Hope Explains More

hom·o·phone : a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir  and air.

kids laughingIf you want a sure-fire way to make a class of kindergarten students laugh you need only say “underwear”, “poop” or “naked”.  This will result in uncontrolled, hysterical whooping and laughing.  We recently added the sight word “but” to our list and that immediately created some wide eyes and giggling.  I had added a “bad word” to our list.  What was I thinking?

We immediately launched into a lesson on homophones. This is a complicated concept for my students because they don’t realize words can sound the same but be spelled differently and mean different things.  We came up with a few together on an anchor chart to help them visualize this.  We will add to this as we come across other words, hopefully not as scandalous as “but” and “butt”.

These class conversations combined with the anchor charts help them make concrete connections to otherwise nebulous concepts.  My students are not experts on homophones now, but they have been exposed to the concept and hopefully, with the creation of the anchor chart, it will cause them to stop and think when confronted with another word that is confusing.

In a recent post, I extolled the virtues of our Explain Everything app. One of my students, Hope, was very articulate in her explanation of her annotated illustration.  Hope was vexed by the whole “but” “butt” issue and wanted to Explain Everything about these words that was creating such consternation in our classroom.  Please allow Hope to explain more:

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For the Love of Words…

The limits of my language are the limits of my universe-Goethe

Kaylee vocabWe are at the point in the school year where my students are able to read most of their sight words and are able to decode many others.  As we flex our thinking muscles, we are working on increasing vocabulary words.

Students learn vocabulary words informally when they are immersed in a word rich environment. Anchor charts with rich words and lists of synonyms can be used to create a word rich environment. Students learn new words through rich conversations, personal reading and daily experiences with read aloud texts.

We are working to increase our Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary during literacy centers.  Students are given 4 vocabulary words that go along with our thematic unit.  In the example above, the words were love, heart, friend and valentine.  The children had to write a sentence in Pic Collage to show they understood the word and then they illustrated their sentence in Doodle Buddy and imported it into the Pic Collage.  They will also be allowed to look for pictures on Safari to demonstrate words soon.  (I was a little hesitant to have them look up images for valentines words…) After they created their Pic Collage, they shared it with their team and read the sentences of the other children.  A colleague of mine uses Strip Designer with her first graders to demonstrate their vocabulary words.  Either of these apps work great.  You can save the work to the photo library or upload to PaperPort to demonstrate workflow.

To teach vocabulary, we must use rich and robust instruction through multiple exposures. Children who acquire a substantial vocabulary are often able to think more deeply, express themselves better, and learn new things more quickly. They are also very likely to be successful not only learning to read, but also in reading at or above grade level throughout their school years.

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Focus on Vocabulary: Tiers 1,2, and 3

One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.- Evelyn Waugh

Is it possible to overstate the value of words?  Our ability to function in today’s complex world is determined by our language skills. We use expressive vocabularies to speak, receptive vocabularies to listen and comprehend, and literate vocabularies to read and write.   A large vocabulary is  reflective of high levels of reading achievement. Yet, often, vocabulary instruction is over-looked in schools today as other skills get pushed to the forefront.

We used the iPads last year for phonics practice as well as vocabulary acquisition.  Our Tier 1 words (sight words), we practiced in several apps, most notably Spelling 1-2 and Spelling Bee.  We worked on Tier 2 words (essential for understanding text, non-redundant words) in Montessori Crosswords and our Magnet board apps.  Tier 3 words (infrequently used, subject specific words) can also be practiced with these apps.  These apps allow for many opportunities to talk about and work with words.

Young students learn to communicate through listening and speaking. As students learn to read, they develop fluency and automaticity through rapidly using decoding strategies.  A large amount of attention in the early grades is placed on high frequency words.  These are very important for emerging readers.  However, it can’t stop there.  We must increase comprehension through the use of Tier 2 and 3 words.  Research is showing that in 4,469 minutes of reading instruction, only 19 of those minutes went toward vocabulary instruction and acquisition.

The most recently released study of international reading achievement provides some strong evidence that the weakness in U.S. student performance is not the result of decoding problems or inability to comprehend narrative texts. Instead, it seems to be due to weakness in ability to comprehend.  informational texts (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, 2003).  80% of text that adults read is informational.

Through the iBooks Author software, I was able to create a few high-interest non-fiction texts that were on my students individual reading levels last year.  By having these texts on their iPads, they have them handy whenever they want to read.  I have also downloaded the I Like Books app.  It is a collection of 30 (free) non-fiction books.

Through the use of these reading apps and the apps mentioned above for practicing vocabulary, I am able to increase the rigor in vocabulary instruction.

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