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Using the programme in a mixed YR/Y1 class

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Joined: 21 Oct 2007
Posts: 14
Location: Ireland

PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 4:04 pm    Post subject: Using the programme in a mixed YR/Y1 class Reply with quote

I am a primary school teacher in the republic of Ireland.
I teach a mixed class of Junior/Senior Infants (the equivalent of YR/Y1 in England).
There are 10 pupils in Junior Infants and 12 in Senior Infants ranging in age from 4 to 6.
There are 12 girls and 10 boys in total and there are a range of mixed abilities.
The senior children have spent a year at JP, completing the basic code GPCs and are also familiar with some of the long vowel alternatives.
I do not have a TA but the LST is available for 30 mins Tues- Fri.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to preview the programme and I began using the unit 1 materials in early September.

However until now, I hadn't seen the programme overview and guidance.
I consider this an invaluable document and feel Debbie is very generous to provide it as a free resource given the amount of time and effort it took to compile it.

I'm still trialling ways to use the resources.
As I waited for the other modules/units to be launched, I spent time working at whole class level.
The older children benefitted from revising the basic code and it was also an opportunity for them and for me to become familiar with the format of the 'sounds book activity sheets' and the 'read the words, make up a story sheets'.
The latter are a great favourite and provide material with which to work to develop listening and speaking skills and vocabulary.
With Debbie's permission I did adapt them, adding my own cumulative decodable words to suit our situation and to guide the storyline.
In my mixed class situation I have decided that it suits me to use two of these stories @week - one junior and one senior but I do the lesson as a whole class activity..
I add extra words involving correspondences the other class is working on so each class can focus on their correspondence.
It also means that when the junior class moves up next year, they will not revisit familiar worksheets but will have a chance to use new sheets with new vocabulary.

Debbie recently sent me some of the materials I needed from unit 2.
I wanted to proceed with the older class and to begin filling in gaps in correspondence knowledge.
The overview is very helpful in planning for this.
I scanned the content for unit 1 and found that I had explicitly taught all graphemes but -ck.
I decided to leave that and teach it as a whole class session when the younger children would also be learning it, so I began filling in the gaps using the -ff, -ll, -ss sheets and I am working on from there, filling in gaps through the units before moving on to new correspondences.

I am introducing the sounds at the rate of 2 @ week.

I have done some chopping and changing to try to find the most effective approach and I know that I will continue to do so until the programme has been up and running for some time.

I am aware that everyone visiting this forum will be in a different situation but for interests sake my weekly schedule at present is:

Use picture posters and grapheme cards to introduce sounds.
Use words from cumulative wordlists to practise blending and segmenting skills using magnetic grapheme cards on the whiteboard.
Complete colour the sounds sheets and stick them into into the sounds book ( from now on I will also include a word list strip for further GPC / blending and segmenting practise at home-to date I was encouraging to sound out 2/3/words on the colour the sounds sheet)
The children can use the words on the cumulative list to sound out all through a word and blend the sounds to decode 4/5 of the words.
They then hide the words,the adult calls out one of the words, the childre sound out all through the word, counting the sounds, drawing a dash for each sound and then either match using the grapheme cards or write the corresponding grapheme on the appropriate line.

The children could use also these lists as part of a paired word game with their parent- the parent calls out a word, the child segments it, counts the sounds and selects the correct graphemes to spell it. S/he can then check if they have done so properly by looking at the word list. The child and parent then swap roles with the child reading out a word for the parent to make/write

LST listens to junior children practise their sounds and also practises letter formation while I listen to seniors reading and check written homework and sounds in sound book.
Work on the sounds book activity sheet.
Begin with Senior children (while juniors work at handwriting skills )and allow them to complete the sheet while I then work through Juniors sheet work with them (most to be completed at home but practise blending, segmenting and letter formation at school)using whiteboard and grapheme cards
Stick sound book activity sheets into sound books on opposite page to colour the sounds sheet.

When these sheets are folded up to reveal only the grapheme at the top, they are the equivalent of the sound books I used last year.

However when unfolded the sound sheets reveal lots more material (and information) to guide the parents as to the best way to help their children revise sounds and help develop blending, segmenting and handwriting skills.

