What Types of Activities Will My Child Do?
**March 2023 update: Time slots are currently full.
I use a variety of structured, systematic, and explicit activities that research has shown to be the most effective. I do not rely heavily on worksheets.
My methods and activities are based on decades of research now known as the Science of Reading.
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:
- Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
- Writing Skills
Below are some of the activities that your child might do and just some of the many resources that I use to plan lessons.
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. Beginning readers start with mostly decodable books and passages with other texts mixed in as they progress. Advancing readers work with authentic literature and non-fiction books and are able to borrow from my collection of novels.
Books, poems, and targeted reading passages will also form part of your child’s home reading work.
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 “shake” but then say it again without the /sh/ sound? 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. Can you build the word “sunk?” Now, changing just one sound, can you change the word to “sink?”
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 to the graphemes (letters) we use to represent them. I use a scope and sequence of phonics skills that build upon each other, teaching all of the individual letter sounds, digraphs, diphthongs, vowel teams, 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>? How do I know which of the over 9 possible graphemes for a long <e> sound to use when I want to spell /ee/? 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” — 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.
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.
We will use phoneme-grapheme mapping to both learn how to read words, but we will also use the method to work on phonics skills and spelling instruction. This is especially important for “irregular” words and words with an unstressed vowel (aka: “schwa”).
Do I use <ch> or <tch> to spell the /ch/ sound? If I hear a /k/ sound how do I know if I need to use <c>, <k>, or <ck> or <ke>? 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 rules to help build confident spellers and discover that contrary to popular opinion, the English language is very consistent and reliable. There are logical generalizations and rules that explain about 90% of our words and there are far fewer “exceptions” than you would think. 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 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.
Along with strategies to read multisyllabic words, students will also learn how to tackle spelling multisyllabic words using both their knowledge of phonics and morphology.
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. 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.
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!
VOCABULARY and COMPREHENSION
Vocabulary and comprehension 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. 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. 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, 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.
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. 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. These games may be sent home to provide extra practice.
In addition to educational games, my tutoring style allows for games purely for fun! We’ll play 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.
HOMEWORK: 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. Please make the time to read with your child often. 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. We will pay close attention to any irregular parts of the word. It is only these tricky parts of words that may need to be memorized – not the whole word.
I do not expect students to memorize high-frequency words. Instead, I ask students to have repeated practice with assigned words to gain fluency and automatically and reinforce the word study done in sessions.
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 to look at the pictures to guess. Help them as needed. Take turns reading so that they can hear what fluent reading sounds like.
Students will receive a poetry book with new poems added on a regular basis. These poems are carefully chosen for their fluency and vocabulary practice. Read them again, and again, and….again! Fluency fully develops with repeated readings. These poems, along with books and carefully selected reading passages will form your child’s home reading work.
My tutoring 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.
“Teaching reading IS rocket science.” – Dr. Louisa Moats
“We TEACH reading in different ways; they LEARN to read proficiently in only one way.” – David Kilpatrick
“Explicit teaching of alphabetic decoding skills is helpful for all children, harmful for none, and crucial for some.” – Snow and Juel