RTI Source Blog

by User Not Found | Nov 17, 2010

Using Phonics Chips as an Instructional Tool

 

by Susan L. Hall, EdD

To read and spell well, students need to make the connections between the sounds they hear in words and the letters used to spell those sounds. Reading requires rapid and automatic recognition and processing of patterns of letters in “chunks. While many programs teach letter-sound correspondence, orthographic pattern recognition should be a focus of teaching phonics. Pattern recognition is critical for reading fluency and for generalizing between words. The instructional focus should be on teaching patterns and not on individual words or specific letter-sound correspondences.

I’m suggesting that students will increase the quantity of words they can read successfully, as well as the fluency of word recognition, if we call their attention to the salient characteristics of each phonics pattern. We want them to generalize from knowing one word to knowing other similar words. For example, in addition to highlighting that the vowel letter in the word cat is short a, we need to show students that this is because the vowel sound is spelled with one vowel letter and there is one or more consonants after the vowel. That’s the pattern―pattern recognition is critical. Fortunately, our brains are well suited for pattern finding.

I’ve been thinking about how to make patterns more evident to students and am very excited to share some techniques to help students become pattern finders. One of the most powerful ways to demonstrate and highlight letter patterns is to use manipulatives. Teachers have readily adopted strategies including pulling objects into grid (Elkonin) boxes to demonstrate phoneme segmentation (often called move it and say it).

 

 

    For several years, we've been studying the use of colored chips that we call phonics chips, which are small circular discs that can be used to call a student's attention to the phonics patterns. By using chips that are color coded in a very intentional way, it's possible to help students discover patterns of consonants and vowels. For instance, blue-red-blue represents a CVC pattern. This pattern signals instantly that the vowel should be pronounced with its short sound. (Students rarely have trouble with the consonant correspondences―it’s the vowels that are problematic.) Because the vowel is the important part of the closed syllable pattern, we trade the red vowel chip for one that has the vowel letter printed on it. We don’t trade the consonant chips in order to avoid distracting attention from the focus pattern. Phonics chips are a fun and engaging way to teach patterns to students and help them become pattern finders who fluently read words. I hope you will try it and share your experiences with other educators by writing a response to this blog.

 

 

 

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