Gumball Phonics™ is a unique color-coded phonics strategy to help young readers and writers DECODE unfamiliar words, rather than GUESS.
This FUN color–coded phonics approach will help your students discriminate between the various phonics and spelling patterns found in words they encounter while reading. Not only will this color-coding system make your students better readers, you will find they apply these same strategies when writing!
Another benefit to using Gumball Phonics™ is that it can be aligned with any phonics or basal program!
Let’s begin by taking a look at the color-coded system:
Now that you have an idea of how each spelling pattern is color-coded, lets take a closer look at how it can be applied in the classroom.
Spelling Lists and Word Sorts
If you use Words Their Way or spelling lists from an anthology you will know that each list has a focus on a specific spelling pattern. You can use this color coded method to help your young readers VISUALIZE the spelling patterns. Begin by having them “gumball-up” the phonics rule. We simply draw a circle around the spelling pattern and color the gumball according to the system. This will help your students isolate the sound when they encounter them in their word lists. As pictured in the word sort above, the spelling focus is that of /ar/ verses the short /a/ in CVC words. The r-controlled vowel is gumballed-up in blue to make the spelling pattern more noticeable to a young reader’s eye.
Whenever possible, encourage your students to “gumball-up” the spelling pattern during the various activities you have planned during your centers. The second photograph above illustrates how our “Stamp It” Word Study Center also incorporates the gumball strategy. This speller is focusing on the blue r-controlled vowel: /or/.
It is inevitable that you will find the need to provide your students with various activities (also known as worksheets) to help reinforce your phonics instruction. The gumballs approach will help make it more fun. We use mini bingo dot markers to highlight the phonics rule according to the color-coded system. The kids love hunting for spelling patterns on their “worksheets” especially when they get to use the bingo dot markers. Using their crayons to highlight the rule is also very engaging for them.
Small Group Instruction
During your small group instruction, you will take the time to provide your students opportunities to preview the sight words or spelling words that will be found in their text. This is a great opportunity to isolate PREVIOUSLY learned gumballs in the new sight words presented. Study the words and help your students identify them as you read together. In the photograph above you will see that I have provided my students with a leveled text that contains words with the /er/ spelling pattern and a matching BLUE reading tracker to make it extra fun (because r-controlled vowels are blue gumballs)!
Using Decodable Text: a Gumball Word Hunt
We often use decodable readers which contain a collection of words that focus on ONE spelling pattern. Notice how in the second photograph, one reader is hunting for words with the /wh/ spelling pattern. Her “Gumballs Collection” is color-coded to include green “gumballs” to identify this digraph.
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 identify NEW words that might not be on their assigned spelling list. Be sure to find time to allow your students to share the gumballs they have found during independent reading. To learn more about peer-teaching during Share Time, you can visit The Read To Self Thinkmark and download a freebie!
Model Using an Anchor Text
Children love to be read to. Using mentor texts when teaching children HOW to write is extremely effective. Often times, we will begin our Writer’s Workshop with a short read aloud and focus on an author’s craft. We also will “lift” one line of text from the story and study HOW the author wrote the words. In the first photograph above you will see how during a nonfiction writing unit we were reading about monkeys. Each day after our read aloud we studied one line of text and color-coded the gumballs that the author used to write his/her words. This strategy is highly motivating for young writers who want to be REAL authors some day!
During the Write Aloud of our Writer’s Workshop, I often elicit the help of my students to write the words for my story. I simply circle the gumball we used in color and later, the children enjoy gumballing-up my writing at the easel. This is a great way to reinforce the spelling patterns that we had discussed during the Write Aloud. It’s meaningful and it sticks with them!
Students Write Using Gumballs
Since having started using the Gumballs Phonics™ approach I have found great JOY watching my students gumball-up their OWN writing. I don’t ask them to, they just start doing it on their own! Using our Interactive Word Wall (a non-traditional Word Wall that focuses on “gumballs” rather than beginning sounds) my students are motivated to use the spelling patterns we are studying during Word Work and Reading and apply it to their own Writing! How is that for synthesis?!?!
As you can see, I have found great success in using the Gumball Phonics™ 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 phonics approach in your own classroom, click on the image below!
3 thoughts on “Gumball Phonics™: A Unique Color-coded Phonics Approach”
This Gumballs strategy is amazing!!! I love seeing the kids use it in action during reading and writing. You laid it out so perfectly for any teacher to use in their classroom. I love the word work activities, especially during centers. I can see how the kids can use this strategy independently making them stronger readers and writers. These firsties are sure lucky to be in your class. I absolutely love the bookmark too! it’s perfect for just right reading. I downloaded it…thank you!!! You are the best!! Excellent strategy that will help so many.
What an incredible strategy! Thank you!
I had a question about categorizing certain sounds as diphthongs versus long vowel sounds. For example are you putting the vowel team of “ai” as a yellow long vowel gumball or as a orange diphthong gumball. Similarily, do you put both sounds for “oo” under diphthong or under long and short vowel sounds?