Phonics Week

Monday

Today we were in Year 1, with a teacher who was an NQT last year. It’s always inspiring to meet people that have recently  completed the challenges I have in front of me…it is possible! She answered any questions we had and explained how she teaches phonics, when they do their sessions and what phonics schemes she uses. After a very daunting phonics lecture last week it was so reassuring to hear that we won’t ever need to tell the children what a triphthong is (don’t ask).

She has one pupil in her class who is Romanian, and doesn’t yet speak any english. I immediately felt for this little girl who looked completely lost, despite the efforts of her pupils and teachers. The teacher was given no extra support for her, so was making do as best as she could. To make matters worse, where she is from she wouldn’t have started school until she was 7. Because of this the little girl was not only unable to speak the English, but was also not able to do things that we may expect a children of 5 to do. I’ve been asking myself what I would do if this were my class? Quite frankly, I have no idea, and that terrifies me. I need to have something in place in case I every have an EAL pupil in my class. I felt awful not being able to communicate with her, and I hope it isn’t long before she feels at home here.

Tuesday

Today was jam packed with intervention after intervention. We got to see lots of small phonics lessons and I’m starting to understand the pace now. The lessons are short and the pace is quick with lost lots of small activities packed in. We’ve also learnt a little bit more about the phases today. We have already covered this in seminars, but seeing it all in schools makes it much more relevant to us.

I think I need to start collecting phonics resources and games to build up my own phonics bible, complete with information about the phases. All the teachers and TAs I’ve seen so far have been prepared and inventive with their resources.

Also today I’ve found out that I’ll be doing my first main placement at this school with year 5! I am thrilled. I feel extremely lucky to have already visited the school and started to learnt the layout and meet the staff, this should make for a much easier first day with my main placement rolls around.

Wednesday

Today was much the same as yesterday, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m still enjoying seeing the small sessions and noting the format and structure. The big revelation today was that we will be teaching our own phonics session tomorrow or Friday. I had seen this on our timetable, but had assumed that at this stage in our training we’d be given the planning…nope! We will be revisiting the learning from the sessions on Monday, Tuesday and today, so we’ll be consolidating work done phonemes/graphemes J V and W. Thankfully we do have something to go on. I’m not sure I could cope with planning and delivering something from scratch at this stage.

20 minutes is suddenly seeming like a very long time! Quite frankly I’m terrified, but I’m quite pleased that I’m being forced to dive head first into teaching early on. The sooner the better. I’ve got a long way to go this year, so I’ve got no time to hang around.

Wish me luck!

Thursday

Today I found out that I will be doing my teaching tomorrow (one more day to prepare hooray!) Therefor the person I am on placement with had her turn to teach today. It is always fantastic seeing other people teach, and proves a great time to magpie ideas and reflect. It does make me more nervous about my session though. Seeing a different approach to something can make you question yourself, but I know that I just need to give my plan a go and see what happens.

We also got to have a rummage around in the phonics resources today. Wow! Box after box of different ideas to adapt and use in our practice. Here are a few things we liked:

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One thing that has become clear is that some of the simplest resources are the most useful (i.e. dice, or foam letters). It’s all about the creativity of the teacher!

We finished today by asking the English Subject Lead at the school a few questions. She raised a very interesting point about how spelling is taught in schools today. She has found that a large portion of children she is teaching struggle with spelling due to the local accent, and poor vocabulary. Children are simply having to spell words that they haven’t used before, or cannot sound out due to their pronunciation. This issue has definitely made me question whether rote learning is best when it comes to spelling, or is does this fail to provide children with the tools to tackle unfamiliar words in the future?

Friday

The children were all incredibly hyped up today as it is the last day of half term, and was non uniform day. What a good day to teach my first phonics lesson. All day I was very nervous but clung to the knowledge that even if this lesson failed completely, at least it would be a good learning experience!

I decided to keep the session simple and model what I had seen teachers do, rather then bring in too many creative ideas. I wanted to get the teaching part of it right, and make sure I was hitting the learning objective, rather then worry about making my session exciting and engaging…hopefully my delivery would achieve engagement (that was the plan anyway).

So I started my asking the children to help me remember what phonemes they had been looking at this week. We practiced the pronunciation with the children copying me, and then practiced our air writing. We wrote on the ceiling, floor, on our hands and on our partners shoulder. This was something I had seen done in another school and was keen to try it out myself. The children seemed very engaged by it, and especially liked the frantic rubbing out of the imaginary letters before the head teacher came (something else I had seen done). However I don’t think I’ve got enough experience yet to know if air writing actually benefits children’s handwriting.

I then followed this by a game of trash and treasure words, telling the children I was going to try and catch them out. I segmented the word and had the children blend it, before asking them to tell me whether it was an alien/trash word and there for needed to be placed in our bin, or a treasure word. The children were very good at this, and in hindsight I think I could have challenged the class more. However, it’s difficult to do this without the prior knowledge of the class, or much experience.

