Information About The Sound City Reading Program
What Type Of Reading Program Is This?
Decodable practice stories
Designed for student success
Suitable for a variety of learners, including students who are dyslexic
Integrated phonemic awareness and phonics instruction
Integrated spelling and reading instruction
Integrated with children's literature
Elements from both phonetic and whole language approaches
Sound City Reading is a systematic, sequential phonics program. Students are actively involved throughout each lesson. Every effort has been made to make each lesson logical, straightforward, and supportive to learners. Beginning students are taught to be aware of the individual sounds in words. The teacher uses direct, multisensory instruction to teach students to write and recognize the letters and letter patterns that represent those sounds in words. This allows students to learn to spell and read words with confidence. Students begin by studying short vowel words, and then study groups of words for each of the common phonics patterns. As soon as possible, students apply their knowledge to read sentences, decodable practice stories, and children's trade books.
Who Will Benefit From This Program?
Beginning students who are just learning to read and older students who need to strengthen their word recognition and comprehension skills will benefit from this program. It can be used with individual students, small groups, or a full classroom. The program has worked well in my kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classrooms. This included students who came into my classrooms already reading well and those who entered needing a lot of support. At the first grade level, when this program is taught to a full class, many dyslexic students and other students who are getting off to a slow start will be able to make good progress on grade level within the regular classroom, while the more advanced students will also thrive and typically end the school year reading above grade level.
Is The Sound City Reading Program Similar To Other Programs?
The Sound City Reading program includes the following teaching elements that are used in other programs.
- The use of vowels printed in color so that they will stand out in the words
- The use of a moveable alphabet to build words
- A daily lesson outline that includes the following elements
- A review of previous patterns using sound charts and flashcards
- Handwriting instruction using large letter patterns for students to trace
- Writing letters and letter patterns when given their sounds
- Guided spelling instruction
- Guided decoding instruction
- Guided reading instruction
- A daily dictation period that includes writing letters and letter patterns when given their sounds
- Spelling phonetic words with those patterns
- The use of letter and phonogram sounds when spelling, instead of using letter names
- The use of two dots over a vowel to show a vowel sound other than a short or long sound (as in ö/to, ü/bush)
- The use of easy decodable stories with students who are just starting to read
- The use of published children's picture books sorted according to the phonetic patterns included in the text. This creates a sequence of children's literature that can be used as decodable reading materials.
- The use of a sound story which uses pictures to represent the sounds in the English language. Each picture is paired with the letter or letter pattern that represents that sound in words. I used the Dekodiphukan story for several years and then wrote a similar sound story of my own, which is used in the Sound City Reading program.
- The use of sound story pictures on sound charts paired with the related phonics patterns
- Hands-on learning activities to develop reading skills
- The teacher initially reads a new practice story aloud to the students, with students repeating phrases line by line from their books. Then students take turns reading the same story aloud with the teacher in small groups.
- There is an emphasis on reading authentic children's literature. The teacher reads stories aloud to the students daily. After learning the needed phonics patterns, students will be able to read the same stories themselves.
- The teacher helps students develop their literacy skills as they compose, write, illustrate, and share original stories and reports.
- There is an emphasis on developing speaking and listening skills in addition to reading and writing skills.
- Literacy instruction can complimented with related instruction in other areas, such as science and social studies.
An Explanation Of The Terms Used When Teaching Reading
This section explains the special terms used when teaching students to spell and read phonetically. Each of these terms describes a part of the instruction in Sound City Reading. Don't be discouraged if these terms are unfamiliar. Everything that you need to do to teach these skills is explained in the student books. You will teach new skills one step at a time, and you will learn with the students.
Phonological awareness is a basic understanding of the sound structure in words. For beginning students these skills are taught orally, without the use of letters or letter patterns. Some of the concepts taught include syllable awareness, beginning and ending sound awareness, and the ability to hear rhyming words. The Sound City Reading program uses picture pages to teach these skills at levels one and two. Syllable awareness is taught using picture pages at levels three and four. A separate book, Phonemic Awareness Picture Pages, can be used to introduce and practice the same skills with older students.
Phonemic awareness is a skill that falls under the phonological awareness category. It is an understanding that words are made up of a sequence of single sounds, called phonemes. There are two main skills that fall under this category. The first skill is segmenting, which means the ability to hear a word and separate it into its individual sounds. The second skill is oral blending, which is the ability to hear the separate sounds in words and put them together to form a word. These skills are taught orally using picture pages at levels one and two. This prepares students to apply these skills when they learn to spell and read short vowel words at level three. The same exercises are also included in the Phonemic Awareness Picture Pages book.
