Using Phonogram Cards in the Classroom
In a recent Tenspire post titled Flashy Phonics, I listed some of my favorite resources for phonogram card use in the classroom. Although I may be working a bit backwards (what else is new?!), I want to share some appropriate ways to incorporate these cards and their additional online resources into your instruction.
Phonogram cards that have been previously taught to the students are great for a whole group warm-up at the beginning of a literacy block. I know teachers who incorporate motions, trace the letters, or sing the phonograms for multisensory use of the cards. Some teachers use these decks daily and some use them just once weekly to review depending on their students’ needs. Remember you don’t have to use the entire deck daily!
Study of Specific Sounds
Phonogram cards are a must have for introduction of new sounds. I must admit that these cards have taught me a thing or two over the years as to why we spell words the way we do. I was never taught any phonics rules in school, and even though I have always been an avid reader, I am a terrible speller to this day. Seeing that there are reliable methods to spelling certain sounds has been eye opening for both myself and my students. Having ownership over these rules is one of the keys to being a confident and independent reader, speller, and writer. Make sure to display current instructional cards in a prominent location for student reference.
Vocabulary/Spelling Instruction for Later Speaking/Writing Application
With advanced students or for a vital step towards application of the sounds you have studied, have students dissect their new spelling and/or vocabulary words in comparison to the phonogram cards. Once students have conducted this deeper analysis of the words, they will be more likely to embed them into future use and less likely to misspell them. After all, your end goal is not for students to just be able to READ the words. You want your kiddos to understand word meanings, acknowledge how to use those words in context, and you want them to feel comfortable with incorporating their newly acquired lexicon into their speech and writing.
Intense Review for Struggling Students
Most intervention programs for students who are behind in basic decoding incorporate use of some type of phonogram card set. These students usually benefit from small group review of the phonogram cards and their governing rules. I have been told by the experts to simplify the rules as to not overwhelm the students who may have trouble with retention. Tracing the letters (graphemes) in sand or air writing and incorporating movements can benefit struggling readers as it gives them one more place (neural pathway) of storage for the sounds/letters in their brains. Students who are behind may require extra practice with phonogram cards, but use your teacher expertise and assessment options to know when it is time to move on as not to bore the students with the monotony of the flashcards. Too much skill and drill can render this great tool of phonogram cards less effective in the long run if kids want to run and hide when they spot the card deck. Incorporate some of the online phonogram resources from the recent Tenspire post to mix up instruction as well.
The Flashy Phonics post ended with an important disclaimer: you should not only teach phonics in isolation. I need to reiterate that point here, because the research shows that isolation is NOT how students best acquire the rules that govern the English language. The point of using the phonogram cards is to introduce new sounds/spellings or to review previously learned rules. Students need direct, explicit instruction in the rules of their language to aid in their future decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) experiences. Instead of being paralyzed when approaching a new word, students will be equipped with ideas for suitable word attack options. Approximately 80% of words follow typical phonics patterns. The remaining 20% can be memorized, although they often have patterns of their own depending on their etymology. One can assign those few exceptional words to “rule breaker jail” or record then into word discovery journals- more on this next month. In the meantime, have fun with your flashy phonics and watch your students’ literacy skills blossom right before your very eyes (and ears)!