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Starting in kindergarten in an American school

 
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:43 pm    Post subject: Starting in kindergarten in an American school Reply with quote

I was recently asked some very sensible questions from a teacher in America who is keen to try synthetic phonics teaching in her classroom having spent some time looking into different teaching methods.

I thought her questions would be helpful to other teachers in a similar situation and so I am copying her questions and providing some answers on this thread - see following messages:
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Debbie, I first heard of Phonics International on the TES forums. You told me about the program when I inquired about a good synthetic phonics resource to use in my classroom. I'm a teacher from the state of ________. Currently, there is no school anywhere near me that I know of that uses any type of rigorous phonics programs (except in intervention cases but then it's only small group) which is why I've had to find teachers in the UK to answer all my questions. I've been talking with my principal about letting me take over a kindergarten class next year and implementing a new reading program. After looking at your website, all the resources and watching some of your videos, I really like the program.

I was just curious, how long exactly should the phonics instruction last?

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My reply:

Phonics instruction should last as long as it is needed to last!

I’m trying to change the notion that ‘phonics instruction’ is only the domain of infant teaching by describing that when we, as competent adult readers encounter a long, unknown word, we either don’t bother to decode it all (perhaps we are reading silently to ourselves and just ‘blurgh’ over the word as we can still ascertain the gist of the text – which is what many young readers or weak readers do with many words that they do not recognise automatically), or we may apply our phonics knowledge and decode the word from left to right placing ‘stress’ in the word where it makes sense from our previous reading experience to do so!

As spellers, when we want to spell a longish word or new word, we mentally break down the word into its main phonic sounds from beginning to end of the word and then translate the sounds into written phonic chunks according to our existing phonics knowledge. Many of us ‘say’ those chunks silently in our heads as we write down the chunks from left to right.

By cutting our phonics teaching too short – or indeed failing to teach any phonics rigorously at all (or mixing a bit of phonics teaching with other reading and spelling strategies), then for most of our students we have failed to ensure that they have sufficient breadth of alphabetic code knowledge of the letter/s-sound correspondences, and we have failed to ensure that their skills of decoding all-through-the-word for reading and orally segmenting all-through-the-spoken-word for spelling (and knowing the spelling alternatives to select), are proficient and automatic – and the domain of experienced adults and not just infants!

So, in answer to your question, ideally phonics teaching should be sustained throughout primary education and used in a general way to support students in secondary education (that is, teachers may model their phonics chunking as they write down long, technical words on the board or when reading texts collectively with the students – and support assistants should be properly trained in alphabetic code knowledge and the skills of blending, segmenting and handwriting as well as the teachers).

Phonics International is designed as a beginners’ reading, spelling and handwriting programme which moves seamlessly to a spelling programme. The programme could therefore last six or seven years in a primary school. Whilesoever literacy standards are abysmally low in many of our primary schools, secondary schools may also need to consider using the programme with at least their weaker students for intervention – or as a spelling programme perhaps for their youngest intake students (for example, ten to thirteen year olds as required).

In addition to using a rigorous phonics programme, I also describe how ‘incidental phonics teaching’ is an important element of general classroom practice – and I’ve provided a short paper describing this in the jade box on the central column of the homepage:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Debbies_Phonics_Teaching_Tips.pdf

Bear in mind, however, that synthetic phonics teaching is so effective – especially with such a content-rich programme as Phonics International, that the vast majority of learners will be blending and segmenting independently very quickly. Some will be able to do it within a couple of weeks (or even instantly!) and some may take a few months to be secure in their skills, even from the ages of four and five (and many from three!).

The idea is that each teacher follows the programme starting from the youngest infant class, and then informs the following teacher which point has been reached in the programme. In England, some of our first PI schools are teaching the programme from Reception (age four to five), progressing through units 1 to 5 in the first two-thirds of the school year, and then revising the units 1 to 5 with text level material. The Year One teacher then assesses the new pupils’ alphabetic code knowledge and blending and segmenting skills at the beginning of the academic year, and then decides how much unit 1 to 5 revision to do before proceeding with unit 6. Dependent on the context of the setting, some Year One teachers may only complete units 5 and 6 thoroughly, with the Year Two teacher addressing units 7 and 8. By this time, the programme is predominantly a spelling programme (which includes reading and writing of course) – because students have actually been ‘reading’ for a long time – which is why it is important that teachers and parents accelerate the teaching of letter/s-sound correspondences ‘incidentally’ as children ‘encounter’ these correspondences in their wider reading.

