All learners should begin with Playing With Sounds: Kids need to be able to hear each sound in a word, blend sounds together to make a word, pull the sounds apart to map them to the letters that represent the sounds, rhyme words, and change sounds in words. This is a critical skill for reading and is often a root cause of reading difficulty. While this is not the focus of this website, we have a section on “Playing With Sounds” in the Teach Along the Way section. There are also many places to find help by Googling phonemic awareness if these activities are difficult for your learner.
If the learner needs to learn the letter sounds, practice them for a couple of minutes at a time, many times each day. Learn about working on new words or sounds with flashcards here. As you are practicing the sounds, work on Playing With Sounds. Once they know most of the alphabet sounds they can begin step one.
Go through the Big Sounds Pack and Sight Words along with the Steps.
Go through the Steps in the general order presented, but skip around as interest dictates! Schwa in particular may be taught at any time, and is quick to learn. Use this Phonics Quick Check to see which steps have already been mastered.
Watch the video to introduce and teach each skill first. Pick and choose from the many options (lists, games, sorts, little books) to practice each skill, but include spelling every time. Reading and spelling go hand in hand. If the learner is struggling, start with the simplest lists, games etc. If the learner can read and spell the mixed skill lists and small books quickly and smoothly move on!
Use the Big Sounds Pack to practice known sounds and add new ones as you go through all of the steps. Go to the Sounds Sight Words and Chunks page (under Teach Along the Way) for more information on sight words and heart words.
Go through unknown Sight Words as you work through the steps.
Check the “Teach Along The Way” section, in left sidebar, for help with questions that come up as learners notice unknown letter combinations (“What is the deal with tch in catch?”) and ask questions like “why is there an “e” at the end of nerve?
*We learn quickest (and learning is more permanent) when we are 90-95% correct, and only 5-10% of what we are doing is new, so go for automaticity and speed with known skills while introducing new ones. A huge benefit to this site are the opportunities to practice target skills to automaticity through controlled activities where the learner can be 90-95% correct, master the skill quickly, and move on to the next. Click here for other effective study practices backed by scientific evidence.
In the learning steps you will find:
*Everything underlined is a link!
*If formatting is an issue, download what you are using.
This is where the skills for each step is taught and explained.
Use these first to introduce the skill through story, visuals and some practice! The purpose of the stories is to provide a visual, emotional and often physical hook to help remember the skills. These were first designed to teach teachers to introduce the skills themselves, but it turns out they also work well for the learner to watch directly.
Teach Along The Way
Teach Along The Way
Usually highlighted in green, this section explains and links to some important extra skills that go along with the main skill of the step. There are many letter combinations and other skills we need to learn along with the syllables. The Teach Along The Way section in the left sidebar has more information.
Practice in a variety of ways. Practice until the stories or mixed lists and games feel quick, comfortable and, fluent, then move to the next step!
Word and Phrase Lists
It is important for learners to become automatic with the skills they are learning. Word chunk (part of a word), word, phrase and sentence lists for a specific skill are a great way to start becoming automatic. See Highlighting Word Lists and Timing Students for further instructions on how to use lists. *In order to keep the formatting, download the lists to your device rather than opening in Google Docs.
There are two very different uses for flashcards:
Flashcards for practicing skills are a great way to practice while changing word order, playing games, building speed, or doing a quick practice. One great strategy to help students move from sounding out letter by letter to reading words is the Flashing Words Strategy.
Flashcards for memorizing uses a very specific strategy, and for our purposes are used for the Big Sounds Pack and for Common Cheater Words. Learn about working on new words or sounds with flashcards here.
Flip Chute Cards
These are old, but learners like them because they are self-checking. Print back to back on cardstock. Cut cards apart and use word side up. Read the word, then put it through the Flip Chute to see if you are correct! (Or just have the learner turn the card over to see if the picture matches the word they read.) Google “How to make a Flip Chute” to find YouTube tutorials on how to make a Flip Chute from milk cartons.
Games often come with instructions, and of course you can always make up your own! I often make mistakes when playing with students and award them extra points or spaces if they are able to catch my mistake and fix it. This encourages them to listen very carefully to my answers! Instructions for many of the games are in the following links: Directions for Games with Picture Cards, Directions for Games without Picture Cards, Directions for Bang!, Directions for Bingo.
These are designed to build fluency through re-reading a sentence by adding one word at a time. Use good expression when doing these!
Full Page Stories with Lists
Full Page Stories with Lists
Full Page Stories with Lists
Practice the list on the side, then read the silly story that contains that list! There are video examples of Chris Jaglo doing this with distance learning on the Step 2: 4h Brothers and Blends page.
These are fun, silly little one page stories focusing on the skill being worked on. A great strategy with these is for the learner to re-read the small book again and again until they can read it with over-the-top expression like a teacher reading to the class. *Rereading text is the most effective way to build fluency. Here are the Small Book Assembly Directions.
*Challenge: Can the learner write their own silly story using mostly words with the skill/pattern being learned?
Spelling (Click link for more on spelling)
1. Learners should be practicing spelling the skills each step of the way. Writing the words from the lists, games etc. that follow the patterns the learner is working with strengthens learning. Learners are using what they know about letters and sounds to create written words. This is a figuring out task, not a memorization one. We want learners to learn spelling. Physically writing the letters, sounds and words is important to build motor memory. Learners often feel less stress about their writing when using impermanent things like whiteboards, but writing on anything works as long as the learner is creating words.
2. There is also a much smaller place for memorizing how to spell common words they want to write often. A word or two can be chosen by the learner that they want to be consistent with (like the word said or they). Then practice this word or two by making a mental image of it, repeating the letters out loud, and writing it at different times throughout each day for many days until it is automatic.
3. Move quickly to studying the meanings and spellings of morphemes, (the smallest meaningful units) and how they are put together to make words. In the beginning we are teaching students to spell based on the most common way(s) to spell the sounds they hear. However, English spelling is based on the meanings of the morphemes and etymology (the history of words). For example the word ‘sign’ comes from the Latin word signum, which meant “mark, sign.” We know to spell sign with a ‘gn’ since it is related to signal, signify, and even designate. When the morpheme ‘sign’ is not the last syllable, the g is pronounced.
These include posters, a cover sheets that summarize the syllable types and other visuals designed to help memory. Put one or more up in a place the learner often occupies. (With my own daughters I put some up in the kitchen so we could do a little practice during mealtimes.) This Six Syllable Cheat Sheet visual will help keep the syllable types in mind and organized as you go. The Sound to Symbol Chart is a good reference also.
Stories for Skills
The written versions of the story are included so teachers and parents can adapt and tell the stories themselves. While the phonic rule part of the story needs to stay, the content around that can and should be altered to appeal to, and be relevant to, the interests and world of the specific learner(s). For example when introducing the vowels, the name of the creature, AE, needs to stay, as does the ending “AE, I O U a (what is owed could change)!” AE responding with “Y?” also needs to stay. All the other pieces, the descriptions, circumstances, what is owed, all can and should change to be most memorable and fun for the specific audience.
*If you make up a great alternate story for a skill we would love to see it! We would love to add an alternate story versions section to this site!
PowerPoints were designed for teachers teaching groups, but are used in many situations including one-on-one. The PowerPoints used in the teaching videos are included. For many skills, I also provided practice PowerPoints, as well as review PowerPoints sew up as games like Jeopardy! *In order to keep the formatting, download the PowerPoints to your device and open in Powerpoint rather than in Google Slides.
A list of links to directions for items on the page.