Lessons with Ben continue. At first he was somewhat reluctant to have to sound out my words. He wanted a quicker way - to guess, but he soon began to realise that when he sounded them out, he was able to read all sorts of words that he didn't know he could read. This has slowly begun to change his attitude to the lessons. It has been truly wonderful to see those odd, albeit rare 'light bulb' moments when you suddenly realised that he has totally engaged with the lesson and has taken a step forward.
We have progressed from cvc words, onto four letter words and now beyond to the 'Moving on with phonics stage'. Now, Ben is not secure with consonant blends. We have done a lot of work with them, for several weeks, but I felt that he at least now knows what I am talking about when we try and spell a word, for example, sleep: he wants to put one letter for sl, but we talk about it and say it's two letters, now what two sounds can you hear? So I am still very much supporting him with this, but by moving on I am giving him a sense of progress. Most of the words in the Moving on with phonics actually only involve three sounds. He can do these confidently. He will get plenty of practice with consonant blends by the end of this stage.
So what does a typical lesson look like?
Since the beginning I have had Ben arrange magnetic letters into alphabetical order. This had been a very foundational part of his current success. I found that Ben was very confused by some of the letters that looked the same. Not just b/d/p/q but also n/u, and when we did the capital letters, Z and N. By letting him handle physical letters he could turn them round to see the difference between them. This is multi-sensory learning that is vital for all children not least those with any special need. Ben had great trouble with 'l,m,n,o,p'. I find this is common as the usual alphabet 'song' gabbles these letters. A better tune is The Grand Old Duke of York.
I have now moved away from always physically arranging letters to having him write out the alphabet. This again has highlighted difficulties in letter formation and we talk about the letters as we go. Ben does know the sounds each letters stands for securely. I have made some sandpaper letters for him to trace to teach the right formation. We do one letter until he has mastered it. He seems to take great pride in being able to do each letter properly, though does love to tease me by doing it wrong sometimes!
I then have him put the vowels in order for me, saying both their name and sound.
This is important as a secure knowledge of these five letters is the foundation for starting to put them together to make new sounds.
On Mondays we start with the dictation for last week's sound. He writes it in a special exercise book. his writing is still not great, but there is a marked improvement. I still have to give a lot of support, but whereas to start with he was reluctant, thinking he couldn't do it, he now tackles it confidently, knowing I will help if he gets stuck.
Then we review all our flashcards, including odd words.
Then I teach him the new phonic sound for that week. I show him the list of new words (as found here) and he reads them. Then I hide the list and dictate them to him. At first he was only comfortable writing them on the white board. He now takes great care writing them in his spelling book.
If there is time I will give him some sentences to read with the new sound in.
Then we play a game.
The next session that week we start by reviewing our flashcards, and doing handwriting practice. This can be copy work, or letter formation.
Then we work on the spelling of the new words using a worksheet. Sometimes I give him speed tests - a list of words containing the sounds he has learnt and he reads from top to bottom as fast as he can. This helps to train his eye to see the letters in the words and aids in fluency.
Again we finish with a game.
This is a simple procedure. what is not so simple is handling the unpredictablilty of his moods/behaviour and adjusting the lesson on the spot to however he presents each lesson. This however can be true for children with no special needs. They are not all on peak performance every day. Be ready to change activity, if the one you have planned doesn't seem appropriate. Be ready to cut the lesson short if need be. Be ready to take advantage of anything they might bring up. Ben will often make an observation about some words - for example, one day he wanted to say pat for pit and he thought they should be the same. And so I diverged into a lesson on how vowels change a word. Because he had brought it up, he learnt more from it than my planned lesson, which I saved for another day.
I hope with these little insights into our lessons, to show you what this programme looks like in real practice. Let me know how you are getting on!
Lilibette taught for many years in a London state primary school, having responsibility for the teaching of reading.