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I use a variety of structured, systematic, and explicit activities that research has shown to be the most successful. I do not use worksheets.
My activities are hands-on, interactive, engaging, fun – and most of all – effective!
Activities will touch on all aspects of literacy development as needed and will be tailored to meet your child’s specific needs. Areas of instruction may include:
- Phonemic Awareness
- Morphology and Etymology
- Writing Skills
Below are just some of the activities that your child might do during sessions.
We’ll read a variety of different texts in order to apply the skills taught in lessons. Texts are carefully selected in order to work on specific skills such as fluency, background knowledge, vocabulary building, comprehension, or authentic practice with new phonics patterns or morphology.
Beginning readers start with mostly decodable books and passages with small amounts of authentic texts mixed in. Advancing readers work with typical early readers, high-quality literature, non-fiction books, and novels. I have an extensive collection of picture books and novels for students to borrow each week.
PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS and (mostly) PHONEMIC AWARENESS
Phonological awareness is a broad term for everything to do with sounds, like rhyming and syllable awareness. Phonological awareness develops quite naturally and needs minimal explicit teaching.
Phonemic awareness is more specific and targets individual speech sounds (phonemes). Phonemes are the smallest units of sounds in our language.
Research shows that having strong phonemic awareness is essential for reading and spelling.
We’ll listen carefully to words to hear each individual sound, and practice blending sounds together, taking them apart, and adding and removing sounds. We’ll also use a mirror to examine how our mouths look when producing different sounds.
Can you stretch out all of the sounds in the word “rainbow” to hear all 5 sounds? Can you listen carefully to the word “fox” to hear all 4 – yes 4!! – sounds? Can you say the word “centre” and then change the /t/ sound to a /d/ sound to make the new word “sender?”
We’ll link those sounds to the graphemes (letters) that represent them and build words and then manipulate sounds in order to create new words.
Build the word “sunk.” Changing just one sound, can you change the word to “sink?” Now “pink?”
PHONICS / WORD STUDY
English has only 26 letters but they can combine to make about 44 different sounds!
Phonics is how we link all those sounds (phonemes) to the letter(s) (graphemes) that we use to represent them. I use a sequence of phonics skills that build upon each other, teaching all of the individual letter sounds and other combinations in a systematic way.
Do you know the 3 sounds that the suffix <-ed> can make? What about the 3 sounds of <ch>? What are the 9 possible graphemes for a long <e> sound? Did you know that there are many reasons why some words end in a silent <e>? And did you know that the most common vowel sound is something called “schwa” (ə) — what?!?
A study of a particular phonics skill involves decoding practice (reading lists of words with that sound-spelling), encoding practice (spelling dictation), and often a related activity (word chaining, building words, word sort, etc.) Skills taught are reinforced with targeted reading materials and are reviewed often to ensure mastery.
MORPHOLOGY / STRUCTURED WORD INQUIRY
Whereas phonics is the sound system of a language, morphology is the meaning and construction of words.
English is a morphophonemic language: it represents both sound and meaning. Phonics is only part of the puzzle. Morphology is essential and linked to all aspects of lessons instead of taught in isolation.
We’ll learn about morphemes (the smallest unit of meaning in a word) and discover how things like bases or roots and affixes (prefixes and suffixes) can help us read, spell, and understand words – even unfamiliar words.
Structured Word Inquiry is a deeper study of how words are built and their etymology (word history and origin) and explains so many spelling demons that students have trouble with. This process of investigating words leads to a powerful understanding of written English.
Why does the word “sign” have a silent <g>? Is the base word related to the word “signature”? How does the pronunciation change when we add different suffixes to make the word “resign”?
We’ll build Word Matrices to gain knowledge of how words are built with affixes and practice spelling as we apply various suffixing conventions (ie: when to drop a silent <e> or double the consonant when adding a suffix). But most of all, we’ll discover why the pronunciation of words can change when suffixes are added but the spelling always stays consistent! The spelling makes sense!
