Category Archives: Education

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Components of Quality Reading Instruction

There are five elements of reading instruction-comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonics (word study), and phonemic awareness (Sprenger, 2013). Walk into any primary classroom, and you will likely have no trouble seeing the first two or three in action on a day to day basis. Teachers everywhere understand that they are essential skills to teach and you will see them being taught despite the differences in curriculums and reading materials being used.

Phonemic Awareness

We know that being a competent reader means reading with understanding, expression, and decoding unfamiliar words when necessary. But is there more to being a good reader than that? The answer is yes. There are other important skills that are essential in learning to read. According to Reading Rockets, a website devoted to educating parents and teachers about reading and writing, children should “develop an ear for language” and a prerequisite skill for reading. This is called phonemic awareness and it specifically describes the ability to hear individual sounds in words. Phonemic awareness helps students blend sounds together to form words, isolate the beginning, middle, or end sounds in a word, identify which words have the same beginning or ending sounds, identify how many syllables a word has, or manipulate phonemes to form new words.

Phonemic awareness activities are auditory. There are many activities and resources that you can use to teach it. A simple method involves using pictures. For example, you can show students a picture of an object and ask them to identify the beginning sound. In addition, you can prompt them to identify other words that have the same beginning sound as cat.

Sample Phonemic Awareness Activity

 

Teacher Language:

What’s the picture of? “Cat”

What is the beginning sound? /c/

What is another word that starts with /c/?

Children who lack phonemic awareness skills will struggle in reading. In fact, according to Marilee Sprenger, author of Wiring the Brain for Reading, along with letter identification, phonemic awareness is a predictor of reading success (Sprenger, 2013).

The state of Wisconsin now has reading screeners, such as the PALS assessment, to help identify students at risk for reading difficulty. These screeners assess a child’s phonemic awareness skills. Students in kindergarten, first, or second grade may be lacking the ability to blend words, or separate a word into its individuals sounds. It is essential for the teacher to explicitly teach these skills in order to help the child become a successful reader. In fact, according to Marilee Sprenger, author of Wiring the Brain for Reading, “the absence of phonemic awareness is the greatest problem of struggling readers.”

When planning for instruction, it is important to understand that phonemic awareness develops along a continuum. Students learn rhyming first, then the ability to separate a sentence into its individual words, and then move on to syllable and onset rime blending and segmenting. The most difficult skill along the continuum is phoneme isolation and manipulation.

Research indicates that it necessary to devote only 8-15 hours to phonemic awareness instruction. Once students have acquired these skills, it is no longer necessary to continue allocating time to them. Students also generally acquire these foundational reading skills in pre-k to first grade. According to K 12 Reader Reading Instruction Resources, students will benefit from small group instruction focusing on only 2-3 phonemic awareness skills at a time.

image credit below: snippetsbysarah.blogspot.com

Phonics

Linda Dorn and Tammy Jones explain in Apprenticeship in Literacy, that “phonics is the relationship between the letters in written words and the sounds in spoken words.” Reading Rockets explains that children are taught “that the letter n represents the sound /n/, and that it is the first letter in words such as nose, nice and new.”

Phonics instruction is grounded in print. The focus is helping students learn to match sounds to the letters they make and to teach rules for pronunciation (Cognitive Elements of Reading, n.d.). It goes beyond knowing the sounds of the 26 consonants and vowels. Students first learn letters, sounds, consonants and short vowels, and then they learn more complex skills such as final e, consonant clusters and blends, vowel patterns such as oo, au, aw (variant vowels), ou, ow, oi, oy (diphthongs), long vowel spelling patterns, silent letters, and open and closed syllables (Dorn & Jones, 2012).

image credit below: http://bogglesworldesl.com/consonantblendcards.htm

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Which comes first?

According to the SEDL Reading Resources website, phonemic awareness and phonics are not necessarily related skills. It is possible for a child to have phonemic awareness while having very limited exposure to print.

You might be wondering which comes first-phonics or phonemic awareness instruction. The answer is simple. Before formally entering school, while they are sitting on the lap of a caring adult, listening to stories being read aloud, children are already developing an ear for language. They are already developing phonemic awareness.

