Do You Have Students Break Words?

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I am trying a new approach in the Word Study component of my guided reading lessons. Sunday Cummins shared this approach with me recently. Jan Richardson shared it with her. It comes from Michele Dufresne.  Twitter: @MicheleDufresne

It is really simple and makes great sense when you think about transitioning readers from using sound boxes into chunking words or breaking a word, a strategy you should be using with readers in stages Early – Fluent.

This strategy teaches readers to break words into meaningful parts or chunks. This is a strategy you should be prompting readers to use as you listen to them read and get stuck on a word. Breaking a word will help the reader hold onto the meaning of the word and sentence as they work through it. The alternative of asking readers to stretch it out, does not often work and it causes them to lose meaning of what they are reading. Breaking  a word should be used as part of the cross-checking strategy when students are reading.

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The old adage of sound it out is not effective when reading for meaning.

This new approach involves asking students to break words apart instead of asking them to build words during the word study component of guided reading.

When introducing this approach, you may want to tell readers where to break words at first. However you want them to be responsible for breaking the words themselves when possible. You have to know your readers and what they need. If they do not need to be told, then do not tell them. Let them figure it out.

Let readers take on as much responsibility as they can. Never start from the stand point that readers cannot do something, give them a chance and jump in when they need the support. Remember one benefit of guided reading is that the teacher is right there supporting students as they try things out. It will be more authentic for the student and they will remember it better when they do the work. Then they will transfer the skill more easily.

Example: Break chop in front of the vowel:  ch  op

Or just ask students to chunk/break the word.

If your students need to be told where to break the word I think it is important to say break the word in front the vowel. This will help reader distinguish vowels from consonants, a skill they must have when breaking apart larger, more difficult words. Recognizing different vowel combinations is very helpful.

In my 2nd grade group this week I practiced this strategy.  I wrote the word sticky on a white board and asked my students to build it and then break it out, without saying the word out loud. They came up with 3 different ideas.

                                                      st   i   ck y

                                                     stick   y

                                                    st  ick    y

All of these can be helpful to individual students. So, do not penalize readers for breaking the words differently. But make sure you ask them to explain their reasoning.  There are certain guidelines you will want to enforce, however.

Keep vowel pairs together: ea, ou,  ir

Keep digraphs together:  th,  ch,  sh

Keep blends together:  st,  sw,  sl

Keep prefixes and suffixes together

                                                    (This is not a complete list)

Look for meaningful chunks that keep common patterns(rimes) together:

CVC words like: p op,  s  at,   t ub

 

Readers in the Early stage of reading will probably need more support.

Here are a few more examples of words my students have broke apart this week.

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This student changed her break in the word to “con” “nect” when I asked her to explain reasoning for the break in the picture above. She even said at first I though it was “co” (with a long o sound) and then I thought it was “con”  I always ask student to explain why they broke the word the way they did and let them notice a better way to break it without directly telling them when at all possible.

The other students broke it like this:

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Here are the basic steps

Step 1:  Write a word on a dry-erase board. Do not say the word and tell students not to say the word. (chop)

Step 2: Have students take the letters off their trays and make the word.

Step 3: Tell students to break the word at the vowel. (ch   op)

Step 4: Have the students say each part chorally. (/ch/  /op/)

Step 5: Have the students put the word back together and read it. (chop)

Step 6: Tell the student to change a letter or two to make a new word (e.g. tell them which letters to change). For example, tell the student to “change the letter c to a letter s” so they have the letters for shop). Do not say the word and tell students not the say the word.  Students then break the word, say each part, and put the word back together as they read it.

Step 7: Write a word on the dry-erase easel with the same rime but different onset. Have students read it. (stop). If they need help underline the rime (stop).

Now when readers come to a difficult word and are trying to cross-check it, I have them try breaking it as an added strategy. When reading with this group of 2nd graders I had  to prompt them to break several words this week. They wanted to guess or try to stretch it out. A habit I am trying to break. They quickly put their finger on the word and eventually all solved their words by breaking them apart.

