Do you feel overwhelmed with knowing the best way to help your students with their phonics, so that they can become successful readers and spellers?
You’re not alone.
Each week I have a large number of people contact me asking for my help. It seems many of you want to implement a good quality synthetics phonics program, but are unsure of where to start.
You also want to find better reading books for your students, but again you’re not sure which ones to use as there are so many options out there.
Last week I talked about decodable readers, what they are, how you can find a good one and where to buy them.
This week I want to look in more detail at the Sounds-Write program, reading books and accompanying workbooks.
This is the only phonics program I use to teach reading and spelling and the one that I recommend. To find out more about the specific elements of the program have a read of:
Below I will walk you through the range of resources available as well as the pros and cons of implementing a phonics program such as Sounds-Write.
Ideally you would use the Sounds-Write resources alongside the Sounds-Write program. However, if you already have a structured and systematic phonics program that you’re using, then you will find that you’re also able to integrate these resources.
Initial code reading books
The first set of books are for the initial code. There are 14 books that cover all of the single sounds and double consonants, such as <ss> in ‘miss’ and <ll> in ‘will’.
Most of these books are 8 pages in length, except for Tim’s pets which has 16 pages.
Below are the names of the books and the phoneme focus for each book.
- Tim, Tam and Sam – a, i, m, s, t
- Mats – a, i, m, s, t
- Is it Sam? – n, o, p
- Sit! – n, o, p
- Sam’s pip – b, c, g, h
- The can man – b, c, g, h
- The hens – d, e, f, v
- Meg’s pet pig – d, e, f, v
- Tom and Sam – k, l, r, u
- Kim’s big red cat – k, l, r, u
- Jim is fed up – j, w, z
- Tim’s pets – j, w, z
- The bin men – x, y, ff, ll, ss
- The mud pit – x, y, ff, ll, ss
Each of these books also includes some high-frequency words, such as ‘of’, ‘the’ and ‘a’. The back of each book lists these words, which your students may need help with.
These books are fantastic for your beginning readers. I have been using them with my Little Miss 6 and they make up some of the books in her reading box. Each morning she selects a different book from her reading box to read.
This morning she was laughing out loud while reading ‘Is it magic?’ She thought it was hilarious when the cat changed into a red dog, fat hen, and mad fox!
The books are also available to purchase individually, rather than having to buy a whole set. Which is great if you just need to replace one or you would like multiple copies of certain books.
The books include colourful and engaging illustrations, which my students enjoy.
Following on from the initial 14 books there are an additional 10 books which cover 4 and 5 sound words with adjacent consonants and digraphs. These books all have 16 pages and include:
- Is it magic? – VCC, CVCC
- Lost! – VCC, CVCC
- The frog pond – CCVC
- The Bratt twins – CCVC
- Grand slam cup – CCVCC, CVCCC
- Best pals – CCCVC
- The fish dish – sh
- Chimp chums – ch
- The song thrush – th, ng
- The Queen’s quill – qu, ck
Extended code reading books
The books in the extended code focus on a particular sound and the most common spellings for the sound. Each of these books are also 16 pages long. They include
- The Fun Day – /ae/ as in day
- Ted Saves the Day – /ae/ as in day
- Billy’s Easy Day – /ee/ as in been
- A Secret at School – /ee/ as in been
- The Golden Glow – /oe/ as in blow
- Home Sweet Home – /oe/ and in blow
- The Worst Day – /er/ as in her
- A Turn on the Turf – /er/ as in her
- Playing Dead with Ted – /e/ as in head
- Guests at the Wedding – /e/ as in head
- The Greatest Show in Town – /ow/ as in now
- A Hound in Town – /ow/ as in now
- The Rules at School – /oo/ as in moon
- A Fine Time at Playgroup – /ie/ as in nights
- The Fright by the Brook – /oo/ as in book
- The Sad Monkey – /u/ as in touch
- The Mystery of the Waterfall – /or/ as in saw
- The Scare on the Lake – /air/ as in wear
These books are cumulative, which means that as you progress through them in order they also include words with the phoneme focus from the previous book. This allows for further practice and consolidation.
They also include polysyllabic words, so words that have 2/3 or more syllables. Great for allowing your students to break up longer words into their syllables and then blend them together to hear the words.
