Build-A-Word & Build-A-Sentence Introduction

Teacher Directed Phonemic Awareness & Phonics If you are new to teaching reading and would like to read about some of the Teacher Directed Lessons I teach with my first grade students to improve their phonemic awareness and phonics skills, please join me.

I have been teaching for three decades and counting and I absolutely adore teaching students how to read and love reading!  Having been a teacher this long has enabled me to hone my skills and over the years I have created and recreated many supplementary resources for my own classroom use. Years ago, I begin sharing my ideas with teachers within my parish. Those were the days when I would make a file of the resources and hand deliver them to my friends. Wow! Times have changed. Now we simply upload and download files from the Internet and print them in our own classrooms in some instances.  EZPZ LEMON SQUEEZY! LOTS OF LAUGHS!

Today I am going to tell you about one of my all time favorite teacher guided lessons that target phonemic awareness and phonics instruction. These lessons are an almost guaranteed daily MUST DO in our classroom!  The only day that we do NOT have a guided lesson is on 'assessment day' when we show what we have learned.

In my teacher opinion, Build-A-Word is cooperative learning at its finest! Students are highly engaged and are using most of their senses from visual, to auditory, kinesthetic and tactile.  The only sense not being employed is olfactory and we may even use that in some instances.  They are moving and grooving to lessons that allow them to get out of their seats and act like a child.  (We'll talk in more specifics about opportunities to be a leader in a different blog post.)

The fantastic thing about these lessons is that they spiral and build on each other from one skill to the next in a gradual progression. Since kids are continually revisiting phonemic awareness and phonics skills, reaching students at all levels seems less stressful and more fun for the students and the least that has been my classroom experience.  

If you give these resources a whirl, let me know what you think about the results you are seeing in your own classroom and click here if you would like a temporarily free copy of the BUILD-A-WORD & BUILD-A-SENTENCE resource from my SAM, COME BACK Supplementary Resource: THE TEACHER PACK!

Even better is that practically every Teacher Pack has four or 
more lessons to correlate with the phonics skills presented in that week's story.  A teacher answer key is always provided and although the phonics skills for the week are followed according to the basal, the goal is to reach ALL levels of learners. There will be be unusual words and also words that are more difficult to spell than the spelling words actually tested for the week.

As you can see by looking at the picture above,  at the top of it you will see the table which 'holds' the letters...I call this our SHELF.  I instruct the student to cut out their SOUND TILES (letters) and to place them on the matching SOUND SYMBOLS that are in the SHELF.  Each student gets one set of sound tiles and cuts them apart and places them on the matching symbols as shown in the above picture.

I can thank my former supervisor, Debbie Clark, for this second part of this teacher directed lesson!  She was a gem! One of Vernon Parish's finest educators!  For the record: One day she sashayed  into my first grade classroom and completed an informal observation on our phonemic awareness/phonics lesson and afterwards, she had some constructive feedback.  She asked me a question: "How could I take a great lesson and bring it to an even higher level on Bloom's Taxonomy...?"  Well, the rest is history. Build-a-Word then had an added a second component and that part became known as Build-a-Sentence.  

When we get to the second part of the lesson, I say: "Whoooooose ready to BUILD-A-SENTENCE!!!!"  (I have an owl themed classroom.) This is the kids' cue to turn their papers over in preparation for the second part of the phonics lesson. This is the point of the lesson that integrates first grade grammar, handwriting, writing and phonics.  Students select their 'favorite' word of the day and write and illustrate a sentence. You will see a great deal of student differentiation taking place in your classroom...or at least you should, if you are pushing students to work at their personal best. Again, students will be working at their own pace and everything from the level of handwriting to art and sentence structure will and should likely vary from student to student.

Please be aware:  I will be adding more information in regards to specifics about this highly effecting teacher-directed activity.  There is so much more to it than meets the eye.

(For the Record:  It is my intention to place these lessons on my YOUTUBE Channel so that teachers and parents may see the lessons in action. These lessons will not be available until I teach them, so check back in mid-August.  You may not be able to see my students (b/c of privacy issues), but I do intend for you to listen to me and the students as we are going through the lesson.  There is so much that I cannot fully explain, you need to hear it and see me making the hand motions and such.  It will give you a more full explanation as to the how and why Build-A-Word / Build-A-Sentence is such an amazingly effective best practices teaching strategy.

