have your student read each affix and remind you what it means.  This will help you track pronunciation and understanding. 

Option 2: Provide the student with the definition.  He or she then needs to give you all of the affixes that fit that definition.  

Option 3: Use it as a game.  You can use this as a sorting game by having your student sort the affixes into prefixes vs. suffixes.  

Option 4: Take a root word and add the cards too it.  For example, if you have the word "bike" and you pull the suffixes "s," "ing," and "ful," have the student add each of the suffixes to the word.  Talk about which suffixes work, which don't, how the spelling of the word changes and how the suffixes change the meaning of the word. 

Use one or all of the options listed above to help review affixes with your student.  This extra practice will help solidify their knowledge of the affixes, and help them generalize their morphology rules.  

Grab this deck on TPT and start drilling your students on these important concepts! Don't worry it doesn't have to be boring!

Holiday Phonological Awareness Fun

Holiday Phonological Awareness Fun!

So we are bringing back the holiday phonological awareness cards because we LOVE the holidays. Hopefully, you can incorporate some holiday fun into your week leading up to the Winter Break. So I am going to recap what we discussed during our Halloween Fun! Because we have adapted the same activities to fit the season.

This activity is meant to support syllable segmenting, phoneme segmenting, spelling, and written work. Here's why:

In order to be a good speller, a student needs to be able to break big words into smaller chunks. In order to do that the first step would be dividing a word like pumpkin into syllables. Pump-Kin. Next, the student needs to be able to break each syllable into the individual sounds. /P/ /u/ /m/ /p/ and /k/ /i/ /n/. Before a student can pair letters to each of these sounds they need to simply be able to break the word into its smallest pieces by sound. That's the goal of phonemic awareness (no letters necessary).

However, we also find that it's really important that students make this connection. So when creating these Elkonin boxes we created some of the boxes to match the number of sounds.

You can use this in two ways:

1. If you have students that are really struggling to learn how to segment start here so they can start to understand how to break the words down.

2. If you have students doing well with phonemic awareness use these boxes to have the student begin to pair the letter or letter group to the sound.  This turns your phonemic awareness activity into a spelling activity.

Finally, we included a writing activity that helps students begin to put together appropriate syntax in their sentences: who/what, did what, why/how/when. For struggling readers and writers we often see that because there is so much struggle at the single word level we forget that writing is an incredibly complex task which requires phonological awareness, sound to letter pairing, syntax, and semantics. By scaffolding these activities in this way you work from the most basic writing task (spelling - which requires an understanding of how words break apart) to the most complex task (putting together a syntactically correct sentence).

This freebie has expired, just like the holiday season. But don't worry you can grab this week's Freebie Friday here!

Transition Word Multi-Level Writing Resource

Transition word multi level writing resource.  Transition word deck. 

Something I notice with a lot of my kids is that they will have great ideas but it is hard for them to transition from one to the next.  Some of them want to use the same transition word over, and over, and over again.  Others haven't built up a mental word-bank of transition words yet and simply don't know what word to use.  This resource has made all the difference for them because it puts all of the words they could need at their fingertips.

How We Use It

1. When printing this multi-level resource we typically print it single sided.  This allows the students to be able to write hints on the back of their cards.  These can be definitions, example sentences, or instructions on how to use it.  

2. As students learn new transition words, they get to add them to their ring.  This resource is multi-level.  Our youngest writers will receive words like "first", "also" and "in conclusion," while our older writers should be using words like "above all else" and "sequentially."

3.  Students should use this resource while they are writing to help them produce appropriate transition words in order to generate well-written sentences/paragraphs. 

4.  We also use this tool as more than just a reference list.  Since the deck is comprehensive and includes a variety of different kinds of transition words (introductory, comparative, etc.) we will have the students take the words off of the ring and sort them.  This helps them to develop an understanding as to what words should be used when.  It also makes it into a game which helps their level of engagement. 

This resource has expired but check out our Membership Site to get access to all of our curriculum materials.



Red Words Sample

So there can be a lot of confusion around Red Words.

What on earth are Red Words anyway? Sight words? High-frequency words?

