We have had decades and decades of reading research, including literally thousands, of reading research papers that have revealed so much about how children learn to read words. Yet, along the way not much has happened with phonics and decoding instruction per se.
Yes, there have been some changes, for sure, but many things are kind of staying the same as they have for generations. What if we took another look at the modern orthographic mapping and phonemic awareness research to better inform our phonics instruction--our decoding instruction?
This 2-part video series extracts highlights from two well-respected reading research papers and offers 3 tweaks to traditional phonics instruction - all of which will launch young readers into real reading much faster than traditional approaches.
[Choose your own adventure: Watch the videos or read the transcript below.]
Let Orthographic Mapping and Phonemic Manipulation Inform Your Phonics Instruction
- [35:52] - Blending, segmenting and manipulating 3-sound words.
- [38:51] - Learning advanced phonics (long vowel and its variations).
- [40:37] - Blending and manipulating 4- and 5-sound words.
- [42:00] - Blending with multisyllable instruction.
Decoding Instruction Proposal
Video Transcript of Using Orthographic Mapping and Phonemic Awareness to Guide Phonics Instruction
Marnie: We have had decades and decades of reading research, including thousands, literally thousands of reading research papers that have shown us the way to teach reading. Along the way not much has happened with phonics per se. There've been some changes, for sure, but some things are kind of staying the same as they have been for generations, and maybe we need to take another look at the modern orthographic mapping and phonemic awareness research to better inform our phonics instruction, our decoding instruction. That's what I want to share with you today.
Marnie: I'm Dr. Marnie Ginsberg from Reading Simplified, and it's our mission to streamline reading instruction and accelerate students' reading achievement. So, let me share with you some key findings from research that have actually been around for several decades, but that now we know even more how convincing these theories are and how they have stayed the test of time. Now, maybe we can make some changes as a result of what we learned. But first, let me tell you a story. Okay?
Marnie: Have you heard the story about the newlywed couple that's having a dinner, and the husband's helping out the wife, but the wife's doing the pot roast. She cuts off both ends of the pot roast, sticks it in the oven, and the husband says, "Why did you throw out those pieces of the pot roast?" She said, "Well, that's just the way mom always did it." So, he rings up mom, and he says to his mother-in-law, "Why do you cut the ends off of the pot roast?" His mother-in-law says, "You know, come to think of it, I guess it's just what I learned from grandma. She always did it that way." So, he finally gets in touch with his grandmother-in-law and says, "My wife is cutting off the ends of the pot roast. I'm wondering where she learned that. Did you do that?" Grandma laughs and says, "Oh, yeah. I mean, I did that for years, because the pan was too small. I had to cut the ends off to get the pot roast in the pan."
Marnie: So, that's a tradition that has stayed the test of time that maybe doesn't have good strategy behind it. Right? Let's examine how some of our strategies in decoding instruction might improve if we reflect, again, on what we have learned, as I said, from this really exciting number of years of reading research. So, again, we've had a huge explosion in reading research, but maybe not as many different changes in how we teach decoding. A lot of scope and sequences in phonics are still looking pretty much the same as they have for years. Does this kind of general plan for phonics scope and sequence resonate with you?
Marnie: You start out with maybe the alphabet letters, maybe the letter names, and then later the later sounds, and then the short vowels, and then consonant digraphs, and then other short vowel words with increasing complexity with the consonant clusters at the beginning and the ends of words, like CVCC words, like help, and more complex words, like sprint. It's not until all that is covered that you move into maybe the magic E, or silent E, or vowel plus E pattern, and then maybe into long vowels, and then maybe into what we call R controlled vowels, and then maybe into diphthongs or whatever you want to call it, vowel variance, and then maybe later syllables. Does that progression look kind of like what a lot of phonics programs look like?
Marnie: It's been looking that way for many, many, many years, multiple decades. The one thing that has changed in some good ways, in many places, not all unfortunately, but in many places, we've tacked on this beginning level of phonological awareness. We do it orally for a little while, and then we're ready to start phonics instruction. Then those two types of instruction overlap for a little while, and then we kind of drop out the phonological awareness. It is great that we're including the phonological awareness, because we know at least 40% of our kids desperately need it to be able to access the code, but is this the optimal way to present it? Let's talk about that.
Marnie: So, as we have been kind of in a battle almost to defend the virtue of explicit, systematic phonics, which is thoroughly demonstrated by research, maybe at the same time we have stifled a little innovation in how we go about teaching phonics, our scope and sequences and maybe our activities. So, I'm going to present to you some big ideas in the reading research field that I think justify us reconsidering how we do reading, our scope and sequences, and maybe even some of our activities. So, these two big ideas, they are actually not that modern, but they've got a strong, modern research base.
Marnie: So, Keith Stanovich wrote this very influential paper, The Matthew Effects in the Acquisition of Literacy. This is his concept from one of his most famous papers, and I'll give you that citation in a second. David Share has another big idea, self-teaching, how kids learn how the read. It's through a self-teaching mechanism. So, those two big ideas--about orthographic mapping and phonemic awareness research--they come from 1986 for Matthew Effects and as early as 1995 for the self-teaching concept, and yet the research that they put forward in those seminal papers, which I will show you ... Here we go.
Marnie: These are at the top are the two papers that I want to refer to them a lot, but even though those are now 30, 40 years old, many, many research papers and research syntheses have since then demonstrated that these principles, these theories, which originally had some strong backing in these first papers, they continued to build the power and the argument that these papers really indeed speak truth into how kids learn to read. So, I encourage you to check out the top two papers, and then there's some more recent citations for you that back up a lot of the principles in those core papers, and I'm going to talk about them. So, I'm going to break these two big ideas up, first talking about the Matthew Effects in reading, and then after we talk about these big ideas, then we'll see, well, here's some new, strategic ways that we can think about phonics scope and sequence and instruction. But let's first getting into the research that I'm talking about.
Marnie: So, these are some of these big ideas from these papers. Again, these disco balls are to show you that some of these ideas have come from as early as the 60s and 70s. One that was pretty well established by the time Keith Stanovich wrote the Matthew Effects paper is that the phonological core deficit explains most early reading difficulties. In other words, a child's individual ability to process sounds and words, phonologically, will determine whether or not that child has easy reading success or reading challenges. Specifically, not just the global, phonological level, like can you hear how many syllables in a word or can you rhyme, but the very micro-specific level of individual phonemes, like in flat, flat. Each of those are phonemes.
Marnie: The smallest level of phonological awareness would be called phonemic awareness, and that has a causal relationship with reading achievement. In other words, it causes it. When you're good at it, you're going to read well. When you're bad at it, you ain't going read well, but it's not just causal. It's also reciprocal. So, as a student gets better at phonemic awareness, they get better at reading, and as they get better at reading, they get better at phonemic awareness, and it is a positive snowball for our good readers. Early reading specifically spawns a fan-spread effect via reading volume. In other words, if you start off in a good way as a reader, you are going to have a whole host of benefits, mostly because you read more.
Marnie: Here's some other core, big ideas from these two papers and other reading research. Rapid, automatic word recognition is the hallmark of reading achievement. If you're a good reader, it's easy to figure that out, because you almost invariably can rapidly recognize words in a split second, literally a split second, a 20th of a second. Good readers have advanced phonemic awareness, which is what we kind of talked about. If it's reciprocal, you're getting better at your reading, you're getting better at your phonemic awareness. And finally, after sufficient phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, and decoding skills, readers self-teach themselves most English words. So, these are the three ingredients that get you started in recognizing words. Then you learn a lot of them deducing them yourself.
