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Being inventive with the programme

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:58 am    Post subject: Being inventive with the programme Reply with quote

I've been giving some thought to one teacher's way of delivering the Phonics International programme to older students - mainly as a spelling programme (but also with some emphasis to promote blending for new and unknown vocabulary).

As the students could read already, the greater need was the spelling aspect and gaining a clear understanding of the 'nature' of our English Alphabetic Code - that is, all the complexities.

Instead of introducing the Sounds Book activity sheets in the order that they are arranged in the Phonics International programme, this teacher decided to take each phoneme (sound) and look at the spelling variations for that sound.

This would involve looking at all the spelling alternatives for /s/, for example, before moving on to /a/, the /t/ and so on.

This provides an alternative approach for using the programme where it is needed for revision, gaining understanding of The Alphabetic Code with an emphasis on The Alphabetic Code overview chart to plot the teaching order - and for spelling.

I haven't personally used the programme's resources in this way, but I do think that it sounds like a good alternative approach for students who already have good experience of reading at age-appropriate levels, but who don't have a 'phonics' background per se - and could probably reach much higher spelling levels.

It sounds to me, also, that this teaching order could well provide a much quicker, more intensive course for students who don't have enough time left in a primary school, for example, to proceed at a slower pace.

I shall continue to give this some thought and would welcome anyone else's viewpoint on this suggestion.

I may even trial this approach with older students myself if I get the opportunity.

If anyone wishes to trial the programme in a similar way to this, please do get in touch. Wink
Debbie Hepplewhite
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd be very interested in knowing more about how to adapt the PI programme for older students/as a spelling programme, as you've described the teacher doing here, Debbie.

It sounds similar to the linguistic phonics intervention programme I use. The Sound Reading System (SRS) programme introduces the GPCs (grapheme-phoneme correspondences) in 3 stages; 1. SRS version of basic code for the real beginners. 2. Stage 1. Advanced code with 2-4 spelling variations introduced at one time. Stage 2. Complete advanced code -reading age of 8+ required.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the idea of taking one 'sound' at a time, and addressing the spelling alternatives by 'working across' the Alphabetic Code chart is an excellent one. This, in effect, will mean jumping from unit to unit and not following the programme in a linear fashion.

The teacher needs to make a decision based on what extent to proceed with the programme's resources as appropriate.

For example, take the sound /s/ (as it is at the top of the chart!):

The teacher can use the chart as the starting reference point explaining to the learner ( who needs to 'fill gaps' or 'catch up' with peers) the way that the overview chart works - that is, phonemes listed down the left hand column and spelling variations always illustrated across the rows starting from the left.

The teacher can revise the common spellings of 's' as the starting point - but this may not require any other resources. It may well be just a case of having the conversation about the letter 's' BEING CODE FOR the sound - or phoneme - /s/. Talk about the process of translating speech to print for writing; and the process of translating print to speech for reading.

Just a quick mention here about the use of terminology. Throughout the Phonics International programme I swap between the terms 'sound' and 'phoneme' - and 'letters and letter groups' and 'grapheme/s'. This is deliberate. I think we should be prepared to use ordinary every-day type language and use the correct terminology.

The word 'phoneme' means specifically a sound at the level of the 'smallest sound identifiable in the spoken word'. Sometimes, however, for practical reasons we teach a 'sound unit' which is more than one phoneme. Examples of this are 'qu' which we teach as /kw/ (/k+w/) in the first instance; 'x' which is code for two phonemes /ks/ (/k/+/s/) and 'nk' which is two phonemes /ngk/ (/ng/+/k/).

So, it is incorrect to refer to these special cases as 'phonemes' when they are different-sized units of sound.

The term 'graphemes' is very handy indeed. It is very cumbersome to refer to 'letter groups' all the time and 'graphemes' expresses the meaning very well. A grapheme can mean one letter, or two or three or four. Frequently, however, I do refer to a grapheme which is just one letter as a 'letter'. Some phonics programmes use terms such as 'digraph' and 'trigraph' and 'quadgraph' which is perfectly acceptable but this introduces even more terminology which is not really necessary. I decided to keep things more simple than to distinguish between numbers of letters in the various graphemes.

