Hello! It's Reading Simplified here (I'm Marnie Ginsberg). And I'm going to demonstrate 3 to 4 Word Work activities and see if we can do them in less than 10-15 minutes!

[Just 3 activities make up the bulk of my Word Work activities with beginners age 5 to students with dyslexia, age 15! Even better, these key activities help me get beginning or struggling readers to grade level, on average, in 12 one-hour sessions!]

I've got my friend, a kindergarten student who started out with us in November, with me today. Now he's just rocking it along because he's been learning from these 3-4 Reading Simplified activities.

The whole purpose of Reading Simplified, which we will be exemplifying today, is to help classroom teachers, or any teachers, streamline their instruction and then help students accelerate their reading.

And that is exactly what my young kindergarten friend is doing!

A Demonstration of the 4 Core Reading Simplified Word Work Activities

So today our challenge is different than what we normally do in our Facebook Lives.

Normally we show you like one activity and how it fits with where he is in his development. But today we're going to show you 3 and maybe 4 word work activities that we use with beginners or any struggling student even middle school and high school students.

And I use it with adults, functionally illiterate folks as well.

We're glad that you're here and we will get started right away with the first of the three or four activities.

Now we're going to try and do it in ten minutes so you can get in three and maybe four activities in that brief time period.



Switch It

So the first one that we're going to do is called Switch It.

switch it, word work activity

I'm using nonsense words now with my young friend because he's so advanced. I want to move really really fast challenging his phonemic manipulation skills, so it doesn't take too much time.

Okay so here we go can you read this silly word?

[spost] He tries /spoast/

Oh, it could be. What else could it be? Yes, okay “spost!”

Now switch one thing to make it “spast.”

Nice! And the word is? “Spast.” Okay!

Wow! So he switched that “spost” to “spast.” Let's switch “spast” to “spant”…. “spant.”

“Spant” is what I asked for and you got, hmm, but you made actually “spent.” That is a real word but we don't want to “spent,” we want “spant.” Very good!

Oh, you want to show off! There we go–“spant.”

Okay, let's switch “spant” to “slant.” That's actually a real word, “spant,” a nonsense word, to “slant.”

He's taking out sound and putting in a sound. Good! tell me the sounds: /S/ /L/ /A//N/ /T/. And from “slant,” which is a real word. For example, this pencil is on a slant, but now it's laying down and not on a slant.

Now, make “slant” into “slunt.”

What we're doing with this activity, Switch It, is we're changing the short vowels a lot because that's gives him a fine-tuned sense of how those are spelled.

Nice! okay let's change “slunt” to “slund.”

We want to change every sound position of the words. We don't get in the pattern that's just one position over and over. We don't want to change the same pattern, the same position of the word over and over again.


He would kind of tune his brain out. 😮 Rather, we switch every position in the word so he's challenged to learn how each sound relates precisely to specific spellings.

He's switching adjacent constants at the beginning and at the end of these words so these are CCVCC words.  CCVCC is almost the hardest level of phonemic difficulty that I could give them.

Nice job! Okay that was the Switch It activity at the advanced level (learn more about Switch It here).

The clock is on we need to move on!

making sense of phonics, book, Isabel Beck

[Want to know what other reading experts say about an activity like Switch It? Check out the main activity suggested by Dr. Isabel Beck in her book, Making Sense of Phonics. Her Word Building activity is similar to Switch It, but without the extra mental challenge of having the students do the work of manipulating sounds in words.]

Read It

Let's try Read it now.

Read It is a Word Work activity where I give him a word to read. Then he has to put them together as he goes.

read it activity, example

In other words, he has to Blend the Sounds As He Reads.

Then afterwards he'll write it.

The first word is “block.”

But he said “dloke.” Let's check it! The first sound is actually not /d/.

Then he says, “bloke.”

Okay it could be “bloke.”

Then he reads it correctly, “block.”

Yes! Do you like to play with blocks?

Now your job is to write it, and when he writes each spelling, he says each sound.

Okay shall we play the Erase Game? He says each sound as he erases each sound so it's another reinforcement.

The next word is “think.”

Wow! Nice job! Okay, do you hear the word?

Try /th/. He is saying the other sound for “th.” Try it, “THINK!” Oh you got it!

Do you think you got it? 🙂 I think you did!

Okay, say the sounds as you do it so you reinforce letter-sound knowledge and phonemic segmentation. Wow! that's beautiful!

Let's erase it. And I'm giving him high frequency words that are from the Fry list. These are words that are in the top 300 most frequent words.

The next word is “felt.”

I felt the table.

Guess what? I'm taking this word away, though. I'm erasing it so he has to spell by accessing the sounds he knows in the words. In other words, he doesn't need to rely on looking at the word to spell it because he's hearing the sounds.

Good! Did you hear how he was tuned into the sounds? He's mapping sounds onto print, and he's able to spell even though the pictures (or spellings) are gone.

Through the activities Switch It and Read It, he has developed a skill of tuning into sounds and symbols, so that is awesome.

Well done!

