Reading Foundation Skill: Phonics (Jam-Packed Post)

I'm finally back to blogging... this week has just been a week. The type of week that makes a person long for the weekend from about noon on Tuesday, but I survived, the weather is fantastic, and I have plans to spend a beautiful evening at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

My last post, was on Anita Archer's presentation at the state MTSS conference. I truly loved her session, and if you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, I would highly recommend it. She is so knowledgeable and vibrant! If you missed the last post, it was on the reading foundational skill of phonemic awareness; today, I will continue on to the topic of phonics.

Phonics is the ability to utilize letter-sound (phoneme-grapheme) associations and structural elements to determine the pronunciation of words.

This includes:
  • Letter-sound associations
    • Consonant and vowel letters
    • Consonant combinations including:
      • blends (bl,fl,st, tr, etc.)
      • digraphs (sh, ph, th, ch, etc.)
    • Vowel combinations including:
      • digraphs (ae, etc.)
      • dipthongs (oi, oy, etc.)
      • r-controlled vowels (er, ir, ur, etc.)
  • Deconding of regular, single syllable words
  • Structural elements including: 
    • inflectional endings
    • prefixes
    • suffixes
  • Decoding of multisyllabic words
  • Reading of irregular words in which letters don't represent most common sounds
  • Reading decodable text
The teaching of multisyllabic words needs to occur sooner. Struggling readers in intermediate grades are often afraid of or come lacking the skills to read multisyllable words. Giving all students the strategies they need so that as they go along they can feel success as they go on.

Phonics Instruction Progression
  1. Associating letters and sounds.
  2. Blending sounds into words.
  3. Reading words to build fluency.
  4. Segmenting and spelling words. 
  5. Reading decodable text. 
*Daily dictation & decoding shows the greatest growth. We say, you write, I give feedback.

Why letter-sound associations?
  • English is an alphabetic language.
  • Students with lett-ersound associations perform better.
  • Students benefit from early, systematic letter-sound associations
  • Good readers rely primarily on the letters in a word rather than context or pictures. 
Taking another look at the 3 cueing systems:
  • Primary System
    • Phonological cueing system (letter-sound associations)
  • Confirmation Systems  "Back-Ups"
    • Syntactial cueing system (word-order)
    • Semantic cueing sytem (contextual meaning)
First you need to look at the the letters  then you confirm with the back ups...does it make sense?

Teaching letter-sound associations needs to be sequential.
  • Easy to difficult (single vowels before digraphs)
  • High frequency before low frequences (m, a, f before j, x, z)
  • Separate easily confused letter-sound associations (e and i, n and m, b and d)
  • Provide explicit instruction 
  • Differentiate between continuous and stop sounds
Phonics: Regular Words
    • As soon as a sound is learned, incorporate the sound into words
    • Model blending of sounds into words.
    • Provide practice on decoding words to build word fluency.
    • Preteach difficult to pronounce words before passage reading
    Decoding Strategy for Short Words
    1. Say the sounds
    2. Say the sounds fast.
    3. Say the word.
    4. Ask yourself: Is it a word? Does it make sense?

    Sound by Sound Blending
    Sounding out VC, CVC, CVCC, CCVC words

    mom   top    shop   dot
    1. (write the first letter on the board) What sound?
    2. (write the second letter on the board) What sound?
    3. (Move your hand under the two letters) Blend it.
    4. (Write the third letter) What sound?
    5. (Move your hand under the letters) Blend the sounds.
    6. What word?
    This strategy gets rid of blurts and keeps the review and practice going.

    Continuous Blending (Modeling)
    Sounding out VC, CVC, CVCC, CCVC words

    sip   fit   lip  tip  rim
    1. When I touch a letter, I'll say its sound. I'll keep saying the sound until I touch the next letter. I won't stop between sounds. 
    2. My turn to sound out this word. (Touch under each letter and say the sound. Hold the continuous sounds. Say the stop sounds quickly. Don't stop between sounds.) 
    3. Sound out this word with me. (Touch under each letter.)
    4. Your turn. SOund out this word by yourselves. (Touch under each letter.)
    5. What word? (Glide your finger under the word.)
    Transition of responsibility with "I do, we do, you do" strategy.

    CVCE words Using Rule
    Decoding CVCE words

    bake   rate   rat   brake   mane   man
    1. An e at the end of the word tells us to say the name of this letter. (Point to the vowel letter.)
    2. Guide students in applying the rule.)
      1. Is there an e at the end of the word?
      2. (Point to the vowel letter.) So do we say the name or the sound of this letter?
      3. What is the name of this letter?
      4. (Point to the word.) What word?
    Teach with both examples and non-examples, otherwise over generalization can occur.

