Saturday, April 29, 2017

Learning to Read: Tech Help for Phonics

Most adults have trouble remembering both when they learned to read and for some reason, how their children learned to read. I've spoken to many parents and surprisingly few have noticed the process that their children went through learning to read.

Nevertheless, when I ask which phrases or concepts they remember from this process such as dipthongs, blending, blends, long vowels, short vowels, segmenting, double letters, rhymes, word families etc, there is one phrase that beats all the others in terms of how often it is selected as:

"Yes, I remember that one!"  The term:" Sound it Out."  Apparently many remember receiving and giving his advice when a student stumbled on a word.  "Just Sound it Out, a sound at a time."

So when I saw the Sound It Out Game from VocabularySepllingCity, I was very curious to see how they handled this familiar instruction.

I was at first disappointed, then surprised, and finally thrilled by the game. I've never seen anything like it. I'm going to quote from an article called Phonics: Sound It Out about it. There's also broader info on tech help with decoding, phonics, and recognizing sounds here: Phonics Games Build Literacy Skills

The Sound It Out game is a rich skill-building exercise which puts interactive learning tools into students’ and teachers’ hands in an unprecedented way. Students can now, on any list of words that the teacher or student chooses, have rich phonological and phonics practice. Sound It Out breaks any word down into its sounds (phonemes) and then shows the letter-sound correspondence.
Sound It Out: Sound Letter Correspondence
Sound It Out: Letter-Sound Correspondence

Students who are struggling to understand letter-sound correspondence can mouse over the sounds in their words to HEAR each sound and SEE which letter combinations make which sounds.
In terms of game play, Sound It Out starts is a sound-based unscramble game where students can choose from two scenes –  a version that features a fun cat and mouse and classic version geared toward older students.  But let’s focus first on the educational concept. Words on the selected list are automatically broken into sounds with corresponding letter combinations.  So if your list includes toothshipsheepchill, and this; each of these words would be used in the activity broken down by sounds:  t oo th,  sh i p, sh ee p, ch i ll, and th i s.  In the unscramble part for each word, the student must reassemble the word based on its sounds. This encourages the student to focus not only on the spelling of the word, but on the sounds each letter (or letter combination) makes.
Here’s an example with the word “black”. The word is broken down into its four sounds: b l a ck and then the order is scrambled. The student hears: “Click on the sound blocks in the right order to spell the word: black.” Students also have the option to hear the word read again or and in a sentence.

If the student mouses over the b, the student hears the /b/ sound. Mouse-overs on the other tiles also play their sounds;  the student hears a short /a/, a /ck/ sound, and an /l/. If the student clicks on the right sound, it slides into place and the game asks for the next sound, If the student clicks on the wrong sound, the game gently corrects, explains again what sound  to look for, and the student again searches for the right sound.

Here’s the part of the game that I feel is most magical. After the student has successful assembled the sounds of the word, the letter tiles transform into the the word fully assembled but still broken down into phonics tiles. The word is read aloud again and sounded out, with each Interactive Sound Box being highlighted for the sound being read. The student can also mouse over each sound to highlight the Interactive Sound Box while listening to the pronunciation. These interactive phonics boxes are a powerful tool for students trying to learn to recognize the sounds and then match them with the letter combinations.

Lets look for a second at these VocabularySpellingCity interactive sound boxes.  Click to play Sound It Out and get a feel for how it puts the ability to explore sound letters combinations in the students’ hands. You can do it on your computer, tablet, or phone. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Vocabulary for Elementary School

Many students with challenges in literacy have particular frustrations over learning a group of words.  But a group of words, the weekly word list for vocabulary and spelling, remains an important educational construct.

To help students learn, there's technology. The irony is that kids cannot test themselves on a list of vocabulary or spelling words. Or they could not before VocabularySpellingCity arrived.  They have 37 different activities so that students can learn on their own.

In addition to activities, hidden in their teacher resources, there are many word lists and lessons for each grade. For example, lets look at 2nd grade spelling and vocabulary words.

VocabularySpellingCity offers hundreds of free second grade spelling and vocabulary lists that correlate with 2nd grade state standards. Second grade teachers have the option of importing from a wide variety of word lists and assigning interactive games and activities to students. Teachers can also access supplemental literacy tools, such as free handwriting printables, via VocabularySpellingCity.
Second grade spelling word lists include Dolch and Fry sight word lists, Words Their Way® word pattern lists, and word structure lists (compound words). Second grade students can build sight word fluency and phonics mastery through the use of VocabularySpellingCity’s interactive online games. Second grade games feature both audio and visual elements, an effective learning tool for all maturing readers and writers, specifically English Language Learners (ELLs).
There are also lists for second grade for science words, math words, social studies words, sound-alikes, multimedia word lists, and basic phonics and phonological skills.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies, Oh MY!!

I'm sitting here with my dog on my lap. He is sweeter than...most dogs. Metaphors. It can be difficult to think of good ones. It takes practice, lots of it.

So what would have been a good metaphor for me to use about my dog? He is sweeter than cotton candy! Not great. I bet you could do better.

