I'm Cathy, a former kindergarten teacher with a passion for early learners. Providing our earliest learners with tools, instead of excuses, can empower these students with success! I also LOVE teacher training and providing meaning professional development that can be used in classrooms immediately.
Next, when students look at the picture. get their mouth ready, and try to sound and slide, but they still might have difficulties. They next strategy we practice is Skip and Reread.
We've tried everything we know. Let's pretend the book is about a pond. The picture contains lots of animals that live at the pond. The picture isn't helping. I also know lots of words that it could be: frog, fish, fly. I'm not having luck doing a sound and slide. What else can I do? Well, skip it. Of course, there are rules when we skip it. If you skip it, you have to go back and fix it.
You can't just skip it!
I was having a meeting with a teacher after our mid-year benchmarking and one particular student had an unusually low score. When I questioned the teacher she said, "Well, she just skipped the word, so I marked it as an error." I was bewildered. "Does she know her fix-it strategies?" "I have it on the table." She hadn't specifically taught her how to "skip and reread."
Leave out the Words
When I was meeting with this teacher, I picked up a guided reading book and read it to her leaving out every fourth word. After reading 2 or 3 pages, I stopped and asked if she could figure out what the story was about? This is an easy way to demonstrate to your students the value of the "skip and reread" strategy.
It's ok to skip!
Please don't misunderstand me: it's ok to skip, but that can't be the whole strategy. They whole strategy needs to be skip and reread. Students need to know they can't just skip the word, they have to read until the end of the sentence, then go back and see if they can figure it out. The card below shows an easy way to teach those early learners how to skip and reread.
How to Practice "Skip and Reread"
Give each student a card. Ask the students to read up until the blank, get their mouth ready and pause. The student would read, "I see the f" and then stop. Both of the pictures would work...so, look at the picture and get your mouth ready don't work. Then they are asked to read the entire card, "I see the f-- hop." The answer is clear. Then, they reread the sentence correctly.
It's That Easy
Put a card or two in their guided reading basket each day, so they can practice the skip and reread.
Once this is a habit, add this icon to their Strategy Mat.
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This next strategy is rarely used independently, BUT you need to teach it independently. We need to be very careful we don't overlook this valuable step. We also need to be very careful we don't encourage students to "sound out" words by saying each sound individually. Students should try to decode a new word by saying, "/b/." "/a/." "/t/." They may be able to hear the word "bat" while producing the sounds independently, but students need to be able to transfer skills among other words. Nothing is more frustrating than watching a student rely on "sounding out" to decode a word like "because:" You've heard it before.../b/ /e/ /c/ /a/ /u/ /s/ /e/. They'll never figure out the word like that.
Sound and Slide
Instead consider a "sound and slide." Ask students to start at the beginning of the word and slowly slide their finger through the word while "sliding the sounds," too.
Putting 2 or 3 cards in their guided reading basket each day for practice before reading, is an easy way to practice the sound and slide. Once they practice this strategy, put the icon on the strategy mat.
This FREEBIE was available earlier, but I'm happy to put a link to the freebie again. CLICK HERE for the CVC sliders sample set, or click the picture below.
If you'd like the the full set, here's a link to my TPT store.
We all know students need decoding strategies, but we don't necessarily know how to teach them decoding strategies. I have seen teachers provide clues and posters and language and "drive by" decoding, and expect students to use them immediately. BUT, we can't do this.
We have to be strategic and we have to allow students to practice this skill BEFORE we expect it to become habit. Students need strategies. When they are starting to read, independence is gained when we can empower them to "figure out" the words ON THEIR OWN. I try to make sure students WANT to be independent readers. We discuss being "word makers," not "word takers."
Get Your Mouth Ready
When students are reading, we start with looking at the picture (Decoding Strategies: Look At The Picture) and ask them to also look at the word. Getting their mouth ready is the next logical step. Using the page below, students should recognize the word wall words, "look," "at," and "the." The unknown on this page is hen. Instead of telling the student it is a hen, ask students to look at the picture and cover the words. Ask them what animal is in the picture: chicken? hen? duck? Depending on the background knowledge, students will have a variety of answers. Once you have several guesses, ask the students to look at the word and "get their mouth ready" with the first letter of the word. When they make the sound for /h/, they should be able to say the word, "hen."
