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The Decodable Book Webinar Series

Decodable Books: Differentiated Instruction

Webinar #3

Decodable Books: Differentiated Instruction

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Event code: differentiation

Webinar # 3: Differentiated Instruction


Welcome! And thank you for joining us for the third in our webinar series, “Differentiated Instruction.” I’m Elise Lovejoy, the CEO of Express Readers a TK through second grade foundational skills and reading program and a series of decodable books. Luckily, and, and fortunately, I’ve been joined today by Nancy and Sheryl from Sortegories who are going to share their knowledge with us about differentiated instruction and why it’s important. So, they will begin in just a moment before they start. 

I wanted to review what decodable means, because especially when we’re talking about differentiated instruction, it’s so important for us to remember what this actually means. Decodable is based on the child that is reading. So it is the skills that they have been taught, what they have learned, and what they have absorbed. So if we’re looking at the basic alphabet, we’re looking at the basic sounds that are spelled by each one of these letters, usually starting with the, the more simple consonants and short vowels. So these are the sound spellings for each one of these letters, the basic sound spellings. Decodable means let’s say a child knows all of these, then we are taking those sounds and building words out of that for them to be reading. So if a child knows /h/ – /k/ – /d/ – /a/ – /t/ – /b/, then a child will be able to decode all of these words. These will be “decodable” for them. So by using those sounds in a book or in decodable text or in a game, we are providing a decodable practice source for that child. 

When we’re talking about text and books, oftentimes we’ll see sight words, no matter what those are called by the series that you’re using, high-frequency words, out-of-sequence word we at Express Readers, we call them sticky words, heart words. It’s something that is either not decodable yet or has an irregular spelling that the child will have to, to learn or map. So looking at the sentence, “the bad cat was a tad hot.” I would be showing which of those words were sight words or sticky words, in this case, and then be using as many of those decodable words or sounds that I can so that the child can actually practice the skills that they have or that they’ve been learning. So if I have these sounds, I’m not going to use words that are using either a different sound spelling or a different sound for that spelling or that, that have other sound spellings in them that the child has not learned yet. By doing that, I’m putting in words in text that the child cannot decode yet. 

So unless it’s a, a sticky word or a sight word. Again, when we look at Scarborough’s Reading Rope, we see, you know, the two sides to make a skilled reader. This language comprehension and the word recognition. Now, I said it before this word recognition, recognition, understanding the sounds and the sound spellings and mapping site where it’s, this is incredibly important and vital to reading because a strong reader uses these skills. However, they’re just sounds unless you have meaning that goes with it, but vice versa. So when you hear somebody say, oh, but we should be using rich text and, and authentic books and literature. Yes, but we can’t expect kids to read it until they have those skills to, to decode the words that are in it. 

As we know, practice makes permanent. So some kids are going to need a lot of repetition and some kids are going to need a little and that’s why this differentiation is so important to our classes because our kids might be at all different skill levels within a scope and sequence and they need to have practice with those skills in application. So not just an isolated or abstract phonics lesson, it needs to be applied in some way. And we know that when a child uses those skills to read, they are using the skills of a strong reader. So if we ask them to practice, not using those skills, if we give them material that doesn’t have the things that we’ve taught them in our phonics lessons or when we’re dealing with sight words and irregular spellings, then we are asking children to use other strategies to read. And really by saying that they’re not reading, they’re guessing they’re skipping a word, they’re looking at the context, they’re not looking at the letter patterns or the, the phonic structures that are in words. So a child that has a CVC understanding, like a consonant-vowel-consonant, just those letters of the alphabet …like we were talking about their basic sound spellings. They’re not going to read: “The fly is very sweaty.” I’m going to give them a book with “The hut is a tad hot.” I want them to connect what they’re doing in my class to the actual reading that’s happening for them. They need to apply it just like that repetition. They need to apply it multiple times in order to absorb and make it automatic so that they have fluency. They can understand what they’re reading. They’re not decoding every single time. 

