It’s two months into the school year, and we’re about to wrap up the first quarter in my building (Yikes! Where did the time go?!).With October in the rearview mirror, I’m reflecting on all the blog posts I never found time to finish and all the blog posts I’ve been wishing to write. My reading program is officially under way, so now I’m hoping to go back and share some the resources and tools I’ve been using.
Phonics is the target area of instruction for one of my reading groups. For those of you just getting started with phonics instruction, here are a few assessment ideas and instructional tools that may be helpful to you! (Pssst… there are many freebies & samples included below!)
(Download this FREE poster as part of my “Daily Phonics Posters” resource!)
At the beginning of the year, I used formal and informal assessments to determine an instructional scope and sequence for my phonics group. As with all my reading groups, I look at the assessments to establish my starting point and use the data to essentially drive my instruction each week.
Looking at my beginning-of-the-year Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) and Fountas & Pinnell running records for each student, I was able to identify consonant blends as a common area of weakness for my students. However, I needed to determine which blends and where to start, so I had to dig even deeper.
I absolutely LOVE the word lists offered by Intervention Depot! I use these lists as pre-/post- assessments to drive my instruction and monitor student progress. The different assessments (like the “Blends” word list pictured below) allow me to quickly analyze student errors and determine which vowel and sound patterns to focus on. There are many different word lists for short vowels, long vowels, consonant blends, and r-controlled vowels. The website also includes reading passages for each area, to assess automaticity and identification of sounds and patterns within context (these passages are also great for fluency!). As if that’s not awesome enough, the website also features additional assessments for skills such as syllable identification and phoneme segmentation.
I created an Intervention Depot binder with assessment pages copied and ready to go. This binder is a great resource to add to your “Literacy Toolbox” and keep by your side during small group instruction. Check it out… especially while it’s still a FREE resource!
Once you have an instructional focus, there are many interventions you can use to reinforce phonics skills with your small groups. Keep in mind, the interventions you choose will depend on the grade-level, group size, and instructional target you’re working with, but here are a few ideas to get you started!
Word building is an effective and hands-on way for students to practice phonics. You can use foam letters, magnetic letters, or even word building templates. Sometimes the word building will be guided (e.g., “add a /t/, take away the /e/, etc.), and sometimes I’ll just see how many words my students can build using the letters I give them.
To take word building one step farther, students can record the words they build on graphic organizers or in writing notebooks. If we’re focusing on specific sounds or word families, I’ll have my students record the words they build on a “If I Can Spell _______, I Can Also Spell….” page (see below). This is a great way for students to make connections between the different words they are building and see how they can be sorted into word families.
(Download the sample page for Ending Blends by clicking here or the image above!)
I also use “Build a Word” Buddy Bags with my students. This printable resource is a great alternative to foam or magnetic letters, especially if you have larger groups of students or you want to send the word-building activity home. Students can build words in partners or independently.
(Download the sample page by clicking here or the image above! Directions are included.)
Word hunts provide students with the opportunity to search for different phonics patterns in context. The best part about integrating this activity into your instruction is that you can pretty much use any text. Students can use books they’ve read throughout the week or you can provide them with a specific text. Depending on the level of my students, I sometimes choose texts for them that showcase the specific phonics patterns.
My district purchased a site license for Reading A-Z, giving us access to some great decodable books that feature a variety of sound patterns. You can also purchase some great phonics poetry books, like this resource which focuses on word families. I love using phonics poetry, even if many of the poems sound silly due to the over-use of the specific target sound patterns. Any poetry would work though, especially if they’re hunting for common sounds like consonant blends and short vowels. (See the image below of how my students use my partner poems for word hunts!).
Students can hunt and highlight the words in the poem. If students can’t highlight the text, use highlighting tape! They can also just tally up the number of words that feature the target pattern/sound or “finger frame” the words to show a partner or the teacher. Typically, I have the students hunt for the words, highlight them, and then record them on a graphic organizer. The students can create their own graphic organizer in their writing notebooks, or you can provide one for them!
(Download the sample “Let’s Go On a Word Hunt!” page by clicking here or the image above!)
Color & Sort
Phonics “Color & Sort” pages are great for sound pattern reinforcement. Students color the words that showcase the phonics pattern and then record the words in the correct columns. You can print the page or upload to a SMART Board document for students to complete together!
(Download the sample Color & Sort page by clicking here or the image above!)
Daily Phonics is another ready-to-use resource for reinforcing phonics. I use this resource as a warm-up for my phonics group and have found that each week the students are getting quicker and stronger with their phonics identification skills. Once the students know how to complete the pages, they can complete independently within 5-10 minutes. If I feel they need more guidance, I’ll sometimes just display a page on the SMART Board for students to work together and complete.
(Download the sample page by clicking here or the image above!)
If you’re looking for new interventions to try, I’ve found that many of these simple activities are extremely effective and provide students with wonderful opportunities to practice their phonics skills. In my experience, with so many activities and interventions to choose from, you need to find what works for your students. It may be one specific intervention, or it may be a combination of a few.
If my students aren’t making progress with one intervention, I try something else. One intervention does NOT fit all! The intervention that ends up working for your students may come from a purchased intervention program, or it may come from a website like FCRR or Intervention Central. (It may even be something you create yourself!)
I’m hoping to share more interventions as the year goes on, but if you’re looking for additional intervention resources to explore in the mean time, the FCRR website has a TON of free downloads for Phonics instruction. I have binders filled with research-based interventions from this website. Click HERE to check out their resources!
I would love to hear what interventions YOU use to teach phonics! Please share in the comments below. :)