Once students have developed their phonemic awareness, it is important to teach children phonics. According to Peter Barnes, author of Phonics Instruction Activates Brain Area Best Wired for Reading, phonics instruction actually increases brain function in struggling readers. The left hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for language and visual regions, changes to resemble the brain function of a successful reader.

Growing Successful Readers

Knowing that phonemic awareness and phonics are not one in the same skills is one of the first steps in understanding the two concepts, and the research speaks for itself. A lack of phonemic awareness is the cause of reading difficulties in struggling readers and systematic phonics instruction has shown to activate regions of the brain and change brain function. It is important for all primary teachers to understand how to teach phonemic awareness and phonics in order to help every child be a successful reader.

Resources

Cognitive Elements of Reading. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://www.sedl.org/reading/framework/elements.html#phoneme

Dorn, L. J., & Jones, T. (2012). Apprenticeship in literacy: transitions across reading and writing, K-4. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse .

Sprenger, M. (2013). Wiring the brain for reading: brain-based strategies for teaching literacy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Teaching Phonemic Awareness – Effective Strategies. (2010, November 28). Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://www.k12reader.com/effective-strategies-for-teaching-phonemic-awareness/

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Introduction to Personalized Learning

I have the fortune to have a principal that has been interested in personalized learning and who toured a school in the Milwaukee area that has been doing it very well.  She has inspired me to learn more about personalizing educational experiences and setting academic goals with my students.  I jumped right in this spring and relied upon my understanding of “the CAFE” by Boushey and Moser to help manage the process.  I also had the opportunity to attend an “Introduction to Personalized Learning” workshop last  spring at our local educational agency (CESA 6 in Turtle Lake, WI).  I am excited to share what I have learned with my colleagues over the next few days.  I am including my SlideShare presentation and accompanying notes as a resource for those interested in learning more about personalized learning as well.  I am by no means an expert but I am definitely journeying down the personalized learning path with my students close at hand.

Click on the following link to download  personalized learning notes  that you can use to interact with the slide presentation.

Click  here  to visit CESA 1’s website to explore various videos about personalized learning (both from a student perspective and from that of a teacher).

Are you interested in learning how to identify the core elements of personalized learning?  Click here to visit CESA 1’s website to download the personalized learning honeycomb.  (Scroll to the bottom of the page where it says “downloadable graphic and matrix.)

Brilliantly Blended Learning

Another title for today’s blog post could be “Blending Learning Effectively.”  I have been deeply interested in blended learning for the past two years and I must say that I have come a long way in my understanding of how to craft engaging lessons that will help my students think deeply and learn successfully.

At first, I was reactive in my efforts to flip lessons.  I had a student that was going to be absent for a significant amount of time due to a major surgery.  My principal suggested flipping lessons to help her keep up with the work of her peers.  The only thing I could think of was to tape the lessons that I was teaching the rest of the class and later post them on my classroom website.  It quickly became apparent to me that I was missing something because as I reviewed my videos, I could see that my lessons tended to “wander.” Could I, let along a student, sum up the learning target in 1 or 2 sentences afterwards?

I began to experiment with different platforms to deliver content.  I learned that opportunities to interact to the lesson and draw upon prior knowledge resulted in increased student success.  I learned that students performed better when they had the chance to work in cooperative learning groups.  I used to think that the sky was the limit in my potential to provide individualized instruction for my students with the use of technology.  Perhaps one of the biggest “aha” moments was when I read in John Hattie’s “Visible Learning” book for the first time that individualized instruction has a low effect size (translation-didn’t give much bang for its buck).

I have included some resources here today that I will be sharing with my colleagues that are interested in learning more about blended learning.  One of the most powerful and influential books that I have been reading this year is “Visible Learning for Teachers Maximizing Impact on Learning.”  If you are familiar with Hattie’s work, you will recognize some of the suggested instructional elements in both the SlideShare and the notes to accompany the presentation.

visible-learning-teachers

Click on the following link to access notes that support learning activities that go along with this session:  Blended learning notes

Click here  to access examples of K-12 flipped lessons to evaluate.

