What is Orthographic Mapping and why is it so important?
Hello! You may have noticed that this blog has taken a backseat lately! There's a very good reason for that! You see, last Spring I started working on my Master's of Education in Literacy from American College of Education. Now, I have to admit that in terms of workload, this has been easier than I anticipated - I'm not drowning in homework, but neither am I living a life of leisure. I'm still teaching kindergarten full time, plus I have 3 boys at home. Teaching, schoolwork, and family were my priority (not in that order!) so I had to let my blog rest for a while.
The reason I decided to go back for my Master's was to help me become better at teaching reading. I've known for a while now that some of the things teachers are doing in the classroom (me included!) were not optimal. Teachers always say "When you know better, you do better." but it takes a concerted effort to try to "know better"! The reason I decided to go back for my Master's was to help me become better at teaching reading. I've known for a while now that some of the things teachers are doing in the classroom (me included!) were not optimal. Teachers always say "When you know better, you do better." but it takes a concerted effort to try to "know better"!
I love teaching Math and Science - those are my jam and I understand how to build a solid foundation for my students in those subjects. I am confident that my students leave my classroom with what they need to know in those areas. My aim in getting a Literacy degree was to "know better" and become just as confident in teaching my students to read and write. And guess what?! I'm a week away from finishing my program and I've learned so much and I'm a much better teacher for my students as a result! I've been able to implement changes in my classroom throughout this school year, and the results have been so encouraging. That's why, when I was assigned to come up with an original, open-ended project, I immediately decided on writing a blog post so I could share some of this journey I've been on.
As I thought over all of the things I could write about, it became obvious to me that the most significant change I have made in my classroom has been orthographic mapping:
One of the most difficult aspects of learning to read is learning to process graphemes accurately, automatically, and quickly (Ehri, 1987). It's a skill that distinguishes good readers from bad readers, and in my experience, this is a skill that many kindergarten students struggle with.
So now that we know WHAT orthographic mapping is, how do we get our students to DO it?
As this chart displays, orthographic mapping occurs when students have sufficient letter-sound knowledge AND Phonemic Awareness proficiency. My takeaway from this is that I need to teach phonemic awareness skills explicitly and systematically. I’ve also spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to do this and decided that, for me, it’s by doing the daily Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Lessons. I do this as a whole group, and it only takes about 10 minutes a day! Heggerty gives me the biggest return on my instructional time – we hit so many skills during that 10 minutes, from basic rhyming and beginning sound to the more advanced skills of deleting and substituting phonemes! Our PTO was kind enough to buy this for my classroom, but since it’s only $89 and you can use it year after year, I think it’s worth it to buy it yourself if you can’t get your admin or PTO to purchase it for you.
Once your students can HEAR the sounds in spoken language and are learning grapheme-phoneme correspondence, it's time to start decoding. Interestingly, according to Dr. Kilpatrick (2015), reading practice can either be the key to becoming a better reader, or it can have very little benefit. Doesn't that just go against everything we've believed for so long?! For children who can orthographically map, reading practice is essential, but if a child cannot orthographically map then all the reading practice in the world will not make a difference. First, they need to develop phonemic and letter-sound proficiency so that they can start orthographic mapping (Kilpatrick, 2015).
One of the BEST ways I have found for teaching students to orthographically map are the FREE Heart Word videos from Really Great Reading. So far there are only 26 videos, but they are working on more. However, using their format to introduce irregular words has helped my students to not only be able to READ these words, but also spell them correctly in their writing.!
As Scarborough's Reading Rope conveys, skilled reading is made up of multiple facets that are interdependent. Explicit, systematic instruction in phonics is a MUST, and orthographic mapping will flow out from that.
But what do we do for students who get stuck and cannot develop the skill of orthographic mapping? I'll address that next time, when I share some more of what's been working in my classroom!
Ehri, L. C. (1987). Learning to Read and Spell Words. Journal of Reading Behavior, 19(1), 5–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/10862968709547585
Ehri, L.C. (2005). Learning to Read Words: Theory, Findings, and Issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 167 - 188. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532799xssr0902_4
Ehri, L.C. (2014). Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18, 21 - 5. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2013.819356
Kilpatrick, D. A. (2015). Essentials of assessing, preventing, and overcoming reading difficulties. Scarborough, H. S. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. Guilford Press. In S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research (Vol. 1, pp. 97-110).
Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. J. Exp. Psychol. 18, 643–662. doi: 10.1037/h0054651