Finally I had the children write their own sentence  on their whiteboards, using the treasure words we had found. I modelled a sentence on the board, purposefully making a mistake (no capital letter) allowing the children to pull me up on it. This was something I watched the class teacher do throughout the week and it seemed like a fantastic idea of encouraging children to question what they see, and to understand that our writing is always a work in progress that we can check and improve. I was hoping my sentence writing with them was going to be my way of challenging my higher attainers, however I think I could have done this better by setting some of them the challenge of using a connective/time connective.

Overall I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. It wasn’t ground breaking but I planned it, stood up and delivered it and managed to get what I had wanted from the class. I think for a first attempt that is something to be proud of 🙂

 

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2 thoughts on “Phonics Week

  1. Debbie Hepplewhite (@debbiehepp) says:

    Hi Katie,

    ‘Google’ flagged up your blog to me, and I have really enjoyed reading your post on phonics.

    I declare at the outset of my comment that I am heavily involved in phonics as a programme author (associated with two programmes: Phonics International for all ages, and Oxford Reading Tree Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters) and I am a current teacher-trainer and consultant.

    My concern is to support the teaching profession by highlighting the generic content and principles of systematic synthetic phonics teaching so that teachers’ knowledge and understanding is not based on a specific phonics programme – and certainly not based on ‘Letters and Sounds’ alone as this should never, in my opinion, have been described as a ‘high-quality six-phase phonics programme’ as it is not really a ‘programme’ in the full sense at all.

    Your posting has already indicated that you are an analytical person, questioning, for example, what role ‘air writing’ has to play in actual handwriting – good for you!

    I would also encourage you to question the use of mini whiteboards and when, and whether, they are fit-for-purpose resources. Consider their benefits and their non-benefits for example. What might be better for teaching phonics, reading, writing and spelling?

    You posted photos of various resources including an ‘alphabet arc’. I am highly critical of the alphabetic arc – can you think why that might be?

    I am also very critical of over-use of the treasure/trash game using a lot of nonsense words – why might that be do you think?

    I am providing you with some links of content relevant to systematic phonics provision which I consider to be ‘generic’ and very helpful for teacher-training and CPD:

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/The_Simple_View_of_Reading_model.pdf

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Reflecting%20on%20the%20Teaching%20and%20Learning%20Cycle.pdf

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Triangle_sub_core_skills.pdf

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/FR_PI_Posters_for_phonics_routines.pdf

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/FR_PI_Guidance_for_phonics_routines.pdf

    There are further such documents but that’s enough for now – but an invaluable resource for various users is an overview Alphabetic Code Chart. I’d be interested to learn whether your university and/or school has flagged up the following site where you can find a variety of free Alphabetic Code Charts:

    http://alphabeticcodecharts.com/free_charts.html

    If not, you might like to alert them to these charts. I consider that an Alphabetic Code Chart should be as fundamental in a classroom as an Alphabet Poster (as opposed to an alphabet arc – hint).

    There are various sites that I think you should be aware of as a student-teacher for information about the reading debate and systematic synthetic phonics. These are:

    The UK Reading Reform Foundation – this organisation championed SSP in England:

    http://www.rrf.org.uk

    The International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction (IFERI) – this is a new organisation to bring together all interested parties with various roles in literacy and education internationally:

    http://www.iferi.org

    Susan Godslands’ award-winning, heavily referenced site:

    http://www.dyslexics.org.uk

    And my own message forum (this is the one for research and topical issues) at Phonics International:

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=10&sid=20f1836e345a304643498ea56aedb16c

    Some universities do flag up these sites – I’d be interested to learn if you have had any knowledge of them. If not, I think that is a great shame!

    Enjoy your teaching – and know that there is nothing more exciting than being an effective phonics teacher – but that good phonics provision should provide plenty of vocabulary enrichment and language comprehension – not just alphabetic code knowledge and tinkering around the edges with word work.

    So, to end this message, here is a graphic I drew up to try to illustrate why all teachers are very hard-working, but many children just don’t get enough of the right kind of practice, per child, to fulfil their potential. I wonder if you can recognise any of these profiles of schools?

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Simple%20View%20of%20Schools.pdf

    Please feel free to disregard all of the above – and I hope that my message does not feel like an intrusion on your blog – it is intended in very good spirit.

    If you ever want to contact me direct, you can email me at debbie@phonicsinternational.com as I’m always happy to provide guidance/suggestions for the challenges we face with our 30 little pickles!

    Warmest regards,

    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie says:

      Hi Debbie, thank you for such a fantastic and informative comment. Resources like this and alternative perspectives on classroom norms are vital to the development of trainees, as I’m sure you know. I’ll certainly be having a good read through all of the links you’ve provided. It certainly does not feel like an intrusion at all. Wider reading and questioning can only ever be a positive thing 🙂 Thanks again!
      All the best,
      Katie

      Like

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