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an International Online Synthetic Phonics Programme
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Step One - getting to know your programme

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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2469
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 1:58 am    Post subject: Step One - getting to know your programme Reply with quote

Phonics International embodies a huge claim - that it is suitable for just about anyone wanting to teach and learn how to read and write in the English language.

In our modern world where we like to think of ourselves as individuals and 'No one size fits all' is a common saying, how can I be so ambitious as to describe that so many from different circumstances can benefit from this programme?

This phonics programme is about teaching The Alphabetic Code for the English writing system - and the technical skills of blending all-through-the-printed-word for reading and segmenting (splitting up) the sounds all-through-the-spoken-word for spelling (then knowing and writing down the code for the identified sounds). The reason that one programme can suit so many different people in different circumstances is because whoever you are and whatever your abilities or difficulties, there is one English Alphabetic Code to learn and the blending and segmenting skills for applying that code.

This programme is not a formal grammar programme and it is not designed to provide the 'enrichment' side of learning about language through good quality literature. My intent over time, however, is to provide a growing bank of decodable text through online books. (Anyone who is interested in writing decodable literature to add to the programme is welcome to contact me. In that way, we could gain some text which is culture specific helping to make this programme reflect a truly international flavour.)

The key to using the programme to its best advantage is for every 'teacher' (I use the term 'teacher' whether this is a parent, professional teacher or tutor) to get to KNOW the programme's resources and it's structure very well.

Of course to do this, you need to invest the TIME.

I appreciate that there is a danger of providing so much for free in unit 1 that people feel overwhelmed. My vision and my passion, however, is to support anyone with an interest in teaching and learning the English writing system. For this reason, I want to provide the basic understanding of the difference between The Alphabet and The Alphabetic Code as I believe this knowledge is everyone's fundamental entitlement. I have described the principles of synthetic phonics teaching in the free Overview and Guidance booklet in unit 1 and my suggestion is that 'teachers' need to read this book - perhaps more than once initially, to understand the teaching principles.

To understand the nature of the English written code more fully, 'teachers' need to study at least one version of The Alphabetic Code charts in unit 1 which include word examples. The most informative chart is the overview chart with 'Teaching Points' included. After reading the Overview and Guidance booklet, then, I suggest that looking at the chart with the 'Teaching Points' will be very helpful.

It is perfectly possible to use The Alphabetic Code charts in unit 1 to support the teaching of reading and writing for any synthetic phonics programme (where the basic unit of sound is the smallest unit - that is the 'phoneme'). I have therefore produced some plainer versions of The Alphabetic Code chart which can suit any phonics programme and are also less heavy on ink for those who wish to print a copy. It is a good idea to literally tape the sections of the charts together to make a long 'scroll' or two shorter scrolls (depending on how and where you might wish to display a copy).

May I suggest, however, that a full-coloured version of The Alphabetic Code chart can also be useful to use alongside another programme. The division of graphemes into various coloured sections makes the whole chart more memorable and it is easier to find one's way around these charts when they are in colour. The 'Giant' versions of The Alphabetic Code charts are really great to adopt for whole school use. Even when learners have learnt to read, the charts are very useful to support the continuation of a spelling programme.

Although there are many different resources in the Phonics International programme, this does not mean that everyone needs to use all of them. Some resources have the same teaching and learning purposes. For example, in class or group situations, teachers may wish to use the sets of flash cards of the letter/s-sound correspondences for 'quick-fire' responses. The teacher shows the letter/s (graphemes), the learners say the sounds (the phonemes). There are also resources such as the 'Say the Sounds' posters in units 1 - 5 which provide the same opportunity of seeing the graphemes, saying the phonemes. There are also 'Say the Sounds' booklets (ideal for home) for units 1 - 6.

One of the advantages of the resources is that they DO include the same information in slightly different formats. This means that the teacher can change the type of resources to add interest - or to be able to repeat the teaching and learning opportunities for those learners who are not so quick to pick up on them first time round - they need plenty of rehearsal and revision. Other learners may make very quick progress and so the teacher may not need the additional formats to teach the same things.

For this reason, I cannot provide a one-off step by step guidance manual. There is a starting point to the programme (unit 1 with s,a,t,i,p,n,c,k,ck,e,h,r) and an order of introduction of teaching the letter/s-sound correspondences and a cumulative word bank. Some learners, however, may need revision of some letter/s-sound correspondences and teachers should 'know' their pupils' needs, 'know' the programme's resources, 'know' the teaching principles - and then make decisions regarding the teaching accordingly.

I am using this programme, for example, for starting right from the beginning in a reception class (4 to 5 year olds), but I am also using it with learners who needed a refresher course in phonics in year two (age 6 to 7) and in years five and six (age 9 to 11). Other teachers are using it with secondary school learners of all ages and adults can use the programme also for revision (many pupils were never taught The Alphabetic Code explicitly in our British schools so there are many learners who would benefit from a crash-course in synthetic phonics) - and anyone of any age can use it when English is a second or additional language. Many teachers who are teaching learners beyond infant classes start using the programme from the later correspondences of unit 1 (the c,k,ck for example) or from the digraphs in unit 2 (ai,ay). They are able to do this because the programme is not designed just for young children (it is not 'babyish') and because the cumulative word bank includes longer words and not just three letter, three sound words (cvc or consonant-vowel-consonant). This allows for differentiation of stage, ability and modelling the next level of difficulty.

HOW the teacher uses the programme, then, is very important to its success.

Whilst users need to know their resource bank and the general synthetic phonics teaching principles on the one hand, a huge 'plus' of this programme is that the very specific 'code' information which is helpful for introducing every letter/s-sound correspondence is provided on every Sounds Book activity sheet.

The Sounds Book activity sheets really are the core of the programme. This is the one resource that teachers should never go without using.

The use of the Sounds Book sheet is supported by the Picture Posters and the Mini Posters. [Note: Since the initial launch of Phonics International, we have also produced the Alphabetic Code Frieze Posters !] These are ideal for visual display AS you introduce each correspondence. Some teachers prefer to print these out as they need them. Others prefer to print out the whole bank for each unit and store them in files/folders (we'll talk about different methods of storage shortly). Some schools are well-resourced and teachers prefer to laminate some of the materials for using year after year.

So - your first step is get to know the range of resources of the free unit 1. Whether or not you are interested in purchasing the remaining 11 units, many people will be able to make use of the resources in unit 1 - and hopefully they will have gained a better understanding of the nature of The Alphabetic Code and how you can go about teaching it.

I would be very grateful indeed if browsers would let other people know about the free resources of unit 1 - and spread this notion of needing to use Alphabetic Code charts to support the teaching of reading and spelling - rather than displaying 'The Alphabet' only in our classrooms and schools. Please tell your friends, colleagues and children's schools about this programme if you think it will be of benefit.

I would also be very grateful for your questions, comments and suggestions which you can post freely on any threads - including this step-by-step forum.

Next steps - assessment and storage! Wink
Debbie Hepplewhite
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