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Considerations Beyond SIPPS Challenge Level Instruction

"Good readers read with accuracy all the time… When students read accurately, they solidify their word-recognition, decoding, and word-analysis skills.  Perhaps more important, they are likely to understand what they read and, as a result, to enjoy reading."

—Allington & Gabriel (Every Child, Every Day)

As educators, we want to provide opportunities for students to extend their literacy behaviors and gain access to a wide variety of genres and texts. In order to do this we must consider what it means to support students’ literacy development beyond the instruction provided in SIPPS Challenge Level.

What will it take?

The SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) curriculum  empowers teachers to meet the rigorous demands of foundational skills standards. But teachers must plan intentionally to provide additional rich literacy experiences across the day that support reading development beyond the instruction in SIPPS Challenge Level.

SIPPS Challenge Level Instruction

SIPPS Challenge Level focuses on the highest level of decoding skill, the polysyllabic/morphemic phase. The students are taught to recognize and read syllabic patterns and morphological units (prefixes, suffixes, roots).  Through extensive fluency and independent reading practice with intentional teacher guidance, the students apply polysyllabic decoding strategies and increase their ability to recognize syllables by sight, which further supports their reading proficiency.

Reading Polysyllabic Words

Reading polysyllabic words requires students to be:

  • Flexible in dividing words into tentative syllables
  • Knowledgeable about how to read individual syllables
  • Flexible in reading the whole word, using the process of making a match with a known word

Flexibility is a key aspect of decoding polysyllabic words. Syllables read in isolation may be pronounced very differently from the way they sound in the context of a word. When reading the whole word, the student tries to match the word with a known real word. The ultimate goal is for students to read the word correctly not only in the Challenge lesson but also as they engage in reading text independently.

Teachers should strive to foster an environment that honors students’ flexibility. The focus should be placed on students pronouncing the whole word correctly rather than on the syllable rules. (Yes, we are saying that you can still provide quality Challenge Level instruction and “ease up” on strict adherence to syllable pronunciation in order to honor the students’ correct pronunciation of the whole word.)

It is easy to get sidetracked by the syllable rules, which are only a step in learning to decode polysyllabic words. In general, we want the students to read so much that they recognize probable syllables and don’t need to continue to rely on the rules. This is what we do as adult readers!

Rich Literacy Experiences Across the Day

In addition to focused skill instruction, teachers must consider the types of rich literacy experiences they provide for students across the day. These experiences should extend students’ access to a variety of texts and genres.

The Fluency Practice and Individualized Daily Reading (IDR) section in SIPPS Challenge Level lessons emphasizes that students read appropriately leveled, self-selected texts for at least 30 minutes per day, applying the word-recognition strategies they have been taught.

IDR differs from traditional sustained reading time in the following ways:

  • Texts are matched to students’ appropriate reading levels
  • Non-automatic readers read quietly out loud to themselves
  • Automatic readers read silently
  • Readers are held accountable for their comprehension
  • The teacher is actively engaged in supporting the students
  • The duration increases as students’ stamina and proficiency increase

During IDR, the teacher actively supports the students by conferring with individuals, providing coaching or additional instruction as needed. The teacher:

  • Provides support for text selection
    • Students should have access to books that represent a variety of genres and reading levels (beyond F&P Level J).
  • Listens to the students read
  • Assesses accuracy and understanding of the text by listening to the students read and discussing their text with them
  • Guides students to use decoding/word-recognition strategies from SIPPS as well as to deepen their use of comprehension strategies to make meaning of the text

Reflect on Practice

You might consider these questions as you reflect on instruction:

  1. Are second-grade students participating in SIPPS Challenge Level lessons?
  2. Are the routines being taught with fidelity to the language and hand motions specified in the Routines Appendix (and available on video)?
  3. What do you have in place in your classroom to support the development of foundational skills and to develop fluency?
  4. Have you created a literacy-rich environment?
  5. What experiences are you providing to your students to help them develop as readers and writers across the day?

CCC Resources to Support Planning

Center for the Collaborative Classroom strives to support teachers in creating literacy-rich environments for their students. Some resources teachers might use to support their planning are listed below.

SIPPS Challenge Teacher’s Manual

  • Appendix B: Fluency Practice/Individualized Daily Reading
  • Theory and Research (Appendix G), “The Development of Reading Fluency” section starting on page 634

Making Meaning Assessment Resource Book

  • “Reading Development,” page xii
  • “Stages of Reading Development” chart, page xiv
    • Stage 4: Transitional Reader
    • Stage 5: Fluent/Independent Reader

Making Meaning Teacher’s Manual

  • “Individualized Daily Reading” section, page xxxv
  • “Building Stamina for Independent Reading,” page xl
  • IDR Mini-lessons (found in Appendix A)
    • “Selecting ‘Just-right’ Books” (Grades K–2)
    • “Selecting Appropriately Level Texts” (Grades 3–5)
    • “Reading in Meaningful Phrases” (Grades 3–5)

Individualized Daily Reading (IDR) Libraries

Gina Fugnitto, EdD, is the director of consultant development at Center for the Collaborative Classroom. She has experience as a literacy coach, teacher, and professional development provider. She was a Reading Recovery teacher, a Literacy Collaborative coach, and the associate director of literacy for Response to Intervention Teaching Learning Connection. She has a BS in Elementary Education, an MA in Educational Leadership, and a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Follow Gina on Twitter at @gfugnitto.

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