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beginning phonics

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Joined: 15 Mar 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 6:16 am    Post subject: beginning phonics Reply with quote

Could someone recommend a good resource for starting phonics in an EFL Junior High classroom? I don't have a clear idea on the methodology. Any help would be great.
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Tara B

Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Posts: 126
Location: Sterling, VA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 8:45 pm    Post subject: Don't really know a good book, but. . . Reply with quote

I haven't been able to find any books that really teach phonics to ESL. I am using some "word study" methods in my junior high class here in Virginia and it is working OK. Basically, they're the same materials they use for (young) native speakers, but I do them in a different order because of pronunciation problems.

You start by teaching "word families" which are groups of rhyming words. For example, if you start with one word family, everything on your spelling list is the same except for the first letter (eg., cat, sat, hat, fat, mat, rat, etc.) That simplifies the task of reading so that the students focus on just the first letter. It is a good way to teach the consonants. After the students get comfortable the students can do two or three word families at a time.

Most native-speaker programs will teach the short vowels before starting the long vowels, but I've found that that makes for a difficult listening and pronunciation task for my ESL students. So, after my students have a handle on consonants, I teach all the vowels together. I try to focus on two vowel sounds at a time (such as ee and i), and have the students master them before adding new ones.

I prefer to use English coding for the sounds instead of IPA. It works OK if you know what you're doing. Anytime you have two symbols that stand for the same sound, you should stop (like for a week) and make sure the students really get a handle on it; point out homophones, etc.

These are the symbols I use.

IPA English spelling
/i/ ee/ea
/I/ i
/e/ ae/ai
/E/ e
/ae/ a
/^/ u
/a/ o (sometimes a)
/o/ oe/oa
/U/ oo/u
/u/ oo/u

Obviously this is a simplification of the real system, but with beginners it's best not to overload them. I would spend at least a year covering the single consonants and the "simple" vowels above. For 2nd year students you can move on to consonant clusters and digraphs, and more difficult vowels like diphthongs and r-controlled vowels. For 3rd year students, move to multi-syllable words and spelling rules for adding suffixes (like, when to double the letter, or, when to change the "y" to an "i"). And 4th year students should be able to grasp things like vowel reduction, word roots, and derivational affixes (affixes with meanings).

Also, don't forget that phonics is just part of a balanced reading program. You should also include fluency and comprehension activities, and try to expand "sight word" vocabulary.
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