For us, Red Words are phonetically irregular words. They are quite simply words that can't be sounded out. If you sound them out they come out all wrong. "Was" for example is a Red Word. If we sounded this word out based on syllable type (extra points for you if you knew it would be a closed syllable) you would get /w/ /a/ /s/ which would rhyme with gas. Makes sense right? But instead, we get a lazy/schwa vowel in there and get a short /u/ sound. So we just have to memorize these words for both reading and spelling.

This can be really frustrating for our students because we spend a lot of time talking about the strategies for phonetically decoding but even though we can account for most reading and spelling patterns through the study of phonology and morphology there are some words that just don't make sense!!! So we go through a quick and simple process (that takes no more than 3-5 minutes max) to practice these words. 

Here's how we use it:

  1. We always start with our red grid and place it underneath our square box.
  2. Have the student practice tracing the red word while saying the LETTER (not the sound).
  3. After all of the letters have been traced we underline the entire word and say the word.
  4. Have the student trace the bumpy word with his or her finger while saying the LETTER and word.
  5. Have the student write the word on the next boxes while saying the LETTER, then underlining and saying the word.
  6. Pick an activity, you can sky write, arm tap, or use glitter paper or another sensory tool to practice spelling the word (or mix it up and try all three).
  7. Fold the paper and see if the student can remember how to spell it (sometimes we set this aside and do it after the word is less fresh).
  8. Have the student use the word in a sentence and check for COPS.

It's a really fun activity and our students LOVE it. Grab it here!

For a comprehensive list of Red Words join our Membership Site and get access to thousands of pages of resources. Or grab this Best Seller at TeachersPayTeachers.

Middle School Reading Comprehension Resource

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I love using this K-W-L chart with my middle school and high school students because it is concrete and organized and at the same time gets them right into active reader mode.

The first thing I ask all my students to do when reading a passage or newspaper article is to warm-up their brain by thinking about what they already know.  This is a great way to turn on their brain so they don’t fall into the trap of reading multiple paragraphs or even pages without realizing what they are reading.  Using the K column in the KWL chart makes this a concrete step that students can refer back to.

Second, the W column keeps the student actively reading by having them write down questions as they pop-up in their reading.  For our struggling readers this is also a good way to break up the reading and get their ideas and questions out.

Last, the L column gives students a place to summarize and review what they have learned from their reading. 

This freebie has expired. You can download this week's Freebie here! Consider joining our Membership to get access to all of our resources.



Essay Graphic Organizer

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As we have mentioned before, writing is often one of the hardest tasks for our students. Even after remediation they struggle to apply skills at a higher level. It can be difficult for students to break up this monstrous task. Our goal is to support students by providing them a script or process that they can apply over and over as much as possible. We also want to teach our students that the same processes they have learned at the paragraph level apply to the essay level. If we can make this a clear repeatable process, students can focus more on the content of their ideas and the organization can just fall into place.

By following this step-by-step process our students can begin to have an essay format that works across all the subject areas and they can feel confident in following the steps to get a solid essay every time. Let's break it down:

Step One

Brainstorm your key details.

Step Two

Determine whether the key details have enough "meat" to be viable within the essay structure.

Step Three

Identify the key detail and outline three sentences to describe each detail.

  • We start with a topic sentence that outlines the key detail.
  • Next, we develop a brief summary using text evidence or information to support inclusion of the key detail.
  • We finish with a concluding sentence that helps a reader understand why the key detail matters - this is the "who cares" sentence.

Step Four

We repeat the process of Step 3 for our second key detail.

Step Five

We repeat the process of Step 3 and 4 for our final key detail.

Step Six

We create an Introduction paragraph.

Step Seven

We create a Conclusion paragraph.

Step Eight

We review and check for COPS focusing on Capitals, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling.

This outline expands upon our paragraph writing structure. For Monthly Paragraph prompts using this outline consider joining our Membership Site or check out our Year of Paragraph Writing on TPT.

This freebie has expired grab it and several other resources in our Membership Only Website or on TPT. Grab this week's Freebie here!

