Adventures in Literacy Land: Phonics

Showing posts with label Phonics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phonics. Show all posts

Breaking Down Skills

One of the most amazing (but also challenging) things about our career as educators is change.

We grow from the yearly changes that we encounter.  And the biggest change we confront each year: a new set of students.  This new set of little individuals bring their own strengths, expertise, and challenges to the classroom.  Because no two years look exactly the same, we must grow and change as educators in order to meet the ever-changing needs of our students.

After leaving the classroom to become a Title I teacher, I feel that I had to adjust quickly to the intervention demands my students required. I was overwhelmed by my desire to help them become readers but felt that my knowledge base needed to grow and expand.  I didn't seem to have just the right tools in my toolbox for each kid.  And so I had to grow as an educator.  I had to learn, try, and analyze my results.  What I found out was that I became a much better and must stronger teacher.

Currently as a push-in Title I teacher, I am constantly working with my team to analyze student data, make changes, and produce educational plans.  My daily schedule incorporates Tier I guided reading instruction, Tier II intervention on specific skills, guided math instruction, writer's workshop, and more Tier II interventions.  We look at the data and change groups when new needs arise.

Through all my research, trial and error, and personal learning, I found out that my expertise lies in breaking down skills for students.  Helping them to understand the real life connection, while also making it more concrete.  My teaching was not always this way.  But through the literacy writing of Tanny McGregor and the math instruction of Donna Boucher, I have found my own path and intervention techniques to help meet the ever-changing needs of my first graders.

As young learners, it can sometimes be hard for students to understand how the foundational skills connect to real world experiences.  I truly believe that helping our students make these connections will help them to achieve and grow as learners.

I like to take skills...break them down and then build them back up.  For example, decoding small words will help students to read 2-syllable words.

 Reading these words will help students when reading sentences or paragraphs.  To illustrate this, I created a simple sheet that does just that:

I have found that my students get really excited to see that reading one small part of a word can help them to read an entire paragraph!

In other cases, I have worked with students that have a difficult time determining the difference between a letter, sound, and word.  Again, they needed to understand how those pieces come together to form the "big picture."  So along with manipulatives (letter tiles and word cards), I use an interactive powerpoint that helps them see how letters come together into words and the words come together to form sentences.  Here is an example of some slides:

Whether it is comprehension, fluency, math skills, or phonics, I work hard to find ways to break down each skill for my students that need it. 

Trying out these lessons is always the best part!  I love to analyze, change, and re-create them for the years to come.

Two years ago, I was invited to contribute to Adventures in Literacy Land.  I was excited to learn new techniques, push my thinking, and incorporate ideas from other experts.  And what I have found from this experience is that my students have benefited from the variety of experts that write, comment, and read this blog.  Thank you helping me to guide my students as they grow as learners.


Why I don't teach kids to sound it out

One of the most common phrases you hear in a classroom, or at the dinner table during homework time, is "sound it out."  I have used this phrase many times myself, but then I learned better!

I  no longer tell my kids to sound it out when reading of spelling and here is why:

1. First of all, very few kids are ever actually taught how to sound something out. As adults, we move through the sounds so quickly that it doesn't give their little brains time to process how we got there. And so often, we as adults will get frustrated with the process and end up just telling them the word, without really giving them the chance to do it themselves.  The only thing we are teaching them this way is to wait long enough and she will give me the word!

Kid: What's this word?
Mom: Sound it out
Kid: /p/.../e/...I mean /u/....
Mom: /pump/, now what's the rest?
Kid: /pump/.../k/..../e/
Mom: No /i/
Kid: /i/..../n/
Mom: Good, now what's the word.
Kid : I don't know.
Mom: Pumpkin, the word is pumpkin!
Sound familiar? 

2. Even if we did teach a child to sound out words correctly, what happens when they come across a long word like pumpkin? That word has 7 different sounds. Do you think that a child will be able to remember the sound they started with by the time they get to the end? Not likely. These long words are very difficult to blend.

3. Not every sound that we read can be "sounded out".  The English language is such a backwards and tricky language.  Some words, you just can't sound out. Most of us call these sight words. That's okay, but what happens when we come across a word that you can't sound out, but it is not a sight word either? A word like mirage or or even one as simple as school?

4. A child that is learning to read will not know all of the many sounds of the written language before he/she starts picking up books. They will come across long vowels, vowel digraphs, diphthongs, y as a vowel, past/present endings and more. Just because the child hasn't learned these sounds, doesn't mean that we can't give them books to read. And we cannot only be giving decodable books either!  They have to be given regular books and strategies for reading those books!  If they don't know the sound, then they can't sound it out!

