Alphabet arcs help children learn the sequence of letters in the alphabet. Given a set of letters of the alphabet, students place them sequentially along the arc. Students can say the sound of each letter as they place them along the arc to reinforce their phonics skills. An Alphabet Arc template can be found in the resources / tools section.
Alphabet mats help children learn the names of letters in the alphabet. Students use sets of letter manipulatives and place individual letters on the matching letter of the alphabet mat. At first, a few letters are introduced and practiced. When students become proficient with those, new letters are added. To reinforce phonics skills, have the student say the letter sound as they are placed on the mat.
The Word Building and Blending strategy helps students practice building words. During the lesson, each child is provided with a set of letter cards made up of previously taught letter-sound correspondences (e.g., l, t, a, p, s, n). Students are directed to make additional words by changing one letter of the word at a time.
Manipulatives (round disks, counters, or markers) are used by students as they count or mark individual sounds of words said aloud. A marker is moved for each sound they hear in a word. This can be done along a drawn line on paper, a white board, or magnetic board. After moving the markers and saying the sounds, the students use a finger to move from left to right below the markers and say the word.
Sorting words is a strategy that helps students to read and spell new words and compare new words to known words. With this strategy, they can also consider how some words could be changed to make new words and focus on spelling patterns.
Students are directed to look for words with previously learned letter sounds, spelling or syllable patterns, or word parts in various materials such as magazines and newspapers. They can also search for words around the classroom and school. Once found, the words are recorded in journals or on a chart. A template for a Word Hunt Journal page can be found in the resources / tools section.
Provide manipulatives to students in order to make the concept of phoneme blending and segmentation concrete by using letters to form words that are familiar to the students. Once students learn a word well, their familiarity with the word can serve as a starting point for learning new words and for reinforcing letter-sound knowledge. Opportunities should be provided for students to decode (read) and encode (spell) words at the onset-rime and phoneme levels. Word work should also include nonsense words and challenge words (Florida Reading Initiative, 2005).
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Another useful word study strategy involves using structural analysis to help students analyze or break words down into parts to help them decode and spell unfamiliar words.
- Instruction in root words, common prefixes, frequently used suffixes, and inflectional endings that can be pronounced differently (e.g., -ed in played, talked, planted) is beneficial to struggling readers who are often overwhelmed by longer words.
- Teachers can model for students by breaking down longer words such as independent. They can remove the prefix and suffix to read the root word depend, and then add the smaller parts together to read the whole word.
(Moats, 1995/2000; National Institute for Literacy, 2001; Templeton & Morris, 2000)
The ability to decode multisyllable words does not rely on the ability to apply rules as much as it does the ability to identify vowel sounds in a word. Each syllable contains one vowel sound. Consequently, the location of vowels enables students to take two important steps: (1) identify the chunks (usually syllables) and (2) identify the vowel phoneme, the main carrier of sound in a chunk. Usually, the decoding of multisyllable words will be accomplished through three steps described below:
Step 1: Identify recognizable chunks.
Chunks are usually syllables, a single vowel sound accompanied by a consonant or consonants. As students read more, they learn to recognize chunks like pre, in, ing and lion automatically. Chunks found at the ending of words (e.g., ed, s, ly) are found easily and can be read first.
Step 2: Identify the appropriate vowel phoneme.
First, use spelling cues, and try the most common sounds for the vowel or the vowel combination (ai, ow, ow, oo ). As students read more, they learn to recognize how chunks resemble other words or chunks that occur in known words. (Example: the word finish contains a chunk that looks like pin and a chunk that looks like dish.)
Step 3: Blend the chunks together and recognize the word.
Don't worry if the pronunciation is not quite right the first time. Usually a similar pronunciation is enough to trigger a known word, especially when the word is found in context. (Wagon may be read as "wag" "on" initially, but that pronunciation sounds close enough to the word wagon that it is usually recognized, especially in the context of a sentence or story.) As students read more, they learn how to deal with stressed and unstressed syllables.