Tag Archives: Decoding

Practicing Accuracy Using Similar Word Pairs!

16 Feb

Do your students make a lot of visual errors?

Visual discrimination is a tough for many readers who struggle with decoding. Many of the substitutions I see with my students include words with similar shapes, blends, vowels, or word chunks. I like to dig deeper to find out what TYPE of visual errors the students are making so that I can then help them train their eyes to read more accurately!

Reading Specialists are trained to analyze decoding miscues and determine interventions to address our students’ decoding needs, but this is something classroom teachers can do, too! Exploring informal assessments and interventions to address student needs is even more important now with the new Response to Intervention (RtI) mandates. Classroom teachers are expected to differentiate instruction at a higher-level and implement effective interventions to target student needs.

Here are a few ways to get you started with assessing, tracking, and practicing visual discrimination, tracking, and ACCURACY. Not only could your students make significant gains, but you’ll have valuable data to bring to instructional support meetings, building data days, and parent-teacher conferences!

Assessment with Accuracy Word Pairs

When to Assess:

Depending on your student population, you could assess your whole class, or individual students, as needed.

  • Fall/Winter/Spring – You can assess every student in the beginning of the year to get a snapshot of your class and create targeted intervention groups for Reading Workshop or Guided Reading. Follow-up with winter and spring “checks” to track achievement and compare accuracy scores.
  • As Needed – You can use this assessment to follow-up with a running record (formal or informal) for individual students who make A LOT of visual errors. This will allow you to “dig deeper” and find out their pattern of errors.

How to Assess Visual Errors:

  • Depending on the grade-level and stamina of the students you’re assessing. You may want to start with just a few word lists. I only do 3-4 word-lists with my second graders in one sitting, but 8-10 with my fifth graders. If I’m interested in getting a comprehensive assessment of ALL word pairs, I’ll break up my assessment over a couple of days. 
  • Pull one student at a time. Each student will read from the word lists while you mark a word correct (check mark) or incorrect (record the word/s they substituted).


(The downloads, shared below, include split columns for easier assessment and tracking! This was my personal tracking sheet version before I posted it on TpT and TN.)

  • After you complete the assessment, count up the number of word pairs the students read automatically (within 3 seconds) and correctly (more than 3 second, including self-corrections). Record the numbers on a tracking sheet. **If using the The Complete Packet for Assessment & Practice, use the tracking sheets and “Student Assessment Profile” to record all the data. 
  • Once all the corrects are recorded, you’ll want to take a closer look at the visual errors. Use a Miscue Analysis Menu to tally up the # of each type of visual miscue. (Download this FREE menu from my sample assessment packet, also listed below!)


Practice with Accuracy Word Pairs

Once you determine what type of visual errors your students are making, you can use that information to drive your instruction. If your students are substituting incorrect vowels for many of their miscues, you’ll want to review vowel sounds and patterns. If your students are substituting words with incorrect blends, perhaps you’ll want to work on making and breaking sounds with two and three-letter blends. The information you collect will only help you if you choose to use it. Integrate accuracy interventions into your small group instruction or 1:1 conference time with students. Send home practice materials or create Literacy Centers to address common visual discrimination issues in your classroom. You can build opportunities for practice into the structure you already have in place for Guided Reading or Reading Workshop.

Literacy Center Ideas:

  • Circle-a-Word – Students circle the visually similar words that are listed in a sentence. (Create sentences on a single page or use laminated sentence strips and have students circle with dry-erase marker.)
  • Highlight-a-Letter – Students highlight the differences between the pairs. (Provide printed copies of the word lists they can highlight, or laminate the word lists and have students can go over the letter differences with a dry-erase markers.)
  • Write-a-Sentence – Students write visually similar words in a sentence. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them create sentences that include BOTH words in the pair. Have them highlight the word pairs after they finish!)
  • Write-a-Story – Students write visually similar words in a story, poem, comic, etc. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them create a story, poem, comic, or another writing format of their choice using a full LIST of word pairs. Have them highlight the word pairs after they finish!).
  • Type-a-Word Pair – Students type similar word pairs. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them practice typing them on the computer. If they are computer savvy, they can even bold/italicize, change the font or format the color of the differences between the pairs.)
  • Rainbow Writing Pairs – Students use colored pencils to write similar word pairs. (Provide students with a list of word pairs and have them copy over using different colors to write the letters for the word pair differences.)

Additional Activities:

  • Speed Drills — Track pace & accuracy in a 1-3 minute assessment (use progress graphs to mark # of accuracy word pairs read correctly for each speed drill)
  • Practice Word Lists — Create take-home word list packets or individual keychains
  • Board Games — Pair popular board games with “Accuracy Word Pair” cards (cut word lists into rows so that word pairs are displayed on ONE card)
  • Power Points/Slideshows — Create individual slideshows for students to use on the computer. Include word pairs that were challenging or read incorrectly and then link them on your website or send them home on a CD-rom. Make changes as students master the tricky word pairs!)



Featured Product

Check out a 5-page SAMPLE from my newest product, “Accuracy Word Pairs: The Complete Packet for Assessment & Practice”:


(Interested in the COMPLETE version? Click the image below or click here to download the thumbnail preview!)


Do you have any additional ideas for practicing visual discrimination, tracking, and accuracy? Post them in the comments section to SHARE!

Happy Teaching!

msjordanreads signature

Crunch and Munch Words!