Marnie: So, let's first talk about this really awesome paper by Keith Stanovich, Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy. There is a lot of gold in this one, particularly ... There's so many things, but I particularly want to point out that if you are still doubting the power of directing kids to use context, you should read his evidence in 1986 that was already pretty much a slam dunk against that as being the main way good readers read. Good readers don't rely on context. As we said a minute ago, they recognize words in a split second. This is really one of the main findings of this Matthew Effects review. He says, "It is imperatively important that the prerequisite phonological skill ..." I'm sorry. "... prerequisite phonological awareness and skill at spelling to sound mapping be in place early in the child's development, because their absent can initiate a causal chain of escalating negative side effects."
Marnie: So, this is this positive or negative snowball is what the Matthew Effects label comes from. A previous researcher had labeled this dynamic and social phenomenon the Matthew Effects based on the Gospel of Matthew, where there is a parable where Jesus says, "The rich will get richer, and the poor will become poorer." In this sense, in academics, particularly in reading, if you can read well early, you will take on a lot of positive benefits. If you can't read well early, you will have some negative consequences. That's what he's saying here. What is it that starts the snowball? Phonological awareness and skill at spelling to sound mapping.
Marnie: He made a great case for this in this theoretical paper, which was also backed by strong research in 1986. We have even much, much more evidence that he was right, but we haven't always paid attention to it. So, he also says in his paper, "Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioral, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks." You know this already. Right? If you can't read, then there's that fan-spread effect. It affects so many areas of the child's life, their psyche, their identity, their behavior, and of course their academic potential. So, it's a big deal.
Marnie: Soon after experiencing greater difficulty in breaking the spelling to sound code, that's mapping on those sounds and symbols, mapping them together, poor readers begin to be exposed to less text than their peers. If it's hard for them, the teacher won't ask them to do as much. If the teacher doesn't ask them to do a much, they will read less, or if it's hard for them, they just actually can't get through as many words in the same number of minutes. A good reader in five minutes can read 100 words potentially. A poor reader in 10 minutes, five minutes can read five, 10. So, that difference in exposure to print and reading practice, accurate reading practice, is what causes this divide that leads kids to good reading and those to frustration.
Marnie: Here's a visual of what's going on. As he said, what's going on in this positive snowball, the Matthew Effects of the rich getting richer, they start out with good phonemic awareness. They hear the sounds and words, and so they're able to map them to print. If they have that at the beginning or they're given it through good instruction, they're off to the races. It's a fast start for them, so then they feel good about themselves. They have self-efficacy. I am a reader. I can do this. So, what do I do? I read more. That is the positive snowball, that kids who get off to a great, quick start in first grade, that's what they benefit from.
Marnie: So, what happens if they have good phonemic awareness and they have this sound to spelling print? What is that combination of things? Well, we see from his paper and other papers, we know that if you are getting off to a good start, it requires a few ingredients. You have to have the concept of the alphabetic principle, the concept that a written language is code for sounds. You also have to have improving phonemic awareness, improving ability to segment, blend, and manipulate sounds in words, so that you can hear sh-op and know it's shop. If I'm asking you to change shark to mark, you know which sounds to move in and out. That's manipulation. All of those are signs, byproducts, if you will, of getting off to a fast start, because the reading is helping build your perception of sounds and words.
Marnie: Of course that means if you're reading well, you must have a strong sound based decoding approach or phonological decoding approach to reading, and as you develop that good ear for how sounds and symbols match up, then those spellings, specific spellings, get memorized. We call that orthographic mapping. You orthographically map or link very specific spellings in a specific order, that shark is S-H-A-R-K. That's represented by those sounds and that particular symbol array in your brain in this way. So, if you are trying to read the word mop as a beginner, and if you do it well and you're well prepared to become a great reader, this is the process you go through.
Marnie: You perceive that the sounds in mop are m-op, but that perception of sounds is not enough. You also have to link them with those specific graphemes or letter sounds, M-O-P. So, that's sound to symbol connection. When you see how those are lined up and you also get it stuck in your brain, that's called orthographic mapping. They're linked sounds and symbols in a particular part of your brain. It's not a visual thing in the sense that you remember the way the word looks. You're remembering a concept of M-O-P in a specific order. It's not just letter order.
Marnie: It's phoneme and letter order driven. So, I don't want you to think that it's just one letter, one sound. Shout, for instance, is a five letter word, but it still has three phonemes, but the student understands, the student on the way to good reading understands that it's sh-ou-t. I just did that wrong. Sh-ou-t. That's what I meant to say. So, those sounds, sh is represented by the S-H. The ow is represented by the O-U. The /ta/ is represented by the T. When the student hears those sounds and maps them to print, that is orthographic mapping. That is linking those sounds and symbols in their brain deeply, so deeply that they read words in a split second.
Marnie: So, here's a little quiz. I'm going to flash some things at you, and I want you to see what you can remember. Okay? So, watch the screen. Ready? I'm just going to do this really quickly. What did you see? Did you see some images? Did you see words? Perhaps you saw peach? Why did it jump out at you? We actually know that if you're a good reader, you can recognize words faster than you can recognize almost anything else, images, letters, colors. It's very powerful, because it's just deeply connected, orthographic learning in our brain, and it's different than the visual array, recognizing that that's a flamingo or a bell. That's a little slower for us than recognizing peach. So, that's orthographic learning.
Marnie: So, back to this positive snowball. When the kids have sufficient phonemic awareness, then they're much more likely to have automatic word recognition. These are the four ingredients that lead to the pathway of good word recognition, the type of word recognition that will serve them as they're maturing. We don't want kids just to memorize the way a few words look, like this is a tall letter and a short letter. We want them to orthographically map them in the sense that they're linking sounds and symbols in their brain and not relying on a visual only order. They're connecting sound and symbol.
Marnie: So, this is the Matthew Effects, the good Matthew Effects, in action. You get that good start, and so you start to recognize words. Then that leads to your feeling of self-efficacy as a reader, and so you read more. Guess what happens when you read more. You recognize more words. You also get better phonemic awareness. Then you just start off in this positive snowball, which doesn't stop there. There are so many other benefits that the good reader enjoys. The good reader will not just learn to recognize words quickly. She will also have better reading comprehension, better vocabulary knowledge, likely better knowledge of the world, better classroom behavior, increased reading motivation, all of those positive snowball effects from getting a fast start in reading. Of course the converse is true. If a student gets off to a slow start and can't rapidly recognize words, then all of these benefits that they could enjoy they don't, more than likely.
Marnie: So, I hope that this discussion of how reading develops can help kind of alleviate some of the tension that I think many of us observe when we're watching kids and adults read. On the one hand, research is very solidly indicating that phonological decoding or sound based processing is the route that we all need to go through to develop a good, strong reading brain. So, we're maybe laboriously going through matching sound to symbols early on, but when we do that well enough and the words get orthographically mapped, then we read them so rapidly that it's impossible to imagine that we're decoding them in the sense of converting sounds and symbols. It's so fast. It's so deeply entrenched. You see that word peach, and you're not thinking p-ea-ch anymore. You just, boom, read it.
Marnie: Research indicates indeed there is some phonological action happening, even for the most sophisticated readers, who are automatically recognizing words, but it's much less than the features of a beginning reader. Phonological awareness affects us throughout our lives as a reader, but it's super important for that beginning stage. So, maybe whole language held on for so long, because people were saying, "But these good readers, they don't sound out words." Well, they didn't sound them out maybe in your presence, because they went through a window of sound based processing, and now they're at the other end or down that rapid, automatic recognition of words pathway. They're at a different developmental stage, but the best way to get there is through the sound spelling route.
Marnie: Here's another way of thinking about it. Over time, word recognition, the processes we use to some extent change. Early on we're really active with the phonological decoding. That's what enables us to get how the code works and for the words to orthographically map. Later on we don't have to have such laborious decoding processes, but we are rapidly recognizing words. If you give kid who is a good reader a list of words, they can read them really rapidly, and that's the sign that they're most likely going to be a good reader. A very strong correlation between being able just to read a list of words and being able to comprehend text.
