Thursday, September 16, 2010
There are whisper phones that are sold commercially, but don't buy those. I went to a local home supply store where two helpful clerks worked with me to create enough whisper phones for 32 students. The cost was around 20 dollars for 35 whisper phones. Students hold one opening to their ear while the other opening goes to their mouth like an old rotary phone.
As part of our reading workshop, each student has a gallon Ziploc bag that contains three leveled books and a whisper phone. The books are beginning level (1/2 or A/B) so students can have predictable text to practice using beginning letters, pictures, and their background knowledge to decode the text. Starting out, we are practicing about 5 minutes each day. This will increase during the year to about 10-12 minutes by spring. I model how to use the whisper phone and what I do when I come to a word I don't know. At first, many students don't know most of the words, but they do know that each group of letters represents a word so they can make guesses and practice going left to right and using strategies to read the words.
There is something about hearing their own voice that encourages students to practice. Be patient when you first start out because it can get a little hairy, but you will soon see benefits if you continue doing this daily. This is a strategy that, in conjunction with other teaching strategies, has helped our students become readers.