The ability to identify and manipulate
the sounds letters represent,
including blending sounds to make
words, creating rhyming patterns,
and counting phonemes (individual
• As students acquire PA, they are led to an understanding of the alphabetic
principle which is “the understanding that there are systematic and predictable
relationships between written letters and spoken sounds” (McEwan, 2009).
• PA is easy for many but not so easy for many more. Students who do not have
PA will struggle with phonics, have difficulty with sounding and blending new
words, have difficulty remembering words from one day to the next, and have
difficulty learning to spell.
• The most commonly assessed and taught PA skills are:
• Phoneme isolation (recognizing individual sounds in words)
• Phoneme identity (recognizing the common sound in different words)
• Phoneme categorization (recognizing the word with the odd sound in a
sequence of 3 or 4 words)
• Phoneme Blending (listening to a sequence of separately spoken sounds &
combining them to form a recognizable word)
• Phoneme Segmentation (breaking down a word into its sounds by tapping
out or counting the sounds or by pronouncing and positioning a marker for
• Phoneme Deletion (Recognizing what word remains when a specified
phoneme is removed
How to use Elkonin Boxes:
1. Pronounce a target word slowly, stretching it out sound by sound.
2. Ask the child to repeat the word.
3. Draw “boxes” or squares with one box for each syllable or
4. Have the student count the number of phonemes in the word, not
necessarily the number of letters.
5. Direct the child to slide one chip of each cell of the Elkonin box
as s/he repeats the word.
Elkonin Box for the word “sheep”, which consists of 3
phonemes(sounds): /sh/ /ee/ /p/
Reading Eggs is an online software that concentrates on phonemic
awareness early in the program. Strategies for developing phonemic
awareness include reading games and activities that feature:
Nursery rhymes, Listening skills, Sound play, Alphabet books
These lessons engage young readers in activities that help their
phonemic awareness to develop and flourish. Later on in the program,
readers listen to words in order to discern the lesson’s focus sound.
They work with onsets and rhymes, such as c-at, b-at, r-at, so that they
become adept at breaking words into smaller parts. Being able to
manipulate phonemes builds phonemic awareness skills, which when
combined with phonics, rapidly increases a student’s bank of readable
A series of flashcards containing pictures that the
are familiar to the students
• Student names the picture featured on each card
• After saying the word, the student is asked to identify
the first and second sounds (phonemes) in the word
This activity helps children realize that words are made
up of a series of independent sounds or phonemes.
This instructional strategy is appropriate for Pre-K & Kindergarten.
Rhyme Generation (Kindergarten & 1st Grade)
• Students identify the rhyme within an authentic text, such
as a poem or song
• Teacher use the identified rhymes to color-code the onset
and rime on chart paper
• Teacher displays selected sentences from song or poem
and students apply the skill by creating their own sentence
that generates a new rhyme for the context.
• Teacher develops students’ skill in manipulating onsets and
rimes by encouraging rhyme generation with their names.
The primary purpose for implementing the rhyme generation
activity is to encourage students to develop critical phonemic
awareness skills such as manipulation of the onset and rime.
This instructional strategy is appropriate for Kindergarten & 1st grade.
PA can be assessed using standardized measures.
DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills)
provides two measures that can be used to assess phonemic
segmentation skills, Initial Sounds Fluency (ISF) and
Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF).
Click on the following link to see a video of ISF
Click on the following link to see a video of PSF
This assessment is appropriate for kindergarten and 1st grade.
Phonemic awareness can be assessed using an
informal diagnostic assessment tool.
PAST (Phonological Awareness Skills Test) is a quick,
easy and comprehensive tool to be used as a baseline
and a progress reporting assessment.
Click on the following link to see the forms used when
This assessment is appropriate for kindergarten and 1st grade.
An understanding of the
alphabetic principle (that letters
either singly or in combination
represent various sounds) and the
ability to apply this knowledge in
the decoding of unfamiliar words.