Marnie: Here's another important point that was in that Matthew Effects paper, but doesn't often get talked about. I think it's going to relate to something we're going to talk about later with phonics strategies. Remember, I said this earlier, that phonemic awareness is reciprocally related to reading achievement. So, here's another positive snowball. As the student gets access to the code, they have to have some phonemic awareness, so they either need it cognitively, naturally, or we need to provide it to them through instruction. But then guess what gives them the best ongoing development in phonemic awareness. It's reading. They keep getting better. If you see the word back today and tomorrow you see the word black, you are getting finer tuned understanding of more and more sophisticated words. The B-L is a little more difficult. You have to perceive different things, as opposed to a three sound word like back. A four sound word like black is a little harder.
Marnie: So, mostly the reading research would suggest that reading practice is the best phonemic awareness training. We need to give kids who can't get into the code, we certainly need to give them support to develop phonemic awareness in whatever way we can. But if we can move them into real reading as soon as possible, then the reading itself, if it is sound based decoding, phonological decoding, mapping sounds and symbols, it is going to be building their phonemic awareness. If kids need more than that, because that's not enough, then we can certainly provide that. But the faster we get kids reading, the faster they'll have development of phonemic awareness. In fact, most of us who are maybe over the age of 35 have never been trained in phonemic awareness, but we most likely are really good readers, and we got that way through reading. Some kids don't naturally develop that, so we have to prepare them for that, but reading is a fabulous training for phonemic awareness.
Marnie: Finally, to kind of nail this message of this Matthew Effects paper home, really drill it down, the kids that get off to a good start by rapidly acquiring the ability to read words, they get on this train to successful reading, and it starts in first grade. Guess what. Sadly, that train leaves the station in first grade. If the kids don't get on that train of rapidly acquiring how reading works, the odds are probably eight to nine out of 10 won't do well in reading, not because of something developmental with the child as much as just that's not how our school system works. Reading is learned in kindergarten and first grade, and then the train moves off. It leaves the station in first grade.
Marnie: So, then that begs the question, are we being strategic with early, rapid word recognition? Could we adapt some of our scope and sequences and some of our activities to make sure that those who don't have the natural, intrinsic ability to perceive the sounds of words, that they would be given instruction that gave them the power to do that and move quickly into recognizing real words and feeling that same self-efficacy that a kid who has a natural bent for reading. So, that's I think one message that we need to take home from this Matthew Effects paper, not just ... Of course it's important to get intervention, but maybe we can also be strategic in our decoding instruction, so that we can give this opportunity for rapid, early word recognition to more and more kids. Okay? Are we prioritizing this with the way we're laying out our reading programs?
Marnie: Here is a little anecdote, a little demonstration to give you the concept about some of the ideas I'm suggesting we reconsider. So, if you are a first grader, and you're learning to read, and you can read Frog and Toad, like this, this is an old, but still very commonly used text, if you can read this in first grade, you are probably feeling pretty good about your reading. You are feeling self-efficacious. You are off to a good start. You may have rapid word acquisition, and you most likely have a good ear for phonological decoding. Another principle that I want you to keep in mind, if we're talking about rapid acquisition, is this, that just 300 words, the most frequent 300 words, they represent 65% of written English. So, more than half of English words are represented by 300 words.
Marnie: Now, some people would have taken that and say, "Okay. Let's just do flashcards. Let's give kids ... drill them in these sight words." I'm not saying that. Don't worry. I want still to validate the research for sure that the best way to learn those 300 words is through the phonological decoding route,absolutely no question. But are our phonics materials thinking about the fact that these 300 words really matter a lot? A lot of our phonics materials will choose words like bog, and hog, and cot. Some of the time those may be needed. Absolutely. I have developed programs where those were used, but I've also developed a program where I emphasize words that are more likely to be used from particularly the most frequent 300. Here on this page, in this Frog and Toad Book, all those words in yellow are from the top 300. Notice it's a vast majority of the book. The words that aren't in the top 300 are fairly easy to decode if you have some advanced phonics knowledge, like toad, and wait, and mail, mailbox, feeling, porch. Most of them are three sound words and a couple multi-syllable words.
Marnie: So, here's another way to be thinking strategic about the what words we're asking students to look at and also asking them what letter sounds we're asking them to learn. So, typically, the alphabet drives early reading instruction, and a lot of programs don't even let kids really start to read words until they've mastered or the teacher has covered all 26 letters of the alphabet. We certainly need to learn the letter of the alphabet, I'm not arguing against that, but do we have to learn it all at first? Could students read words and feel self-efficacious at some beginning level when we prioritize certain letter sounds and certain words?
Marnie: For instance, the letter Z. Everyone's going to teach it if they're teaching the alphabet, but it's not in any of the most 300 frequent words, the most frequent 300 words, none, zilch. Same with Q-U. The letter J is just in one word out of 300, just. The letter X is just in two. But look over there at the E sound, the E as in family, the E as in read, the E as in he, we, and she, the E as in seem, the E as in story, or study, or very, or every. There are 47 words in the top 300 that have the E sound. So, which should we prioritize in our scope and sequence? If we're going to want them to read the Frog and Toad book, does the Z really matter in the first week or the first month, or can the E sound give them a lot more possibility? That represents actually a little more than 15% of the most frequent words.
Marnie: There are other advanced phonics spellings, like the spellings in A. There's 22 of those in the top 300. There's 28 ers in the top 300. That's really where the tools are to be able to attack those first 300 words. So, what if we were to reconsider our scope and sequences and design them not entirely, but more on the high frequency spellings that would lead them to high frequency words and maybe connecting those two ideas? Yes. It's still really important to think about level of difficulty. I agree, most programs start out with short vowels, and we should probably do that, because that creates a level of reliability and predictability that the student can figure out this whole decoding thing. Then we throw at them the trickiness of advanced phonics, like the long vowels and all of the other vowel variations. But we can still modify it and, again, maybe not be driven so much by the alphabet, but more by other features of the spelling system that are going to help them get rapid acquisition of text. So, don't wait for the real reading until after the alphabet is so-called covered.
Marnie: So, here's another way of looking at ... Remember, that scope and sequence I suggested at the beginning is kind of a classic, general idea. Maybe we don't start with all the alphabet. Let's start with the ones that matter, M, and S, and T, the Wheel of Fortune letters, A and I. Those are high frequency, short vowels, a few high frequency, consonant digraphs, like W-H in which, and when, and where, and the C-H in which and each, and the S-H in wish is not a high frequency one, but there are other S-H words that are high frequency words. We think about those. They would drive our early reading instruction, so that we give kids a handful of sounds, and then we give them words that are in simple books that they can read and start to feel, "Oh. I've got this." Then they'll start to recognize high frequency words, because they are orthographically mapping them sound to print, and they're seeing them more.
Marnie: Another category there is where we've got all the CVCC possibilities. Again, this is not actually very common in the top 300 words. There's only one word in the top 300 that have a CCVCC pattern, like plant, and there are no six sound words, like sprint. So, a lot of programs try to make sure that we're really hitting the short vowels and pushing it to more and more, finding the more difficult words. We start with three sounds. Then we move to four. Then we move to five. Then we move to six, and it's only later that we introduce long vowels or other advanced phonics. But those words are not what make up the bulk of the top 300 words, and only 32 of the 300 have even one cluster, like stop or must.
Marnie: So, we could delay that pressure in learning how to perceive all the sounds and words, and we could introduce the avalanche of information they do need to learn for advanced phonics earlier, but mostly stick with three sound words. When they're developmentally ready, because phonemic awareness is more challenging than just learning new information, if you understand how the code works, then they'll be more prepared to pick up how to read the word plant, and sprint, and stand, and stamp later on. But we don't want to hold off for too long on the information that drives most of early reading acquisition. Remember, 47 of the top 300 words have the E sound and its various spellings. We shouldn't be waiting four, six, nine months before we get into that domain.
