The Buzz About Phonics and Word Study From Spelling Bees to Classrooms – Sparking Students’ Interest in Words

by Jillian Fountain, Intermediate/Middle Literacy Trainer, Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

Jillian FountainLast month, ESPN aired the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee.  You may have watched some of the contestants as they asked for the etymology of a word, the pronunciation again, or the familiar question, “Can you please use it in a sentence?”  The contestants certainly appeared nervous, but if you looked closely, you would also have recognized the moment when a child’s eyes glimmered, the corner of her mouth ticked up just a bit, and she allowed herself to exhale.  The expression on each contestant’s face in that moment of recognition made me realize something.  We, as educators, craft belief statements about literacy instruction, but often we leave word study out of these written proclamations.  Yet, learning about words and how they work impacts all aspects of literacy.

I am in awe of how much interest the spellers in the Scripps National Spelling Bee have in words and how they work, and I began to think about what I might begin to put in a belief statement about phonics, vocabulary, and spelling.

Students will develop curiosity and excitement about words and how they work.

When children feel excited about something, it drives them to discover more about it.  Students who are curious and excited about words will notice new words and share them with classmates, talk about favorite words, and use words or parts of words learned in various instructional contexts in their own reading, listening, speaking, and writing.  The energy they exhibit becomes infectious.

Students will use what they understand about words to expand their knowledge.

Phonics, spelling, and vocabulary are complex concepts that require many years to develop.  As adults, we continue to grow our understandings of words and how they work.  We also know that learning builds on learning, meaning that broad understandings get refined as students participate in reading, writing, speaking, and listening over time.  If during a word study minilesson, a class learned that adding the suffix –al to a noun makes it an adjective, meaning “related to,” the next time they encountered a word like chemical, the students would notice it and refer back to their previous learning.  In writing, if a student wanted to describe something that happens over and over again, he could think about how it is a cycle, and use his knowledge of the –al suffix to call it cyclical.

Phonics_Event_PhotoStudents will recognize relationships between words.

Words are closely connected with one another.  Synonyms, antonyms, homophones, homographs, words that have similar meanings that are not exactly the same, multiple meaning words, words that share the same base word, etc., turn language into a puzzle.  If students can spend time thinking about how words are related, it will deepen their understanding of words and how they work, as well as help them more quickly recognize words and their meanings, and more rapidly access words to use in talk and writing.

Students will use their knowledge of words to more clearly understand, and more precisely communicate. 

Ultimately, the point of teaching phonics, spelling, and word analysis strategies is to develop students’ proficiency as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners.  If students internalize word-solving strategies, they can quickly and without much effort, accurately read books, articles, letters, and other pieces.  They can also produce a large amount of writing to create readable stories, poems, essays, and other pieces.  If they know a lot about parts of words and relationships between words, they can understand what the writer of a piece or a speaker is trying to communicate.  They can also consider the same information when deciding how to say or write something to get across the message they are hoping to convey.  Think of the power that lies in understanding and communicating precisely.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee occurs once per year, but what I learned from watching this year’s event will stay with me.  As I continue to help teachers think about word study instruction, and how to support students’ understandings of how words work across the school day, I hope teachers see the value in this work.  A curiosity and excitement for, and a depth of knowledge of words will help students throughout their lives.

For more information on our Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling in the Reading/Writing Classroom K-3 course August 7-11, 2017 in Cambridge, MA, click here!

 

A First Timer’s Guide to Registering for the Literacy for All Conference

We’re excited to announce we’ve opened registration for the 28th Annual Literacy for All Conference, co-hosted with The University of Maine, and the University of Connecticut. This year the conference will be held October 22–24, 2017 in Providence, Rhode Island. While we know many of you are veteran LFA attendees, each year we have more and more new faces joining us in Providence. Welcome to all first timers!