So why is this decodable important to differentiated instruction? Well, first of all, equity. If we are not giving materials to kids that we’ve given them the skills to read we’re not giving them equity, in accessing information, in applying their skills, and having the practice that they deserve and should have. Empowerment because if you are constantly giving a child material that you haven’t taught them how to read, it’s defeating. It can feel like they’re a failure again and again and again. It’s access. So that language comprehension piece, we might be giving them access by reading it to them. That’s wonderful. But if you are expecting a child to read something to access information, you need to give them something that they can read in order to access information. It’s data-driven. We’re going to talk about it later. But with assessments and looking at where your kids are in a scope and sequence, you’re looking at the data and then finding resources and applying that for their practice needs. So you’re using assessment and the data from that assessment to actually implement the correct or the best resources for those kids. And it’s flexible. We hear again and again and again. Well, “every child needs something different” and this is true. We have different personalities. We have some kids that, that need a quieter voice and a gentler hand. And there’s so many differences in our kids. However, we do know from the science that the brain processes text in almost the same way in, in the majority of our students. So by being flexible and choosing material where they’re at, we’re providing what each child needs in our class. I’m not saying it’s easy. It, it’s quite difficult and that’s why I always say teaching is one of the most difficult jobs out there. But, but it is required in order to give our kids an equitable education because equity is ensuring that all students have the access to the curriculum being taught and that includes being able to read any material that’s required to access the knowledge. So if you are giving, even a high schooler who has only a basic understanding of phonics, a text that is way above where they can actually read, you are not giving them access to the knowledge that you’re requiring them to know or that they should get to know. 

So, on that note, I’m going to turn it over now to Nancy and Sheryl from Sortegories


Thank you, Elise, for inviting Sheryl and, and me to be a part of this webinar series that you’re doing and in particular to invite us for this topic, because this topic is one that’s near and dear to our heart. And this is a topic that probably has the greatest potential to contribute to accelerating learning and to increasing mastery on the part of a lot of our students. So we’re very excited to be with you and hopefully we’ll add a little bit to this understanding of what differentiated instruction is all about. 

So, what Sheryl and I would like to discuss for the next few minutes is “why differentiate?” And Elise’s already alluded to some of the points, but to really stand out to us. And that is that we can maximize instructional time when we become strategic about what we’re teaching, and we can maximize learning outcomes, which is really what we are all about. We want to also look at the relationship between data, which will tell us what the student might need to, to work on. And we’re going to talk about how that data might look. Instructional focus tells us how we might need to teach it. Not all students need to be shown things in exactly the same way though. The point Elise made that we know pretty much how kids learn to read is pretty settled science, but there are things that we can be emphasizing instruction that can vary and then a real important variable that is particularly important in Sortegories is about practice that often we don’t appreciate or maybe don’t attend to the amount or the type of practice that we provide. And then the third thing we want to touch upon is meaningful practice across multiple domains of, of learning. of literacy learning, including the decoding, which is of course accurate and automatic access to the printed word, but also those other parts at least mentioned, which is understanding vocabulary, what they mean. And what happens when we put words together into syntactic structure. So that’s what we’re going to touch upon albeit briefly. 

Within the last month or so, Linda Diamond, formerly of CORE wrote an article about small-group instruction and mastery learning and included this 1968 quote from, from Bloom. And I think what’s significant in this is that back at that point, the emphasis was on looking at individual differences and differentiated instruction is all about looking at those differences and more importantly, doing something about them. And then recently, Dr Stephanie Stollar from the Reading Science Academy translated this idea about the real, the goal of differentiation and why it’s so important into this graphic. And we thought it might be nice to just hear her tell us what this is all about. “Hi there, this is Stephanie Stollar. I wanted to speak to the infographic that you see on the slide here. This really came from reading an article by Sharon Vaughn and Jack Fletcher that was published by AFT in 2020. They articulated the idea that the lack of fluency and text creates a bottleneck that sends students into a negative cycle that you see at the bottom of this graphic. We know that students who spend time reading, learn new vocabulary through reading. They learn new content, they increase their fluency, they even improve their reading comprehension, all the good stuff that we want. But students who aren’t fluent in text don’t get access to that good stuff. If your reading is slow and effortful, you spend less time reading. You learn less new vocabulary and content knowledge. You understand less of what you read. So reading is less enjoyable for you. Therefore, you spend less time doing it and the negative cycle repeats itself. Differentiated instruction and practice can break this cycle. So that’s what’s depicted at the top of this graphic. We know that reading comprehension depends on effortless, automatic and fluent reading. The way to move students from reading accurately to reading fluently is through practice. And this depends on teachers having good assessment data that helps them differentiate “Where are students in this sequence?” From accurate reading to fluent reading to reading comprehension, students will demonstrate to you in a variety of ways which stage of this learning hierarchy are they in. So teachers can use that assessment data to differentiate their instruction and match their instruction to where students are on this instructional hierarchy so that they can deliver the right kind of instruction, with the right type of practice, that will eliminate the fluency bottleneck and actually give students access to skilled reading comprehension. So they’re more likely to spend time reading, and they get to access all of the good things that come from that.” 

