Do Spelling Skills Matter? In A Word, YES

Do Spelling Skills Matter? In A Word, YES

dictionary-390055__340, CC0_pixabayWhen students struggle with reading and literacy, it is imperative that their reading intervention go hand in hand with writing and explicit spelling instruction. Often, in the classroom, it is the case that spelling instruction is an after-thought and is confined to spelling drills and memorization (Birsh, 2005). However, for students who struggle with dyslexia or other reading difficulties, memorization and drills are not enough and engaging in traditional spelling activities does them a disservice. Read on to learn how spelling and writing are integrated into a Structured Literacy program and how it can help students who struggle with reading.

I will admit it, when I was a first and second-year teacher, I struggled with integrating spelling into my instruction in a meaningful way. If I am being completely honest, it took me a few years to understand the relationship between reading and spelling.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayI cringe thinking about some of my first parent/teacher conferences when I told parents “there is always spelling check.” I adopted the common classroom philosophy that if students were immersed in print, and taught to read, they would somehow magically learn to spell (Birsch, 2005).

After specialized training in how language is developed, I became a more proficient teacher and focused on direct literacy instruction. I found that spelling and writing are absolutely essential parts of the reading process. Students need explicit spelling and writing instruction in order to become proficient readers. In fact, research conducted by Brady and Moats in the mid to late 90’s indicated that learning to spell is a more complicated process than learning to read and requires explicit instruction (Birsch, 2005).

beach starfish printed over white caribbean sand such a summer vacation symbol

Without direct spelling instruction, many children will struggle to spell and ultimately to write even after their reading struggle has been remediated. Written expression is a necessary skill and needs to be explicitly taught in conjunction with reading skills. Students need to be taught about language and structure in order to learn to effectively spell and read words.

When engaging in spelling activities, the teacher or reading clinician must be an active participant and must be able to accurately impart knowledge about the rules of the English language. These include a deep knowledge of phonetics and phonics. Additionally, knowledge of orthography (conventional spelling rules and the representation of sounds as written symbols), morphology (prefixes, suffixes, and base word analysis), and vocabulary must be addressed during spelling instruction. These activities engage the student in a process that deciphers the reason for the spelling pattern rather than rote memory.

Many spelling difficulties arise when students are not able to accurately segment and blend the sounds in words. For example, if students do not understand that the word has three distinct sounds they cannot accurately spell it. An essential component of effective spelling instruction is the explicit teaching of phonemic awareness. When our reading clinicians at RW&C work with students, there is a phonemic awareness component to every single lesson whether students are working on letter sounds or advanced reading comprehension.

dyslexia

By ensuring that students can hear and manipulate sounds in syllables and words, our effective reading clinicians are making sure that students have and continue to develop the skills necessary to spell words correctly and express ideas in writing.

In addition, students need to understand the relationship between the sounds in words (phonemes) and the written symbols (graphemes). Our structured literacy lessons focus on this relationship with both reading and writing, helping students learn and internalize basic spelling patterns to complicated patterns.

Equally important, there should be a focus on morphology which is a critical component of any spelling program. Understanding root words and rules for prefixes and suffixes helps students understand spelling patterns. For example, looking at the word business, many people may wonder where the  comes from since it is silent. Understanding that the root word is and knowing that changes to a when adding a suffix (with the exception of a few orthographic rules) means that students will understand why the word is spelled the way it is and will help them internalize the spelling pattern.

By introducing, modeling, and practicing these skills explicitly, it helps students learn how to spell words correctly which improves and reinforces all literacy skills.

online tutoringOur reading clinicians also have extensive knowledge of child development and know when to correct spelling and when to allow children to rely on inventive spelling that is based on their own internalized understanding of phonemes and graphemes. This allows us to teach more than memorization because we teach the skills that students are developmentally ready for and not skills that are above their level. Just like in reading, in spelling it is “not the age, it’s the stage.” Students should not be pushed to memorize spelling patterns they are not ready for because it will ultimately do more harm than good.

Our online tutoring program integrates a multi-sensory approach to spelling according to the Structured Literacy framework. Students are engaged in looking, listening, repeating, segmenting, naming, and writing spelling patterns. Words are also integrated into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to promote and develop further understanding. Research has shown this to be the most effective way to teach spelling and to integrate it into reading and overall literacy development (Birsch, 2005).

Spelling and writing are integral parts of literacy instruction and must be included systematically and explicitly in all literacy programs, especially those designed for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. While one may think direct and explicit spelling instruction is a distraction from content writing, it actually enhances it by empowering students to use a wider and more sophisticated vocabulary to describe their story rather than choose words that are easier to spell.  If your child struggles with spelling, it is not a problem that will simply fix itself and will likely lead to other literacy difficulties down the road.