• Phonics can be taught whenever students have the prerequisite
PA skills to identify and manipulate the various sounds
• The most intensive phonics instruction typically takes place in
• There are 4 ways to read words
1. Contextual Guessing-guessing based on the context of the
selection, usually using picture cues
2. Letter-Sound Decoding-connecting the letter seen to the
sound, or phoneme
3. Analogy-reading a word by drawing an analogy to another
known word in the student’s memory
4. Sight-the ultimate goal of reading is to be able to read the
word on sight within a split second
Word Family Card Game
• Print out at least eight copies of the word endings
printouts for the word families you wish to practice
and at least two copies of the lower case letters
printouts. It is best to print them on cardstock &
laminate for future use
• Shuffle the cards and "deal" 3 to 5 cards per player
(depending on how many players you have).
• Place the remaining cards face down in the middle.
• Flip over the top card and lie it face up beside the face
down pile. (You end up with a face up and a face down
STEP 1: the player can choose to:
• pick the top card from the face up pile and discard one of their cards
(placing it on top of the face up pile)
• pick the top card from the face down pile (it will be a surprise) and discard
one of their cards (placing it on top of the face up pile)
• skip STEP 1 (keep the cards they have in their hand)
STEP 2: the player can then choose to:
• place cards in front of them to form ONE word family word. (the player can
only form one word per turn.
this can be 1 word ending card (words like "at" and "an" count!)
one lower case letter card + 1 word ending card (c-at)
two lower case letter cards + 1 word ending card (t-h-at)
• if they cannot form a word family word, the player must draw a card from
the face down pile.
THEN the player sounds out the word family word they made (if they made one) and
it is the next player's turn.
Starfall is an online program that is a free, public service to teach children
to read with phonics. Their systematic phonics approach, in conjunction
with phonemic awareness practice is perfect for preschool, kindergarten,
1st & 2nd grades, special education and ELLs. Their method of instruction
motivates students in an atmosphere of imagination and enthusiasm. It
provides opportunities for child-directed instruction and supports ELLs and
struggling readers .
Sound out a word by elongating its sounds:
This is when we have students segment the sounds
from left to right to sound out a word, stretch the sounds
and produce them in order. This strategy is not
applicable every time. When using this strategy, some
things a teacher might say include:
• Sound it out, start at the beginning, and make each sound
• Stretch that word out, and say it slowly. Find all the sounds
that are there.
This strategy is appropriate for any student that has prerequisite PA skills.
• is correlated with increased reading outcomes
(Elbaum, Vaughn, Hughes, Moody & Schumm, 2000; National
Reading Panel, 2000)
• is for all ability levels from gifted students to learning disabled
(Vaughn, Hughes, Moody & Elbaum, 2001)
• Has groupings formed and reformed in response to the
students’ instructional needs
This strategy is appropriate and beneficial for ALL students but vital for struggling readers.
Phonics can be assessed using standardized measures.
The DIBELS Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) is a standardized,
individually administered test of the alphabetic principle
including letter-sound correspondence in which letters
represent their most common sounds and of the ability to
blend letters into words in which letters represent their most
common sounds (Kaminski & Good, 1996).
Click on the following link to see a video of NWF
This assessment is appropriate for kindergarten through second grade.
Words Their Way spelling inventories are another
way to assess a student’s phonics skills. The
teacher says a word, uses it in a sentence and
then repeats the word. This type of assessment
allows the teacher to see the students phonics
strengths and weaknesses. Click on the following
link to see the Elementary Spelling Inventory:
The Elementary Spelling Inventory is appropriate for students who have
spelled more than 20 words correct on the primary spelling inventory.
The ability to read so effortlessly and automatically
that working memory is available for the ultimate
purpose of reading-extracting and constructing
meaning from the text. Fluency can be observed in
accurate, automatic, and expressive oral reading
and makes possible, silent reading comprehension
(Harris & Hodges, 1995, p. 85; Pikulski & Chard,
2005, p. 510)
• Fluency serves as “the bridge between word
identification and comprehension.”
(Pikulski & Chard, 2005)
• Fluency encompasses at least 5 different components:
1. The proportion of words recognized as sight words
2. The variation in the speed in which sight words are processed by the reader
3. The speed with which the reader identifies novel/new words
4. The use of context to speed word identification
5. Speed with which word meanings are identified
• The human brain is limited in what it can process at
one time. As students become more fluent oral
readers, they are better able to understand what they
The authentic way to build fluency is by
putting accessible books into the hands of
students so they can increase their own fluency
by doing lots of independent reading-orally at
the beginning of the process and silently later
on. Leveled readers are just one source of
Fluency Tutor helps young and struggling
readers develop oral reading fluency and
improve comprehension. It is a web-based
program that allows students to practice
reading, take assessments and see how they did.