Battle cries reading books
These reading books are designed for older readers and young adults. They are more a comic style of book that follow the adventures of Amy Blade.
The books are quite clever in the way that they have been designed and written. They can be enjoyed simply as an adventure series. But, each book also explains some of the various writing systems that have been used throughout history. Fabulous for getting kids thinking about reading and writing and how it has evolved over time.
In one of the books a wizard explains how words are made up of sounds and that if you know this, then you can be masters of reading and writing.
They also introduce kids to a rich vocabulary where they will come across words that they may not know the meaning of. Great for teaching kids how to look at the word in the context of the story to find out the meaning. These words can then be used in follow up activities, such as silly sentences.
There is also a thorough guide that walks you through how these books can best be used. Click the link below to find out more.
Battle Cries: A Guide For Teachers
The Sounds-Write workbooks are a relatively new resource added to the range of items. Currently there are workbooks available for all of the initial code of the program and for the first 9 units of the extended code.
These workbooks provide opportunities for your students to consolidate the learning of new sounds/spellings. There are a range of activities from word searches, to matching activities, comprehension, spelling and writing.
Interactive whiteboard software
Okay this is probably the resource that my students like the most. They just love being able to build their words, read and interact with the words using the interactive whiteboard (IWB) software.
If you do not have an IWB, you are able to run the software from your computer or laptop by downloading the SMART Notebook software. There is a cost involved in this, but you’re able to download a free trial version to see what it’s like. Then you can also download a free trial of the Sounds-Write IWB software to try.
The software is interactive and allows students to move sounds, words and write, all following the same format of the lessons in the Sounds-Write program.
Sounds-Write have also developed an iPad app. The app is designed for younger students and allows them to rehearse and consolidate their learning. Currently the app is available for the initial code of the program.
The app uses the same language and lessons as the teacher lead program and is extremely guided. Because of this it is a good resource for students to complete independently.
It allows students to develop the skills of blending and segmenting, word and sentence reading and writing.
There are many advantages to using the Sounds-Write program as well as the accompanying resources. The main benefits include:
It’s a structured, systematic and sequential phonics program, so it allows for reading success with all students. If your students are beginning readers, struggling readers or even students that need extending, Sounds-Write caters for all.
It can be used as a whole school approach, with a whole class, for small groups or for one-on-one intervention. If you’re implementing a response to intervention model (RTI), then Sounds-Write would be perfect. It caters for all three tiers including:
- A high quality, structured synthetic phonics teaching program at a whole school / whole class level;
- Small group intervention for those students underachieving or that are at risk; and
- Targeted intervention for individual children who have an identified learning difficulty or who are still underachieving despite small group intervention.
It teaches the fundamental skills needed in order to read and spell, including segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation. Alongside this it systematically teaches the code.
The program spends a lot of time talking about the possible errors students may make and they give you the exact phrasing of what you need to say to help the student make the correction. It is not the teacher doing the work for the student. The teacher provides phrasing and gestures so that the student can do the error correction on their own.
These to me are the most important benefits of the program and resources.
But, you may also be wondering about some of the disadvantages. There are not many, but some of the cons include:
The expense/cost of attending a Sounds-Write training. Personally I don’t see this as a disadvantage because I think the training is very well priced for the information and content you are provided and that can all be implemented immediately.
But it may be a factor for you if you’re trying to convince your administration to send you to the training. There is the cost of attending the course as well as the cost of 4 full days of training, where someone else will need to cover your class. From a whole school implementation point of view the cost could be a factor. But, I think that cost is negligible when you consider the quality of the program that your school will be using.
Although you are provided with all of the initial resources to implement the program immediately, there is an additional cost to then purchase the readers, IWB software and workbooks. However, you do not need these resources to initially begin as there is so much provided when you attend a training. When I first started privately tutoring using Sounds-Write all I had was what was provided at the training and that was enough.
Overall, I think there are many more advantages (than disadvantages) to using and implementing the Sounds-Write program, whether it be at a whole school level or one-on-one situation.
This is not a paid or sponsored post. I just love the Sounds-Write program and resources and see how valuable they are at assisting students to learn to read and spell. I use the program and resources with all of my students and wanted to show you what they are, how they can be used and the benefits of using them.
If you have any questions about the Sounds-Write program or the accompanying resources please let me know in the comments.