So another way of looking at part of what Dr Stollar was just telling us is that the amount of practice is related is it really exists on a continuum. And that part of our, the art of teaching is to determine and, and differentiate how much practice, what type of practice, and on what skills we need to be working. And this little graphic is designed to show that some students may need only a few trials. Some students need many trials and and both situations are important and that it’s probably just as inequitable to have students who understand things do many trials when they only need a few. So I think we want to broaden this idea to be not only for students who may be struggling, but students who may be ready to be flying at a faster pace. 

So one of the things that we wanted to, to share, and I think why Elise invited us, is that we wanted to expand how we can respond to the need for differentiated instruction. And for sure, when we’re working in a decodable text program, we’re working initially on being sure students have the code to read the words out of context. That is they can read them accurately and automatically. And then we want the students to be able to take those words as at least illustrated and now read them in context. But Sheryl and I found in our work over the years that there’s a whole lot of space for practice of differing kinds, for differing reasons between the individual words in the text. And we created this grid of activities that we’ll describe here in a moment. But these activities are really designed to get us through many layers or many dimensions of what it means to know a word. So for example, at the phonological level, we listen to the sounds asked and we have that word, which you’re probably saying in your mind is “cast,” then we associate the letters that go with those sounds to come up with that word in print. And then, we also know that that word in print could also be called a syllable if it’s part of a longer word like “castaway” or “recasting.” And then we have to go to the next level. And this is particularly important for our multi-language learners and perhaps for students who’ve had fewer opportunities to hear a rich spoken language because we have to be sure they’re learning the multiple meanings of words like “cast,” the thing you wear on your leg when it’s broken versus the group of people who put on a play versus the action when you’re going fishing and throwing the line into the water. Another place that we need to spend some specific instructional time and it doesn’t necessarily show up when reading. Just individual words is what happens when we add endings like -s or -ed or -ing where that is going to change what the text means if we skip them or if we spell those things incorrectly. And last, but not least we want to focus on what happens when we put words together in text to create phrases or sentences or connected text. And that is fits broadly into this category called syntax. 

So that illustration that word knowledge network we’ve translated into this grid of activities. The first row of them deals with those first few items on the word knowledge network, which are the sounds in the relationship to spelling. And we have three activities in Sortegories that work on that part of the word knowledge network. The next row of activities goes into that semantics area. which is what, what happens to words when we think about their opposites or their synonyms or when we talk about semantic categories or maybe we want to become a little more challenged and put them into a, a verbal puzzle like this is to this is this is to this, which is the analogies. And then our last row of activities does what I was saying with morphology and syntax, which is, it’s we need to also pay attention to what happens, what we need to learn in these other three domains. And what’s important within Sortegories though. And the connection to what Elise is doing with this series is that the words that we’re using throughout all these activities are decodable. That is the students, even though they’re moving to other aspects of learning, the words are doing that using words that they can decode. It’s that is the baseline and that is foundational and that if we do all of this takes us from sound to text. 

Now, the same core of layers of what we need to know about words is sort of the centerpiece literally of how we should, we should or can think about assessment. And for each of these areas, we can whether it’s formally or informally assess whether or not the students have skills in this. And this can be done using the beginning of year assessments, it can be done using progress monitoring. And it can also be done as Sheryl is going to illustrate today by paying attention to errors. Sometimes that expression, that errors are a window on the mind at work really is relevant because if students are making mistakes that tells us where we have an instructional inflection point based on that assessment, we can then provide instruction. It might be on when do I put an apostrophe and when don’t I, when I add an S and then we can figure out how much practice, what kind of practice to make available to students. And this is an iterative process. So the data that we get from assessment informs the instruction, practice takes place. And then we can assess again to determine whether we need to keep that sequence going forward. 

So what we’d like to do now is put this idea into some practical examples and I’m going to turn it over to Sheryl. 


