Hello everyone! Thank you so much for following The Kindergarten Smorgasboard and I during our 2022 Summer Book Study. I hope you have been enjoying it and most importantly, have learned some new facts/research and you plan to implement some new strategies with your students! I love this chapter, Teaching Systematic and Explicit Phonics, as it confirms that the method, philosophy and system that I use for teaching little learners is backed up by research!

What is Systematic & Explicit Phonics

Page 78 of chapter 5 states that ‘systematic phonics programs delineate a planned, sequential set of phonics elements and they teach these elements explicitly and systematically’. For Kindergarten that means that you need to have an intentional plan, including a scope and sequence for teaching letters, sounds and phonics patterns. One thing that I found interesting is that there is no research showing that one scope and sequence is better than another. I have been asking different teacher friends and ‘experts’ and everyone seems to have a different scope and sequence. Ultimately, what is important is that you have a plan and system for explicitly teaching phonics and phonics patterns that align with your grade level standards. Let me share what has worked for me and aligns with what is shared in this chapter.

Scope & Sequence

You may have a specific curriculum that you are required to follow, which most likely includes a scope and a sequence for phonics. But then you may be like me and from a school that did not have a specific program or curriculum. I researched other programs and came up with a phonics scope and sequence for explicitly teaching letters in isolation. You can download my letter scope and sequence HERE.

Assessment

After you have a system, plan and scope/sequence for phonics, you will need to see what each student knows. I use ESGI to assess all students. I love the simplicity and ability to assess anywhere. I try and start to assess students the first week of school, but I will warn you that it takes time in the beginning and it certainly doesn’t happen quickly, especially if you do not have an aide or any specific help. But assessing provides valuable information on what each student currently knows. And assessment drives instruction. This means I can use the data from ESGI to determine the needs of my students for small group instruction.

Introducing & Teaching Phonics in Isolation

This chapter confirms that importance of teaching phonics in isolation, especially in kindergarten. I have always followed the gradual release model: I do, We do, You do. This means I explicitly introduce and teach, using direct instruction. I model the skill I am teaching, providing examples along the way. Then the students (we) get a chance to actively practice together as a whole-group. And finally, students go and independently practice their new skills (you). I videoed an explicit phonics lesson for you. (FYI: I had 29 students and no aide…so it’s a little squirrely. haha)

Purposeful Practice

Once students have been introduced and taught a new skill and have even practiced it independently, research shows that they need repeated, active practice of those skills. This is where literacy stations come into play. Multiple literacy activities that are intentional, yet engaging and hands-on are key to purposeful practice for little learners. Repetition is not a bad thing, but necessary when learning to master a skill.

Literacy Activities for Purposeful Practice

Decodable Books

As discussed in previous chapters and blog posts, decodable books are imperative when learning phonics patterns. While little learners learn words best out of context, they read words better in context. That’s one reason why having decodables that only have words with phonics patterns they have been explicitly taught is so important. It’s pretty useless to have leveled books with lots of words that students cannot read or decode, due to not having been taught the pattern. This was one reason why I created my own TRUE decodables that align with specific phonics patterns.

Don’t Forget the FUN!

Yes learning is hard work and as teachers we feel the pressure to get our students to a certain ‘level’ or making so many points or benchmarks on assessments. But don’t forget that most of our students have only been on this earth for 5 or 6 years!! They are little kids. Learning should be happening, but it should also be fun! Make learning and practicing new skills interesting, full of movement, engaging and hands-on. Search for ideas beyond just sitting and getting. But find a balance. Worksheets and workbooks have a place in the classroom, as learners need to practice and show their learning, but let’s add in some active learning and fun too!

What was your big takeaway from this week’s chapter?

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