Phonics relates to the use of letters and letter patterns as written symbols to show the sounds in words. The letters and letter patterns are called phonograms.
Students learn the alphabet letters and their sounds at levels one and two in this program. They learn letters by listening to a sound story that introduces the letter and its sound. Then they trace large letter patterns repeatedly while saying the related sound. This multisensory activity, which involves seeing the letter, feeling the muscle movement that writes the letter, feeling the muscle movement that speaks the sound, and hearing the sound, creates lasting memories.
Students learn the various phonogram patterns at levels four and five. These include single letters that can represent more than one sound (ā/apron, ä/ball) and also units made up of more than one letter used together to represent a sound (sh/ship, ee/feet, igh/night). It is important for students to recognize and recall the sound for each letter and phonogram pattern with confidence. Every day students look at letters and patterns on illustrated sound charts and say the sounds. Then they say the sounds for the same letters and patterns from letter and phonogram flashcards. They also write selected letters and letter patterns after hearing their sounds during a daily dictation period. This prepares students to read and spell words with the letters and letter patterns that they have learned.
To spell words in this program, students listen to the word, say its individual sounds, one at a time, while writing those sounds in order from left to right. This process is called encoding.
To read new words in this program, students look at the word and pronounce the sound for each letter or letter pattern, going from left to right, putting the sounds together smoothly. Essentially, the letters themselves are a pronunciation guide showing students how to say the word. This process is called decoding. Note that students do not have to continue saying the sounds for each new word every time they see it. After students have become familiar with a word and its phonetic structure, they will be able to read it quickly.
Combined Oral Blending And Decoding Instruction
At levels three and four, the Short Vowel Words And Sentences books and the Phonetic Words And Stories books combine oral blending exercises with decoding practice. For each new set of ten decodable words, the teacher plays a game called the "Robot Game." The student book is opened flat with a list a new words on the right-hand page and a set of pictures on the left-hand page. The words and pictures are not in the same order. The teacher says the individual sounds for the name of each picture. Students listen to the sounds, find the matching picture, and say the word. Then the teacher says the individual sound for each word. Students listen to the sounds, find the matching word, and say it normally. After doing these two activities, students read (decode) each word on the page. This was a breakthrough activity that I discovered while tutoring a student who had not been able to catch on to reading words phonetically, despite my best efforts. Doing the oral blending activities first with the exact pictures and matching words that the student needed to be able to read, made it possible for him to begin reading for the first time.
Methods Used In This Program To Support Decoding And Spelling
There are several approaches this program uses to help students learn to spell and decode words successfully.
- Students practice reading each new set words after they have spelled them. Spelling the words first requires students to carefully analyze the sounds in the words before they attempt to read them. This process makes it easier to read the words.
- When students study a new phonics pattern, they always spell ten words with that pattern from dictation. For example, students might spell cow, now, down, town, clown, brown, frown, crowd, howl, and owl. Afterwards, students read a list of words that all contain the new pattern. This gives students enough practice using the new pattern to be able to recognize the pattern and apply it confidently when reading and spelling.
- When learning to read short vowel words, students first learn to build two-letter combinations with plastic letters when given the combined sounds. Example: "Show me ab, ac, ad, af, ag, ba, ca, da, fa, ga." Next students practice pronouncing the same two-letter combinations from their books or from a chart. Example: ab, ac, ad, af, ag, ba, ca, da, fa, ga, etc. Learning to build and pronounce these short-vowel-consonant and consonant-short-vowel combinations prepares students to read short vowel words smoothly.
- In some of the books vowels and vowel patterns are printed in specific colors. For example, when the letter a represents it's short vowel sound it is printed in a bright red color: cat, apple. A letter or pattern that represents the long ā sound is printed in a dark red color: table, rain, play, safe. This color applies to letter patterns that represent the long ā sound even if they do not include the letter a: they, veil, ballet.
- The color-coded vowels serve several purposes. First, the vowel or vowel pattern stands out in the word; it is clearly distinguished from the surrounding consonants. Because it is more noticeable, the vowel pattern can identified and remembered more easily. Second, students instinctively learn that vowels that are printed in the same color have the same sound, regardless of how they're spelled: he, feet, eat, weird, key, pizza, and shield. Third, students can see with a glance if a vowel pattern seen in several different words is pronounced differently: eat, head, steak. Even if the pattern has the same letters, it won't be pronounced in the same way if the colors are different. For information on color-coded vowels click here.
- A number of written marks other than color are used in this program to help students understand the phonetic structure of words. They are used when new patterns are introduced on the student pages and when students are spelling words from dictation. The various marks are listed below. The teacher provides frequent guidance to the students about using and interpreting the marks.
