Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Learning About Letters and Sounds

This term I have made a very conscious effort to make learning about letters and sounds part of every writing and reading lesson to try to increase learners alphabet sound knowledge and thereby increase their knowledge of high frequency words.

 I have  explained to the children the importance of knowing the shape of letters (what they look like) and the sounds they make individually.  We have touched on sounds that some letters make together in our reading groups with learners who have already got a good grasp of alphabet sound knowledge but for others we are still looking at individual letters.   I have also explained that writing and reading are linked and that writing is the recorded form of what we say.  During either subject I will point out something we have focused on in one subject and are now making use of it in the other subject so that the children are aware of the link.

We begin every writing lesson using the "Butterfly Chart" to say individual alphabet letter names, the sound it makes, a word that begins with the letter and to add a bit of fun a child in the class whose name that begins with the particular letter.  Some children are now suggesting other words that might begin the same way.

During writing we model whole class co construction of ideas into sentences.  Magnetic high frequency words that are on their "Butterfly Charts" are arranged on the board in the same format.  The children help find and put these words into the appropriate place in the sentence.  I am finding that others will help someone find a word by giving them clues and time to think such as "It's in the yellow box and it starts with the letter 'w' that makes the sound 'www'."  Some learners find the prompts done in a friendly way helpful and makes them pleased to achieve.

In reading I also make alphabet formation as well as high frequency words part of the teaching segment as well as part of the rotation each day.  Karen Belt has made some very useful activities that can be used independently as part of the rotation each day.   These activities have sound bites so that the children can hear the sound as well as write it.  They are able to listen again and again while looking at the word, identify other things around the room that start with the same letter and take photos of them.  Other activities include sound bites to listen to and writing high frequency words at the magenta, red and yellow levels.

As a team we are working through the iPad reading activities, adding slides with additional word work in different formats.  We discuss why we have added them, which WALT we have used to justify the addition and also how our learners found them.  This sharing of our knowledge and suggestions has been very helpful.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Inquiry For 2016

School wide focus: Formative practice in reading and writing to improve student achievement.

Children's reading development is dependant on their understanding that a letter and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language.  This predictable relationship between letters and sounds allows children to apply these relationships to both known and unknown words.

My 2016 Inquiry is to develop ways to help my learners acquire and be able to use their alphabet sound knowledge and to see that it is predictable and systematic.  This should help not only those that are struggling with reading but help those who have mastered individual letter sounds to build knowledge of letter patterns.

I have chosen this topic because New Entrant testing has shown that this is an area that needs to be addressed to fill a gap in the children's learning and that the children are not gaining high frequency words at the expected rate.

To begin with we have been building up a knowledge of letter names and shapes.  Knowing letter names helps the children to remember the forms of written letters.  Then we can move onto the letter sounds.  Some learners are at the beginning stage of learning to recognise the first letter of their name by its letter name and are attempting to reproduce the shape.  Other learners are able to see words as a sequence of letters that can be reproduced.  We practice the shape of individual letters with a writing sheet, or on our iPads as well as during the formal writing session.

Each morning during reading rotation opportunities are given to play with, match and sort letters.  The children with a greater letter sound knowledge also have opportunities to apply and expand their knowledge  of phonetically spelled words that are familiar in meaning during follow up activities.

During 2016 I want to investigate opportunities that will help my learners gain word knowledge more efficiently.