Words Sorts

It is with great pleasure that we share another Activity Presentation. This time we explore Word Sorts.

Word Sorts is a simple way to encourage learners to develop an understanding of the predictable patterns when reading and spelling English words. In short, each word sort activity requires learners to examine a set of words, and to sort (or categorise) these words into common patterns whilst identifying exceptions to the rule. This brief activity is designed to be done daily (or regularly) as learners "study" different sets of pronunciation and spelling patterns. In doing so, learners explore how to blend and segment various consonant and vowel sounds in simple to more complex words.

By guiding learners from simple to complex structures, teachers can help learners make logical sense of word reading and writing in English. The Word Sorts (or Word Studies) can easily be organised in such a way that the resulting program is consistent with an evidence-based phonics sequence. Over time, students come to master the patterns of English phonology,  orthography, and morphology, so they are equipped with the skills to rapidly and accurately read both known and unfamiliar words.

Rather than prolong the introduction, it is best to allow the video to speak for itself. The following video presentation provides a demonstration of this activity along with some essential points and resources. Grab your popcorn, because it is a bit of a long one. (NB: The video can also be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/HCvYgHk6ODc.)

Ultimately, we want children to decode with confidence and notice the patterns within printed words. As Mark Seidenberg observes, “for a beginning reader, every word is a unique pattern. Major statistical patterns emerge as the child encounters a larger sample of words, and later, finer-grained dependencies.” (Seidenberg, 2017, 92)  “Readers become orthographic experts by absorbing lots of data  … The path to orthographic expertise begins with practice practice practice but leads to more more more.” (Seidenberg, 2017, 108).

After you watch the video, we encourage you to download resources that are mentioned in the presentation:

You can also access the Word Sort - Activity Cards, which have been organised into key developmental stages.

We encourage you to check out the book Words Their Way by Donald Bear and colleagues. It's a highly regarded educational resource with a thorough discussion of activities, developmental expectation and assessment tools.

  • Bear, S., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2014). Words their way: word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (5th edition). Essex: Pearson.

Also, please visit our Mastering the Code presentation, including the presentation slides. This presentation and its associated slides provide background research that will help you better understand the purpose of the activity.

We hope the activity is a valuable addition to your practice. We welcome your feedback and ideas, so please stay in touch.

Thank you for your time. Please explore and enjoy!

 

References

Bear, S., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2014). Words their way: word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (5th edition). Essex: Pearson.

Seidenberg, M. (2017). Language at the speed of sight: how we read, why so many can’t, and what can be done about it. New York: Basic Books.

Analysing Spoken Words - A New Activity

It is with great pleasure that we add a new type of resource to The Literacy Bug: Activities.

And the first cab off the rank is Analysing Spoken Words. The following video presentation provides a demonstration of this first activity along with some essential points. (NB: The video can also be found on YouTub e at https://youtu.be/8DVPbK0HSyY.)

Ultimately, we want children to notice the patterns within their oral language (e.g. in their words), so they are equipped with the fundamental skills upon which they can build more formal literacy (e.g. sound-letter correspondences).

As Mark Seidenberg attests, “spoken words [need] to be treated as consisting of component parts, [which is a skill that] we now consider [as] an ordinary, teachable aspect of learning to read: phonological awareness. (Seidenberg, 2017, p. 63)

After you watch the video, we encourage you to download the following resources, which are mentioned in the presentation:

If you would like further background, please visit our Mastering the Code presentation, including the presentation slides. This presentation and its associated slides provide background research that will help you better understand the purpose of the activity.

To wrap up our thoughts, over time children need to develop the ability to:

  • Learn rich language;
  • Hear/isolate words within sentences (or the speech stream);
  • Focus attention on words;
  • Detect/isolate syllables within words;
  • Detect/isolate sounds within syllables/words;
  • Begin to recognise the possible sounds within their language(s);
  • Correlate their developing understanding of sounds with their emerging knowledge of sound-letter combinations;
  • Focus on the meaning of words; and
  • Focus on the use of words in rich, meaningful sentences.

We hope the activity is a valuable addition to your practice. We welcome your feedback and ideas, so please stay in touch.

… And please note ... the activity can be done partially or in full, depending on the age and ability of the learners. … And it can be incorporated into many aspects of daily practices, whether this is around book reading, in the sand pit or with general word play. These and other bits of advice are discussed in the above video and associated resources.

Thank you for your time. Please explore and enjoy!

 

Reference

Seidenberg, M. (2017). Language at the speed of sight: how we read, why so many can’t, and what can be done about it. New York: Basic Books.

