When I was in the classroom teaching I regularly found myself questioning my ability to be able to teach kids how to read, spell and write, especially students that had a particular learning need. Seems silly right? But you know what…..I don’t feel like that anymore, I really feel like I can help a child learn to read and improve his/her spelling and writing. Let me tell you a bit more about why.
I’ve started implementing a new technique – a linguistic phonics programme – for teaching reading, spelling and writing. Sounds~Write is the programme that I’m using and it begins with sounds in language and moves to sounds in the written words. This is vastly different from a traditional phonics programme, and you can read more about it in my article How To Teach Children To Read.
I’ve begun implementing some of the lessons with a student and wanted to share with you our experience of the programme so far. Firstly, I’ve got to say that it’s great to finally be back working with kids…..it feels good 🙂
A few weeks ago I conducted some of the diagnostic assessments with my student and noted that we needed to begin work on 3 adjacent consonants and 5 sounds, e.g. CCCVC, CCVCC and CVCCC.
Now that I had a place to begin in the programme I needed to spend some time making some of the resources that I would need to use to implement the lessons. Now it can feel a little bit overwhelming when looking at all of the possible resources that are provided as part of this programme, and if you went to try and make all that was required it would take in excess of 20 hours. So I decided that it would be best to make the resources on an as needs basis, so I spent time making the parts that I would be using in the first few weeks.
Many of the lessons require the use of individual sounds on small square tiles. Also each of the units provides some of the focus words on small square tiles that can then be used for word building activities. Below are some pictures of how I’ve decided to arrange and store some of the resources. I’ll use these types of containers for easy storage of the bits and pieces. As you can see I’ve only so far made the resources for the unit we’re currently working on. I also chose to laminate the squares so that they are more durable and last, but it would be quicker to make by just printing on card.
I’ve also got some pictures for you of how I set up my room ready for a session.
The programme also provides detailed lessons that are a script format so that the teacher is able to use appropriate language as well as be able to know how to introduce the lesson. I chose to laminate these lessons and remove them from the file provided so I had them for easy reference during the lesson, see picture below.
Even though the lessons are provided to the teacher, it is still important to determine which lessons to use and in which order, whether or not any of the follow up lessons will be used and also work out what words to focus on. So I spent quite some time reading through the lessons and documenting which lessons I thought would be best as well as the words we would focus on. Below are some screen shots of my lesson plan for the first two 1 hour lessons.
You will notice on the lesson plan that there are a number of resources required for each lesson. Many of them I use from the box that I had made so it’s very easy to grab what is needed before the lesson. The other important tools to have are those small individual whiteboards, mini erasers and whiteboard markers. I picked up a box of 12 with markers and erasers from Modern Teaching Aids, if you’re looking for them.
The other part you may have noticed on the lesson plan is the column titled ‘Possible Errors’. Much of the programme was spent discussing possible errors that students could make for each of the lessons. What I’ve done here is to write down what the possible errors may be for that lesson and also the phrasing I need in order to help the student correct the error themselves.
The First Lesson
I felt pretty organised and ready to go for the first lesson. However, I was a little worried at the timing of the lessons for this particular student. The only time that was suitable at the moment for both the student and myself was on a Friday afternoon, after school from 3:45pm – 4:45pm. Not ideal to say the least, but I said we’d give it a go and see how we went.
The first session went surprisingly well, and my student seemed totally engaged for the whole one hour. This really surprised me with being a Friday afternoon and I also thought that an hour may be a little too long. But what’s great about the programme is that the lessons are quite short and they’re very interactive. From the very first activity through to the final activity my student was moving tiles, writing on the whiteboard, rubbing off and using her finger to gesture as she says sounds and reads words.
I was really happy at where I decided to start in the programme. The student whizzed through some words but there were noticeable difficulties with some of the pronunciations, especially with /muh/ for /m/. I also noticed that my student was not saying the /l/ sound correctly and it appeared this was due to her having her tongue over her teeth, rather than behind her front teeth. We worked on the pronunciations of these sounds.
The other difficulty I noticed was with some of the words some of the sounds are difficult to hear. For instance, with the word bends, the student could not hear the /d/, so when building the word left this out and only built ‘bens’. She noticed that there was one letter left so corrected this herself. However, when it came to writing practice in the exercise book she again made this same error and as she didn’t have the tiles to rely on and did not correct the error.
Although I had some ideas for possible errors and what to say to assist, I got a bit overwhelmed when she made the error and I didn’t know how to help her fix it. I said that there were 5 sounds in the word and said it slowly for her. She followed with her finger and realised that she had omitted the /d/ and made the correction herself. This also seemed to be an ongoing problem in the second session with words like ‘hands’.
Consolidation At Home
As I’m only working with this student for 1 hour once a week, it’s really important to have parental support to assist in providing consolidation at home. I also make up many of the resources we use in the individual session to send home with the student. However, I just print these on paper and store them in zip lock bags for the students, see the picture below.
I also ask that the parent return to pick the student up 10 minutes before the end of the hour. In this time I show the parent how to complete the activities with the student so that they can assist with practice at home. I suggest that approximately 10-15 minutes each day is spent on completing the activities at home. For students with a learning need, repetition and practice is essential for consolidation of concepts.
The programme makes it quite explicit that 80% mastery is required before moving on. My student is doing really well with the current focus and definitely is at 80% mastery. In the next week we’ll be moving on to a new unit which looks at some spellings are written with 2 different letters, e.g. /sh/, /wh/, /qu/ and /ng/.
I feel like even in this short time I’ve already noticed an improvement in some of the skills used. My student’s pronunciation has definitely improved. The other thing that is really noticeable is that the student also gestures and says each sound as she points to a letter, and does this with no reminder from me. The student also naturally does this when writing the words during dictation. This has really assisted her when she has made an error and she will now have a go at self-correcting.
So far I’m pretty impressed with the programme. I really enjoy teaching the activities and it really looks like my student enjoys participating. I need much more practice in assisting with error correction and knowing what to say so that the student is able to correct the error on her own. I imagine that this will come with time and practice 🙂