BUT, this isn't a one lesson fix. Make sure students are using the strategies easily and automatically. To practice this skill, use cards with picture and word options. Putting 2 cards in their guided reading basket OR passing out 2 cards each at the small group table, students can look at the card, get your mouth ready to point to the correct word. With the card on the left, students will look at the "box" and get their mouth ready by making the /b/ sound. Once they make the sound, they will choose the word. Students can practice the cards daily for a week, then the "Get Your Mouth Ready" icon can be added to the strategy mat. this is perfect way to make sure they can USE the strategy, not just see the strategy.
Practice Makes Perfect
Using cards, make this practice part of the small group lesson. By rotating the cards with other strategies, students make the strategies automatic.
If you would like a FREEBIE SAMPLE of the strategy, CLICK HERE.
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This is the first skill we teach students is to look at the pictures.
At the beginning of the school year, students should be exposed to several sight words. They should be words not frequently decoded or words seen frequently in emergent readers. We start with words I, a, see, can, the, look, and my. To make the words independent, you can have repetitive texts with these words. Students should then be introduced to the first decoding strategies: Look at the Picture.
Students read the sight words, then look at the picture to get the cue. The biggest problem with this strategy is that it's typically done in conjunction with other strategies. I think we should isolate the strategy for instruction and practice before we use them in conjunction with others.
1. Picture Context
Using a picture, students can look at it critically. They should ask what the context of the picture is - what belongs and what doesn't belong. Students need practice in understanding pictures have meaning and there is a comprehension factor to looking at pictures.
2. Picture Naming
Using pictures, have students name the objects in the pictures. What do you see in the picture? What could you read about in a story about the picture? What words would you need to know if you wanted to write a story about the picture.
3. Read the Pictures
Students can look at the pictures on the page and then, tell a sentence using that word. This should not be a lesson in writing a sentence. Students need to orally tell the story using the pictures.
4. Read the Words
Finally, students will use the pictures to read the words. This is a final activity in using the pictures.
As with any strategy, this activity needs to be repeated in small group, with partners, and independently.
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This is the last in the series of interventions with the PALS test.
Of course, Letter Identification is only tested in kindergarten. It is crucial! We need to make sure students know as many letters as possible, as quickly as possible. We started using Jan Richardson's Letter Tracing Book a few years back. We have expanded that intervention since then.
BEFORE PALS TESTING
Letter Tracing Book
We do this intervention BEFORE we have actual PALS data. We use our summer screenings to get students into a letter identification intervention ASAP. This year, 34% of our students KNEW 25 or 26 lowercase letters of the alphabet. (The PALS test only tests the lowercase letters.) Our goal is to front-load as many letters as possible. In the Fall, Kindergarten students are required to get a total of 29 on the Fall PALS test. If a student gets all the letters, it can be a sure thing. We use the Letter Tracing Book in the classrooms. The procedure is simple: Using hand-over-hand the interventionist traces the letters correctly, while saying the letter name. That is all. Students who know less than 10 letters - trace the known letters and the letters in their name. Students who know more than 10 will trace them all. We also had a parent workshop and gave a copy of the Letter Tracing Book to the parents of students who knew less than 15 letters.
The sound chart the teachers have posted in their classrooms are the same pictures and the same font as the Letter Tracing Book. This is also digitally added to their calendar routine and the whole class repeats the letter name, letter sound, and picture identification for each letter EVERY DAY. A, /a/, apple. B, /b/, bear and so on. Sound charts are found around the room in a variety of sizes as this is the main letter/sound connection mat in the classroom.
