Friday, February 19, 2010

Connected Practice/Literacy Centers

Children learn to read and write by having meaningful, authentic reading and writing experiences. In order for students to become expert readers and writers, they must have time to practice and apply what they are learning - reading and writing. Therefore, it is essential that the literacy-centered classroom provide time for students to read independently in self-selected books and to engage in self-initiated writing in literacy centers.

Centers should provide students with additional opportunities to practice and apply strategies and skills that have been taught. Center activities should connect to the components taught in the core program…they should grow out of what the teacher has done during whole group and small group instruction.

Multiple opportunities to practice words in a hands-on manner accelerates the accuracy and automaticity necessary for fluent reading.

Here are a few pictures of centers at work in our school!!!

Independent Reading

The Effects of Independent Reading on Reading Achievement
Research clearly shows that the reading of meaningful, connected text results in improved reading achievement. In one of the most extensive studies of independent reading yet conducted, Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) investigated a broad array of activities and their relationship to reading achievement and growth in reading. They found that the amount of time students spent in independent reading was the best predictor of reading achievement and also the best predictor of the amount of gain in reading achievement made by students between second and fifth grade.

Among the many benefits of independent reading are the following:
Builds Fluency

Independent reading builds fluency. There is substantial evidence that unless students can accurately and effortlessly deal with the word-identification demands of reading, difficulties will result in comprehension and overall reading achievement.There is also evidence that unless children read substantial amounts of print, their reading will remain laborious and limited in effectiveness. Finally, evidence exists which shows that when students do read substantial amounts of text, their reading performance improves.
Increases Vocabulary
Independent reading leads to increased vocabulary development. One of the best-established relationships in the field of reading is the very significant relationship between vocabulary development and achievement in reading. There is also evidence that shows that independent reading is probably the major source of vocabulary acquisition beyond the beginning stages of learning to read. This same research shows that while the probability of acquiring the meaning of any specific word simply through reading it in the context in which it appears in independent reading materials is not high, students who read widely can learn the meanings of thousands of new words each year.
Builds Background
Independent reading builds background knowledge, or schema. Another extremely well-established research finding is that students' reading ability is dramatically influenced by the amount of interrelated information (schema) they have about the topic about which they are reading. By reading widely, students are exposed to diverse topics and information which they can then use in future reading.

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Body Coda Blending

Teaching Blending
Young children usually get their first taste of blending through rhyming. Rhyming is essentially blending a new onset to an old rime. Children should not be expected to produce rhymes until they have a great deal of experience recognizing rhymes. Listening to rhyming stories, reciting rhyming poetry, and singing rhyming songs should be daily activities in the early childhood classroom.
Children can first try making rhymes by blending a single onset to a variety of words. For example, they could play a Silly Sally game where they blend /s/ to the rime of each word. This might lead to sense (me, see; hand, sand) or nonsense (mouse, souse; fork, sork). Any phoneme, for example, the sound of the week, could become the onset in such a game (Silly Filly, Silly Milly, etc.).
Another simple prereading blending activity is Secret Code, a guessing game. The teacher could turn an illustrated word face down and name it in phonemes, e.g., /h/a/t/. When a student blends the phonemes and guesses the word, the teacher shows the picture. This game also works well with riddles, which don't require pictures. For example, the teacher could say, "I'm thinking of the animal Bo Peep lost. It's a /shee/ /p/." Secret Code is good blending practice because it works on blending alone without the complications of remembering correspondences.
Where blending becomes crucial is in decoding printed words from their spellings. To simplify blending with printed words, we need to rethink the structure of the syllable. One way to break down the syllable is into onset (everything before the vowel) and rime (the vowel and everything after it). The onset and the rime are parts of spoken syllables, not written. For example, street could be broken into /str/ and /eet/. The onset-rime break seems natural, but it is probably a special case of the salient vowel. The vowel is the loudest part of the syllable and the sound you can always stretch out. It is easy to break a syllable on either side of the loud vowel.
For blending, it is better to divide the syllable a different way. If we combine the onset with the vowel, we get the body of a syllable. Everything after the body is the coda. For example, in dream, /drea/ is the body of the syllable and /m/ is the coda.
There is an important payoff for this new terminology: Body-coda blending is easier than onset-rime blending. This is because onsets are often quite distorted during blending. For example, if we ask a child to blend d-ice, it is very difficult to pronounce /d/ without considerable distortion. Because /d/ involves the vocal cords, it takes some vowel to pronounce /d/ (usually a schwa /u/), and this artificial voicing interferes with blending in the actual vowel. However, there is no distortion of consonants after the vowel, i.e., in the coda. Thus, di-ce is a very easy blend.
In general, the easiest way to blend in decoding is body-coda, e.g., swee-t. Onset-rime blending (sw-eet) is usually harder, but at least there are only two parts to blend. Phoneme blending is harder still, because there may be 3, 4, 5, or 6 phonemes to blend in a single syllable. Sounding out and blending words in left to right order is usually not the best way to proceed. It is better, at least at first, to begin by sounding out the vowel. For example, with rag, focus first on pronouncing a as /a/. Then blend the onset to the vowel to get the body, e.g., /r/a/, /ra/. Last, blend the body to the coda, e.g., /ra/g/, rag.
One creative way to get children started is with a blending slide. Using an image or model of a playground slide, have the vowel (e.g., short e) climb to the top of the slide, where it calls for help, /e/, /e/. Bring up the onset (e.g., r) to make the body of the syllable (e.g., the letters re, pronounced with a short e). Place letter d at the bottom of the slide to catch re. Stretch the vowel in re until it hits d to make red. Repeat with a variety of bodies and codas to model and practice blending.