Enhance Your Volunteer Program with Automaticity Drills

After reading my last post, I hope you are now planning to organize a volunteer reading program in your school!   It truly is a win-win for everyone!    In this blog, I will share a way to enhance your volunteer reading program by adding accuracy and automaticity drills to the daily activities.

Developing accuracy and automaticity is a key step in the reading process.  Once a skill has  been taught, children need time to practice  it to the automatic level so they can read text fluently.  However, with all the pressure to cover curriculum, it is easy to overlook this stage and take children directly to the application stage where they are using the new skill in text.  This can often lead to laboured silent or oral reading, as children try to apply skills which are not yet in automatic recall.   In our very busy classrooms, it is difficult to create the time needed for children to practice their reading skills, at the word level, to develop this automaticity.

This is where our volunteers come in.    Our Itchy’s Alphabet Accuracy and Automaticity Drills (see links below)  provide the tools children need to learn their phonics skills in a short, fun, drill and practice format that is easy for a volunteer to administer.   Each package contains drill pages, a record keeping sheet and a graph sheet.

Doing an automaticity drill at the beginning of each session is a great way to get going.  I usually recommend one phonics drill page and one sight word drill page.  Children enjoy doing them and love to fill in their graph and see the improvement!  These are one minute drills, individualized for each child’s specific requirements.  You may have a child who still needs to develop fluency with the consonant sounds,1 Consonant drill_Page1 another working on certain short vowel sounds and others ready to move ahead to words containing  long and irregular vowels.    Each will have a package of drill pages to develop the skills they most 4 Short a word drill_Page1need to advance their reading level.

To get started, you will need:

  1. a master set of pages for children to read from (I recommend copying these on cardstock and either laminating or placing in a plastic sleeve)
  2. the appropriate photocopied drill pages for each child, compiled in a duotang, along with a record keeping sheet and graph page
  3. pencil crayons in various colours
  4. a 1-minute count-down timer

Each day, the volunteers will:

  1. review the words from the previous day which the child had difficulty with (these will be marked with the coloured pencil crayons). We don’t want children repeating the errors so need to practice them correctly.
  2. start the timer and have child read across the lines as quickly and as carefully as possible. Record any errors (writing what the child actually said) with a different coloured crayon and mark the stop point.    Review the errors.
  3. record date, number read and number correct on the record keeping form and then have the child colour in their graph for the day. (Be prepared – occasionally their score will go down instead of up.  I usually joke about them having a late night or too much coffee!   We want to see a general growth in the number of words read correctly each day and they usually understand that they can have an off day.)
  4. repeat with a sight word drill.
  5. use the remaining time for modelled reading of text (described in the previous post).

Daily practice with these drill sheets will result in improved fluency, leading to greater comprehension – the goal for reading success.  If you do not have a volunteer program, these drills can be done at home if parents are willing to work with their children on a regular basis.  One of my Grade 1 teachers used the drill pages on an overhead (or SMARTBoard) and did them as a daily drill with the whole class.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, drill and practice is NOT a bad thing.  There isn’t a successful athlete or musician around who hasn’t practiced their skill relentlessly to improve.  Reading isn’t any different.  Children need to practice their skills and these drills are a fun way to do so.  Happy drilling!

To view Itchy’s Alphabet Accuracy and Automaticity Drills, follow this link:  https://www.itchysalphabet.com/blackline_sets.php

and scroll down to Blackline Master 8 (consonants and short vowels), Blackline Master 9 (long, irregular and r-controlled vowels) and Blackline Master 10 (basic sight words).