Word Wall Headers
I am so sorry...I thought I had a better picture of this...and I'm sorry to say, I couldn't find it. You can see in the background of this picture, the word wall headers are simply another copy of the sound chart cut apart. The average student needs a lesson, a skill, or a fact repeated 14 times for complete understanding. A struggling student needs a lesson, a skill, or a fact repeated 44 times for complete understanding. If you have a student struggling to recognize, name, and associate the letter names and sounds, having consistency makes this easier.
The Simple Routine
Monday through Thursday, the interventionist calls the student over individually and hand-over-hand traces the appropriate letters. Friday, students are asked to identify the letters on the provided chart going across the rows left-to-right. The interventionist records the totals.
Beginning of the Year Assessment Results
Aren't really at the beginning of the year. PALS assessment dates are assigned by the PALS Office based on the starting date of school. There is an assessment window. We choose the LAST 2 weeks of the window, so that we can have the most time for pre-testing interventions. Our data showed we had 53% of our kindergarten know knew 25 or 26 letters of the alphabet. We had a 19% gain since the beginning of the year.
This routine continues until the Mid-Year PALS test is administered. If students know 25 or 26 letters of the alphabet, they are released from the intervention.
Once again, I am proud of our intervention. The asterisks is beside the 91% because of the remaining 9%, 5% had a 24 on the test. I think that's important to note.
I hope these interventions have given you ideas for this coming school year. We CANNOT give students excuses, we MUST give them tools.
If you would like a copy of the Letter Tracing Book, CLICK HERE or the picture below.
What a cute, cute book. Oh My...who wouldn't love the Love Monster. Love Monster just wants to love and have friends, but he is a monster and people can't get passed that little fact.
Monster lives in a land of cute, fluffy things...and he isn't cute or fluffy. He sets out to find someone who will love him for just being himself. Unfortunately, he can't seem to find anyone. Monster thinks there is no one left for him and gives up his search to go home alone. Then...love saves the day. This book will be found on most elementary school counselor shelves soon. It's the perfect book to discuss friends and how being different doesn't mean you can't be friends.
The book looks at monster's need for a friend. He looks everywhere for someone to love him. I have provided 3 different writing papers for students to illustrate who they love. One has no lines and just requires an illustration, and the other two have different line choices. The last page in the FREEBIE is all about what makes you happy and what makes you sad.
If you'd like the FREEBIE, CLICK HERE or on the picture to the right.
This intervention has a special place in my heart. I always wondered about this section of the test. I had given the test for years and didn't understand why the only section that counted in the final score was the word list. I wanted the points for counting and identifying to count. Then, I attended a PALS session at the VSRA Conference. Someone from the PALS office explained the word list was the culmination of the other tests. It showed how well the students are putting together the letter sounds, beginning sounds, letter ID, spelling...it all came down to an isolated word list...taken from context.
Then, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, Holy C.O.W...I'm Published, I went to a workshop presented by a good friend and colleague, Beth Estil. She had developed an intervention with the COW results. After a few years of trial and error and tweaking, I came up with an intervention we used at our school.
So, first you have to know WHO is going to be chosen for the intervention. There are 5 ways students are chosen for the intervention: 3 groups of people from kindergarten and 2 groups from first grade.
Let's Start with Kindergarten
Group 1. COW as an Enrichment
Kindergarten students are typically chosen after the PALS test; however, at the beginning of the year students are screened for letter identification and these results determine the first group of students to get a letter ID intervention. BUT, the students are also chosen for an enrichment at the beginning of the year. The students who know all their letters and are either reading or showing pre-reading skills, participate in this activity before the first PALS test. This allows students to understand the format of the test and practice for success.
Groups 2. and 3. COW as an Intervention in Kindergarten
The second and third groups of kindergarten students are chosen using your Fall PALS scores. Looking ONLY at the Word List. Students who score in the 0-3 range are considered Developmental Students. Students who score in the 4-6 range are considered Rudimentary Students. (The characteristics of each are in the original post.) Using this "rating scale," if you will, to create two intervention groups. Any students who scored a 7-10 were considered to have Firm Concept of Word, and interventions were not necessarily.
