Spelling Rules and Phonics, Part II

jpg_4289-Owl-Teacher-Cartoon-Character-With-A-Pointer-2Here is an interesting bit of trivia you may not realize, and it will help to explain an irregular spelling pattern.

Have you ever noticed that words in English do not end in the letter v?

Because of this rule, we add a silent e after a /v/, and it will not necessarily make the prior vowel make a long sound.

This helps to explain why we have words that follow the typical long vowel silent e rule such as five, hive, gave, (long vowel/consonant/silent e) and then words like: give, have, extensive, expansive, pensive, responsive, etc. (short vowel/consonant/silent e).

I’ve heard it said, “The v refuses to be last!”

Spelling Rules and Phonics, Part I

jpg_Education048I was taught to read by sight. The only spelling rule I can remember being taught was “i before e except after c.”

For our students with specific learning disabilities (specifically, dyslexia), some of the spelling patterns which many learn somewhat intuitively need to be taught specifically and systematically.

Do you know the rule for when to use a /c/ versus a /k/ for the beginning of a word followed directly by a vowel?

A hard /c/ and /k/ make the same sound, which can be confusing.

Here is the rule:

  • If the word is directly followed by the vowels a, o, or u, it begins with a c.                    Examples are: cat, cash, camp, cot, cod, coddle, cut, cup, cub.
  • If the word if directly followed by the vowels e or i, it begins with a k.                   Examples are: key, keep, kettle, kit, king, kitten

Of course, in English, there are always some exceptions to the rule. I hope this helps, and be sure to teach the same rule over multiple days so it really sticks!

Online Reading Resources I Like

I thought I would share some of the online reading resources that I like and have found useful. For all of these, they ask that you create a login account.

  • wegivebooks.org  These are free books online, and the selection changes.
  • spellingcity.com  This has a free component where you can enter spelling words, play games, and practice. There is also a paid component, but you can just use the free portion.
  • readingeggs.com (and readingeggspress.com is the next level)  This is a paid program, but you can do a two week trial to see if your child/student likes it. (If you are a teacher, it is a four week trial). This is a phonics based program, and the one I would recommend for students with specific learning disabilities/struggling with reading.
  • readinga-z.com  This is a paid program with a one week free trial. It has leveled books, comprehension quizzes, worksheets, and also reading passages that allow you to determine a student’s fluency. There are a lot of good nonfiction stories that I like to use.
  • raz-kids.com  This is also a paid program with many of the same stories as readinga-z, but it has more of a game theme with points students can earn, and students can record themselves as they read the stories (something most students love to do). There is a two week free trial.

This is not a paid endorsement!

It is interesting, some students really like one program over the other, so look for the best fit for your child/students.

I haven’t included links, so just copy and paste addresses in your browser if you are interested. Also, if you have any other reading programs you like, please share!

Test Taking Strategies for Reading and Writing

gif_Education-031-bwState testing has arrived. Students have worked hard all year, and now it’s time for them to show what they know!

Students will be expected to:

  • Answer multiple choice questions
  • Write short constructed responses to reading
  • Write a paragraph(s) (younger students)
  • Write an extended piece (older students)
  • Edit

The tests vary slightly from state to state, but general test-taking principles apply across the board. Ideally, these skills should be taught all year long. Still, it is always good idea to do a refresher of test taking tips and strategies with your students/children before they test:

  • Read all the answers before you mark one. Often all of the answers have some relationship to the text.  Pick the one that is most related to the text.
  • Look back at the passage to locate answers. Think about where in the passage the answer might be found and read that part.
  • When writing, make sure you write to the prompt and use the language of the prompt in your paragraph or essay.
  • Make a plan to keep the writing organized. Include a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Be sure to include interesting details.
  • Reread your writing prompt to check for capitalization, punctuation, and any errors.

Keep in mind, state testing is only once a year, and offers just a “snap shot” of students’ capabilities.

These test taking strategies and skills are good for all year long. They may seem a little obvious, but I see students make these type of mistakes (e.g. not reading all the choices, etc.) all the time! I hope this helps.

Fun Free Sight Word Memory Game!

Students can play a fun game and work on sight words!

Do you remember playing a card game where you placed the cards face down, and then picked two cards to see if they matched? If the cards didn’t match, you turned the two cards back face down. The goal was to remember where the cards were when face down, and then match two cards to make a pair. Once you made a pair, you got to keep them and take another turn. (I think that is how it was played!)

You can play this game using sight words!

I have included a free download for beginning sight words (print or copy twice). You can also easily make your own using index cards or a computer. Be sure to have the kids read the words when they play, and help students until they recognize the word by sight.

Download here/2 pages: Sight Word Flash Cards

Sight Word Flash Cards-1

Reading Fluency Target Levels

gif_2726-Elementary-School-Design-Books-And-Apple (1)Fluency in reading refers to one’s pace and accuracy. As a student matures in his/her reading level, fluency should also increase.

Here are some approximate guidelines for fluency rates for the end of the year:

1st Grade: 70-90 CWPM

2nd Grade: 80-100 CWMP

3rd Grade: 100-120 CWPM

4th Grade: 110-130 CWPM

5th Grade: 120-140 CWPM

(CWPM- correct words per minute.) This is based on grade level texts.

Checking Reading Levels

It is testing time! Fall, winter, and spring are great times to check reading progress.

In the fall, we get a baseline (where the student is functioning) for the beginning of the school year.

gif_snowflake001_bwIn winter, we get to see if all that great teaching we are doing is working and the kids are making good progress! If insufficient progress is being made, we need to reevaluate our teaching strategies, look to increase support, and possibly add a supplemental program.

In the spring, we get a snapshot of the year’s growth.

I have had some questions lately about frustration, instructional, and independent reading levels. Here is a guide to understanding the levels:

  • Independent: 95% success (no more than 1 in 20 words difficult)
  • Instructional: 90% success (1 in 10 words difficult)
  • Frustration: <90% success (more than 1 in 10 words difficult)

Teach at the instructional level, but have students pick books from the library at the independent level. (See my post on Lexile numbers for picking the right level.)

Parents, if you do not know your child’s reading level, get this from his/her teacher!

The Importance of Pre-teaching Vocabulary

In order to be independent readers, students must understand 98% of what they are reading. When introducing a next text or concept, it is important to pre-teach key vocabulary.

I made up an example to illustrate. Read the sentence below and see how much you understand.

Emma sought a quiet phrontistery in the abaft. She felt a sense of the acatalepsy regarding the situation in which she found herself.


So… How did you do? Were you able to use context to understand the vocabulary? I am guessing context would not be enough, even if these sentences are embedded in a larger paragraph.

We put our students in the same situation. We encourage them to use the pictures and the context (great strategies), but often, they also need to be taught the words.

Here is the translation using a simpler vocabulary:

Emma sought a quiet place to think at the back of the ship. She felt a sense of uncertainty regarding the situation in which she found herself.

I hope this illustration helps to convey the importance of pre-teaching vocabulary!