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Phonics Help needed


Senior Member
This is my first year teaching first grade. Each week we have 3 or 4 "sounds" for the week as well as 2 or 3 blends. We do not really have a specific phoncis curriculum to follow, I just know what sounds and blends to work on each week. (For example, next week the sounds are ing, ang, ub, and ump and the blends are "r" controlled br, cr, and fr. ) At this point, I just still feel completely unsure about how to best teach phonics. I don't really have any kind of guide to go off of , I am just coming up with activities and lessons on my own. I'm just not sure if my kids are "getting it". So, I guess my question is, what phonics activities do you do regularly to help your students learn the sounds / blends/ etc. What kinds of things should I be doing daily, weekly, etc?


Senior Member

I use the phonics/spelling that is suggested from our basal series. On Monday I introduce the spelling pattern and we decode them and write them two times each. On Tuesday we look at other words that follow the same patterns and write them as a handwriting activity. I also try to include a poem for one of the patterns (so far our basal has included three each week along with different blends). I include words in the morning message that they can also read/decode. Our basal includes decodable readers and leveled readers that also follow the same patterns. On Wednesday we usually add the poem to our poetry book and look for words in our shared reading. On Thursday we have a practice spelling test and I include a dictated sentence using spelling words and also other words they should be able to spell because they are part of the same word family.

Carl's Corner and Starfall also has some good activities for word famiies and letter chunks.


Senior Member

I do much the same as PP. I use the Houghton-Mifflin basal series, which has the decodable readers and leveled readers that follow the same phonics for the week. Besides that, I have a pocket chart with letters that I use interactively with the students to blend the sounds. We call the br/tr/cr/fr/pr combinations clusters with "r". We just finished clusters with "l" this week (cl, gl, bl,fl, etc.).

For chunks like ing/ang/ub/ump I also use sentence strips that have the chunks written on them. We make the words together on the pocket chart first. After that the students practice blending words on their little white boards or in manila folders with small post-its that have the letters on them. This is guided activity to check for understanding. For independent work at centers they make words or do a word search. Spelling involves the same blends/patterns.

I try to use lots of poetry that contains the blends and clusters taught that week. If you do not have access to a program like HM, you can use Scholastics. I have a blackline master book from them that has little stories that go with the different blends/ clusters/ patterns. I don't remember the name of the book, but I ordered it through their Teachers Resources catalog several years ago. There are several other Scholastics books that have word patterns. I'm sure any teacher store will have some teacher guides on how to teach first grade phonics.

An important component of teaching reading is phonemic awareness. This helps students become aware of separate sounds in a word, and how to blend and segment them. I highly recommend you do something like that 5-10 minutes/day as an oral component to your reading program.

You will have to devise a system to find out if your kids are "getting it."
I do the leveled readers/phonics readers in small guided reading groups, and am able to see which kids need more practice. I make a note on each child in my notebook so I know who to work with more extensively. Do not assume that they "get it" unless you do this on a daily basis, and see that they are reading the blends consistently. Sometimes they memorize it for a day, and have forgotten it the next day.


Senior Member
Phonics Rules

Sometime in the last two weeks a poster had attached a list of phonics rules. I would suggest reviewing them and how they work. At the moment your word families (ing, ang, ub, and ump) are focused on short vowels with final blends (-ng, and -mp). Final blends are developmental and difficult for auditory discrimination. This is often why teachers use them in word families. Word wheels, word sorts, say and spell are my favorite strategies. Scholastic has great little stories for word families. The blends are called r blends. When we refer to R controlled words we usually mean ar, er, ir, or, and ur. This is r controlled because the r makes the vowel not have the short sound. I tell the kids the all blends are two consonant sounds that are blended together. I put letters in a bowl, mix it with a spoon, pull out the letters, and have them blend the sounds together. I also have my kids make a phonics journal with "say and spell" words under each rule that we have learned. I actually practice the rules and sounds every morning as a whole group (the tradition br says /br/ as in bridge). I use a picture word clue that is on a chart. We use the charts like a mini read around the room with a class helper. It only takes 5 minutes and it is very helpful to lowest students (although boring to the teacher :) I have taken the Project Read training (very similar to Orton Gillingham). Both programs are intensive, systematic, and incredibly hands-on. They would be well worth your time. The project read can be done in just a few days and get you quickly on your way.


Junior Member

I actually teach second grade but am teaching a low language arts class. Most of my students started off the year with a DRA score of 1-6. Just in case you are not sure what DRA levels are...A-4 is a Kindergarten level, 6-16 are first grade levels and 18-28 are second grade levels. I use a very systematic phonics curriculum. I was trained with MARS, which is a multisensory approach to teaching reading. They recommend using fingertip books for phonics. They are very inexpensive. The student and teacher manual together cost about $40. Unfortanetly, I do not have my books here tonight but will try to remember to get back on and give you the information. Basically, we have two decoding days and two auditory days. We spend two days on a particular sound. We started off the year reviewing the basic consonant sounds. We then spend time on long and short vowels. Everyday we review those sounds. On decoding days, I have flash cards of sounds. As they say the sound, I place it in one of three piles (beginning, middle or end sound). Then we place the sounds on a blending board and blend the sounds together. Many of the words are nonsense words. My students have gotten really good at knowing when the c says /k/ or /s/. On audority days, I will say a sound and they write down what letter(s) make that sound. For c, I will say /k/ followed by a, o, u or any consonant and they know that that is a c. We also work on sight words each of those days. This is the first year that I have used this and the first year that I have taught the low reading class. I know that I will continue using this due to the results I have gotten. We have been in school since the end of August. We just finished up retesting our students DRA at the end of October. I had one student go from a DRA score of a 4 to a 14, one go from a 6 to a 16, several go from 6 to a 12. There are a few who are in the process of being tested for a reading learning diability who have improved from a 1 to a 4. While they are not where a second grader should be at this point in time, they have been making huge progress.


Senior Member
That sounds like a fabulous program. I would love to know more about it. Do you know who the publisher is and do they have an information web-site. What grades is the program designed for? Thanks


Full Member
We use VoWac (similar to OG) for our phonics program and blend it in with our basal. Multi-sensory and lots of auditory drills. Also teaches the rules for why with picture cards that we do lots of games with like wheel of fortune and deal,no deal.


Senior Member
lots of blending and segmenting!

Our reading series (Houghton-Mifflin 2005) does A LOT with blending and segmenting sounds, pulling words apart and pulling them back together. We also count sounds in a word, and later we will cound syllables.