Groups 4. and 5. COW as an Intervention in First Grade
The fourth and fifth groups are found in first grade. Historically, first grade COW was not a priority in first grade, it was an optional test. However, our data history also showed the VAST MAJORITY of the students who were being seen in our RtI meetings, had a low score in kindergarten. We decided to in the winter of 2013, to do the COW optional test as a universal screener. Starting in Fall 2014, we tested any incoming first graders without a kindergarten COW score and first graders with a low COW score. Once, again the 0-3 and 4-6 score of the word list created groups.
There is a very specific routine for both developmental and rudimentary. Each group uses the poem from the week before as the intervention material.
This is an ORAL day. Review the first 2 lines of the poem
ORALLY.Either show the
students the page with 2 pictures from the
poem or fold the page with 4 pictures, only showing developing students the
first two pictures.
This is a KINESTHETIC day. The interventionists will review the first two
lines of the poem while pointing the pictures on the touch mat, while students
echo. Next, students will
practice touching each dot to represent each word. Special attention is given to multi-syllabic
words to ensure students are touching 1 dot for each word, not each syllable.
This is both a KINESTHETIC and VISUAL day.
gets a sentence (one at a time) and is asked to cut the sentences into words.
Students will arrange the words in the proper order. The second sentence is
distributed and the routine is repeated. There is no need to keep sentences “assigned”
to specific students.
THURSDAY - This is both a KINESTHETIC and VISUAL
day. The interventionist
will pass out a paper clipped sentence to each student. The students are directed to fix the
interventionist holds up one of the six word cards and asks the students to
identify the word and locate it in the sentence.
Test Day. The students
can be called individually to the interventionist to read known words on the
word list. Student scores are recorded
on the C.O.W. Intervention Sheet.
Review the poem ORALLY. Show the
students the page with 4 pictures representing the poem. The interventionist will state each sentence
while pointing to the pictures. The
student echoes. This is completed three
Touch Mats – Students will practice touching each dot to represent each
word. This is demonstrated by the
interventionist before the student attempts the touching. This is repeated three times each.
Each student gets a poem. The students
are asked to cut the poem into lines.
Students are asked to order the poem correctly and read the poem three
times each, alternating between students and interventionist. The interventionist will gather each poem,
secure it with a paper clip and save for Thursday.
- The interventionist will pass out a
paper clipped poem to each student. The
students are directed to fix the poem. Each student reads the poem while
pointing to the words. The
interventionist holds up one of the six word cards and asks the students to
identify the word and locate it in the sentence. This is repeated for each of the six word
The students can be called individually to the interventionist to read known
words on the word list. Student scores
are recorded on the C.O.W. Intervention Sheet.
Again, I was pleased with our results.
We have also noted the referrals to our RtI committee has decreased since we started this intervention.
If you would like a sample set of the COW intervention, CLICK HERE.
Another area we have historically needed to improve was the spelling portion on the PALS test. PALS provides spelling tests for their quick checks, but doesn't have a procedure to follow. To complicate this intervention, our school uses word study for weekly words.
What I DIDN'T want:
to add a different list of words to the students
to add to nightly homework
to take up much time
What I DID want:
a quick and easy review
an intervention based on OUR data
an intervention that constantly reviewed previous lessons
This fall our scores were indicative of our historical data. We were low in nasals, CVCe, long vowels patterns, and r-/l-controlled vowels. The chart above shows our scores in the fall and at the mid-year. We knew we had to focus on these features, but we needed to determine who was going to receive the intervention. Our biggest mistakes in nasals were in the -ng and -nk endings.
Who Was Chosen?
We decided to only look at our second graders. Looking at student data, we looked at students were seemed to be in danger of not reaching the EOY Benchmark score of 54. This score was the combined total of Words In Isolation List and Spelling. Knowing the highest score on the Words in Isolation test was a 20, we needed to focus our spelling intervention on those students who were below a score of 34 on the spelling portion of the test. There were 27 students who qualified with this, however, another student transferred into our school shortly after the semester started and he was added to the group at that time.
Like I said before, we needed something quick and easy that reviewed each skill quickly. We reviewed each of the 4 areas for a week, then repeated the pattern. Each week we had a word or two from the weeks before, so the students could practice the words. Our weeks were as follows:
Long Vowel Patterns (CVCe)
Long Vowel Patterns (long a and e patterns)
Long Vowel Patterns (long i patterns)
In addition to this lesson pattern, we had a routine for the week. Students were given a composition notebook for this intervention. All other supplies for the intervention were provided by the interventionist.
Monday is Introduction Day. Students are introduced to an anchor chart on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet. They were also provided a smaller version of the anchor chart for their notebook. They were also shown the words for the week one at a time. As they were shown the words, they made a verbal connection to the anchor chart. Also the words were sorted on a 8 1/2 x 11 poster. They are directed to read the entire column after each word is added.
Tuesday is Sort Day. Students are sorting words in their composition book, sometimes they draw the chart, sometimes they glue a chart in their composition book. As the words are shown, they are added to the chart. After each word is added, they read the entire row.
Wednesday is a Dictation Day. Each word is read to the students, and students write word on the chart or in their notebook. When they are done, they will check their list and make their own corrections, before they leave the table.
Thursday is Game Day. Students play a feature game. The games were concentration with words, concentration with words and pictures or choose the correct spelling. Because the r-controlled vowels for er, ir, and ur sound alike, students need to be able to recognize the correct spelling visually. They are given a card with a picture and the correct spelling and 2 incorrect attempts. Students determine the correct spelling and can move up the game board.
Friday is Test Day. Students are given a list of 10 words, 6 from the feature of the week and 4 from the previous weeks in review. Students score their own test and fix incorrect answers.
Again, I am proud of the results. The overall growth and the intervention group results. Looking at the Mid-Year and EOY scores, the intervention group increased in each group...some significantly.
nasals from 65% to 83%, a 18% gain.
CVCe from 30% to 64%, a 34% gain.
long vowel patterns from 15% to 29%, a 14% gain
r-controlled and l-controlled vowels 21% to 69%, a 48% gain (holy guacamole)
What Did We Learn?
The first thing we learned is we did it too quick. We literally trained the teacher assistants on the fly, and made up the weeks as we went. I have promised to do better training, double check all our plans and train the TAs better on scoring the tests. This year, they turned in a data form with "words correct," but I needed to go back and look at whether the students had the features correct.
Teach students absolutes...not "rules." Sometimes students are taught "rules" that aren't really "rules." My personal pet peeve is the "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" rule. It only applies 47% of the time, so it is definitely NOT a good rule to follow. I do believe in teaching absolutes. When teaching about nasals, we make sure to tell our students they will absolutely NEVER see "ngk" in a word. It sounds like it, but it isn't EVER spelled that way. Another absolute is they will absolutely NEVER use "jr" to spell words like "drum" and "drive."
We also decided we need to look at the schedule and figure out how to make sure we cover long o and u vowel patterns, because the time ran out before the test.
Overall, I was thrilled.
If you would like a sample week FREEBIE, CLICK HERE or the picture below.
You know why I picked this book up, don't you? How could I not look at this book. However, the first time I saw the book it was a board book. As much as I tried to convince myself to buy a board book, I decided not to. Thankfully, the Scholastic Book Fair "helped" me out.
I think the intention of the book is pretty obvious. Yes, it's about an owls night. Not surprisingly, it also about other animals in the night. It's a great book to start the discussion about nocturnal animals. Little owl talks about who he might visit and who is asleep. The book also ends as little owl and other nocturnal animals go to sleep, the morning glories open and the rooster crows.
I couldn't miss the opportunity to give you a nocturnal animals word list, but this word list if specific to the book. All of the animals on the card are mentioned in the book. Little Owl wants to share the moon with his friend the bear, but bear is asleep. Little Owl wonders if he's ever seen the stars. Along with the word card, I have provided some writing papers. How could owl describe the moon and stars to bear?
If you'd like the FREEBIE, CLICK HERE or on the picture to the right.