Winsor Expert Network
Our field consultants have worked with over 1800 school districts around the country. They work in partnership with educators to improve student achievement. We have found that educators using our tools and expertise have similar questions. We have gathered the top questions asked during training and coaching sessions and provided answers.
Reading is usually easier than spelling because reading words requires decoding the symbols that can be seen on the page, whereas spelling requires the student to determine the correct symbols and put them on paper in the right order while observing the rules of the language. Sometimes it seems that reading is harder than spelling because there is no time limit for spelling, whereas we expect a student to look at a word and read it immediately. Regardless of the reason, it may be necessary to provide students with more opportunities to practice reading words in isolation, in phrases, in sentences, and in text. Some students need only 50 repetitions to remember a word, and some need 550 repetitions or more before a word reaches the automatic level of recognition.
When you are showing the Sound Cards, students are dictating the speed and fluency. You can support increased automaticity by flipping the cards as quickly as they can be read. If students respond slowly and laboriously, you may have introduced too many sounds too quickly. In that case, remove some of the newer Sound Cards, go back a Level or two, and allow your student more opportunities to practice and more time to learn. Then reintroduce the dropped sounds slowly, allowing plenty of time and practice so your student can maintain automaticity.
To correct reading errors when a student is reading words from a list, from flashcards, or from text, have the student point to the misread word with his/her non-writing hand and then trace the letters on the table with two fingers of the writing hand while saying the sounds aloud. Blend the sounds to make a word.
An extension of this procedure involves the teacher asking eliciting questions to help students develop the critical thinking skills for self-correction. Self-correction is very empowering for the student, and this strategy enables the teacher to avoid words such as “no” and “wrong.” When teachers learn to differentiate among rule-based errors, auditory errors, and visual errors, it is easier to formulate the questions. In the Sonday System 1 Learning Plan, there is a section titled Correcting Spelling Errors following the introduction of new material at every Level. The chart below provides a sampling of error correction for spelling.
One error-correction procedure for spelling is Touch Spelling, where the student segments sounds on the fingers of the non-writing hand (one sound on each finger), isolate errors, then corrects and rewrites the word.
An extension of this procedure involves the teacher asking eliciting questions to help students develop the critical thinking skills for self-correction. Self-correction is very empowering for the student, and this strategy enables the teacher to avoid words such as “no” and “wrong”. When teachers learn to differentiate among rule-based errors, auditory errors, and visual errors, it is easier to formulate the questions. In the Sonday System 1 Learning Plan, there is a section titled Correcting Spelling Errors following the introduction of new material at every Level. The chart below provides a sampling of error correction for spelling.
|ERROR CORRECTION FOR SPELLING|
|DICTATED WORD||ACTUAL SPELLING||PROBLEM||STRATEGY OR RULE|
|black||back||Auditory sequencing||Touch Spell (segment and sound)|
|black||blak||Rule||Touch Spell or question Rule: Use -ck after a short vowel|
|black||block||Auditory, vowel discrimination||Touch Spell (isolate vowel sound)|
|black||balck||Auditory sequencing||Touch Spell (sequence)|
|spell||spel||Rule||Question. Rule: Double ll after a single vowel|
|spell||spall||Rule||Touch Spell (isolate vowel sound)|
|badge||bage||Rule/generalization||Touch Spell or question. Rule: -dge follows short vowel|
|plunge||plung||Rule/generalization||Question. Rule: g sounds /j/ when followed by e, i, y|
Multisensory instruction involves using multiple modalities or sensory pathways to cement new learning into memory. We learn using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic–tactile modalities—by seeing, hearing, and feeling. If we have students practice reading and spelling letters, sounds, words, and text using all three pathways of learning, material can be learned faster and cemented into long-term memory.
If you are working with a kindergartener or first-grader, start at the beginning of Sonday System 1 and work through the Pre-reading Levels, then move on to the Reading Levels. Better still, begin with Let’s Play Learn and complete that with kindergartners before starting Sonday System 1.
If you are starting with students in 2nd grade or above, do a quick overview of Sonday System 1 Pre-reading Levels, pages 1–14 (about 20–25 minutes) to help identify any foundational skills that may be missing. Mark the results on page i of the Learning Plan Book. Do this with eighth-graders as well as second graders. Even older students are often missing prerequisites to reading.
With older students in fourth grade and above, you can give the Mastery Checks for Spelling after Level 3, 6, and 9. They must pass each with 85% accuracy in order to move to the next. When they score below 85% on a test, drop back a Level or two and begin teaching. Use spelling as your gauge, since many older students will score higher on reading tests than on spelling tests and you will want to begin teaching where the first signs of weakness are noted. You may be able to move quickly through the first Levels you select, but you can expect to go more slowly after a few sessions.
If you are considering starting somewhere other than at the beginning, remember that determining where to start a student requires diagnostic expertise, knowledge of language structure sufficient to recognize gaps in the continuum, and the ability to intervene with corrective strategies. A teacher who isn’t trained in structured, systematic phonics may not be able to interpret the cues given by the learner or may not be able to intervene. It is wiser to let the Sonday System do the screening for you.