(For Your Information:  I have created TEACHER PACKS for each of the stories in the READING STREET FIRST GRADE Series.  Within each are supplementary materials to augment the basal curriculum.  Within the pack are included a minimum of four and sometimes more lessons to do within the week of that story.  The lessons contain the focus phonics foundational skills included in the basal for the week.  It has been my experience that after my students have had four in-depth days of teaching the skill, they are prepared to be assessed.  Since the students have been spelling words far more difficult than the actual spelling words being assessed, most students will do quite well on the spelling word dictation assessment.

Just my two cents....

  • In some first grade classrooms, the teacher exclusively gives a bubble in test.  That is fine when you are teaching during a very short week and have had only a couple of days to work on a skill, but for the most part I highly encourage teachers to administer a 'real' dictation spelling test.                                     
  • Call out the word and have the student write it on paper.  One way they may excel in learning to spell is through application.  The second half of the school year, add sentence dictation to the list. (Sentence dictation is another blog post in the future.)
  • I know a dictation spelling test takes longer to administer and takes even longer to grade, but it is well worth it ~ in my professional opinion.  Most students feel more accountability for their learning and it shows in their spelling knowledge of sound symbol relationships.  
  • Just remember:   Learning to read, write and spell isn't easy, in fact, it is difficult for the typical first grader.

  • Also, Part 2, Build-A-Word / Build-A-Sentence is an excellent student work sample to place in their portfolio at various points throughout the year to show growth.  Keep their very first sample.  Compare again at mid-year and year-end.  I pinky-promise, you will be amazed at the growth!  You will be so proud of your students and they will be so proud of themselves and you will also be proud of yourself!  (Taking the time to be an effective first grade teacher takes work, but these pre-made lessons can help you shorten your prep-time and lower your stress level!  Let me help you, I am here for you week in and week out, sharing tips and tricks that have helped me to become a successful and happy first grade teacher.)

If you would like to stay abreast about how I implement reading in my classroom as far as phonemic awareness and phonics are concerned, feel free to drop me your email.  

I will be posting primarily about how to help the beginning reader, writer, speaker, and listener. If this is of interest to you, please feel free to join me.  If you wish to become part of my mailing list for freebies for first grade teachers, you can either grab this free spelling resource for Sam, Come Back! 

If you have questions, PLEASE feel free to ask them. I am more than happy to help you in any way I can.  Just email me and I will get back with you ASAP.  If you are a first grade teacher within my parish, I don't mind if you come into our classroom to observe a lesson in action!  Just ask! :)

The next blog post will be specifics in regards to how I personally teach the phonics skills as presented according to in Sam, Come Back! 

FYI:  I, too, use ®Reading Street basal as one of my primary teaching resources at this present time, which is why I had to make all those Teacher Packs!  Wow, they were work, but I needed them!  My husband was like, "And how much more clip art can you possibly need?!?!"  I did put in some elbow grease, and I have been reaping the rewards since.  but if you teach from this particular series, you can benefit from using them too.  You can just about bank on a set of four supplementary phonemic awareness/phonics lessons provided week in and week out for the most part with each TEACHER PACK.

Nonsense Word Fluency (Pumpkin Theme)

There are six Blackout Bingo Student Cards in each Nonsense Word Fluency Set.  I always have 6 kids at my R.T.I./Reading Group table. (If I ever try to have less, my students tell me:  THERE IS ROOM FOR ANOTHER STUDENT MRS. LENAHAN...THIS IS DEDICATION my teacher friend!  Be that teacher where students WANT TO BE learning and want to come to reading group.  You will feel so thrilled to see such excited little faces!  My students simply cannot wait to get to the table and play. This is NO JOKE!  Yes, I typed the word PLAY!  First grade classrooms should be filled with play.  Learning should be presented in a playful, non-threatening manner.  Playing kids are learning kids.  {Side NOTE:  Your students should be able to explain/verbalize why they are practicing nonsense sure they know why.  My students fully understand that we are perfecting our sounds.  We are training our brains to automatically pick out those sounds/patterns...Teachers call this automaticity.  If a supervisor asks your students why they are practicing nonsense word fluency, could your students verbalize the correct response?  Could your students explain this to their parents?  If not, I would make this clarification with my firsties.}