Marnie: I believe also kind of tangential to this topic is that this whole scope and sequence is based on an adult's worldview. We have a worldview as mature readers, and we're analyzing the spelling system from a perspective that's not child-like. The child, we know now, is really having to take the sounds and the words that they already know and translate that into symbols that they recognize, that they will learn to recognize. That's what the phonological decoding process is, sound to symbol. They already know sounds. They can speak. We just have to map them onto print. So, they don't need to know all of these labels in order to read. They just need to know that this can be ... this ah can be represented this way, and this sh can be represented that way.
Marnie: So, Diane McGuinness, in '96, was very popular for her book, Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do About It. She got this idea into my head then, and I've been using it ever since, that just break it up into a more simple dichotomy, not all those things about vowel variance and R controlled vowels. It's just really the basic code, which is just a nice, gentle way to introduce kids to print, which would be some consonants, the short vowels, and some consonant digraphs. Get them reading, and then get them into the advanced code, which would basically include all the long vowels, and all the vowel variants, and the R controlled, and the diphthongs. The child doesn't need the label. It's great that we understand these variances, but the child doesn't need the label in order to attack a word and to translate the sounds that they hear in the word to the symbols that they're seeing. So, that's more of a child's worldview, if we kind of simplified some of our language and our way of thinking. Also, it makes it simpler for the teacher to plan, if this is their progression.
Marnie: So, I'm going to propose one scope and sequence that I use at Reading Simplified. This is based on some of these principles that I've talked about before, but it's not the only way. But I hope that you see that some of the things I was talking about ... how we need to think more about rapid word recognition and which sounds we should prioritize. You'll see that embedded in the concepts in this scope and sequence. So, it's one possibility for us to reimagine our decoding instruction, since we know so much more now about makes for an early, good reader.
Marnie: So, the first thing that I want to draw your attention to is this pathway on the left, these major goals that are connected through the arrow. It's starts with the number one goal of making sure that your students can blend and manipulate three sound words, blend, segment, and manipulate three sound words. That's the main goal. That's how they're going to get the concept of the alphabetic principle, and that's how they're going to get started phonologically decoding, and that's how they're going to read words. That's how those words will become orthographically mapped.
Marnie: We don't need to worry if they know the Q, or the Z, or the X yet, or even the J. The minutia of each specific alphabet letter is not nearly as important as the main goal of getting them to blend three sound words. We start at a simple, three sound level, because phonemically it's more simple, and also it's more likely to stick with more short vowels. That's just for a season though, so they get some nurturing into how the code works, and then they can develop more sophistication later.
Marnie: So, you see in steps one through four they're being introduced to the alphabet. That's actually a little concession, because the culture's so expecting that we first have to teach the whole alphabet, but maybe you wouldn't even need to do this. As a reading tutor, I don't make sure that I have Z, and T-C-H, and Y, certainly as the ya sound, I don't necessarily make sure that I have that before I move into this step five. I'll explain more of that. But the main driver of steps one through four is learning mostly the most important, high frequency sounds and then also those short vowels in order of frequency, A, and then I, and then O, then E, then U. That's the tools that you're trying to give them, the information you're giving them, why you're focusing on that blending goal.
Marnie: But at the same time, we're also teaching them phonics and focusing on helping them to blend, and read real words, and be in real text. We're also mapping our phonics information to high frequency words, insofar as we can. So, we are teaching short A, so we'll also be highlighting more short A high frequency words, like have, and had, and can, and and, and has, and than. When we add in the short I, we then fold in more high frequency, short I words, this, and which, and if, and will, and him. So, there's an attention to the word work that we do and the texts that we give to not just the phonological decoding, but also which words are more frequent. A lot of phonics programs are just so focused on making sure the student's getting good phonological decoding, which is really important, that they just pick words willy-nilly, and we miss the opportunity to zero in on, well, let's at least learn how to read the word had, and can, and and, and has, and than, before we worry about van.
Marnie: So, as soon as we get some proficiency with blending three sound words and we know a lot of the short vowels most of the time, then we want to move them quickly into the advanced code, the long vowels and other vowel variations, because there's so much information that we want them to learn. So, they might spend a week or two weeks, depending on how young they are. A typical first grade class would just need a week on step number five, which is the O sound. The O, as in go, or the O in home, the O in boat, the O in slow, and the O in toe. At the same time they're doing that, they're also going to be learning some high frequency words that relate to the O sound, like more, and so, and no, and go. Some people don't hear more as the O sound. That's fine. So, that's the next stage there with our arrows on the left.
Marnie: After they can blend and segment three sound words, we want them to start learning advanced phonics, because there's so much of it, and they can handle it. We can still keep them at three sounds if the phonemic processing isn't there, isn't quite ready, because later we can add that in. But most of our instructional programs are so focused on the 26 letters of the alphabet. That's just barely scraping the surface of what's above the water, but really there's 200-ish, 244 graphemes. That's all the stuff that's underneath the water level. The underside of the iceberg has so much more than just the 26 letters of the alphabet, so we need to get them into that as quickly as possible, because that's what will strategically allow them to read those high frequency words, will give them the ability to rapidly recognize 65% of their text, and give them the sense that they are feeling self-efficacious.
Marnie: Then later on we're still building their advanced phonics, maybe in step eight there is the I sound, maybe the vowel plus E pattern or magic E, silent E pattern, but then we can also keep folding in more sophisticated consonant clusters. So, they could do stop, and stomp, and stamp. They could also do the word float, because now we've added in long vowels, and they're more developmentally ready for that, especially if they are, you know, moving into the second half of their fifth year of life, as opposed to being four and a young five and trying to blend words like stomp, and stink, and sprint. Those are harder phonemically, and they're not as needed early on. So, we can put things in their order of priority. So, if you look back to this same page from Frog and Toad, only two words have a CCVC or CVCC pattern, the word frog and the word sent. Most all of the other words though have an E or an A, the A in day, the I in time, the A in wait, the A in mail, the A in always, and the A in makes, and the E in unhappy, and empty, and me.
Marnie: Then finally we're going to move into multi-syllable instruction and still keep teaching advanced phonics, because there's so much of it. The er sound works really well when you're learning multi-syllable chunking, because there's high frequency words, again, like number, mother, water, father. After that, kids are much better prepared to become fluent. So, this is a one page view of a scope and sequence of a phonics pathway that is more designed to build that rapid acquisition of words. It's going to increase the likelihood anyway that a child would be able to read words more rapidly than a traditional scope and sequence, where we're going to spend a month or six weeks on learning all the alphabet.
Marnie: So, I want you to just consider maybe not this particular scope and sequence. There's a lot of things that research can still ask, and address, and answer about how we can do the minutia of day to day phonics instruction. We know phonics. We know phonemic awareness. We know phonological decoding, and orthographic mapping is the route. We know a lot about what that should look like. It should be multi-sensory. It should be explicit. It should be systematic, but we don't know for a fact which system, and we don't have all of the intricacies mapped out. So, as we do know that you have to get rapid acquisition of reading to get into the good cycle, or at least the odds are that that's what our society has built into our school system, then maybe we should re-envision what our scope and sequences look like and even some of our decoding strategies.
Marnie: So, I want to talk about the decoding strategies later. That will tie in more with the Share paper about self-teaching. So, I took us from the Matthew Effects, the urgency of getting kids rapidly recognizing words, into rethinking phonics. But when we dive into the Share paper, that will bring even more light into how we could re-envision our scope and sequences and our strategies. So, I hope you are kind of intrigued and not too shellshocked by some of these counter cultural ideas that we might be able to rethink how we get our kids rapidly acquiring the skill of reading, so that they're getting on that train for successful reading. Thanks.
