Sharpen Reading Activities

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Reading Chain

Level A
This activity is related to the Spelling Chain. It always comes immediately after a Spelling Chain, and involves the use of the same screen and the same set of letter tiles. In this activity, we will change one sound in a word formed with the letter tiles to form a new word and the Learner will read the new word. Reading a list of words so closely related in spelling trains the Learner to pay attention to each letter and helps accelerate the acquisition of the skill of blending sounds together.

Reading Word Parts

Level A
In this activity, Learners are presented with a list of parts the words they have been studying, such as "ap" and "ot." We ask the Learner to read the word parts out loud. Learners who are still acquiring the skill of blending sounds together will find sounding out two-sound word parts easier than sounding out three-sound words like "mop" and "tap." In addition, being able to instantly recognize the pronunciation of parts of words larger than individual speech sounds is a critical component of the ability to recognize a large number of words automatically.

Reading Words

Level A
In this activity, Learners practice reading the new target words in the current unit. In the early units of the program, we begin the activity by reciting the words in mixed-up order and asking the Learner to tap each word after we say it. In the early units of the program, Learners may read each word without sounding it out if they are able. In later units of the program, the focus will be on automatic word recognition, and we will give specific steps to review and practice any words the Learner reads incorrectly or has to sound out.

Flash Cards - Spelling

Level A
"In this activity, we assess the Learner's ability to spell the words he has been studying. We dictate a word and ask the Learner to Say-and-Write it, then compare the written word to a displayed word. If the Learner makes an error, we discuss the error and retry the writing. Missed items are repeated immediately at the end of the activity and then again in the subsequent lessons. Correctly answered items are gradually faded from the list according to a schedule that optimizes retention. "

Building Words That End in "ed"

Level B1
In this activity, Learners practice building and reading words like "jumped" and "rained" by dragging an "ed" tile onto the end of a list of base words. Activities that involve adding an ending to a base word help prepare Learners for reading two-syllable words. Sometimes the "ed" ending is pronounced /t/ as in "jumped." Other times it's /d/ as in "rained." And sometimes it is /ed/ as in "started." The sound for "ed" in these words is not arbitrary, but follows a phonological rule that native speakers of English learn implicitly. This variation makes words ending with the ending "ed" challenging to sound out, but focusing the Learner's attention on the base word allows her to access her grammatical knowledge to help with the task.

Building Words That End in "s"

Level A
In this activity, we present Learners with a list of four three-sound words that they have read before and demonstrate how to form each into a new word by adding "s." We ask the Learner to drag the letter "s" on the screen to the end of each word. In the beginning of the curriculum, Learners read mostly two- and three-sound words, such as "at" or "mop." Later, they will be introduced to words with four sounds, such as "last" and "went." We can help Learners tremendously as they start working with these words by making sure they are aware of the smaller, familiar base word. This allows them to use their vocabulary knowledge to help them read the word.

Reading Word Parts and Nonsense Words

Level B1
In this activity, Learners practice reading parts of words that consist of the vowel and everything that comes after. Sometimes these word parts are real words, but usually they are not. Examples of these word parts include "ean," "ade," and "oke." After reading these word parts, Learners practice reading nonsense words that contain these word parts, like"vean" or "zade." Becoming good at reading parts of words greatly improves a Learner's ability to read new words. Reading nonsense words also has been shown to improve a reader's ability to sound out new words efficiently, without resorting to guessing.

I Spy

Level B1
In this activity Learners are shown a small number of letter combinations representing a single sound, such as ay, ow, and ea as well as a small number of common letter combinations that represent more than a single sound, such as wor and ing. Below the list of letter combinations is a list of words from the text the Learner has just read. The task for the Learner is to click on the words that have one of the target letter combinations. Clicking on a word highlights the target letter combination. After "spying" (clicking on) all the appropriate words, the Learner reads each highlighted word and identifies the sound for the highlighted part.

Writing Unanalyzed Word

Level A
In this activity, we introduce Learners to the small number of words that they will analyze in terms of the letter names instead of the letter sounds. The Learner will practice writing each word while saying the letter-names out loud. It is very useful for Learners to be able to read these words early on, because they allow for much more natural-sounding sentences. Immediately after introducing one of these words with this writing activity, the Learner will practice reading the word in some short phrases.

Error Game

Level A
In this activity, we reverse roles with the Learner: we become the student, and the Learner becomes the teacher. A word is displayed on the screen and we read it aloud. Sometimes the script will read the word correctly and sometimes it will read it incorrectly, providing a specific mispronunciation. The Learner's job is to evaluate whether we read the word correctly. When read incorrectly, we will engage the Learner in a dialogue to identify the specific pronunciation error that we made. Children love this activity. It is always fun to catch adults in errors and correct them. But don't let their enjoyment deceive you about the power of this activity. It involves a complex coordination of skills, from identifying the individual speech sounds in the pronounced word to comparing the sounds with the letters of the word on the screen. It is the foundation of the very important skill of self-correction, but presented in a context in which very few Learners are even aware that they are doing any "work."

