Classroom Strategies from Reading Rockets Concept of Word Games Concept of word refers to the ability of a reader to match spoken words to written words while reading. Students with a concept of word understand that each word is separate, and that words are separated by a space within each sentence. Using strategies to build concept of word in the classroom can also strengthen a child's developing awareness of the individual sounds within words. Share your examples! Why teach concept of word?Research suggests that only when a student can point to individual words accurately within a line of text will they be able to learn new words while reading. As students are learning about concept of word they are building upon the foundations in the developmental progression of reading. This progression also includes learning about concepts of print (also referred to as print awareness). Not to be confused with concept of word, concept of print includes an understanding that: print carries meaning, that books contain letters, words, sentences, and spaces. It also includes understanding what books are used for, and that books have parts such as a front cover, back cover and a spine. Learn more about concepts of print:
When to use:Before readingDuring readingAfter reading How to use:IndividuallyWith small groupsWhole class setting ExamplesSeveral activities are helpful for building the skills associated with concept of word in students from PreK to 3rd grade. A few of these activities are specifically described below. Dictation with lines for writingOne of the simplest ways to develop a concept of word is to work individually with a child and a picture he or she has drawn. "Tell me about your picture!" As the student begins to talk, summarize what he has said in a few words or consider the child's words as dictation. "The leaves are falling." Draw one line for each word under the picture. Then help the child begin to write sounds for each different word in their dictation. Be the sentencePhysical involvement and hands-on activities are great for increasing learning in young children. One activity to support concept of word learning is to have each student physically represent a word in a sentence that the teacher creates. Create single-page size cards for each student, with one word on each card (for example "We" "went" "to" "the" "store"). Students work together to arrange themselves into the proper order to form a sentence. Cut-up sentenceThis activity includes active learning about words as part of a sentence. Teachers prepare a sheet of simple sentences printed out with a large-size font. Students cut apart the words from a sentence, and then move the individual word cards around, manipulating the words to re-create the sentence in proper order. This helps encourage students to recognize that each word is a separate entity, has meaning, and is separated by a space within each sentence. Unifix wordTeachers can show students how to build and rebuild sentences by connecting unifix cubes. Students can learn about concept of word as they grasp the understanding that each cube represents a word in the target sentence regardless of syllables within words. This activity includes the use of unifix cubes (found here on Amazon.com). General activitiesThe Get Ready to Read site offers 36 activity cards for use with an individual child or a group of children, in English and in Spanish. Word wallsSee how word walls can be used to help students build their concept of word skills. The site below provides tips on word choice as well as many examples of real-life classroom word walls. See word wall examples > To get more information about word boundaries, a construct similar to concept of word, click here.
Differentiated instructionfor second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners
Use oral activities to help support students of lower level reading skills.
Use activities that include pictures to support ESL students and younger students.
See the research that supports this strategyClay, M. M. (1979). Reading: The patterning of complex behavior. Auckland, New Zealand: Heinemann. Morris, D. (1981). Concept of word: A developmental phenomenon in the beginning reading and writing process. Language Arts, 58, 659-668. Report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Roberts, E. (1992). The evolution of the young child's concept of word as a unit of spoken and written language. Reading Research Quarterly, 27, 124-138. Strategy SwapTeachers, have you used any of the strategies from our library in your lessons — especially in science, social studies, and other content areas? We'd love to share some of your real-world examples with our readers. Submit your examples here > (select "Classroom strategies" from the subject dropdown list)
Reading in Kindergarten By: Colorín Colorado (2007) Reading is a process of getting meaning from print. Early reading includes the direct teaching of words and sounds. Children must be able to distinguish between different sounds of oral language for the purposes of achieving understanding. They also need basic knowledge about the written alphabet, sound-symbol relationships, and concepts of print because these are the basis for decoding and reading comprehension skills. How reading relates to ELLsFor English language learners (ELLs), learning to read in their primary language is easier because it builds on the words and sound structures of the language they know best. However, children at the kindergarten level are little sponges who learn what they are taught. If they are taught to read in two languages simultaneously, they will learn. If they are taught to read in English only, they will learn. The key to learning to read (and preventing reading difficulties in one or two languages) is excellent instruction. It is also important to remember that the basic skills that serve as the base for reading, such as phonetic recognition, transfer from one language to another. If a student who is learning English has already acquired these skills in their first language, it is not necessary to learn them again in English. It is always a good idea to find out if the child knows these skills in their first language before beginning to teach them in English. Excellent instruction for pre-reading skills consists of:
knowledge of the alphabet
concepts of print
Classroom strategies: Pre-reading and readingOral language activitiesBefore doing an activity or reading a story in class, teach pre-selected vocabulary words. This is always helpful, especially for ELLs. This will give them the chance to identify the word, place it in context, and remember it. You can pre-teach vocabulary by playing with words and using English as a second language (ESL) methods such as:
Role playing or pantomiming
Showing real objects
Pointing to pictures
Doing quick drawings on the board
Using the Spanish equivalent and then asking students to say the word in English
Phonemic awarenessPhonemic awareness is the ability to understand that spoken words are composed of smaller units of sound. Phonemic awareness helps children begin to understand how the English and/or Spanish alphabets work. You can teach phonemic awareness through activities such as:
Finding objects in the classroom whose names begin or end with the same sound, such as desk, door, and dog.