If the Phonics International programme jumped straight into talking only about 'phonemes and graphemes', then this would cause instant confusion for some people - including both teachers and learners.

I digress.... sorry!

Back to the orginal conversation:

It could be that many learners requiring intervention need some additional teaching about 'ss' as code for /s/. When it comes to the reading process, for example, double consonant letters like 'ss' alert the reader that the preceding vowel letter will be pronounced (said) in its SHORT SOUND version (as in at, enter, in, on, up).

Equally, for spelling purposes, the learner needs to be aware of the need (most of the time) to double the consonant letters following a SHORT VOWEL SOUND with suffixes such as '-ed' and '-ing'.

e.g. web - webbed; hop - hopped; skip - skipping.

In my experience, however, many learners have not been formally taught about the 'soft c' part of the Alphabetic Code. At this point, therefore, the teacher may wish to use the resources for the introduction to 'soft c' which are found at the end of unit 5 in the form of 'ce' as code for /s/.

The teacher may then wish to jump to unit 6 and use the resources for 'ce, ci, cy'.

Following this, the teacher may decide it is also appropriate to jump to unit 7 to introduce or revise 'sc' as code for /s/ followed by jumping to unit 8 to introduce or revise 'st' as code for /s/.

As the vocabulary is generally quite sophisticated for 'ps' as code for /s/, the teacher may decide to mention 'ps' on a more casual basis rather than using the formal resources such as the Sounds Book activity sheets. If the learner is an older student or adult, however, the Sounds Book activity sheet may be perfectly appropriate.

In other words, how many graphemes are introduced as code for any one sound for intervention purposes has to be a decision made by the teacher.

One of the advantages of the programme is that the format of the Sounds Book activity sheets and the guarantee of the provision of the Mini Posters to accompany the Sounds Book sheets enables the teacher to select material as appropriate for intervention.

If the intervention, however, is for quite young learners, there may well be a case for sticking with the more linear order of introduction of the letter/s-sound correspondences.

I have designed every Sounds Book activity sheet to include shorter words and longer words to enable differentiation and the modelling of the next degree of difficulty. What the learners cannot blend or segment independently, the teacher can model and support.

Also, as the Sounds Book activity sheets are not 'pink and fluffy', they are suitable for any age of learner without looking patronising and causing potential offence.

One word of caution, it is always better to start off a programme of work with more simple words and beginnings than jumping straight to the harder ones.

This means that for intervention (filling in gaps or speeding up learning), make sure there is a measure of 'revision' rather than jumping straight into the less-common graphemes. In other words, don't ignore 's' and 'ss' to jump straight into 'ce' and so on.

I would also like to remind people that the landscape 'gathering of the graphemes' charts in the Sounds Book activity sheets strand of units 6 to 12 make excellent visual aids as well as being handy for learners in A4.

A3 charts - either paper, card or laminated - are invaluable for visual aids and working documents. These would completely fit in with the 'linguistic phonics' approach of programmes like SRS. It may well be that you could use the Phonics International programme's resources to support your work with other programmes. I have certainly designed it with the gaps I have found in other programmes' resources in mind!

One way in which Phonics International could excel when used as a full programme or as a complementary programme is the provision of all the posters. Even the Sounds Book activity sheets can be enlarged to A3 and used as posters if appropriate.

Whilst there is a vast bank of resources to use and you certainly don't need to use them all, please become familiar with the range of resources and exploit them to the full to enable thorough multi-SENSORY teaching and learning.

Finally, please remember your range of Alphabetic code charts. There are posters which are 'write-over' or 'colour-in' the graphemes. There are non-colour Giant posters which can be coloured in as you teach each grapheme and plot progress. There are smaller versions of charts (A4x2) which build up the code from my version of 'simple' to 'complex'.

Use these well in your teaching and learning and try to engage your learners in plotting and tracking their own progress.

This will make a difference in the organisation of your teaching and in the understanding of the Alphabetic Code for the learners - whether you follow the programme through all the cumulative units - or whether you take the approach of working across each alternative spelling row for intervention. Wink
Debbie Hepplewhite
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