Structuring the rhythms of practice: the foundations for learning

  Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images News / Getty Images

We are pleased to announce that a new page has been added to the Teaching Folder. The Establishing Meaningful Practices page seeks to "get to the rough ground" and emphasise the importance of establishing effective practices in home, school and community environments, which are based on quality teaching principles. We are interested in contrasting what may appear as sporadic, isolated activities with those activities that are carefully arranged and which contribute to the development of meaningful literacy skills.

A practice “is something people do, not just once, but on a regular basis. But it is more than just a disposition to behave in a certain way; the identity of a practice depends on not only on what people do, but also on the significance of those actions and the surroundings in which they occur.” (Stern, 2004, pg 166). For some reason, people pray, brush their teeth, complete their tax, hike in National Parks, long for the next dance, etc. Each “activity” is part of - let’s says - religious practices, hygienic practices, economic practices, artistic practices, social practices and more. Each practice is much more than the sum of its parts. For instance, the combination of prayer, worship, scripture, and stewardship amounts to more than a collection of disparate activities. They amount to a form of life, and they rely upon resources, other participants, a sense of attachment, cultural artefacts, instruction (or initiation) and more. Likewise, literacy involves the orchestrations of many experiences which culminate in the fostering of the literate practitioner. Time and space must be carved out in the great hurly burly of life so that the practice can grow, flourish and evolve.

So ... how do we make certain activities part and parcel of the practices of home, school, the community, etc? What are the material and social conditions that make this happen? What role do adults and peers play in establishing the conditions of a practice? Is it realistic that all budding "apprentices" will have access to "teachers" (including parents) with sufficient expertise and wherewithal? Overall, how does something become a practice and, through practice, how does the learner's engagement with the world change?

Please click here to explore the Establishing (Literacy) Practices page in the Teaching Folder.

Teaching Practice Must Progress in Keeping with the Stages of Reading Development

Chall, J. S. (1996). Stages of reading development (2nd ed.). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic College Publishers.

Over the past couple months, we have made regular reference to Chall's six stages of reading development, which accounts for reading development from birth to adulthood. For that reason, we have added a specific section on the stages of literacy development to the Teaching Folder of the site. Therefore, it provides us with a platform to explore the way in which pedagogy changes as learners develop throughout the developmental sequence. 

If we borrow Wittgenstein’s concepts here, a developmental account of a language/literacy learning progression is sensitive to the way perception (aspect seeing) changes, practices form, attitudes develop, knowledge takes shape and (literate) forms of life take root (or fail to do so). We need to marvel at how learning transpires and how each new act of learning builds from that which came before. We need to be amazed at the small steps and giant leaps that occur. We need to be cautious of stagnation and entropy.

In time, we will address the following sequence of questions for each of the six levels.

1. What does instruction look like at this stage?

  • activities, routines, etc;
  • books and other texts;
  • writing tasks;
  • formal and informal activities; 
  • independent activity.

2. What should learners be able to accomplish/engage in?

  • independently;
  • with guidance;
  • jointly;
  • if/when modelled.

3. What would gradual release of control (or apprenticeship) look like at this stage?

4. At the end of the stage,  how is the learner prepared for the subsequent stage?

Chiu, M. M., McBride-Chang, C., & Lin, D. (2012). Ecological, psychological, and cognitive components of reading difficulties: Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(5), 391–405.

5. What would be characteristic age range be for this stage? What support/intervention should be provided if a learner is failing behind? 

6. How does one coordinate learning/support if there is a substantial difference between the learner's age and developmental stage? How does one choose content that is both linguistically and age appropriate?

7 How can we use the component model of reading development (depicted to the right)  to (a) identify potential assets/deficits exhibited by the learners and (b) to strategise with a multi-dimensional approach to building capacity in each area?

The sequence of images below demonstrates how the balance of instruction and approach alters across a learner’s lifespan. I invite you to explore the Stages of Literacy page. Explore and enjoy!

p.s. Even though one may be tempted to see skills progressing in a purely sequential manner, I would like to emphasise that each skill domain should be practiced/experienced to some extent at each stage of a reader/writer's development. The following table illustrates a significant point: at any given stage there should be literacy elements that we expect the individual to be able to practice explicitly (e.g. spelling) as well as other elements that individual can participate in with guidance (e.g. prompting or scaffolding a story) or jointly with a peer or adult.

 
 


References

Chall, J. S. (1996). Stages of reading development (2nd ed.). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic College Publishers.