Thanks, Nancy. So we’re going to revisit the word knowledge network using some examples from kids. So, Sortegories uses a spelling screener as a possible way to place students into the first row of instruction in those foundational skills. So this is the beginning of the spelling screener and you’ll see the students spelling on the left in the, in the target words in purple. That’s ok, Nancy, you can throw that one up there and then the other one are the what Elise was calling the sight words, high-frequency words. So if you were just to look at this, you would see their spelling and work backwards and say, ok, “what is missing here?” Well, there is some indication of some spelling. Like if you look at the high-frequency words, they have some words memorized. If you look at “cats” and “fat,” those words maybe are memorized or maybe sounded out. Take tell if, if you, if we had a check box or a way to talk, turn and talk, I would want you to talk to your partner and say, “What do you think?” “Did they decode it or did they memorize it?” I would say the student could be a memorizer, because if they can spell “fat” and if they can spell “cats,” they can, should be able to spell “tab” and “bam” using the same phonetic coding skills. In this case, this was 4th grade student who moved in with an IEP and came in with this spelling profile and the teachers rightfully so, were asking, how can I differentiate for this fourth grade student? I would also wonder, think about a moment. Would your answer be different for 4th grade student versus a first or second grade student? In fact, is the way that we teach reading is the same, whether they’re in fourth grade or first grade, we just want to honor the age. So the way to differentiate instruction for this particular student would be working on that segmentation of CVC words, that Elise talked about, starting with the short A and watching the student when they’re reading. Are they keeping their eyes on the text? Are their eyes going into the picture to try to guess the word? Looking at other diagnostic information to see if perhaps they memorized words, and then going back in Sortegories, if you would use this as placement information along with any other diagnostic information that you would have. This student would start in the beginning in row one in Sortegories. So for row one, we have Sound Match, we have Map It and we have Build It. So that’s taking students from phonemic awareness to phonics to word building. So they would be in that decoding row. But as Nancy shared, the more we know about a word, the better a reader they will be, they will practice those same decodable words and vocabulary and learn their meanings and then the same words, not the same words, but the words using the same phonetic fun features will be practiced again in vocabulary and context so that we practice them in syntax as well. At the top of the screen, there’s a QR code. If you want to take a moment to take a picture of that QR code, that will take you right to our website and you will be able to try Sound Match, Map It, and Build It. And it’s just a quick three or four item example of what that particular activity looks like. 

Here’s another example using the word knowledge network and in this case, it was, you would wonder, hm, “Is this a spelling issue or is this a meaning issue?” We’re not sure the student knows the meaning of words. And then if you click again, Nancy, you find out that this is indeed a rising first grade student who his mom is worried about spelling. So, excuse me. Is there a spelling problem? Is it a semantic problem? Is it both or maybe neither? Well, look at the word “third,” you can see the attempt to include the number three in the spelling of “third.” So that student going into first grade likely knows that “third” has something to do with three and they have the, the D at the end, the last sound of third. Funny story is this particular mom was sharing with me that he was so confident when he wrote it, he said, “This is an easy one.” And he wrote it like with a bang, like with lots of confidence. So his confidence increased, I believe because he knew the meaning of the word. So sometimes your observational data will also inform what, where you might go with a particular word on the same spelling inventory. He wrote the word trunk with a “th.” So when you’re wondering about, OK, does he have “th?” Does he have digraphs? Does he have blends? So those are all the questions I’m kind of asking myself. And in this case, I don’t think it’s a semantic problem. I think he actually was using semantics to figure out how to spell the word. So if you’ll click one more time, Nancy, we’ll find out the differentiation here would be to review the digraph “th.” So for Sortegories that’s in level B, the second module, I would also go back though to sorties and level A looking at segmentation for blends. This is how Sortegories is unique. And regardless of whatever program you’re using, you want to get into and look at the scope and sequence so that you can match the scope and sequence of instruction with their errors. So that your differentiation is really laser focused and sharp so that you’re not spending time on things that the student already knows, he probably already knows the meaning of both of these words that might not be something you need to spend time on. But what when you’re in the semantic row, he’s getting more exposure though to words with digraphs and blends. So it’s kind of a win-win situation and he continues to feel confident about his work. So in this case, this student might using so is working backwards from the scope and sequence, which I would do with any product that you’re using. He might benefit from exposure to level B and level A. You could go back and forth. I would start with B to get to get that th in there. First, another example using morphology or word endings is going to come up in this particular text expert. It, this was came out of a, a larger essay and I just clipped this one and that it was they were doing an argument paper and this is, this is an older student is texting bad for grammar. And if you look at this real quick, you might wonder maybe we should be in syntax too. But for this example, we’ll stay with morphology. You’ll notice that “teen’s” has an apostrophe. When kids learn the apostrophe, sometimes they use it to decorate words. So the first thing I teach them is to take them all off, particularly older students. We have a little drying out period where we take where we remove all apostrophes, then I teach them how to put them in strategically. That is the only way I have learned to correct bad habits is to get rid of all of them and then put them back in. So if that works for you, that would be one type of differentiation is to try to get rid of kind of a bad habit. So we do have a decorated apostrophe, what I would call a decorated apostrophe. And then the kids, when they’re editing all other, they would edit each other’s words. They would use that language too. They would say, oh, that’s a decoration that doesn’t, that didn’t change the meaning that doesn’t go with the meaning. So they will tell each other that’s a decoration. You got to undecorated that and they’ll, they, they’ll race that or to cross it up. Also, teams, teams save too much space. So what do we know about? Two? So in that case, we’re back into semantics, right? So there’s lots going on here and then we also have some syntax in here. So you’re really in three areas with this example that we pulled out just for morphology. OK. Go ahead with the next example. In this example, it was an essay about what three reason there was a reason paragraph about how, what makes a best friend, right? So I just thought this was, it was an endearing if I had more time, I would share the whole essay with you because it was really just endearing, but they know how to make you smile when you are depressing. Well, the misuse of ING in this case changes the meaning the child is not depressing, but maybe they’re depressed, right? So then we would have conversation about what the difference in meaning is if you are depressing or you are feeling depressed. So there we would definitely work on some morphology and understanding the differences between the ing and the ed ending. So this brings us to oops, there we go. 