Video Transcript of Designing Phonics Instruction 1 Sound at a Time
Marnie: Does our contemporary decoding instruction, our phonics, our word identification instruction for beginning or struggling readers, does it reflect the best of the best of recent reading research? Well, I'm not so sure. And I've been making the case in an earlier video that some of what we have learned and known for several decades, and have learned more convincingly in recent years, has not really directly changed some of what we're doing in phonics instruction, and decoding instruction in general.
Marnie: Yes, some changes have certainly been made, but some things are still kind of stuck in a traditional stance, and I'm proposing some ways of rethinking decoding instruction in terms of our scope and sequences and also in terms of the strategies themselves.
Marnie: Hi, I'm Dr. Marnie Ginsberg from Reading Simplified and it's my mission to streamline reading instruction and accelerate student's reading achievement. So I'm glad you're here for the second part of this video, make sure you check out the first part where we go into more depth on the first topic. The first big idea on reading research, from Keith Stanovich's most cited paper in 1986 about the Matthew Effects in the acquisition of literacy.
Marnie: We're also going to talk today about this Share paper, the self-teaching mechanism for reading acquisition. But just a quick review from video one, from the Matthew Effects concept, we learned that what causes a wonderful positive snowball for good readers is that they have good phonemic awareness, good phonemic processing that enables them to hear how sounds map onto symbols, they start to become good at phonological decoding, or sound based decoding. So the nice side benefit is they have automatic word recognition.
Marnie: These are the skills that enable them to get to the place of automatic word recognition. They have the concept of the alphabetic principle, the have improved and improving phonemic awareness, they have that phonological decoding sound simple matching, and then they also have the process of orthographic mapping of spellings patterns and words. In other words, when they sound out a word, it's not just that they sounded it out, right there I need to keep sounding it out, but it becomes linked, the sounds and symbols in that word become linked in that young child's mind.
Marnie: As a result of these processes going on at an early start for our fortunate children, they get off to a great start and then they have a lot of academic social and motivational and behavioral benefits that fall out of this great start.
Marnie: So given that it's so important to get a great start, and given that some words are much more common than others, what if we designed our phonics scope and sequence, at least partially based on high frequency spellings and high frequency words so that the kids got off to an easy start, because 65% of written English comes from just 300 words. Are we thinking about that strategically with our phonics scope and sequence. Check out video one to understand how that all ties together.
Marnie: The other idea that came out of this Stanovich paper was reiterated there and continues to gain validation is that the phonemic awareness, which was so important early on, it's also reciprocally related to reading achievement. As you get better at your reading, you get better at phonemic awareness, and that really is what ... That's a nice byproduct of reading, that's what's happening when you're reading you have to be able to perceive the sounds and words and map them onto print. So early on, you get started with a great phonemic awareness, and then as you read you get better at it. So the sooner we can get kids into real books, the faster they will be able to improve their phonological decoding and improve their rapid acquisition of reading. Which is our goal.
Marnie: So in this whole presentation I'm asking the question, are we prioritizing early, rapid word acquisition? Thinking strategically about which words they need, and how we can give them that access. What are the tools that a child needs to be able to have early rapid word learning? We all want that, but what are the tools? Let's really narrow in on those tools, so that we can be sure our decoding instruction is providing it.
Marnie: And I think David Share's self-teaching concept, which was mostly first well demonstrated in 1995, and has had ongoing studies to validate it, I think his point is really applicable to how this process works for rapid acquisition of reading and we kind of work backwards and make sure we're doing that with all of our students.
Marnie: So Share says, "According to the self-teaching hypothesis, each successful decoding ..." Let me move my face. Make sure I'm reading it right. Yeah, there we ago. "According to the self-teaching hypothesis, each successful decoding encounter with an unfamiliar word provides an opportunity to acquire the word-specific orthographic information that is the foundation of skilled word recognition," so that's what we talked about in video one. Kids hear the sounds in the words, and they map them or link them onto specific print, in a specific order. The word shout is sh out, it is S-H-O-U-T. Those are linked. That orthographic information that O-U is ow, is linked and it's connected to the way they attacked phonologically that word shout for the first time.
Marnie: And Share goes on to say, "A relatively small number of successful exposures appear to be sufficient for acquiring orthographic representations, both for adult skilled readers and young children." In other words, reading a word with a sound based approached once or twice, maybe four times for most kids will cause it to stick orthographically. Not that they remember the way it looks, that it's tall or short letters, but that they've linked the sounds and those symbols in that set way deeply in their orthographic learning. It's a part of the brain that's different than their visual processing.
Marnie: "In this way, phonological recoding ..." As he calls it, which is very similar to what I've been using the term phonological decoding ... "In this way phonological recoding acts as a self-teaching mechanism, or built-in teacher enabling a child to independently develop both word-specific and general orthographic knowledge." So you learn the word shout, but at the same time, you're also learning the pattering O-U is ow, and maybe even the larger orthographic unit, out. "Although it may not be crucial in skilled word recognition for the adult mature reader, phonological recoding may be the principal means by which the learner attains word recognition proficiency." There is a lot of powerful theory that's backed up by research in this simple short text.
Marnie: So here is visual, to help give you some common sense understanding of this mechanism that he's talking about. Look in pre-K and first grade and second grade, maybe those children know by second grade several hundred words, by fourth grade most good readers know about 4,000 words according to Alfreda Hebert, but by the end of high school they may know 20, 30, 40,000 words or more. It's kind of hard to estimate. How could they have possibly learned all of those words by being explicitly taught? Share says, "In the face of this orthographic avalanche ..." In other words, so many spelling and so many words to learn ... "Direct instruction is unlikely to offer a feasible acquisition strategy."
Marnie: So he's not saying that we shouldn't teach our kids how to read, it's just that we're not responsible for every word that they learn. We need to give them the tools that enable them to read many, many words themselves.
Marnie: Here's what he says that children need to be able to self-teach themselves words. "Rudimentary self-teaching depends on three factors, letter-sound knowledge, basic phonemic awareness, and the ability to utilize contextual information to determine exact word pronunciations on the basis of partial decodings." So even when they haven't been taught something specific like particular letter sound, they can still deduce the word if they have these skills working functionally. That's what we need to make sure we're giving our young kids.
Marnie: He goes on to say that, "Most irregular words, when encountered in natural text, have sufficient letter-sound regularity to permit selection of the correct target among a set of candidate pronunciations. That is, even an approximate or partial decoding may be adequate for learning irregular words encountered in the course of everyday reading." The word have, there's an E there at the end that doesn't tell the A to say its name, but the V-E is a pattern that the child will start to see. If the child says, "Ha-a-ve, V." Then they figure out, oh somehow they figure out that it's have, and in that moment, they've learned a little bit more about our orthography. The spelling system, the V-E as maybe a unity, maybe at the end of words. Same with was, Wa and S at the end, zz that's not that irregular, but the ah in the middle like that, maybe that's odd, but the child can figure it out, because it's only two thirds of the word are tricky, only one third of the word is tricky.
Marnie: Even a word like yacht, it still has a lot of phonological orthographic information in it, and the A-C-H, is the part that may stump a child, but they can maybe figure it out as well, because of this phonemic processing and use of context.
Marnie: So let me show you an example of this in action. First grade student in this video is trying to read this text right there on the screen, it says, "No, no. You can not look. Guess, guess." I don't think she's been taught that G-U is the spelling for gu in the word guess. So what I want you to look for is how she attacks that word, and how she figures it out on her own, without support.
Student: No, no. You can not look. G uh, guess, guess.
Student: Nice figuring out there. Guess, guess ...
Marnie: So did you catch that? She said, G uh, and then said guess, guess. That is amazing and so beautiful to see when it's half functioning well. What did she do, she was relying on some letter sound knowledge, phonemic awareness, and we're going to talk more about that and the ability to use context. So she knew Ga and guess was a real word. Let's talk about what phonemic awareness she needed to be able to do that.
