A word cloud is an image composed of words or phrases. Individually or as a team, students create an image in which the size of each word or phrase indicates its importance to the overall meaning of the topic or text. Word clouds can be created for concepts, characters, events, and themes across content areas.
A few weeks ago, during a small group reading observation, I watched a group of five learning-disabled students struggle with key vocabulary in a reading passage. While the goal of the group was to develop comprehension, it was clear that these learners needed a strategy and practice for decoding new words. Here is an easy-to-implement strategy that can be used to warm-up for reading group.
What strategies do proficient readers use when an unknown word is encountered? The most effective strategy is to use context and letter patterns to determine the word. This usually takes less than 3 seconds. By listening to a student read aloud from a text where he/she knows 90-99% of the text and analyzing what the reader does to word solve, teachers can quickly assess which strategies are in place and which strategies to teach.
Want to play a quick game that builds fluency? I Have, Who Has is the perfect game for warm-ups and repetitive practice. To play, create enough cards for all the students in your class or group. Some students may have 2 cards.
Word Sorts is an instructional activity that requires students to read, analysis, and categorize words and/or pictures by common characteristics. This strategy can also be used to categorize stories, characters, content area vocabulary, math facts, etc.
This activity raises visual awareness of word parts and in particular, the placement of the vowel. Since English is made up of over 1100 patterns from many different languages, teachers must develop “pattern-detectors” who can read and spell new words using the analogy method. If you know the patterns in the word______, then you can read and spell other words with that pattern (seen or heard).
Ultimately, proficient readers and writers need to get beyond the word-level (decoding and encoding) to the text-level for high-level comprehension and composition. This activity is a simple means to the end.
By the end of third grade, most students can read and spell the 400 most commonly used English words from Dolch high frequency word list. Although 87% of the English language is decodable by using common spelling patterns and rules, many of the high frequency words are not. Therefore, words should be learned by letter name and using multi-sensory instruction. Here are a few ways to actively practice the letter name spelling of high frequency words.
We all can recall the word we missed in the school spelling bee. Mine was business. Who knew there was an “i” in business? I was sure the proctor made a mistake. That secret “i” broke all the rules. It didn’t even make a sound. How very sneaky that “i” was. For my third grade mind, it was completely unfair.
As proficient readers come to unfamiliar words, they use cues to help decipher the word. First, we think: “What would make sense?” Then we think: “What would sound right (grammatically)?” At the same time, we are thinking: “What looks right?” Using the beginning sound or sounds and the word family (known as a chunk or phonogram), we quickly decode the 1-syllable words. To practice decoding fluently, have your students learn the most common word families. If they can read these 36 word families quickly, they will be able to read over 500 other words. Not only that, but students can use their knowledge of word families to spell over 500 words. In spelling, we simply change the question to: “Does this word sound like a word I know?” Proficient spellers use word families to spell by analogy.
A Rubric for Success
Students should write daily for real purposes with publishing being a primary goal. At the third grade level and beyond, students should write imaginative stories that demonstrate an understanding of character development, importance of setting, plot development, climax, and resolution. If you can write it, you can read it, so reading comprehension improves as a result of the focus on writing.