The Visit is a story about Dan and Jan’s visit to Wisconsin. The book is written on a second grade level but is slightly different from typical level two books. The words are chosen very carefully and with a purpose in mind. Using Orton Gillingham methodology the students in my second grade reading group were taught letter sounds and syllable patterns. Orton Gillingham is a multi-sensory language based instructional method for teaching reading, spelling and comprehension. The words used in the The Visit were specifically chosen to use the sounds, patterns and high frequency words that were directly taught by me to the students. The students then illustrated the book. This gave them a direct involvement in the process which increased their engagement and sense of accomplishment.
In order to decode, read the printed words, some children need direct instruction with sound, patterns and repeated exposure to the words. Students are taught to use the language structure that has been taught in order to decode. Some children learn to read quite easily. They use their knowledge of language and letter sounds along with instruction and practice to grow as readers. The patterns of our language become transparent rather quickly and they become automatic readers, leaving brain power available for the harder task of comprehension. Other children need much more practice with the lower level skill of decoding. This can be very frustrating because often these are very smart kids who understand sophisticated books that are read to them but they are unable to access the print in these books on their own. Each piece of our complicated written language needs to be taught from the bottom up to insure that children with decoding weaknesses reach their potential as independent readers.
My second graders have worked incredibly hard this year and have made tremendous progress. As part of my instructional practice I write stories for them using the components of our language that have been taught. I often ask my students to illustrate the story I have written. Orton Gillingham stories usually don’t have pictures because students are being taught to rely on print not pictures to read. Having the students illustrate the story is useful for two reasons.When a student illustrates the story it is one way of assessing comprehension. Does the picture match what is important in the story? It also strengthens visualization skills. Good readers visualize as they read.
The book, The Visit, came about because I was writing an ongoing story about Dan and Jan visiting their Grandparents over summer vacation. The students wanted more chapters and we ended up with enough of a story to make a short book. I asked the children to illustrate parts of the book and used a PTA grant to have the book published.
The children are thrilled over this book. They feel so accomplished and proud. I was so excited to be able to give them a concrete example of their success as readers. This book will give them an ongoing opportunity to celebrate their work with their teachers, parents and peers. A copy is available in the school library if you would like to read it.