Phonics phonics phonics, oh how important a good phonics program is, am I right!?
As a passionate early education teacher, I believe that it is crucial to develop strong phonological awareness in children so they are successful with literacy development moving forward. I want to en-still a LOVE for reading and writing in all of my students and in order to set them up for success, I need to make sure they are prepared with a strong foundation in phonics. Below is a wonderful diagram I love, from Me and Marie Learning, describing some of the key components of phonological awareness.
Listening, Alliteration, Rhyming, Blending, Syllables & Segmentation
In my Kindergarten classroom, I use a program created by Jim Stone called Animated Literacy which I believe is an incredible program to introduce children to phonics in a way that actually sticks with them. At my school, River Valley, we start introducing this program with our Tots (three-year-olds) and continue it’s use up to and including Grade 1 so children have continued exposure to it over four years. In my classroom, I personally break this program into four steps: Character Introduction (45 characters), Rainbow Writing (printing practice), Guided Drawing and Journal Writing. Children love the silly songs and stories that each character comes with, as well as the simple actions that help them to remember the letter sounds and blends.
Let me dive a little deeper into how I use this multi-sensory program in my classroom with these four fun steps.
Step 1: Character Introduction
Each letter in the alphabet, as well as common blended sounds such as ‘ar’, ‘oo’, or ‘th’, to name a few, have a character that goes with their sound. Introducing each character is the first step to how I structure this program, explaining the characters story, their letter sound, the action that pairs with the sound and their silly song. Children always compete “pair-shares” prior to hearing the characters story. Since Polly Panda likes to paint, we get the children to share with a friend something they like to paint and why. They take turns sharing what their friend said so they can focus on listening and recall. We then read a story that relates to our story about Polly. Often stories can be related to the animals, so in this case pandas, or it can relate to what the character does, paints. This helps to keep the children thinking about the patterns in our stories and how they relate as we tie it all together. We then read Polly’s story, listening to the alliteration in the story, such as, “Polly Panda paints porcupines and pizza pans with pink and purple paint”. Children will often act the stories out as well, to get them involved in more whole-body learning. Each character also has a stuffed animal to go with it, really bringing the stories and characters to life for the kids, and might I say… THEY LOVE IT!
Here we have our character Polly Panda, representing the letter P and Ollie Ostrich, representing the letter O. Stories are brought into the class that relate to our character for that week from our local library.
Here children are using the plush characters to create words by blending the letter sounds together. Children are introduced to the letters Pp and Uu first, so they can start reading and writing words such as up and pup, feeling success right away!
Step 2: Rainbow Writing
The second step to our program is Rainbow Writing. This step allows the children to practice the written formation of BOTH (yes, both) upper case and lower case letters. This allows the children to learn when it is appropriate to use each type of letter. Children write the letters with colors of their choice and once complete, recall the details of that characters story and bring them to life with their drawings. The repetitive action of this step encourages children to practice proper formation of their letters, recognizing where they should be sitting on the lines, as well as ensuring they add in finger space to help with maintaining legibility.
Our dear friend Clever Cat helps us with ensuring we write our letters so they are correctly sitting on the lines.
Step 3: Guided Drawing
The third step we complete is our Guided Drawings. This part of the program is a step-by-step lesson where the teacher completes one step, and then the students follow. The children do this until we have all created a picture of something that, using the letter sounds we have learned, we will be successful with reading and writing correctly. Students label their drawing using learned Animated Literacy gestures to sound out the words. Through the process of drawing and labeling, students learn to connect their pictures and the word together. They can then create an understanding, using prior knowledge from step one and two, of how they were able to create an image of something that they can now successfully read, write and illustrate.
Step 4: Journal Writing
For the fourth and final step of the program in my class, we complete journal entries. For this we have a starter sentence that we have on the board mixed out of order for the kids. A common attribute of poor readers is a failure to detect conflicts that cause a sentence to not make sense. An example sentence would be, “This is a jar of stars.” and we would put it on the board as, “stars. is jar a of This”. Students then work together to rearrange the sentence so it makes sense, using grammar tips they know such as a period going at the end of the sentence and an uppercase letter going at the front. This sentence is then used as a starter sentence for a journal entry we compete, using the previous guided drawing to relate to their journal entry, developing it into a story. This is such an exciting component of the program because the students are creative with their stories and word choices and it ties all four steps together!
This program is truly wonderful and the growth that happens with the children is incredible! This approach to phonics is not only one that makes it easy to learn how to read and write, but it is FUN and that’s how learning should be!
~ Miss Kim