Tips On Dealing With A Student Who Arrives With No Knowledge of Visual Phonics

  • Keep in mind that it will take awhile for this “newcomer” to catch up to the Visual Phonics geniuses who occupy your room
  • ATTITUDE is everything! When you mention Visual Phonics (VP) to a new arrival, explain that you have this really nifty “code” that you use in your room to help kids figure out how to read and write new words – words that they don’t recognize right off the bat. Tell them that the greatest part of it is that the code has hand shapes like umpires use in ball games. Cool – a two part code. You are going to LOVE this!
  • If the child has a name that is phonetic, use this as a starting point. Start by teaching the hand shapes and written symbols that correspond to their name because it will be fun! If the child’s name is NOT phonetic (which is unfortunately, more likely), then use “Mom” and/or “Dad” because they probably have at least one or the other, plus they will only have to learn two to four phonemes to start with (if she has both a mom and a dad).
  • Once the “code” has been demonstrated through the use of the new child’s name or mom/dad, maneuver the few known phonemes around to form new words. For example, write “mad” and ask them to use the Visual Phonics hand shapes to blend the new word. Write the VP symbols below the letters OR write the VP symbols first, have them make the corresponding hand shapes and say the word – you (the teacher) write the alphabet letters above the VP symbols. Using these same few phonemes, create more new words such as ad, mod, dom, (like the first part (syllable) of the word Domino’s (pizza), until you see that they understand how the Visual Phonics CODE is going to work.
  • Next, start teaching the vowel sounds in the same way you did our other students in the first place. For example, if I only taught the long sounds first for all of the vowels, then that’s what I do with my newcomer. If I started teaching that the letter A can actually say four sounds: long A, short A, schwa, and short O, then for E, etc., then I do that – - always demonstrating the VP hand shapes and written symbols for the sounds they’re learning. The reason I like to start with the vowels is because the student will need the most practice with these (as do all readers/writers). You will have more opportunity to consistently reinforce the vowels since every syllable of every word must have one, allowing you to repeatedly reinforce the hand shapes and written symbols. PLUS if a student is joining your room from somewhere else, hopefully they know the consonant sounds. If you teach Kindergarten, consider what sounds your students already know – introduce consonants in groups of 3 or 4, vowels one by one, as per your other students when you initially taught them – form real and nonsense words ASAP. Follow the same name/mom/dad procedure outlined above, if appropriate for your situation – say, late in the year.
  • Once two or three sets of vowel sounds have been introduced, start to introduce the consonants in alphabetical order. Introduce three or four consonants at a time. In the case of the letter C, for example, remember that it can make the hard and soft C sounds. Teach them both right away. Immediately begin to pair the consonants with whichever vowel sounds the newcomer is acquiring. Every child moves at a different pace, so it is helpful to keep a little ring with flashcards on it for sound introduced to date. On one side of the card is the printed letter, on the other side is the sound or SOUNDS that letter can make, written on Post-it tape, in Visual Phonics symbols. After every few cards, there are a few flashcards with real or nonsense words (in regular print on one side, VP symbols on the other) for practice blending. Post-it tape is great because the tape can be removed and matched to the letter(s) OR the student can work with another student (who is proficient in VP) to play matching or “make a word” games. These sorts of reinforcement activities are GREAT for ALL students.
  • Let the other students volunteer to “review the code with our newcomer” as appropriate.
  • Follow the pattern of introducing three or four consonants, then another set of vowel sounds, as it applies in your situation. If you have a way of handling this situation that works better for you, by all means use it!
  • Anytime the children have words/activities that contain the sound(s) the new student has worked on, point them out.
  • If you have a one-page crib sheet with all the symbols and letters on a single page, put it in a plastic sleeve and let the newcomer refer to it for awhile (if you think that would be helpful and not confusing). As phonemes are introduced, circle or highlight them, so the newcomer can find them more quickly. They are responsible only for items highlighted, so responsibility increases as more and more of the “code” is acquired.

© 2010  Katie Ulwelling  All Rights Reserved