Foundational Reading in Upper Elementary

Foundational Reading in Upper Elementary

Foundational reading skills are the basics of phonic, decoding, and fluency.  It’s the actual reading the words part of reading (as opposed to the comprehension part).  In primary grades, students are largely ‘learning to read,’ meaning they learn to decode the letters and accurate read them.  In upper elementary, students focus more on ‘reading to learn,’ where they switch over to working more on comprehension.  But, like most of education, we these skills overlap heavily, and teachers will need to support students in both areas.  Even though the focus in upper elementary is more on comprehension, we can’t neglect these foundational reading skills. 

If students are truly struggling with basic phonics and decoding in upper elementary, most likely they are going to need an intervention in this area.  But, for our students that are (more or less) on grade-level in this area, there are many ways to support foundational reading skills in the upper elementary classroom.

What are the foundational reading skills students need in upper elementary?
They fall into three areas: decoding, fluency, and oral fluency.

-decode multisyllabic words
-use prefixes, suffixes, and roots to decode and understand the meanings of words
-apply phonics and word analysis skills to decode words
-read irregularly spelled words

-read accurately enough to support comprehension
-read fluently enough to support comprehension
-self-correct based on context
-reread when necessary

Oral Fluency:
-read aloud accurately
-read aloud with an appropriate rate
-read aloud with expression

Ways to support these foundational reading skills in upper elementary:

1. word walls:
-These are especially good for reviewing irregularly spelled words.  Collect them throughout the school year as you come across them.  Students can even keep their own mini-dictionaries of irregular words.
-Use example words that have prefixes, roots, or suffixes that the students will come across, so they can use these words as a reference.
-Use word walls as a reference for phonics and other skills students will need for decoding.

2. modeling:
When reading aloud to students, model these behaviors:
-self correcting for errors
-rereading when comprehension breaks down
-strategies decoding multisyllabic words.  Connect the written word and each syllable/ affix/ root with its sound and meaning.
-reading with appropriate rate- you can also read too fast or too slow to show students what happens when you don’t read at an appropriate rate
-reading with expression- or read things with a flat tone to show students how expression helps comprehesion

3. have students share their strategies with each other:
-Students can listen to each other read aloud and give each other tips on how to be more expressive
-Students can offer help with decoding strategies by sharing their decoding strategieis and asking each other, “How did you figure out that word?”
-Ask students, “How did you know you needed to reread that?” or “How did you know that was wrong and you needed to correct it?”

4. practice:
-Whenever possible, give the students copies of the read aloud text, so that they can see the words in print as they hear them.  Connecting the written words with the the auditory will help them become more fluent.
-Provide opportunities for multiple readings.  Have the students practice a paragraph or page until they can read it accurately and with expression.  This works especially well with poetry.

-Do partner work.  Students can read to each other or to younger students (or even to pets!) to become more accurate and expressive with their reading.

Happy (foundational reading) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo

Adding Language Skills to your Read Aloud

It can be really hard to fit everything in to our ELA instruction.  Often, it’s language and grammar that gets left out, but these are important skills that our students need in order to become truly literate.   One way to fit these sills in is to work them into our read aloud time.

Here are some quick ways to add some language and grammar to your read aloud:

When students all have a copy of the text:
-look at verb tenses in a paragraph or across a story line
-ask: what does this possessive mean? (and have students look at how it’s spelled)
-point out singular and plural nouns and look at their spellings
-highlight all of the conjunctions
-point out various parts of speech
-look at how the author uses capitalization
-look at punctuation: commas, quotes, apostrophes
-look at how the author uses commas- especially for making lists and using clauses
-look at how the author uses punctuation for quotation marks
-look at spelling changes (for example, ‘happiness’ comes from ‘happy,’ and we change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ before adding the ending)
-look at spelling patterns- especially in multisyllabic words
-use the glossary to help understand the meanings of words and how to pronounce them
-discuss homographs, what they mean, and how you know which way to pronounce them
-find and discuss prepositional phrases in the text
-look carefully frequently confused words (to/two/too, etc.)
-identify conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections and look at how they are used in the text
-look for patterns in verb tenses across the chapter or story
-choose several sentences and rewrite them by condensing or expanding them (this is also a good lead-in to a writing lesson)

If you only have one copy of the text being read aloud:
-make a word web for abstract nouns that are important to the text
-ask: what does this particular pronoun mean/ refer to?
-pick out simple, compound, complex sentences and discuss how they function in the text
-point out relative pronouns (whose, whom, etc.) as you read aloud
-look at modal verbs (can, should, must) and how they affect the meaning of the text
-point out examples of run-on sentences and sentence fragments and how the author uses them for effect
-discuss how the author chooses words & phrases for effect
-look at spoken language when the characters are speaking, and compare and contrast it with the narrative text
-use context clues to figure out the meanings of words or phrases
-use roots/ affixes to figure out the meanings of words or phrases
-use dictionaries to look up words and discuss their meanings in the context of the read aloud
-discuss figurative language
-list literal and nonliteral language
-look at shades of meanings for different words
-analyze similies and metaphors
-look carefully at words that have multiple-meanings
-discuss idioms, adages, and proverbs
-point out synonyms and antonyms and how they relate to each other
-compare and contrast varieties and styles of English
-point out examples of either/ or and neither/nor and what they mean in the context of the book

Happy (language skills) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo 

Including Speech & Language Standards in Daily Instruction

With everything upper elementary teachers need to think about and cover, it can be really easy to let some things slide.  The speech and language standards tend to be one of those things.  These skills are important because they lead to more complex discourse in upper grades and college, and are an essential part of being an active citizen and participant in society.  The speech and language standards can also be a vehicle for teaching, practicing, and reviewing other content, so they are one of those ‘kill two birds with one lesson’ set of standards.

