Convocation Info

There is a new page “Convocation -2019” under the Great Workshops category that captures some of the information shared in our recent meeting. Please check it out and send me any more links or information that should be shared from those sessions. 

Relating to that session, I’ve added links to:

Activities for Teaching Emergent Readers

Patsy Vinogradov, PhD, from Hamline University, gave wonderful presentations during our professional development series on “Cracking the English Reading Code” and then, in a smaller breakout session about teaching emergent readers. I can’t possibly capture all the things she shared with us, but I would like to highlight some key ideas and provide you with some resources/links for further study. Links to some of her resources are at the bottom of this post, as well as a video demonstrating some of the principles discussed today.This information is published with permission from Patsy Vinogradov.

From the morning session, where she discussed the Orton-Gillingham based multi-sensory structured language approach, She highlighted some key points and principles in instruction of instruction.  These principles have been used effectively in ESL instruction as well, and the key principles are:

Simultaneous, Multisensory:  Use all learning pathways (visual/auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning.

Systematic and Cumulative: The sequence of instruction begins with the easiest and most basic information and progresses to more difficult material. Concepts previously taught must be reviewed in a systematic way.

Direct Instruction:  Concepts are not taught inferentially.

Diagnostic Teaching: Consistently assess and customize material based on the needs of the students.

Synthetic and Analytic Instruction: Use both top down and bottom up approaches.

From the afternoon presentation, The Double Challenge: Teaching ESL and the Emergent Reader, she shared many, many activities and ideas. Key points to remember are to start with the “whole”, break down the sounds, and then finish wih the “whole” again. Example of this is to start with your themed unit’s vocabulary, then pull out specific parts for phonics/phonemic awareness skills, and then finally, finish with the text to practice within the context of the unit.

Alphabetics (Phonemic Awareness and Phonics) Activities:

Blend the word Review theme vocabulary by sounding out the parts of a wordEx:  clothing unit (s-o-k-s) (p-a-n-t-s) What is it?Higher level:  some can write using inventive spelling (write the letters based on the sounds)
Same first letter sound Students can play hangman and then go through each letter and identify other words that begin with the same sound.Example:  hangman word:  SKIRT. Students then generate:  s (Somali, Sunday)  k (kid, kitchen)    I  (in, is) etc.Higher level learners can write some of the words.
Sound chain One student says a word that starts with the end sound of another.Ex:  sweater—-red—–dollar—–rest–etc
Where’s the sound? Cup game Give each team or student three cups to represent beginning, middle, end. Label the cups (b, m, e, or first, middle, last). Teach these terms first though.Teacher asks “Is the sounds I say at the beginning, middle, end of the word?”Students listen and drop a chip into the right cup for where the sound is in the word. The sound, not spelling, is important.Lower level:  only beginning and end sounds    Higher level:  use multiple letter sounds.  Also, say the sound, they listen and find the letter tiles, and then put them in the cup.
Does it rhyme? Emphasize that rhyme is at the end of the word. You can use your hands or write the words to have them understand they are listening for the ending part of the word.Different ways to do this activity:

  • Students listen to three words and identify the one that doesn’t belong. Write or circle the word.   (cash/shirt/trash)    (go/stop/no)
  • Give students pictures, say a word, and they find the picture that rhymes with the word.
  • Identify the rhymes in a chant or songword families activities also emphasize rhyming
Same Sounds Have students sort pictures by two sounds you’re working on.
Match pictures Use to sort by beginning, middle and ending sounds.
Large cards Put letters or letter combinations on cards. Have students use the cards to spell out the words, starting with those related to your context, at the front of the room. (B-o-o-k, now, B sit down, H come up. What word now? Now K sit down, D come up. What now?) Take time to point out similarities and differences amond the words you’re working with .

