Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Alternatives to Worksheets-Phonics

I've read a lot of great posts from bloggers doing a book study on Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites. This is a great book.  Marcia Tate actually came to our district for staff development day a few years back.  I truly believe this was one of the best staff development days ever!  She was very inspiring!

I personally do not believe in frequent use of worksheets in the classroom.  They do have their place, but they need to be chosen very carefully.  There are a lot of great teachers who effectively use worksheets in their classroom.  I just personally believe that there are more effective, engaging ways to teach and practice skills.  I do not have a perfect solution, but I do think I have a pretty good system.  

Today I want to talk about how I teach phonics, with few to no worksheets.

At this point in the year, I spend between 15 and 25 minutes teaching phonics each day.  I use a lot of Heidi Songs.  We do a lot of practicing with white boards or butcher paper.  I don't like spending a lot of time at the copy machine.  Students get their independent practice during Daily Five. Below you will find my phonics routine as well as my plan for next week.  At this point in the year, we begin each lesson by singing the Sound-a-bet.  The star student points to the letters and words while the class sings. Every phonics lesson is followed by a round of Daily Five. 

Mondays-  Review skills taught the previous week, usually by doing whiteboards.  Students come to the carpet with their whiteboards, markers and erasers. Start by singing Sound-a-bet (I made this a long time ago and I keep it in a pocket chart.  If you search sound-a-bet you'll get the picture).   Then students set up their boards by drawing a straight line down and a straight line across.  We use Spelling Through Phonics strategies.  I tell students the word, then they say it, stretch it, and spell it.  I move around and help as needed.  then I say "show me" so I can see how everyone did.  Next I choose a student to spell the word and I write the word on my board as they say each letter.  After dictating four words, we go back and say each word sound by sound, then read the word.  Next we erase words.  I'll say something like "erase the word that rhymes with dog.  Monday's words are clap, crib, flag, frog. If we have extra time, we do four more words. Then we do a round of Daily Five. 

Tuesday-Students come to the carpet with their whiteboards, markers and erasers. Sing Sound-a-bet. Introduce new sight words for the week, place them on the word wall.  Sing sight word songs (Heidi Songs) and spell them on whiteboards.  I learned this strategies from another amazing staff development day when Heidi actually presented!  This works perfectly because on Tuesdays I truly only have 15 minutes!

Wednesday- Sound-a-bet.  On Wednesdays I usually introduce a new concept.  Sometimes I introduce with a sort, sometimes with whiteboards, and almost always with a song! This week I'm introducing Bossy E.  A lot of my students already know about Bossy E from small group lessons, but I think all of my students are ready now.  We will start with Heidi Songs Bossy E Song and poster.  Then I will follow a whiteboard lesson from my CVCe Spelling Practice for White Boards unit.  We will end with a round of Daily Five.

Thursday-Sound-a bet.  Review Bossy E and sing Bossy E song.  Put students in groups with butcher paper to brainstorm words with Bossy E.  Share.  Daily Five. 

Friday- Sound-a-bet, Review Bossy E and sing Bossy E song. Play Bugs I Have - Who Has? CVC-CVCe Words.  Daily Five.

I don't like to do the exact same thing every time. Here are some other things I do:

Picture sorts in the pocket chart.  I have sorts for everything.  I have a lot of Heidi song products and she has some great sorts that you print in black and white onto card stock.  

Words Their Way sorts are great-

This is my Beginning Blends Combo pack.  I honestly only use the big cards.  Sometimes I do the worksheet where kids circle and write the word.  They like when I turn it into a coloring contest.  Worksheets have a place, they just shouldn't be the focus of every lesson.   

Once a week or so, I put the kids into groups and give each group a different sort (from previous weeks) and let them race to get the cards matched and sorted.  They love a good competition!

Class Books-Alphabet, blends, digraphs.  You can just give them a blank piece of construction paper!

Posters-students work in group to illustrate concepts

Smart Board Games

There are so many more great ideas that I'm sure you all are using in your classroom.  I think that if we just have a handful of strategies we can effectively keep kids engaged and excited about learning.  I don't believe daily worksheets do this for kids.  I'd love to here your ideas!

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  1. Hi! I love your phonics ideas especially sans worksheets. Phonics is one of those topics I sometimes struggle to keep fresh, so your new ideas will come in handy. I keep hearing about Heidi Songs, but I don't know much about it. Is it a website or a program or something else? Thanks!

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