As the programme is ‘cumulative’, the letter/s-sound correspondences from previous units are constantly revised through resources such as the ‘Say the Sounds’ Posters which can be used as Posters but also as pages in the students’ clip files – and as assessment papers.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Do you have a sort of basic lesson plan or weekly plan structure?


My reply:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Brief_overview_of_Phonics_International_in_a_nutshell.pdf

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/choices_for_basic_phonics_lessons.pdf

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/aa_lesson_evaluation_record_sheet.pdf

Along with ‘Debbie’s Phonics Teaching Tips’ above, these documents are provided in the jade box in the central column of the PI homepage. They just provide basic suggestions but, in principle, the core SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS provide every alternate lesson and in between using these essential student sheets, you provide an extension activity of word, sentence or text level material. Every resource in the PI programme can be used in different ways according to skill emphasis, identified ‘need’ and for student differentiation. The same resource can usually be used with the whole class – but teachers realise that the learners ‘access’ the resources at their own level. Some might be just sounding out the graphemes and learning to ‘discern’ the words. Others might decode the word lists easily and be ready to do their own letter writing practice whilst waiting for the spelling list to segment. The teacher can provide additional words for spelling for the quicker learners – and so on.

Watch the 30 minute presentation video clip on the PI homepage (yellow box) in which I talk about differentiation with the SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS.

What I call ‘self-dictation’ is a wonderful activity to train the learners in. Instead of waiting for the slowest students to keep up with dictations, each learner reads the words (or phrases or sentences in the SENTENCES, or I CAN READ texts) and then turns to some lined paper to recall the word/phrase/sentence. The learner gains enormous personal focus and can work at his or her own speed. This maintains interest, maximises the use of time and really accelerates the learning potential of each student. Teachers and teaching assistants can attend to the weaker learners, but not to ‘do’ everything for them – but to supervise them to make sure they really apply themselves and to ‘teach’ specific elements that need extra attention. The buzz words are to ‘supervise’ or ‘teach’ not ‘to support’ as this usually manifests as doing the children’s work whilst the children shut off!!

In effect, then, lessons start with ‘teacher introductions’ (have a look at the CORE TEACHER MODELLING CARDS in the EARLY YEARS STARTER PACKAGE) and then the class go on to be trained how to use the core SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS followed by ‘word/sentence/text’ level material as appropriate depending on available time. The alternate lesson is completing the word/sentence/text level activity with the lesson ending by the teacher looking at this with the class. The learners themselves are literally ‘trained’ in what to do with the various resources. Lessons become quick, efficient, smooth, often ‘quiet’ with maximum engagement by each pupil.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Where I teach, we are mandated to have 2-2.5 hours daily of literacy instruction so I have a lot of time to work with and I want to be able to teach as much as possible.


My reply:

Fantastic! You are VERY LUCKY to have so much time allocated to literacy instruction. I would like you to consider that your phonics teaching is your ‘basic skills teaching’ and in addition to this, you need to think about literature, additional grammar, language and communication activities (oral work, drama, role play etc.) and genre for reading and genre for writing. You also need to work hard on your visual display. You need a main board in a very good position for your phonics visual aids (and PI excels in the range it provides) – and another place for higher-order and creative work. I have designed a ‘two-stage’ teaching model to describe how the various communication, language and literacy elements relate. We should not ask children to ‘read’ and to ‘write’ independently when they have insufficient alphabetic code knowledge and skills with which to read and write. They can ‘play’ read and write – but only as they wish to – and as teachers we should not be asking them to ‘write a story’ or ‘the news’ when they can barely write any letter shapes! I suggest that you allocate about 45 to 60 minutes on the Phonics International programme for four days per week, focus on country-specific literature and all other language and literacy activities for the remaining time. Consider a speaking and listening ‘weekend news’ session on Monday mornings, followed by drawing a picture (the teacher might write one news sentence beneath) – which, over time, becomes the beginnings of the children writing their news on lines beneath the pictures. Snatch moments of time throughout the days to do ‘quick-fire’ flash card rehearsal or use the SAY THE SOUNDS Posters placed strategically (for example, where children queue up to go to play or to lunch).