Marnie: She changed the G-uh, into guh, guh real short guh to make guess, because she was playing around with sounds and words. She was using her advanced phonemic awareness skill, the phonemic awareness skill of phonemic manipulation. So if the child reads the word show as shou, which is a reasonable guess, because O-U can be ow, the child realized shou is not a word, so then the child tests the thing that she's most uncertain of, pulls that out, let's pull out the ow in shou, plug in the O, oh show. That is phonemic manipulation and that is what self-teaching requires.
Marnie: This is just an example and a demonstration of why phonemic awareness is such an important thing for a good reader, and why we need to develop in those kids who don't have it naturally.
Marnie: So David Kilpatrick has done a great job of making the case about we don't just need basic phonemic awareness, we need the highest level of phonemic awareness, because that's what good readers do, and that's what they have. He writes, "It turns out that phoneme manipulation tasks, the most common being phoneme deletion and substitution ..." Substitutions what we just saw with the guess ... "Correlate more strongly with reading than phoneme segmentation and blending tasks do." So even though the National Reading Panel report in 2000 told us that the most important skills were blending and segmenting, later research and more analyzing of the research so we already had suggests that it's harder stuff that really makes a difference manipulating things. That's harder than segmenting, and that's what you have to do to change show, shou to show.
Marnie: He goes on to say that "Phoneme manipulation ranks highly among phonological awareness tasks in predicting reading achievement." Because that's what good readers are doing as they're teaching themselves more and more words. She learned the word guess, maybe she learned it permanently, or maybe the next time she'll read it a little bit more easily. She taught herself that word, and the fact that at some level she knows to some degree that G-U could be Guh, because she played around with the sounds in the words. She had that skill because she either innately picked it up through reading, or she was explicitly taught it.
Marnie: I hope that this can help you think about ways that we have been developing our word reading instruction. We're typically starting with phonological awareness, orally only at very global levels and only after a long time do we get to phonics instruction, and then a lot of programs have the phonological domain running along parallel with phonics instruction, and they do oral, phonological and they do phonemic phonic stuff, without too much attention to the phonemic properties. But what if we were to link these things earlier on and push to harder levels and focus more on the phonemic level instead of having a long ramp up of oral only stuff at the non phonemic level, what if we went as quickly as we could to the phonemic level? Because that's really what you need to be a goo reader.
Marnie: We went quickly to the phonemic level, and we did it at an advanced level and we linked directly with print. That's what decoding instruction should be, I believe, it's the linking of advanced phonemic awareness with phonics instruction and all that you do. And the national reading panel even in 2000 did point us in this direction. It said phonemic awareness in connection with letters was more powerful than phonemic awareness done in isolation. And yet we're still doing that oral only phonemic awareness, but phonemic awareness is not a goal in and of itself. It is just a means to an end, and reading, real reading teaches phonemic awareness just as you saw in that example of guess, guess. She's getting a little bit more sophisticated in her knowledge of the orthography, but she's also practicing phonemic awareness.
Marnie: So what I propose to reconsider are phonics instruction, our decoding instruction is that we integrate phonemic awareness and phonics as early as possible in the context of words. I'm going to show you some examples of that, and maybe you're saying, "Well, yeah, but kids can't handle that yet." I think there's some ways to do it, to make it very clear and simple for them, and even at a young age that they can handle it.
Marnie: And this is what Share says. No, we already talked about that. This is just to reiterate, these are the things that we need to be able to get to the self teaching mechanism, so let's make sure, my point here is let's make sure that our activities dove tail with these three factors, letter sound knowledge, phonemic awareness and using context.
Marnie: So I want to show you this example of a four year old. So I wanted to catch someone who hadn't been exposed to formal schooling yet. Just a couple hours a week of pre-K, wasn't particularly academic. He did not know any letter sounds, and I don't know that he even knew all of his letter names. But in this activity, just modeling one activity, not because I think it's a whole reading lesson, but just to show the power of zeroing in at the phonemic level, tying it to print, doing the hardest level of phonemic awareness that can happen, and also trying to demonstrate that even if phonemic segmentation isn't there we can develop it pretty rapidly, and he goes from build it, a simple activity with just three sounds on the board and then within three or four days, he's moving into Switch It, a harder level where he has to switch sounds in and out. That requires phonemic manipulation. So initially he starts out with just a few letters to learn, he practices phonemic segmentation, and he's doing that on the context of real words. So he's learning how our code works, he's developing phonemic awareness, but he's also developing the alphabetic principle and letter sound knowledge all simultaneously, because we're linking it.
Marnie: So look for how rudimentary his beginning skills are, but how they start to develop rapidly in the context of words.
Marnie: Listen for the sound at the beginning of the word. Mat. What would I hear here at the beginning of Mat? What do you hear at the beginning?
Marnie: Mmm. I think you're right. Now look carefully. Which one of these is mmm. That's it. Now pull it down say mmm.
Marnie: You did it, okay. Let's try the next one. What is the sound that you hear right here when I say Mat. You have mmm, what's here in the word Mat?
Marnie: I hear ah, do you hear ah right there? Mat, you hear that ah?
Marnie: Can you say ah?
Marnie: Okay, now think carefully, which one do you think is ah? Pull it down say ah.
Marnie: You're almost done. Look, you've already built mmm, ah. You have the beginning of the word mat, but what goes over here after mmmah? We need something over here.
Student: I don't know this.
Marnie: Okay, let's listen. You have Mmmah, and we're going to build the word mat. Mat.
Student: I hear T.
Marnie: I do too, what sound is it?
Student: A T.
Marnie: But what sound comes out of my mouth? Mat. What just came out?
Student: I don't know.
Marnie: Can you copy what I did, mat. You said the letter name, but what sound is it when we see this? When we see this we say ta. Can you say ta?
Marnie: Look at what you did. Did you know you could build a word? You said you didn't know how to read, but you just build your first word. Look, you built the word mat. Now can you stretch it out. Map.
Marnie: Hey, you did it. So let's figure out what the first sound in-
Marnie: Oh, that was pretty easy for you. Okay. Which one of these is mmm. Yes. You got it. Okay, now let's listen for this sound, what comes next in map.
Marnie: Mmmah. I think you got it. What's after the mmm?
Marnie: Mah is two sounds. I hear it too. Look at with me, mmmaaa. What's that sound by itself?
Student: I don't know.
Marnie: I hear ah. Do you hear that in map?
Marnie: Okay, can you say ah?
Marnie: Look carefully, which one is ah?
Marnie: That's pa.
Student: So this one.
Marnie: That must be it. Good figuring. Okay, you got mmmah. You already built most of the word map. You got mmmah, but we need something over here to make map.
Student: I don't know.
Marnie: Let's look at it. Let's look at my pencil.
Marnie: Yeah, that's the whole word. Look at my pencil. Map.
Student: It's a popping sound.
Marnie: Yes, what is that popping sound?
Student: I don't know.
Marnie: Map, what comes out of my mouth right then? Map.
Student: It's a popping sound. I don't know what it is.
Marnie: Well, can you copy me? Map. What's that by itself after mmm aaa. Pa, that's it, you did it. Let's do it again. Louder.
Marnie: Just the pa by itself. And is this pa?
Marnie: It is. You made the word map. Okay, let's check the sounds. Sad, what do you hear at the beginning of-
Marnie: Oh I like how you broke that up. So what was that first sound I hear?
Marnie: There's ad over here, but right here at the beginning is sssad. Yes, you're hearing all the sounds. What's the first one right here?
Marnie: Which is sss.
Marnie: Wow, okay so this sad.
Marnie: Very good and ad is two sounds, what's the first part of ad?
Marnie: Yeah, can you just say aaa?
