Teach for Transfer

Teach for Transfer

One of the positive, yet unexpected, outcomes of COVID-19 has been the opportunity for me to work regularly with my grandchildren (and great-nieces!) on their reading.

My granddaughter Mae, a first grader, has been moving very nicely up the text levels—but my running records showed that cracks were forming at Levels G and H. My records consistently indicated that she was not working independently to solve unknown words. 

Fountas and Pinnell in a recent podcast said that while it is important for students to have explicit instruction in phonics or word study, “the real measure of effective phonics instruction is how children use that knowledge as readers and writers.”

Before I could help Mae connect what she was learning in word study to her reading and writing, I needed to look more closely at which visual information she was using or neglecting to use as she read. 

Here are some words she needed help with when reading Jasper and the Cheese.


I began to use sound boxes and then followed up by giving Mae a word to solve by breaking it apart with magnetic letters. I made sure each example I used was the kind of word she would need to solve in her upcoming reading.

Watch this video HERE for an example of how this worked. Mae’s new book was a Level H book called Little Knight and the Flood


Flashed was just the kind of word I had seen Mae struggle with. So the sound boxes I used for her began with a blend and ended with sh. My plan was for Mae to make the word crushed with magnetic letters and break it into parts. But, to my surprise, she didn’t even need to make the word with magnetic letters to solve it. Then when reading the book, she read the word flashed with little effort! (I did introduce the words blew and lightning in my book introduction!) 

Here are some examples of lessons I had previously done with Mae: 

Sound Boxes: drip, drum, trim, trap
Breaking Words: treating 


Sound Boxes: pick, suck, rack
Breaking Words: tricking 


Sound Boxes: sold, bold, scold
Breaking Words: folding

I think the combination of using sound boxes and then breaking a word has really helped.

Use your running records to consider what students need to learn. Teach with intention and provide opportunities for practice. We must help students learn how to transfer the skills we are teaching them in word study to real reading and writing.

I know these are challenging teaching times, so please stay safe!