Finding "s" as "z"

Level A
In this activity, we present Learners with sentences containing two underlined words that have the letter "s." We review with the Learner that the letter "s" can represent two different sounds, /s/ and /z/. The Learner reads each sentence out loud and taps each underlined word in which the "s" represents the /z/ sound. Up until this activity, each letter we present to the Learner represents only a single sound. In this lesson, we introduce the idea that sometimes one letter can represent more than one sound.

Sound Game - Words Visible

Level A
This activity is one of three related activities and is the easiest of the three. We present the Learner with a word to read. Then, as in all the Sound Game activities, we ask the Learner to say a new word by making a particular sound change to the original word. In some lessons, we ask the Learner to delete a sound to form the new word; in others, to change a particular sound to form the new word. The ultimate goal is to train the Learner to make these sound changes orally, without any reference to letters. However, letters are a powerful tool for helping Learners understand the very abstract concept of individual speech sounds and make the task relatively easy.

Sound Game - Tokens

Level A
This activity is the second of three related Sound Game activities. It is a bit harder than "Sound Game (Words Visible)." We present the Learner with several horizontal lines. The number of lines on the screen corresponds to the number of sounds in the word being explored. We read a word to the Learner, and ask the Learner to tap out the sounds of the word. The Learner then says each sound of the word while tapping the horizontal line that corresponds with that sound. As in all the Sound Game variations, we ask the Learner to say a new word by making a particular sound change to the original word: sometimes deleting a sound to form the new word; other times, changing a particular sound. This activity represents an intermediary step between doing the task with the word written and doing it orally, with no visual representation of the sounds in the word.

Sound Game - Oral

Level A
This is the hardest version of the Sound Game activities. It is used to determine if the Learner is ready to move on to the next level of sound manipulation. We ask a learner to repeat a word, then make a sound change and say the new word. In this version of the Sound Game activity, we evaluate the Learner's performance. If the Learner gets eight correct answers out of ten, we advance the Learner to the next level for the following Sound Game. If the Learner does not meet the criteria, we repeat the current level for the Learner in the following Sound Game.

Reading a Storybook

Level A
At the end of each unit, we ask Learners to read a storybook. Our storybooks have been carefully written to include only words with letter-sounds that the Learners have been explicitly taught. This means that Learners will be able to sound out all the words in the text without relying on strategies like guessing at the word based on the first or last sound, or using picture clues to figure out the words. Learners need to read extended text in order to improve reading skills. Moreover, reading a complete book, even a very simple one, is an important milestone for Learners that helps them recognize and appreciate their own improvement. Reading the story to Learners first helps them learn any new vocabulary or phrasing in the text they may not be familiar with, and it greatly reduces their anxiety about reading it themselves.

Oral Reading

Level B2
In this activity, Learners read books and stories out loud to you. This activity takes place outside of the Sharpen Reading platform. We strongly recommend that Learners and instructors spend 15–20 minutes at the end of each lesson reading and enjoying some books together. Text reading practice such as this is an essential ingredient of a Learner's continued growth in reading skill. Learners with strong foundational skills will be able to automatically recognize many new words with just 1–4 exposures, and the most efficient, most useful, and most enjoyable way of promoting this growth in reading vocabulary is by reading good texts.

Handwriting

Level A
In this activity, Learners watch an animation that illustrates step-by-step how to form a letter correctly and efficiently. Learners then practice writing each letter on their screens using a mouse, finger, or stylus. It is extremely valuable for Learners in kindergarten and first grade to receive explicit and consistent handwriting instruction and practice. Such work not only makes it much easier for Learners to write, it also accelerates their learning of letter-sound relationships.

Flash Cards - Words

Level A
In this activity, we assess the Learner's ability to read a unit's target words. We present the Learner with a word and ask her to read it. If the Learner makes an error, we give her the correct answer and ask her to repeat it. Missed items are repeated immediately at the end of the activity and then again in the subsequent lessons. Correctly answered items are gradually faded from the list according to a schedule that optimizes retention.

Writing Target Sound

Level A
In this activity, we present Learners with the exact same list of words they read in the "Reading Words with a Target Sound" activity. We ask the Learner to look at the list and write down all the different ways that the target sound is spelled.

Building Multi-Syllable Words

Level B2
This activity extends the work Learners have done in "Building Two-Syllable Words" and provides them more practice working with the same multi-syllable words they divided earlier in the lesson. Just as in "Building Two-Syllable Words," we present the Learner with the syllables from those words arranged in mixed up order, for the Learner to pull tiles together and form words.