- A straight line (macron) is placed over long vowels: ā/rāven, ē/bēgin, ī/līlac, ō/rōbot, ū/mūsic
- No marking is used over short vowels: a/ax, e/egg, i/in, o/ox, u/up.
- Two dots (a German umlaut) are placed over vowels that have a third sound, which is not the vowel's usual long or short sound: ä/bäll, ë/ballët, ï/pïzza, ö/tö, ü/büsh.
- A small x is placed over "silent" letters that are not pronounced in a word: lamb, knot, wren, listen, plumber.
- When spelling, multi-letter vowel patterns are underlined so that they stand out in the words: rain, feet, night, saw, card.
- A small umbrella is placed above certain vowels (other than u) that show the short u sound in words: was, away, panda, son, love, country, the. See the umbrella story in level four, book one.
- For any letters that do not represent their usual sound, one or more letters will be written above them to show the correct pronunciation: father, celery, sure.
- Draw a curved line under the vowel in unaccented syllables, going from the consonant before the vowel to the consonant after the vowel: button, combine. This is a reminder that the vowel is not pronounced in the usual way. It is hardly pronounced at all. This is called the schwa sound.
- A small picture of a pair of glasses is used to show that a word is a sight word. It will not be pronounced in the expected way.
- A small picture of a broken ruler is used to show that a phonics pattern is not pronounced as expected. It is a rule breaker. Examples: ought/bought, eu/neutron, ew/few.
Studying Sight Words
Most of the common words that students learn in this program are phonetically regular, so students will be able to read them in the normal way. They will not need to be memorized as sight words.
However a few words in the English language are irregular. They are not pronounced in the expected way. For example, the pattern ee is pronounced as the long e sound in most words: feet, need, keep, see, and peel. However, in the word been, the ee pattern is pronounced like the short i sound. The word is a rule-breaker, so it is taught as a sight word.
Irregular sight words are only introduced after students have learned to read words with the normal sound for that pattern. For example, the sight word been is introduced after words with the ee/feet pattern have been spelled. Student learn the sight word as an exception to the rule.
Sight words are introduced one at a time during the spelling dictation period. The sequence chart in the student book shows when to introduce each sight word. The teacher shows the sight word card, pronounces the word, and points out the part of the word that is not spelled as expected. Students read the word aloud and then copy it.
For most sight words, student will be able to say the sounds in the word as they copy or spell the word, being sure to write the correct letters for the irregular sound. Then, with the teacher's help, students mark the irregular part of the word to show the correct pronunciation. For example, when spelling the sight word been, the students will say the sounds individually, /b/.../i/.../n/, while writing the related letters, b-ee-n. The teacher then works with the students to identify the "rule breaker" part of the word and mark it. In this case, students would underline the ee pattern and write the letter i above it to show that the ee pattern is pronounced with the short i sound. After writing the word in this way students cover it on their papers and attempt to write it from memory, checking and correcting as necessary.
Sight words that have been taught are placed on the wall for easy reference throughout the day. The class can read them as a group while the teacher points to them one at a time. The wall cards will especially helpful when students are doing independent writing assignments. They can look at the cards as needed to be sure they are spelling the words correctly.
Students also practice reading sight words that have been taught using color-coded review cards during small group rotations, before they read a new story.
In other programs, including some basal reader programs, many phonetic words are taught as sight words before the phonetic pattern in the word has been taught. For example, if the ou/ouch pattern has not been taught, the program might teach the words out, sound, and our as sight words. In contrast, the Sound City Reading program almost always introduces the phonetic pattern first, and then teaches students to spell and read words with that pattern phonetically. This means that there are far fewer sight words for students to learn.
At level three, while students are learning to read short vowel words, they learn the sight words as, has, a, was, is, his, and I. This allows them to begin reading simple sentences containing only short vowel words and those seven sight words.
Reading Practice Stories
Short practice stories are included in the student books at level four. In the stories, students read words with the phonics patterns that they have learned along with a few sight words that they have been taught. Students will be able to read these stories comfortably, with the teacher's support, because the stories are decodable. Any words with other phonics patterns or other sight words are excluded.
In a classroom, the teacher reads each story aloud to the whole group first, discussing the story and asking questions to assess the students' understanding. Then the teacher and the students take turns reading one sentence, one paragraph, or one page at a time as students hold their books and track the words with their fingers. Afterwards, the class breaks into three rotating small groups. The teacher works with one group at a time to quickly reread the new phonetic words, review sight words, and then read a new or review story. Students take turns reading the pages aloud, while the other students in the group follow the text with their eyes and fingers. This provides a chance for the teacher to assess each student's success in reading and understanding the text. The teacher is able to provide support with any words that cause difficulty as needed.