We have made it even easier to register for the Literacy for All Conference! Simply visit www.regonline.com/lfa2017 and enter your email address to begin your registration process. We’ve put together a little guide to our online registration system to help make the process as quick and painless as possible.

An Important Note

We have created an online registration process that seamlessly guides you through the steps of registration. Please do not use your Internet browser’s “back” button if you want to go back and make a change, as it will cause errors and you will not be able to complete your registration. Instead, if you need to change something, complete your registration and then email us at literacy@lesley.edu, and we will make the changes for you.

Before You Register

First, you should make a list of all the sessions you want to attend. You can find the full list on our website. Each time block is listed with a letter, ie: LCA, LCB, etc. Then, each session within that time block is numbered. So, the full session code will read something like LCA-1 or LCC-4. You can only choose one session per time block, so you should have one LCA, one LCB, and so on.  Please note, that on our online registration system, RegOnline, the sessions are listed with only the code and the presenter name, not the session title, as shown below.

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The only variation is in the In-Depth sessions, which occur either in the C or F blocks. In-Depth sessions are three hours long, not the normal 90 minutes, so if you choose an In-Depth session for your C or F, you will not be able to choose a D or G, respectively, as the In-Depth session will run through that time.

If a session doesn’t appear on the drop-down menu that means it is sold out and you will have to choose another session. Sessions do sell out, so we recommend registering as early as possible to ensure you get all your first choices.

Second, know your method of payment. If your district will be paying for you with a purchase order, you don’t need to know the purchase order number to register. If your district will be paying for you with a credit card, you can still register yourself. When you get to the checkout screen, simply choose “Pay with Purchase Order” and then have your district call us with the credit card number, or fax or email us the PO within ten business days of registering.  Please note, if you are paying with a purchase order (PO), we require that you submit a copy of your PO to secure your registration.  If your PO has not been received by the opening of the institute, you will be required to provide a credit card in order to attend the institute.

We recommend that all attendees register themselves. The process begins with an email validation– you’ll receive an email with a secure link, which you’ll need to click on in order to continue your registration. Forwarding these emails can sometimes be tricky, so we recommend you register yourself to avoid confusion.

If someone else has to register for you, we recommend that you choose your sessions ahead of time and give the list of sessions, including session code and presenter name to the person registering you.

When entering in your personal information, please note that there are separate spaces to enter your school district and your school name, as shown below. When entering your district, please don’t use abbreviations like RSD or UFSD– if the district has a separate name (ie: Oxford Hills School District) please use that; alternately, please spell out the words Regional School District. This will help us keep uniformity in printing name badges, and help match up registrants to purchase orders when we receive them.

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Confirmation

When you’re done registering, you will see a screen confirming that your registration is complete. If you don’t see that screen, you haven’t finished registering yet! Once you get to that screen, be sure to read it thoroughly, as it contains details about which sessions have required readings and materials, a list of conference policies, your own detailed agenda based on the sessions you selected, and other helpful links.

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In addition to the confirmation page, a confirmation email will be automatically sent to the email address you provided. If it doesn’t appear within an hour of you registering, check your spam and junk folders, as some email providers mark emails from RegOnline as spam by mistake. In the past, many were not able to receive RegOnline emails, because many schools block emails from RegOnline, so if you have a personal email address, we encourage you to use it, instead of your school email, when registering.  If you don’t receive your confirmation email at all, please email literacy@lesley.edu and we will re-send it to you.

Please help us be environmentally conscious! Do not print out your confirmation message to mail in with your check or PO. Instead, just make sure your full name and district are written on the PO or in the item line of the check. That’s all we need to match up your payment with your record in the system.

Conference Events, Exhibit Fair, and Other Information

The conference registration desk hours are as follows:

  • Sunday, October 22, 2017: 10:00 am–6:00 pm
  • Monday, October 23, 2017: 7:00 am–5:00 pm
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017: 7:30 am–9:00 am

The conference help desk will be open 7:00 am – 6:00 pm each day.

