Not many of us enjoy a challenge. Not many of us embrace unfamiliar territory. Many of us are creatures of habit and find security staying in our comfort zone. Yet, as adults when we do encounter challenges, we work through them because we have been “trained” to be strong. We are experienced learners, and have a repertoire of STRATEGIES to help us conquer those challenges. We are adults. But that doesn’t always make it easy. Even for us. We make mistakes, we learn from them, and we still make more mistakes. But it gets easier, right?
Now think about your young readers. At the age of 5, 6, 7 they are expected to identify letter names, learn their sounds, and are soon introduced to letter combinations that don’t always follow the “rules”. For them, this is all new territory. They know they HAVE to learn to read words because the adults tell them they must. But, it’s HARD!
Soon, they learn that several written words create a sentence. With training, those string of words create meaning. Then to top it all off, they have to synthesize what they learned and write their own words to share complete thoughts and ideas with others! And…they make mistakes…lots of them. Yet they continue to learn STRATEGIES to avoid making those same mistakes, just like we have as adults. What a beautiful process, don’t you think?
We are always looking for effective methods to help our students identify spelling patterns as they encounter unfamiliar words in their text. We do our best to incorporate hands-on activities, crafts, rhyme, song and even dance to help our little ones learn to read and write. We want them to develop a repertoire of STRATEGIES to help them identify letter sounds, recognize their oh-so-confusing combinations and the meaning behind the words they create. All while instilling a LOVE of reading.
Teaching phonics is an art! Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it!
What I’ve learned:
For the last ten years, I have spent my time in the primary classroom teaching children to read and write. In those years, I have worked with many different anthologies, methods and teaching frameworks. I have also developed my own tricks of the trade along the way. Today I would like to share with you a color–coded phonics STRATEGY that I like to call Gumball Phonics™. Take a look:
As a primary teacher, it all began with our reading strategy friend, Chunky Monkey. Yes, he is one of our beanie baby Reading friends. I’m sure you have heard of him. His belly is big and round and shaped like…you guessed it; a big gumball! He is famous for locating “word chunks” to help him read. But, I bet you didn’t know that he is a big fan of gumballs! He is a fan of every color. In fact, he chooses a different color gumball to help him with difficult word chunks that he is learning. 😉
This fun color–coded phonics approach will help your students visually discriminate between the various phonics and spelling patterns found in new words. Not only will this color-coding system make your students better readers, you will find they apply these same strategies when writing (without being asked)!
Another benefit to using Gumball Phonics™ is that it can be aligned with any phonics or basal program!
Let’s take a look at how it can be used in the classroom:
Independent Reading / Read to Self
I love to disguise Read To Self as Word Study. One effective strategy to incorporate into your classroom is to encourage your students to look for spelling patterns in the their self-selected books. This gives them an opportunity to decode new words with a specific spelling pattern that might not be on their assigned word list.
We also use decodable readers which contain a collection of words that focus on ONE spelling pattern. Notice how in the photograph above, one reader is hunting for words with the /wh/ spelling pattern. Her words are color-coded to include green “gumballs” to identify this digraph.
My students collect words with a specific phonics pattern in their “Gumballs Collection“. I use this resource as a supplement to the Read to Self center as well as during Reader’s Workshop as disguised word work. I assign my differentiated word study groups with a decodable reader to hunt for the word chunks that we are currently working on in our small groups.
The kids love to add to their collection of “gumballs”. After they have met the desired number of words on each page they earn a gumball for their gumball machine. Super fun, right?!?!
I almost forgot!
If you look closely, you will notice that we use those popular library leveling labels as tab dividers for each “gumball” page. My kids love seeing a new page added to their collection each time I introduce a new phonics skill. You’re going to have to hand-write them. Which can use up a TON of stickers. But I found them for only $1.70 with 1,000 per pack! A small price to pay for driving the point home to our little readers! Not only does it look awesome, but the kiddos will love seeing the collection of their gumballs (tab dividers) grow as you introduce them.
Above all, I would love for you to try out the color–coded Gumball Phonics™ approach with your students.
I have found great success using this approach during my literacy lessons. So much so, that I want to share it with everyone! If you would like to download the FREE bookmark to help you get started using this fun phonics approach in your own classroom, click HERE!