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In elementary school, I remember participating in a reading incentive program with a simple premise: The more books I read, the more points I’d receive toward a reward. Because of the reward, my classmates and I were highly motivated to spend our free time reading. What’s not to love about a program like that?

There was just one problem. I could read a long, challenging chapter book slightly above my reading level in the same amount of time it took my classmate to read a dozen quick, easy books below his reading level. Who earned more points? My classmate. What did I learn? Quantity beats quality. Don’t challenge yourself.

The program had a fantastic mission, but there was an unintended consequence for me and many other students. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens often in schools. The only way to avoid it is for teachers to take the time to scrutinize the practices and programs they put to use in their classrooms. Are we doing things out of habit or because others are doing them? Or are we doing things because they truly promote learning? A good educator is one who observes and adjusts—constantly and relentlessly.

Earlier this year, we offered a free resource to all Signs for Sounds users. Kristin McDaniel, an educator in California, created Signs for Sounds Level 1 Word Sorts—a great activity for students to extend their learning after completing a Signs for Sounds lesson. We offered these Word Sorts, with instructions, for free on our website. Educators couldn’t download the content quickly enough—which is why we’re now offering even more! We’re happy to report that Signs for Sounds Level 2 Word Sorts are now available to download, for free!

A good educator finds strategies and programs that work and implements them in the classroom. A great educator begins with an effective strategy or program and then develops ways to extend the learning even further. Kristin McDaniel, a first-grade teacher in San Juan Capistrano, CA, is one of the great ones. Pleased with the results she was seeing from Read Naturally’s spelling program, Signs for Sounds, Kristin asked herself how she could capitalize on her students’ momentum. Was there a way to reinforce and solidify their understanding of the word patterns and high-frequency words featured in the program?

Literacy expert Tim Shanahan outlines the many benefits of formal spelling instruction in his article, Should We Teach Spelling? We recommend Shanahan’s article for a compelling answer to the question of whether to teach spelling. But another, equally important question, is how to teach spelling. Finding the right instructional materials is key.

Are you looking for high-quality, research-based reading curricula at an affordable price… or even for free? Chances are, Read Naturally offers just what you need. Our highly effective tools target all aspects of reading development. Educator favorites include:

Our teacher’s manuals are packed full of useful information about how to implement our programs effectively. They’re extraordinarily well researched and include hundreds of helpful suggestions. Have you read them recently? Cover to cover?

Don’t worry if the answer is no. We know how busy teachers are, and we want to make it easy on you to implement our programs with fidelity. That’s why we’ve created Fidelity Checklists. Download as many as you’d like—they’re free on our website!

Most fluent readers don’t question the seemingly unnecessary b in doubt. They know it’s there, and they know how to read and spell the word. But in the interest of expanding students’ vocabularies and developing their spelling skills, it can be beneficial to teach that the b actually does serve a purpose.

Let’s Talk About Spelling…
​ Automated spellcheck. Without it, I’d need to be more conscientious about spelling words like conscientious correctly. But if my computer can spell it for me, why would I need to learn to spell conscientious myself? In the age of automated spellcheck, teachers may wonder...

Which students will you assess for weaknesses in phonics? In some schools and at some grade levels, teachers are required to assess all students using specific assessment tools. In other schools and perhaps in higher grade levels, teachers may want this valuable information, but recognize that individual diagnostic testing of all students is not necessarily an effective use of time.

We are pleased to feature Karen Hunter as a guest blogger today on RN Bookmark. Before becoming Read Naturally’s Director of Curriculum & Professional Development in 2007, Karen was a reading specialist, special education teacher, and teacher trainer for 30 years in California. There she developed a passion for teaching the crucial and often difficult skill of spelling to struggling students. Bringing her expertise to Read Naturally, Karen was instrumental in the development and management of our spelling product, Signs for Sounds. In this post, Karen shares information on the importance of teaching spelling. She includes resources that will help you evaluate your current spelling curriculum or a new program you might be considering.

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