Happy Wednesday Teachers of Emergent Bilinguals! Today I’m going to give you a phonics lesson template for emergent bilinguals that strengthens decoding and encoding skills for all students.
Now, if you’re a K-2 teacher, you probably are already using a curriculum like Fundations or another program. Just because you’re teaching phonics, however, doesn’t mean your students are always getting it. And if you teach the upper grades ELA or ENL stand alone, chances are you aren’t teaching phonics – and your students need it!!
So, my purpose today is to begin walking you through what a 15-20 minute phonics lesson template for emergent bilinguals should look like.
what is phonics?
For those of you wondering, phonics is explicit instruction in the written symbols of English and their corresponding sounds. In alphabetic languages, readers have to decode – or convert – individual symbols to sounds and blend them together to make a word, e.g., ‘c’ says /k/, ‘a’ says /ă/, and ‘t’ says /t/. The reader sees the symbol and connects it to the sound in their oral language. Then they put the sounds together and read cat.
A proficient English speaker will probably know what a cat is, and recognize the word’s meaning. An emergent bilingual may not have the individual sound of the vowel /ă/, for example, or may not know what a cat is.
It would be nice if in English, we had one sound per symbol. Unfortunately, English is an amalgamation of different vocabulary sources – Anglo Saxon, French, Latin, and Greek – and has multiple spellings for an individual sound. This is especially true for vowels. For example, we can spell the long /ē/ sound with:
‘e’ as in ego
‘e’ with a consonant followed by silent e as in eve
‘ee’ as in feed,
‘ea’ as in eat
‘y’ as in baby
‘ie’ as in shield
‘ei’ as in ceiling
These multiple vowel spellings can be difficult for all readers, but especially emergent bilinguals, and need to be explicitly taught.
The problem is, phonics is often not taught after the second grade.
why is phonics important to teach?
If we look at the research on phonics, we understand that explicit phonics instruction works. Granted, there are kids who pick up reading simply through exposure to books, but they are the minority. Most kids need phonics to learn how to read English. I won’t get into the 30+ year debate about phonics vs. the whole-language approach.
We’ve done the research. Phonics works.
Remember phonics is just one piece of the puzzle though: Kids need rich oral language development around a variety of academic concepts and world knowledge; they need time to learn the mechanics of reading (i.e., decoding) and practice so that they can become faster and more accurate; and they need to learn to identify as readers and writers and build up their confidence in school.
Also – don’t teach phonics to newcomers. Learners need a minimum of English proficiency to begin analyzing the sounds of words.
a phonics lesson plan template for emergent bilinguals
The lesson plan consists of 3 essential parts:
1. Review of previous learning
2. New learning
3. Practice reading and spelling the new learning
In this post, I’m only going to show you Step 1, and I will address the others in the upcoming weeks. For those of you who are brand new to teaching phonics, here’s an introductory course for teachers, as well as a scope and sequence for instruction.
step 1: students read and spell previously learned spellings
I want to be totally clear: reading and spelling are two sides of the same coin. They reinforce each other: the more we read the word, the more it reinforces our knowledge of how to spell it. Conversely, the more we spell a word (correctly), the more it reinforces our visual recognition of that word in text.
What does that mean for phonics instruction? Reading symbols and words in isolation and spelling those symbols and words from dictation have to be part of every lesson.
In this sample lesson, which could be for first or second grade or an older ENL stand alone class, we’re targeting the ‘oa’ vowel team making the long /ō/ sound.
We begin by making a short list of about 3-5 words with spellings my students have already learned. We need to review spellings for both long and short ‘o’ , and a couple of others.
pony (Open syllable)
hole, kite (Silent E syllable)
shop (Closed Syllable with digraph)
crisp (Closed Syllable with word initial and ending blends)
Scaffold for emergent bilinguals: Include pictures of these words, or say them in a sentence so that students can understand the meaning.
If you’re not sure what the 6 syllable types of English are, you can read about them here.
Now that I decided on my words, I’m going to do a reading drill with cards.
I’ll show my students cards for ‘o’, ‘o-e’, ‘i’, ‘sh’, ‘y’, and maybe ‘r’ (notice those are the spellings from the words I chose). Let’s aim for at least 3-4 cards to keep this lesson short enough, unless your students can respond quickly. The goal is to have my students say the sound(s) that the spelling corresponds to. So for this card, I’d want them to say short /ŏ/, then long /ō/.
I created my cards as simple powerpoint slides. Scaffold for emergent bilinguals: notice I include pictures of words that represent the sound on my card as a cue for my students to remember. You can adjust the pictures to the age of your students.
Next, I’m going to do an auditory drill: I’ll say the sound and have my students spell it on a whiteboard or in their notebooks. Imagine saying long /ō/ by itself. Your students write down: o, o-e because they know two spellings so far for that sound. I might choose 1-2 more sounds like short /ĭ/ and /sh/.
Now we’ve done our two drills, which should take no longer than 5 minutes. You may have to start your students off slowly, and work them up to more cards/sounds.
Next, I’m going to have my students read the word list:
For practice, I may ask them to read the list from the top down, and then from the bottom up.
Finally, I’m going to dictate 2-3 words to spell, targeting the same spellings: open, cone, flop.
OK, Step 1 is finished! Your students just reviewed previously learned spellings with:
- a visual drill
- an auditory drill
- reading a word list
- spelling words
This whole first step will ideally take you 5-10 minutes, once you’ve gotten your students used to the routine.
Of course, where do you get the words? Here’s a few good free sources:
Megawords 1 for multisyllabic words (for purchase)
The good news is, once you’ve built up your word lists, you can use them again in future lessons.
See this video demonstrating a phonics lesson with steps we just learned.
OK, everyone! Stay tuned next week for the continuation of the lesson with more classroom resources! Questions, comments? Let me know below.