So what do I do instead? 

In my class, rather than sounding out words, we stretch and chunk.

Shorter words get stretched. We stretch the word in our mouths like a rubber band so that we don't lose any sounds along the way.  So if we are stretching the word "stomp" then we start with the first letter.  We add the second letter to the first letter and blend those two.  Then we add another letter and blend it with the first chunk that we already created.  We continue adding each letter until we have stretched out the entire word.

Why does this work?  Because the kids don't forget what sound they started with by the time they get to the end of the word.  A great way for students to practice this is by covering up the word except for the first letter.  Uncover one letter at a time, each time, blending it all together.  Try out my Stretchy the Snake freebie to see how it works!

 Stretchy Snake Decoding Strategy - FREE SAMPLE

I will even have students use hand motions to show that they are stretching their words.  We start with our hands together, fingers pinched, like we are holding a rubber band.  With each sound we add, we pull our hands further apart (stretching our rubber band).  When we get to the last sound, we let go of our "rubber band" and say our word! 

For larger words, we chunk.  We chunk the words into smaller parts so that we can then stretch each of those small parts.  For pumpkin, we chunk and then stretch.

In order to use this strategy, students have to be able to "see" the chunks.  This can be difficult for some students.  The best way to get students seeing the chunks is by exposing them to chunks of sound.  Have you noticed that pump and kin are both small words?  You could even take words and look for the small nonsense words inside of them!  Or put nonsense words together to see if they make big words. 

We know these as syllables and students can hear syllables when given a word orally, but don't always see them in the written words that they are reading.  You can make it easier by putting a dot in between your two syllables.  This helps them to see the chunks until they start seeing them for themselves.

Of course, these 2 strategies are not the only ones that you will need to teach your students.  Not every word can be "chunked" or "stretched."  You can teach them about skipping, flipping, and using pictures, but that is for another day! 

Thanks for hanging with me!


Phonics Tubs

This is Jessica here, from Hanging Out in First!  I haven't been with you in a while but I am back with a big announcement.  I am moving to Kindergarten this year.

As a result, I am spending my summer reworking a lot of my lessons, centers, etc.  I have not taught Kindergarten before, so this will be a new experience for me!

One of my biggest summer projects is Phonics Tubs.  My phonics tubs are starting with letter sounds, but I may eventually branch out to word families, digraphs, short/long vowel sounds, etc.

I have seen many versions of these that you can purchase on TPT or on sites like Lakeshore but they have their downfalls.  Lakeshore is crazy expensive and TPT (as much as I love them) are going to be flat pictures.  I want something tactile!  So after much research, I settled on making my own.

I started at the Dollar Tree.  I picked up these little containers - 4 for a dollar.  Heck yeah!  That is in my price range.  While I was there, I perused the toy aisle for a bit.  I found lots of options for items to put in my bins, but decided to only pick up a few things because I still wasn't entirely sure what I wanted it to look like.  I needed to do a little more planning first.

I went home and made a list of possible items that I could put into each tub.  I was making 26 tubs for each of the 26 letters.  Some letters were pretty easy to brainstorm; others, not so much.

Then I headed into Michaels....just to see what they had.  I knew they had all of those little animal figures (animals are an obvious choice to start with) but I wasn't sure of the price.  What I did find, was even more amazing than I imagined!  BUTTONS!  Michaels has all of these little packs of buttons that are "themed."  I love that I didn't have to buy a bag of 12 soccer ball buttons to get one soccer ball.  I was able to pick up a bag of sports themed buttons and get a soccer ball, a football, a baseball, a bat, etc, all for $2.  I also got some animal buttons, food buttons, girly buttons, etc.

I totally forgot to take a picture before ripping into all of these lovelies in my excitement, but here is a picture of a couple of them out of the package.  Aren't they cute??

While I was there, I also found these adorbs letter stickers for only $2!  Beats having to make my own.  They were perfect for the front of my tubs. Great shopping!

Next, I cleaned out my kids' toy box.  Man they have so much junk many potential phonics tub toys and treasure box toys.  I found cars, trucks, flags, balls, lizards, dinosaurs, legos, blocks, and more!  (I have three boys. Can you tell?)

Last stop, Party City.  They have an entire aisle of party favors that are perfect for this!  You can get them individually for 30 cents a piece (so again, you can buy the one that you need without having to spend a dollar on 5).   Look at all of these little trinkets I picked up.  Only $20!