The important take away is that our English language spelling system is logical, makes sense, and is critical to reading and writing. Approximately 87% of English words are reliable to read and spell (Hanna et al., 1966) once the orthographic patterns have been mastered. However, for the novice or struggling speller, in order for the system to make sense it may take a Structured Literacy expert to help your child navigate the nuances of the English language.

Don’t wait for your child to struggle. Get them the help they need to be successful. Contact us today to discuss your child’s needs and find out if our online reading program is a good fit for you.

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

 

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Fluency: Bridging The Gap Between Phonics And Comprehension

mosaic-catepillarIn our previous blogs, we discussed the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics development for pre-emergent, emergent, and beginning readers. While understanding and manipulating phonemes and decoding are both essential skills, children must move beyond them to become proficient readers. A critical development in the reading process is fluency.

Fluency is the ability to read words accurately with both speed and expression. When a child is able to read fluently, their reading should sound natural. The words should flow well, and the child will use appropriate expression and intonation when reading aloud.

If a child is not a fluent reader, their reading will sound choppy. They may get stuck on certain words or have to read parts of the text multiple times. Their reading will lack expression; questions, statements, and exclamations will be read with the same monotone intonation. They will disregard punctuation and pause at awkward spots in the text.

So, why is fluency an issue? Without fluency, it is tough to move from just decoding words to reading and understanding an entire passage. Fluency is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When children read with fluency, they do not spend mental energy on decoding words. Hence, they are able to focus on the passage meaning. If children do not develop reading fluency, comprehension will become difficult, and their ability to read at grade level will suffer.

mosaic-booksIf you are not sure if your child struggles with reading fluency, ask yourself a few key questions. First of all, does your child take a disproportionately long time to read a short passage both aloud and silently? Does your child’s reading sound labored and choppy? Does their reading lack expression? Does your child have trouble understanding what they read? Does your child self-correct many words read in the passage? If you answered yes, it is possible your child has difficulty with fluent reading.

If you suspect your child is having difficulty with reading fluently, there are a few things you can do at home to try to help. If your child seems to get lost in text easily, frequently having trouble keeping their place, have them try print tracking. Using a finger or some kind of pointer, have your child follow along with the words they are reading so they do not get lost.

Secondly, have your child read the text aloud more than once. The first time focus on decoding and then with repeated readings focus on fluency, particularly accuracy and expression. This activity is helpful because with repeated readings, the struggle to decode should diminish and your child can concentrate on reading fluently. While your child reads aloud, provide constructive feedback when errors are made.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPractice choral reading. Initially, read aloud to your child to model fluent reading while having them follow along in the book. Next, reread the book and invite your child to read any words he recognizes you are reading. Read the same book three to five times, however, not on the same day using this choral reading practice. Soon, your child should be able to read the story independently.

Use poetry or other books with clear rhythmic patterns. This can help your child hear the natural rhythm of the text, making it easier to read fluently. You can also try giving your child short phrases to read and asking them to read them as a statement, question, and exclamation to practice reading with expression.

mosaic-bird-of-paradiseIf you notice that these activities are not helping your child, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to get them professional assistance. Reading fluency is paramount to becoming a proficient reader and without it, it is unlikely that your child will make the progress necessary to go from learning to read versus reading to learn. With an escalating amount of reading each grade level, your child may quickly fall behind.

Our Structured Literacy online program incorporates reading fluency into each and every session. With repeated readings, sentence and phrase reading, and developing fluency in longer texts, we can help your child become the fluent reader they need to be.

Our trained Reading Clinicians understand how reading fluency develops and have multiple strategies to help nurture and expand this skill. They will help you make sure that your child develops the fluency needed to help them succeed in becoming a life-long reader.

If you have concerns about your child’s reading fluency or any other area, contact us today to find out how our online tutoring program can help your child flourish.

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Phonics: Understanding The Relationship Between Sounds And Letters

Phonics: Understanding The Relationship Between Sounds And Letters

mosaic-catepillarIn a previous post about phonemic awareness, I discussed the importance of emergent reader’s understanding of phonemes or sounds in words. As children develop strong phonemic awareness skills, they need to begin to associate the sounds in words to letters or graphemes. The relationship between sounds and letters is called phonics.

 

Phonics is an essential building block in the reading process. Without learning to associate the phoneme with the grapheme, reading cannot occur. For fluent readers, phonics seems almost common sense, however, there is no natural connection between sounds and letters. Phonics cannot be learned through osmosis but instead must be explicitly taught.

 

748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPhonics is particularly important for emergent readers. Beginning around the age of 5, children should have daily explicit phonics instruction. Like many reading skills, some children may need only minimum exposure to a letter to connect the associated sound. Other children may need repeated and constant exposure to a letter to become automatic in connecting the correct sound. If your child is older and still struggling with letter-sound relationships, they can still benefit from phonics instruction. Every child must know the names and sounds of all the letters in the alphabet to become a good reader.

