Before becoming Orton-Gillingham trained, I rarely reviewed. I “taught” my spelling features for the week and then expected my children to magically remember those rules forever. I was still using leveled texts, so there was no review of skills in connected text. I knew I needed to do more, but I didn’t know how to make it all fit into my day or even what activities would have the biggest impact. Today, I want to share with you some different ways you can review with your children so the skills you teach today are still there day after day, week after week, until they are internalized.
Salmon/white cards are a very Orton-Gillingham thing, but you don’t have to be trained or even use that approach to incorporate them. I think of the salmon/white cards as the next step up from an ABC deck. Most people are familiar with using alphabet flashcards to review letter sounds, and this takes it a step farther. Instead of just including the ABCS, you include any grapheme you have taught to children. This might include graphemes such as igh, a-e, ow, -ng, etc. I use the cards from Fundations and the ones from Niemanville.
Essentially, you hold up a card and ask the child to tell you the sound the grapheme represents. If you held up “ai,” they would say “a.” If you held up “tch,” they would say “ch.” This is review at the individual phoneme and grapheme level. Want a free version? I made a free PowerPoint version that you can project onto your screen. If you have multiple classes, just make multiple copies and you have a “deck” of cards for each group.
One of the best ways we can ensure our students are retaining the rules we’ve taught is also one of the simplest ways—dictation. With dictation, you are asking your children to spell words and sentences that you have carefully chosen to match the skills you’ve taught. There was a time when I would have fainted at the thought of telling children what to write, but I know now that without explicit, guided practice, they may never have the skills needed to become automatic, proficient writers.
For dictation, you can use a variety of mediums. I use regular paper, dry erase boards, and sound-mapping sheets. I have my students write 1-5 in their writing notebooks if I am using paper. I typically ask them to spell 4 words that review the skills we’ve taught, plus a sentence. It is quick and I know children are getting the review they need. If you find it is taking forever to get through, here’s my suggestion. Set a timer for however much time you want to allow. Tell students you are going to see how many words they can spell before the timer goes off. Write down the number, and see if they can beat it the next day! (Please note, this should not be the only writing you do in a day.)
Fluency grids are a tool that can be used to promote orthographic mapping. In a fluency grid, there are 7 words. Each row includes the 7 same words, but they are in a different order. These are such a quick, targeted practice that I use them several times a week. It takes my children less than 3 minutes to read through the fluency grids. It has been one of my favorite new tools to use this year.
If the entire grid seems too much for your children, I have a few suggestions. First, try cutting them into strips. Just give a child a single strip. If you are doing this in small group, each student could get a strip to read. Then, have students swap. You could also fold them up like an accordion, so children only see one row at a time. I find that after practicing this several times, most of my children are fine with the entire grid.
I’ve spoken a lot about decodables, but I will keep preaching their importance, especially in kindergarten-second grade. If you are a kindergarten, first grade, or second-grade teacher, you must give your children time to read decodables daily. That’s a bold statement, I know, but it’s one I believe in.
Our children will not become proficient readers if we do not give them ample opportunities for reading connected text. Reading a decodable text about digraphs once will not move students forward with their reading instruction. It is through daily, ample amounts of practice that we will see the results we want. If you do not have a lot of decodable books in your classroom, an easy solution is to purchase a set of decodables that can be printed. That way, each child can have their own decodable folders. No matter what, though, children should be reading decodables daily for the exposure they need.
This section comes with two caveats. If you are using review cards for multiple groups, it can become cumbersome to organize each week. Another issue is the price—pre-printed card decks can be extremely expensive. If you are not in a place where you can afford the card decks, that is okay! Simply use one of the other strategies I have mentioned!
With review cards, you have decks of cards with words printed on them. These decks are organized around a certain skill. You compile a deck with all the different skills you have taught. Then, you flash through the deck of cards, asking students to read them. At certain points, you will ask them questions. For example, if the card was “hitch,” I may ask students, “Why is it a tch and not a ch?” If the word is “place,” I could ask them to tell me the two reasons there is a silent e at the end. A great way to encourage critical thinking.
I hope these ideas have given you some new ways of thinking about review in your classroom. Think about your current classroom schedule—how much, if any, review is explicitly planned into your day? I know that time is precious, but I can think of very few tasks that could supersede the importance of daily review. I dare you, from this day on, to include at least 10 minutes of phonics review into your schedule.