8 Oct
Crunch and Munch Words! | A word attack strategy for breaking apart words and decoding multi-syllable words. Includes reading strategy lesson ideas, graphic organizer, and free printables for the Crunch and Munch strategy.
Crunch and Munch Words! | A word attack strategy for breaking apart words and decoding multi-syllable words. Includes reading strategy lesson ideas, graphic organizer, and free printables for the Crunch and Munch strategy.

Do your students get stuck on multi-syllable words?

Do they tend to leave off word endings?

Do your students take the time to read through the WHOLE word?

“Crunch & Munch” is a great strategy for helping students decode challenging words, especially words with tricky prefixes and suffixes. I find that my younger students, who understand and use the basic decoding strategies (e.g., Beanie Baby strategies), transition to more challenging words and then get STUCK… again. They either give up or end up guessing using whatever few visual clues they can attend to quickly. Too often, the students are not visually monitoring and don’t take the time to read the words all the way through. For my older students, they know their decoding strategies too, but still get stuck on challenging content area vocabulary words, where you can’t just skip or plug in a similar word (I don’t blame them… some of those words are TOUGH!). “Crunch & Munch” is perfect for the students getting stuck, and even those who are NOT getting stuck but are just leaving off simple endings all. the. time. (i.e., -s, -ing, -ed, etc.). Those kids sometimes frustrate me because I know they’re capable of reading with accuracy, but this strategy helps them be more careful and helps them pay attention to all those silly endings. 🙂

What is the “Crunch & Munch” Decoding Strategy?

I can’t take credit for the idea behind “Crunch & Munch”! My wonderful and very creative colleague, Mrs. Jennifer Kam, came up with the idea of students munching words like a caterpillar eating a leaf. I absolutely loved the concept, and with her permission, decided to share my modified version with all of you!

“Crunch & Munch” is a strategy that basically breaks words down into their parts. Students can look at syllables and word chunks, or they can break it down even further and look at specific sounds and blends, like consonant clusters, beginning blends, and variant vowels. How you use introduce this strategy is up to you!

The idea is for students to not just read words in “one bite” but to slowly munch through each sound, blending the sounds together as they look at each word part. It helps them see the whole word and actually read the whole word. Leaving off endings can sometimes change the meaning of the whole sentence, and we want to break the habits of those students who do that. We also want to break the habits of those students who rely too heavily on a few visual cues and don’t cross-check their words! This strategy can be used as part of the monitoring process.

How Do Students Use “Crunch & Munch”?

To break down the words into parts, students can use sound boxes, such as the one below, or can just use their fingers to isolate sounds.

Here is an example of a challenge word that’s ready to be crunched and munched!

You can even start with the sound boxes and transition to the finger isolations when you see that students are able to break up words and blend the parts more easily. I call their pointer finger a “cover up finger,” and I emphasize how it’s a simple reading tool that’s always with them! Of course, I don’t want them using it for EVERY word… just the ones they get stuck on. It’s a perfect, “just-in-case” tool to whip out appropriately and as needed. 🙂

Although the strategy may slow them down at first, the goal is for students to train their eyes to read the word the WHOLE way through, for accuracy and to support their comprehension. With practice, the speed will pick up and the strategy will be part of the internal reading process that takes place in their heads. You’ll be able to tell when students can do this independently and naturally with their eyes, and at that point, the students don’t need to stop every time they get stuck, to write out the word or isolate sounds.

This “Crunch & Munch” strategy can be added to student “toolboxes” as they are exposed to new grade-level words throughout the year. Introduce it as a whole-group mini-lesson, or use it with your students in small groups. Of course, not all students will need this strategy, but it’s a great tool for them to add to their “toolboxes,” just in case.

Getting Started with “Crunch & Munch”!

When I first taught this to one of my 3rd grade Response to Intervention (RtI) decoding groups, I modeled it with Leo Lionni’s Fish Is Fish book!

I previewed and selected which words I wanted to model ahead of time and then showed them the decoding process of “Crunch & Munch” using a step-by-step think-aloud. I modeled stopping at each challenge word and breaking the word down into its parts, using my finger to isolate each chunk. For the first half of the book, I recorded all the words and word parts on my graphic organizer and just let the students actively listen and watch. For the second half of the book, we crunched and munched the challenging words together as a group! We recorded the remaining challenge words and their word parts on a shared graphic organizer (on chart paper using the same template), which they then used as a reference when they tried the strategy in pairs and independently. The “I Try… We Try… You Try!” model works great in getting the students started with this new strategy!

If you’re interested in using the Fish Is Fish book during the modeling stage, some of the words I selected for my remedial students were:

  • inseparable
  • triumphantly
  • discovered
  • argued
  • full-fledged
  • excitedly
  • extraordinary
  • mysteriously
  • impatiently
  • marvelous
  • feebly
  • weightless
  • luminous

To help introduce this strategy to your students, consider downloading the two-page freebie below. Your FREE download includes a Strategy Poster and a Graphic Organizer for students to use while breaking-up “Crunch & Munch” words into their respective word parts!

(Note: Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of Adobe and aren’t opening as a “Preview” on your Macs. A lot of readers have been having issues opening my files due to these issues!)

(Download your FREE two-page sample here or by clicking the images above!)

By the way… Do you like my caterpillar clipart? 🙂 It’s very simple and awkward looking, but represents my first attempt at clipart using Art Studio on my iPad! I’m hoping to do more of my own clipart in the future, but I need a little practice with the stylus pen first!


Looking for additional materials for teaching this strategy?

I took the concept one step farther and created a packet of supplemental materials to support instruction of this great word-attack strategy. I have posters, an instructional poem, and various other graphic organizers in this strategy pack available at my TpT store (View the thumbnail preview of all 32 pages here!)


Happy Teaching!

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