Syllable Division Strategy - Rabbit Words

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Syllable Division Strategy - Rabbit Words

Syllabication is a really fancy term that just means dividing a word into syllables. However, while many people are familiar with the idea of breaking a word into syllables by clapping out the word, far fewer are familiar with the idea of dividing a word into syllables based on the structure of the word.

Why!?! -

Okay yes, valid question. One of the more well known reasons is that it helps break words that seem impossible into manageable chunks. But another less known reason is that dividing words into syllables in order to help students predict the vowel sounds which are often the most difficult for struggling readers.

Knowing where to divide the word is of critical importance however in predicting the vowel sounds. The most common syllable division pattern that we always teach first is the Rabbit rule. All of our syllable division strategies require two steps: identify the vowels and then use the appropriate division strategy. For this rule:

Step 1

Spot and dot your vowels.

Step 2

Divide between the consonants.

Often our students need a lot of support with these syllable division strategies so we have a number of games we like to play with them to keep this fun and engaging. Try out our Rabbit Division game and let us know what you think!

This limited time freebie has expired. But not to worry you can still get access by joining our Membership Site or you can check it out on TPT. Grab this week's Freebie by clicking here!

Welded Sound Fun


Our students often need a lot of practice with welded sounds. So we created this fun game to practice with them. Typically when we play, we set a timer for 3-5 minutes (depending on how much time we have allotted for review).

We each take turns flipping over cards and reading the word. If we read it correctly - we keep it, if we read it incorrectly - it goes back into the pile. If you draw a Take Card you get to choose an opponent to steal cards from if you get a Lose Card the cards go back into the pile. When the timer goes off the player with the most cards in their hand wins!

In our program - we focus on ang, ank, ing, ink as welded sounds and don't worry about including ong, onk, ung, and unk as welded sounds. The reason for this is because we want to reserve memory storage for patterns that truly distort the vowel sound (sound different than they would if you simply the sounded out the word using a tapping strategy). While we do want to gain fluency often lumping all these patterns can just be overwhelming and confusing to our students. And since so many of them have difficulties with rote memory or phonological memory, we try to reduce the number of things we are requiring students to memorize as much as possible.

Systematic literacy intervention (more well known as Orton-Gillingham or OG) requires students to hold so many rules in memory. So wherever possible it is important to try and keep that memory load down!

This limited time freebie has expired but you can still get access to this game and all of our others by joining our Membership Site here! Grab this week's freebie here!

Crazy Short Vowels

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Crazy short vowels is a really fun activity for our younger readers or readers needing extra practice with short vowel sounds. We play this game similar to Crazy 8s but it can be adapted to make it work however you want to play!

Secret: We've been known to adapt this game for Go Fish.

For Crazy 8s you want to hand each player 8 cards face down. Then you flip the top card on the deck over and use that as your target card. Each player needs to take turns looking at his or her deck and matching a card to the target card based on a match of the vowel sound or the initial letter. Before a player can match a card from their hand to the target card they must say the vowel sound or initial letter sound. Now this card that has just been laid down becomes the target card. Once the player has matched a card, the next player gets a turn. If a player does not have a card that will match the target card, they must draw a card from the card pile until they have a match. You continue placing cards down until the first player runs out of cards. That player is the winner.

Again, anytime we can do something fun and engaging - it's a win. This is a great way to practice those tricky short vowel sounds!

This limited time freebie has expired. Join our Membership Site to get full access to all of our games, activities, and comprehensive curriculum. Grab this week's Freebie here!

Halloween Literacy Activities

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So here at Smart ALEC, we LOVE all things fall. As you can probably guess we were so excited to be able to throw some Halloween activities into our mix. Most of the students we work with really struggle with phonological awareness and while we have phonological awareness built into our lessons we know that some of our students need extra practice with it. So we have some fun phonological awareness practice activities for you.

This activity is meant to support syllable segmenting, phoneme segmenting, spelling, and written work. Here's why:

In order to be a good speller, a student needs to be able to break big words into smaller chunks. In order to do that the first step would be dividing a word like pumpkin into syllables. Pump-Kin. Next, the student needs to be able to break each syllable into the individual sounds. /P/ /u/ /m/ /p/ and /k/ /i/ /n/. Before a student can pair letters to each of these sounds they need to simply be able to break the word into its smallest pieces by sound. That's the goal of phonemic awareness (no letters necessary).