You’re almost done!  I first delivered this presentation at the 2014 MN TIES Educational Technology Conference with my co-presenter, Mike Henderson.  Click here to access our resources page.  You will find a brochure to accompany the presentation in addition to examples of student lessons.  (Note: the Layar science and social studies activities are time sensitive and are no longer “active.”  If interested in experiencing the lesson through the eyes of a student, just email be at bsimo@gk12.net and I will send you current campaigns.)

Enjoy and, as always, if there are any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me or comment below.

TIES 2014 Education Technology Conference-Flipped Classroom Technology: Blended Learning for All Students

There are a lot of teachers and tech integration coaches geared up right now.  The countdown is on!  The 2014 MN TIES Education Technology Conference is taking place December 6-9th.  My co-presenter, Mike Henderson, and I are excited to share tips and tools for creating blended learning activities for students of all ages.  After seeing our presentation, your previous ideas about blended learning may be challenged.  What many teachers once thought was for older students is now applicable to even elementary age students.  I promise that those attending our session will walk away with ideas and strategies that can be put into practice right away.  With Augmented Reality (AR) at the heart of our presentation, be prepared to gain the skills to “wow” your students and increase engagement in the classroom.

Read below to learn more about the tech tools that we are using to deliver content to students.  You will see step-by-step guides that you can easily follow to navigate the technology successfully.  In addition, you will also see real examples of lessons that students are completing.  Take off your teacher hat and view the activities from the eyes of a student.

Attending our session on Monday, Dec. 8th?  (11 a.m. Lake Superior B)  Download and print the student examples below that will be referenced during our presentation.  You know you will be glad you did!

image credit: www.clipartpanda.com
image credit: http://www.clipartpanda.com

 

Flipped Classroom Technology: Blended Learning for All Students

(Download the above brochure to learn more about creating blended learning activities for students of any age.)

 

 

image credit: stream.goodwin.drexel.edu

Layar How-To

 

Clicimage credit: mms.monticello.schoolfusion.usk on the links below to see actual examples of elementary ELA, Science, and Social Studies learning activities.  Use the free “Layar” app, on your mobile device, to interact with each activity and experience it from the standpoint of a student.

 

Moon Layar Activity

Language Arts Layar Activity

Police Officers Layar Activity

image credit: itunes.apple.com
image credit: itunes.apple.com

image credit: stream.goodwin.drexel.edu

Creating a Nearpod Presentation How-To 2014

 

 

Nearpod is a great tool that you can use to create interactive slide presentations.  Gone are the days of just listening to teachers talk.  Now, students can listen, respond to teacher questions, and interact with their peers on a whole new level.  The new homework feature is also and easy way to present content to students.  They can complete the activities at a later time in class or even at home.  You have the option of having students work independently or in a cooperative learning situation.

image credit: mms.monticello.schoolfusion.us

Click on the link below to see the activity sheet that elementary students use to complete a Nearpod homework activity.

 

Nearpod homework example-flipped timeline activity

QR Codes

Using QR Codes to Flip Handwriting Instruction

image credit: mms.monticello.schoolfusion.us

Olympic Themed Handwriting Activities

Click on the link below to see a QR code sheet that contains handwriting demonstrations created with the “ShowMe” app.

Flipped handwriting lessons

What do students do after they complete a handwriting assignment in their handwriting journals?  They turn it in for teacher review.  To reinforce correct letter formation, I have set up a system where students can work towards a prize.  Each assignment successfully completed means that I cross off one olympic symbol on the child’s tracking sheet.  When the sheet is filled up, the child earns a handwriting certificate and a medal.

can write like an Olympian Click here to see the tracking sheet described above.

Click here to read an earlier post explaining how I use QR codes to flip my handwriting instruction.

Interested in seeing other ways that QR codes can be used in your classroom?  Click here to see!

If you have never flipped a lesson, or if you teach elementary or middle school, the above resources may give you a lot to think about.  If you have already been using tech to deliver content to students, my hope is that you  might find a great tool here that can help you refine the process and make it easier.  Whatever the case may be, remember to start slow.  Don’t get overwhelmed and quit.  Begin with one step at a time.  Enjoy the process and the discoveries that you and your students will make.  It will be a fun ride and you will that both you, and your students, will be more engaged as a result!

Any questions?  Feel free to contact me via email at bsimo@gk12.net or Twitter (@BillieRengo).

