Phonics instruction is vital for first grade, as it sets the foundation for a student’s reading. I find it’s important to do phonics instruction that is backed by research to gain the best results for students. This was new to me as a new teacher. I did not have the tools or the knowledge that lead to great systemic phonics instruction.
I have since created a PowerPoint to guide phonics instruction. This makes pacing dead on while also makes it more engaging for my students. Having to use sentence strips or an easel to display takes time, organization or materials, and management I didn’t want to deal with.
What Does Effective Phonics Instruction Look Like?
Below I point out 9 things all phonics instruction needs based off the book A Fresh Look at Phonics, Grades K-2: Common Causes of Failure and 7 Ingredients for Success by Wiley Blevins. I HIGHLY recommend this book if you teach K-2. Our district used it to form our phonics template, and for good reason. It’s also an easy read.
I also include a video that demonstrates me doing part of my phonics instruction. I hope it gives a clearer picture on what effective phonics instruction looks like.
1. Letter-Sound Correspondence
This first section focuses on students learning the new phonics skill by hearing the morpheme and seeing the grapheme associated with it. I have students say the letters, the sound, and then we apply it to two words with pictures. This helps make a good connection so the student has a high chance of retaining it.
Above is a video I took that shows me doing the first seven of nine sections of my phonics lesson. My whole phonics routine takes about 30-40 minutes. I use a presentation clicker to progress the slides, which helps with pacing.
2. Sound Fluency
Students then apply that new phonics skill and say its sound, along with having previous phonics skills learned reviewed. It’s important to spiral back to previous phonics skills, as it greatly helps with retainment. I have my students read connected texts from previous lessons throughout the week in our ELA centers.
I point to each phonics skill on the chart and students say the sounds associated with them.
3. Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness helps students hear sounds within words. It helps with blending, segmenting, and overal sound fluency.
I have a list of words from our connected text and I give students 4-5 words to segment. I then say the sounds of 4-5 words and have students blend them into the word. This only takes about one minute, but is worth it’s weight in gold. A student’s ability to read is highly impacted on being able to blend and segment. This targets exactly that.
4. Word Fluency
Students read words that have the phonics skill they’re learning in them. I have it highlighted to help support my lower students identify the skill.
There are many different ways you could have students say the words. Sound by sound, continuous blending (caaaaaaat), or thinking in their head and saying it with visual cue.
5. Sight Words
I have students stand up at this time and we dribble sight words that are found in the connected text that they may not know how to read. I say the word, they say it, and we dribble each letter and then we shoot and say the word. You can see an example in the video above. I then have students sit back down and they read each word.
Dribbling is one thing I do. You could also do a cheer, snap clap (snap on the vowels and clap on the consonants), or volcano it by spelling the word in a whisper and get louder with each letter and then exploding when the word is said. The point is to make it fun and memorable while also giving students a chance to move.
6. Fluency Phrases
Here students practice beyond words now and into phrases. I have students think in their head and give each word on visual cue at the beginning of the year. I have them read the entire phrase towards the end of the year after thinking about it.
7. Sentence Fluency
This is like fluency phrases, but now having students read complete sentences. As you may have noticed, all these sections work together to scaffold at the beginning and release towards the end so students can read the connected text.
I have students whisper read it first to a partner at the beginning of the year and then we read it as a class. Towards the end of the year, I have them do it in their head and say it whole group on cue.
Having students practice writing with the new phonics skill does wonders for them to retain it. That’s something Blevins stresses in his book. We need to give students more opportunities to write using the phonics skills learned.
I have students write words using the phonics skill, stressing on which sound or phonics skill we’d use. At the beginning of the year, I also have students count the amount of letters and words in a word or sentence.
We write whole group about six of the words, two of the phrases, and one of the sentences during dictation. I look at my PowerPoint presentation on my second monitor to reference the words used. If you don’t have that, you could write them down before the lesson.
9. Connected Text Reading Practice
Now we’re finally at the whole point of the lesson. Getting students to read the connected text. I have students read it whole group with me assisting one time. Second time they read as a class with me assisting where needed. I make sure we reread a sentence if we missed a word. The third time, I have them take a copy of the phonics passage and read it with their reading buddy.
These passages are then stored in their folder for them to read in their ELA centers at a later time so they can spiral review. Blevins mentioned how important it is to have students get as many exposures as possible after the lesson, as some will take longer to learn the phonics skill.
I love teaching first grade, and one reason is because of phonics. Helping students learn to read is rewarding and finding a good system to help with your instruction can make a world of a difference for you and your students
I cannot recommend A Fresh Look at Phonics, Grades K-2: Common Causes of Failure and 7 Ingredients for Success by Wiley Blevins more than I have. It changed the way I teach phonics.