    CVCE Words-Sound Blending
    like   mine   fit   fine
    1. (Point to the first letter.) What sound?
    2. (Point to the vowel and final e.) What sound?
    3. (Point to the consonant.) What sound?
    4. (Glide finger under the word.) Blend it.
    5. What word? 
    Decoding Words with Onset Rime
    This builds automatically and also shows patterns; additional practice for spelling
    1. (Point to rime.) What part? an
    2. Get ready to read words that end with an.
    3. (Point to new word.) What word? ran
    4. (Point to next word.) What word? fan
    5. Continue with additional words.
    Reading "word families" is an excellent way to buld word reading fluency. Practice the word family until students are very fluent. Use choral reading and partner reading.

    Most used rimes, so focus on these!

      Decoding- Providing Additional Practice & Review
    1. Encoding/Spelling: On a daily basis, dictate words that students have sounded out
      1. Teacher says the word.
      2. Teacher says the word in a sentence.
      3. Students repeat the word.
      4. Teacher & students put up one finger for each sound in the word OR both put up one finger for each part of the word.
      5. Students say the sounds/parts to themselves as they write the word.
    2. Feedback 
      1. Teacher writes the word on the board/overhead. Student compares their word to model.
      2. If student has made an error, they corss out the word and rewrite it correctly.
    Spelling needs to be auditory and visual. All corrections in spelling should be visual.

    Decoding-Providing Additional Practice & Review 
    • Word Transformations (Use whiteboard faster practice)
      • Provide starter word, students write it down.
      • Say another word that is one letter different. Students form the new word.
      • Continue dictating a progression words, each word different from the previous word by one letter by inserting, substituting, or deleting.
    Decoding-Providing Additional Practice & Review: 3 Games/Activities with Little Prep
    • Ten Second Rapid Read
      • After a list of words has been read, have one student whisper-read reads for 10 seconds to his/her partner. As the student reads, the partrner counts the number of words read. Have students switch roles. Can compete to have the most words read. 
    • Team Read
      • Divide the students into teams having the same number of "players".  Have the students line up. When you say go, have students read the words in order. When they complete the list, have them raise their hands. First team done is the winner. 
    • Cross Out Game
      • Have students circle three words on his/her word list. Be sure that the students do not show classmates their circled words. Read any word from the word list. Have students locate and corss out the word. Continue reading words from the list in random order. The winner of the game is the person whose circled words are crossed out first. 
    Decoding Strategy for Long Words
    1. Say the parts.
    2. Say the parts fast.
    3. Say the word.
    4. Ask yourself: is it a real word, does it make sense?
    Too many students have the goal of "done" not does it make sense.

    Decoding Multisyllabic Words
    • Rather than using rigid, rule-directed syllabication to divide words into parts, students should be taught to recognize the parts in a flexible manner.
    • Putting words into "decodable chunks" using prefixes, suffixes, and vowels should be stressed. 
    When decoding the chunks swoop underneath the word parts.  Using lines drawn between the parts looks like segment. Having spaces between the words is not seen in literature so generalizations can't be made. Looping under the word parts looks like blending and keeps the words together.

    Decoding of Multisyllabic Words: Loop, Loop, Loop Strategy
    (Preparation: segment word into decodable chunks. Be sure that prefixes and suffixes are separate parts. Draw loops to sement the words.)

    instruction    commitment    remarkable
    1. (Move finger under the first part.) What part?
    2. (Repeat for remaining parts.)
    3. (Move finger quickly under the parts.) What part? What part? What part?
    4. What word?
    5. Is that a real word?
    Irregular Words
    Distinction between three terms
    • High Frequency Words
      •  Only 100 words account for approximately 50% of the words in English print
    • Irregular Words
      • Cannot be sounded out accurately using the most common sounds for graphemes
      • Many high frequency words are irregular
    • Sight Vocabulary- high frequency & other words learned
      • Words that are recognized instantly
    With irregular words... looking at the words, memorizing the letters in the words is key. 

    Again, information shared was jotted down during Anita's presentation. We are starting up our small intervention groups this coming week & I cannot wait to implement some of her strategies with my students!


    1. Thanks for this very informative post!
      Take care.

    2. Holey moley! This is an information-packed blog post. I will definitely have to bookmark this. Thank you :)

      The Brown-Bag Teacher

    3. I am so thankful for this post! It will be so helpful in the upcoming months! Thanks so much!

    4. Lots of GREAT information! Thanks for sharing!



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