Literacy for All also includes an exhibit fair with booths showcasing classroom services and products for all grade levels and subjects. Exhibit hours are 4:00-6:00 on Sunday, 10:00–6:00 on Monday, with the Exhibit Fair from 5:00–6:00; and 7:30–3:30 on Tuesday. During the Exhibit Fair on Monday, you can enter to win something from our prize raffle, and get books signed by some of our featured and keynote speakers.

Please visit the conference website, www.lesley.edu/literacyforall, for information on hotels, parking, attendance policy and certificates of attendance, and sessions with required readings/handouts/materials.

Have questions? You can contact us anytime at literacy@lesley.edu or by phone at 617.349.8402.

Looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Developing and Celebrating Students’ Academic Vocabulary Knowledge

By MaryEllen Vogt, Author, Professor Emerita, California State University, Long Beach, and 2013 Literacy for All Conference Speaker

It’s no surprise to educators that academic vocabulary is a hot-button issue, especially with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the much-anticipated, related assessments.  We’ve known for years that there’s a strong correlation between vocabulary knowledge and comprehension, and revisiting this relationship is critical to helping students meet the challenging new literacy standards.

MaryEllen Vogt's blog graphicWithin the SIOP Model (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2013; 2014a; 2014b), we use the metaphor of a three-legged stool when we consider the academic vocabulary that is especially critical for English learners’ language growth. Each leg of the stool is of the same length (think “importance”), and if one leg is broken or missing, the “academic vocabulary stool” won’t be able to stand independently.  The three “legs” of academic vocabulary include:

  1. Content Vocabulary: Subject Specific and Technical Terms.  Key words, terms, and phrases related specifically to the topic of a lesson; these words and terms are often highlighted in textbooks and students must know them to meet content standards.
  2. General Academic Vocabulary: Cross-Curricular Terms; Process and Function.  Words, terms, and phrases used across all academic subjects, including functional language, language processes, and classroom tasks; examples include: describe, define, list, summarize, compare and contrast; support your answer with evidence; debate; argue a position; these are also often found in content standards and standardized tests, and are especially challenging for English learners and struggling readers.
  3. Word Parts: Roots and Affixes:  Enable students to learn new vocabulary, primarily based on English morphology (affixes, roots, base words). For example, note the meaning of –photo (light) in each of these words: photosynthesis, photocopy, photograph, photography, photoelectron, photo-finish, photogenic. An important adage about English (and other languages with roots and affixes) is: Words that are related by structure are almost always related by meaning (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston, 2011).

In the past, teachers have regularly taught content vocabulary, but we now know that for English learners and struggling readers, this is not enough. The CCSS suggest if students are to meet the rigorous standards, all teachers must emphasize and ramp up their academic vocabulary instruction.  Two ways teachers can do this is by:

  1. Contextualizing vocabulary instruction in order to make the invisible visible. Teachers do this by providing students with visuals of key vocabulary, such as photographs or illustrations, to clarify a word’s meaning. An activity such as 4-Corners Vocabulary Chart (Vogt & Echevarria, 2008, p. 40), is a perfect way to contextualize an academy vocabulary word: a) divide a paper into fourths; b) in upper left corner, insert a picture that provides clues to a word (picture of a puffy cloud); c) in lower left corner, provide a definition in student-friendly terms (A white billowy cloud type with a dark, flat base); 3) in upper right corner, include a contextualized sentence (The fluffiest clouds that look like cotton, are called cumulus); 4) bottom right corner, write the vocabulary word (cumulus). Students can make their own 4-Corners charts and booklets for any subject area.
  2. Developing “word consciousness.”  In too many classrooms, word study is laborious and uninteresting. Perk up your students’ interest and their growing understandings of words by celebrating new words they have created using roots and affixes. Create a word wall or hang mobiles, each with a different word root and words that include the root, such as –photo and the words previously listed.  Ask students to bring in new words they’ve discovered with various word roots and attach to the corresponding mobiles. Have fun with tricky and funny words, as Stahl and Nagy (2006, p. 146-147) suggest in the following sentence with homophones:
  • A bike can’t stand alone because it’s two-tired.
  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  • A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

And homographs:

  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The present is a good time to present the present.
  • I did not object to the object.