This brings us to row two, which is our vocabulary or semantics row where you can explore, relate it, categorize it or analogy building. And once again, row two reinforces all of the phonology in row one using all decodable texts. And if it isn’t decodable, then it is read aloud. So if you see on the screen chat there, where it says animals, you would click the, the speaker button and it would read animals. You can also go into the glossary which is in the upper right hand corner, which we can’t click right now, but you can do, do that using your QR code. Oh It’s, it’s about there and it will tell you what a cat is and it will read to you the small furry animal with whiskers and claws. So anything that is not decodable is read to the student. So once again, you’re using the phonology of the first row to apply meaning to words, using the same phonology in the vocabulary row. And the QR code is there for you if you want to try those activities. 

So in this case, we’re going to move on to syntax in the word knowledge network to make instructional decisions. I’m going to give you a minute to read this short paragraph. So I underline the last sentence to focus on for syntax. But I just have to say, I love “reasonability” as a, as a word up there on the second line. I just that makes me chuckle when I, when I see because he’s really trying to work out the vocabulary what he that he needs. But to throw him back into morphology again, right? So many of these kids when you’re looking at their writing samples, it’s not a straight line and many times they need instruction in more than one area which is not different here. But if you look at the the line in yellow, this is again a student whose parents it gave away the family dog. And what, what does he need? What kind of instruction does he need? Well, we talked about some vocabulary, some morphology. And what about that last, that last line? “Every sense.” So we have since I have a smile or had fun without faking it. Sometimes you see me smile but it’s not a real one. So the syntax of that is complicated. We would help him with his vocabulary and have help him make the sentence structure a little bit clearer. So you can see he was really pouring himself into this essay. Again, with more time, I’d share the whole thing to you. But he was really was, you could, you could, you could feel him in this essay. It was quite remarkable even though there were errors. so definitely vocabulary and syntax. 

And I said, what else? Because there’s so many other things we could do with the student. What does that look like in Sortagories? When you’re talking about syntax, we we lots of examples in these in the student’s work. we had did a webinar with Nancy Hennessy and she talked to us about dynamic assessments and using the student’s work to work backwards to see what they need. And in this case, we have a lots of opportunity for Morph, morphology, grammar and syntax and phrase building again, the QR code will take you to sample any of those activities. 


Sheryl If I, if I might just jump in, if you, for example, go to Morph sort the example on the website, the try it example and click on the help button in the, which is a question mark in the upper corner within the activity. It will illustrate the difference between apostrophe S and just adding “s” so that students can contrast those situations so that they don’t end up continuing to decorate their writing with apostrophes without understanding why. 


