How One Teacher Applies the Science of Reading In Her Classroom

Susan Case was a recent participant in my course How To Teach Reading and Spelling: Bringing the Science of Reading into the Classroom. Her experience while in the course, practical application of what we learned, and growth she observed in her students is poignant and shows how we can use this scientific method with our own students to see real measurable growth! To get a taste of her experience and what you will learn in my course please read below:

Wow! What an eye opener. I first heard of “Science of Reading” on a social media post. I then started digging deeper and discovered a three hour introduction course with Sasha Borenstein. Of course I was hooked and needed to know more. I was able to get my teaching partner on board so we could flood first grade with the foundational skills needed for fluent reading.

There is so much information and skills that I need to practice and perfect to feel more confident with this method of instruction. I would like to reflect on a few of the skills I was able to teach to my first grade students. Given the short amount of time left in our school year I was able to teach the vowel staircase, word chains, syllables, and multiple sorting games.

When I was first introduced to both consonant pairs and the vowel staircase, I struggled with the importance of students needing this. Our current curriculum does not place enough emphasis on these needed skills. I didn’t know I was doing anything “wrong” until I realized there is a better way. After practicing and using the vowel staircase with my students I was blown away with how helpful it was for them. Students were able to refer to our chart multiple times when needed. It was especially helpful when using it to correct students using feedback dialogues. Students were starting to self-correct!!

During a small portion of my school day I was able to work with a small group of students that were in need of an extension in their reading skills. While most of these students were strong decoders and readers, they lacked true fluency. We

worked with word chains to build that phonological awareness. It was great fun to challenge these kids with something that had never been presented to them before. It was easy to treat it as a game and challenge them to think in new ways and explain their thinking.

My favorite portion to teach this year was the syllables. There are so many other resources that help supplement syllabication. Once we built a foundation, I was able to build upon that and we could learn new rules and look for patterns based on syllables. For example my students were able to find the /ee/ sound like in bunny and explain to me why you use a “y” to spell that sound. They could tell me that it needed 2 syllables, it uses a y to spell the /e/ sound, and that it comes at the end of a word. I love that they are able to explain the rules rather than memorizing words. Another “y” rule that they were able to explain was the “y” says /ie/ like in sky. They knew that if it was a single syllable word with an /ie/ sound at the end it would be spelled with a y. The expectation was that they would become the teacher, show their word and explain to the group why they were sorting it into a certain column. If I thought a student might need extra help, I would have others model first so they could see an example before being called on.

I am excited to refine and build my skills over the summer to be ready and prepared this fall. I am confident that given all these tools and more my students can be true fluent readers with decoding skills that I have not been able to impart in years past.

I will be working with two student teachers this next school year. I hope to encourage and impart the wisdom of “Science of Reading.” They don’t know what they signed up for joining me in first grade. I have my work cut out for me.

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