PHONICS:  Teaching Letters and Sounds

Fill in the missing sounds To review the vocabulary for a unit, give students a list of words that have one or more letters missing (try and choose ones that they could easily hear the sound of).  Students write the missing letters (without dictation).
Circle the word Students have a worksheet that has three word options. Call out a word. Students circle the word they hear.

  1. Sister son     student
  2. Mother married     male
Mixed up letters, tiles Using tiles (like from a Scrabble game), you or a student can call out words that the learners must spell with the tiles. They can work individually or in pairs/groups. You can make a game of it too, with points to the team who spells the word first.
BINGO Play BINGO with sounds (initial, final, vowels, blends), word families, rhyming words, or entire words.
Dictation New readers can write only the first sound they hear, or the final sound, and later the entire word if they are able. Encourage inventive spelling, and students will need a great deal of practice.
Sort words by sound/letter Sort pictures or words by the letter sounds. This works well to discriminate long and short vowel sounds. Also, you can give students a paper with boxes for each sound. They sort the pictures under the sound or words under the sound.

Ssock, sandals, sweater  AsAndalspAnts
SHShoes, shorts, shirt TTie, trousers
9 Patch Students make a 9 square grid. It is usedul in working with sight words and in phonics work. You can use letters only to practice sound/symbol correspondences, or use full words on slips of paper to practice sight words. You an model the listening activity first, then let students take turns calling out sounds/words. Once the grid is complete, students can pair up and practice reading it to each other. It’s also a great chart reading activity.

1   Name 2   Number 3   new
4   School 5   Street 6   State
7   Date 8   Drivers 9   dollars


This video demonstrates some of the principles discussed today. The video has four parts, which you can get on


Building Literacy in the ESL Classroom

Teaching literacy in a multi-level ESL classroom can be a big challenge! There is so much to think about when writing a lesson plan for this kind of class! How do you include the lower level literacy students in your lesson, yet keep the higher level students engaged? Is it possible to meet the needs of such a multilevel class?

If you want to learn some of the tricks of the trade, you MUST come to hear Patsy Vinogradov, PhD, on April 11th! If you are going to give up a Saturday to attend a professional development course, this is the one not to miss! Not only does she have stellar academic credentials, she has published many papers on literacy education, and provides actual suggestions for activities that you can immediately use in your class!

Look at these websites for implementing literacy education into your classroom.  These are not merely academic or learning theory. They include practical tools for classroom use.


2)  This site has short videos that demonstrate literacy teaching methods. There are downloadable worksheets, flashcards, pictures, and other teaching tools. They also have a great article about the LEA method and teaching top down and bottom up. If you have never used the LEA method in your classroom, take a look at Patsy’s video, and begin to implement it! It’s “magic”!

Teaching low-literacy adults. Great demonstration from Reading Horizons.

One of the more recent published articles by Patsy Vinogradov, and Martha Biegelow, is:

Using Oral Language Skills to Build on the Emerging Literacy of Adult English Learners University of Minnesota, August 2010

Key Points from (quoted from site):

  • Balance meaning-focused and form-focused instruction
  • Connect instruction to learners’ lives
  • Use both bottom up and top down instruction
  • Connect the curriculum to issues that adults care about in the outside world (e.g., children, work).
  • Use students’ native language(s) as needed for clarification in instruction (e.g., directions regarding tasks and activities).
  • Vary opportunities for use of language in interaction and practice of language forms (e.g., communicative pair activities and short grammar drills).
  • Create learner generated texts. One way to do that is through the Language Experience Approach (LEA). LEA is where students share an experience, and then describe the experience to the teacher. The teacher transcribes the story. These words can then be used as a text for reading and then for a multitude of activities. Have the students:
    • Write about shared experiences
    • Transcribe conversations or student stories
    • Share learner-generated texts in newsletters
    • Write about a photograph or other visual
    • Write in a journal or dialogue journal
    • Provide texts for wordless picture books
    • Create photo books with captions
    • Create class posters.

Sign up for the professional development classes on April 11, 2015.