Academic vocabulary instruction need not be a chore for either you or your students. Because of its relationship to comprehension, the more you attend to academic vocabulary development, the more likely it is that your students will also be developing their comprehension.  I hope that your school year is productive, happy, and full of words and reading!

 

MaryEllen Vogt is a co-author of 15 books, including Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners: The SIOP Model (2013), Reading Specialists and Literacy Coaches in the Real World (2011), and The SIOP Model for Teaching English Language Arts to English Learners (2010).

MaryEllen will be presenting two workshops, sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, at this year’s Literacy for All Conference on Monday, November 4, 2013:

  • Academic Vocabulary: Engaging Activities For All Learners (Grades 2–5)
  • Academic Vocabulary: Engaging Activities For All Learners (Grades 6–8)

References

Bear, D.R., Helman, L., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2011). Words their way with English learners: Word study for spelling, phonics, and vocabulary instruction. (2nd Ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M.E., & Short, D. J. (2013). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP Model (4th Ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M.E., & Short, D. J. (2014a). Making content comprehensible for elementary English learners: The SIOP Model (2nd Ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M.E., & Short, D. J. (2014b). Making content comprehensible for elementary English learners: The SIOP Model (2nd Ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Stahl, S., & Nagy, W. (2006). Teaching word meanings. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

Illustration of Academic Vocabulary Stool (created by MaryEllen Vogt)

The Sharing of Amazing Books

by Helen Sisk, Intermediate/Middle School Trainer (our new trainer from Fairfax, Virginia)

* blog post from Friday, March 8th (when it was snowing here in Cambridge, Massachusetts!)

It’s snowing, again, and this southern transplant is fascinated with the uniqueness found in each storm – never the same old, same old. One storm, Nemo, created mounds of snow, yesterday it snowed all day and never accumulated, today’s surprise storm left traffic in a snarl. Schools aren’t closed and I’m in awe of the hardiness of my neighbors. All winter long, the changing weather keeps things interesting.

Isn’t that also how we want to keep our teaching – fresh and exciting?

Recently, I read the book Moonshot by Brian Floca to a group of educators. We were fascinated to learn about the first trip to the moon from a technical perspective interwoven with narrative and wonderment. And, we loved it – wanting to talk about it, to look closely at the pictures, and to reread it.  We searched the award it won – The Sibert Informational Book Medal, and discovered new nonfiction titles. We went to Brian Floca’s website and learned why and how he created this book. We couldn’t wait to return to our classrooms to share MMoonshotoonshot with our students.

We became engrossed with this book. How do we generate similar responses with our students? Are we sharing books that are new and amazing? Do our students clamor for them? Are WE engaged? We need to continue honoring classic picture books such as Owl Moon and Big Mama, but intentionally add books by different authors and novel topics that our students find captivating to expand their repertoire.  Constantly mixing it up engages us, too. It’s a teaching perk we need to tap.

We are all looking for the next great book. Please comment below on titles of books you and your students discovered this year. We’d love to hear from you!

Introduction: An Inquiry Stance for Teaching and Learning

by Jill Eurich

In the next blog postings that I will be writing I am going to consider how an inquiry stance can be effective within any instructional framework. To begin to explore this powerful tool, let’s consider these ideas from Judith Wells Lindfors in her book, Children’s Inquiry: Using Language to Make Sense of the World.