Marnie: Aaa, which one is aaa? Look carefully. Oh, you got it, can you say it? Pull it down and say aaa. I like how you said it so short. And the last sound is.
Marnie: Whoa, you didn't even need my help. Can you pull it down and say it?
Marnie: Da. And you made sad. I'm not sad at all. Are you? Let's check it. Point with me, and say the sounds. Sss aaa da. Sad. What's that last sound again?
Marnie: Da. Sad. Okay. That was amazing. So we're changing this game where you're going to try to switch one sound to make a new word. So you have to listen to what I'm going to tell you, okay? So you have the word mad, and we're going to make one switch, one of these things is going to switch to make it turn into sad. So you have mad, how would you switch it to make sad? Which one of these will move?
Student: That one.
Marnie: That's right, we don't need the mmm. So what goes here?
Marnie: Oh, good listening. And you have sad. Sad. Okay. So now we're going to switch to, don't be sad, from there, to sat. You sat in the chair. You have sad, you need to switch something to make it sat. Which sound would you switch? You have sad, you need sat.
Student: That one.
Marnie: That's right, we don't need the da, get rid of the da. Get that out of the way. Yeah, you have a sss over here, but what's the last sound that you hear in sat.
Marnie: This is ta, yeah, that's right. Okay, so let's check it. Point to each one as you check.
Marnie: Okay, just point. You're right, that's the whole thing, let's separate it though. Sss aaa ta. And the word is.
Marnie: Hey, sat, you sat in the chair. I have a word here at the bottom, and I wonder if you could even read it for me.
Student: It is mmm ad.
Marnie: Put them together it would be mad.
Student: Mat. Mat.
Marnie: Wow, nice reading. You have will, and we need to add, switch a sound out to make it win. Don't you like to win?
Marnie: Which thing should we change? You have wa i ll. Will. We need win.
Marnie: Yeah, we get rid of the ll, and we need a what sound there? Win.
Marnie: Nnn, okay look very carefully. This is a new one, which is nnn? Not mmm, but nnn. Yeah, your tongue is kind of between your teeth, behind your rim of your mouth. I like it. Nnn. You made win. How about pin.
Marnie: Pin, you might need to pin a flower to your shirt one day when you're going somewhere fancy.
Student: I know how to do it.
Marnie: You do? What's different to make win into pin. Got to take something away. We need the i in win to become pin. We don't need the wa, that's right. You're figuring this out. What sound do we need to make pin? Yeah, but what's that by itself?
Marnie: Pa, check each sound and tap. Pa
Marnie: Iii nnnn.
Marnie: Pin. Listen for the sound-
Marnie: So did you see how this young four year old in five days, with just one activity, or it started with one activity and then we switched it to switch it. In just five days an absolutely beginner without phonemic segmentation ability developed phonemic segmentation ability, developed at the three sound level, developed even the early phonemic manipulation ability, which is that hardest level we're aiming for, started learning letter sounds, started learning the alphabetic principle, and started learning how to do decoding. I gave him one word there mad, just to read without any support, and he read it with a little coding.
Marnie: So that's what's so exciting about when we integrate letter sound instruction and phonemic awareness all in the context of words, and we emphasize sounds and draw out the child's perception of those sounds, and then they can map them onto those symbols. By the end of this five day period he had about 13 letter sounds, and he knew none of them, maybe the sound mmm at the beginning of the week. So all of those were developing in his repertoire, because they had a more meaningful hook to them. He understood how the code was working in the context of at least those words, and he was mapping sounds to print, and his phonemic awareness was developing more rapidly too.
Marnie: So that is what's possible when we zero in on the phonemic level, the level that we know is what good readers have, it's the level that we know intervention research has gotten the strongest effects in, so let's spend more time there, and let's spend more time not just at the phonemic level, but let's spend more time linking phonemic instruction with phonics instruction.
Marnie: And I want to give you another example of another student, a year older, this child was in kindergarten, and he was identified as struggling by November of his kindergarten year. He knew seven letter sounds, no short vowels, he could not segment three sound words. So in terms of his segmenting, he wasn't that far off from this boy that you just saw who was four. But watch, we start straight into switch at the harder activity with the phonemic manipulation, and again it was five days in a row. Notice what he was able to acquire in terms of his phonemic processing, his letter sound knowledge, and just general comfort with the code. Let's get ready to watch that. Here we go. Look for all the different skills he's acquiring rapidly because they're being linked.
Marnie: The first word that I'm going to ask you to build is the word Sam like a guys name. What do you hear right here when I say Sam?
Marnie: That's right, that's the letter name, but what sound comes out of my mouth?
Marnie: That's right. Which one of these is sss. You got it. Okay, pull it down and say sss. And again, because of Facebook this looks backwards to you guys, but it's left to right as it should be for him. Now let's focus on what's the next sound that you hear in Sam?
Marnie: You're so right, there is a mmm, that's coming over here, but I want you to listen-
Marnie: I don't want you to think about what letter it is, first of all I just want you to pay attention to my voice and your voice, what do you hear right here when I say Sam? What was coming out of my mouth right there?
Marnie: Saaam. What comes out right there? Saaa.
Marnie: Well, there is a mmm, you know what? Which one of these is mmm? That's aa, this is mmm, let's put that one down here, so you got the mmm, but what sound do we hear right here when I say Saaaaam.
Marnie: Aa, you got it, you heard it, that's aa. So you have map, we need mat. I like how you ... Stay there, aa. Okay, so you got rid of the pa in map, but we're using mat.
Marnie: Oh, you're hearing it, very nice. Which one is ta? Very good. Do you know what to do next?
Student: Mmm aa ta.
Marnie: And the word is.
Marnie: Wow. You got soft, we need to switch it to sift.
Student: Wait which ...
Marnie: You have soft. Switch it to sift. Get rid of the oo, that's right. What sound goes here to make siiift?
Marnie: Ii, which is ii? Just say ii, sift, if you sift something you separate it. Okay, let's check the sounds in sift.
Marnie: You have plot.
Student: No wait.
Marnie: Yup. Okay, plod.
Marnie: Da, da, da. Where's D? Is there any D on here?
Student: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Student: There we are.
Marnie: What sound is at the end of plod?
Student: Ta, da, da.
Marnie: Check the sounds, and you got maybe one more.
Marnie: No, we're doing the word plod.
Student: Pa, ll, oo ...
Marnie: Ploo ...
Marnie: Da, that's a good .... Let's check the sounds in stump.
Student: Sss ta, ta, uh, mmm, pa.
Marnie: And the word is?
Marnie: Can you take away two things? Two things we're going to do to change stump to stun, stun. That is so good, he got both of them. I didn't know if that was possible. We need to make stun.
Marnie: Nnn, which one is nnn. That's lll.
Marnie: You nailed it, okay I'm stunned that you did it. Okay, check the sounds in stunned.
Student: Sss ta ...
Marnie: It's hard thinking about that that isn't it. Stuuun
Marnie: Uh, and the last sound. Stunnn, very nice.
Marnie: So you saw an example of a frustrated kindergartner in five days with just one activity to kind of show the power of integrating phonemic awareness and phonics knowledge in the context of something decoding like, you saw him move from not being able to segment even a three sound word, not even knowing the difference between aa and mmm, and by the end of the week he was working with 20 letter sounds and manipulating five sound words like stamp to stump. That's the power of this activity, and that got this young man who had the trajectory up to that point of being someone who might have dyslexia, because he wasn't where he should be with phonemic awareness, he didn't know letter sounds, he had a parent with dyslexic tendencies, all those things would direct you to think he's going to be frustrated, but this activity really started him off on the right foot. Going straight to the phonemic level, going straight to integrating everything with phonemic awareness and phonics simultaneously.