The time it takes to complete a level depends on the student and/or group of students. It’s all about the stage of the students — not their age. As a general guideline, if one new sound or rule is introduced daily, that sound or rule will then become part of the following day’s review in steps 1–4. Students will be getting multiple response opportunities in the following days and weeks in order to cement that new concept into long-term memory. A number of new sounds, rules, and sight words are contained in step 5. Introduce New Material and will help determine how fast you can move through a level.
Perhaps your student can read the Sound Cards or spell the dictated sounds in 30 seconds, less than the 2 minutes allotted for those tasks. Some can. While some steps can be done in less than the allotted time, your student loses opportunities to practice and you lose opportunities to monitor practice if you cut the time for the whole lesson. Instead, increase the time spent spelling words and sentences or reading aloud. Instruction is more effective if it is done regularly and practiced intensively. Lessons are set up to practice each aspect of reading and spelling for a short period so your student can maintain focus on each activity. If your student is delayed in reading, you will want to close the gap as quickly as possible.
It is very important to deliver each part of the learning plan at every session because the parts work together to strengthen the whole. If each section of the plan is taking longer than the recommended time, too much material may have been introduced and the student has not reached the level of automaticity and fluency needed to cement learning into long-term memory. If this happens, back up a Level until automaticity and fluency are reached.
If the student is passing the Mastery Checks for Spelling but is not able to read the Mastery Check for Reading within the recommended time, then the goal should be to find the “student’s best.” In other words, if a student is consistently reading 20 words with 90% accuracy or above but he or she is reading those words in 50 seconds, you may want to try going on to the next level to see how s/he does. If s/he passes the next Mastery Check for Reading in approximately the same amount of time that may be representative of that student’s best. That’s a judgment call on the part of the teacher. However, once the student falls out of that “student best” range, you may want to step back, slow down a bit and work on automaticity because that student may have just hit a plateau and need some extra time to absorb and process the latest new material. Remember, we want to go as fast as the students can go, but as slowly as necessary.
As a general guideline, one can continue to work on phonemic awareness on a daily basis throughout the entire year in order to reach mastery – and that’s okay. As an example, some students may struggle with rhyming for a long time, and we wouldn’t want rhyming by itself to prevent that student from learning to read. So, once the first 17 consonant sounds are relatively solid and secure, you can move into Level 1, introduce the short vowel “a,” and start putting sounds together to begin reading and spelling. Short segments of time for rhyming practice can continue into the Reading Levels.
You may not get them to ‘want’ to trace but you may be able to get them to trace. Try one or more of the following:
Model: Every time you ask them to trace, be sure that your own hand is tracing on the table. Your participation may be encouraging.
Magic: Point out that their writing hand is a magic hand when they trace on the table and it unlocks the words for them and sends the message to their brains. Demonstrate this with them.
Logic: Explain the connection that is made when tracing letters/sounds. Tracing activates motor memory in the brain and helps connect the letters and sounds (graphemes and phonemes). Because we traced sounds when we were first learning them, we can access those sounds by tracing the letters we see and allowing the brain to unlock the sounds.
Be sure that you believe in the strategy and understand the reasoning behind it—the scientific explanation—so you can be convincing.
Start at the beginning of the Learning Plan every time you start a session. It is important to set students up for success from the level of sounds and words to the level of connected text. It is like a warm-up athletes do before competing! Nothing feels better than being able to give 30–50 correct answers at the beginning of a lesson. It sets the tone for the rest of the session. Watch the clock to make sure that you stay within the time parameters. If you cannot finish Read Sounds or Spell Sounds in 2 minutes or less, you may have introduced too many sounds and the student is not reaching the level of automaticity needed for fluent reading at the word and text levels.
When working with a small group of students in a school setting, five times a week is best. If the goal is to close the gap, intensive focus and frequent opportunities to practice are required. If students are working after school, two or three times a week may be the best that can be arranged. Fatigue and activities are factors in after-school schedules. Once a week is not enough, because it requires students to hold on to new learning for 7 days without review.
Before comprehension and fluency can be securely in place, students must be able to read words, phrases, and sentences. Precision teaching will do the job if multisensory, systematic, rule-based instruction includes a spelling component and an extensive review of all concepts taught. Teachers who expand their base of knowledge to include "learning to read" as well as "reading to learn" will not be curriculum dependent and can integrate any and all available materials into the master design.
The time to complete the program depends on several variables:
- Age or grade level of students
- Skill level of students when entering the program
- Level of cognitive ability or IQ
- Number of students in the group
- Frequency of instructional sessions
- Length of time per session
- Opportunities to practice
- Independent reading time
- Expertise/experience of the teacher
When grouping your students, it is recommended that you use CBM’s and diagnostic screeners including spelling tests. If spelling tests aren’t included in your battery, use the Criterion Referenced Spelling Test found in the Resource Book for Sonday System 1.
It is critical to look deeply into the data and analyze student errors to determine which students have similar deficits and should be placed together. It may be helpful to group students by spelling level. The Sonday System Learning Plans are set up to review reading and spelling of sounds, words, and sentences based on the sounds and rules that have been introduced. A group that is organized by spelling level can work together comfortably through 21 minutes of a learning plan that includes Read Sounds, Spell Sounds, Read Words, Spell Words, and Introduce New Material. The last 10 minutes is for reading aloud. Students can be paired for oral reading; some can work independently at a reading task and some can remain in the instructional group so you can monitor.