So I just want to point out that in addition to the practice, there’s also some reminders and some explanations to help students with these concept concepts. So anyway, good point answer also, that’s a video which we’re not going to take the time to show right now. But if you go to our YouTube channel, there’s playlists. And if you go under tutoring, you will see a speech and language pathologist teaching the student exactly how to go from to apostrophe. S to s apostrophe. It’s quite impressive in a short amount of time. He was definitely working through it to figure out the differences. So why practice, you know, we heard Elise say it, we heard Stephanie say it, this is about access, right? 

Practice can come in many forms, it can come through decodable text, which I’m so proud of Elise for what she’s doing with Express Readers and it and other decodable text companies that you’re meeting through this webinar series because decodable text is exploding in a good way. So there’s lots of opportunity to find really great decodable text. Decodable text can also be found in, in a a product like Sortegories works with decodable text companies where we that’s why we’re on the same webinar. We’re not competitors. We want to all work together in the same direction to provide different products that can make differentiation doable. And for us, we really want to make differentiation doable through using data to increase the probability of what learning, right? We we, we need kids to, to we need to close the practice gap so we can increase student achievement. So we want kids to be automatic so that they’re not using up all that cognitive energy. That is really zapping their reading comprehension. 

So we want everything to be automatic and that only comes with practice. So here Louisa Moats is going to talk to us. She reviewed Sortagories, which we were so, so just thrilled that she did that. And when you think about differentiation, she makes the point that we want to make sure she’s going to refer to these silos that what it really takes to learn a word is not just Sortegories row one, we have to go from sound to syntax with all kids. “We want to make sure that we are raising the bar for all kids and not keeping them kind of at that lowest level because maybe they, you think they can’t do an analogy because we find out that they absolutely can’t. And it’s just so great the way you and Cheryl have integrated these layers of language into all of these activities. So it’s just so much more than basic decoding and that’s exactly what we’ve always needed not to have this artificial separation among the aspects of language that kids need to know. And it’s just so beautiful what you’ve done.” And what we’d like to do is share with you what we have done. And that is on the, on our website, on our Word Knowledge Network, you can get a principal card that will help you maybe with your lesson planning. So what I would recommend is you take, go to our website and you print that decodable car and keep that with your planning. So that when you have a Leis decodable text, you’re saying, OK. What can I do in phonology? What can I do in syntax? And it, it’s just a little reminder, right? 

While you’re doing your planning, I’d stick it right in your lesson plan book. Also, we want to offer you a free trial. So if you go to what is Sortegories that QR code, you can get a free trial. And, and it will show you all these things in your code, event code for the free trial is “differentiation.” So the website there is in blue if the QR code isn’t friendly to you and use the code differentiation and then we’ll get that free trial to you. We would love for you to try that. Thank you for our portion. I really appreciate it. Our contact information is here and I know that Elise is going to include some of this information as well in the show notes. So don’t worry if you’re not catching all of this. 

All right. So honestly, I, I’m, I’m so appreciative to companies and I know I’ve said it before and companies like, all these incredible book authors that are doing this and, and so who are trying to make it so that we can reach as many kids as possible at where they are, meet them where they are. You heard a lot about from sort of go from Sheryl and Nancy about looking at what kids are doing and using that to assess for usable data. So not just assessing to have this record of how your kids are doing or, or you know, something to give to the parents or your principal, but something that you can actually utilize to help your kids in real time, along with that. And I think what they said was a spot on. I wanted to do this while they were saying it, “spot on.” That they were talking about using the errors that kids are making to identify where those gaps are to really looking at what kids are doing. And I think what a powerful way to do it, to use a game because you’re not just sitting a child down to assess you’re, you’re pulling information from something that they’re actively involved in. I do want to mention just so, you know, because we have a free online assessment dashboard that has phonics inventory on it. through our main assessment, anybody can use it no strings attached. But the reason I put it out there is because it’s so important to know where our kids are at. And just like, like we were hearing from Nancy and Sheryl, we have an error report in there so that you can start to see what it is that kids are missing, not only what they’re missing, what, what they can do is wonderful. And, and we love to see where their successes are and where their progress and their growth. But we need to see where the gaps are and identify those so that we can give them the differentiated practice that they need. Because we also then of course, have a, a report where you would see exactly where they are. It is within our program, but we give you this “details about a suggested step.” So it’ll tell you kind of where they are, what they know based on that inventory. And I just tell you that because I know that we all need tools that we can use to help identify where our kids are and, and that’s not always easily accessible. Hopefully, you have one or you’re using something like sort of where you can, can see what our kids are doing in real time that need to be practiced and, and used in there for specifically for them. 

