While most reading programs require teachers to keep students so busy that they have little or no time for mastery practice, the Riggs program does the opposite. It helps teachers stay focused on teaching one skill at a time, and it provides teachers with plenty of time in which to help their students practice this skill. In fact, it prioritizes such practice.
Riggs teachers do not toss out information, hoping that their students will absorb something and become readers along the way. They have a plan. They follow it. They teach one thing at a time. They teach it thoroughly. And then they move on. One of the things contributing to the success of Riggs students is their teacher's commitment to having them practice new skills until they have become habits. The Riggs program encourages such practice.
After new phonograms have been introduced, for example, Riggs students repeatedly practice with each of them--as well as with previously taught phonograms. Knowing that such practice has now become a significant part of their daily work, they quickly settle down to it. Until the phonograms have been thoroughly mastered, the students keep working at it. They work hard. Their teacher helps them. Here’s how it looks:
When it is time for phonogram practice, the students sit quietly, expectantly, with pencils at the ready. The teacher holds up the first phonogram to be practiced and she says the sound(s) most commonly represented by it, helping her students make a direct connection between the sound(s) and the symbol. (This is explicit phonics instruction.)
The students see the phonogram, they hear the sound(s) being spoken by the teacher, and they immediately repeat the sound/s and write the phonogram, their voices and hand movements helping to secure the sound-symbol relationships within working memory.
- Students see
- Students hear
- Students say
- Students write
The teacher immediately holds up the next card, keeping her students busy--helping them stay engaged in a task that is directly related to their future reading and writing ability, helping them to practice specific skills until mastery occurs. They are learning the English code, and they are excited about it. They are mastering listening and penmanship skills. And more. They practice again and again: seeing and hearing, saying and writing; until suddenly the practice period is over. And so it goes.
Throughout the day, Riggs students engage in such multisensory practice periods, using previously learned penmanship skills (manuscript printing) to help them practice writing and reading these common spelling patterns of English, practicing each of the phonograms again and again, building success on success.
Riggs students rarely complain about this hard work. They know it's going to be hard, they know they can do hard work, and they know that their teacher is preparing them to write and read common English words, all of which are spelled with these Orton/Riggs phonograms. They understand why she doesn’t allow them to do less than their best during practice. They are learning a new skill. They know that mastering this working set of spelling patterns will contribute to their success when spelling, writing, and reading whole words. Their teacher helps them, guides them. They do the work.
Riggs teachers have high expectations. Believing that all of their students can master this working-set of spelling patterns (the Orton/Riggs phonograms), they help them do that. They provide their students with plenty of time for daily practice, and they help them to practice effectively--in a way that allows all students to succeed (multisensory practice). After the phonograms have been initially mastered, Riggs teachers continue to have their students practice. When the phonograms have been overlearned so that reading and writing them correctly and quickly has become a habit, Riggs students stop practicing.
LEVELS OF LEARNING
- IGNORANCE OR INCOMPETENCY (NO MEASURABLE PERFORMANCE)
- BEGINNER’S LEVEL (INACCURATE AND SLOW)
- 100% ACCURACY (TRADITIONAL “MASTERY”)
- FLUENCY (TRUE MASTERY: ACCURACY + SPEED)
My Kindergarten students enjoy the practice. When we have some down time, waiting for students to go to the bathroom before snack, the students ask if we can play Phonogram Around the World. We have two students stand and I show the phonogram card. The student who says the phonogram the fastest gets to move to the next available student. It really motivates the boys. We also play a similar game at the white board. I say the phonogram the student who writes it the quickest with proper formation gets to stay at the white board and competes against the next student. I also do not force any student to play. Most of the time all students want to play.
*Smile* Of course they want to play! I want to play! How fun it must be to be in your classroom!