Our phonics journey embarks. As a junior team we have decided to use Yolanda Soryl’s teaching method for phonics. Consequently we have the pre data and I have decided to do a mini-inquiry into this.

Observation: students are not making the connection between reading and writing, namely the spelling patterns. This goes across from beginner readers to fluent, beginner writers to fluent. 

Question: What effect does systematic teaching of phonics have on student spelling, when explicit teaching is made to help students transfer knowledge from reading to writing?

Assessments: Phonics entry and exit data. Phonics assessment conducted six weekly. Ten minute writing samples (done two times a term). BAS spelling assessment (completed terms 1 and 5). 

Methadology: students spread between four phonics groups, receiving fifteen miinutes phonic teaching at the start of each day. Lessons follow the format taught by Yolanda Soryl at her course, as set out in the accompanying manual, and lessons modelled on youtube. 

Observation: there are several struggling writers who view writing as a subject inflicted upon them by all the adults in their lives. Before they begin they have already given up. You can watch them visibly sigh, shrink back into themselves and sometimes grit their teeth. These students mostly have good oral language, are boys and have fantastic ideas that disappear into another realm when they are expected to put them to paper. The students are also writing intial and final sounds, with some writing CVC words. They know some high frequency words. These students are presently spending part of their day on ‘speedy writing’, when they record a dictated rhyming sentence, usually consisting of CVC words. The students’ attitude to this time is quite positive. These boys also enjoy time on the computer, including using kidpix.

Hunch: These students find the writing laborious, and already ‘know’ that they will not spell words correctly. Therefore they ‘know’ they cannot write. Obviously this is not the case.  

Question: will explicit phonics instruction, with its emphasis of transfer of knowledge from reading to writing, change these students’ attitude to writing?

Yolanda Soryl follow up.

I was going to put up my notes from Yolanda Soryl‘s course, but they contain multiple pages of a workbook from the course that I photographed and annotated as part of my learning (un unavailable for purchase unless you do the course). I think that it would be a breach of copyright for me to put these up. Frankly I don’t want to risk it. The course was well worth attending, and would be again, in a year, once I have taught the material for a while.

One of the biggest benefits has been learning to teach phonics: strange, I know given I have worked with year two and threes for the past few years, but I was not teaching with any kind of systemic approach. That (the systemic approach) is one of the key things I have taken away from this programme. Yolanda Soryl seemed to have a ‘bang, bang, bang’ keep it moving approach.

Additionally I was teaching reading today (in the Cave – small group teaching room). I took the ‘bang bang bang’ approach (or tried to) and kept reading moving. That was the goal anyway. My aim was to bring in a degree of urgency. I did. The kids were really focussed and engaged. I will definitely keep going with that.

I also used Yolanda’s method to teach the letter ‘s’ today. I missed a key component of it though – the hook with the story and the picture. We had a song which we sang, but I did it out of order. I will follow Yolanda’s advice (insistence really) and teach with the lesson plan open. I also need to get some form of assessment done for this as there are a couple of students who are using initial letter sounds already. Regardless, students all got what the letter ‘s’ was and the sound it makes. They had a little more trouble with the shape. I did ‘dge’ with an older group and need to do some revision there.