Teachers can access students, monitor progress
and individualize instruction.
Students read aloud a short passage that is
at their independent reading level. They record
themselves while reading. The students then listen
to themselves and follow along with the text.
When using this strategy, they are monitoring their
own oral reading. They then record themselves
again and listen for improvement. This process
continues as often as needed to reach their goals.
This strategy is appropriate for second graders and up.
In this method of repeated reading, students have to opportunity to read a
play but without using any props, scenery or having rehearsals. They do not need to
memorize lines or wear costumes. To prepare for their performance, they just
repeatedly read their lines. (McEwan, 2009)
The performer’s goal is to read a script aloud effectively, enabling the
audience to visualize the action. There are several benefits to using readers’ theater in
• Develops fluency to repeated exposure to text
• Increases comprehension
• Integrates reading, writing, speaking, and listening in an authentic context
• Engages students
• Increases reading motivation
• Creates confidence and improve the self image of students
• Provides a real purpose for reading
• Provides opportunities for cooperative learning
This strategy is appropriate for any grade level as long as the text is accessible.
Fluency can be assessed using standardized measures.
DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) is a standardized, individually
administered test of accuracy and fluency with connected text. The
passages used with ORF are designed to identify children who may need
additional support and monitor progress toward instructional goals.
These passages are calibrated for each grade level. Student performance
is measured by having students read a passage aloud for one minute.
Words omitted, substituted, and hesitations of more than three seconds
are scored as errors. Words self-corrected within three seconds are
scored as accurate. The number of correct words per minute is the oral
reading fluency score.
Click on the following link to see a video of ORF:
This assessment can be used starting in first grade.
Fry Word Lists
These “instant words” are widely accepted to contain the
most used words in reading and writing. The list is divided into
ten levels and then divided into groups of 25 words, based on
frequency of use and difficulty. When using these high frequency
word lists with a student, you will be able to identify what words
they are having trouble with. Recognizing these words by sight
will increase a student’s reading fluency.
Click on the following link to see the complete list of the 1,000
This assessment can be used beginning in first grade.
Word knowledge is knowing the meanings of
words, knowing about the relationships between
words (Word schema), and having linguistic
knowledge about words. World knowledge is
having an understanding (background knowledge)
of many different subjects and disciplines
(domains) and how they related to one another.
• Word knowledge includes the five linguistic facets
of word study: 1)phonological awareness,
2)orthographic knowledge, 3)morphological
awareness, 4)semantic knowledge, and 5)mental
• Restructuring vocabulary is sometimes necessary
for low-achieving students; it’s important to
directly explain why they’re learning the new words
– for better understanding
• New vocabulary is learned best through active
engagement – by seeing pictures, handling objects,
and doing experiments, as well as using new words
in speaking, reading and writing
A graphic organizer that is used for concept
development and vocabulary building. It requires
students to think about a concept or vocabulary word.
When using a Frayer Model, you should follow these
1. Define the word
2. Identify characteristics of the word
3. Provide examples of the word
4. Provide non-examples of the word
Super Word Toss-Synonyms and Antonyms
Word Toss: Synonyms and Antonyms is a fun
educational game for kids to practice matching
synonyms and antonyms. Students can choose from two
different levels of difficulty before they play. The rules
of the game are simple. Get 10 correct matches and
choose a new ball! Get 3 incorrect in a row and the
game is over!
Build Big Words Into Everyday Routines
It is suggested that teachers use big words when
giving directions or sharing routine information.
Repeated exposure to big words increases a student’s
An example of this can be changing the way you
ask your students to write his or her name on the
board. Instead, you could say, “Please add your name
to the list of those who will be receiving accolades at
the end of the week.”
This strategy can be used with any grade level.
Teach Word Parts: Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots
When students know the meanings of
lexemes (meaning units), they have access to a
whole family of words. They can readily add
dozens of new words and expressions to their
mental lexicons. There is a natural redundancy in
the English language and students will
automatically know many words just by learning
one word or word part.
This strategy can be used with any grade level.
