Part 1 of a three part series for Classroom teachers
I am often asked by colleagues how do I, or we, teach Orton-Gillingham strategies in a whole classroom setting. Let me first say I am a classroom teacher who has been trained in Orton-Gillingham by IMSE. Although, I have many credentials and degrees working with student's of special needs, I currently teach in a "regular" classroom setting. My class size has varied through the years from 24-18.
OG is intended to be used in small groups and one on one. However, on this literacy journey I have embarked on it has proven to me that OG strategies can be and should be used in a classroom setting. As many of you know, I am in the process of completing post-graduate work for my endorsement in Reading.
This 3 part series is intended to share with colleagues how I, and my team, use OG in a whole classroom setting for 1st grade students. I hope you will find the information useful. We have found great success in the classroom setting. Our students are better spellers and readers. All of the children in the classroom are challenged at all times. Teaching OG strategies allows you the ease of differentiation. It is important to note that those of us teaching in a whole class setting do have limitations as we are to adhere to a pace to complete standards that must be taught. Some of my colleagues also have high stakes testing to worry about. For this reason I have split this series into 3 parts: planning, whole class instruction, small group instruction.
Planning is of the utmost importance to have a successful classroom year. This is also the most time consuming up front. I highly suggest you sit with your reading series teacher manual. I assume if you are teaching whole class your school has a reading series that all teachers must use. For our school, the current series is Reading Street.
I use a long range planning template to plan out the whole school year. This is an essential instrument for our team. Once you create your plans, the following years are easy as you just have to tweak dates, and some field trips and adjust for short weeks. We literally refer to this document weekly when we meet as team to plan.
With this plan you should go through your reading series and take notes of the phonics skills they have laid out to teach, the comprehension strategy, and the grammar strategy. Let's also not forget about any other vocabulary that may be important to the story for background knowledge.
We saw a need to move away from memorized weekly spelling lists. Memorization of spelling lists only teaches you how to spell those 10 or 20 words. Instead, we decided to use the OG strategies to teach explicitly the phonics rules weekly. So, using the reading series we sat down with the Recipe for Reading and How to Teach Spelling books and came up with new spelling lists. Using these materials we wrote down the rule so we could communicate it to parents effectively, came up with 10 spelling words that the students would not know ahead of time, 2-3 red words to be included on the test, 2 dictation sentences that will use that week's phonics skill and previous weeks phonics skills, and finally a list of 5 more words and one more dictation sentence to use for the practice test. At times we did change the order of the stories in the series to best teach the phonics concepts,
This will take a lot of time. But once your lists and sentences are done, they are done. You may need or want to tweak them as you go the second year. We absolutely did this.
You also need to have some OG spaces in your room. For example, I have the sand and trays in the back of the room to use with my small groups. I have a container with red crayons and another with red word paper and the plastic needle point sheets in the back of the room. It's near my small group table incase I need to do the red words in small groups. But it's also easily accessible if the class has to get ready to do red words together. My letter/sound cards are here as well.
Around the room on the walls I have sound cards, phonics rules, and COPS. The children are taught from day one that these are all tools and resources I expect them to learn and learn to use.
On the board on the top left corner I have PHONICS RULE and I write the rule and examples of the rule at work. On the board at the lowest right corner I have a the I Can Statements... I can read and spell words that follow this phonics rule....
I also have individual bags of magnetic letters in table baskets, along with one large group of drawers with additional letters. I don't tend to use these in many whole group setting, but rather they are accessible for the students if they need them when making words in small group centers In another corner of the room I have individual white boards and white board thin markers. The 1st graders love these. We sometimes work on making words in circle time, sometimes at our desks during direct instruction, and finally....for lots of fun... I allow them to write on their desks with the white board markers. YES! ON THEIR DESKS...it comes clean with wipes.
I have several games that are always available (Bananas, Apples, Pair to Pears, Scrabble Junior, Boggle, and just Scrabble tiles) in my word work center.
All the students have a Fluency Notebook. I have purchased from Teachers pay Teachers, Emily Gibbons - The Literacy Nest- and Miss Giraffe's fluency files, among other goodies I will refer to over the next few series.
Finally, I have a slideshow I have made with all the red words (individual on each slide). I also have a smart board file that has magnetic letters. We choose the red words most important for 1st graders to use and divided it into our 3 trimesters. Although they are tested weekly on 2-3 words, we also have them read the list at the end of the trimester.
Once you have all of these tools above your ready to plan your week.
I know this is a question many of have asked: What is the daily schedule?
My daily schedule can vary some days but for the most part here is what the week looks like:
7:45am-8:10 am the student's are arriving ... as soon as they are unpacked they begin on Book Club. Book Club is quiet time that we use for sustained quiet reading. You have to teach your students how to do this. How this looks and what is acceptable in your classroom. This is when I bring in some of that good old Daily 5. The children LOVE silent reading time aka Book Club.
8:10-8:45am the students begin work on their morning work. At this time they complete the "Daily Fix It" from our series. I do change up the sentences at times to work with our red words that week. They also complete a page out of their Daily Math. When the students are done they go to their Fluency notebooks. They read their fluency passage that aligns with the phonics rule. They have to read the passage to themselves, highlight the phonics rules, write the words they found on the page, and then they have to find an adult and read the passage to them.
9 we have circle time and this changes day to day:
MONDAYS: circle time we discuss the rule of the week and the story of the week. I introduce the comprehension and grammar skills we will be working on. Finally, I show them how I make words with this phonics skill. I always start with..."I know you know how to spell the sound ____. Who can tell me what are some ways we can spell this sound?" I also have them use their magic finger and draw it up in the air, or "write" it on the rug, etc...
