Thursday 28 November 2013

A Phonology Lesson: Analysing the Phoneme /f/

 Morphology, Etymology, Phonology
Although this lesson is focused on developing phonological understanding; 
as with all word building, morphology must provide the structural framework for any phonological learning.

The focal point of the phonological learning continues to be based on meaning: the structure of words; how words are related in meaning and then finally the sounds that make sense to the spelling.

Understanding how English phonemes can be 
represented by different graphemes.

This phonological learning journey started with the phoneme /f/
Our inquiry initially focused on investigating the three different graphemes 
that represent /f/ in spelling.
  • the single letter grapheme <f>
  • the digraph <ph>
  • the trigraph <ugh>
Setting the Scene: Where are we Headed?
This lesson began with a review of the meaning of the slash brackets / / and the angle < > brackets. 
(I have regularly introduced these brackets to young children to indicate whether we are starting our inquiry with a grapheme < > or a phoneme / /.)
Indicating that our word building inquiry was
focused on the phoneme /fthe students were 
given additional information that this phoneme 
can be represented in writing in 3 different 
forms;hence the three arrows.

After demonstrating the written form of the phoneme /f/ on the chart, we reviewed the pronunciation of /f/ by focusing on the 'taste and feel' of this phoneme. We discussed what part of the mouth/throat we were using. The students described the feeling in different ways.
"It's like blowing out your breath."
"It's like a small wind."
Added note: Changing to 'feeling and tasting' phonemes, rather than asking my young students to listen to sounds in a word, had a profound effect on my own teaching and learning. I have found it to be one of the most powerful and successful ways to help young children, and older, to experience and fully understand the sequence of phonemes in a word. To learn further about this please refer to the Real Spelling Manual or Toolkit

 Our word building inquiry:
What graphemes can we use to represent the phoneme/f/ in spelling?
How do we decide which grapheme to use when spelling?

A Learning 'Hook': A Bag of Words!
We began the learning journey by revealing a bank of bases, handwritten on cards. These bases were chosen specifically for this particular group of children...some familiar; some unfamiliarAs with all activities, the bases or words you choose need to be applicable to the age group and needs of your learners.

Our first task was to focus on meaning and build an understanding of the vocabulary before investigating the phoneme. Although this may take additional time with younger children it is considered a critical part of the initial learning process. 
The base cards were covered so that each base could be revealed and discussed one at a time. Each student reveals a base card to read, spell aloud and orally discuss the meaning; with teacher guidance and support when necessary. I frequently model the correct spelling, by verbally emphasising the correct graphemes: <f-r-igh-t>. 
This discussion also provides insightful opportunities for the students to reflect on how they would clearly express the meaning of the base, to their ESL classmates. 
How you determine the length and timing of this initial lesson will greatly depend on the age and needs of the children you are working with.

Here the term <phoneme> has been introduced and added to the phoneme chart.

This term was used and reviewed consistently throughout the inquiry;at different times during the learning process.Gradually introduce precise linguistic terminology,so young learners can value the importance, develop understanding and express themselves with greater accuracy.
A note about linguistic vocabularyCurrently in my teaching I am very careful not to refer to <sound> as this seems to give an indication to the children that they must 'listen' rather than more accurately 'feel and taste' the phonemes. As an educator on this learning journey, I require myself to use linguistically correct vocabulary, just as we do in all other areas of learning, so we are all very clear about our actions/goals. This is evident with the vocabulary used for PYP Units of Inquiry. Consistently the linguistic terminology <grapheme> <digraph> <trigraph> <phoneme> <matrix> <base> <suffix> etc are consistently modelled verbally and in the written form. Every time the students hear or see this new vocabulary, their understanding deepens. I often discuss with the children that graphemes are like 'teams of letters' that we write to spell a base and phonemes are what we pronounce and identify by 'tasting/feeling'.  

Deepening Understanding: What is the Meaning?
During the same learning session or a subsequent lesson the students illustrate the base cards to identify the meaning. This is an additional opportunity to reinforce new vocabulary and assess understanding. Additionally, students can write sentences to demonstrate the meaning. With younger students we primarily use the words in oral sentences for discussion and elaboration.  
During this early collaborative, oral discussion time, the children usually begin to provide some initial theories about the graphemes representing /fin their particular base.


Reviewing Learning: The Trading Game
To revisit and review the vocabulary and meaning the students play the Trading Game. The students move around freely trading their base card with a partner, after explaining the meaning. The very nature of this game provides the opportunity for the students to be exposed to all the base cards; not just their own. I often play this game to review learning from previous experiences; one, because it engages purposeful thinking through movement; two, it ensures all children are actively participating; three, it gives quick, valuable feedback to the teacher about the children's understandings or misunderstandings.

Throughout the learning journey the children are reminded to say the base or word naturally, without stretching or distorting the pronunciation.