But why is decodable important to differentiated instruction and, and I loved hearing about how words are so much more because I never think that we’re just decoding when we use a book or a text. I immediately think that we’re decoding so that we can comprehend the text that we’re, we’re reading, we’re using that decodable text for fluency. We’re using it for all different kinds of things. But using decodable text when we’re asking kids to do other things is so important. Why? Well, we’ve got “topics.” If you’re reading it to kids and you’re giving them the access, that’s wonderful. But if it’s something that you’re asking them to read about or to be involved in to give their own opinion based on text, we need to be giving them things that they can actually read. “Comprehension skills.” So recall, inference, evaluation, things that they themselves are doing with the text. Obviously, again, a read aloud, a reading to a child is one thing and I think that’s, that’s how we initially start that practice for them and we show them and we, we work through that. But, but to have a child actually be able to do it themselves in their own reading is, is important to start from the beginning. But we need to give them checks that they can read fluency. Like you heard Nancy talking about there. Is this or? Well, Stephanie too or I’m sorry, I should say Dr. Stollar. I, I don’t know her on the terms of “Stephanie.” But as she so brilliantly said, it’s a bottleneck if we can’t get kids fluent. If they are continually decoding, now, don’t get it wrong. Decodable text requires decoding, but decoding becomes automatic with that practice. So the fluency can then be done with words that our kids are mastering with the sound spellings that they’re mastering. And, and “literature elements.” So the story elements, you know, where character, plot scope and, sorry, sequence. I’m so I’m so trained on saying “scope and sequence.” Sequencing, beginning-middle-end, anything like that. I mean, we, we do want kids to be able to use their own material to pull that information as well. 

So as you’re, as I’m going to show you with all these publishers, all these incredible resources that we have, you could do a variety of things with them. So if we’re looking at topic, like maybe we’re talking about jobs in our class. And so here you’ve got a variety of people talking about vets or books, talking about vets or experiences at the doctor. It, it’s giving a child and they themselves can read to add into the conversation activities. OK? We’re talking about baking. So here are a bunch of different stories about baking. You can also obviously use nonfiction. But I, what I’m showing you right now are fiction examples that maybe have some realistic fiction in them Animals. So now these are nonfiction and fiction included but talking about habitats or, or different, different animals on its own or, or babies, moms and babies, you know, that’s a common topic in kindergarten. But how do we give a child something that they can read more? Maybe it’s after your lesson and you want them to extend that and to show you that they’re pulling information from text. And so you’ve got your bucket of, of books by, by topic, but you have them sorted so that the kids know which ones they, they themselves can read. 

And that’s not saying, don’t explore books because I am all about exploring books. I’m just saying required reading. Recall using any book based on the skill set that that child has to do any kind of activity like this so that a child is pulling that information for themselves. So after you’ve done it with them and you’ve done your read aloud and you’ve done your classroom text, they are getting to do it on their own. They’re also being empowered to find information in a book and to use the other knowledge that language comprehension knowledge about their literature skills to do these kinds of activities. But with a text at their own decodable level, like I said, train that we need all different kinds of practice. And one of them is by reading again and again, a rereading or reading multiple texts with the same phonic skills. So here are a bunch of them with just CVC words again and again, having that place where kids can go to, to read, maybe they’re reading it to, they pick their book and then they read it to multiple partners, but practicing again and again. So that automaticity, [oh that word drives me crazy]. So that, that comes on as they absorb those skills and have practiced it enough times to master it in fluency in different ways. 

