In previous blog posts, we discussed Reading Foundational Kindergarten Common Core Standards for Print Concepts, Fluency, and Phonological Awareness. This week, we'll discuss the last Kindergarten Reading Foundational Standard: Phonics and Word Recognition. These are the Standards:
Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.
Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.
Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.
Assess: At SL3, we believe all good instruction begins with an evaluation of student skills. Here is a free phonics and word recognition assessment that evaluates the Common Core skills for Phonics and Word Recognition.
After gathering data on each student, you should meet with your educational team to review the data. We recommend a combination of whole-class and small group differentiated instruction.
You may find that the data breaks student into four groups:
1. Emergent Letter/Sound Identification: These students can identify the names of fewer than 20 capital letters, and the sounds of fewer than 10 letters.
Students in this group require instruction in all the letters and sounds from a systematic Tier 1 instruction program. They should be progress monitored bi-weekly to ensure that they are learning the letters/sounds. If they are not progressing, they should be considered for Tier 2 services.
2. Established Letter/Sound Identification: Students in this group can identify the names of more than 20 capital letters and more than 10 sounds. They can identify 12 or more lower case letters. They cannot yet string together sounds of words to say a CVC word as a whole.
Students in this group will benefit from Tier 1 instruction in letter/sound identification. They should be monitored at least monthly to ensure that they are progressing.
3. Emerging CVC decoding: Children in this group can identify all 26 upper and lower case letters. They know the sounds for 20 or more letters. They can "read" the letters of CVC words, but are not yet blending the sounds. Children may also be able to read the phonetically regular sight words.
Children in this group have already met the Kindergarten Core standards for this area. The children should be monitored quarterly to ensure that they know all the letters/sounds by the end of the year.
4. Established CVC decoders: Students in this group can fluently say the CVC unit as a whole. In one minute, these students can read 30 or more CVC words. Some of the students in this group may already be reading basic books.
Students in this group have also met the Kindergarten Common Core standards for Phonics. If these students enjoy reading books, it can be encouraged. If they prefer listening to stories, it is unnecessary to push them to read on their own at this point. Instead, these students should continue to participate in Tier 1 letter/sound instruction, and be encouraged to listen to language rich text to expand their vocabulary.
Tier 1 Curriculum:
At SL3, we believe that choosing the best Tier 1 curriculum possible is the most important thing schools can do to help children learn to read. When we consider word study curriculum, we want approaches that provide systematic, explicit, and comprehensive instruction from kindergarten through upper grades. We find that too many kindergarten curriculums stop at letter-sound or digraph-sound identification. Common Core Reading Foundational Standards also now require that schools teach syllable types and higher level phonics skills at older grades.
Here are some of our favorite Tier 1 curriculum choices for teaching word study starting in kindergarten:
1. WIlson Language Basics Fundations: Fundations is a systematic word study program for grades K-3. The word study is designed as a spelling program as well. It is designed to be used alongside a literature based instruction program.
Fundations is aligned with all the Reading Foundational Skills for grades K-3. In kindergarten, it targets letter-sound identification and teaches students how to form the letters with a cute visual schematic of the sky and ground. Starting in first grade, the program teaches students to identify syllable types, scoop syllables, and mark each syllable. Word lists are systematically programmed to increase in difficulty. The program also includes instruction in morphological endings and irregular high frequency words.
A potential con to this approach is that it will be difficult for students with visual working memory difficulties, as it requires students to learn both letters/sounds as well as visual markings to represent the syllable types.
A benefit to this program is that Wilson is based on decades of research on students with reading difficulties. Fundations is also based on the principles of Orton Gillingham. For teachers who wish to learn more about the syllable types and Orton Gillingham methods, we recommend the webinars offered from the Orton Gillingham Online Academy, found here.
2. Spell Links by Learning by Design: Spell Links is also a systematic word study program. The program is for grades K-12. It can be used at all Tiers of Instruction. Spell Links goes beyond most basic word study programs. It has students thinking about, talking about, synthesizing, analyzing, and applying knowledge of sounds, letters, and meanings so that they can read and write accurately and fluently. Spell Links is also based in the latest brain research for building neural pathways.
The benefit of this program is that it teaches through all different neural pathways. For example, a kindergarten unit fuses phonological awareness with letter ID by having students "tap" the beat (teaching by a synthetic phonics approach). It has children sort words by pattern (building analytic phonics skills), inspecting patterns (strengthening occipital temporal lobe brain regions) and discriminating sounds (building Broca's area for phonological awareness). The program also teaches students to output through all modalities (writing, reading, and oral language). Overall, we feel Spell Links is the best Tier 1 Reading Decoding Program on the market to meet Common Core Reading Foundational Skills at all grades.
Another huge benefit of Spell Links is that it can be used at all Tiers of instruction. Learning by Design (and Pearson) offers an assessment tool called Spell-2 that will analyze a student's spelling mistakes to detect oral and written language deficits. This data can be used as part of a Tier 2 or 3 assessment process in order to identify the underlying language processes that are interfering with a child's reading and spelling. Then, the software will automatically link the assessment data to specific word study activities within the Spell Links curriculum by listing lesson numbers and activities that the individual child needs to make progress.
A potential drawback of this program is that teachers really need to understand language fundamentals in order to teach with integrity. Some of the lessons are more complicated than what most college teacher preparation programs teach about word instruction. Learning by Design does offer professional development sessions to school districts to help them implement Spell Links. We highly recommend these sessions. It is money well spent.
Learning by Design also offers scripted Classroom Curriculum for grades K and Grade 1 for schools that would like to try Tier 1 implementation.
Add Some Fun to Tier One!
Once a good Tier 1 curriculum is in place, supplemental activities will help keep students engaged. We love pinterest, and we've collected an assortment of fun (and free!) activities on our pinterest boards that meet kindergarten phonics standards. Check it out!
Pinterest activities are like the cherry on top of the sundae. They shouldn't replace or become the Tier 1 entirely, but class is so much more fun when you sprinkle pinterest ideas into the mix every so often.
At Speech Language Literacy Lab, we strive to keep learning too. If there is a Tier 1 Reading Decoding program that you LOVE, please share it with us!