Identifying and Sharing Grapheme Theories: How can you give proof?

At this stage on the learning journey the students circle the team/s of letter/s they think is/are representing the phoneme /f/. 

This is conducted as a collaborative activity, where the children are supporting and helping each other to identify the grapheme. The age group of the learners, will determine how much teacher guidance and intervention is required. With very young children I usually guide the children, together as a group, by modelling the process for identification. All theories are accepted, investigated, reviewed and changed throughout the learning process. 

Often, an interesting assumption is that <gh> is the grapheme, not <ugh>. This can be added to the Wonder Wall for further investigation. I was thrilled when working with this particular group, that one child had identified <ugh> as the grapheme, not <gh>. She had previously discussed this with me when we were having a reading conference and had encountered the word <laugh> in the text.
An ESL student is recording her initial
theory about the three graphemes.
You will notice she has written
<gh> as one of the graphemes.
Although this grapheme is not fully accurate,
 it is still accepted as a hypothsis for investigation.
Along her learning journey she was able to identify that
the trigraph <ugh> was the more accurate grapheme.

Making Connections: through Concept Attainment.
After completing the Trading Game and identifying grapheme hypotheses; the base cards are returned, shuffled ready for the concept attainment activity.

As stated in previous posts, the concept attainment
strategy guides children through an inquiry process, to their own understanding of a learning concept. This strategy ensures all the students are critically thinking and actively involved by taking ownership of their proposals and hypotheses; it allows all learners a critical thinking 'voice' and a deeper understanding of the concept introduced or revisited. 
You will notice at this stage in
the learning journey that we
haven't recorded the
three graphemes; only added
the words for consideration.

The students place their base cards on the chart as directed by the teacher, developing a understanding about the three graphemes.

The phoneme/grapheme chart is displayed for the next few days. The students are required to reflect on their learning and to do some word detective work. Their task is to search for words that contained the phoneme /f/ or find words that contained the graphemes they have considered so far. 

All morphology and phonology charts created are considered 'works in progress' to be added to, changed, and questioned.

The students are spending time looking through different types of text to identify words containing the graphemes they had identified. The students recorded the words and added them to the chart. 

The Final Stage: Are We Nearly There Yet?

The students have added other words to the phoneme/grapheme chart and we have now identified the three graphemes. It was at this stage of the learning journey that I introduced the term <grapheme>. We discussed the meaning of the base <graph>, which had been previously discussed as one of the base words used for the chart. The students discussed the  similarities and differences between the two terms phoneme and grapheme and ways to differentiate between them. In regards to the double <ff>, I informed the students that sometimes the single letter grapheme <f> is doubled and would be an investigation for the future.

 As the students shared the additional words, I asked them to explain where in the word the grapheme was located. We discovered that <ugh>, so far, could only be used in the final position and that it seemed the single letter grapheme <f> was the most common in the initial position.
The students then reviewed the whole process by sharing their understanding and new knowledge with their classmates.

Collaboratively, we investigated the etymology of the words and identified the digraph <ph> was of Greek origin and <ugh> was generally of Old English origin. The students used etymonline as their main resource, with John Ayto's Word Origins as an endorsement. Both valuable and useful resource tools.

Our Phoneme/Grapheme Chart: A working documentation of our learning journey demonstrating new knowledge and understanding. 

As with all learning journeys, they continue, so new learning can be reviewed, revived and utilised, providing many opportunities to explore new pathways and learning. 

Continuing the learning journey:
  • fully investigate the circumstances of the three graphemes.
  • build word webs and matrices with the words from the chart.
  • identify the pattern for doubling the single letter grapheme <f> in the final position.
For the full story of the orthographic principles of the the phoneme /f/ please refer to the Real Spelling Toolkit Kit 2 Theme E: The trigraph <ugh> and other graphemes for the phoneme /f/; Kit 3 Theme H: The orthographic Phonology of /f/.

As Pete Bowers often states: “What is the most generative principle about the spelling system available in this word to teach this audience at this time?” 

For young students, I believe the focus should be on developing the essential understanding that phonemes can be represented in writing in different ways and graphemes can represent different phonemes. If this is the essential understanding then we don’t need to necessarily overload young children with lots of linear lists of different phonemes and graphemes, just ones (or parts) that are relevant to their at the time and which addresses the essential understanding. 

Explore this article, Starting the Learning Journey, to understand how phonology fits within the bigger picture of orthography.

NB Please note, I have  used the incorrect IPA symbol for the phoneme /f/ in the phoneme/grapheme chart created with the children. It should be /f/ not /f/. 

Monday 28 October 2013

Practising, consolidating and refining learning...developing independent spelling projects.

