Reading Made Easy With Blend Phonics - Don Potter

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Reading Made EasywithBlend Phonics forFirst GradeLesson Plans andTeacher’s GuideHazel Logan Loringwww.blendphonics.orgThis publication is a project of theLogan Institute for Educational ExcellenceCopyright 1980 by Mrs. Hazel Logan LoringRevised Edition Copyright 2017 by Donald L. Potter

WHY TEACH BLEND PHONICS?It is my belief that most reading failures are caused by the perfectly normal and very commontendency of many children to look at words from right to left. That this tendency is neitherabnormal nor pathological is evident by the fact that many languages are written from right toleft: Hebrew, Arabic, etc. Before the time of Homer, Greek inscriptions were written in theboustrophedon (pathway of the ox) form: one line from left to right; the next line from right toleft. Oriental languages are written in a vertical manner. There is no “physiologically correct” orincorrect direction in which a language may have been developed.When a child sees a word as a whole, he or she has no way of knowing in which direction itshould be looked at until the correct direction is shown. Each child will look at it in whateverdirection his/her tendencies dictate. If the word is in English and the child looks at it from rightto left, he/she is in BIG TROUBLE: “ten” is not the same as “net”; “pat” is not the same as “tap”and if instead of “fun” some children see “nuf” they are headed toward confusion.It has been common practice to teach the word as a whole in the first grade and, then, later, insecond grade, to introduce phonics in the form of word analysis. That is, the child is expected tobreak down the whole word into its component parts and thus deduce the relationship betweenphonemes (sounds) and graphemes (symbols).This method can be reasonably successful if the child has a natural left to right tendency, iscapable of deductive reasoning, and has memorized the whole word accurately. But what of thechildren of equal or even superior intelligence who have a natural right to left tendency? Theycannot deduce correct phoneme/grapheme relationships because they are working from a falsepremise when they see the whole word in a reversed order. Even though they may have 20/20vision, they do not see what the teacher sees in the expected order. They hear the phonemes in aleft to right order, while seeing the graphemes from right to left – or perhaps in a confused –direction. This explains why some people think of word analysis as “phony phonics,” and whythe confused child is thought to have a learning disability or “dyslexia.”To be fair, although most techniques in word analysis are useless for the children with directionalproblems – or may even add to the confusion – there is one technique that may be helpful, i.e.,that of teaching of the initial consonant as part of the whole word. As long as care is taken to besure that each child looks at the first letter in the word as the sound is heard, the child will beable to learn the consonant sound. BUT THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. They must be able to learn thevowel sounds, and it is imperative that they be given early directional training.I have a daughter who taught for more than eleven years has taught remedial reading in an urbanadult education institute. High school graduates, who have diplomas but who cannot read on asecond-grade level, come to her for tutoring. She tells me that most of them know the consonantsounds, but they cannot learn to read until after they have had training in blend phonics.1

Directional guidance is inherent in the system of blend phonics. First, we show the studentthe initial consonant in isolation and teach its sound. (True, we cannot pronounce the pure soundin isolation but must add a neutral vowel – or schwa - sound. However, this is of no importancebecause the schwa sound will be elided when we make the blend.) Next, we show the student thevowel grapheme and teach its sound. Then we blend the two sounds together before adding thenext consonant. There is no way for the child to go except from left to right, and with enoughpractice an automatic left to right habit is acquired. Then, to insure comprehension, it has beenmy practice to have the student use the completed word in a verbal sentence.Directional guidance is also inherent in spelling and writing. They are the other side of the samecoin and much practice should be given in all three skills: spelling, writing and reading, readingand more reading.There is nothing new about the material that we use in teaching blend phonics. It can all be foundin “A Guide to Pronunciation” in the front of any dictionary. Take a look at it and you’ll say,“Wow, teach that to first graders? Impossible!!” It is not surprising that some anti-phonicspersons say that it cannot be done. The trick is to present these seemingly complicated facts in asimplified, streamlined, bare bones version that can be assimilated by a six-year old or younger.There are bound to be differences of opinion as to the order in which the facts should bepresented, and also as to which grapheme/phoneme relationships occur with sufficient frequencyto be considered “regular,” and which are so rare as to be called “irregular.” Even pronunciationsmay vary due to geographical and ethnic differences.English is a wondrous and varied means of communication, but at heart it is simple andconsistent. In first grade we must teach the heart of the subject and not get bogged down withlinguistic niceties. In this way we can provide the basic tool that a person can develop andexpand all through life to enjoy a means of communication to express the most complex thoughtsand feelings, and to understand those of fellow human beings.I found I could provide this tool adequately in its simplest form to my school children in dailyhalf-hour sessions in the first semester of the first grade. By starting in September, children havegained a working knowledge of the 44 phonetic elements in the English language and an overallconcept of its basic structure before winter vacation. While their knowledge may not be l00%perfect, it will be sufficient so that they can, with the teacher’s continuing help as needed, utilizethe phonic key to unlock 85% of the words in the English language. (The other 15%, whilelargely regular, contain phonetic irregularities which sometimes require a little extra help fromthe teacher.)The format of these lessons consists in taking a regular word and building it up phonetically as aclass exercise. Then a child is called on to use it in a sentence. At first it is sometimes practicallynecessary to put the words in the child’s mouth until it is understood what is meant by making upa sentence. As soon as the child catches on, the lessons become lively and spirited. The childrenare eager to participate. (When I inadvertently failed to give a child a turn, I heard about it!)2