Chiu, M. M., McBride-Chang, C., & Lin, D. (2012). Ecological, psychological, and cognitive components of reading difficulties: testing the component model of reading in fourth graders across 38 countries. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(5), 391–405. doi:10.1177/0022219411431241

Why We Do What We Do: Part Three

My surroundings, my instruction, my peer relations and my own choices taught me to identify with certain practices over others. In this case, “a practice ... is intertwined with our self and sense of identity, on the one hand, and our relations and ways of interacting with other people, on the other hand.” (Smeyers and Burbles, 2010, pg 196). Also, as mentioned previously, part of the aim is that the initiated comes to internalise the practice, “thus changing ‘mere’ activities into practices where standards of excellence do matter.” (Smeyers and Burbles, 2010 pg 196).

Our practices in which we take part ("What We Do") are framed by the cultures (or communities or habitus) through which we navigate.  And this journey occurs along three interacting planes: the community (and institutional) plane, the interpersonal plane, and the intrapersonal (or personal) plane. First, we have the overarching plane: the community (and institutional) plane. On this level we find the framework for the range of practices that an individual will encounter, whether it is found in institutions, such as schools, or information outlets, such as the media, or through cultural artefacts, such as literary figures or personality archetypes. In many ways, the community plane exerts a normative influence over individuals and it can also stratify participation along class or other divisions. Another plane, which is one step down, is the interpersonal plane, which contains the family, peers, and mentoring relationships which come to shape one’s introduction to, attachment to, scaffolding through and joint engagement in practices. These engagements shed light on how tastes are formed, processes are understood and goals are set and realised. However, the presence of role models is not enough for the adoption of practices. The third level contains the intrapersonal (or personal) plane, which alludes to the deliberation within the individual to choose, develop, select and refine practices. At this level, we consider both attitudinal and cognitive actions that an individual takes in order to become a practitioner. In the words of Rogoff (1995), “this is the process of becoming, rather than acquisition.”

Therefore, engagement in practice is shaped the presence of culture, access to role models and the personal adeptness and understanding to navigate the practice. Here, I want to emphasis the concept of access. Does the learner have access to the broader culture? Does the learner have access to the role models, supportive peers and mentors? Does the learner possess and develop the perseverance and talents that are necessary? And does the learner have access to the materials and enabling opportunities to exercise the practice? The last question introduces use to the issue of access to the material conditions of the practice, which is encapsulated in the activity system model present within communities of practice.

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Why We Do What We Do: Part Two

“Our philosophical experience now, finding ourselves here, necessitates taking up philosophically the question of practice.” (Cavell, 1989)

I am proposing that if we are to seek an understanding of the grand values and beliefs of an individual, community or culture, we must first seek to observe/describe/reflect upon the very ordinary, everyday and cyclical practices that come to constitute the entity’s form(s) of life. For Stanley Cavell, “[In Wittgenstein], I seemed to find what I could recognise as this space of investigation, in [his] working out of the problematic of the day, the everyday, the near, the low, the common, in conjunction with what [we can] call speaking of necessaries, and speaking with necessity.” (Cavell, 1989) The practicalities of one’s existence “takes place around the aspects of daily life, the ordinary and the everyday events of eating, talking, queuing, exchanging pleasantries, greeting people of different age, sex, and gender, drinking, sleeping, dressing, washing, and so on.” (Peters, 2010a, pg 28).

With the above introduction, I launch again into “Why Do We Do What We Do”. In today’s entry, I aim to touch upon the conditions under which given practices flourish. Any given practice - let’s say, brushing one’s teeth - is optimally accompanied by a whole raft of practices along with concepts, knowledge and narratives that justify the practice. In this picture, full participation in the practice of - as stated, brushing one’s teeth - is contingent on understanding the significance of the act within a community that values and engages fruitfully in the practice. And young children are often brought into such activities. Over time the children gain a fuller understanding of the significance of each activity as part of a network of activities that make up - in this case - hygienic practices. Wittgenstein considered the process in terms of training into the application of particular rules that underlie the cultural acts, “I cannot describe how (in general) to employ rules, except by teaching you, training you to employ rules.” (Zettel #318) Therefore, “every instance of the use … is the culmination of a process of socialisation ... Training differs from explanation in that - at least among children - it is largely non-verbal and it is aimed at producing certain actions.” (Phillips, 1979, pg 126).

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Why We Do What We Do: Part One

5:00am: Wake up. Go for a run. Return for a shower. Meditate, pray and spend time with the daily devotional. Eat breakfast. Don’t forget that Christmas is in three weeks. Have you arranged the decorations? Sent the Christmas cards? Those will need to wait. Must shave, brush teeth, suit up and get the 7:35am train into the city for work in preparation for the first meeting of the day. Attend meeting. Determine which investments to make for clients. Remember, it is better to save up for one’s future. Once you clock off for the day, stop by the gym and pick up some Japanese on the way home. See if Julia is available for a social drink. If not, I can catch up on some reading. Make sure you get an early night, since tomorrow will be a big day.