I check junior sound book work while LST listens to seniors reading and checks their sound book work.
Give the seniors ‘I can read, write and draw sheets’ to work on while I introduce new junior sound using materials as Monday.
Allow juniors to rehearse letter formation on this sheet and to colour the picture (and/or listen in) while I introduce new senior sound.
Stick the colour the sound sheets into sound books with a wordlist strip for blending and segmenting at home.

As Tuesday , however with a focus on the junior sound book activity sheet (while the seniors read, illustrate and possibly copy a page of decodable text.

As time goes on I will encourage the children to work in pairs using the wordlists at a game as outlined above. .

Check homework in sounds book and revise.

The senior children are beginning to write the words into sentences.
However some of the other words required to write the sentence may contain as yet untaught correspondences.
I have explained to the parents that they should encourage the children to try to use decodable words but if they need a word containing such correspondences, to encourage the children to segment and identify as many sounds as possible, only providing the tricky part.
There are some senior children who I feel it would serve better to use the word orally in a sentence, but for segmenting/writing practise at home they are using the words on the sounds activity sheets.
As these children also require simple sentence level dictation exercises I have given them copies of the decodable text ('I can read sheets') with instructions for their parents to carry out a couple of dictation exercises using these simple decodable sentences each week.

My senior children have been working through the 'Jelly and Bean series since last year. Some of them are approaching a level involving some GPCs revision so I have begun to staple together sets of the decodable text sheets to form books for them to decode and illustrate.
They will use this as their reading material until we have advanced a little farther with our code knowledge.

The resource bank is vast and it will take trial and time to discover its full potential., but what a valuable and systematic programme we now have at our disposal!

Thank you Debbie and well done!!

Last edited by Kat on Tue Oct 30, 2007 10:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for all the trouble you have gone to describing your experiences with a new programme.

It always takes some time before teachers (when I say 'teachers', I always include parents in that if parents are doing the teaching!) get the full measure of what they have available to them and how best to use the resources.

I have tried to design the Phonics International programme with flexibility in mind because everyone's immediate needs are different.

Some learners, for example who are older will already be able to handwrite well. They would not need the additional time spent on handwriting practice. For such learners, their issue for handwriting will be the kinaesthetic practice to associate the letters and letter groups with the sound they are focusing on - not the formation of the letters per se.

Some teachers will want their learners to rehearse any handwriting opportunities in joined writing of their preferred style. In that case, teachers need to add the leaders and joins appropriately and/or instruct the learner to do joined writing if preferred.

Some teachers may want print for spelling practice, but joined writing for spelling tests and writing sentences and text.

These are not things for a programme designer to be pedantic about and of course no programme can address that degree of detail in the programme.

Speaking of handwriting - I may well design a specific handwriting package for joined writing. I have taught learners to write very well of any age and there is no excuse for learners not to handwrite well unless they have genuine physical difficulties. Too often teachers give up on their learners, or simply teach handwriting badly or simply don't allow enough rehearsal time - or simply fail to be insistent enough that writing is carefully executed.

These are just my thoughts for what they are worth.

I am sure we all look forward to hearing more about Kat's adventures in her infant class and how she explores the programme. She has given me some ideas and inspiration these last few months for how the programme can be used.

As long as teachers keep focused on the importance of systematically introducing those letter/s-sound correspondences and find ways and time to ensure the learners actually LEARN them - and then provide opportunities to model and rehearse the blending and segmenting skills.

Debbie Hepplewhite
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Joined: 21 Oct 2007
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Location: Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps the following questions posed to me on another forum and my replies may be of interest to others using Debbie's programme:

Question: when teaching the alphabetic code do children naturally recognise the vowel digraphs once they are taught or how do you stop them sayinge.g. t-e-a for tea? I jsut know that my guys e.g. if I show them ch they tell me it says ch, will come up with loads of ch words etc then when it comes up in a reading situation they still say k/h does this happen with synthetic phonics?

My reply:

Once you have introduced a new letter/sound correspondence, besides using it in intensive blending and segmenting work as part of discrete phonics lesson and also as homework (using the cumulative wordlists provided in the programme) you should use every opportunity to highlight words containing that correspondence, in any position, as they crop up incidentally throughout the school day.

Once a word crops up take time to stop, get the children to count the sounds throughout the word, draw a dash on the whiteboard for each sound and get a child up to write/select a grapheme card and place it on the corresponding dash as you sound out all through the word to spell it.