 “Acts of inquiry stand as the ultimate act of going beyond: going beyond present understanding (intellectual); going beyond self to engage the help of another (social) but ever going beyond as self (personal).” (Lindfors, p. 14)

“Inquiry involves students in interactions that are abundant, diverse and authentic.”  (Lindfors, p. 67)

“If a teacher is modeling an “inquiry stance” for students, she is most likely asking real questions.  These types of questions are ones you actually wonder about yourself.  They are what Albritton called “honest questions” and Lindfors calls “acts of inquiry.”” (Lindfors, p. 113- 114)

Whether we are sharing an interactive read-aloud, teaching reading, writing, poetry, or word study, an inquiry stance allows us to delve deeply into a topic with students, to explore alongside of them as they investigate patterns in words, writer’s craft in texts they are reading or are being read to them, an author’s perspective, a character’s dilemma, a problem being tackled beyond the world they know, connections across books or poems. Most of all a stance of inquiry is a habit of mind in which, “curious creative meaning-makers are engaging one another in their attempts to further their probing into the workings of the world.” (Lindfors, p. 127)

Source

Lindfors, J.W. (1999). Children’s inquiry: Using language to make sense of the world. New York: Teachers College Press.

Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston

by Diane Powell, Primary Trainer

I just finished Peter Johnston’s latest addition to the world of education – Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives.  Published recently by Stenhouse, and just like Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning, it was a page-turner as he helps us think more deeply about how the language we use in classrooms not only shapes children’s lives in school but also how it impacts the ways they view themselves and others in the greater world as adults. He speaks about the ways we continue the praise of children often to a disadvantage as they grow. He also puts out a charge to us to focus on educating the “whole child” – not just the academic one. There are links to the language of parenting as well.

A few quotes (and there are hundreds) I’d like to share to nudge your thinking include the opening quote found on page 1, “Children seldom misquote you. They usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.”

In chapter 3 on page 28, “…learning takes time and work, but intellectual change happens. The more you learn, the smarter you get.”

Opening chapter 4, “’Good Job!’ Feedback, Praise, and Other Responses” on page 35 these quotes caught my eye: “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”(by Norman Vincent Peale) and “If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” (Unknown).

From “Taking Moral Development Seriously” page 91 comes this one: “Unfortunately, the more high-stakes testing pressure is applied to teachers, the more authoritarian they become and the less inclined they will be to invest time in social problem-solving.”

And finally, in Johnston’s closing paragraph on page 124 come these words of wisdom: ”Ultimately, we have to generate a more productive vision for society than the one that has been guiding schooling, and we must equip children with what they need to construct that society. Given what we know, failing to attend to students’ civic, social and broader cognitive development in school is not only academically short-changing children, it is criminal. Well, now you know….”.

I would encourage everyone who was struck by the power of Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning to rush and get a copy of Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives and dig in. This text has the potential to spark a variety of interesting book club discussions in your school.  Enjoy!

Using Oral Language as a Support for English Language Learners

By Kathy Ha, Primary Literacy Trainer

  • The Power of the Home Language – Remind family members of the importance of speaking to their children in their home language.  All language is rule bound, redundant, and highly predictable.  If children build a rich control of their native language the school can use this foundation of language learning to support the development of the English language.
  • Value and Utilize Students’ Home Languages During Teaching and Learning Opportunities – When the class is fortunate to have more than one person (either teacher or child) who speaks the home language of the ELL then the student can use her first language to practice what she wants to say before stating thoughts in English.  A student can also ask for clarification of directions in his native language or can seek support in learning how to say a particular word or phrase in English.
  • Listen More Closely – Marie Clay said, “If a child’s language development seems to be lagging it is misplaced sympathy to do his talking for him.  Instead, put your ear closer, concentrate more sharply, smile more rewardingly, and spend more time in genuine conversation, difficult though it is.  To foster children’s language development, create opportunities for them to talk, and then talk with them (not at them).”
  • Create Numerous Opportunities for Talk – Classrooms should be places where meaningful student talk and student listening is fostered and encouraged.  Providing these opportunities will allow all students to build on their knowledge of English vocabulary and how the English language works.