Watching children as they are learning and practicing skill-sets in just as important, if not more important than the act of delivering instruction. The simple act of meeting kids where they are at helps to fill the opportunity gap. Opportunity gaps occur when students are not given the same instruction, interactions and basic circumstances that other high-achieving students receive early on. We want to look at this as an achievement gap, but it really isn’t. If students start out with a deficit due to circumstances that they are born into, it isn’t about achievement. It becomes about opportunity. If we continue to push forward instead of filling the gaps, these students will never reach their full potential.
Now, how can we fill gaps with just the basic data we collect in assessments? We can’t. Assessments don’t tell you the why, they just tell you the what. You actually have to watch and listen to your students in order to figure out what is really going on. I watch my kids everyday. I watch and I take notes. Recently, it has occurred to me that word study deficits in my classroom are not actually word student deficits; they are articulation “gaps”. Why does this make a difference in instruction? Because, if you keep pushing rules that a student knows, and they are still failing… the rule isn’t the issue.
We teach word study in a more systematic way (If you aren’t, please see my post about word study) because we know whole-language approaches do NOT work. Students need rules and structured instructional practices. Let me ask you a simple question… if a student is not producing a sound correctly, and you are not producing a sound correctly… how can you teach a rule based on a sound? You can’t! It isn’t going to happen for them unless you fill that gap and correct what you are doing wrong. If you want to know more about how cultural and ethnic backgrounds come into play in the school system I highly encourage you to read Code Switching. This same concept applies to word study. YOU as the teacher need to ensure YOU code switch to produce speech sounds correctly. The student needs to be taught through articulation lessons how to produce the speech sounds correctly, too.
How do I do that??!!!
I am NOT by any means a professional on this subject, but I continue to research it and apply what I find out. I started by looking into English Language Learner curriculum. If a student or myself are missing something in language, then it makes sense to approach it from a “learners” perspective. Here is what I have started using:
- Listen and watch you student. If they are not producing a speech sound correctly STOP and teach articulation of that sound.
- Commonly mispronounced sounds are:
/j/ for /dr/
/ch/ for /tr/
2. STOP and teach them to code switch while reading, writing and spelling.
I have created student assigned lessons using Nearpod (you can use google slides if you do not have access) to fill these deficits. They include mouth, tongue and lip position videos. They also include practice. These should be visited during student rotations daily to work on this skill. You cannot expect a student to produce something in writing that they are not producing in speech.
3. Practice this skill in small group. I do this by using cards and sand. I have also recently adapted the Orton-Gillingham based vowel tents into articulation tents.
- The student has sand in front of them in a bin. You say the sound and the word it belongs too. Watch the student as they say the sound. Correct any lip, mouth and tongue mistakes. Remember: You are being WATCHED while YOU speak… YOU must produce the sounds correctly too! An example would be: ch like chip – the students says /ch/
- The student will then write the sound in the sand. The student is writing the sound not the word.
- Continue this for 1 minute a day
- The student has note cards folded with the problematic speech sounds on them. Make sure they are different colors.
- You will say a word and they pick up the tent with the correct speech sound.
Teacher: “/ch/ in chip”
Student: “ch makes /ch/ in chip” (picks up ch)
Teacher: “/tr/ in train”
Student: “tr makes /tr/ in train” (picks up tr)
Do this for 3 minutes