Here are some super simple ways to make sure your students develop appropriate speech and language skills in the general education classroom (without losing your mind):

1. Use a focus of the day or week. 
Choose an overarching focus of the month (or week) and then a specific focus for each week (or day).  This doesn’t require any extra class time, but helps focus students’ attention on a skill, so it’s more likely to be practiced.  You could also start by doing one overarching idea per month, and then once you cover them all more slowly, start cycling through by week to create a spiraled review.

Common Core-aligned examples:

overarching idea: participate in discussions
specific skills:
build on others’ ideas
clearly express your own ideas
            provide requested detail or clarification when asked
speak in complete sentences
            speak clearly
            speak at an understandable pace
differentiate between formal and informal situations (grade 4)
adapt speech to context (grade 5)

overarching idea: follow agreed upon discussion rules
specific skills:
stick to the topic
use active listening
take turns speaking
gain the floor in respectful ways
make sure everyone contributes
carry out roles (grades 4 & 5)

overarching idea: ask questions
specific skills:
ask questions to stay on topic
ask questions to check information
ask questions to clarify information
ask questions related to the comments of others
ask follow up questions (grade 4)

overarching idea: come to discussions prepared
specific skills:
read to prepare
use what you read to participate
study to prepare
use what you studied to participate

overarching idea: reflecting on conversations
            explain your own ideas in light of the discussion
review the key ideas expressed (grades 4 &5)
draw concludsions in light of knowledge gained from discussions (grade 5)

2. Use an activity-specific focus:
When it’s time for read aloud, or when information is being given visually, quantitatively, or orally, knowing the focus skill(s) for your grade level can make things less overwhelming.  These skills are already covered in other ELA standards, so we don’t have to add any additional content.

for read alouds and content delivery:
grade 3: determine the main idea and details
grade 4: paraphrase
grade 5: summarize

from speakers:
grade  3: ask & answer questions, elaborate & give detail
grade 4: identify reasons & evidence
grade 5: summarize, identify reasons & evidence

3. Make sure to include diverse groups regularly in the classroom:
-one-to-one/ teacher-led/ student groups
-diverse partners
-diverse topics & texts

4. Plan for these one-time mini-projects, as part of other ELA or content instruction:
A: give a report on a topic or text or tell a story (grade 3 & 4) or present an opinion (grade 5):
            give appropriate facts
            give relevant, descriptive details (that support main ideas/themes)
            in an organized way (grade 4)
            sequence ideas logically (grade 5)
            speak clearly
speak at an understandable pace

B: create an audio recording of a story or poem:
            use fluid reading
            use an understandable pace
            add visual displays
            grade 5: add multimedia components (graphics, sound, etc.)

If we just take some time at the start of the school year (or whenever we’re ready to tackle these) and plan it all out, then it’s easy to implement with very little extra work.  It’s mostly just a matter of adding a secondary focus to already existing lesson plans or projects and giving students a specific skills to practice during read alouds and conversations.

Happy (speech & language) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo

Add More Measurement to Your Day

For some reason, measurement and geometry always seemed to be the weakest strands for the elementary students in the schools I’ve taught in.  Maybe it’s because they aren’t traditional arithmetic, or maybe it’s because they tend to be left for the end of the school year.  Whatever the reason, they tend to get left behind.  Here are some ways to incorporate more measurement throughout your school day:

-ask what time it is.  Telling time is an important measurement skill.  Depending on the age of your students, you can ask them what time it is, how much time has passed since…, what day/ month/ season it is, etc.  Make sure they have access to analog clocks and calendars.  Bonus points for using timelines to figure out how many days/ minutes/ hours/ seconds have elapsed!

-have the students put things in order by measurement unit.  This can mean lining up by height or by foot length/ hair length, putting potted plants in order by planter capacity, putting backpacks in order by weight, etc.  (It’s also a fun way to line up when it’s time to go somewhere!)  Even if the students aren’t yet ready to use actual measurement units, they can still put thing in order based on their measureable properties.

-graph stuff.  Having a party?  Make a pictograph of what food everyone wants.  Just took a spelling test?  Make a line plot of the scores (anonymously!!).  Graph the weather/ temperature, what color sneakers everyone has, lunch requests, anything.  Bonus points if you’re graphing something you first have to measure! 
(You can get free graphing resources here & more comprehensive materials here.)

-fill your classroom with containers labeled with their capacity.  Label every student’s water bottle.  The pencil cup.  The bucket where you keep the lunch boxes.  Every container can be labled with its capacity in both metric and customary units.   Students need to interact with these objects in order to have a reference point when using them.   Bonus points if you can get them to start looking for the capacity of every container they find… the lunch room and art room are especially good for this!

-practice counting, adding, and subtracting money when the opportunity arises.  Kids can count coins for fundraisers, their lunch money, their change, field trip costs, etc.  They can add up the costs of books in the library (the prices are often on the back), how much was spent on a party, orthe cost of their school supplies.  Bonus points if you can create a reward system that uses pretend coins and money!

Measurement concepts and skills are a little different from other math strands.  Kids need direct instruction on how to measure, but also need to be engaged with measurement units and concepts in order to internalize them.  The more opportunities students have to interact with and manipulate these units and skills, the deeper their understanding will be.  Then, when it comes time to apply these concepts in estimating or problem solving, either in math or in real life, they will have strong, well-developed concepts on which to rely.

Happy (Measurement) Teaching !!
Christine Cadalzo

pssst... for ready-made measurement resources, click here!