PHONEME-GRAPHEME MAPPING and SPELLING
Learning the relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters) helps students develop ‘orthographic mapping’ which is the process of how our brains store words in our long-term memory. Combined with this, I integrate morphology (meaning) as it is the glue that links language together!
We will use phoneme-grapheme mapping to learn how to read words, but we will also use the method to work on morphology, phonics skills and spelling instruction. This is especially important for “irregular” words and words with an unstressed vowel (aka: “schwa” / ə).
Do I use <ch> or <tch> to spell the /ch/ sound? Should I use <ge> or <dge> for the /j/ sound? When do I need to double consonants in a word? When do I need to drop a silent <e> or change a <y> to an <i>???
We’ll learn a variety of phonics and spelling generalizations to help build confident spellers and discover that contrary to popular opinion, the English language is very consistent and reliable. Once you add morphology and etymology into the mix there is a logical reason for the spelling of most words! 😉
Fluency has many different components: accuracy, rate, and prosody (expression, tone, inflection). Fluent readers can read most of the words automatically, read smoothly at an appropriate pace for the particular text, attend to punctuation, and can change their voice to match the context as needed.
Students become fluent readers through direct instruction, repeated practice, and by hearing other fluent readers read aloud.
We’ll work on fluency readings of target phonics patterns, high-frequency words, short phrases, and reading passages. We’ll practice reading a variety of texts with expression and emphasis. For some students, we’ll do timed practice and track progress over time.
Research does not support teaching all of the laborious rules of syllable division and the naming of syllables (open syllable, closed syllable, etc.) as it adds too much strain on working memory and there are too many cases where words do not follow the traditional syllable ‘rules’. Instead, I teach a more natural and flexible syllable division procedure in order to help read, pronounce, and understand unfamiliar words.
Multisyllabic words can be tricky as they usually have at least one schwa (ə) sound (unstressed vowel). Speaking naturally, it is that “uh” sound at the end of the word “zebra,” and the “ih” sound in the word “enemy.” We’ll learn to flex vowel sounds while reading words to account for the schwa. Students will also learn how to tackle spelling multisyllabic words using their knowledge of counting syllables based on speech, phonics, morphology, and the schwa sound.
Vocabulary work is ongoing and infused into every lesson, both organically and through explicit instruction.
I carefully choose words for word study that will be useful for building students’ vocabulary. There are many high-utility words that we may see in print, but that do not occur often in oral speech. Words like: contradict, retrospect, inevitable, absurd, reluctant, morsel, quiver, etc. High-quality children’s literature and poetry are great places for children to encounter new words and expand their lexicon.
Exposure and practice with these types of words expand children’s background knowledge, ability to understand and use language on a deeper level, and helps their comprehension of advanced texts. Vocabulary work will be reinforced at home with additions to your child’s poetry book.
Comprehension is, essentially, the main goal of reading and will be integrated into everything we do. Comprehension depends on a student’s decoding ability and automaticity, background knowledge, understanding of vocabulary, and ability to infer or “read between the lines” for information not given in text. It is a complex skill that requires time to develop.
Students need to know how to relate to text on a deeper level than just retelling and answering a few surface questions. We’ll learn different ways to connect to text, use our schemas and make inferences, monitor understanding, question what we read, and determine its importance.
WRITING, PUNCTUATION, and GRAMMAR
Writing and reading have a reciprocal relationship: each helps improve the quality of the other. I break the writing process down into manageable chunks, starting with effective sentence construction, as students build upon skills and gain practice with a variety of writing pieces.
Both organically through the writing process, and with explicit instruction, we’ll work on conventions like grammar and punctuation.
We’ll examine high-quality children’s literature to understand how authors hook their readers, form sentences, use descriptive vocabulary, develop characters, and play with things like figurative language, alliteration, or onomatopoeia. Mentor texts also serve as good ways to illustrate concepts like cause and effect, sequencing, plot development, inference, and perspective — just to name a few! We’ll use examples from the pros to inspire and guide our own writing.
