Y’all. Phonemic awareness is so important. I cannot stress this enough.
Phonemic awareness is our ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes for those of you in “the business”). Why does this matter? Because it is the precursor to successful reading and spelling. Phonemic awareness is done completely without letters.
Here are some of the many examples of phonemic awareness activities. Some are more complex than others, and very young children will not be able to do the harder ones.
- Clap out the syllables in a word.
- Count out the sounds in a word (/c/ /a/ /t/ has three sounds).
- I will give you four words, and three of them will rhyme with each other. Tell me the word that doesn’t rhyme.
- Say “bland.” Now say it again with the /l/ sound.
- Say “popcorn.” Now reverse the syllables.
- Which two words have the same ending sound? Rat, rant, cat.
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special news bulletin…
I know I have been posting regarding the OG lesson, and I will continue with that on Monday. But I came across this article in Forbes, and I found it to be so helpful in proving my point that the OG approach really does benefit nearly all types of students.
Blending is important for students to understand how sounds fit together. When an OG instructor is doing the blending drill, they put 3-4 packs of the phoneme cards out. Each card has a sound that the student can already read. The student needs to say each sound in order, pointing as they go, and then blend them together (some instructors use the word “scooping”). The instructor can use nonsense words, but they should never break a spelling rule, because this is pure decoding practice. For example, I wouldn’t want to see a nonsense word like “kandy”, because the letter k is usually only followed by the letters i or e. Sight words should be drilled separately from this part of the lesson.
The Connecticut State Department of Education defines dyslexia as resulting from a significant deficit in phonological processing. Put simply, phonological processing is the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds that make up our language. That’s why babies start out saying “nana” instead of “banana” as they are developing their phonological awareness (they are also learning how to use their lips, teeth, tongue, etc. to make the precise sounds they want). It’s also why we do lots of clapping games and rhyming songs in preschool.
In an OG lesson, the first step is the drill pack. This is a pack of cards containing all of the sounds the student has previously learned. The instructor shows the student the card and the student names the sound. NOT the letter! We’re teaching the student the correspondence between the letter(s) on the card and the sound(s) they make. For example, if I show a student a card with the letter “c” on it, I want them to tell me the hard sound (candy) and the soft sound (Cindy).
Last week, I wrote how an effective approach to teaching reading must include the following: logical sequence, cumulative, explicit, diagnostic, and multi-sensory. Today I’m going to start explaining why each of these things is important.
1. Logical sequence: Not all OG instructors are trained this way, but when I was trained, I was given a specific scope and sequence to use. Each concept was ordered from most commonly used to least. For example, students learn the letter j as one of their last consonants because the letter j is much less frequently seen than the letter t. It also makes sense that when you’re teaching the blend br, you will then also want to teach cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr (not wr because the w is silent and that’s a whole separate lesson). The instructor determines whether the student can handle being taught more than one of these blends in a single lesson.
2. Following from #1, cumulative instruction means that the learning builds upon itself. When the student has mastered vowel teams like ai/ay, that’s when the instructor will then make sure to continue building words with that type of spelling into the review, so that the student continues to see it and gets a chance to practice. It also means, again, that the instructor would teach most or all of the concepts within a category (such as magic-e words) before moving on to the next thing.
3. Explicit means that the student doesn’t have to generalize. If a student could generalize that ou can have different sounds (cloud vs. soup), then they wouldn’t need this type of instruction in the first place. Some students are capable of generalizing to a certain degree, such as the #1 example, where an instructor might teach br, cr, and dr in one lesson.
4. Diagnostic means that the instructor uses the student’s errors to create the next lesson. If the student is showing that they need a refresher on how to use a concept, the instructor makes sure to put that in the next lesson’s review. The instructor can also reteach anything if necessary.
5. Multisensory: When we are teaching with an OG approach, we are literally rewiring the brain. It is important to give students a multisensory approach (audio-visual-kinesthetic) to give the brain as many ways as possible to learn the concept. I have seen lots of instructors also use color-coding or highlighting. Having students play games with their reading or spelling is also a great way to have them be engaged while also being more hands-on.