Why do we do what we do? How are our days, our months, our lives structured? What determines our practices? If we think back, how much of our daily patterns were determined by the practices we acquired as a child? It is well known that “as part and parcel of our early socialization in life, we each learn ways of being in the world, of acting and interacting, thinking and valuing, and using language, objects, and tools that crucially shape our early sense of self.” (Gee, 2008, pg 100) What practices were acquired later on? And were there certain practices that were challenged or which fell by the wayside when we moved location or when we met a new circle of friends, colleagues, mentors, acquaintances, etc? Do you recall a grandparent talking about the practices of the past (e.g. butter churning) as you stare into the fridge or order a pizza from your smartphone? What has changed? As Wittgenstein once stated, “A language game [and a practice] does change with time.” (OC, #256) Have you ever had a crisis and have discarded certain practices - like prayer or meditation or exercise or dancing - as arbitrary (i.e. based on shifting sand) only to find yourself a bit out of sorts without these practices giving shape to your life? 

 The audio sample below is the lecture entitled, " Context is Everything: Wittgenstein on Meaning as Use" delivered by Dr James K. A. Smith as part of the 2013 H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series in Theology.

The audio sample below is the lecture entitled, "Context is Everything: Wittgenstein on Meaning as Use" delivered by Dr James K. A. Smith as part of the 2013 H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series in Theology.

These and many more questions draw our attention to the concept of practices, which is a concept that I feel is at the core of human existence. A practice “is something people do, not just once, but on a regular basis.” (Stern, 2004, pg 166). For some reason, people pray, brush their teeth, complete their tax, hike in National Parks, long for the next dance, etc. Each “activity” is part of - let’s says - religious practices, hygienic practices, economic practices, artistic practices, social practices and more. Each practice is much more than the sum of its parts. For instance, the combination of prayer, worship, scripture, and stewardship amounts to more than a collection of disparate activities. They amount to a form of life, and they rely upon resources, other participants, a sense of attachment, cultural artefacts and a history. Therefore, a practice is “more than just a disposition to behave in a certain way; the identity of a practice depends not only on what people do, but also on the significance of those actions and the surroundings in which they occur.” (Stern, 2004, pg 166). Put another way, our human existence is “not based on knowledge but on practice.” (Sluga, 2011, pg 107) It is not what we know that gives life its shape. It is what we do.

Welcome to the exploration. This is the first entry in a series of entries that will reflect on those activities that give shape to the way in which we live and the condition under which those activity form and change. In the end, we must ask ourselves to reflect upon the following question, “how successfully are we at finding peace and a home with what we do in a culturally, economically, and politically diverse world?”

References

  • Gee, J. P. (2008) A sociocultural perspective on opportunity to learn. In P. Moss, D. Pullin, J.P. Gee, E. Haertel, and L. Young (Eds). Assessment, equity, and opportunity to learn (pp. 76-108). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sluga, H. (2011). Wittgenstein. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Smith, J. K. A. (2013). Context is Everything: Wittgenstein on Meaning as Use. In H. Orton Wiley Lecture Series in Theology. Point Loma, CA: Point Loma Nazarene University. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/lecture-2-context-is-everything/id416200490?i=132712463&mt=2
  • Stern, D. (2004). Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wittgenstein, L. (1969). On Certainty. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Translated by D. Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Never forget … language and literacy are learned with steady guidance from others

Today, I will be discussing the teaching and learning of language and literacy. Clarity is my aim. I intend to continually point to those factors which should be most obvious but which can be lost in practice. For - in truth - it is when this topic becomes clouded in technical abstractions that we - as teachers and parents - suddenly feel unequipped to support learning in the most natural of ways. Do not get me wrong; every use of language and literacy is highly complex and these instances require the orchestration of a myriad of skills that are deployed virtually automatically by the expert user. That much is true. That said, the child (or emerging learner) is not faced with the prospect of developing such complex skills from the get go. There is a progressive, temporal dimension to this learning where the child is supported by others to develop foundational skills which lead into competency which lead to mastery which lead to further disciplinary practice. Meanwhile, the learner is surrounded by others (family, a community, peers, a culture) which exerts their own practices, knowledge, values and ways of navigating the spoken and written word.

In the words of Moyal-Sharrock (2010), "acquiring language is like learning to walk: the child is stepped into language by an initiator and, after much hesitation and repeated faltering, with time and multifarious practice and exposure, it disengages itself from the teacher's hold and is able, as it were, to run with the language." (2010, pg 6) Whilst some may take issue with the literal comparison of walking and talking, I ask you to appreciate the intention of the metaphor. That is, acquiring language and literacy is not so direct, inevitable and individual as we would like to think. It requires the patient and steady guidance of others to support the learner develop emergent to elaborated to independent practices.

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