Get another to 'edit' what child 1 has done by sounding out and blending the sounds to check if it is correct.

It takes training and time and consistent practice.

Use the grapheme cards every day to revise letter/sound correspondences already introduced.
Using words from the cumulative word bank do weekly dictation exercises.
Encourage the children to work in pairs at the game outlined in my first post using the wordlists.

It just takes practice, practice and more practice.

The decodable text also provided in the programme can be printed off and used for this dictation work if/when you want to use sentence level text.

You could also use it to focus on a target sound- be it letter/digraph.

Allow the children to circle/highlight the grapheme on the page.

Any chance to draw their attention to it reinforces the code knowledge.

Another good idea is to teach the children-even in juniors- to use joined writing to write the digraph- this reinforces the idea that even though there are 2 letters involved they represent just one sound.
The sound may even be represented by a trigraph eg /igh/ , /tch/ .
('Grapheme' is used as a term to describe a letter or set of letters used to represent one sound.)

One of the great things about SP is that it allows you to assess and plan based on individual needs as you work with the children day to day and this assessment feeds planning based on these individual needs.

As the child masters the correspondence you can then tick it off ( but it will be revisited naturally on a continual basis if you use the cumulative word lists and decodable text)

The programme resources are ideal to help you address this.

For example if a child continues to do as you say and sound out the individual letters in a digraph, then you simply note this and select materials from the resources provided to provide opportunities to work on the particular correspondence with which they are struggling (such as providing the appropriate decodable text for them to highlight the target correspondence as suggested above)

If they are taught in this way from the start, by the time they move out of the infant to the junior level, this problem should be already remedied.

Question: How do you think this would play out over the what would you expect most of your kids to know by the end of junior infants, senior infants, and I'd appreciate your opinion on what would be general targets for the middle classes too. Would you advocate whole class phonic instruction beyond second class using this program..or would it be better to group kids at this stage as I'd imagine the differences would be getting bigger and bigger?

My reply:
My aim this year for Junior Infants is to complete the basic code with a few forays into advanced code along the way( for example if you look at the overview you will see that once /ai/ is introduced it is immediately followed by /ay/ and then work on the long vowel sound represented by the single letter/grapheme 'a' - eg as in the name 'Jason')

The seniors have already been systematically taught the basic code and a certain amount of the advanced last year.
I began this year by revising- making 2 piles of grapheme cards for each child - know/don't know and focusing on the latter and encouraging them to do this at home and to revise these sounds
Now that I have the new material I have begun to go back and fill in the gaps eg we have spent time on -ff, -ll. -ss and -ck which we didn't address explicitly last year with JP.
My plan for senior infants this year is to continue to work through the correspondences following the sequence of the units in the new programme, filling in gaps quickly and moving on systematically at a rate of 2 sounds @ week (given my mixed class situation and also the need to spend more time reinforcing and at speaking and listening skill and vocab and comprehension development.)

I can't say exactly what the seniors will have covered by the end as it is another trial year.

Some of the units delve into grammar work eg /ed/ sounds.
We also intend to examine the programme as a staff at our next planning day and investigate and discuss how the materials may be of use as a spelling programme further up through the school.
I see it having great potential for this.
Our LST is using SP with strugglers from all class levels.
Struggling readers are in a sense beginners no matter what age they are as they haven't mastered the alphabetic code and will need to improve their code knowledge and skills of blending and segmenting ( and obviously language, vocabulary and listening skills.)
You could use the materials provided in the programme to assess the code knowledge of strugglers up through the school and plan an individual programme based on individual needs- filling in gaps in code knowledge and working on blending and segmenting skills based on your findings.
Depending on ability you may be able to group your strugglers to address their needs.
The programme materials provide resources to help with this,as they are not 'babyish' they are suitable for use with older strugglers.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Question: when teaching the alphabetic code do children naturally recognise the vowel digraphs once they are taught or how do you stop them sayinge.g. t-e-a for tea? I jsut know that my guys e.g. if I show them ch they tell me it says ch, will come up with loads of ch words etc then when it comes up in a reading situation they still say k/h does this happen with synthetic phonics?

Thank you, Kat, for describing your good practice and ideas.

I think the question you have highlighted above is a very relevant one and I would like to add some thoughts.

