I currently have several students who especially struggle with learning their “red words” (non-phonetic words for spelling). So, I decided to try something new– a product from Kendore Learning called the Criminal Word Book Set.
Here is Syllables Executive Director Jennifer Hasser describing how to use the workbook:
This kit appealed to me, because it’s an inexpensive multisensory workbook with a few basic (easy to transport) supplies, and it involves acting out a story: your students are detectives, and they are pursuing the “criminal words” (criminal, because they are breaking the rules). They have to gather evidence, follow the trail left by the criminal, then catch and fingerprint the suspect! How fun (and in the process, they learn their red words!)
The workbook comes with 153 pre-printed pages of high-frequency red words (they follow the Kendore/SMART sequence and include commonly used non-phonetic words such as “were”, “come”, and “thought”) as well as a blank page to create your own. When I re-arranged the words to follow the Barton sequence, I was left with a few words in Level 3 and about a third of the words in Level 4 that I had to create on my own, but this was not too difficult, and overall it was a good time-saver to have the template. Also, the words are listed alphabetically in the front of the book, so it is easy enough to copy the words that follow the O-G scope/sequence you are using or customize a workbook for a particular student.
The workbook would also be great for small-group or whole-class practice for teachers using an O-G program.
You can buy the workbook separately, or buy their “kit”, which includes the workbook, a red plastic screen to create the tactile words, and some fingerprinting “ink” (which is not messy- it just rubs off cleanly). You will have to copy the pages out of the workbook to use them though, as they are double-sided. You will need to provide a red crayon (or red colored pencil seems to work also, maybe this would be more appealing for older kids) and pencil.
Here is how the kit works (demonstrated with the word “should”):
First your student will gather evidence by placing the plastic screen underneath the page for the word “should” and trace the word with the red crayon/colored pencil, while saying “S-H-O-U-L-D” and underlining it while saying “Spells should”.
Then, your student will follow the criminal’s trail by tracing their (now bumpy) crayon letters with their fingertips and while saying “S-H-O-U-L-D spells should”. This is great multisensory (visual-tactile-auditory) memory work!
Your student then traces the word “should” 3 more times (while saying the letter-names out loud, for the auditory piece).
Lastly, your student needs to catch and fingerprint the suspect! They do this by folding the page and remembering the letters and writing the word (accessing their memory of the word to help reinforce those pathways). They fingerprint the suspect (to provide a nice “finger-space” when writing) and double-check that they wrote the word correctly (caught the correct criminal). Repeat 2 more times, so they have written the word 3 times.
You then have space to have the student write a phrase or sentence with that word, if you want them to.
If you really want to get into the spirit of this activity, I suggest some props: a magnifying glass, a detective hat… you could even cut the page off at the fold point and hide them around the room for your student to find and apprehend (write the word they are practicing on the back).
Kendore Kingdom also makes a similarly-themed handwriting workbook (with phoneme/grapheme practice as well as individual letter practice!), and a card game to go along with the criminal words theme, called Cops and Criminals. One of our tutors here at LLS has been using this game with her Orton-Gillingham students to help them learn their sight words, and she tells me it is a lot of fun for the kids!