Doing clapping activities to identify the syllables in words
Learning poetry and songs that have the same beginning sounds or end in rhyme
Analyzing each other's names to make discoveries about letters and sounds such as Whose name starts with B? Whose name has an "a"? Whose name has an "r"? Show me where you found it.
Making charts about letter/sound discoveries (For example: "Here are three new letters. Let's write some words under each letter.")
Alphabet knowledgeOnce students have learned the sounds, they can begin to learn the names of the letters. For ELLs, it is easier to hear the sounds first and then label each letter. You can teach the alphabet through songs accompanied with movements that outline each letter (For example: "A is for alligator. Make your arms open and shut like the mouth of an alligator. B is for bat…") There are books and tapes in most bookstores with alphabet songs and motions. Concepts of print"Big books" are ideal for showing children how books work. After reading a big book, you can point out concepts of print such as:
The book's front and back covers, title, and author
The left-to-right direction of print
What a word looks like – and what the space between words looks like
The fact that you are reading the words
How inflection and intonation are used to connect content and structure of the text
The differences between question marks, exclamation marks, and periods
Listening comprehensionReading out loud to your students is a way to teach vocabulary while modeling reading. As you read aloud:
Introduce the characteristics/elements of the story (characters, setting, problem, solution, plot)
Explain words, topics, or concepts that ELLs may not be familiar with
Model how a reader self-corrects when making a mistake
Think aloud about what you are reading
Provide opportunities for children to retell the story they heard through dramatic retellings; or use picture cards to put the story's events in sequence
Decoding and comprehensionDuring the second half of the year, ELLs in kindergarten benefit when they are introduced to reading through sequenced decodable books. Simple decodable books allow ELLs to read engaging and interesting stories even though they may only know a few letter sounds. These books may include some sight words they can memorize such as the words "was" or "happy" as the stories build on previously learned letters, sounds, and words. First, conduct guided reading so that students follow along in their books while you model fluency. You can help student comprehension by clarifying concepts, teaching unknown words, asking questions about the story, and letting children connect these stories to their own experiences. After the guided reading, have students reread their decodable books with a partner. They can take turns reading by alternating sentences. This helps them focus on what they are reading. Reading with a partner also creates a safety zone where they can feel comfortable reading aloud. Other ideasHere are some other things you can do:
Use chants, short poems, or songs as transition markers from one activity to another, or when children line up for recess or lunch.
Use thematic units, such as "plants." This helps children learn vocabulary faster because they hear the same words (all about plants) in the stories the teacher reads, in what they read, and in their learning centers and other activities.
Classroom Strategies from Colorin Colorado Question-Answer Relationship (QAR) The question–answer relationship (QAR) strategy helps students understand the different types of questions. By learning that the answers to some questions are "Right There" in the text, that some answers require a reader to "Think and Search," and that some answers can only be answered "On My Own," students recognize that they must first consider the question before developing an answer. Share your examples! Why use question–answer relationship?
It can improve students' reading comprehension.
It teaches students how to ask questions about their reading and where to find the answers to them.
It helps students to think about the text they are reading and beyond it, too.
It inspires them to think creatively and work cooperatively while challenging them to use higher-level thinking skills.
When to use:Before readingDuring readingAfter reading How to use:IndividuallyWith small groupsWhole class setting How to use question–answer relationship
Explain to students that there are four types of questions they will encounter. Define each type of question and give an example. Four types of questions are examined in the QAR:
Right There Questions: Literal questions whose answers can be found in the text. Often the words used in the question are the same words found in the text.
Think and Search Questions: Answers are gathered from several parts of the text and put together to make meaning.
Author and You: These questions are based on information provided in the text but the student is required to relate it to their own experience. Although the answer does not lie directly in the text, the student must have read it in order to answer the question.
On My Own: These questions do not require the student to have read the passage but he/she must use their background or prior knowledge to answer the question.
Read a short passage aloud to your students.
Have predetermined questions you will ask after you stop reading. When you have finished reading, read the questions aloud to students and model how you decide which type of question you have been asked to answer.
Show students how find information to answer the question (i.e., in the text, from your own experiences, etc.).
How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham (Candlewick, 2008)
Picture book When a young boy spots a hurt bird on a busy city street, he takes it home until it can return to the outdoors.
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Kids Can, 2008) Nonfiction/picture book Inspired by actual events, a boy from Ghana provides a hope-filled lesson on micro-economics just right for young readers.
Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Meilo So (Random, 2008) Picture book biography A red-tailed hawk takes up residence in a tony New York neighborhood and becomes the talk of the town. Based on actual events. Differentiated instructionfor second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners
Have students work together to form questions about the text, find the answers and share with the whole class.
Ask students to write down questions and answers.
See the research that supports this strategyRaphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221
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