Phonics builds upon phonemic awareness skills, since students leverage their understanding of sounds (phonemes) and apply this knowledge to letters (graphemes). Whereas phonemic awareness is focused on sound, phonics is focused on combining the visual and sound component, which you may have also heard referred to as letter-sound correspondence (Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004, p. 30). To have a robust phonics foundation, students need to memorize 44 different sounds with over 100 spellings (Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004, p. 31). To further complicate matters, students also need to memorize up to 1,000 sight words that many times do not conform to these rules, which I will provide strategies for in the sight word section.
Blending Boards – I am a huge fan of rapidly changing the vowel or consonant cards on blending boards as part of a phonics warm up, which is part of the Orton Gillingham Methodology. You can purchase a blending board from Orton Gillingham. Along with all of the letters and color differentiation between vowels and consonants, the card set from Orton Gillingham also includes consonant and vowel digraphs, diphthongs, other common endings such as “tch” or “ng”, etc. You can also be crafty and make your own blending board!
–Multisensory activities – I like to use kinesthetic sand as an instructional and engagement tool. I let students pick their colors of sand and also decorate their own box of sand to feel ownership and responsibility, which will hopefully mitigate any future messes (of course, I also set explicit rules for the students to keep this privilege).
How this translates to phonics instruction could include a teacher asking the student to write a vowel in the sand from a -vc blend such as “it,” which is an exercise in the Orton Gillingham vowel warm up. Here is a video if you would like modeling on how to use sand in phonics instruction. Shaving cream is also another popular kinesthetic item. I personally prefer sand, since it can be re-used more frequently and has more opportunities for students to create their own phonics kinesthetic kit. Do you use any other tactile materials? What works best in your classroom and why?
–Teaching syllabication rules with circle magnets – When explaining short vs. long vowels, I like to use circle magnets on the white board to illustrate each sound. I use different colors for vowels vs. consonants. When I add or take away a circle magnet, we discuss if the vowel becomes short or long.
I also recommend this book as a guide when teaching syllabication rules (ideally once a week).
How to Integrate Phonics into the IEP Process
Assessment for Present Levels:
The San Diego Quick Assessment tests if students can decode words, which are organized by grade level. A reading inventory, blending board activity, or sample reading with the student will help locate if the student is missing any foundational phonics rules that need to be re-taught.
Sample Sample IEP Goals:
By annual review, student will be able to correctly apply phonics rules to ten unfamiliar words from a book at a (insert grade) reading level with 80% accuracy on 8/10 occasions based on teacher records.
By annual review, with access to a phonics warm up, student will be able to spell one to two syllable words with vowel digraphs and vowel diphthongs with 80% accuracy on ⅘ occasions based on student work.
By annual review, with access to visuals, student will be able to correctly spell one syllable words with open (cv) and closed (cvc/vc) syllables with 80% accuracy on ⅘ occasions based on student work.
Sample Sample Bilingual Literacy Goals:
By annual review, with access to visual supports, student will be able to correctly identify the letters and corresponding sounds of uppercase and lowercase letters in English and Spanish with 80% accuracy on ⅘ trials as measured by teacher work and student work samples.
Sample Sample Accommodations:
- Opportunities for extra practice of foundational phonics skills
- Access to multi-sensory tools when learning phonics rules
- Access to Text to Speech/Audiobooks
- Access to Alphabet Charts that Correlate with Visuals
- English Alphabet Chart
- Spanish Alphabet Chart (Estrellitas is also a great program for bilingual literacy).
- Peer tutor
Ideas for Centers/Activities
–Spelling puzzle – Have students solve puzzles with visuals!
–Spelling with magnets – Students can write words or sentences using magnets, which will increase their engagement.
–Independent spelling game – This game allows students the opportunity to try to spell a word that correlates with a picture and then be able to check their work.
–Bananagrams – Students can exercise their creativity, vocabulary and spelling skills to create words out of available tiles.
Sprenger, M. (2013). Wiring the Brain for Reading: Brain-based Teaching Strategies for Teaching Literacy. San Francisco: Wiley & Sons.
Vaughn, S. & Linan-Thompson, S. (2004). Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction, Grades K-3. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.