This game is such an EZPZ teacher tool.  Simply watch your students as they are playing {Teacher pedagogy refers to this as KID WATCHING...right away you SEE and HEAR their phonics strengths and weaknesses...You can guide them and give them IMMEDIATE feedback while they play...You can also listen and watch as children PEER TUTOR one another.}  

Such an amazing little resource that reaps so many rewards in the area of phonemic awareness and phonics skills!  Don't miss out!  In my own first grade classroom, I use the Reading Street Basal Series and included in each set is a coordinating BLACKOUT BINGO SET, but because Blackout Bingo is such a hit, I also use themes that are NOT related to the reading series but rather have to do with the seasons/holidays/events that are pertinent in the life of a typical first grade student.  

Below is one of four sets of CALLING CARDS included in this particular theme.

I want my RTI groups to use different resources from their REGULAR READING GROUP time...BUT please beware...all the regular reading groups will STILL want to play with the resources the RTI Group uses. One of the perks of being an RTI KID, well you get to use the RIT Resources first and the rest of the class uses them if that is a choice they want during reading groups.

These games are super kid friendly and teacher prep friendly.  Way easy to prep for.  Thank goodness!  Week in and week out you know how things are going to unfold.  Same routine, just a new theme.  Just print, laminate and trim.  I use my personal printer, an in-home laminator, and small paper cutter.  I like all my resources to look neat and professional and be durable enough to use for several years.  Because I have made so many sets of blackout games, I can almost do them in my sleep!  I am always thrilled to have these resources because these props help make teaching reading phonics skills almost effortless....If your students, including your most struggling readers are dreading small group reading...YOU NEED to revamp some of your resources.  Drop in whenever you can!  Mrs. Lendahand tries to make you a new NWF each week!  Enjoy!

There are usually 24 sets of mini NWF Cards.  The teacher uses these cards to call out the words that are located randomly and repetitively on each of the students' NWF cards.  I like to call these cards CALLING CARDS.  

When a student completely fills in their card with their BINGO CHIPS (BINGO MARKERS) the student calls out BLACKOUT BINGO.  Play continues until the teacher calls out the last word.  Sometimes a student will NOT have filled in their card because they overlooked a word or were not listening (BY THE WAY: Blackout Bingo is great for improving listening students know I do NOT repeat words more than twice-which encourages them to really listen!)  If a student misses some words this is OUR procedure: {Always customize things to suit your teaching style...none of us our cookie cutter teachers...just remember!  Kids like routines, but the brain also likes NOVEL...make it fun, make it memorable! Make kids crave those silly crazy little things we do, like blurting out BLACKOUT BINGO!}
(1) The student SAYS / CALLS OUT the words he/she failed to find.  (This may happen to one or several kids....Rarely does every child get a BLACKOUT BINGO the first go-round, especially my R.T.I. Group.)
(2) Next the teacher flashes each NWF Card and the group together names the words....When a missed word is called out the teacher makes sure the student makes the time moves on peers will be prompting each other and the STUDENT THEN COVERS UP THE MISSED WORD with a BINGO CHIP.  Play continues in this manner until each and every child says BLACKOUT BINGO.  Every kid feels like a winner even if he/she wasn't the FIRST BLACKOUT BINGO WINNER!
(3) When time allows...students will play another game.  Each student stands up and moves over one chair; the game card stays put and rather the student moves to a new card.  {Sometimes we play only once, sometimes twice, and we have been known to play it three times in a row...if the kids are on a roll!}  When we only play it once, then we move on to other games like ROLL and READ, or MEMORY, or I HAVE WHO HAS!  Be sure to have lots of coordinating games.  Otherwise, you may have some bored kids!  I would much rather take the time to make a few games ahead of time and have happily engaged learners rather than the opposite!
(4) The teacher makes sure the game moves along rather rapidly to ensure fast and fun learning while at the same time making sure students have enough time to grasp phonics skills.

These are the BINGO CHIPS for this particular theme.  The children use these coordinating markers to cover up the nonsense words!

Learning sounds has never been easier or more fun.  Week in and week out students are busily practicing and perfecting skills.  Students never become bored of the repetitiveness because the themes change.  Kids love the variety and I hope you do too!


This resource includes 6 cards to support your R.T.I. Reading Groups at your TEACHER TABLE:)