See pages 17 and 18 of the book below for the ‘Two-stage teaching model’:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/guidance_book.pdf
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Also, I saw on your website that you had a link to JollyPhonics. Do you suggest using some of the books from the program to supplement your program?


My reply:

Phonics International provides cumulative words, sentences and text level material for practising the necessary blending, segmenting and writing skills and so it is a ‘self-contained’ and complete teaching programme. In addition to the PI programme, it is really helpful to provide actual reading books which are also cumulative and include words for alphabetic code already taught. In the UK, now, there are a number of good quality decodable book sets available. Jolly Phonics has a range of reading books which would provide a good supplement to the infant classroom – but also ‘Jelly and Bean’ by Marlene Greenwood, the new ‘Rigby Phonics Readers’ which have been written since the ‘Rose Report’ (2006), Dandelion Readers, and ‘Read, Write Inc’ by Oxford University Press, ‘Big Cat’ by Collins, Floppy Phonics’ and ‘Songbirds’ by Oxford University Press and ‘Soundstart’ by Nelson Thornes – are all helpful to have as reading books in a synthetic phonics classroom. There may be some American based books which will be helpful. Teachers just have to ask sales reps to show the books and make personal decisions. Then, the books are best organised in a cumulative order as far as possible. It is helpful, however, to provide guidance for parents who are the supporting adults for children reading at home and I have written a one-page guidance paper via the unit 1 webpage which can be sent home or stuck into children’s reading record books where these are used:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/unit1_pdfs/parents_guidance_for_reading.pdf
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Another question I had was about sight words. Your program said that there is no guessing. So how do you teach words like "of" that are not phonetic?


My reply:

Words such as ‘of’ are incredibly easy. One of the skills children are taught is ‘tweaking’ or modifying the pronunciation achieved from sounding-out words literally. Attention can be drawn to words such as this specifically and the teacher can talk about the tricky or unusual parts. These trickier words are introduced as appropriate throughout the core SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS and they are also provided as specific posters in the MINI POSTERS range which is in every unit 1 to 12.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
In kindergarten we are required to teach 50 sight words, 75 in 1st grade and 100 in 2nd grade. Even if I can implement a change in the reading program at my school, we will still be bound to the high frequency word tests that our district mandates so I'm wondering how to fit it all together.


My reply:

I think it would be a good idea for you to provide me with the list of words you are given. Then I can literally tell you when and how they are taught within the programme to reassure you – but you can also do some extra checking in your teaching to make sure you have addressed these words. They WAY in which you address them, however, might change from perhaps over-emphasis on their discrete word shape – to teaching them more phonically and as they occur in the programme. You may need to bring forward the teaching of some words to reassure you about the tests. Please do let me have more information so that I can make suggestions. Often these so-called ‘sight words’ are not sight words at all when introduced within a systematic phonics programme.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If I begin the program in the beginning of the year with kindergarteners (ages 5-6) how many units should I get through in one year?


My reply:

As I mentioned above, start with introducing units 1 to 5 (perhaps through the material in the EARLY YEARS STARTER PACKAGE along with the PICTURE POSTERS of the full PI programme, then introduce the core SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS and the SENTENCES and I CAN READ TEXTS as soon as they are getting into a good routine of paying attention. Don’t start using the SENTENCES resource, however, until the children can blend at word level quite competently. Remember that you can use the resources in a ‘layered’ way. That means that you will be pressing ahead with the SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS, but you might start using the SENTENCES etc, from lower units. This is because learning alphabetic code knowledge (the letter/s-sound correspondences) will be ahead of beginners’ skills of blending and segmenting. Now older learners may well be able to use all the resources ‘in parallel’. Teachers simply have to use their common sense to make these kind of decisions. Also, some pupils in their classes may well manage text ahead of others. But never split the class up into lots of groups – have no more than two different groups on different resources at any one time or the teaching becomes unmanageable. As I said before, the children can ‘access’ the ‘same’ resources at different levels and in different ways.