I like to say break the word instead of saying look for a part or word you know. Saying that can sometimes backfire on you. For example in the word: finger, recognizing the word in will not help. I am sure many of you have encountered many words where it didn’t help. You have to think about the word, text and student when making in the moment word solving decisions.

I did not have to tell any of these 2nd graders the words we chunked this week. They solved every one.

Let me know if you try this out and how it goes. Email me if you would like a copy of this complete strategy.

 

 

 

Engaging Readers

I recently had a group of 3rd grade students who had started to become disengaged in their reading. We had just returned from spring break and they were well, not engaged! I was deeply frustrated! So, what did I do? I reflected! On my own practice and on student strengths and needs. Also about the texts I was choosing. All of this impacts engagement and motivation. I also thought about how the students classroom instruction had changed. Students were 3 weeks aways from taking their first state assessment. Classrooms switched to test prep activities that changed what their teaching.

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 My initial concern was kids distracting each other. When one student finished reading before the others and became a distraction. This is not always an issue if you are able to group kids who read close to the same rate, but groupings do not always work out perfectly & kids grow at different rates. After reflecting I came up with a game plan. I focused on what I could do proactively to help keep students engaged.

The next day I led them in a discussion about our goals as readers, and how we could best use our time to meet those goals. Note, I said I led a discussion, they did most of the thinking and talking. I did not want this to be about me, but about them as learners. We discussed what expectations they had for themselves and what they felt my expectations were for them. This helped them refocus themselves without me lecturing them. I purposefully directed the conversation towards the purpose of reading. We discussed what they could do as readers if they finish reading a section of text and the rest of us are still hard at work. They came up with lots of good ideas, while I nudged them towards some others.

We discussed rereading of course. To keep kids engaged as they reread they really need a purpose for reading however. A student in this group had an “ah ha” moment a few weeks prior that I used as a teaching point to help kids understand the importance of rereading and how it can deepen our understanding. So, we talked about rereading with a purpose in mind. Rereading to figure out a confusing point or something they didn’t understand. We discussed rereading to answer a question, and to see if we might have missed a key detail. We talked about rereading to find an important detail they want to share and to mark it with a sticky-note or highlight it if appropriate. Or to flag an idea they want to talk about and clarify. These are things you may ask kids to do when rereading with a purpose on day 2 or day 3 of your guided reading lesson, but you don’t always have to wait. After all you have students in your groups for very brief moments of time, utilize it!

I incorporated more opportunities for student talk around what they were discovering when engaged in their reading. This helped bring more student to student interactions and student/teacher interactions. These interactions were both teacher and student initiated.

We are continuing to review using our time wisely every day in group and it has helped tremendously. Students are not distracting each other as much anymore. When they do it, it is sometimes in reaction to something they noticed in the text! They are also reading to share, or lead a discussion about something they noticed in the book, something missed the first time they read. They are having more authentic ah ha moments and figuring more out on their own. This is what we strive for, right!

In a recent blog post Sunday Cummins talks about the concept of reading multiple sources about the same topic. A concept sometimes called Reading Ladders. This is an idea a colleague and I dug into a little bit last school year when conducting an action research study on student motivation. We found it very motivating for students.

Here is a link to Sunday’s blog post: https://sundaycummins.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/our-students-know-so-little-if/

Anyway, she describes her natural desire to want to know more about a topic and how students have that desire too. We need to utilize that desire with students. I think first we need to get students to be willing to dig deeper into their original source more closely and extract all the information they can! This will lead them on a more focused journey for information through other sources. The journey Sunday is talking about in the mentioned blog post above. This brings up the need to be using appropriate texts with enough depth to keep their attention and stretch their thinking. Especially in stages:  Early, Transitional and Fluent.

I argue that reading instruction can and should be more interactive to promote engagement and hold it. Students naturally want to read more to discover more or to find out what happens!

What are your thoughts!

Remember this blog is a way for me to reflect, grow and continue to refine my practice. Hopefully it helps others as well. Idea’s and thoughts are always welcome!