Building Fluency: How We Use the Barton System

How does the Barton System enable small schools and tutors to improve students’ fluency in reading and writing? Katie Groff and Yvonne King discuss the strengths of Barton and how their schools implement the program. Although Barton is well-known as a valuable approach for dyslexic students, Katie and Yvonne emphasize its effectiveness for students who have not been diagnosed.

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(Katie)
Barton is a great intervention program for students that are struggling with dyslexia or any reading disability.
(Yvonne)
The Barton curriculum is set up to help students that are dyslexic but we have found that it helps any student that is struggling with reading.
(Katie)
I teach it to a student that has not been diagnosed with dyslexia so we’re just doing it basically for fluency and letter recognition.

(Katie) So the first word is “tranch”.
(Student repeats word-initial sound) “T.”

(Yvonne)
If a student is struggling to blend sounds to make words or they’re struggling to read words as fast as the rest of the class, those would be students that would be candidates for Barton. Often we know that they might need to do some Barton tutoring from preschool testing we’ve done. Perhaps they score low on hearing rhyming words or knowing how to put sounds together. And every year we have one or two first graders that do that. Not that they are diagnosed with dyslexia, it just helps them to keep up with the class. We found it works best to start early—maybe even in the second month of first grade and get them started right away with understanding how words are broken into sounds.
(Katie)
The program is designed very well for the teacher, the tutor. It’s just laid out perfectly.
(Yvonne)
Typically in our school we start in first grade working with them and we don’t get much farther than the second level, sometimes the third level because starting early seems to really help them often get over the hump and they don’t need more than that to keep up after that.

(Yvonne) So lets start with the word “natch”. Can you say it slowly?
(Student) N-a- ch…
(Yvonne) Good. And what are the sounds you hear in natch?
(Student) N, A, CH
(Yvonne) Good. Now pull down—How many tiles will you need?
(Student) Three.
(Yvonne) Teacher: Yes. So pull down three. Good. Are all the sounds different? Yes. So you need three different tiles. Very good. Now touch and say each sound.
(Student) N, A, CH

(Katie)
For the students—I think it is very helpful that the tiles are color-coded.
(Yvonne)
So the first level of Barton and you don’t work with letters at all. You just work with colored tiles to help them to see visually that each color of tile goes with the sound and that’s how words are put together with the different sounds. And the second level it goes to using tiles that have words (*letters) on and spelling with seeing the letters on each tile.
(Katie)
The vowels are yellow. The consonants are blue. Our unit sounds are red. So it will help them to be able to break apart words and to be able to figure out the tricky words. And they can decode them that way.

(Yvonne) These tiles have all the letters of the alphabet. What are these tiles up here?
(Student) They are the units.
(Yvonne) Yes. They’re—well, which one is the unit? One is the unit. (Points to red tile.) What are the others?
(Student) They are consonant digraphs.
(Yvonne) That’s right.

(Yvonne)
Barton works to try to use as many of the different senses as possible so besides saying them, seeing the different colored tiles, they also finger spell each word that they spell. So if they have a word like “cat”, they would say ‘c’ ‘a’ ‘t’ and it’s very important that they use their left hand, they start with their thumb so that it’s in the same order that they would be writing them and that helps them to think of how words are broken down as they spell them.

(Yvonne) So. We’re going to spell some nonsense words. So I’d like you to finger spell first and then pull down the tiles that you will need. So the first word is “prack”. Okay. Say it.
(Student) ‘P’ ‘R’ ‘ACK’
(Yvonne) And finger spell with this hand.
(Student finger spells) ‘P’ ‘R’ ‘ACK’
(Yvonne) Oh… try that again. For “prack”.
(Student) ‘P…’ ‘R…’ ‘A…’
(Yvonne) And what’s at the end?
(Student) “CK”
(Yvonne) Yes! You got it! How many sounds?
(Student) Four.
(Yvonne) Yes. Good.
(Yvonne) Ooo.. Now we have to think about our milk truck rule. Do you know what is going to come at the end of that one? I hear a “k” sound at the end. The milk truck rule helps us with the “k” sound.
(Student points to the correct letters.)
(Yvonne) Uh-huh. Very good. Because. Is it like “milk” or like “truck”?
(Student) It’s like “truck”.
(Yvonne) Good. Can you tell me the rule about “truck”? What is the truck rule?
(Student) If it comes beside a vowel (*consonant), then it’s “ck”.
(Yvonne) That’s right. Does it have to be a long vowel or a short vowel?
(Student) It has to be a short vowel.
(Yvonne) Yes. You’re right.

(Yvonne)
Built into the curriculum are different rules to help them spell. So today we worked on the milk truck rule which works on the K sound or the ‘k’ sound at the end of the word.
We’re helping them know with a short vowel you use ‘ck’, otherwise you use ‘k.’

This year with the second graders we’re working more with the spelling component of it than the reading component so as I work with them I sometimes cut out the reading, some of the reading sections, and just teach them the new rule and have them spell it. Spell it with tiles, spell it on paper, finger spell it and write sentences with spelling. And cut out some of the reading parts because they’re doing fairly well with reading. It’s more understanding how the sounds are written that they struggle with.

(Katie) So contractions are two words that are squished together to make one sound. Can you go ahead and show me what we do if we want to change it to a contraction?
(Student demonstrates)
(Katie) So you took which one out?
(Student) The vowel.
(Katie) Uh-huh. So you took the vowel out. And you replaced it with what?
(Student) Apostrophe.
(Katie) Apostrophe. And then what did you do to the two words?
(Student) Squished it together.
Teacher. Yes. Squished them together and now it says…
(Student) She’s.
(Katie) Correct.

(Yvonne) I’m going to let you put some check marks on your chart. How about you put…
(Student) one, two, three, four…
(Yvonne) Yes, you can put four check marks because you did spelling, and you did the sentences, and you did spelling with tiles, and spelling with these tiles. Good work!

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