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melanie@wordsofadviceliteracy.com

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Parts and Pieces: On Word Study Instruction

October 21, 2019

This summer, I read A Fresh Look At Phonics by Wiley Blevins. It made me think deeper about my word study instruction. One of the main ideas in that book is that in most classrooms, word study is only whole-class instruction. We do not differentiate based on what our students might need. This idea made me stop and reflect on my own practice. I am very quick to think about how I can teach my readers strategies that will help them to grow in terms of different reading skills. I had not given much thought to the idea that differentiating my word instruction could also help my students as they are reading. I began to think that word study could become some of the small groups or conferring work in my reading workshop.

 

As I anticipated the beginning of the school year I kept two questions in my mind:

  • How would I know the word work my readers would need?

  • How could I teach it?

 

I began with an activity that I had read in A Fresh Look At Phonics. Wiley Blevins suggests initially looking at the scope and sequence of the phonics program used in your classroom. Then look at your reading assessments, and think about the expectations for the instructional text levels of the readers in your class. Next, ask yourself "do the text level expectations match with the whole class phonics instruction I am providing?" For students that are reading at the benchmark, there probably is a correlation with what they are reading and the word study instruction they are receiving. For our striving readers, we might find that they are not yet encountering some of the spelling patterns we are working on with the whole class. We may need to provide more support with initial consonants or short vowels. We also might find that we need to lift the level of our word study instruction for our readers who are reading above benchmark.

 

I now had an idea of what my readers needed, but I was struggling with where this instruction would fit into my reading workshop.

 

 

This summer, I also had the opportunity to attend a guided reading institute with Jan Richardson. At the beginning of the institute, Jan laid out her model for a guided reading lesson. As I listened to the components of the lesson, I knew I had found my opportunity to provide my readers with differentiated word study instruction! Jan emphasizes the balance of word study, reading, and writing in her guided reading work. As students become more proficient readers, the amount of time allocated to word study decreases — the design of this model is around text level within the stages of reading development.

 

Pre-A Readers:

  • Identify 40 or more upper and lower case letters

  • Learn more than 8 letter sounds

  • Hear and identify the initial consonant

  • Write their name

  • Learn correct letter formation

 

This can be done by:

  • Manipulation of the letters in the readers name by using magnetic letters

  • Identification of letters or sounds on an alphabet chart

  • Rainbow writing the reader’s name

  • Picture sorting

  • Rhyming

  • Syllable clapping

 

Emergent (Levels A-C) Readers:

  • Level A- Initial Consonants and Long Vowels

  • Level B-Initial and Final Consonants and Short A and O

  • Level C-All Short Vowels and CVC Words

 

This can be done by:

  • Sight Word Instruction

  • Picture Sorting

  • Sound Boxes

  • Making Words

 

Early (Levels D-I) Readers:

  • Level D-Diagraphs and Onset-Rime

  • Level E-Initial Blends and Onset-Rime

  • Level F-Final Blends and Onset-Rime

  • Level G-Initial and Final Blends, Silent e, Onset-Rime

  • Levels H and I-Silent e, Vowel Patterns, and Inflectional Endings

 

This can be done by:

  • Sight Word Instruction

  • Picture Sorting

  • Sound Boxes

  • Making Words

  • Analogy Charts

  • Breaking Words Apart

 

Transitional (Levels J-Q) Readers:

  • Level J-K- Silent e, Vowel Patterns, R-Controlled Vowel, Inflected Endings, and Compound Words

  • Levels L-M- Vowel Patterns, R-Controlled Vowel, Inflected Endings, Compound Words, Prefixes, and Suffixes

  • N-P- Vowel Patterns, Inflected Endings, Prefixes, and Suffixes

 

This can be done by:

  • Sight Word Instruction

  • Picture Sorting

  • Sound Boxes

  • Making Words

  • Analogy Charts

  • Breaking Words Apart

 

Fluent (Levels R and Higher) Readers:

  • Multisyllabic Words

  • Greek Origins/Latin Roots

  • Spelling/Meaning

 

This can be done by:

  • Word Lists

  • Word Webs

 

Recently I have been working with a group of K-2 teachers to implement this model for guided reading. We've started to pull instructional groups for guided reading. We are amazed at the growth of some of the students when they are making and manipulating letters and sounds. For me, this was the differentiation in our word study instruction that Wiley Blevins was suggesting. And, a missing piece!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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