From author and educational expert Wiley Blevins, "As I’ve visited classrooms across the country, I’ve seen a wide range of activities and instructional methods used to teach phonics. Many of these activities and methods have fallen under the umbrella of “explicit” phonics instruction. I have chosen those that are the most effective to help you develop guidelines for writing phonics lessons. Here are a few general dos and don’ts of phonics instruction (Groff, 1977; Blevins, 1998)."
PHONICS LESSON DO'S
• Use a logical sequence. Explicitly teach the sound-spelling relationship, syllabication spelling pattern, or structural analysis skill. Progress to guided blending practice, then conclude with reading and writing opportunities.
• Provide frequent, daily lessons.
• Keep the lessons relatively brief and fast-paced.
• Keep the lessons focused. Cover only a small segment at a time.
• Begin lessons with what students know.
• Create a classroom environment in which students become active word watchers or word detectives—an environment in which there is a curiosity about words.
• Provide a built-in review of previously taught sound-spellings or spelling patterns in each lesson (through blending exercises, repeated readings, etc.).
• Adjust pace or scope according to students’ needs. Don’t set absolute deadlines for how much should be covered in a given time.
• Regroup students according to their needs.
• Link phonics instruction to spelling through dictation and free-writing activities.
• Make learning public. Create word walls, make letter charts, and share student writing.
• Provide instruction that is reflective. Gaskins et al. (1997), for example, uses the “Talk-To-Yourself Chart” with children to engage them in thinking about words. Here is a completed chart for the word high.
- 1. The word is high.
- 2. Stretch the word. I hear 2 sounds.
- 3. I see 4 letters because igh stands for one sound.
- 4. The spelling pattern is igh.
- 5. This is what I know about the vowel: It is the long i sound—/ i /.
- 6. Another word on the Word Wall with the same vowel sound is light.
PHONICS LESSON DON'TS
Here are fice things to avoid in phics instruciton.
• Avoid having students continually wait for turns. Instead, use choral response techniques or every-pupil response cards.
• Avoid instruction in which students are not directly told what they are being asked to understand and how they should respond.
• Avoid immediately correcting students’ errors. Provide feedback only after allowing students an opportunity to self-monitor and self-correct.
• Avoid inadequately addressing exceptions to the generalizations being learned.
• Avoid using incorrect language or terminology:
- 1. Instead of saying, “You can hear the f sound,” say, “You can hear the /f/ sound.” f is a letter, not a sound.
- 2. Rather than saying, “What sounds do you see at the end of mint?” say, “What sounds do you hear at the end of the word mint?” You see letters; you hear sounds.
- 3. Instead of saying, “The letter t makes the /t/ sound,” say, “The letter t stands for or represents the /t/ sound.” Letters are inanimate objects, they do not make sounds.
- 4. Instead of saying, “The blend st stands for the /st/ sound,” say, “The letters (cluster) st stand for the /st/ sounds.” Cluster refers to a group of letters blend refers to a group of sounds.
- 5. Instead of saying, “The following letters are diphthongs,” say, “The following vowel pair (digraph) stands for the /oi/ sound.” A diphthong is a sound, a vowel pair, or digraph, is a group of letters.
This excerpt comes from Wiley Blevins' best-selling title, Teaching Phonics & Word Study in the Intermediate Grades. In this follow-up to the best-selling Phonics From A-Z, you get what you need to teach the phonics your students need: a concise background in linguistics, lively, ready-made lessons for teaching phonics, syllabification, and root words, extensive word lists, quick assessments, daily activities and games, and more. All delivered in a simple, teacher-friendly format. With this book, every student will learn to read with accuracy, comprehension, fluency, and pleasure!
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Wiley Blevins is an early reading specialist who holds a M. Ed. from Harvard. He taught elementary school in both the United States and South America, and was Director of Special Projects for Scholastic in New York City. Wiley has written and edited many phonics and reading materials, and is the author of many resources for Scholastic. He is also coauthor with Alice Boynton on several professional resources covering specific grade levels. He lives in New York City. Click here to see the eBooks available from Wiley!