There are all sorts of different types of 'phonics' and all sorts of different activities that we can undertake with our students.

It is a feature of synthetic phonics teaching that you introduce graphemes discretely as being code for various sounds (phonemes in the main - that is the smallest single sounds identifiable in speech).

In this way, the learner gets to recognise various graphemes like the 'ea' in the word 'tea'.

A balance needs to be struck between resources which are used for 'teaching' purposes and resources which are used for 'learning' and resources which are used for 'application' purposes. Hence, on my Sounds Book activity sheets, the focus graphemes are presented in a different colour from the rest of the word to be distinctive for the teaching and learning processes.

Then I chose to present the words in the My Word word lists and the Blend Word Cards with no distinctive marking for specific graphemes for application purposes. The point has to come where the learner scans the word from left to right and is 'alert' for any possible graphemes such as 'ea' without any extra help.

To make matters more complicated, the learner also has to be alert for similar graphemes such as 'ear'. Having said that, it is perfectly possible WHEN READING for the learning to see 'ea' and sound out a word with /ee/ then say the /r/ sound and still achieve the target word (for some words - for other words the context will indicate the final pronunciation based on meaning).

For example, the word 'fear' might be read as /f/ /ee/ /r/ and this can still lead to 'hearing' the word 'fear'.

Extra attention has to be given to all the words with spelling variations of the /eer/ sound, however, because of the need to spell the words correctly and also to make the reader aware of the alternative pronunciation. We know that the grapheme 'ear' can be pronounced as /eer/ as in 'fear' and /air/ as in 'bear'. And so on...

Very often, learners are left to work these things out for themselves through their wider reading - and it has to be said that many learners do, indeed, manage to work these things out for themselves over time. But others don't!

As we are the 'teachers', however, surely it is important that we give the learners information and support - and TIME - to make them aware of these spelling and pronunciation differences?

The /air/ and /eer/ words can be found in unit 6 by the way.

[I have already received a helpful suggestion from someone which we shall follow - which is to include information on the download page as to which letter/s-sound correspondences appear in which unit. Thank you to Susan Godsland for that sensible suggestion!]

Going back to my main point - resources need to match specific teaching and learning intentions and be supportive. Resources need to include material which is good for 'teaching' and material which is good for 'learning' - and material which is good for 'application'.

This is what I have endeavoured to achieve in this programme.

Be wary of material which is good for 'teaching' but does not bridge the gap between 'teaching' and 'learning' - and 'application'.
Debbie Hepplewhite
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This term I’ve decided to try changing my Y1 lesson format slightly and also to make more use of the decodable text and the proformas provided.

I made up a pack including soundbook activity sheets, corresponding decodable text, a sheet containing wordlists (including some tricky words) and a proforma with headed columns for listing words from the decodable text containing the target graphemes.

The GPCs involved are from unit 3: ‘ee’, ‘ea’-/ee/, and ‘ea’-/e/

I did read that you suggest the decodable text should not be introduced until the children are famliar with the GPCs involved, however they are not totally new as I have A4 laminated sheets with long vowel alternative headings on display and we regularly sort suitable words as they crop up incidentally.

Also we have already met ‘ee’ a few weeks back, and have since covered the GPCs in between, the text will be cumulatively decodable.

The ‘tricky words’ are suitable for use with the tip ’try the short vowel sound first and, if that doesn’t work, try the long sound’ eg.: no, me, wild

I’m interested to see how this format works and obviously if it is successful I will continue to use it as we encounter further suitable GPC alternatives..

I was impressed with the childrens blending and segmenting ability today based on the decodable text particularly as we had jumped forward slightly to accommodate the relevant GPCs.

Incidentally, as it was a particularly windy day the text was very suitable (‘Free as the Wind’) and presented opportunities to link and integrate content from other curricular areas with phonic work

- language and vocabulary development and also a chance for the children to become active as we discussed the meaning and use of the words :’scatter’ and ‘ ‘sway’.
- science : methods of seed dispersal
- geography: introducing, discussing and segmenting to spell and order the following terms to describe weather conditions: calm, gentle breeze, windy, stormy, gale, hurricane.

The combination of weather conditions and text content unexpectedly gave rise to interesting contexts through which to deliver lots of formal and incidental phonics information and I found it a great opportunity to use the alphabetic code overview to full effect.
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