LETTER RECOGNITION, PROPER FORMATION, and WRITING FLUENCY
Automaticity with letters, their associated sounds, and handwriting fluency are strong predictors of later reading proficiency. Research shows that learning to properly form letters by hand contributes to both reading and spelling skills and improves both the quality and quantity of student writing. If letter formation can become automatic, it frees up working memory to attend to the craft of writing.
Proper letter formation (both manuscript and cursive) along with handwriting automaticity and fluency will be addressed as needed for all students.
We will work on activities such as word ladders and word pyramids. These activities expose students to new vocabulary words and provide practice manipulating phonemes as the words slowly change into new words each step up the ladder or pyramid.
Occasionally, we may use Story Cubes to practice oral storytelling. This is a great way to work on creating a story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Students will make sure that their story makes sense and logically links together different settings, characters, problems, and solutions.
Games are a great way to review and practice skills in a fun way. Educational games directly related to the skills learned in sessions will occasionally be used to review skills or will be sent home as practice.
In addition to educational games, my tutoring style allows for games purely for fun! We’ll play one or two super quick rounds of games throughout the session in order to provide motivation, reward effort, and provide a well-deserved break in order to refocus on the next activity.
Each student is unique and requires different things to be successful. I regularly utilize things like visual timers and/or a physical checklist in order to help students have a sense of how long a session is and when it will end. I pay close attention to your child’s cues that a change of activity or a quick break is needed. Most students are given a coloured overlay to help them track and keep their place while reading. I have different-sized pencils and pencil grips for students needing fine motor help. I also have various quiet fidget toys to help calm busy hands and will support body breaks and movement if needed. If you’d like to implement a reward system for your child, I have various reward tracking sheets to help communicate behaviour. Please let me know how I can help make sessions as positive as possible for your child.
Homework may include the reading of books, poems, or targeted reading passages, practice with high-frequency words, games to play, and/or practice with a spelling pattern. Daily reading is key to becoming a strong, fluent, and confident reader. Frequency is more important than duration. Please make the time to read with your child often. Tutoring once a week is not enough! Home practice with the skills learned in sessions will help your child improve more quickly and is vital to their success.
HIGH-FREQUENCY WORDS: (AKA: “SIGHT WORDS“)
Many people call high-frequency words “sight words” and assume that they must be memorized. This is not the case and can be detrimental. Most so-called “sight words” can be analyzed and decoded.
We will examine these high-frequency words in sessions and work on phoneme-grapheme mapping of the words in order to help the brain effectively store the words.
I do not expect students to memorize high-frequency words. Instead, I ask students to have repeated decoding practice with assigned words to gain fluency and automaticity.
Please encourage your child to read daily at home. Track the words with your finger while reading aloud. Encourage them to keep their eyes on the letters and not look at the pictures to guess. Help them as needed. Take turns reading so that they can hear what fluent reading sounds like. Read the same things again, and again, and….again! Fluency fully develops with repeated readings.
Students will receive a poetry book with new poems added on a regular basis. These poems are meant to be read with an adult as they often contain difficult words or new vocabulary.
Decodable passages will relate directly to skills taught in sessions and are intended to be read by your child independently with encouragement and help from an adult as needed.
The youngest learners, generally grades K-2, will often have assigned task boxes for homework. These boxes provide hands-on activities for students to share with their families to help develop their literacy skills. Target areas may include letter identification, basic letter sounds, oral language development, phonological awareness, fine motor skill development, proper letter formation, or early spelling skills.
My teaching style is not worksheet-based. Traditional worksheets will be given as occasional homework activities if a student needs extra practice or by parent request. Any worksheets given will directly relate to skills practiced during tutoring sessions and will target key areas of need.
Please contact me if you’re interested in Literacy Tutoring for your child.