Frequently Asked Questions About Smart Words

It would be great to see some videos with a small group of students doing Smart Words in a classroom. Is this available?

Unfortunately not, many schools have videos but due to restrictions on sharing footage of children these are not available for me to share. You could contact a school nearby, but you may have to sign off on how you intend to use the videos.

Whenever l go into a school, to do demonstration sessions, I suggest that the school videos the lesson as a reference. It is an effortless way:

  • To highlight a typical lesson with the basic lesson format for Day 1: test, check, new list, phonograms, rules, meaning, morphology, grammar, Day 4 (proofreading, classifying, revision, punctuation),
  • To upskill teachers already using the program to check they are on track or gather more/different ideas,
  • For new or relief staff who have not yet been trained,
  • To display the program to parents.

Smart Words is about teaching the English Code. Videos are a great reminder to teachers that their teaching on Day One will impact on the students’ progress. If Day One of Smart Words is comprehensively taught, Day Two to Four will flow much better. Hence, it will make the teacher’s and students’ day more manageable and therefore enjoyable.

Book a demonstration session(s) now.

Wondering what a Level A lesson looks like and how do these fit into a Smart Words rotation?

Level A is a five-day program for the first term of the first year of school. All children do this level as a whole class as it forms the foundational readiness skills for learning literacy. It is followed by the introduction of letters, sounds, and symbols in Term 2.

A daily timetable is available at the start of the book. Every week of the term is set out with lessons, activities and resources supplied.

It covers the necessary:

  • 8 areas of the auditory strand,
  • 9 areas of the visual strand,
  • Fine and gross motor strands, particularly the readiness for penmanship,
  • Concept of print strands,
  • Language strands.

The activities are short and sharp and can be:

  • Programmed into a set time each day,
  • Used as group based activites scattered throughout the day,
  • Done as small group activities,
  • Covered in other areas of the curriculum (eg eye/hand co-ordination in a physical education session).

Level A is integral to the future success of students in learning how to read and write. As an early year’s teacher, I would do Level A in Term 1 and repeat only the difficult sections of it as many times as possible for a few minutes each day throughout the year. I did not always go back to Week 1, but I did go back to the week where I noticed children starting to have difficulty. I would do this as short breaks throughout the day or relate the activities to our big book reading group work each day.

As a Year 1 and 2 teacher I would frequently go back and use sections of the program that I needed to with individual students. Typically this would be a lot of the visual discrimination exercises and lettering prompts for the many students coming through still confusing bdpq or with auditory discrimination difficulties such as in not hearing the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds eg/k/and/g/.

The alternative to this is

  • Ignoring the difficulties that arise for students with auditory and/or visual processing problems in middle school +,
  • Finding a program and practioners who can successfully fix these problems in older students,
  • Convincing parents to spend the many dollars and much time it takes to correct these problems in older students.

What does a Level B lesson look like?

You will need Level B workbooks and My Dictionary for every child. I strongly recommend a Nursery Rhyme book for each child too. These align with the letters/sounds you are teaching and are in the same sequence. Great for early finishers. Once they have finished their work they go to the front and sit with their Nursery Rhyme book and a chopstick. Play the songs to revise or introduce the rhymes but definitely include the ones for the letter you are currently teaching.

Level B is a three-day cycle with the whole class. We want every child to know the letter name, sound it commonly makes and to be able to write is correctly.

Over time collect a pile of little bits of junk and put them in a large plastic tub lined with a sheet.

Initially, I suggest you enlarge the page to A3. Have books on the desk open and ready to go so students can go straight back to their workspace and start without interruption.

Throughout Level B work start doing the Level B Placement Test when every you can, that is, when children are able to work independently. Check letter names first, then the letter sounds, then writing the letter ‘c’ that may say ‘k’ as an example. As soon as a student has difficulty stop and come back to testing them after you have been through rest of the group. You will start to see the students that may be able to start Level B Extension in Term 3 or 4.

Day 1:

  • Before school lift the sheet out of the tub and place it in the middle of a space with a basket labelled with that day’s sound,
  • On arrival to the room encourage children to place in the basket anything that starts with that sound. For vowels and difficult sounds it could be anything that has that sound in it,
  • Pack away the sheet and keep the basket of things handy,
  • At lesson time pull things from the basket and draw them on a large sheet and label them. Sound out the words as you write them,
  • Refer to the speech hints for each sound at the base of each page in My Dictionary. Teach the children how to mouth the sound. Extend them to saying the words on your sheet with the correct pronunciation and enunciation. Listen and record any children who have difficulty,
  • Show the children what to do: circle a couple of the things that start with the sound and cross out a couple of the ones that don’t (great practice for doing circles in the correct direction and slopes). Use the cued speech (at the start of the workbook) to show them how to correctly form the letters on the line across the bottom of the page. Students only do one line depending on the font style of the school,
  • Early finishers are to colour the circle pictures using correct and relaxed pencil grip or listen, read and sing.

