Differentiating Phonic Lessons

It feels like ages since I’ve written a blog post and it probably has!! I now understand writer block…

I’m writing on a topic that has genuinely emerged from my teaching practice and maybe that’s why it’s taken so long to write. I don’t want to make random things up to generate posts.

When you have been teaching for a long time (well, 17 years now… is that a long time??) you get in to a bit of a routine for how you do things. Don’t get me wrong though, I haven’t been doing the same things day in and out for that long because I get bored quickly and like to change things up. I sometimes wish I had that personality that did actually like to do the same thing day in and out because it would actually make my life easier. Anyway, I have currently gotten my class phonic lessons into a bit of a routine and it appears to be catering to all ends of the spectrum.

Like any classroom, I have to cater to students who are struggling quite a lot with content to those that are excelling. I have some students who require phonological skills (which precede phonic skills) such as blending, students who are gradually picking up year-level concepts and those who pick up concepts very quickly and are reading phonic patterns quickly and slightly slower to apply these skills to their everyday writing tasks.

To work out where students are, I begin with a phonic pattern reading test (where they identify graphemes in isolation, and sometimes in words) and then do a spelling test (using the phonic scope and sequence that we use in our school, currently the ECU scope). I have three distinct groups from this (I am lucky in this because last year I had five levels). One group are currently working on some initial phonic knowledge (for example, this week we covered the grapheme /ck/), the other group were working on the phoneme /ear/ (as in, hear) and the other group were working on polysyllabic words ysing the same phoneme (ear).

To still teach whole group lessons and cover all abilities, this is what I have been doing:

1 – Warm-up – The students are asked to blend sounds (which is a phonological awareness skill required by a small group of the students) to say them as a whole word. These sounds are used in the phonemes that they will focus on. The whole class revise the struggling group’s concepts (e.g., /ck/). They cover spelling rules and read words at a word and sentence level.

2 – Lesson (I employ the “I do” and “We do” strategies in this part) – the whole class learn the weekly phoneme. They learn the spelling rules and read words with that phoneme. The students also do a different activity each day to practise their reading and writing skills with the new focus phoneme. Struggling students are given cards with the graphemes written on (to use for writing) so that they have this as a cue and they are exposed to year level concepts. Near to the end of the lesson, the students who are excelling at concepts are exposed to polysyllabic words, asked to repeat rules, find patterns in words and so on.

3 – Activities (“You do”)- students engage in a variety of small group activities to employ their knowledge and skills. Many activities are hands on and fun. I usually have a guided reading group with me (phonic based decodable readers for students who require these and vocabulary based books for fluent readers).

So, this is what I am doing and it is currently working. I am able to cater to a wide range of abilities and keep everyone engaged. It will possibly change as the year progresses and I learn more though. I’m currently beginning the Sounds-Write course by dsf. I’ve wanted to do this course for years, so I’m so excited to be doing it finally. I may learn new things and have to adapt. That’s ok! I like to think of myself as “Elastagirl” when it comes to my teaching practice! How about you? Do you like change or abhore it?

I have many power point lessons on the teachers pay teachers webiste. My page is “teachnchat” and the lessons are very cheap. It actually takes me ages to make each lesson. I do a lot of verbal chitter chatter that is not scripted on the lessons but then they are a good start, especially for beginning teachers or for teachers that are time-poor and need something new. I find my students love looking at the lessons and love the clipart!

Wishing you all the best and I hope that you find this article helpful. I love hearing how other teachers run lessons, so please feel free to leave helpful (and kind) comments.


Published by teachnchat

Early Childhood Teacher

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