Building Two-Syllable Words

Level B1
This activity occurs immediately after Building Two-Syllable words and gives the Learner more practice working with the same two-syllable words she saw in that activity. We present Learners with the syllables from those words, but arranged in a mixed-up order. Learners use the syllable cards to build all the words, then read them.

Reading a Fable

Level B1
At the end of each unit, we ask Learners to read a one-page fable. Our fables have been carefully written to include only words with letter-sounds that the Learners have been explicitly taught. This means that Learners will be able to sound out all the words in the text without relying on strategies like guessing at the word based on the first or last sound, or using picture clues to figure out the words. Learners need to read extended text in order to improve reading skills. Moreover, reading a multi-paragraph fable, even a very simple one, is an important milestone for Learners that helps them recognize and appreciate their own improvement. Reading the story to Learners first helps them learn any new vocabulary or phrasing in the text they may not be familiar with, and it greatly reduces their anxiety about reading it themselves.

Sorting Words by Rime

Spelling B1
In this activity, your Learner sorts words according to their rimes. A "rime" is the part of a word consisting of the vowel sound and everything that follows. For example, the rime of "mop" is "op," and the rime of "strict" is "ict." Focusing the Learner's attention on rimes helps her learn common spelling patterns.

Sentence Dictation

Spelling B1
This activity is similar to Sentence Copying, except that now the sentence is not visible: the Learner must write the entire sentence from memory. We dictate the sentence and the Learner writes it on a piece of paper or a dry-erase board.

Homonyms Intro

Level B1
In this activity you teach your Learner the correct spelling for a particular set of homonyms. Homonyms are words that are pronounced identically but have different meanings, such as "sea" and "see."

Spelling Words with Vowels Visible

Level B1
This activity is a follow-up to Sorting Words by Vowel Spelling, and provides Learners with another opportunity to practice spelling words with significant support. The specific support they receive in this activity is that the vowel spellings for each word are visible: we dictate a word and the Learner writes it, referring to the vowel spellings on the screen to assist them.

Homonyms Practice

Spelling B1
In this activity Learners practice using homonyms correctly. We present the Learner with a sentence containing a blank, and a set of homonyms as word cards above the sentence. The Learner reads the sentence and drags the word card that best completes the sentence to the blank. This activity provides valuable practice understanding the different spellings of homonyms, but is easier than spelling the word from memory. The Learner will, of course, also have the opportunity to practice spelling each homonym from memory.

Sentence Copying

Spelling B1
In this activity, Learners copy one of the sentences from the text they read at the beginning of the unit. As the Learner gains skill, we encourage him not to look at the word in the sentence when writing it. And once the Learner can do that easily, we encourage him to write small phrases without looking at the text.

Spelling Words with Rimes Visible

Level B1
This activity is a follow-up to Sorting Words by Rime, and provides Learners with another opportunity to practice spelling words with significant support. The specific support they receive in this activity is that the rimes for each word are visible: we dictate a word and have your Learner write it. Learners are able to refer to the rimes on the screen to assist them.

Explaining "you're"

Spelling B1
In this activity, Learners are shown that the word "you're" comes from the words "you are." The magic of this activity takes place when she moves the "a" from "are" into the box. It will change into an apostrophe. When the apostrophe is removed it will once again become an "a."

Reading Text

Level B1
In this activity Learners read short texts from fables, folk tales, and poems. This activity comes at the very beginning of a unit. A small number of words from the text are the target words for the upcoming unit. Over the course of a unit the student will practice copying two or three of the sentences from the text. At the end of the unit the student will write from dictation (that is, without seeing the text) one of the sentences from the text.

Explaining "they're"

Spelling B1
In this activity, Learners are shown that the word "they're" comes from the words "they are." The magic of this activity takes place when she moves the "a" from "are" into the box. It will change into an apostrophe. When the apostrophe is removed it will once again become an "a."

Breaking Words Apart

Level A
In this activity, Learners carefully divide eight target words into their individual sounds. After hearing a word, the Learner taps out it sounds, then drags in letter tiles for each sound, spelling the word. Learners will clearly identify which letter or letters go with which sound in the word. For example, the Learner should arrange the letters in "thick" this way: th-i-ck. To reinforce the connection between letters and sounds, we ask the Learner to spell out loud individual sounds or combinations of sounds in the word.

Reading Words With a Target Sound

Level A
In this activity, Learners see a list of words that have a common sound. The common sound, which will be the unit's focus of phonics instruction, can be spelled in more than one way. These different spellings are listed at the top of the screen. To begin, we tell the Learner what the common sound in the word is and show her the list of ways it is spelled at the top of the screen. Then the Learner practices all the words.
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