Centers on this day include read the story on their own, word search, journal writing, computer center with Spelling City, working with my assistant, listening to stories, and finally reading with me in small groups. It is in these small reading groups that I bring out the sand trays and work on the multi-sensory part of the instruction. Here is also where differentiation happens. If I have students very advanced who do not need this part of the instruction I skip it. I will caution... they all want to give the sand tray a try in the beginning so I let them show me they can.
You NEED small groups in order to differentiate. There will be some students who need the 3 part drill at this point. There will be students who come in who do not and we go right into reading and focus more on comprehension skills. And of course you have those students who are right on grade level and they will need the 3 part drill with some lessons and with others they just need the practice of making words.
TUESDAYS: circle time we review the rule of the week. After Monday's practice I would say about 1/3-1/2 will have it down...depending on how complicated the rule was...sometimes over 1/2 will have it. On this day the students practice the phonics skill in circle time. Usually they all have their individual white boards. I will say "The word is "train". What is the word?" They respond "train". I then proceed to tap using my fingers the individual sounds to model...usually some of the students do it with me... others wait till I am done and tap it for themselves. When I can see most are done I say "reveal". They show me how they spelled train. I give them thumbs up if they have it right, other times I might say...wow that says tran.... what was our rule again? If they have trouble I direct them to the areas where the rule is written. Other times they "phone a friend" to explain the rule.
Centers on this day include read the story as a group, ABC order, making words activity, computer center for math facts drill, vocabulary, fluency notebook and playing a game with the skill. Of course we still have small group reading because it is likely I did not get to meet with each group on Monday.
Tuesdays are red word days. We start the year doing red words as a whole class. My assistant or a parent volunteer who maybe in class that day, walk around the room to make sure the students are crossing their midline and tapping correctly on their arms. Especially my lefty kiddos. As we get further along in the year, usually mid year, most of my higher students will have the basic 1st grade red words down. So at this point during morning work I will pull the students individually to spell for me the red words for the week. If they know them I don't have them do the red word drill. Then I work with those who don't know them in small groups doing the drill. You could differentiate at this time and give those students who know the words more difficult red words to learn as well. I have don this from time to time.
WEDNESDAYS: this day is nutty. My kiddos who receive support get pulled right away so our morning work changes a bit. My specials interrupt the morning as well. This is another opportunity to differentiate for those higher level students when the support kiddos are out. When the support kiddos are in, it gives me an opportunity to pull them into small groups and work one on one or small group to work on previous skills or skills that have tripped them up. We review red words from yesterday on this day.
THURSDAYS: circle time continues with review of the skill, however it is mostly driven by the students. They teach the class on what the rule is, how they know, what they know. We normally write on our desks this day. Usually, we are sorting rules. For example they may draw three columns if we are learning the phonics rule for igh... They may have a column for i_e, ie, and igh. As we continue to practice with I say you say...tap out sounds...they pick a column and we review why the word belongs in that column.
Centers on this day are similar to Monday and Tuesday. Those in the higher group get differentiation now by working with more difficult words that follow the rule, sorts, comprehension, etc... The average group continues to power through centers of making words, computer, word games, writing, vocabulary, fluency, etc... At this point my lower group or some of my kiddos that need more one on one practice are pulled into my back table to continue practice and application of the rule. This is also an opportunity to review past skills and reinforce lessons.
Thursdays is also the day we give a practice test of 5 words. Very similar to making words in the am. However, the practice paper has sound lines. We review what the sound lines mean prior to beginning. I use IMSE's planning tool for this. Again... I say, you say, we tap sounds. If a student makes an error, they circle the word so mom and dad know what they got wrong. The students correct their work as we go. A dictation sentence is given at this time.
FRIDAY: Test day. We give the students their spelling, phonics, and comprehension test on this day. At the beginning of the year I do a number of accommodations. For the first half of the year, I write out the sound lines on the white board, for each word they are being tested on. For some students they may need paper like the practice test where the sound lines are written the same. I usually pull this accommodation as we move through the year. A few times I have had some very gifted students, and for them I will give them more difficult multi-syballic words for testing.
If someone bombs the test, I of course give them an opportunity to do the test verbally. This can make all the difference for some kiddos with learning disabilities. I also keep notes of who may not have met the phonics skill with 80% accuracy and I focus on that as a review for them the following week. They will continue to see all these skills since we have built our dictation sentences to build upon the skills learned.
This is it.
All packed up for summer.
My room is empty but my heart is full.
Normally this last day of school I am running to the staff luncheon and grabbing a toast. And just as quick I am headed home.
Today I linger.
Longer than even on a usual day.
It's Friday at 4:08.
I can't believe this year is done. Another one in the books.
I looked over my blog from the last day last year. I was heartfelt. I was proud of how far I stretched myself as an educator.
But not today.
Today, I stare at this empty room and think where did my time go. It's a lot like when I dropped my eldest off at college for the first time.
How did it go so fast?
I want more time with them.
I want to make one more memory.
I want to greet them one more morning.
Did I teach them everything I needed to?
These 20 munchkins stole my heart. They truly took a piece of it.
If last year's class pushed me to stretch myself, then this class took me and cared for me. They filled my bucket.
I stare at this empty room and think these are awfully big desks to fill. I don't know how the next class will do it. I don't know what awaits. But I know the 1A class of 2018 set the bar high.
But it's off to enjoy summer. Tutor. Learn more on my Literacy Journey. Prep for next fall. But I think my mind will drift a lot to wonder how my 20 kiddos are doing. I will hold on to the giggles, hugs, smiles, and "best teacher" notes and hope to catch a glimpse of them walking the halls when they visit their new 2nd grade class.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner