Using Riggs to Teach CCSS K-2 Foundational Skills

The first level of the Riggs Institute’s English Language Arts curriculum, the Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking, consists of 160 lessons and practice activities which are designed to directly and explicitly teach foundational skills and concepts to beginners, including a knowledge of print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word-recognition skills, and fluency skills. 

By the end of the school year, grade 1 Riggs pupils have generally completed these 160 developmentally appropriate language arts lessons, which are cummulative and which include daily practice with new skills, including writing and reading about grade-level  history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. The Riggs Institute’s Level 1 lessons fully integrate the learning strands in the K-2 Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY).

While grade 1 students generally study and master one Riggs lesson per day, completing the course by the end of the year, older students who are new to Riggs (grade 2 and above) generally complete the lessons more quickly, advancing to lessons prescribed for them in the Level II Riggs text.

When students finish the Level I Riggs course, they meet or exceed the following standards for K-2 Phonics and Word Recognition skills, having practiced with these concepts in a variety of ways, including the following:

Phonics and Word Recognition:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3, RF.1.3, RF.2.3

Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3.A

Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.

Beginning in Lesson 8, Riggs students regularly and consistently produce all of the most frequent sounds for English consonants while reading and writing them in isolation, from a teacher’s dication of their sounds. (See figure 8 on page 17 in CCSS Appendix A) They continue to read and write these spelling patterns (isolation) daily, until mastery occurs. They begin to use these phoneme-grapheme correspondences to encode and decode common high-frequency words in lesson 20, and they continue to use them in this way in their daily work.  

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3.B

Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.

Beginning in Lesson 8, Riggs students associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels during explicit and focused practice with them. (See Figure 9 on page 18 of CCSS Appendix A). They continue to read and write these common spellings (in isolation), daily, until mastery occurs. They begin to use these phoneme-grapheme associations to encode and decode common high-frequency words in lesson 20, and they continue to use them in this way in their daily lessons.  

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3.C

Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do,does).

Beginning in Lesson 20, Riggs students spell and read at least six new commonly-used English words each day, including high-frequency words. They practice encoding and decoding these words, using their phonics knowledge, until mastery occurs. By Lesson 80, they have at least 350 common words in their Reference Notebooks, and by the end of the course (Lesson 160), they have 850 in there, all of which they have learned to read by sight during daily spelling and reading lessons.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3.D

Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.

Beginning in Lesson 24, Riggs students distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ. In Lesson 31, for example, they create a chart on which they begin to list homonyms, homographs, and homonyms that occur in their spelling and reading lessons, using a simple marking system to note differences in spelling or pronunciation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.A

Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs.

By Lesson 45, Riggs students have learned the spelling-sound correspondences for all of the consonant digraphs in Appendix A (see figure 8) of the CCSS. As soon as students are introduced to these spelling patterns, they practice writing and reading them daily, in isolation, until automaticity (accuracy + speed) occurs. They also begin using these spelling patterns to correctly spell (encode) and read (decode) common words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.B

Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.

Beginning in Lesson 20, Riggs students at this level decode at least six new words per day, having first encoded them from dictation of their spoken sounds. They apply their knowledge of the first 55 spelling patterns (learned in Lessons 1-19) to this task, learning and spelling conventions for these patterns as they are encountered in daily lessons. By the end of the year, Level 1 Riggs students have 850 words in their Reference Notebooks, which they can decode, and their knowledge of spelling patterns enables them to decode thousands more.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.C

Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.

In Lesson 30, Riggs students learn the final -e convention for representing long vowel sounds, and by Lesson 45, Riggs students have learned the rest of the common vowel team conventions listed in Appendix A of the CCSS (figure 9). Riggs students apply these conventions in daily lessons, mastering them easily by the end of the year (Lesson 160).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.D

Use knowledge that every syllable must have a vowel sound to determine the number of syllables in a printed word.

In Lesson 33, Riggs students learn the English spelling convention that says “Every syllable must contain a written vowel.” By Lesson 160 (the end of the Level 1 course), they have repeatedly used this convention to help them divide printed words into syllables.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.E

Decode two-syllable words following basic patterns by breaking the words into syllables.

In Lesson 26 of Level I, Riggs students learn how to spell, write and read their first two-syllable words [pa-per and si-lent]. After first determining that the word actually has two syllables, which they do by listening and feeling for the two vowel sounds while putting their hands under their chins as they speak, they say each syllable and then spell that syllable--phoneme by phoneme and grapheme by grapheme. After writing each word, students practice reading it, blending the phoneme-grapheme correspondences in each syllable, saying each syllable, and then saying the whole word. Students also practice saying (repeating after the teacher) the English spelling convention that we use for dividing this kind of word into syllable: “When a single consonant comes between two vowels, it is usually divided before the consonant if the first vowel is long” (as in pa-per and si-lent). Riggs students practice all new multi-syllabic words in this way: feeling, seeing, and saying all relevant rules each time they come up.

In Lesson 33, Riggs students start practicing the convention that says “Every syllable must contain a written vowel,” and by Lesson 160 (the end of the Level 1 course), they have repeatedly practiced 10 useful conventions for dividing printed English words into syllables.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.F

Read words with inflectional endings.

