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LETRS® is a flexible literacy professional development solution for preK–5 educators. LETRS earned the International Dyslexia Association's Accreditation and provides teachers with the skills they need to master the fundamentals
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Step Up to Writing®
by Dr. Mary Dahlgren on Apr 6, 2021
Watch the webinar, “The How and Why of Implementing a Sound Wall”
The wave of implementing sound walls into classroom instruction is rolling in quickly thanks to an awareness of what the science of reading is telling us about how the brain learns to read. There is no doubt that understanding the speech sounds of English,
along with being able to examine and analyze these phonemes, will facilitate all of the other phoneme awareness activities that are going on in classrooms.
Think about this: We typically ask students to blend and segment sounds in words they have most likely heard before. For example, “Say shop; now say it sound by sound, /sh/ /ŏ/ /p/.” Notice that we ask our students to say a word sound
by sound without ever talking about the features of those individual phonemes. Did you know /sh/ does not exist in Spanish phonology? Imagine how difficult it might be to break apart the sounds in a word that contains phonemes not found in your native
Phonemes are the building blocks of any language, but they are elusive. In the flow of speech, we squish them together and hardly consider that each has its own unique features. Phonemes are not just acoustic sounds; they are also mouth movements. These
mouth movements are more concrete and can be explicitly taught in order to help students anchor each phoneme into memory.
Direct instruction about a phoneme, explaining what is happening with the mouth when making a specific sound, can eliminate many problems that can end up designating children in need of Tier 2 or Tier 3 instruction. Teaching these phonemes can happen
easily in Tier 1 instructional time. Here is an example of what instruction might sound like from the Kid Lips™ Instructional Manual ( www.tools4reading.com)
in a small group or even during whole-group time:
INSTRUCTIONAL SEQUENCE FOR /sh/
Materials: The corresponding Kid Lips™ picture and a mirror for each student.
Today, we will be learning about /sh/ as in shell. Here is how we make this sound; watch me.
Follow up daily by reviewing previously taught sounds. Ask students to show how they make the sound. Use the following questions to make this an engaging discussion.
Providing brief and explicit instruction makes bringing the science into a classroom a reality. It isn’t difficult, and children are excited to be validated by the many experiences they are having when trying to sound out words or work at
the phoneme level.
Tools 4 Reading is offering classes on Sound Walls this summer. Check it out on our website www.tools4reading.com
Mary Ellis Dahlgren, Ed.D., is president of Tools 4 Reading. She is an experienced educator with more than 25 years in the field of education having served as a dyslexia therapist, elementary classroom teacher, international literacy consultant, and author.
She is the author of a highly successful phonics tool kit which includes Kid Lips® and Phoneme-Grapheme Instructional Cards for elementary, special education, and English language learner teachers. She also is a national trainer for the distinguished
teacher curriculum LETRS
® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling
). She is the former executive director of Payne Education Center, a nonprofit teacher training center in Oklahoma. Dr. Dahlgren is a founding board member of a school for adjudicated youth, SeeWorth Academy, organized by the late Chief
Justice Alma Wilson. Dr. Dahlgren’s passion is to help everyone involved with reading instruction to feel equipped and confident in providing the highest quality instruction possible. She also is president of The Reading League
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