Developing Independent Word Inquiry Projects
For many years Brian Cambourne has been researching and writing about the significance of providing 8 learning conditions to ensure deep, purposeful learning and understanding in literacy. Two of these conditions are use and response. We must provide many opportunities for learners to apply their developing understanding about how the English system works. 

Once the students have had multiple opportunities and experiences to learn about the structure of words, they need time to independently practice and apply their understanding. The students can question and reflect on what they know, consolidate new learning and deepen understanding of how the English spelling system works.

Developing independent word inquiry projects is one way of ensuring children are given opportunities to fine tune and practice their learning. In this particular activity the children identify some of their own spelling errors and/or identify words of interest for further investigation, often in collaboration with the teacher.

Although this particular activity is an independent/individual learning experience it frequently involves regular peer support and collaboration.

1. As with all activities, I first model the learning process on a large chart, interactive whiteboard etc. Here I have chosen four words; two words from a piece of writing and two words from the current PYP Unit of Inquiry. 
I modelled how to write the full word sum by simultaneously writing and 'spelling out' aloud, by sequencing, from left to right, the morphemes and graphemes. Any changes to the base are also announced. From my experience the 'spelling out' strategy is absolutely crucial to the learning process. 

For more information, please refer to Pete Bowers'article, Spelling Out Word Sums. 
"s-m-i-l-single silent <e>, plus ing, (remove the single, silent <e>),
is rewritten as 
s-m-i-l-no <e>-ing"
I spell the morphemes first, then announce the change, 

before rewriting and spelling out the full word.
This ensures that the students fully understand that 

the base may be spelled differently from the final word. 

2. The students select a set of words they would like to investigate and learn to spell. These words can be chosen from their own piece of writing or from a text they are currently reading. 

Initially, when working with young children, I choose the first group of words for the children.
However, I strongly believe that children, even young learners, should have many opportunities to make their own learning decisions. By choosing their own words for investigation, it gives students true ownership of the learning. The children can highlight the words and write them on post-it notes, with a theory about the word sum.

3. The students consult with the teacher, sharing their words by discussing the meaning and the word sum, the morphemes, graphemes and any changes required. The teacher models the accurate written word sum for each word.  
At times, I also choose words for the children to learn and understand, based on individual learning needs. These words might highlight a suffixing pattern, a grapheme or the meaning of the base that the student needs to learn.

Both these students are in the same class but have very different learning needs.
This grade 2 student spells most words accurately
but does not understand why words are spelled the way they are.
The teacher has identified complex words, introducing new bases and suffixes,
to challenge this student's thinking beyond memorisation of words.
You may notice in the word <separated>,
the teacher has only demonstrated part of the actual word sum:
se (meaning 'apart') + pare/ (meaning 'make ready') + ate --> separate.
How, and what information, you share with your students will depend on their
learning needs at the time.
This is a grade 1 student who struggles to spell accurately.
These words were identified as errors from the student's own writing.
The teacher has identified some basic words that highlight 
the importance of:
--> identifying the base to understand the spelling; 
--> the final single silent e;
--> and a word with a grapheme. 
As teachers, we need to make valued judgements 
about what is significant for our children's current learning.  

3. The students spend time learning their words using the kinaesthetic movements, of the hand and the mouth: by sequencing and announcing the morphemes and graphemes, as modelled previously, to write and learn each word.

Using the kinaesethetic approach, the student is 
spelling the final word three times, once the word sum is built. 
For this student, announcing the morphologicial parts in sequence is particularly important as she often experiences difficulty sequencing graphemes from left to right.
As Real Spelling tells us "spelling lives in your hand and mouth" and so provides a powerful way to recall spelling. 
In my experience, this has been a consistently successful strategy 
for all learners.

This student is also working on a 
more accurate and fluid grip and sitting position.
With her previous grip, she could not view what she was writing.
This student is writing her words in sentences 
to indicate an understanding of the meaning.

Students work independently, with a partner or in small groups, to
investigate the orthography of the word.
These words were part of science unit on materials
and their properties. 
4. During the week the students spend time investigating, learning and identifying the meaning of the words, using tools such as word webs, matrices and resources like the dictionary, John Ayto's Dictionary of Word Origins or Etymonline. The children are often collaborating and helping each other during these times, supporting each other in their learning.
Simple matrices, for young children,
are very useful and purposeful
learning tools.
The students are required the base each
time they build a new word
from the matrix. 

A student is supporting a classmate to locate words in John Ayto's Dictionary of Word Origins. 
She is helping her classmate to read the information, to understand the history and spelling of the word.

This student was investigating the base <people> and why
it is spelled with the vowel letter <o>? 
You may notice he has placed a question mark on the base <popule?>.
He has developed a hypothesis and is continuing to investigate whether this theory can be proved correct. I love that this student feels confident to express his ideas but at the same time acknowledge his uncertainty and need to continue investigating.
5. During the week, at different times, the students will review the spelling of their words. They may be required to write the word sum and then justify any changes; or just write the final word, explaining the spelling by announcing the morphemes as they write. 

