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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why You Need Picture Sorts

Picture sorts are a valuable tool in teaching beginning reading.  To start with, students are actively engaged in manipulating pictures during which, they are thinking about sounds and feeling for them in their mouths.  The more students become fluent in identifying how and where the sound is made in their mouth, the more fluent their knowledge of letters and sounds becomes. Picture sorts can be a valuable tool in whole group instruction (introduction), small group instruction (reinforcement/remediation), and individual instruction that targets a specific sound based on assessment.

Which Picture Sorts to Use
When introducing sounds, you can simply find a picture sort that matches the sound you are teaching.  However, picture sorts are not only a great way to introduce and practice sounds, but they also can be an important intervention in which teachers can target student’s specific letter or sound weaknesses.   Look at the assessment below.

The test is a 25 word list that has a variety of short vowels, beginning and ending blends and digraphs.  This test comes from Kathy Ganske's Word Journeys.  You can make your own test, just have a variety of words with these features. 

In the example, you can see that each time the student is asked to spell the sound of short u, he/she writes an o (drum, bump, much, mud) and also the opposite, when asked to spell the sound of o, writes u (chop).  In one word, the student uses both (rub).   This student clearly needs to become fluent in listening and identifying short o vs. short u.   That is when you pull out your O vs. U picture sorts and have the students work on this.   

What else could this student work on?  How about sorting pictures with /s/ vs. /sl/?  or /d/ vs. /dr/?  Also, when spelling grab, the student used an o.  Perhaps that gr blend was difficult and the student reverted back to an old confusion and could use some practice with that vowel combination. 

Drive-by PD
I created this poster to hang in the workroom of our school, so that teachers could see how to notice and use picture sorts.  I call it my Drive-by PD, because teachers just look at it in the workroom while they make copies.  Just like kids learn from pretty anchor charts, adults can too.  I wish all the PD's I had to attend were nothing but attractive anchor charts! 

The Assessments
You can use Kathy Ganske's assessments found in Word Journeys, which has a 25 word test for each stage of spelling, or I have made my own assessments with a variety of short vowels, blends and digraphs.  I also made an ending blend assessment for certain students who, every time they were presented with a word that contained a difficult ending blend, they would revert back to their short vowel mistakes that they had mastered in easier words! This informed me that they needed more practice solidifying their knowledge of certain short vowels and practice feeling for the short vowel in the presence of blends and digraphs.  This is why speech is related so much to beginning reading. 

If you are interested in obtaining picture sorts, you can download some free samples here:

Beginning Consonant Picture Sort
Consonant Blends Picture Sort

Short Vowel Picture Sort
Long Vowel Picture Sort

Download them here:

If you are interested in purchasing 72 sets of picture sorts that cover all of the levels, you can find them here: 

Thanks for stopping by!

Anna Sanders

1 comment:

  1. Great Info!!! I am currently taking a Word Study class. This article is helping me develop a lesson plan for my students. Thanks!