The Most Important Part of Strategy Instruction

By Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, 2018 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speakers

With the publication of Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman
in 1997, ideas about comprehension instruction began to shift towards teaching students  to be strategic. Since then, powerfully influential books–such as Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis and The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo–have helped us understand how to consider the strategic work of reading as a collection of processes that work together to help children comprehend text. While we agree that strategy instruction should be an instructional mainstay, we invite you to consider some of the more subtle aspects of teaching students to be strategic.

LFA2018-Kim-YarisLFA2018-Jan-BurkinsHere are five things to think about as you are working to develop strategic readers in your classroom:

  1. You can better teach reading strategies if you understand the reading processes of students.

    Listening to students read, talking to them about their understanding of texts, and knowing how they idiosyncratically approach and process text is quintessential to knowing which strategy will be most helpful to them. As a teacher you can know 1,000 reading strategies, but if you don’t know your students well enough to understand them as readers, you will not be able to effectively match the strategy with the reader.

  2. Students do not need 1000 strategies to be successful, in fact this may make them less successful. 

    The value of knowing a lot of strategies as a teacher is that we can then differentiate our instruction to meet the individual needs of students. Teaching lots of strategies to all of your students, however, will likely produce a cognitive overload. In the moment of figuring out the tricky part of a text, having three very-versatile strategies will prove more beneficial than having 15 specific strategies. In the moment of reading, problem solving must be on the run. Having too many strategies to sort through slows the whole process, which interrupts comprehension. Sometimes, less is more.

  3. It doesn’t matter how many strategies students know, if they don’t actually use them. 

    The real value of reading strategies is in their application! If students don’t–independent of teacher reminders and prompting–use a strategy, then it is of little value. The reading rubber meets the literacy road when you evaluate strategy instruction through the lens of student transfer–Do students know when, as well as how, to use strategies, and are they doing so independently?

  4. Isolated strategies are not the end goal. 

    The ultimate purpose of strategy instruction is that students integrate new strategies into their larger reading process. Knowing how to infer (or question or predict or clarify, etc.) is not enough. Proficient readers integrate strategies, flexibly using them in fluid ways. Putting all the strategies together is the ultimate goal.

  5. Not all students need explicit instruction in specific strategies. 

    Students who have balanced and integrated reading processes, who are already strategic and agentive as they work through text, probably need little (or even no) strategy instruction. They simply need more time to read. Their reading processes are already what Marie Clay referred to as “self-extending systems.” Be careful about one-size-fits-all strategy instruction, particularly if it replaces actual reading practice for students.

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Immersion Helps Children Envision the Possibilities

By Stacey Shubitz, 2018 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speaker

Instagram Stories have been around for two years. They came onto my radar about six months ago since several people I follow started creating them. I thought about dabbling in Instagram Stories, but knew I needed to watch a bunch of them before I tried on my own. (Even though Instagram Stories disappear from your profile after 24 hours – unless you save them to your profile from your private archive – I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself!) Therefore, I immersed myself in many Instagram Stories before creating one.

LFA2018-Stacey-ShubitzJust as I needed to view many Instagram Stories to help me figure out how one of my own would go, immersion helps young writers envision what their end products will look like. Regardless of the genre, time spent immersing children in the kind of writing you expect them to produce in a unit of study is time well-spent (Bomer, 2010; Caine, 2008); Eickholdt, 2015; Ray, 2006; Shubitz, 2016). After all, it’s hard to understand what’s expected if you don’t know what the finished piece could look like.

Typically, teachers share mentor texts with students during read aloud time. The first reading of a text should be to experience it as a reader. The second reading of a mentor text should be to notice craft or, rather, how the text is written. After reading a text twice, it is time to dig deeper to notice and note what an author did that made the writing come alive. Many teachers provide time for whole-class discussion of a text so that all students’ responses are honored and recorded on an anchor chart for future reference.

In addition, students can work with partners to read like writers. You may provide students with a variety of mentor texts (i.e., published, teacher-written, student-written) to read and explore together. Provide students with a variety of mentor texts – at different levels – so all students can engage in immersion with a partner.

There are many ways to help students read like writers.

Katie Wood Ray (1999) suggests:

  1. Notice something about the craft of the text.
  2. Talkabout it and make a theory about why a writer might use this craft.
  3. Give the craft a name.
  4. Think of other texts you know. Have you seen this craft before?
  5. Try and envision using this craft in your own writing. (120)

Ralph Fletcher (2011) encourages students to:

  • Make a copy of the writing and put it in your writer’s notebook.
  • Copy a sentence or short section of the piece in your writer’s notebook, maybe mentioning why you chose it.
  • Share it with a friend, zooming in on one part or craft element you really liked.
  • “Write off the text” – that is, create a similar piece of your own. (13)

While Katherine Bomer (2016) provides a third way to examine texts:

Step 1: Read Out Loud.