In Lesson 22 of Level 1, the first convention for forming plural nouns is introduced [“The plural of most nouns is formed by adding s.”] and Riggs students begin to spell and read words with inflectional and derivational endings.

Five additional plural conventions are introduced and practiced in subsequent lessons in this level, as is the -ed ending (for regular verbs).

In Lessons 61 and 62, Riggs students create graphic organizers to illustrate a new rule for adding  endings to final -e words, and they practice writing and reading words with these endings for the rest of the year.

In Lesson 67 Riggs students create graphic organizers to help them study commonly-used inflectional verb endings [-ed and -ing].

In Lesson 103 Riggs students create graphic organizers to help them spell and read adjectives with comparative [-er] and superlative [-est] endings.

As each ending is introduced, students begin to practice with it in susequent spelling, reading, and writing assignments.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.G

Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

Riggs students learn to recognize and read irregularly spelled words in a number of ways, but primarily with the help of simple a mnemonic marking system and the use of organizational charts. For example, on Chart 14a pupils being a list of words which have an unusual spelling for the sound “sh.” One of the words on this chart is sure; students mark this word by double-underlining the letter s, showing that this is an unusual spelling for the sound “sh.”

Another example is Chart 14b, on which Riggs pupils list--and mark--words which are exceptions to the rule for /ei/ [“We use ei after c, if we say a, and in some exceptions”]. Riggs pupils practice reading all irregularly spelled words in a similar way--by first spelling, analyzing, organizing, and marking them, including irregularly spelled verbs and nouns.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.3.A

Distinguish long and short vowels when reading regularly spelled one-syllable words.

In Lesson 20, Riggs students start spelling and reading regularly spelled one-syllable words, all of which they analyze with the help of a mnemonic marking system as they learn spelling conventions relating to long and short vowel sounds. By the end of Lesson 160, Level I Riggs students have spelled, read, and analyzed over 850 words in this way.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.3.B

Know spelling-sound correspondences for additional common vowel teams.

By Lesson 45, Riggs students have learned the spelling-sound correspondences for all of the common vowel teams in Appendix A of the CCSS Standards.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.3.C

Decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels.

In Lesson 26 Riggs students encode, decode, and analyze their first regularly spelled two-syllable word [pa-per]. By the end of Lesson 160, they have spelled, read, and studied many such words, and they can easily decode them.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.3.D

Decode words with common prefixes and suffixes.

In Lessons 61 and 62 Riggs students learn the spelling convention for adding common suffixes to silent -e words [rake, raking, raked]. They create a graphic organizer to illustrate the rule, adding new base words to this chart as they encountered in future lessons [hope, live, like, dance . . .], and applying the rule for adding the suffix. In Lesson 82 they learn to add suffixes to one-syllable words, and they create another chart and learn another spelling convention at that time. In Lesson 126 they continue their study of suffixes, adding them to two-syllable words [begin/beginning]. At this time they create yet another chart, which illustrates the applicable spelling convention and which provides practice opportunities as new words are encountered and added in future lessons.

Suffixes that are added to adjectives for the purposes of comparison are introduced and studied beginning in Lesson 103, and students create a graphic organizer on which to illustrate and practice these concepts [full/fuller/fullest].

The suffix -ly, which is commonly added to English adjectives to form adverbs, is used in spelling and reading lessons beginning in Lesson 108, as Riggs students prepare to begin their study adverbs.

Common prefixes such as un-, in-, and re- are explicitly studied in Lessons 99, 104, and 113 respectively, and they are practiced in a variety of ways.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.3.E

Identify words with inconsistent but common spelling-sound correspondences.

Beginning in Lesson 20, Riggs students spell and read common English words with both consistent and inconsistent spelling-sound correspondences. They use a mnemonic marking system to identify inconsistent spelling patterns, practicing each word until it has been mastered. By Lesson 160 Riggs students have studied over 850 common English words in this way, and they can read thousands more.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.2.3.F

Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

By Lesson 160 Riggs students have learned to identify common English spelling patterns, have used these patterns to spell and read hundreds of words, and have learned dozens of rules for the use of basic spelling patterns. They have directly studied dozens of grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words in their daily lessons, and they have learned various strategies to help them study and read such words independently. Their personal Reference Notebooks contain over 850 correctly spelled words that they can recognize and read, many of which are irregularly spelled.

By the end of Lesson 160, which is ideally at the end of grade one, the average Riggs student is well on his way to understanding the entire English spelling system. He knows all of the common phoneme-grapheme correspondences of English (see pages 17-22 of Appendix A for a list of these), in spite of the fact that the Standards don’t require him to have this knowledge before the end of grade two, and he uses his knowledge of these phoneme-grapheme relationships, his knowledge of English orthography, and his knowledge of language and print concepts to complete daily reading and writing tasks. He reads informational and literary texts at or above grade level, independently, with purpose and understanding. He writes sentences and paragraphs about these grade-level texts and topics, and he revises his writing. He regularly demonstrates a knowledge of many of the common spelling and grammar conventions of standard English, using them in his daily work.

By the end of first grade, Riggs pupils are able to do what the Common Core State Standards require themto be able to do by the end of grade two. They are ready to move into their next level of learning, able to acquire knowledge independently through reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

The first level of the Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking has prepared them with foundational skills.

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