It was something like “Show and Tell” without the “Show.” Instead of using a “Show” object asan inspiration for conversation, we used the key word which we had built up phonetically.Actually, it was a language lesson as well as a reading lesson because the children learned tospeak in complete, correct sentences. The context was limited only by the children’s speakingvocabularies and was not confined to sentences like. “Go. go, run. run, see, see” or like “A fat catsat on a mat.”I recall one instance when we had sounded out the word “mill.” To avoid missing anyone,ordinarily I called on the children in turn, but this time I simply had to break the rule to call onthe little fellow who was waving his hand frantically and just bursting to tell us something. Heblurted out, “My daddy has a sawmill.” Now that’s what I call reading with comprehension!True, we read only one word at a time but it was always phonetically regular and there was noguesswork. By the time we had completed the 47 Units, the children had the feeling of securitythat comes from knowing that the language was basically an ordered, dependable system. As wecame to words in our books that contained irregularities, they were welcomed as somethingsurprising, unique, different and thus easy to remember.It is possible to teach this work from the chalkboard, but it means that the teacher is half turnedaway from the class. An overhead projector is ideal because the lighted area holds the children’sattention and, since the teacher faces the class directly, there is better control and more eyecontact.As to textbooks with which to implement this study, it would no doubt be easier for the teacherwho is using blend phonics for the first time if phonics-based texts were available, correlatedmore or less with the structured phonics lessons. However, I can vouch from both tutoring andactual classroom experience that any books—old or new—can be used if they are of interest tothe children and suitable for their age level. A few problems may be encountered in the first fourmonths if the books have words that contain phonetic elements that have not as yet beenintroduced in the structured phonics lessons, but it is not too difficult to muddle through thisphase. After the children have been exposed to the 44 phonetic elements, they can tackleanything with a little help from their teacher. Frequently, delighted parents reported to me thattheir children were reading from newspapers and magazines and were devouring library books ata great rate.In the second semester we used much enrichment material. All of the children belonged to ourBook Club. They took home books that they selected during regularly scheduled visits to theschool library. My Room Mother arranged to have a volunteer mother sit in the hallway outsidethe classroom two afternoons a week. The children were excused from the classroom one by oneto give brief book reports to the mother who added a star to the child’s bookmark for each bookread.Blend phonics is just about the easiest lesson to teach that can be imagined. No preparation isneeded (except to have at hand a copy of the groups of words as given in the LESSON PLANS);no papers to correct for this phase of the reading lesson; no compulsory tests to be given. Thechildren themselves do most of the work by making up sentences, and thus they learn by doing.It’s easy; it’s inexpensive and it works!3

LESSON PLANS FOR THE TEACHING OFBLEND PHONICS IN FIRST GRADEDo not delay teaching the names of the letters of the alphabet. They are not only necessary inspelling and in the use of the dictionary, the telephone directory and alphabetical filing systems,but they will help in teaching the sounds. The sounds of many consonants are heard in the letters’names and the long sounds of the vowels a, e, i, o and u* are identical to their names.(NOTE: Because the soft sounds of the letters c and g are heard in these letters’ names and thusare easier to teach, we introduce the hard sounds first and provide plenty of opportunity topractice them. Also, we make sure the student is familiar with the short sounds of vowels beforewe present the easy-to-teach long sounds.)The vowels are a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. If a letter is not a vowel, then it is a consonant.In our first lessons in blend phonics (or word building), we teach the sound of a consonant, thenthe short sound of a vowel. The child is taught to look at these letters from left to right(IMPORTANT) as they are presented to him one by one and as the sound is blended. Then weadd another consonant to form a word which the child uses in a verbal sentence to insurecomprehension.It is true that, when we pronounce the sound of a consonant in isolation, it is necessary to add anextraneous neutral (or schwa) sound. This is of no importance because, when the consonant isblended with the vowel, the schwa sound is elided. For example:b says b-uha says ăBlend b-uh and ă to make băThe uh sound has disappeared.The great advantage of this technique is the fact that the child has received directional guidanceand has been taught, step-by-step, to look at the word from left to right. This is extremelyimportant because many children have a normal, natural tendency to look at words from right toleft. When shown the word as a whole, they may not see what the teacher sees. If shown theword ten the child may see n-e-t. Such reversals cause serious confusion when the child isshown whole words as is the case in the look-say method which incorporates no detaileddirectional guidance.After you make the blend, ba, add the letter t to form the word bat. Have the child make up averbal sentence using the word bat. If necessary, use leading questions to help the child think ofa sentence.For example: TEACHER: If you have a ball, what do you do with the bat?CHILD: I hit the ball with the bat.Use this format to teach each of the words in Unit I for the short sound of a. Then introduce theshort sound of i and teach the children to sound out as many of the words given in Unit 2 as arenecessary for good practice. Choose the words that will be most interesting to the class and, ofcourse, let the children take turns using each word in a verbal sentence. Continue in the samemanner with short o, short u and short e. Short e may give some difficulty because the sound ofthis letter is easily confused with the short sound of i. (We have all heard some people say “git”or “get” and “ingine” for “engine.”)*u has two long sounds. One is the same as its name; the other is like long oo.4

When teaching this work to an individual, use a chalkboard, slate or paper and pencil. Forteaching a class, a chalkboard is adequate but an overhead projector is ideal because the teacheris able to face the class directly.You will notice that the units, if taught in the order given, are cumulative. That is, only one newphonetic element (or related group of elements) is introduced in grapheme/phonemerelationship(s) plus those that were used in the previous units. The work proceeds step by easystep. It is not obligatory to teach phonics in this particular order, but this