Step 2: Respond as a Reader.

Step 3: Reread.

Step 4: Read with a Lens.

Step 5: Talk.

Step 6: Record. (10-11)

There isn’t one way to read like a writer. Therefore, it’s important to provide students with a variety of ways to read texts – some are more structured than others – so students can find a process of their own to adopt. After all, we want kids to continue to do this work independently in the future.

After spending two to four days at the beginning of a unit of study to immerse students in a genre, it’s time to determine what they’ve absorbed. After immersion, set aside a day to administer an on-demand writing assessment (Calkins, Hohne, and Robb, 2015). On-demand writing assessments give students the opportunity to try out what they’ve learned after immersion. The data you’ll glean from an on-demand writing assessment will help you modify your whole-class instruction, if necessary, if you notice there are some big understandings about a genre the entire class is missing. In addition, you’ll be able to look at each student’s piece to determine strengths and areas for growth, which can help you set goals for one-to-one writing conferences. Furthermore, on-demand writing assessments provide you with data to create groups of students so you can create a series of small-group strategy lessons to meet multiple needs at one time.

We want students to feel confident when they begin the first non-immersion lesson in a unit of study. One of the best ways to empower kids to feel like they can create writing is to help them understand what it is they’re going to create from the start.

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References:

Bomer, Katherine. 2010. Hidden Gems: Naming and Teaching from the Brilliance in Every Student’s Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

—————. 2016. The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Caine, Karen. 2008. Writing to Persuade: Minilessons to Help Students Plan, Draft, and Revise, Grades 3-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Calkins, Lucy, Kelly Hohne, and Audra Robb. 2015. Writing Pathways: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Eickholdt, Lisa. 2015. Learning from Classmates: Using Students’ Writing as Mentor Texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fletcher, Ralph. 2011. Mentor Author, Mentor Texts: Short Texts and Craft Notes. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Ray, Katie Wood. 1999. Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

—————. 2006. Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Shubitz, Stacey. 2016. Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Research Says Celebrate Invented Spelling in Beginning Readers

By J. Richard Gentry PhD, 2018 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speaker

Can you read this story written by an end-of-year kindergartner?

Gentry1

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When I see a beginning writer’s story with invented spelling like this, I know it’s time to cheer. This child is well on the way to reading success. Research in a number of studies from Canadian cognitive psychologists Gene Ouellette and Monique Sénéchal has convincingly championed the positive outcomes of invented spelling showcasing the writing/reading connection. They undergird their research with two long-standing independent lines of research: 1) research in tracking developmental phases of word reading (Ehri, 2000) and 2) research in developmental phases of spelling (Gentry, 2000). In a carefully crafted longitudinal study Ouellette and Sénéchal (2017) followed over 170 kindergarten writers from kindergarten to the end of first grade and found invented spelling to be “a unique predictor of growth in early reading skills.” Far from being nonacademic, harmful to traditional values, or a deterrent to conventional spelling they found use of invented spelling to be a boon to learning to read, phonemic awareness, and learning the alphabetic principle.

This study and others including neuro-imaging studies are helping map the beginning pathway to successful reading with a powerful observational tool called phase observation. It’s based on my many years of research on phases of developmental spelling which perfectly align with Linnea Ehri’s remarkable contribution in a separate line of research based on phases of word reading.

The Gentry phases and Ehri phases are essentially one and the same—or two sides of the same coin representing observable outcomes of the developing architecture of the reading brain’s word form area. Remarkably, neuro-scientific imaging demonstrates the development of this critical part of the proficient reader’s brain from non-existence in Phase 0 non-readers and writers to its presence in the brains of proficient end-of-first grade readers and writers (Gentry & Ouellette, in press).

Today, exemplary kindergarten teachers across the nation and cutting edge staff development resources such as the New York City Department of Education Framework for Early Literacy: Grades Pre-Kindergarten—2 (NYCDOE, 2018) tout phase observation and use of the Gentry developmental spelling phases and Ehri word reading phases as important for promoting early literacy development.

How Phase Observation Works

Here’s a Close Look Writing Assessment (adapted from Feldgus, Cardonick, & Gentry, 2017) of the “Earth Quakes” story. If we analyze each invented spelling we get a measure of what phase the kindergartener is in from this small sample.

