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November 23, 2021

Orthographic Mapping--MORE Strategies to Help Students Map Words (post 3)

In my previous post I shared SIX ways to help students map words.  

BUT.....as teachers we aren't just limited to six ways.  In fact, there are many other techniques you can implement in your instructional routine.  So...I am devoting this post to SIX MORE strategies you can use to promote orthographic mapping with your students.   


1. Phoneme Grapheme Mapping

  • When we teach phonics we teach the letter and then the sound, but in order to be skilled in orthographic mapping we need to go from sound to grapheme (letter or letter combination). Mapping 3-5 words per phonics lesson is a great strategy to build up a student's orthographic lexicon.  
  • Check out the phoneme to grapheme maps in the resource below--which also includes a word list and instructional routine. 


2. Spell Nonsense Words

  • Having students spell nonsense words forces them to be aware of the phonemes she or he is hearing.  When teachers use real words all of the time, we run the risk of a student having prior experience or knowledge of that word.  With nonsense word spelling students must listen for the sound, and then write the correct sound.  This reinforces phoneme awareness and letter to sound skills.  Aiming for 3-5 nonsense words per phonics lesson is a great practice!  
3. Mixed Case

  • Used mixed cases for word level reading.  Using this technique disrupts any strategy a student may have for remembering the "look" of the word and keeps students focused on the string of letters. 

4. Space Between Letters
  • Much like using mixed case for word level reading, putting space between the letters in a word disrupts a students ability to memorize the "look" of a word. In addition a larger space between a word, makes it easier for students to focus on each letter in the letter sequence.  Viewing words with extra space between the letters is best done at a distance.

5. Reverse Sentence Reading

  • The real point of reverse sentence reading is to prevent guessing of the text by using context clues.  Before having students read a sentence the normal way (left to right), have the student read the sentence from the last word to the first word. When a student has correctly read the words in the sentence, he or she may read it the proper way. 

6. Teach Rime Units 

  • Teaching students rime units will increase their skills in sounding out words, and spelling.  Words are stored in our brain by onsets and rimes, and if students are directly taught common rime units--they are able to quickly an efficiently decode an unfamiliar word.  Rime units not only show up in single syllable words, but also in multi-syllabic words. 
  • Check out the rime unit pack below--which includes flashcards, games and strategies to directly teach students rime units. 


If you are looking for the first six ways I shared to promote orthographic mapping, check out the previous post by clicking here

November 16, 2021

Orthographic Mapping---Strategies to Help Students Map Words (Post 2)

How do you help students map words?  What teaching strategies should you use that promote orthographic mapping?   Those are big questions!  Luckily, I am going to answer them this post. Whoop....get excited!

If you aren't sure what orthographic mapping means, or you aren't sure why it is important...then you need to check out Post 1 in the Orthographic mapping series by clicking here

With orthographic mapping it is important to understand the more you know about a word; the more likely you are to have it become part of your orthographic lexicon (sight vocabulary).  To truly map a word we must know its alphabetic principle (connecting letters to their sound), phonology (the speech sounds), letter sound symbols, syllabication, and morphology (meaningful parts).  

Below you will find FIVE tips that will help students with orthographic mapping! Using the below strategies ARE effective and can easily be incorporated into your daily routines.  

1. Introduce words orally first

  • Before you introduce a word in print (like in a story, on a spelling list or a vocabulary term) introduce it orally.  Have students notice the syllables, beginning, medial or final sounds, etc.
  • Example: 
    • Teacher: One of our new spelling words this week is dog.  
      • How man sounds in dog? 
      • What is the first sound in dog? 
      • What is the medial sound?  
      • What is the final sound? 
      • Now that you know the sounds of the word dog,  lets look at the letters that are used to spell the word......   

2. Backward decoding

  • Have students sound out words from back to front.  This activity activates the readers onset-rime skills.  In Equipped for Reading Success, Dr. David Kilpatrick explains this strategy works because words are stored in our brains by first sounds (onset) and rhyming patterns (rime units).  When we use a backward decoding technique we capitalize on both forms of how our words are stored in our brains: first sound and rhyming pattern. 
  • Example: 
    • Student sees the word "pest"
    • The teacher will cover up the onset /p/
    • Teacher: What does the rime say?  or  Spot the vowel and blend to the end. 
    • Student: est
    • Teacher will uncover the onset /p/
    • Teacher: What does the whole word say? 
    • Student:  pest

3. Highlight Rime Units

  • This technique draws students attention to the internal structure of the word and minimizes guessing.  If you don't have a highlighter, you can underline, box or circle the rime unit.  As mentioned words are stored in our brains by onsets and rimes, and having a student focus on a rime aides in word storage.   If you are interested in a handout to help kids categorize words by rime...keep scrolling.  Below this image, you can click and download the resource for free! 

