Discovering the missing piece in reading instruction

If you have watched the news, read the paper, or have paid attention to anything regarding the world of education, you have heard that the number of kids who are failing to learn to read by the third grade is staggering.  According to the article “Hard Words, Why Kids Aren’t Learning to Read (Hanford, 2018), the National Assessment for Educational Progress, only 37% of students in the 4th grade tested proficient or advanced in reading in 2017.  (Linked below)

As a first-grade teacher, I struggled to reach all of my students. I was using a big box curriculum, piecing my phonics plans together using Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers and anything else I could get my hands on.  My activities and games were visually pleasing and the kids enjoyed working through the activities, but I realized that something was still missing. My high fliers flew but my average to below average readers were still struggling. It became evident that the scope and sequence supplied by the big box curriculum was not benefiting all students.  

In small reading groups, I modeled how to decode words and taught a phonics mini-lesson, but things just didn’t stick. Their phonemic foundation was lacking and I knew it. When concerns were voiced, colleagues agreed but no one had the answer. 

Our reading interventionist began teaching me phonics rules that would eventually help my students understand the why behind the sounds. She would give me “little golden nuggets” of information and I would use them in my lessons. I began to see that these very direct rules and direct instruction, propelled my students like never before and gave me a phonetic language I had never learned (neither had my colleges). I discovered that this new knowledge was invaluable. The students’ phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and ultimately their comprehension began to increase.

Several years later an opportunity arose for me to learn the remaining phonics rules and spelling patterns while tutoring students. As I learned this new phonics technical language, I realized that these rules were critical to students learning to decode.

After researching the 44 sounds in the English language, we decided to use what we knew about our students, the building blocks of reading combined with the sounds in the English Language to create Building Blocks Phonics Curriculum. 

Since reading the article “Hard Words, Why Kids Aren’t Learning To Read” (Hanford, 2018), we knew we had something that would help address the literacy rate, propel students forward, incorporate active parent participation, and would give teachers a phonetic language that they could integrate throughout their day. We simplified phonics, made it explicit and synthetic in nature. Our early research results demonstrated that phonics mini-lessons are necessary and effective for long term growth for all components of reading. But first teachers must know and understand the 44 sounds in the English language, how to present them, and in which order they should be taught. 

Building Blocks Phonics teaches teachers how to use a phonetic language, teach following a scope and sequence that helps build a strong reading foundation, and ultimately makes teaching reading easier. Building Blocks Phonics produces readers who are confident, risk takers, and proficient decoders.

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