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A Comprehensive Approach to Teaching Phonics 
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Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:08 am
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Location: Madrid, Spain
Post A Comprehensive Approach to Teaching Phonics
Hi guys,

So I've recently become preoccupied with phonics. This was one of my New Year's Resolutions, to really tackle phonics this year with my students (please understand that I'm a first year teacher, and even though I have my TEFL certification, there's still a looooooooooooot of feeling it out for yourself and charting your own course). One of my students, especially, really, really needs phonics. I've talked about her before when I wrote a post asking for advice on how to read together in class. Her pronunciation is atrocious (both when speaking, the little she does, and when reading), and so of course the way she understands words is warped too, so her listening comprehension is also very poor. So I know she would benefit from phonics. However, she already knows how to read (she's 9), so I'm thinking it's a bit late to introduce her to the alphabet like you would for 5 year-olds.

Still, I need a method for teaching her. Do I teach her phonetic symbols, or do we indeed go back to the basics and focus on letters of the alphabet and sounds they can make? And, how do I go about drilling and correcting pronunciation? So far I've just been getting her to repeat after me, and we've been working some on formation of the mouth (she said "Tuesday" correctly the other day--it was very exciting!! and she got rewarded accordingly with a sticker, which made her excited too). And, I'm assuming that I just integrate a little phonics time into each class, and try to relate it to the material we're studying, rather than taking 3 weeks to just focus on phonics, for example?

I listened to the Teacher Talk podcast about phonics, and I've read a couple discussion threads on the same, but I still feel a bit lost. Any thoughts would be very much appreciated.

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Cristy


Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:55 pm
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Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:08 am
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Location: Madrid, Spain
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Okay, sorry to be the first one to comment on my own post, but of course I thought of more questions as soon as I hit the submit button.

First: to me, I think it could be useful to teach her phonetic symbols, again, because she does already know how to read, although when she reads English she is of course attributing the Spanish rules of phonics to English words. So, I think using phonetic symbols to represent words that appear very different orthographically (that does mean relating to spelling, right?) could be useful. However, I don't want to confuse her, which is extremely possible, especially since she has such a low threshold to process information received in English.

Second, I suppose this isn't really surprising, being as she's a child, but she often has suuuuch a short attention span, and can be very willful and difficult to direct. She is also a rather kinesthetic/tactile learner, and is very big into art. She sometimes seems to hear me best when she's drawing, cutting, etc. Wanted to provide that information in case that gives you any further ideas to give me re: good activities for her.

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Cristy


Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:02 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
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I think it might be good to go back and do individual letters. If you make it fun, it might not seem patronizing. Or keep the letter focus time short. By that I mean make it a small little thing you do right at the beginning or right at the end of the class. Maybe 2-3 letters a day.

I personally don't do intensive phonics. I spend about 5-10 minutes in each class working on something and that's it. I do that so we can focus on one or just a few things and hopefully get them right. To many and they are just making sounds :)

For students who are not really getting the sounds down via just listen and repeat, I do start to work on how they should be forming their mouth. Where does the tongue go, what shape does the mouth make, are the lips involved, etc. Then I talk about air movement or vibration. Even for more advanced students I might do this just to try to fine tune their sounds or get them to think more about it.

I will often bring in a recorder and have them show me how the sounds change when you plug different holes. We talk about how the sound changes because you are changing the chamber inside. I point out how very small changes make small changes in sounds that are clearly audible. That helps some people to understand how important the shape of the mouth is.

I often feel that being able to make the sound helps in being able to hear the difference.

However, it is really difficult to get learners to isolate sounds. My students try to mimic the sounds with me but they usually don't get it right until they use it in a word. Does that make sense?

I don't use the IPA symbols but if you'd like to try that then give it a shot. It might be good if you are just working on sound formation and you want to have something to refer to for a specific sound. For example you want to remind her what sounds the grapheme "ph" makes for example you can just point to the IPA symbol on the chart or better yet, have her point to the symbol.

Since she likes art or working with her hands, why not have her draw the IPA symbols one each really big on a single sheet of paper. As she is drawing it you can be talking about the sound it represents. You can have her write in some words all around the symbol and draw pictures if she wants. You could tape them all together when you are finished and make a massive chart!

You could try chanting. You could prepare some chants where she has to repeat in the same rhythm and if she can do it, she wins. You can get gradually faster and faster and see how many rounds she can keep up with. Write down her record and each time she's able to break her record, reward her with a sticker or something.

There are some free chants on Matt's site http://www.dreamenglish.com/freechants

I hope that helps a little or gives you something to work with. She's got a lot of time to get this right (being only 9.) Don't get too frustrated if something doesn't work. Try it again or try something else.

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Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:33 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
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Sorry, I forgot to say, on Matt's site there is an ABC phonics chant but there is also a simple background beat you can download at the bottom of the list. You can use that for you own chants. It's a good little track to have lying around.

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Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:38 pm
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