Tuesday, 25 September 2012

We Heart -ay! And a Phonics Freebie

Teaching Phonics and Idioms

My teaching job is a little off the wall. Like most teachers, I was used to teaching classes of around 30 children. Now I teach upwards of 120 every week! My little ducklings are new to English and are desperately trying to catch up with their peers. My job is to help them do just that. And the image above is typical of my classes - lots of different cultures. It's fab!

Differentiating the EAL Classroom

Every one of my children is at a different level in their language acquisition. Some are almost fluent orally but have huge gaps in their grammar. Some have no phonic awareness so struggle to sound and blend. Others are totally new to the language and are in the "silent period", which can last for anything up to two years! Differentiation is taken to a whole new level in my classes..! In Wales we use the "5 Stage Process" to assess our EAL children, where A is new to the language, B is acquiring the language, C is developing the language, D is becoming more competent and E is fluent. I have given every one of my children individual targets according to what gaps they need to fill in order to move up to the next level. That took a while, I can tell you!

My planning is organised in terms of focus. Every week there is a speaking and listening focus, which is the bread and butter of language acquisition. In addition, there is another focus, either reading or writing. This week my focus will be reading. Last week the focus was writing. 

Phonics and Idioms

Luckily for me, most of my children fall into one of five categories, so I only need to work up five medium term plans for each half term. Last week was the first week back to school where I have been able to properly put it all to the test - and it worked!

My level A learners (new to the language) spend some time working with pictures and building up their vocabulary. Most of them are very young so the learning process continues in the classroom - at that age they soak up language like sponges. We made "mmm" sounds when they saw an apple or ice cream, and "ssssss" sounds for the snake. We had such fun.

My level B readers focused on learning speed sounds M, A, S, T, D, I, N, P, G and O. It seems like a lot, but we had started these last school year, so this was refreshing sounds they already knew. I was pleased that they remembered and were able to use the cards to sound out and build CVC words for themselves.

 Although the resources that came with the phonics pack are very good (see the picture above), I found that the children were building words that they didn't know the meaning of. So I made myself a set of visual aids for each group of sounds. The first set is free, and subsequent sets are available at a very small cost. Click below for the freebie.

My level C children worked on the -ay sound. We talked about how we could use different combinations of letters to make the same sound, and brainstormed a few. Then we looked at -ay. They came up with lots of words using -ay. Here are a few:

My level D children are good all round readers and writers, but have gaps in their grammar and find it tricky to understand some of the more subtle nuances in their reading. We worked on idioms, which they absolutely loved! We talked about "raining cats and dogs", and "I'm over the moon". Then we thought about heart idioms, like "I wear my heart on my sleeve" and "my heart is broken". They made fabulous little heart-shaped books to record the idioms and their meanings. Here they are:

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