See you Monday!

What do QR Codes have to do with Reading Comprehension?

work on writing
I love Debbie Miller. I love the “Two Sisters.” I love Regie Routman. I love Ellin Oliver Keene. Now I am really sounding like I spend a lot of time in first grade surrounded by 6 and 7 year olds! The reality is, I do love what these reading gurus stand for. I love teaching my students to take a book from their book box and move beyond “word reading.” Regardless of reading level, I love to teach young children to dig deeper into their reading. The connections, the questions, the predictions, the inferences that result are exciting. At times, they bring tears of joy to my eyes!

What do you do, however, when you spend time introducing comprehension strategies in a systematic manner and students still “don’t get it?” I have never subscribed to the thought process of “Well, I taught it. It’s not my fault they didn’t get it.” I feel like if they didn’t get it, then I didn’t really teach it. (Not well anyways.) That’s when I go back to the drawing board. I try to come at it in a different way.

I have been excited this year about QR codes. I love using the app “Show Me” on the iPad to create a video that captures my thinking about something. I have been using “Show Me” to model different comprehension strategies. My students scan the QR code during their independent work on writing time and then practice the strategy on their own.

The QR code doesn’t take the place of my direct teaching, however. They are meant to reinforce the correct way to do something. Students can watch the QR codes as many times as they need to get it right.

It has been fun. It has also saved me some time. I don’t feel so much like a broken record this year.

Quick Start to Comprehension

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O.k. So the title of this blog may be misleading. Teaching students to deliberately and conscientiously use strategies to understand and remember their reading better takes time. My goal as a curriculum coach, however, is to help simplify information and give teachers a place to start. I created brochures on each thinking strategy to share with colleagues at my school a couple of years ago. Today I would like to share them with you. If you are interested in adding a shared reading component to your day where you teach students to make connections, ask questions, or synthesize information, this is a place to start. The content is inspired by Debbie Miller and her work “Reading with Meaning.”

*Click on a link below to find the strategy you are looking for. FYI-I created these brochures on my home computer using Microsoft Works. Since we do not have that program at school, I scanned each page in order to share them with you.

metacognition brochuremaking connections and visualizing brochureinferring and asking questions brochuresynthesizing brochure

Math Journals Enter 21st Century with Mobile Apps

connected mcgraw hill_Much of what I do is on my iPad. My husband (and our school custodian) call me obsessed. Call it whatever you like. My iPad is a tool that just makes sense to me and the opportunities it provides for me to organize, share, and evaluate student work are endless throughout the day. When I learned that our new math program (McGraw-Hill’s My Math) has a mobile app, you could say I was intrigued. I jumped in, and with my students’ help, we were able to figure it out and integrate it into our math workshop. Students have the choice to complete their daily assignments using the traditional paper math journals, or they can do everything digitally right on the iPad. Once you learn the apps ins and outs, it works out pretty well.
The “My Math” program has many digital tools to support teaching and learning (found at http://connected.mcgraw-hill.com). The iPad app is a mirror of what you (or your students) see when logged in. The coolest thing is how you can check each child’s work. They no longer have to come up to you, stand in line, and wait for you to look over their answers. You have the capability to check each and every child’s work without ever having them come to you. The “student review” function allows you to select each child’s account and evaluate their work while they are working. You can catch inaccuracies before they are practiced and ingrained. Pretty cool, huh?
You see the “student review” button on the mobile app as well. I have used it and have been able to see what my students are doing. However, you don’t have the capability of writing on student pages and giving corrective feedback. You do have the ability, however, when you log in to connected.mcgraw-hill.com and click on the student journal. Students will be able to see whatever you write.
I have attached the handout that I prepared to share with staff members at my school. You might find the handout handy if you also use McGraw-Hill’s ConnectEd “My Math” program. Enjoy!

ConnectEd mobile app user guide

Reflection and Engagement

Reflection time…that’s what today offers me. The last month has been bursting with new iPad applications and my students have been loving it. I have been loving it. Our first snow day was the first week of December and I couldn’t help but feel let down. After the roads were plowed and school was back in session, I was greeting my students in the hallway at 8:15 a.m. “Mrs. Rengo,” one little boy said. “There was no school yesterday.” “I know,” I replied. “It was a snow day.” The boy went on to say, “I was so disappointed.” I could relate and that is when I knew that technology not only increases student engagement but teacher engagement as well.

