Two years ago I was noticing a pattern when I was working with first grade students. I had groups of first graders who were very accurate with their short vowel sounds on the nonsense word fluency assessment of the DIBELS. At times, these kiddos would quickly make motions while reading the CVC words. The motions served as a cue to the correct pronunciation of the vowel sound. I then did “sort of” an informal field study. I determined which teachers were using hand signals to teach vowels and which ones were not. I then compared student data and confirmed what I thought to be true. When teachers use hand signals when teaching short vowel sounds, students are much more accurate when reading words. It all makes sense. I am a true believer in using multi-sensory teaching and using movement is a multi-sensory strategy.
My very good friend, Jen, in her role as a Reading Specialist, was one of the team members who helped to start our RtI initiative in our schools. Jen is now a middle school principal (what a job that is!) and I miss her terribly in the elementaries. After noticing the trend in the data in regards to the hand signals, I asked Jen if she could again put on her old Reading Specialist hat and help me create a video for using hand signals for the short vowels.
Several of our kindergarten teachers use hand signals and movement for all letters and sounds of the alphabet. I’ve noticed the same trend not only with the vowels, but will all the letters. So if you haven’t tried using hand signals, give it a try and see if you notice a difference.