My tubs are nearly complete now.  I just have to find some items for those hard letters (x, y, z, q).  For those, I may have to resort to some printed pictures, but that's okay.
 (You can see I have even started gathering a few items for digraph tubs!)

So how will I use these fancy schmancy tubs you ask?  I have so many ideas for them!  The most obvious is at a center, the students can dump two tubs and then sort them by sound.  But I am also thinking that I can use them for quick phonemic awareness lessons, like I pull one from a tub and if it makes the sound we are learning, the students give me a thumbs up/thumbs down.  I can use them during guided reading groups for letter sounds.  I can use them during guided writing or dictation by having students pull an item and write the letter that makes that sound.  It could even be in writing center, where students have to pull an item and write about it.  I think these are going to be a great addition to our classroom learning!


Teaching Split Digraphs

Hello everyone! 

It's Pixie Anne from Growing Little Learners here today to share a short post with you on my favourite activity when teaching split digraphs in the classroom.

It's a short post because we still have 17 more teaching days left over here in the UK and I know you can all appreciate that overwhelming feeling of wondering how on earth you are going to fit in all that learning that still needs to be done; squeeze in all the other crazy one off activities that seem to crop up at this time of year; trying to prepare the class for the new school year and pack up your classroom at the same time!

While there doesn't seem to be enough time left for all of those things, time is strangely going oh so slowly too... I've enjoyed my class a lot this year but I am ready for the term to end!

My little learners have done so well with their reading this year. I have seen HUGE improvements from every single child and am so proud of them all. I can honestly say that (apart from the several new arrivals I have had in the last month) my whole class have a pretty solid understanding of their letters and sounds which is very different from previous years!

One of our favourite activities in class this year when teaching split digraphs (or magic/silent 'e' if you prefer) has been this one:

Build the Word!

I hand out letter cards to at least half the class then ask them to come up to the front to build a word such as 'tie'. I make sure the children I have given the 'i' and 'e' too are friends so they won't mind holding hands to show that we know that those 2 letters together make the long vowel sound. 

I then ask for a different word such as 'tide' to be made. Chances are, if it our first encounter, the child holding the 'd' will place themselves at the end of the word. We discuss this and I thank the child for making such a brilliant mistake which we can all learn from and we move them to the correct position.

 It is really powerful for those two children holding the 'i' and 'e' to still hold hands as they make space for the 'd' so we can see that while they are apart now, they still make the same sound!

I ask other children if they are able to come up and make new words or call out specific words I would like built. We repeat with a different starting word such as lie, die or pie.

It's great to get the kids up and to use them as a resource rather than just using the interactive whiteboard or magnetic letters. It is a lot more engaging and memorable for them. It's easy to prep (handwritten on paper works just as well as fancy cards) and generates a lot of discussion and peer assessment - are they in the correct place? Thumbs up or down!

I have made a freebie for you based on the split digraph i-e so you can try it out (if you haven't used this idea before) in your classroom.

I'd love to hear how you teach split digraphs in your classroom so do please leave a comment below.

Thank for stopping by today!


Teaching Phonics


It's Pixie Anne from Growing Little Learners here today to share a suggested lesson outline for teaching phonics with you.

The first 8 years of my teaching career were with the older primary children (10-11 years) and daily phonics teaching was not something I had to do. This meant that when I asked to be moved to teach the younger ones (6-7 years), phonics was something completely alien to me and I was completely out of my depth and comfort zone! 

I've been with the little ones for 2 years now and LOVE teaching phonics. It took a while to get to grips with it all and find a structure to the sessions that suited me (and still ticked the expected boxes!) but I finally have! I think my favourite thing about it is the pace - it has got to be quick, quick, quick and that keeps us all on our toes!

There are plenty of good schemes of work and websites (Phonics Play is my favourite) to help with planning and teaching ideas but today I thought I would share the basic outline of my daily phonics sessions with you:

Graphics: Creative Clips, Fonts: Kevin and AmandaComfortaa
This is something that works for me. Of course, I do change things up all the time to keep my class engaged and interested - please do not think I stick rigidly to this outline day in and day out! I am also always looking for new games and activities (so if you have any, please share in the comments below!) and for ways to improve my practice. 

I have shared this with newer teachers in my school and student teachers who have found it useful to have a simple outline to build their lessons around and I hope any teachers to be or anyone else who finds themselves switching year groups and facing phonics teaching finds this useful in some way too!

Thanks for stopping by today!