Marnie: So so far we've talked about rethinking maybe our scope in sequences, and we're focusing them maybe more on high frequency spellings to lead to high frequency words, to lead to rapid word acquisition, and similarly, since we know the research about phonemic awareness has shown us that the greater gains are from the harder phonemic awareness activities, and even to the point of knowing that phonemic level activities gets us more bang for our buck than phonological and also knowing that we get more bang for our buck when they're connected to print with activities like build it and switch it. That's why I'm suggesting these two things as tweaks.
Marnie: And then the final tweak I'd love for us to consider is how about we focus phonics instruction around sounds, especially vowel sounds instead of around letters. And this ties into what we talked about earlier, about the alphabet shouldn't have so much primacy in the way we teach beginners to read.
Marnie: Louisa Moats in a well known article Teaching Decoding wrote "Teach speech to print, not print to speech." So we're going to focus on what the student already has that speech ability, the hearing the sounds and words. She goes on to say, "One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs, including traditional ones, is that they teach the code backwards. That is, they go from letter to sound instead of from sound to letter." It makes less sense to the student, and it creates a confusing system.
Marnie: We can be more consistent and more clear to students when we just present the basic code initially, which is kind of reliable. Short vowels, consonants, and some consonant digraphs, and then we move into the advanced code, again as quickly as we can, but we focus on sounds. One sound at a time in a way I'm going to show you.
Marnie: A lot of reading programs will not do what I'm recommending. They will present advanced phonics information kind of haphazardly, the O-A maybe learned as O on Monday, and E-R, er on Tuesday, O-W as maybe ow on Wednesday and so forth and so on.
Marnie: The fear I think is that students can't handle all the information, so it's just dripped out, but it's confusing and haphazard. What if we were to organize things in a meaningful way, again based on what students are already aware of, they're aware of sounds and words. We could present just one sound at a time, like the sound O, and it could be the O in go, the O in home, the O in boat, the O in show, and the O in tow. Young kids can handle that concept that one thing can be multiple spellings and this gives them a way to learn it more rapidly and have a schema, an organizational framework for getting this tricky part of our English language.
Marnie: So here's one way to present this concept of one sound at a time to a kid. Or to a group of kids. Tell them you're going to learn a whole bunch of words that have the sound O, and then they read the O words in the purple box. Notice they're mostly three sound words, some two sound words, and so they've been given the scaffold, these are all O sound words, and then they sort them and write them and say the sounds as they do it. So they have to notice the inside parts of words, have to noticed that O-A in road and where that goes on the chart. It's building the mental file system, a type of schema that oh O has multiple spellings and I'm going to group them together. It's something to give them a hook.
Marnie: And then we also include a key sentence that you can use all week as you teach this one sound. For the O sound the key sentence is mostly high frequency words, again go home to show the boat to Joe.
Marnie: So that is one way of presenting several spellings, those tricky phonics things that we like to drip out very slowly. Present them from the get go all at once. You've going to see an example of sort if with a small group. And these beginners, this is their second time doing Sort It. Notice what they're doing. They're learning all at once, advanced phonics knowledge. The different spellings of the O, they're practicing their phoneme blending and segmentation, because when they read the word they have to blend it, but when they write it they're linking sounds and symbols so it's a multi sensory process.
Marnie: And just along the way, they're creating a mental schema for the sound O.
Marnie: It looks the same, but they're different words, okay.
Student: Go ... Go home to show the boat to Joe.
Marnie: Wow, good work you guys. Where does Boat belong? Which column is the same spelling at O? Nope, check carefully. Check boat very carefully. Where's the same O as this? The same O as that? Let me look. Yes, you got it. He found the right-
Student: He said go.
Marnie: He found the right boat, or the right spot for boat. Do you know where that O is? Nope, that's not it. Where's the same spelling for O? Nope. That's it. Okay, say the sounds as you do it.
Student: Ba ...
Student: Ba, Oooo
Marnie: It just shows you the word here.
Marnie: That makes it easier. Can you see yours? Boat. And can you cross ... Oh, you got a capital T. Okay, your turn. What sound are we working on?
Marnie: Ooo, own. Where does own belong? Where does own?
Student: Right here, right here, right here.
Marnie: Okay, say the sounds as you do it. Say oooown. Okay, your turn.
Marnie: Close. Two sounds, what are the two sounds? The first sound is ... Hoe. Do you know what a hoe is? It's like a tool used in a garden. Let's see who can read the next word the fastest.
Marnie: Is that right?
Student: I said it first.
Marnie: Okay, you were fast. Grow. Where does grow go? Write it. Where does grow belong?
Student: You say go.
Marnie: Where does it go? Grow.
Student: Done. It's over here.
Marnie: Okay, she's got it. You got it. Ga rrr, I'm just not hearing each sound separately. What's what we need to hear.
Student: Oh, ga rrr.
Marnie: That was a little example of sorted in action. Presenting one sound, multiple spellings, in a multi sensory way. Again, just three sounds, so they don't have to be too sophisticated with our phonemic blending yet. They do need it in place, but it's just getting them started, learning all that and tremendously large code, that they have to learn. Getting that to them as quickly as possible.
Marnie: But of course, just reading those words that way won't be enough. Another thing that I suggest with this approach is to do several sort its across the week with different words. Again, they're high frequency words, but then also to read different O sound text. Ideally where the text have multiple spellings. Like that first one was one of the easiest ones. It's Joe and Joan. There's the O in Joe, O in Joan, O in both, O in soap, O in float, O in go. And then you can add more complexity like toad and goat has even more words in it. But it's still focused on one sound, multiple spellings, and through the matching of the text, or the sound that they're working on for word work, to the text that they're doing in guided reading time, and then they practice decoding it, and then they hear a model of it re-read to them, and they practice re-reading it. They learn these high frequency spellings and high frequency words must more rapidly than they might otherwise.
Marnie: So that's what I'm proposing, these three things. Given that we know that rapid word acquisition is pivotal for building strong readers and knowing the power of students teaching themselves how to read most of the code if they have advanced phonemic processing, and they really see how sounds and symbols line up, what if we were to design phonics scopes and sequences, at least partly based on high frequency spellings. What if we integrated phonemic awareness in phonics in the context of real words? And what if we focus phonics instruction around sounds, especially vowel sounds.
Marnie: Another key point is let's zero in as quickly as we can to the phonemic level, and let's link it with print. As you saw in those build it and switch it examples, even those children who don't seem capable, may be capable in the right context of support.
Marnie: And again, we talked about one possible scope in sequence in a previous video that's trying to just move kids more quickly into reading, but there are many other possibilities. I hope that's just given you some food for though.
Marnie: And Dr. Anne Cunningham who has worked with Keith Stanovich a lot kind of wraps this point up fairly nicely. She's done a lot of research to show how important it is to read well early and all the fan spread effects that everyone gets later. She says, "Here's where we have to begin to appreciate that this mapping of about 44 sounds to 26 letters it not impossible to teach or to learn, but that if we give children a more detailed road map for that, if we provide experiences for them that lead them into this orthography in an incremental fashion, then we in the reading research community believe that we can reduce much to most of the variance that we experience right now in reading disability."
Marnie: In other words, if we take the sounds and help them see how those sounds relate to words in an increasingly difficult way, then the gap between the haves and the have nots will shrink. Our have nots will not be so frustrated. They will be able to read more easily.
Marnie: Then the complexity of the orthography or the spelling system can be built upon, so that once you got that kind of basic consonant-vowel-consonant core, you can add vowels that are more complex and different orthographic sequences that children have difficulty with, because they have an anchor, they have something to hang it on with this core consonant-vowel-consonant sequence for example. And that's what's behind that basic code and then rapidly into advanced code, and behind the streamline pathway that I showed you. Get them something fairly simple to start with and then move them forward as fast as they can, because there's so much tricky orthography to learn.
Marnie: So I hope you can find some excitement and some new ideas here about how we can get all of our students on that train to reading successfully earlier, and I hope that this was beneficial to you.