kitchen table math, the sequel: What DI Looks Like In Print

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What DI Looks Like In Print

If you are embarking on the exploration of Direct Instruction like I have been recently (or following my exploration of it), you might be interested in this. I finally received the DI books I ordered from Amazon. I bought "Spelling Through Morphographs" (Dixon and Englemann) in a nice little deal, and received the Teacher's Presentation Book 1 and the Blackline Masters (student workbook, unused). I was not able to get the Teacher's Guide, so know I'm working with less than the full arsenal of material here.

I'm going to make a couple of posts about these books, and some other info I'm in the process of gathering. I'm going to begin by simply describing what the lessons look like. I think one of the frustrating aspects of being so interested in something like DI is that there is little easy access to an actual lesson (does this element of mysteriousness negatively affect teacher's opinion of it?), or the actual books to be used. Maybe folks in other areas have had an opportunity to get professional development in it, or see it in action, but I have had no such luck or opportunity in any of the schools I've worked in, and little luck online except for descriptions of what a lesson plan should look like. So, if you're unfamiliar with it, and worried about what it may look like, here's a good start. Everything here is meant to be informative, not critical or otherwise evaluative.

The teacher's book is divided into 70 lessons. Each lesson is divided into 7-10 exercises, labeled by number. The student workbook corresponds to the lesson, but each part is labeled by letter. So, where in the teacher book you may have Exercise 3, it may actually be Part B on the student worksheet. This is because not every exercise is a written exercise - some of them are verbal. The teacher's guide Contents page does not have any description about what the particular lesson is about - just lesson number and page number. This is interesting to me - it definitely keeps one from skipping around in the lessons, or targeting them by topic. The teacher script is written in a light blue in my book, and my only commentary about that is that it is a little faint, and I'd be afraid I might miss a line if I wasn't careful. However, each line is numbered in black, and all cues for signaling and pausing are written in black, as well as the expected responses. The teacher's book is spiral bound.

I've only looked at a few of the beginning lessons so far. I'll talk about lessons 1-4.
Lesson 1 and 2 each begin with a Word Rule (Exercise 1) and a Morphograph Rule (Exercise 2). They are verbal activities, read-and-repeat (teacher reads rule, students repeat, teacher asks question about the rule, students answer question - level: knowledge, skill: recall for those of you following along on your taxonomy scales). They are approximately a paragraph long, and I estimate would take 1-3 minutes. Exercise 3 is done on the board by the teacher. S/he writes words, points, and has students answer. These are longer exercises, probably 7-10 minutes or slightly more. By the time Exercises 1-3 are complete, the students have received all the information and rules they need to complete the written portion.

This is how Lesson 1 and 2 continue (for the most part identical). Part A: students count morphographs in words written on the page; words have 1 or 2 morphographs. Part B: students look at and spell new words; each word has only 1 morphograph. Part C: students look at and spell new words with 2-3 morphographs. Part D: looks like a math problem with ______ + _____ = [word]. Students count morphographs, and write each individual morphograph in the space.

At the bottom of their page, students add up how many they missed in a handy little chart labeled with the parts of the lesson. There's also something about worksheet points and oral points, but it looks as though that's explained in the missing teacher's guide. (Though it seems self-explanatory.)

Lessons 3-4 change a bit. They begin with reviewing how to count morphographs, and students do this on their worksheet (Exercise 1, Part A). They then move into an Affix Introduction, in which students learn some new morphographs. Similar activities include writing new words again (2-3 morphographs) and another activity spelling new words with 3-4 morphographs. New activities in lessons 3-4 are circling words in a line (example below) and matching (draw a line from each morphograph to its meaning).

Example Directions: Circle the words in the lines.

Word given is (example): space

Line looks like: spacespecesacespacespocespacaspacespeca

So, you can see that the lessons move at a steady pace, only change slightly in format from lesson to lesson (and that so that a routine is developed), and quickly increase in content while building on pre-learned skills.

As I glance through more of the book I see there are more activities like word finds, crossword puzzles, bingo, make words from a selection of morphographs, adding morphographs together (in which case students must use spelling rules, such as changing y to i). The student worksheets grow more lengthy, and later involve independent activities as well. Any questions or info you'd like to see from me? Let me know. Ms. Teacher also did a post about this a while back which may supplement your reading.


Catherine Johnson said...


Catherine Johnson said...

It is UNBELIEVABLY difficult to see these materials.

Have you ever looked at MEGAWORDS?

That's what I'm using, because I couldn't get the Engelmann series.

Last night C. couldn't spell "squirrel," which, iirc, was in one of the first books.

So I'm thinking of trying to get hold of SPELLING MASTERY again.

Catherine Johnson said...

The teacher's guide Contents page does not have any description about what the particular lesson is about - just lesson number and page number. This is interesting to me - it definitely keeps one from skipping around in the lessons, or targeting them by topic.


I have this problem with Saxon.

When I desperately need to use the book as a reference it's fairly difficult to find what I'm looking for -- and I've created my own index in addition to the book's index.

Anonymous said...

This is actually the first text I've looked at. I've looked at buying others, but realistically for me, since it's simply in the interest of personal research, they tend to be too expensive. This one was a nice deal to stumble on, and there was only one. As mentioned though, I still could only get two of what appear to be four necessary texts. I hadn't heard of Megawords (haven't seen the Saxon stuff either). I'll have to look it up.

I have thoughts about the Contents page I'm going to post later.

KDeRosa said...

The spelling series is the most DI of any DI series. This is due to the nature of spelling. The other series are more easily adaptable to content area classes. Spelling will always seem more rote-like.

TurbineGuy said...


Have you checked out the DI videos available at the ADI yet.

Anonymous said...


No, unfortunately I have a very inexpensive but slooooow internet connection. It takes about 3 times the length of a video just to download the video. So I've been waiting for summer, when I don't have to be working while waiting for downloads. :) You can bet I'm dying to see them though.