 

Here are a few ways that you can practice phonics skills with your child at home to help increase their reading proficiency:

  • Word Building: Using letter cards or Scrabble tiles, have your child build words. Encourage your child to first segment the sounds orally and then use the corresponding letter card to build the word and blend it back together. Talk with your child’s teacher or reading tutor to find out appropriate words to work on.
  • Letter Sound Practice: Make flash cards of letters or spelling patterns and quiz your child on them. For a list of appropriate spelling patterns talk with your child’s reading clinician  or teacher.
  • Race to Build a Word: Draw 7 consonants and 2 vowels from a stack of letter cards. Challenge your child to a race to see who can build the most words in 3 minutes. To make this more challenging use digraphs. Digraphs are two adjacent letters in the same syllable that represent a single speech sound. Some examples of consonant digraphs are (sh, ch, th, etc.). Vowel digraphs often called vowel team examples such as ( ee, ea, ay, ai, etc.) will add a higher level of practice . Check with your child’s teacher or reading tutor to see which digraphs are appropriate for your child’s level.
  • Slap A Letter: Create a game board of letters and digraphs that your child is working on using butcher paper or poster board. Give your child a fly swatter. Call out a sound and have your child slap the appropriate spelling pattern with their fly swatter.
  • Writing Practice: Say sounds and have your child write the appropriate grapheme. Say words and have your child segment the sounds and spell the words. Encourage your child to tell you how many sounds are in a word and identify any instances where two letters make one sound (like ck, sh, ay, etc.). Always ask your child to segment before writing and read the word when they are done.

 

mosaic-booksThese activities will help your child develop the phonics skills necessary to become a fluent reader. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you may consider trying some of these to find out if phonics is an area they struggle.

If your child struggles with this foundational skill, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading specialist with training in structured literacy. Without explicit phonics instruction, it is unlikely that students with reading difficulties will increase their reading proficiency. If your child struggles, the best thing you can do as a parent is get them help as early as possible.

In our online tutoring program, our trained clinicians systematically and thoroughly teach phonics concepts to ensure that children master reading and writing. We also encourage parents to work with their children at home and provide many resources for you to use to help your child. If you are worried about your child’s reading, call us today to discuss your needs and learn how online tutoring with systematic phonics instruction can help your child succeed.

Look for more reading tips and tricks coming soon. If you are concerned about your child’s reading, call us today to set up a screening and find out if our online tutoring program is the right fit for your child.

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

 

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPhonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success; however, many parents have no idea what it even is. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.

 

Your child should begin to understand basic phonemic awareness concepts like rhyming and initial sounds around the age of three. As they advance in the understanding, most kids should master more complex skills like segmentation and substitution around the age of five or six.

 

Even older children will still need phonemic awareness skills like phoneme and syllable segmentation to read and spell more complex words. If your child struggles with phonemic awareness, it is very likely that they will have reading difficulties.

 

mosaic-booksHere are a few activities you can do to help your child develop phonemic awareness:

 

  • Rhyming games: ask your child to produce words that rhyme with ______. This is a great activity because you can do it anywhere. I often play this with my four-year-old while we drive to school. You can also increase the difficulty by making it a game for points where you take turns and whoever cannot come up with a rhyme loses.

 

  • Beginning, middle, and ending sounds: Knowing the first sound in a word is important to develop reading skills later. You can say a word and ask your child to repeat the first sound (important note, this is about sounds, NOT letters. If you say bird your child should say the /b/ sound, not the letter name b). You can repeat this activity with middle and ending sounds. If you are feeling ambitious you can also do initial sound sorts. You can purchase them online or you can create your own. Basically you find objects or pictures that have the same beginning sound. Your child would take two to four beginning sounds, mix them up, and sort them. You can also do this with middle and ending sounds for an extra challenge.

 

  • Segmenting and blending sounds: According to many experts, these are the most important phonemic awareness skills when it comes to reading development. Children must be able to stretch out sounds in words and put them back together. An easy way to do this is to say a word like cat and have your child tell you the sounds (important note, your child should say /k/ /a/ /t/ the sounds, not spell the word cat). You can also say the sounds in a word and ask your child to put it back together. Another way to practice is to use rubber bands. Have your child hold a rubber band on their thumbs and literally stretch the sounds in a word. Then they can put it back together by blending it into a word. You can also use blocks or other objects you have around the house. Line up the objects and say a word. Have your child pull down an object as they say each sound. The number of objects should match the number of sounds.

 

748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPracticing these phonemic awareness skills with your child will strengthen their understanding of the foundational elements of reading. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you might try some of these activities to see if they are able to do them.

 

If you child struggles with these activities or other phonemic awareness skills, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading professional. Without phonemic awareness skills, your child will always struggle with reading.

 

Our online tutoring program offers phonemic awareness support with each and every session. Our trained clinicians understand this foundation concept and can use it to help with reading and spelling at every level. If you want to learn more or need to know more about phonemic awareness, contact our office today.

 

 

 

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.