So looking at the decodable graphic novel or in the, the Orca Two Read when they use the comic book format, so kids are focusing less on the decoding and more on their voice or making the voice of a character. So we’re practicing fluency in different ways but with a text that is still decodable for them. A lot of companies including Simple Words and we have one as well. I know Whole Phonics and I’m sure that I’m missing some DOG ON A LOG have like a readers theater and we call ours “Express Theater.” It’s plays that are done with decodable text at various levels. So for various levels, I mean, so kids who can read a specific set of phonic skills, can you use this and have a play of their own. Again, when you’re not focusing so much on the actual decoding, but your voice and the expression kids start to utilize their skills without focusing so much on utilizing their skills. It becomes this automatic source doing the story elements. So this is a, a word with short or a book with short vowels and blends, but you can use any book. So if you’ve got kids that are doing that or you’ve got kids in long vowels using different books so that you could then do the same activity. You might have done the read aloud and you’ve talked about character and adjectives and traits and then you do an activity where they themselves get to do it using their own book. Here we’ve got a couple and, and lots of these resources will be available to you on the web page when we tomorrow when it goes live, but having different ways to practice character. 

So this is for an older student, Simple Words Books. They have a lot more words on a page, but it’s at the phonics level that that child is. So we are differentiating the instruction for them and their practice that goes with it. Here. I’m going to show you a couple different, using this problem and solution. This, the page is only the “problem” side of it. I didn’t put the “solution” side, but the Rex Runs Off! series is often used with older kids. The font is a little bit smaller. There’s more to a page that the topics are a little higher than, than the ones. But using that for this problem and solution or using a book that has this one is vowel teams, basic vowel teams to do it, or something like “Jake the Snake” from Phonic Books LTD, where they have the complex vowel teams and they’re using it to do the same activity. You can vary these activities using a decodable book or decodable text. At that child’s level. 

We did talk about small group basics the last time and differentiated reading groups is I, I believe so important. Anita Archer talked about doing small groups and saying that, you know, 3 to 8 is a, a great number and that that it’s so important to identify the skills that those kids need and, and what they need in those, those groups so that you can spend that more personal time. And obviously with kids that need more support, you can have less kids to a group. But so by showing you this here, I’m saying you may be done Sortegories and you’ve realized that there are some gaps or there are kids that are only on these places, they’re missing these phonic structures or they’re just working on them, they haven’t mastered them yet. Or you’ve done an assessment that shows you that and then you pull these reading groups, it can be flexible. A child isn’t stuck in a group all year long, but they’re, we don’t want to leave them without some piece of, of their foundational skills. So these kids have all these different groups and in those groups, you can have different books at those different levels. It’s so important to have different material for those groupings. So now, not only can they do it in a differentiated reading group and you can use that to do various topics. But you can also have it in a place where they know they have this entire row of books that they can choose, that they can read themselves again, back with, back to empowerment and equity and access. So just by seeing all of these books that from all these different companies in each one of these sections, you can start to see and we will go over in Decodable Libraries, how you kind of start to, to put different books into different groups so that kids continue to practice their skills at the level that they’re at, where the skill set that they need to practice. 

And so again, I’m so appreciative that that so many of you joined us, because we want to think of all of our kids obviously having the same chances and the same opportunities. But, but this is a complex and multilayered topic for teachers. It is, it is not this easy to say this and to have this happen. So Sortegories again, so grateful for what they have for us. And I’ll get to that slide in a minute, but to have something where we can give practice to children, and we can ask them to practice at the, at the where they are, where we can meet them is so important and to have it already be done for you and something like so is so incredible. 

I want to say thank you to all the authors that are involved in this. I didn’t show their books as much this time because it was a little bit of a different topic, but again, still so, so appreciative for everything that they’re doing to put this kind of material out. I heard someone say the other day, “Oh, well, kids should be reading books by real authors.” I promise you every one of these women is are and it is women, are, are real authors and doing an incredible job. So again, I’ve put this all here, I will make sure that all the information about Sortegories is available on the web page that goes live tomorrow. So, so appreciative for not only them allowing us the opportunity to listen and learn about it, but for creating it because this is the kind of material that’s going to help move the needle for us in our classrooms. 

And so you remember tomorrow, the web page will go live we’ll have any files that you can download all the links to all the publishers and the quiz will be available for PD credit right there. You can just fill it out and, and submit it to us. We’ll send it to you. And if you do like the webinar, there are still four more. So on, on our website, you can go look up the webinar series and register for any of them. Make sure you get a sample of the Express Readers books. We send out hard copy samples. We’d love to send you one and that’s about it. So, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so appreciative. Thank you, Nancy and Sheryl. This has just been incredible.

Decodable Book Webinar Series

Webinar #3: Differentiated Instruction

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