February is often the time of year when some young readers begin to slow in their reading progress. The language in the text is becoming harder. There are more unfamiliar words to decode and less picture support. It seems they’re getting stuck on even the easiest high frequency words which makes you wonder if they really know those high frequency words. They should know them automatically by now.
There are many ways to practice words, but children can feel overwhelmed by too much independent word learning. Sometimes what they really need is just more support from us. Consider using Pearson and Gallagher’s Gradual Release of Responsibility instructional model in word learning work, to gradually shift the responsibility for task completion to the student. The sequence for learning words, described on the following page, provides opportunities for modeled and guided learning, as well as for independent practice. This activity works well with a small group of children. Make sure you have enough magnetic letters for you and each of the children to construct the words you’re practicing.
Continuum for Learning Words (from modeled instruction to independent practice)
- Teacher constructs a word using magnetic letters and telling students what the word is.
- Teacher supplies letters for the named word to each student. Students follow teacher’s example and construct the word. Teacher visually checks each student’s work by running a finger under the word, left to right, and reading the word aloud.
- Teacher supplies different letters and tells the students, “Make a word you know. ” Each child constructs a word and the teacher checks it.
- Teacher supplies a pool of letters to the children, enough to make several words. Teacher names the word to be constructed. Students construct the word and check it. Then they each write the word several times.
- Teacher supplies a pool of letters, enough to make several words, and again instructs students, “Make a word you know.” Each child constructs a word and the teacher checks it. Then students each write their word several times.
- Teacher dictates words. The students write the words, read the words, and then check the words in the way the teacher had previously demonstrated.
Providing the right amount of support will make word learning easier for young readers who are still struggling to learn words.