Vocabulary can be assessed using standardized
DIBELS Word Use Fluency (WUF) is an
individually administered test of vocabulary and
oral language. WUF assesses a student’s
expressive vocabulary skills. Expressive
vocabulary is the ability to use words to convey
a specific meaning for a particular label or
This assessment can be used for kindergarten through third grade.
Define the vocabulary word in your own words.
This is an informal way of assessing a
student’s knowledge of a new word. If a student
is able to correctly use the word in dialogue or
writing, you know that the student has grasped
the meaning of the new word.
This assessment can be used in any grade level because it can be done orally or in written format.
The extraction or construction of
meaning from text using the
seven cognitive strategies of
highly skilled readers as
• Comprehension is not a discreet skill, but rather a cognitive
process requiring readers to draw on word and world
knowledge, past experiences, and previously read texts.
• Comprehension isn’t always about one correct answer.
Although, that is usually how comprehension is assessed.
• Teaching comprehension is difficult. Comprehension of
text, while certainly dependent on fluency, is also related to
another set of variables:
1. Familiarity with the text structure
2. Word and world knowledge
3. An age-appropriate understanding of how to apply the
seven strategies of highly effective readers
Using graphic organizers helps students construct meaning
from text. There are many different graphic organizers that can be used
with any book across grade levels. Teachers can use them to monitor
their students’ understanding of what they are reading, observe their
thinking process on what you read as a class, as a group, or
Some examples are:
• Idea Web
• Venn Diagram
• KWL Chart
• Character Comparison Sheet
Ticket to Read is a self-paced, student-centered online program that
results in improved reading performance. As students complete tasks in the
areas of foundational skills, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, they
earn points that can be used to decorate their personal clubhouse or stock
their toy store.
Key features of Ticket to Read include:
• Content displayed in an easy-to-navigate interface
• Interactive activities supported by audio and animation
• Support for English language learners
• Hundreds of high-interest reading passages and games
• Entry points based on students’ reading levels
• Automated quizzes and self-correcting guidance
• Motivating rewards system to keep students engaged
and on task
In the instructional realm scaffolding is in place when
the tasks that students are asked to complete or master are
graduated in difficulty, with each new one being only slightly
more difficult than the last. Scaffolded instruction ensures
success and keeps students confident and motivated to learn.
To scaffold text, use easy, high-interest reading
material during the initial phases of cognitive strategy
instruction. We sometimes need to scaffold the task at hand.
The key to scaffolding, is knowing when to remove the
scaffold. A scaffold is a lot like training wheels on a bicycle.
We don’t leave the training wheels on forever because than
children would never learn to ride a bike. It is the same with
scaffolding, as the student becomes better at the
comprehension skill, teachers need to remove the scaffold.
This strategy can be used with all grade levels.
This use of this cognitive strategy with students
requires thinking aloud by teachers. Teachers need to
show students exactly how a good reader would apply a
The challenge associated with this strategy is that
you need to do three things as the same time:
1)comprehend the text, 2)figure out in your mind just
what you did to understand it, 3)articulate for students
what was going on in your mind.
This strategy can be used with all grade levels.
Comprehension can be assessed using standardized measures.
Daze or the DIBELS Maze comprehension task, is a group-administered
measure of reading comprehension. Students are asked to read a
passage silently. In the passage, every seventh word (approximately) is
blank, with a maze of options (i.e., three possible word choices for the
blank). One of the words in the maze is always correct, and the other
two are incorrect. Daze requires students to choose the correct word as
they read the passage. Students are given three minutes to work on this
task. The score is the number of correct words circled minus half of the
number of incorrect words circled.
Please click on the following video to hear more information about Daze:
This assessment can be used with third through sixth grade.
DCAS is a computerized test taken in the state of
Delaware. DCAS is an acronym for Delaware
Comprehensive Assessment System. It is a multiple
choice test. The difficulty of the questions the student
answers is determined by the performance of the
student when taking the test. If a student were doing
well, then the questions will be harder than another
student who is doing poorly. This is based on ten
questions embedded within others that bump the
next questions' difficulty levels up or down,
depending on whether the student answered correctly
or incorrectly. The harder questions are worth more
points, which increase the number grade.
This assessment is for students in grades two through ten.
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