Later in the day it works well for students to divide into pairs to reread the story with a partner, taking turns reading the pages. The stories can also be taken home to be read aloud to parents.
Individual students who are being tutored may be able to read the practice stories to the teacher without any specific preparation.
Reading Children's Trade Books
As students work through the program, they will be able to read eleven children's picture books at level four, and eighty-one children's books at level five. These are regular trade books available from the library or bookstores, at reading levels from kindergarten through early grade four.
The text in each book has been carefully screened so that only the phonics patterns already taught are included. This makes all of the books decodable by the students.
The teacher should take time every day to read one or more books aloud form the book list, starting with the easiest books. Later on, when students have studied enough phonetic patterns to read a new book, they will have heard it read aloud one or more times and will be familiar with the names of the characters, overall plot, and and general vocabulary in the story. This makes it easier for students to apply their decoding skills and read the book for themselves.
At level four, an expanded section of the lesson plan suggests that the teacher prepare the students to do a creative writing activity of some kind as seatwork during the small group rotations. See the lesson plan at the end of the book for more details.
At level five, the teacher may want to assign creative writing, story mapping, or art activities related to the book being read.
Important Note - The Letter Sounds Are Always Emphasized More Than The Letter Names
Students learn both the letter names and the letter sounds in this program. However the letter sounds are emphasized in the daily activities. Students say the letter sounds, not the letter names, from the alphabet chart and alphabet cards as a review each day. They say the letter sounds, not the letter names, when they spell and read words. Why is it so important for students to say just the letter sounds throughout each day's lessons?
- It Helps Students Read Phonetic Words - When students begin to read words, they will say the sound for each letter in the word, going from left to right, to pronounce the word. This process is called decoding. When students look at each letter, the sound must come to mind immediately and automatically instead of the letter name. If students practice saying the letter names from the alphabet chart and alphabet cards, they will think of the letter name for each letter when they begin reading words. Saying the letter names does not form the correct pronunciation of the word. For example, to pronounce or read the word cat, the student should say /c/ /a/ /t/, putting the letter sounds together smoothly. (Letters between slash marks indicate the letter sounds.) If the student sees the word cat and says "cee-ay-tee" that does not sound like the word cat. By saying the letter sounds, students are able to read words phonetically. Eventually they will be able to read thousands of words in this way, even if they have never seen the words before. On the other hand, if students think of the letter names when they read, they will be learning the words by rote memory, making the reading process much more difficult.
- It Helps Students Spell Phonetic Words - At level two, students will learn to write the letters of the alphabet on lined handwriting paper. During a daily dictation period, students will write each letter when give the sound by the teacher. Students will repeat the letter sound as they write each letter. This prepares students to spell phonetic words. When students learn to spell words in this program at level three, they will say each sound in the word, one at at time, while writing the letters (or letter patterns) that represent those sounds, going in order from left to right. The way that the word is pronounced provides the information the student needs to spell the word.
- It Streamlines The Process Of Reading And Spelling Words, Which Is Essential For Many Students - If students are taught to say both the letter name and sound when they study/review the alphabet letters, they will have to screen out the letter names when they read or spell words. This creates a multi-step process. Students see a letter, think of its name and sound, remove the letter name mentally, and say the letter sound. Some students are able to do this comfortably. Other students find it almost impossible to do this type of mental screening, creating a severe roadblock when learning to read and write. One of the earlier years that I taught first grade, I still had a few students who were having difficulty mastering the spelling and reading portions of the daily lessons. I was using the Slingerland lesson outline for instruction, which used both the letter sounds and letter names when working with letters and words during the lessons. I received a flyer in the mail about the Total Reading program. I was intrigued and ordered the teacher's manual and some of the student materials so that I could learn more about the program. It was a structured phonetic program similar to the Slingerland program in many ways. However, it only used the letter sounds when talking about and using the letters to spell and read, never the letter names. I decided to try this approach, which was a change for the class. I noticed right away that those few students who had been struggling suddenly became much more confident and were able to participate without hesitation in the daily dictation period.
When To Work With Letter Names
There are two reasons that students will need to know the letter names
- First, they will need to be familiar with alphabetical order in order to find words in a dictionary or alphabetize a list of words. Saying or singing the letter names in alphabetical order can help students remember their order.
- Second, students will at some point need to spell their name and possibly their address for someone during a business or other type of transaction. To do this they will need to say the names of the letters.