We often get analogies and metaphors mixed up. Add similes to the mix and it gets even more confusing! How can we expect our kids to understand these concepts if we struggle with them?

Basically, metaphors describe something by assigning something else in its place. For example we speak of snow being a blanket or life being a roller coaster.

Similes usually have the words "like" or "as" in them and compare two different things. Some common similes are "cold as ice, bold as brass and, cute as a kitten."

Analogies tend to be a little more complex than either of the other two. They tend to be a bit more brainy, using logic to back up the comparisons. Some very common analogies are: "I felt like a fish out of water at that party." or "That girl is as quiet as a mouse."

So hopefully, this will clear up some of the confusion so that you can help your kids have fun with these great ways to use language!

Here's a fun vocabulary exercise? Do you know the difference between STEM, STEAM, and science? STEAM includes Art whereas STEM is just science, technology, engineering, and math. And science, well, it's just science.  Robotics is robotics. AI is artificial intelligence.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Tutoring

Summer is in full swing isn’t it? Are you able to relax a bit and enjoy at least a little down time? I like the beginning of summer when it’s not too hot. By this time of year I am hiding out inside where the cool AC is my best friend.

We used to homeschool year round. I liked doing that for several reasons.It kept us in the swing of things so we never got out of practice or out of our routine. We didn’t have to worry about transitions. It also allowed us to take our time and work at a slower, more comfortable pace. Last year was the first year we took the summer off. It was so nice we did it again this year. I think I needed the break more than my daughter.

When we first started homeschooling we were using a second grade online curriculum, but I still supplemented with lots of extras. I really  enjoyed lots of hands-on activities in those days. I think younger kids especially retain more and enjoy more of their schooling when they can did in and explore all avenues of learning, not just the text. As my daughter got older, somehow we gradually lost interest in hands-on learning, well, she did, I never lost interest. Anyway, now that we take the summer off, we do use an online resource for summer tutoring as needed. We are very low key with it, but it does help.

If you take the summer off, do you use an online tutor for a little extra help or enrichment? Please share.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Homeschool Trends

People homeschool for as many different reasons as there are homeschoolers. Some of the more common reasons include being bullied at public school, religious reasons, health, dedicated sports such as ice skating or horse showing, the need for a more challenging curriculum, safety issues, learning difficulties, and the list goes on.

Homeschool trends in the last several years confirm one main reason for homeschooling, dissatisfaction with public schools. As a public school and private school teacher, who turned to homeschooling, I can wholeheartedly agree with the reason.

My daughter attended private Christian school for three years and while it wasn’t perfect, she was nurtured and learned in a safe environment…she was happy. She attended public school, or tried attending public school three different times, once in first grade, once in third grade, and once in eighth grade. All three times were a disaster.

My daughter has CAPD, ADHD, and dysgraphia. The public school has programs in place to help children like her, but they failed her each time. She received virtually no help from them. She had teachers who told her she would never learn to read and that she was slow or lazy. As a teacher, I was SHOCKED that a teacher would actually say those things, but indeed they did. One of her junior high teachers commented, in a very derogatory way, about the fact that she was homeschooled.

Homeschooling has been the best decision we could have ever made. I no longer have a child who is under huge amounts of stress and suffering from panic attacks. That alone makes homeschooling worthwhile for us. My daughter has thrived and grown in a safe environment, and no, she is not a social misfit.

What’s your reason for homeschooling? Can you identify with my situation? How’s homeschooling working for you? Please share with us all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Whew is just about right. I can feel that big sigh of relief washing over me since we have finished our lessons for the year.
You know how homeschoolers suggest new homeschoolers take time to ‘deschool’ after leaving public school, well I think I need to ‘dehomeschool’ for just a wee bit. Smile
We used to homeschool year round, but last year we took the summer off. This year we will take the summer off again, well mostly. We aren’t going to use a tutor or anything, but my daughter is going to continue working on her economics/personal finance classes that she didn’t finish. We decided she would do this because she started her own business…Mercy Fox Photography. She does mostly cosplay photo shoots, but other kinds as well.
I asked my daughter if she is also experiencing the magic elixir of ‘whew’. Her response was a huge, “YES!” She reminded me that now that she’s 17, she realizes how close she is to being a full fledged adult. Her ‘whew’ feeling was realizing how close she is to graduating and becoming that productive citizen she has grown in to.
What is your ‘whew’ feeling?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Summer Homeschool Planning

This post is linked up with the April Let's Homeschool High School Blog Hop. You can link your high school blog post up too! The link is at the bottom of this page.

Wow! I can't believe summer will be here in the blink of an eye. While I won't miss the cold, rainy days, I will miss cooler weather. I like sunshine, I really do, but I am NOT a hot weather fan. I shrink in hot weather; always have.

What homeschooling plans do I have for the summer? Well, this summer we are going to slow way down and relax more in our homeschool high school plans. We will continue our unschooling life skills though because, well, it's life! My daughter will continue to improve her cooking and sewing skills, animal husbandry skills, yard work and gardening skills, and financial skills. She will also continue her reading and high school writing skills because she loves these. I sure won't complain about that at all. :)

What do you have planned for your summer homeschool high schoolers?