You can analyze each invented spelling using this guide:

Mark each invented spelling as Phase 3 if it has a letter for each sound.
Mark each invented spelling as Phase 4 if it has logical phonics patterns consolidated into chunks. (There are no Phase 0-2 spellings.)

Invented Spelling

Phase

Phase Strategy

Rth (earth) Phase 3 r for the r-controlled vowel; he knows the digraph th.
qhaks (quakes) Phase 3 qh for /kw/, afor /ā/, k for /k/, and s for /s/
log (long) Phase 3 l for /l/, o for /ä/ and typical omission of a preconsonantal nasal before g
tim (time) Phase 3 t for /t/, i for /ī/, and m for /m/
mac (make) Phase 3 m for /m/, afor /ā/, and kfor /k/
kel (kill) Phase 3 k for /k/, i for /ě/, l for /l/
pepl (people) Phase 3 p for /p/, e for /ē/, p for /p/, and l for /l/
Sanfrinsiskou (San Francisco) Phase 4 syllablechunks for san-frin-sis-kou
hapin (happen) Phase 4 Syllable chunks for hap-in

There is a lot to celebrate here! What immediately jumps out is that this writer is advanced for kindergarten and making progress for becoming a proficient reader. He is likely moving from Phase 3 into Phase 4 as both a writer and a reader. While celebrating his meaning making and other strengths, this sample helps us target instruction for CVC short vowels, the long vowel CVCe pattern, digraphs qu and ng, and eventually r-controlled syllables and the idea that every syllable needs a vowel.

We can celebrate when science confirms discovery of best classroom practices for beginning reading teachers. Over three decades ago Marie Clay, the revered world-renowned, late, theorist and founder of Reading Recovery called for educators and scientists to capitalize on the early writing/reading connection. “It is probable,” she wrote, “that early writing serves to organize the visual analysis for print, and to strengthen important memoric strategies. The child’s written work also provides us with objective evidence of what the child has learned.” (Clay, 1982, p. 210) Today, Clay’s hopeful prognosis has revealed itself in phase observation. Let’s use invented spelling to set beginning readers on a pathway to conventional spelling and better end-of-first-grade reading scores. Science has spoken!

References

Clay, M. M. (1982). Observing young readers. London: Heinemann Educational Books.

Ehri, L. C. (2000). Learning to read and learning to spell: Two sides of a coin.” Topics in Language Disorder, 20, 19-36.

Feldgus, E., Cardonick, I. & Gentry, R. (2017). Kid writing in the 21st century. Los Angeles, CA: Hameray Publishing Group.

Gentry, J. R. (2000). A retrospective on invented spelling and a look forward, The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 318-332.

Gentry, J. R. & Ouellette, G. (in press). Brain words: How the science of reading informs teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse Publishers.

Ouelette, G. & Sénéchal, M. (2017). Invented spelling in kindergarten as a predictor of reading and spelling in grade 1: A new Pathway to literacy, or just the same road, less known? Developmental Psychology, 53(1), 77– 88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000179

New York City Department of Education. (2018). Pre-K—2 Framework for early literacy. New York City: NYCDOE Publication.

 

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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!

 

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)

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.

Academic Language for All Students

By Irene Fountas

Vocabulary is a critical building block for understanding texts.  Be sure to focus on words that are useful in academic or school learning as students will encounter them in reading or writing. Words like summarize, approach, analyze, circumstance, evaluate, character, and plot aren’t frequently used by our students in everyday talk but they will need to use them as readers and writers.

Be sure to weave these kinds of words into your talk about books and focus on them in texts so your students will build a powerful vocabulary for learning. Remember- they will need multiple encounters with words in order to assimilate them.

Here is a short conversation between a teacher and her students. Notice how the teacher integrates academic vocabulary in her beginning read-alouds.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman

Teacher– Did the title of the book already get you thinking about Wilma?

Mike– Yes, if she is unlimited it means she could do a lot.

Teacher- Yes that is interesting- “un” meaning not and limited with it. Not limited or unlimited.

Are you already thinking about the genre or type of book?

Sarah– I think it’s a biography.

Luke– It’s a story about what she did in her life.

Teacher– So you are thinking the writer will tell about this woman’s accomplishments. Be thinking about how she was able to accomplish so many things in her lifetime. What were the important decisions she made? How did the setting or the times impact her challenges?

In about two minutes, the students have heard several vocabulary words that the teacher will use multiple times as they talk through the book and in the discussion.

When you are aware of your choice of words, your teaching can be vocabulary-rich and your students will be internalizing new language.