By Beth Richards
Phonics isn’t just a hot new buzzword; it’s an integral part of any literacy curriculum. Blevins (2017) reminds us that phonics is a tool to help students gain access to meaning through comprehension, learning, and enjoyment - the true outcomes of reading.
As a follow-up to your explicit phonics instruction, you can incorporate embedded phonics work for a few minutes during small groups to reinforce the newest skill and review those previously taught skills. Here are some quick ways to reinforce phonics during small group instruction.
For these examples, I’ll use the Hameray text, The Hungry Giant’s Shoe, a level I book from The Joy Cowley Collection. Regardless of your district's program, most phonics scopes and sequences will have kids at levels H-I working with long vowel patterns. Previously taught skills before these levels are typically CVC words, initial and final blends and digraphs, and silent e words.
Here are some activities you could do after reading The Hungry Giant’s Shoe and instructions around the long o pattern -oa. These quick activities reinforce the current phonics focus and can be used with any phonics skills.
- Have students locate the word roar on page 7 and build it with magnetic letters after discussing its meaning. (Some students may benefit from color-coded vowels and consonants to allow the vowel patterns to pop.) Ask them to notice the -oa pattern and change out some letters to make new words that have the same pattern. Have them clear the consonants, and ask them to build the word boat. When they are finished, encourage them to check it in the text by locating it on page 12. Repeat with the words coat, road, and goal. Since these words are not in the text, you can build or write them on a dry-erase board for students to check.
- Ask students to write the word boat, and then check it in the text by locating it on page 12. Point out the -oa pattern and the sound it makes. Tell them they will change some letters to make new words with the /oa/sound they need to solve. (You can ask them to put their hands on their heads once they have solved it to avoid some students doing all the work. Once all students have hands on their heads, you can call on one of them to share.) Ask students to change the b to an r and the t to a d (road). They can then change the d to st (roast). Change the r to c (coast). Add -er to the end (coaster). Discuss any meanings they may be unfamiliar with.
- Hand out the following magnetic letters and have students line them across the top of their board: r, e, a, d, o, r, g, n, i, s. After rereading page 7 together to practice fluency, ask students to build the word roared. Show them how to break off the inflectional ending, and explain that the -ed part signals that the action happened in the past. Ask them to put the ed back at the top and pull down the letters to make the word roaring. Practice using it in a sentence and discuss how it’s different from roared.
- Ask students to draw a vertical line down the middle of their dry-erase board to make two columns. Have them write an oa header at the top of one column and o_e (a previously taught skill) at the top of the other column. Give them a word, and ask them to write it in the correct column. If students aren’t sure, they can try it both ways and see which one looks right. Examples of words to have students write in the chart include roar, boat, load, hope, globe, soap, float, hose.
These are just a few ways to reinforce phonics skills during small group instruction. The activities can be done in only a few minutes and help your students notice and transfer the phonics patterns from your explicit instruction into the words they read and write in continuous text.
Explore the Joy Cowley Collection for more titles about the Hungry Giant and other humorous Joy Cowley characters such as Mr. Whisper, the Meanies, and Mrs. Wishy-Washy. Also available in select titles in Big Books and Spanish.
Beth has been teaching for twenty years. For the last nine years, she has been a literacy interventionist and Reading Recovery teacher. Prior to that, she taught kindergarten, third, and fourth graders. She loves spending her days helping her students develop and share her love of reading.