Play On! Tips for Effective Practice with Games
Mastery grows through repetition - but it doesn’t need to be boring!
We're getting ready to release our new Game Book, so we've been thinking a lot about games here at Logic of English! The brain learns best through play, so well-designed games are a powerful way to help students gain fluency and automaticity with their skills while having fun. [Nov. 22 update: The Game Book is here!]
Today we want to give you some tips for success in each of the skill areas practiced in the games in our Game Book and curriculum: phonograms, phonemic awareness, reading, spelling, comprehension, and morphology.
Phonograms are key! These written representations of speech sounds, such as a, b, ou, tch, and igh, are the basic building blocks of our written language. Mastering all the sounds of each phonogram is one of the most vital components of becoming a strong reader and speller, and students master the phonograms the most quickly — and enjoyably! — through varied, short, fun, and frequent practice.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Practice phonogram sounds, not the letter names. The sounds are what help students with reading and spelling.
- It’s helpful to keep your Game Cards and Flash Cards sorted into three categories: not introduced, learning, mastered. That way, you can easily find the phonograms you want students to practice.
- For each phonogram game, choose any phonograms that the student or class has been taught. Focus on those that are not yet mastered, but include some mastered phonograms as needed for review and to build confidence.
- Say the sounds of each phonogram in the same order every time, so that students learn them in this order and master the sounds more quickly.
- Shuffle your flash cards regularly to ensure that your students are truly reading each phonogram, rather than memorizing the order you keep them in.
- Choose a variety of game styles, including choosing, saying, and writing the phonograms, so that students practice in different ways.
PHONEMIC AWARENESS GAMES
Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made up of sounds and the ability to identify individual sounds within spoken words. It should be practiced without written text.
- Phonemic awareness is a crucial foundational skill for learning how to read and spell. Make phonemic awareness practice a priority for beginning or struggling readers and spellers.
- Phonemic awareness skills build on each other. Start with more foundational skills and move gradually to more challenging ones as students become comfortable.
- The most basic phonemic awareness skill is kinesthetic awareness of sounds — being able to recognize how different sounds are formed by the lips, tongue, and mouth.
- Blending games are easier than segmenting games.
- Blending whole words into compound words (lunch + box = lunchbox) is easier than blending individual sounds into words (/k-ă-t/ = cat).
- Words with fewer sounds are easier to segment and blend than words with more sounds. Start simple (hat, egg, go, sit) and gradually add complexity by practicing words with consonant blends (clap, rest, through) and multiple syllables (window, music, eraser, wonderful).
Logic of English reading games can be used to practice any words students are learning how to read. We do not recommend asking students to practice reading words that use phonograms and spelling rules they have not been taught, since they are not yet equipped to decode them successfully. Once students have learned the tools they need to decode, their brains self-teach fluency over time as they repeatedly sound out and read words.
- High-frequency words are especially good choices for reading games. Practicing reading these words frequently is beneficial because the ability to read common words quickly and easily is key to becoming a fluent reader.
- The appendix of the Logic of English game book provides lists of sample high-frequency words in order of increasing phonetic complexity. Choose from these words, words found in an upcoming reader, recently taught spelling words, or any other words your students have the tools to decode.
- Don’t rush students or encourage them to guess. Real fluency comes from decoding words frequently so that the brain begins to process the sounds automatically. We recommend allowing students to sound out words any time they need to and as long as they need to.
- When a student struggles with a word, encourage sounding it out and provide help with any phonograms the student is struggling with.
- If a student chooses the wrong sound of a phonogram, misreading a word in a way that is incorrect but phonetically reasonable, ask if that phonogram makes any other sounds and encourage the student to try again.
The goal of spelling practice is not only to build mastery with particular words students are learning about, but also to build fluency in encoding and reinforce the rules for why words are spelled the way they are. So effective practice will strengthen students’ overall spelling abilities, not just help them to memorize specific words.
- Spelling games are practice, not a test. If a student struggles with a sound that can be spelled more than one way, feel free to give a hint through finger spelling or a verbal cue.
- If a student makes a mistake that follows the rules, affirm that it was a logical guess and have the student try again on the next turn.
- If a student skips a sound, help the student segment the word again to hear each sound correctly.
- Pay attention to underlying areas of weakness. If a student is struggling, stop and
provide targeted support.
- Phonemic awareness is a prerequisite for proficiency in spelling. Students will struggle to spell if they cannot break down (segment) words into their individual sounds. With struggling spellers, it is helpful to strengthen these skills through phonemic awareness games.
- Writing phonograms from their sounds is one of the first steps towards spelling mastery; it is “spelling” individual sounds. Be sure to play phonogram games where students hear and write individual phonograms, especially with struggling spellers.
- Spelling is a more difficult skill than reading; therefore, spelling games are inherently more challenging than reading games. Focus primarily on reading, using spelling games as an occasional extra challenge, until students are reading comfortably.
- For students using Logic of English Essentials, we recommend using words from the current lesson’s spelling list and any words from previous lists that students are still mastering.
- If you are teaching Foundations, spelling mastery should be a low priority until students are reading fluently. However, playing an occasional spelling game, with an emphasis on practicing sounding out words and writing them from their sounds, rather than on mastery, can be a great way to build foundational encoding skills and strengthen reading fluency. And for students who are already strong readers, spelling games are an excellent way to provide an extra challenge.
Reading comprehension involves moving through all the foundational skills of decoding a text to determining the meaning of words, phrases and sentences, and an entire paragraph or longer text.
- When practicing reading comprehension skills, it is best to choose words and texts that students have been explicitly taught the tools to decode. If students are struggling to decode individual words, they will struggle with comprehending the text.
- Start with word-level comprehension, such as games where students must read a word and find the object or do the action.
- Once students are easily reading and comprehending words, move to phrases, then sentences, and eventually longer texts.
- If students are still developing beginning decoding skills but are intellectually ready for more advanced comprehension work, be sure to provide comprehension practice with age-appropriate audio books, documentaries, or books that you read aloud to the student. Meanwhile, continue strengthening foundational reading skills through systematic instruction and practice in foundational skills and word-level comprehension until the student develops the skills needed to read at his or her grade level.
Morphology is the study of roots, prefixes, and suffixes and how they work together to form words.
- The goal of morphology practice is to help students become familiar with common morphemes and their meaning and to equip students to make connections between words by looking for morphemes within them.
- Focus on morphemes that students have been explicitly taught (whether in Logic of English lessons or in another curriculum of your choice).
- Familiarity with common morphemes is very helpful for reading comprehension, spelling, and acquisition of new vocabulary, but it is not a foundational skill for reading. Morphemes do not need to be mastered at the same level as phonograms or spelling rules, so morphology should be a lower priority until students are reading fluently.