What has been happening in my classroom to keep me so engaged? The answer is simple. AR (Augmented Reality). I had the privilege of attending an iDesign workshop by Naomi Harm. As usual, she delivered a rich presentation. (A link to her blog is found in my blog roll.)

As a first grade teacher, I am accustomed to teaching a skill to a group of 6 and 7 year olds and having some of them “get it” the first time and some not. (Some need even a second, third, or fourth exposure). Aurasma is the perfect remedy for this. I learned that I could transform my word wall and math vocab wall and make it interactive. My students could record videos of science experiments, word work lessons (anything really) and watch them again later.

Once you understand the process, Aurasma is simple to use. It involves capturing a short video, pairing it with a “trigger image,” and then publishing it to a channel to later view on demand. I began by making my own Aurasmas and then moved on to teaching my students how to make their own because I just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Teaching my students how to make their own was one of the best things I have ever done (instantaneous ownership).

Another favorite app of mine is Layar. Layar allows me to take posters that I create using the app Pic Collage and move beyond 2-D. I can add links to YouTube videos and pictures to reinforce a concept.

What was the first thing I made with Layar? Several years ago I made a poster to teach different letter sounds to help students understand bossy e, double vowels, etc. in reading. It was a hodgepodge of hand drawings and clip art but I was pretty proud of it. I thought “What a great way to teach sounds in reading.” That was then and this is now. Now, my students take the amped up version of my sounds poster and use Layar to view different YouTube videos that show reinforce the spelling rules though song. How engaging!

The bottom line is that I now have the tools to help my students practice important skills independently (making the best use of their time AND mine. Yeah!)

(Pictured below: A sound chart and reading strategy poster that I created using Pic Collage on the iPad. I then used Layar to add various videos to illustrate important concepts.)

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Teaching Time Words

Time Lesson Plan

Time…we are all bound to it. As teachers, we know every minute counts. Two minutes left in our prep? We can get a LOT done in that two minutes! Some children have an understanding of time, and some, to put it plainly, don’t. How do you teach time words? The new CCSS require students to be very clear in their writing and put to use descriptive words. With so many different time words, how do you teach them to children so that they truly understand them? “The Word Lady” has shared her lesson plan with us. No matter what she teaches, she tries to give children something to hold. Watch the video below to see how it is done!

Facilitating Asking Questions

All the great reading gurus talk about questioning as an important comprehension strategy that individuals use to help them understand their reading better. We teach students to generate questions before, during, and after reading. We teach students to search the texts they are reading for answers. Sometimes our answers are found in the text itself and others are found in outside sources.

Children are innately curious. My daughter is a prime example of this. She probes me with questions every opportunity she gets. Her questions are insightful at times and borderline weird at others (such as “What are toenails made of?” or “What would happen if you had no lips?”)

Our goal is for children to think deeply and to stretch themselves. We want quality questions which require higher order thinking and so we teach that not all questions are created equal. We draw an analogy between a sandwich. “Which of your questions are thick? Which ones are thin?” we say. (Thick questions require us to dig deeper. The answers are not found right there in the text. Thin ones, on the other hand, are “right there.” “How does questioning help you as a reader?” we probe.

Despite our best efforts, we sometimes have students that struggle with generating questions. They may write down a telling when they are asked to record a question that they have. What do you do then? “The Word Lady” has the answer.

It is actually simple. Take a box. Place an object inside. (Don’t let the students see what you put in.). Say to the class “I have something inside this box. Ask me a question to try to figure out what is inside.” This is where the fun begins! Your first question may be “What is it?” This is where you work your magic as a teacher. You help shape student responses and mold them in to questions. Based on student responses, you might say things such as: “Ask me a where question. Such as “Where is it found?” Ask me a how question. Like “How do you use it?” You can build a concept of categories and teach students to ask if it is an animal, a type of clothing, or a plant.

This is a fun activity that you can use while kids are lining up or during snack time. Give it a try. You will be amazed at the transformation and the types of questions your students begin to generate!

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