6.The children can also develop word webs or matrices. 
A student and his family collected all these words
related to the base <cover>!
We published the words on a word web the following day.
7. During the week I meet with each individual student to discuss their words, observe their learning strategies and assess their needs for the next stage of their learning journey. The word inquiry projects may continue for a week, or longer, depending on the complexity of the inquiry and the children's interests.  

Please contact me through the comments section or through this link if you would like to share aspects of independent word inquiry projects, in the early years.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Interesting and boring suffixes!

When a suffix is fixed to a base, why do some bases 
make a change but others do not?
How can we identify which suffixes cause a change to the base?

These questions, and many others, begin to quickly emerge when students are exposed and introduced to the underlying structure of words, through the morphological word sum. 


Even young children begin to critically observe and then question why sometimes there is a change and other times there is not a change to the base. 
Here is a suffixing activity that demonstrates 
the importance of the vowel suffixes.

To begin the learning journey, the students perform a 'suffix hunt'. If I am planning this activity with young children, I prepare a selection of known big books and class texts for the students to search through. 

The students identify an appropriate word in a big book, or other appropriate text/literature. To provide proof of the suffix the children write the word sum to demonstrate the different morphemes, focusing on meaning.

For example:                    hope/ + ing --> hoping
                                                      love + ly --> lovely
Further proof can involve thinking of other words that might also have this same suffix. 
From my experience, initially young children will often choose words like <sing> because they immediately identify the <ing> as a possible suffix. This is a perfect opportunity to question the students and model the process of identifying the morphemes: the base and suffix. 
If a child's theory is <s + ing>;  
 Can <s> be the base if <ing> is the suffix? Does <s> have meaning? 

Teacher questioning to guide, rather than to direct, helps learners to refine and reevaluate their thinking, in a learning environment where mistakes are valued and considered part of the learning process. 
Initially, young students may not show the changes to a base within the word sum.
The very nature of this activity provides the opportunity to give immediate feedback and assess student growth and understanding of orthographic concepts. 


Once proven, the suffixes are then written on separate cards, in readiness for the suffix sorting activity.

The Suffix Sorting Activity-concept attainment.
You have probably noticed that I regularly use the concept attainment strategy (based on Jerome Bruner's work, 1977) to guide children through an inquiry process, to their own understanding of a learning concept. This strategy ensures all the students are critically thinking and actively involved by taking ownership of their proposals and theories; it allows all learners a critical thinking 'voice' and a deeper understanding of the concept introduced or revisited.
The challenge is to develop, analyse and
identify the attributes of the suffixing concept. 
Begin by telling the children that the collected suffixes will be sorted into two groups, either on the left hand side column, or the right hand column...the students' task is to think about why and how the suffixes are sorted in the two columns.
"What is my thinking?" 
"Develop your own theories and ideas, but keep them 'secret' for now!"

Initially, the children choose a suffix and the teacher directs them where to place it, reminding the children to start developing a theory. After 4/5 suffixes have been placed on the chart, the students give an indication if they are beginning to formulate some ideas about the suffixing concept.

In addition, during the game, the students are given the opportunity to place a chosen suffix on the chart, based on their developing conceptual understanding. The teacher can either give immediate feedback and/or there can be a group discussion about the decision. As a result of this discussion and feedback, the students may need to reconsider their initial theory. 

At the end of the game the teacher provides some additional suffixes for sorting, to help students test their theory. The students are then required to write their theory/ideas on a 'post it note', ready to share with a classmate. This step supports students who have not fully grasped the sorting idea and need additional scaffolding and support from peers or teacher.

Finally, the group works together to develop a collective statement, revealing the suffixing concept: 

Suffixes that start with a vowel letter and suffixes that start with a consonant letter.

Add the suffix headings to the suffix chart. When working with young children I usually introduce the vowel suffixes as 'interesting', with double thumbs up, and 'boring' suffixes, with double thumbs down.

This initial understanding then leads to the next conceptual suffixing understanding:
Suffixes that start with a vowel letter may force a change to the base, while consonant suffixes do not make any changes to the base. 

A work in progress suffix chart:
Initially the chart can have as many suffixes as needed; additional suffixes can be added to the chart as they are discovered and investigated by the students.

Depending on age, the students create their own individual chart in workbooks or collectively with a partner or in small groups. 

To revisit and consolidate learning, the students, individually or collectively, build words using either vowel or consonant suffixes. Hopefully this will lead the students to discover and question why sometimes there is a change to the base.

The next investigation can focus more explicitly on 'why vowel suffixes and consonant suffixes?' through a structured word inquiry process.

Please contact me through the comments section or through this link if you would like to continue this conversation about structured word inquiry in the early years.