Are you still seeing students struggling to read and wonder what they might be missing? You are doing Guided Reading, they know their letters and sounds, they are starting to blend words, but now they seem “stuck”. They may be missing the knowledge of phonograms and need more phonics instruction.
What are phonograms? Phonograms are the letters and letter combinations that create a phonemic sound. Phonograms may be one letter or a combination of letters. For example, the /k/ in the word kite is made up of a single letter. However, the /sh/ in the word she is comprised of a group of letters that combine to make a single sound. Combinations of letters may include consonants, vowel clusters, r-controlled vowels, or irregular sounds. After students learn their letters and sounds and start to blend segments of words, they need to keep practicing phonics skills including phonograms.
What sparked my interest in phonics and teaching phonograms?
I was shown a different reading strategy to use for some struggling readers recently and the focus is on phonics and phonograms. You teach the students to recognize the phonograms as they read. If they struggle you do a quick mini lesson and write it out on a sticky note “swooping” the letters that create the sound they didn’t know. Stick the sticky note on the page they were struggling with. Have them reread the book 3-5 times and they can use the sticky note to help them remember the phonogram. This will help them remember it each time they see it again as they read. I started using this method while tutoring and one student went from a Level C to a Level I in 4 months. Another student went from a Pre-A to a Level D in 3 months. It made me start to think about the lack of phonics and the lack of phonogram practice I see in classrooms. I decided to do some research and help the teachers focus on teaching more phonics on a regular basis.
Here is a free checklist you can use to track how many times a student reads a book. They love to keep track.
The needs of students vary greatly from class to class so it is important to determine your students’ needs prior to figuring out what phonics instruction they need. Are they missing the basics of phonemic awareness such as rhyming, syllables and letter sounds? If so, start with these items and then introduce your students to blending and phonograms. It is just as important to teach children the phonograms with multiple letters and sounds as it is to teach them each individual letters and sounds. There are so many letter combinations that make certain sounds, students that learn these and recognize them immediately tend to have a stronger reading foundation than others.
I am not a phonics expert by any means but I am a teacher and literacy coach that wants to find solutions to helping students learn to read.
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