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Teaching Phonics in Context

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It’s no secret that teaching phonics is one of the most important pieces of the K-2 literacy block! If you teach primary grades, you already know that your students’ ability to succeed in future years depends on their ability to grasp letter-sound correspondence now. When you are teaching phonics lessons, my guess is that a big part of the instruction focuses on sounds in isolation. You introduce the letter, the sound it makes, and practice reading that sound in a variety of ways. You likely then translate that sound to a series of words, and let students practice the sound over and over again. 

This is great! Phonics in isolation is an important part of the process. But, I’m here to argue that teaching phonics in context is where you will see the biggest difference in how your students retain the lessons you teach.

Parts of a phonics lesson

When introducing a new pattern, the steps typically are:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Review of previously learned sounds
  • Introduction of new sound
  • Blending
  • Word Work/Building
  • Decodable Text
  • Dictation (Writing the sound) 

The first five steps will focus on sounds in isolation from other sounds. The last two steps then take that sound, and put it in texts and sentences along with other word patterns. Well-rounded phonics instruction includes both! So often, teachers do whole group phonics lessons that stop after blending. We have to make sure students are exposed to all of the parts of a phonics lesson. This ensures the most growth! 

Teaching phonics in context means that students take the sounds you are practicing in isolation, and read them within a text. These texts are often decodable passages, or short readers that focus on specific patterns. 

When students have practice the long I sound in word lists and word cards, they may seem very fluent with that sound. It’s easy for them to predict how each word is going to end, when they all rhyme with each other. But, a short passage that focuses on long I words will have other words alongside them. Students will need to read the pattern, as well as read sight words and other decodable words in the same text. This is a much more authentic reading experience! It is also a better gauge of how well students have learned the pattern. 

Phonics Resources

Even if you know the importance of practicing phonics patterns in texts, it’s not always easy to find the materials you need! In my FREE resource library, I have both r-controlled vowel passages, as well as short stories for word work! These are completely free, and can be downloaded by clicking HERE

If you’re looking for additional phonics activities, and you need some great centers that students can complete independently, check out this fishing for syllables pack, and my rhyming stories! These make for great centers, partner activities, or seat work. They also give students that extra dose of practicing 

phonics-in-context
phonics-in-context
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