Reinventing the Ways We Use MSV and Cueing System

Hello! It’s week 5 of our Science of Reading Summer Book Study, Shifting the Balance with Mr.Greg (from Kindergarten Smorgasboard) and me, Abbie! This week is about Reinventing the Ways We Use MSV or the Cueing System.

The Beanie Baby Cueing System

Photo Credit from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/lot-15-beanie-baby-reading-strategies-1822180640

Psssttt…let me tell you a secret. A few years ago (2014/2015ish) I was trying to learn more about guided reading and small groups. I began reading through blog posts, following teachers on Instagram and Facebook, and searching on Pinterest. I saw lots of teachers using Beanie Babies as reading strategies. I looked more into it and found out that each Beanie Baby represented a strategy to help students when they came to a word they didn’t know. Having taught 1/2 day Kindergarten with only 2.5 hours of instruction a day, I needed more guidance for teaching ‘reading’ in a full-day model. I purchased the Beanie Babies and started off using Stretchy the Snake. I also tried Skippy the Frog with my students. After trying out this cueing system, I found out that my students were still struggling and often depended on ME for the next step. This system and model wasn’t working and I knew I needed more knowledge and direction. It just so happened that my district offered an Explicit Phonics class. I signed up for the class and was grateful I did! Teaching students explicitly about letters (graphemes) with their associated sounds (phonemes) as well as blending and building, beginning with blending the sounds into syllables and then into words is scientifically proven and research based. It changed the way I taught as a Kindergarten teacher and it changed the way I approached my small group reading instruction. Now here we are years later and doing a book study on Shifting the Balance and the Science of Reading (SOR). To say that I’m amazed at the parallels and succinctness of what I learned in my Explicit Phonics class and what I am learning in this book, is an understatement. (For more information on how this cueing system is broken, read this shift for the science & misunderstandings behind it)

Teaching Researched Based Strategies & Routines

#1 Patience & Practice

Let’s subscribe to the Tortoise & the Hare philosophy. Faster is not always better. Patience, practice and perseverance is the key to learners not only growing, but truly mastering the content. Allow students think time and an opportunity to problem solve and learn from their mistakes. Providing them the answers, only confirms to them that WE know it and can do it better than they can.

#2 Touch the Text – Track the Print

This is a big one with me and my students! I always remind them that they cannot read if their eyes are NOT on the print! Using their finger to track and follow the print helps to guide them along, as well as serve as a reminder that the print contains the information and answers!!

#3 Look & Leap

If and when you come to a tricky word, stop and LOOK carefully at the word. Go sound-by-sound and using the explicit phonics strategies, blend the sounds together. What does it sound like? Does it make sense? Students need to look at the orthography and compare it with the phonological structure. Finally, students need to re-read not only the tricky word, but the entire sentence.

#4 Repeat & Check

Teach students to reread, rather than rushing off down the page after they think they’ve solved the tricky word. (pg126) As I said before, slow and steady wins the race. Repeating the tricky word, checking to see if it sounds right and makes sense is important. Then student needs to reread. Rebuilding meaning after interrupting fluency to problem solve is imperative.

#5 Taking Tricky Words to Writing

Sometimes it may be necessary to ‘lift’ a word from the text and help the student analyze the word’s orthography to it’s phonological structure. Use a whiteboard (or equivalent) and visually write and break the word into chunks. Guide the student to go sound by sound, then blend the chunks. Coaching the student to produce the word on their own is powerful, so make sure that you are guiding/coaching and not just telling. Also, part of what I learned in Explicit Phonics is to have the student use their finger(s) to touch each letter or [bracket] each chunk. Again, this helps to focus in on the word and attend to the task.

I loved this shift and hope you did/do too! If you are still using the Beanie Baby cueing system, objectively look at whether you think it helps your students in the long run or if teaching them how to actually use the orthography and phonology together to figure out tricky words would benefit in the long run. And don’t forget that the Tortoise won the race! Slow and steady…do not rush!

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