Ready to help your students map words?

Highlighting a rime unit is an easy and quick way to help students store words!

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     4. Oral spelling

    • Have students spell a word aloud.  This can be done with the whole class, small reading groups or in pairs.  Oral spelling will reinforce the letter sound relationships of the word and help him or her make the word a familiar string of letters.  This would be a GREAT activity while standing in line or as a quick time filler.

    5. Oral decoding

    • The teacher will spell a word aloud and have the student determine the word based on the oral spelling. With oral decoding you are saying the letter names of the word, not the sounds.  This reinforces orthography.  Another quick, yet meaningful time filler!

    6. Using Nonsense words

    • Have students read 5-10 nonsense words per lesson.  This quick activity reinforces letter sound and skill building. If you want more information about why nonsense words are important, check out one of my pervious blog series ALL about nonsense words

    Keep in mind implementing these strategies in conjunction with a structured literacy approach is ideal and will help us create a generation of successful readers!

    Stay tuned for MORE strategies to help readers orthographically map words!

    November 9, 2021

    Orthographic Mapping--what is it and why is it important? (Part 1)

    Did you know that literate adults have a library of 30,000 to 70,000 words they can read automatically, accurately and effortlessly? 

    These words are considered "sight words," because we instantly recognize them by sight.  This library of sight words is called your "orthographic lexicon" or your "sight word memory" as these words are orthographically mapped in your brain.

    What is orthographic mapping? 

    The official definition of orthographic mapping is: 

    "The mental process we use to store words for immediate, effortless, retrieval. It requires phoneme proficiency and letter sound proficiency, as well as the ability to unconsciously or consciously make connections between the oral sound spoken in words and the letters written in words." -Kilpatrick, 2016

    To understand it more simply, orthographic mapping is a filing system for the brain.  When you encounter a word that has already been mapped (meaning it is already stored in your mental filing system) multiple things will occur--the ability to produce the word by decoding it and the ability to understand the meaning.  Orthographic mapping is the process that all successful readers use to become fluent readers.

    Lets take the word "bed." When you see "bed" you should be able to associate the string of sounds to the letter order of the word.

    In addition to pronouncing the word, you should have some sort of meaning attached to the word. For example when you read the word, "bed" you should be able to associate this word with something that one sleeps on, and some sort of visual imagery should pop into your brain.  

    Orthographic mapping is a high processing ability!  The most important thing to remember is that orthographic mapping is an immediate, effortless retrieval.  You see a word, you say it and you know it. 

    Why is orthographic mapping important?

    The great thing about mapped words is that once a word is mapped, you can't unmap it.  It is mapped forever.  Whoop!  Mapped words are what enables us to be efficient readers.  When we have a large orthographic lexicon, we are able to focus on the meaning of what we read INSTEAD of word reading.

    Teachers in grades Prek to first help students with orthographic mapping by teaching students phonological awareness and decoding skills.  This sets the stage for typically developing readers in second grade and beyond to have strong skills to be able to map words. 

    Orthographic mapping continues well into adulthood.  As readers we continue to map words and add them to our sight vocabulary, or orthographic lexicon.  As our sight word vocabulary increases, our fluency (accurate and efficient reading of text) also improves. 

    Orthographic mapping is vital to become a successful reader. 

    How do you help students map words?

    Follow along in this three part blog series where we will tackle teaching strategies to help students map words AND resources teachers can use! 

    In the meantime if you are looking for more information about orthographic mapping, check out this blog post I wrote earlier by clicking here.  It is full of GREAT information, and a video by David Kilpatrick!

    Another great resources is a blog post from Keys to Literacy about orthographic mapping in school.

    November 2, 2021

    Eight Books to Celebrate Autumn

    Fall is my favorite.  

    There is so much to LOVE about this season.  The weather, colors, holidays, smells, food....... So. Many. Things to adore.  This time of year just makes me happy, and I enjoy sharing that happiness with my students.  One of the best ways to pass along appreciation for Autumn is to read aloud some fantastic books that celebrate the season.  

    Below are EIGHT books that make PERFECT read alouds to honor the best season of the year. 

    Hello Autumn! by Shelley Rotner (Prek-2)

    This book has AMAZING photos that really capture the beauty of fall.  It shows the changes in animals, plants and landscapes.  It also introduces many important concepts using kid friendly language --hibernation, migration, seed dispersal, etc.  


    Apples and Pumpkins by Anne and Lizzy Rockwell (Prek-1)

    Follow a little girl's journey as she experiences the fall season with apple and pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving and trick or treating.  A great way to show fun that families can have during the fall season!


    Leaves by David Ezra Stein (Prek-1)

    A fun little story that tells about a bear cub's first fall.  Leaves is a great way to teach young readers about the changing of the seasons and hibernation.


    Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell (Prek-2)

    Follow a little boy, Tim, as he discovers the life cycle of a pumpkin.  It begins when Tim carves Jack, his fierce and funny pumpkin.  Jack begins to rot, so Tim sets him outside and watches how he changes.  By spring a plant begins to grow!


    Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (Prek-1)

    You can't go wrong with a a book by Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Lois Ehlert!  Go along on a journey with a man made of leaves as the billowy wind blows! It is a wonderful book to celebrate Autumn and also includes facts on how to identify leaves!


    Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins (K-3)

    A great non-fiction read with beautiful photography to help students identify leaves!  



    Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer (PreK-2)

    Young children are sure to love this beautifully written story which vividly details fall.  Stinger does a fantastic job with the lyrical quality of words she chose--really getting the reader to feel as if they are in "yellow time." 


    Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre (1-5)

    With only 2-3 words per page, gorgeous photography and sophisticated vocabulary--this book accessible to readers and listeners of all ages.  


    For more books to celebrate fall check out this list from We Are Teachers or PBS Kids.

    October 20, 2021

    Individually Wrapped Halloween Treats

    Are you looking for fun and easy individually wrapped treats you can pass out to your students at school for Halloween?  Maybe you are looking for something that is healthy and cheap?!? I mean.......everyone knows that a spooky good time ALWAYS involves treats!!

    I have a handful of ideas you can check out below, and I promise any of  these ideas will guarantee a smile on a students face! The best part about these ideas is that they will require little time and very little in the way of supplies.

    1. String Cheese Ghost

    To make this cheese ghost all you need is a pack of string cheese and a black sharpie.  Simply draw a spooky face on the top of each string cheese.  Cheap, easy and healthy!


     2. Orange Pumpkins

    Just like the cheese ghosts, all you need is a sharpie and an orange fruit of choice.  Grab a bag of cuties, clementines or oranges and use a sharpie to draw a pumpkin face on each fruit.  

    Make sure to have wipes on hand or a sink, as eating an orange or a clementine in class can get a bit sticky.  The good news--your classroom will smell really good!   

    I have also used peach and orange jello cups instead of fresh oranges.  Same effect...but maybe a little less messy when kids eat them.    

    3. Pudding Bats

    Although not as healthy as a string cheese ghost or orange pumpkin, the pudding bat is just as cute!  For this fun snack you need black or brown construction paper, tape, a sharpie and pudding cups.  

    Use the sharpie to draw eyes and fangs on the pudding cup.  Cut bat wings from the brown or black construction paper, and tape them on to the outside of the pudding cup.  Googly eyes could also be used instead of sharpie eyes.....sharpie eyes just takes less time!  


     4. Mummy pouches

    Get any sort of baby food pouch (literally my four year old still eats baby food pouches---it is the only way he will touch veggies) or squeezable applesauce.  Wrap the pouches with white party streamers and fasten with tape.  You can sharpie eyes on the face of the mummy, or glue on googly eyes.

    If you are looking for more festive ideas, check out list of 30 ideas from Room Parent by PTO Today!




    October 13, 2021

    Magic Reading Fingers

    Tracking print is an important part of the learning to read process.  Kids need to know that we read print from left to right; and the print we are pointing to is what our brain and mouth will say.  

    In fact in kindergarten and first grade, tracking print is one of the key concepts of print awareness that students must master.  Typically by the time students reach second grade they are able to track print with their eyes and without the use of a bookmark, finger or tool.

    Of course young students can use their finger to track print.....but isn't it WAY MORE FUN to give them a special tool?  Or, as I like to call them....a Magic Reading Finger!  During Halloween, I like to let my students track print with witch fingers!


    Before I give them a special tool, I always read them this fantastic poem from Jodi B. Whalen.  It is a great little poem that tells students the importance of tracking print!  You can download the poem for free by clicking here.   

    During the not spooky season, you can use other fun tools to get kids excited about tracking as they read. Everything below can be found on Amazon at a relatively low cost.

    1. Eye Finger Puppets


    2. Mini Hand Pointers



    What sorts of "magic fingers" do you use with your students?!?!

    October 6, 2021

    Teacher Costumes for Halloween

    Halloween is right around the corner....

    While we aren't at school on the day of Halloween, teachers and students at our school still dress up!  I sure love seeing all of the creativity.....and I am confident parents love the fact they get one more use out of their kid's costumes!

    If you aren't sure what you will dress up as, AND you want something that is super easy, cheap and quick to make check out this notebook paper idea I made a few years back.




    Making it was VERY easy and required little supplies.  All you need is a white shirt, permanent markers (blue, red and black), a ruler and the ability to draw straight lines!

    If you want step by step directions, click here.

    If you are looking for more ideas, perhaps some group ideas for the whole school, check out this list from We Are Teachers or Not So Wimpy's list with 20 costume ideas!