When do you start teaching phonics?
There are so many things going on at the start of a new school year!
We are getting to know new personalities, watching them interact with each other, and at the same time, we are taking notes and assessing abilities.
One of the first things I set up are my EASY and independent literacy centers.
These take very little explanation, and students can happily work on literacy skills while I use valuable time to assess their abilities before moving forward with differentiation for the new school year.
It’s important to keep things engaging and interactive so everything runs smoothly. During the literacy blocks I can rely on some time to get things done while they are happily working away.
Here’s a run down of the literacy centers I use year after year for the first semester:
PHONICS WORD BUILDING CARDS
Word building cards are great to toss into a basket and let students sort and build words. Some students will be simply matching words and pictures, while others can spell the words and write them down on recording sheets. My more advanced students have to spell words without the answer cards, and write sentences for each word as they record it.
SIGHT WORD AND PHONICS PERSONAL WORD LISTS
We start early on sight words! My students love these little animal booklets. There’s an animal at the top of each list of ten words, and students love to complete each “animal list” and mark it off on their completion chart. I also use an editable version of this for vocabulary and theme words with more advanced students. For other phonics, I use the same format, except there is some writing involved for studying word families and other spelling patterns through the year. Some years I send these home with students – parents LOVE this simple format and get lots of practice at home, too!
WORD & SENTENCE SPINNERS
These spinners are such a huge hit each year! Super simple – spin the wheel around until you make a word and match a picture. I use them for all spelling patterns through the year, and then we move on to making silly sentences. Students love making these silly sentences and reading them to each other. They record the sentences and love making the funny pictures. I’ve been using different versions of this for over 20 years and it’s always popular.
SENTENCE BUILDING CENTERS
I love using color coded sentence building centers. Students easily grasp the idea that they need one of each color, and each color has a word on it. Their job is to read the words and put them in an order the MAKES SENSE. This is such a crucial skill to practice! How often are we reading with students who read aloud a sentence that makes no sense, but they don’t stop to self-correct?! These sentence building activities really help to develop that skill and awareness.
So, I use colored blocks with words on them, colored unifex cubes, and also laminated cards. Here are three examples that help me differentiate my instruction.
In the first example, students just decode the sentence, or just a few key words, and then find the picture to match. In the second example, they are putting all the words (one of each color) in order to make a sentences that makes sense.
The second example shows how students gather all the cards that have the same picture on it (such as a cat, as seen below). Next, students put these words in order to make a proper sentence.
The last example shows color coded cards, so students can choose ANY card as long as they have one of each color. The advantage of this is that there are endless possibilities for new or silly sentences!
CLIP & CHECK PHONICS STORIES
Another big favorite with students are the Clip and Check stories. I have stories for all spelling patterns and phonics rules, so we work through these all year long. They are easy to make – just print and fold in half before laminating so the answers are on the back.
Students read the simple stories (they get more difficult through the year) and choose an answer to four multiple choice comprehension questions. They put a clip on their answers, and then turn the card over. If they were correct, their clip will be beside a funny happy face with the words “Correct!”. Then they read the phonics words at the top just for review.
I’ve recently added a writing and close reading component to this popular center. I used the same phonics stories that they are familiar with, and added a number of different skills in a workbook: close reading, decoding hidden words, writing the focus words, illustrating to show comprehension, summarizing the story and self editing their sentences. There’s a lot packed in there!
I hope some of these ideas were helpful to you!
Grab some blocks or colored index cards and try these simple ideas out in your classroom to create some independent, engaging literacy time for your students.
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