However, we also find that it's really important that students make this connection. So when creating these Elkonin boxes we created some of the boxes to match the number of sounds. You can use this in two ways: 1. If you have students that are really struggling to learn how to segment start here so they can start to understand how to break the words down. 2. If you have students doing well with phonemic awareness use these boxes to have the student begin to pair the letter or letter group to the sound.  This turns your phonemic awareness activity into a spelling activity.

Finally, we included a writing activity that helps students begin to put together appropriate syntax in their sentences: who/what, did what, why/how/when. For struggling readers and writers we often see that because there is so much struggle at the single word level we forget that writing is an incredibly complex task which requires phonological awareness, sound to letter pairing, syntax, and semantics. By scaffolding these activities in this way you work from the most basic writing task (spelling - which requires an understanding of how words break apart) to the most complex task (putting together a syntactically correct sentence).

This freebie has expired, as has Halloween ;) But not to worry, you can grab this week's Freebie Friday here!

Reading Intervention as Easy as Tic Tac Toe

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So if you know us at all, you know that we LOVE games. We try to incorporate them into every session because it keeps our students motivated and engaged through the things they generally hate more than anything (reading and spelling).

The wonderful thing about this very simple game is that you can use it in so many different ways depending on the skill you are trying to target. It's also truly NO PREP. If you don't have this grid it's so easy to just write out the tic-tac-toe lines on a whiteboard or piece of paper and students love this game.

We print off our game and stick it into a page protector for each of our students, the great thing about using a page protector is that is erases so easily!!! And it's cheaper and quicker than laminating.

So here are some ideas to get you started.

Beginner Level - Use this grid to practice letter formation, pick two letters that you are introducing for the week (or that just need extra practice) and use these letters instead of the tradition Xs and Os.

Intermediate Level - Use this grid to practice sight words. Use the sight words instead of traditional Xs and Os, you will notice how quickly the student is able to spell the word without referring to the example.

Advanced Level - Use the grid to practice higher level spelling. Dictate the words to your student and have them spell the words into each of the 9 boxes. Practice using the words in sentences or creating written sentences using the word you would like to mark with an X and O.

So there you have it, tons of ways to adapt this super fun game. The simplest things can make the biggest difference.

Grab this copy from our Free Resources section and incorporate some gamified learning into your intervention sessions. Let us know how you are adapting this game for your students! Grab this week's Freebie Friday as well!

Upper and Lowercase Sound Symbol Puzzle

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Early literacy is very near and dear to us. See this blog post to find out why. But, we also realize that children shouldn't be learning through worksheets and drills at a young age. That's a great way to burn a child out before they ever even really get started down the path toward literacy.

So instead, we can begin to work with children in a fun and play-based manner with skills that will ultimately help them be successful later on. This Sound-Symbol Alphabet Puzzle is a great way to practice tons of skills.

1. We us the puzzle to practice upper and lower case matching which begins to develop their orthographic skills in recognizing the patterns of letters.

2. This puzzle works to begin building sound-symbol association with the most common target sound of each letter and working back to tie that sound that the student hears with the letter representation.

3. You can use this puzzle in ways far beyond just putting it together. Often we will put 4-5 letter options out and ask the child to find the letter that makes the /b/ sound for example. You can begin at the easiest level by asking the child to do this when the puzzle is put together so they can see the bat and start recognizing that sound correlation and as they progress on you can ask the child to perform this activity without having the bat image. You could also have the child sequence the upper case letters in order. Many of our struggling readers really struggle with sequencing and so this can be a great activity for them. You can start by putting several letters out in order like A, B, C, _, E and ask them to find the missing letter.

Practicing letters and sounds doesn't have to be boring, you really can do a lot of things to keep kiddos excited and engaged about this process. We hope you will try this out. Let us know how it goes!

This freebie has expired. But don't worry, you can check out this week's Freebie Friday here! Consider joining our Membership Site to get access to all of our intervention materials.

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