Phonics instruction and techniques are constantly changing. The pendulum swings back and forth from a whole language approach to a phonics approach. What educators often forget is what we know about student learning and phonics. It is known that reading instruction must have multiple working pieces, repeatedly the phonics component is ignored or taken lightly.
Weak phonics curriculums produce children who may be able to read by sight or by using context clues. However, these students cannot sound out unfamiliar words or words that have letter or spelling patterns that have more than one sound choice. Leading to students who aren’t confident readers, who lack the ability to read fluently and struggle to comprehend.
Let’s look at some current approaches according to Reading Rockets (http://www.readingrockets.org/article/phonics-instruction):
Teaching students explicitly to convert letters into sounds (phonemes) and then blend the sounds to form recognizable words.
Teaching students to analyze letter-sound relations in previously learned words to avoid pronouncing sounds in isolation.
Teaching students phonics skills by embedding phonics instruction in text reading, a more implicit approach that relies to some extent on incidental learning.
A combination of each of these will appeal to multiple types of learners but what must be in place is systematic and explicit phonics instruction that is presented daily to students. This will allow students to learn the phonics rules and spelling patterns that are essential to their growth in decoding. It will allow them to become confident readers, who will take a risk when sounding out unfamiliar words.
School Administrators and Districts must take a close look into the current phonics curriculum they are providing teachers with and ask themselves the following questions:
- Do the teachers understand how to teach phonics explicitly and systematically?
- Do the teachers have a phonetic language and understanding that can be used throughout the school day?
- Do the teachers have the proper tools in order to implement a complete phonics curriculum?
Many districts or schools are unable to answer these questions with certainty and are hard pressed to find a curriculum to compliment their current reading curriculum. When districts and school team up with Building Blocks Phonics they receive a complete, explicit, systematic, supplemental phonics curriculum that teaches all 44 sounds of English. The scope and sequence are laid out so that each module builds on the previous module, supporting every new phonetic concept introduced and never asking students to make a leap that they are not prepared to make.
In addition to the explicit scope and sequence, we give the why behind the how. Building Blocks Phonics has found that this additional information supplies students with a greater understanding of decoding. Because we initially rely upon the synthetic approach of individual letter sounds, students have a rich phonemic awareness, blending and decoding ability that exceeds other students not taught with BBP. Because we can be sure that students have a strong foundation of individual sounds, BBP changes focus to a more analytic approach asking students to apply what they learned in order to decode and read words fluently. As fluency and automaticity build, students ability to comprehend increases. When you follow BBP scope and sequence, you are addressing three of the five essential components of reading instruction:
- phonemic awareness
With these three components addressed, fluency and comprehension are initiated. Students can then make the mental shift from learning to read to reading to learn.