Switch It and Read It

So we did Switch It where we developed:

  • phonemic segmentation,
  • phonemic manipulation, and
  • letter- sound knowledge, especially short vowel knowledge.

And then we did Read It, which did some the same things–other than phonemic manipulation. But Read It also really enforced the blending of sounds cumulatively so he could read an unknown word. In addition, Read It also challenges his recall of the letter sounds.

Sort It

Now we're moving on to Sort It.

completed Sort It activity page

At the previous level, he was doing all short vowel words. You probably noticed that several times he chose the long vowel sound for the words he was reading because that's where he has been functioning mostly lately.

We've been giving him a lot of long vowel opportunities and now we're going to try Sort it.  We're still reinforcing short vowels, but also doing long vowels because he can learn them both at the same time.

If he doesn't know which one it is….What do I say when he doesn't know it?

“What else could it be?”

He tries one sound, if it doesn't work, he tries another.

That's what he did. With “felt,” for instance, he tried /feelt/, and he realized that doesn't work.

So he had to pull off the /ee/ sound and plug in the /e/ sound.

Sort It is where he's going to learn all the sounds of the of all the spellings of the /ay/ sound or at least the main ones, and he learns them in context.

This has the key sentence for the /ay/ sound which he was introduced to recently.

Let's see if he could remember any of it. What is it /ay/ sound Key Sentence?

It has to do with a train, you remember the /ay/ sound. Yes, but what's the sentence?

“They came to play with the train on the table!” Nice job! Okay!

You've already done these words…you did….look at this….you made…

Yep, “they came to play with the train on the table.”

Okay, where do you think that first one goes?

If you have any questions, let me know.

This is the third of three word work activities–Sort It. He's going to try to get it done in 10 minutes.

The first word is /ay/, that's pretty easy.

Where does it go?

Notice how he's saying the sound as he writes it.


As he writes the /ay/ in “rain,” he says the whole /ay/ sound (i.e., “ai”).

And you think you have these spellings in your head now?

What's the Key Sentence again?

“They came to play with the train on the table,” good job!

So we've gotten to three Word Work activities already.

Write It

The last one that we're going to do is Write It.

We've taken more than 10 minutes total for this Facebook Live but I've been jibber jabbering a lot, so he hasn't been able to do ten minutes of instruction yet.

Let's do one more thing, and we'll see if we can make this 10-minute cutoff for actual teaching time.

So here's an example of an /ay/ sound text. It's reviewing the /ay/, the /ee/, and the /oa/ sound.

I'm going to take one of these sentences from something he read in Guided Reading and then give it to him as dictation–orally.

Then we will work through it, focusing on the processing of sounds in words and also focusing on the letter-sound instruction.

How about this sentence: “We will all play a game.” “We will all play a game.”

Notice how he says each sound as he writes it.

If he makes a sound processing error, I stop him and correct him immediately.

If he makes a phonics spelling error, I can wait and we can correct those afterwards.

To correct a phonics spelling, simply write the correct spelling of the letter-sound off to the side and tell him, “This is the spelling for ____.”

I would also prompt him to think about what he needs to do at the beginning and end of the sentence.

That's all there is to Write It.

Notice he's got one representation of /ay/ here and got another representation of /ay/ here. He's also captured every single sound. So he's not dropping any sound in the words and he's not leaving out any sounds, so that is amazing sound-symbol processing for his age and from where he began.

The last thing I'm going to do is fix the spelling. So you made great guesses for the sounds but we can fix them a little bit better.

This is the /ee/ in “we.”  Can you fix that?

And this is the /l/ in will.

This is why I'm trying to do it on dry erase. We just learn as we go.

Yeah you did it! Look at all these /ay/ spellings.

In addition to the Sort It activity, this is a way of getting extra attention to the inside parts of words because this is the stuff that he just doesn't notice a lot right now because he's just learning.

Right awesome job! Thank you so much!

I'll explain all that you did a great job. Alright, so that was three and then even four Word Work activities all condensed in a pretty short time. Definitely less than 15 if we take out all of my talking.

He practiced a ton of things with these activities and he learned a lot in the process. He practiced phonemic manipulation and segmentation with Switch It, and he practiced phonemic blending with Read It and Sort it.

He practice also phonemic segmentation again with Write It.

With all of them, he's reinforcing letter-sound knowledge particularly long vowels at this level. We're doing the short vowels and some early long vowels.

He's also really getting good at the Flex It strategy–that's when a student reads the word with the wrong sound.  For example, he read “felt” as /feelt/.

He has to take out one sound and put in another, and he was really good at it because he practices that with Switch It. He made guesses for long vowels almost every time because we've been working in long vowels. However,  when he realized it wasn't a word, he just solved it on his own using the Flex It strategy.

I didn't tell him what the right sound would be. So he's being flexible, mentally flexible, and that's just really exciting because that's a primary skill for all future word attack skills.

Would you like to see more video trainings with beginning and struggling readers?

Just click the link below and “Like” our Reading Simplified Facebook page. AND select “See First” so you don't miss a future training in Facebook Live:

Click here for Future Free Live Trainings