As this will be your first year using PI, then it may take you longer – and no doubt the following year you might do things differently. Just be confident that you are doing the right thing and that it is better to do something well than rush at it and fail some of the children who have insufficient time to master the core skills and learn the alphabetic code knowledge. It is helpful if you can inform the parents and get them involved to help. At the end of a year, you need to ‘hand over’ to the next teacher and really urge the school to continue the programme further up the school. In fact, there is no reason why colleagues cannot start the programme in their own classes this year if there was sufficient interest. This might not happen immediately, but, in effect, it is like a ‘whole school’ intervention!!! Most primary classes start at the ‘c, k, ck’ SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEET in unit 1, and go on to unit 2 even with older children. Texts which may be simple to ‘read’ for older students nevertheless provide good material for spelling dictations and handwriting exercises!
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Do you have writing samples of children who have been in a class that used your program all year long?


My reply:

Yes, I’ll get some scanned and uploaded on the website.

Quote:
Also, many of my students will have come out of a pre-k school that focuses on letter names. I know that in synthetic phonics you aren't really supposed to go into letter names before the sounds are mastered. How could I address this with my students?


My reply:

Talk to them about the difference between ‘the alphabet’ and show them a poster, and ‘the alphabetic code’ and display your preferred GIANT ALPHABETIC CODE POSTER from unit 1. Tell them that for reading and spelling they need to use the ‘sounds’ and for saying the alphabet they can use the ‘names’. Over time, you may well influence your colleagues in pre-k to focus on sounds – or at least ‘sounds’ as well as ‘names’. In fact, they could use the EARLY YEARS STARTER PACKAGE from pre-k if the class consists of four to five year olds!
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally:

Quote:
Sorry that I have so many questions. I'm just desperately trying to escape a system of literacy that relies on pictures cues and things like onset and rime to teach kids. I know there is a better way out there. Thank you for all of your help!


My response:

Thank YOU for your passion and professional commitment. I do hope that you succeed in persuading your principal to give you a chance with PI!

My very best wishes,

Debbie
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Susan



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Also, I saw on your website that you had a link to JollyPhonics. Do you suggest using some of the books from the program to supplement your program?


I hope that PI users will find the following helpful:

Guidance on choosing and using a ‘decodable books’ scheme with beginning/struggling readers

- Check that the publisher's information clearly shows the scheme’s progression through the Alphabet Code.
- For ease of use, the sequenced introduction of grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) in the scheme should follow that taught in the setting’s synthetic phonics (SP) or linguistic phonics (LP) programme as closely as possible.
- Alphabet code in the text should be cumulative, with previously taught code included along with newly taught code.
- The inclusion of words containing as yet untaught code should be very limited.
- Check that the scheme's emphasis is not on initial letters –transitivity needs to be well understood..
- Text should focus on GPCs, not larger units of sound such as onset and rime.
- Avoid schemes which use predictable or repetitive text.
- Avoid schemes where eye-catching illustrations are the main attraction - with text used simply as a garnish.
- Avoid schemes where the illustrations have been deliberately designed to provide clues to the text content.
- Check that there are enough books in the scheme to allow adequate code practice-this is vital for 'slow to learn' students- supplement with books from another scheme if necessary.
- Check that the text is written by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic SP/LP practitioner
- Make sure that, when listening to students read, everyone uses the SP/LP procedures to prevent guessing.
- Students need to be made aware of the necessity to sound-out-all-through words they can’t read ‘on sight’, except for those few words containing as yet untaught code*
- Students will find it helpful to pre-read any multi-syllable content words.

*Use Debbie's useful phrase when you're listening to a child read and they come across some untaught code or forget a taught grapheme:
“In this word, those letters [point] ARE CODE FOR the /___/ sound”
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this, Susan. You were very quick off the mark since I made my postings!

If anyone is interested in reading more widely about the teaching of reading and the various programmes Susan recommends, do visit Susan's website which is an incredibly well-referenced treasure trove of information:

www.dyslexics.org.uk

Wink
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