Day 2: My Dictionary

The dictionary is in alphabetical order so get the children to get their Dictionary. Say the alphabet together as you turn the pages to get to the correct letter for that day. Leave it ready on their desks.

As a group on the mat:

  • revise the sound and how it is made,
  • Demonstrate and cue the letter formation across the top of the page. Stress starting point,
  • Referring to each picture and word (missing the first letter) say ‘It’s not an ‘ake’, it’s ? (Pause) ‘cake’. What sound does cake start with? Which letter makes that sound? How do we do a ‘c’ that may say ‘k’? open circle (demonstrate). Repeat doing 2 or 3,
  • Early finishers: Suggest that if they feel clever today they could go back and copy the word again underneath,
  • As a group read the MCW on the adjoining page (optional)

Day 3: Workbook B

As a group:

  • Find the second page of the letter/sound you are working on and leave books open on desks ready to go,
  • Revise how to form the letter and pencil grip,
  • Fill in some of the Day 3 page with students: it’s not an ‘ot’. it’s a ? What sound does ‘cot’ start with? which letter makes the ‘k’ sound? How do I write the letter ‘c’ that may say ‘k’. Open circle. Tell the group that if they feel clever and they finish early they can go back and write the word again underneath, but they don’t have to. (Some will be too tired and/or too slow).

How do I fit a Level B three-day rotation into my four-day cycle for Levels C+?

If you want, or need, a four-day rotation for Level B OR extra activities for each day:

  • Nursery Rhyme poster pack enlarged to A3 size for shared reading group activity, eg read, highlight <c> /K/ on the page. Sound out words with C in them etc,
  • The second nursery rhyme for each letter/sound introduces the students to a new introductory phrase often seen/read in early readers. Repeat the above activity emphasising the introductory phrase and sounding out simple words. Do both analysis and synthesis type activities from Level A Auditory Strand,
  • Do the related activity in the Starter Phrases pack. The first page is a cut and glue to make the sentence. Follow the instructions on the bottom of each page and provided in each pack. I suggest you make them into five-page booklets eg C I L T J one book. When finished send home as a reader,
  • In the Starter Phrase pack there is an alphabetical reader for every letter. These include revision work as you progress through. Make up the booklets (copy, cut, staple – allow 1 hr for class 28. Make 1 A3 size for teacher to class instructing. Tr reads, ‘I can _limb.’ Kids respond, ‘I can climb.’ Tr: what is the missing sound? Which letter makes that sound? How do we write the sound. Work with the chn from your large booklet as they fill in their booklets. Read again, read fast, read to a friend, read softly/loudly… take home to read. I get kids to get a box to keep these booklets in (and the one in the previous dot point) and encourage them to read any 3 booklets every night. They will quickly build a library.

You really need another set of hands on deck for running Level B as a small group activity as the teaching is crucial at this stage.

Is Smart Words considered as part of the reading/writing hour? If so, how?

I would start with the Smart Words cycle and then go into the Reading group cycle. Initially, it may take you longer than 20 minutes per SW rotation. As you get more efficient, and the students learn the process, you will be able to cut back from the 30 minutes you may have needed at the start.

What does a rotation look like for our Pre/1/2 classes?

This will depend on how much support you have.

With or without support you can never have more that four groups in a class. If you have to run level A and B and C and another level, you may choose to:

  • Work with (an)other class(es) and one take A OR A and B AND the other take C and ?. I would get the A and B to do both A and B together as a whole class. The C and ? Could do the normal four-day rotation. For this to work you need to swap as soon as class begins at the start of the day or after a break,
  • If you can’t swap/change students’ classes for Smart Words lessons then put A & B together as one group and C as another and, if necessary, run a third group. You do not HAVE to have four groups in a class. You may only be able to cope with, or need, two groups. Remember, you need to still feel sane at the end of a day and four groups with a split of three grades would be too challenging at this level of high dependency,
  • If you have support I would consider trying to keep to two or three groups at this level until you feel more confident and comfortable.

Where do Nursery Rhymes come in? What level?

It is never too early or too late.

As grandparents, we started singing/playing Nursery Rhymes to Freddie as soon as he was born. By the time he could sit up, he had his own book. At two years of age, he readily sings many on his own and knows which page they are on. He loves to track the songs in his book. As there is a rhyme or song for every letter of the alphabet children learn to say the sound in the initial, final, and medial position in a word and to be able to mouth that work in a sentence.

As a teacher, I have used the Nursery Rhyme posters, booklets and downloads with kindy through to Year 1 students. Apart from the learning to be gained from them I loved that they gave me 10 minutes a day to do something important, without interruption. The kids always enjoyed the time when they could gather with their booklets and a chop stick and sing 10 nursery rhymes together. They also enjoyed colouring the pictures and I would use this opportunity to check their pencil grip.