I have added a new survey to allow anyone who has used the Sound City Reading program to share their experiences with visitors to this website. I believe that these entries will be very helpful to individuals who are looking for instructional materials to teach reading but aren't sure whether or not the Sound City Reading materials will work for them. I've received many e-mails over the years from people all over the world who have used Sound City Reading materials with success. If you have a story to tell about these materials, I hope you will share it. Look under the BLOG menu heading and go to Share Your Experience. You may fill out the entry form, or if you prefer, e-mail your information directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post them on a designated page on this site for others to see. Thank you in advance if you choose to participate. All entries will be greatly appreciated.
Before talking about sight words, I want to mention that reading aloud to students for fun is the very best thing you can do while you are also teaching the reading skills from this program. As I'm sure you already know, reading aloud to students is an essential part of any reading program, at all levels. It builds comprehension skills and vocabulary, and because it's so enjoyable, fosters excitement about reading. After I talk about sight words, I'll will explain some ways you can integrate reading aloud with the instruction at Levels 1 and 2.
I want to discuss sight words very thoroughly because I know most programs do teach many sight words at the earliest levels. I can hopefully reassure anyone that is using the Sound City Reading program that because I don't teach sight words in that way, your students will learn many more sight words, even faster, with far less difficulty, in the long run.
Most sight word lists include a selection of the most common words, both phonetic and non-phonetic. For example, the first list of Dolch sight words includes the phonetic words: and, we, in, go. It also includes these words that have phonetic elements that are not pronounced in the expected way: said, the, two, where.
In the Sound City Reading program, the term "sight words" refers only to "rule-breaker" words that cannot be read phonetically. It does not apply to words that can be read phonetically, even if they are among the most common words. For example, the words in, we, and go, are very common, but they can be taught phonetically, so they are not considered sight words.
As I put the sound city reading program together, I used a list of the one thousand most common words to help me choose which words to teach. So although there are relatively few non-phonetic sight words listed in the program, a large number of the phonetic words taught are taken from the list of the first thousand words.
At Levels 1 and 2, students are not specifically taught to read words, either phonetic words or irregular non-phonetic words. (That doesn't mean that your son won't naturally begin to recognize some of the words that he sees.) However, there is much "learning to read" that is going on during this period. Levels 1 and 2 teach the necessary sub-skills that are required for successful reading and writing. This includes letter recognition and letter/sound association, beginning handwriting-which not only reinforces letter recognition and sounds but also prepares students for spelling, and phonological awareness exercises (oral blending, segmenting, rhyming). The lessons develop an understanding that words are made of individual sounds that are represented, in order, by a series of sound symbols/letters. While some students are able to develop these skills instinctively, other students need lots of practice to develop them. So the skills are taught throughout the books, built into the daily lessons, so that both types of students are able to master them.
At Level 1, there are eight lessons read aloud by the teacher to convey a basic understanding of how print works, how words are arranged on a page, and why the letters in words are arranged the way they are. During this process, students are exposed to a number of printed words. Students study lists of illustrated words with the teacher a Level 1 and Level 2 to help them understand beginning and ending sounds in words. Although students are not yet expected to be able to read the words, students may be able to recognize some of them after this initial exposure.
At Level 2 (and Level 1 if desired), students learn to spell words with plastic letters. This allows students to learn to spell phonetically while they are still mastering handwriting skills. Spelling words with plastic letters requires students to listen carefully to the sounds in each word so that they can place the letters accordingly. Learning to analyze words in this way helps students to "crack the code," so that learning to read and spell words phonetically will make sense to them.
At Level 3, students learn to read and write phonetic short vowel words. Students are also taught these sight words: a, A, as, has, was, is, his, I. The sight words are taught as exceptions to the rules. For example, in the Rhyming Short Vowel Words And Sentences book, first, students learn to read short a words. Then they are taught that in the words a, A, and was, the letter a is pronounced as the short u sound. Since they can already read short a words, learning these words as sight words, as rule breakers, will make sense. As another example, when studying the sight words as and has, students learn that in some words the letter s is pronounced as the /z/ sound.
Learning a few sight words is very useful at the short vowel level because it allows students to begin reading and writing sentences. Students learn to read one word after another, going from left to right, putting the words together so that they convey meaning. Lots of practice helps them develop a rhythm to their reading so that it sounds like normal speaking.
Most programs, even phonetic ones, teach a lot of sight words at the short vowel level so that students can begin reading easy stories. In these programs, many sight words are integrated with the short vowel instruction. This is not how the Sound City Reading short vowel materials are set up. The focus is on mastering decoding and spelling skills with short vowel words and developing the ability to read sentences. This prepares students to make rapid progress at the next level, which teaches the various phonics patterns.
Why have I set up the first three levels in Sound City Reading in this way? It is because some students are able to pick up sight words fairly easily, while others find it difficult, and others find it nearly impossible. Many students get discouraged from the very beginning, becoming so anxious that they are unable to focus and learn. They fall behind quickly and never catch up. It is not fair to these students to teach this way, when they could be taught the same words phonetically with far better results.
For example, in one basal reader program that I worked with, the words out, about, around, found, and a number of other ou words were taught throughout the year as sight words, starting at the short vowel level. During this time, students were not told that the ou pattern shows the ou/ouch sound, so they had to memorize all of the words. The ou/ouch pattern was not taught until the end of the school year.
This is my reasoning. Once students have become confident reading and spelling short vowel words, they can then learn to read and spell words with various phonetic patterns relatively quickly. Instead of spending a lot of time drilling sight words such as see, look, out, and funny at the short vowel level, why not wait until the phonics patterns level and introduce the patterns in those words, ee, oo, ou, and _y as soon as possible. It's much easier to teach see, feet, need, keep, and heel as a group of words, phonetically, than it is to teach see as an individual sight word, without teaching the ee sound. Using the phonetic approach makes more sense to the students. It builds confidence and paves the way for rapid progress. Students are able to learn a large number of words in a short amount of time.
After starting Level 4, Phonics Patterns, students study one new phonetic pattern each day. This fast pace is possible because they have already learned all of the necessary skills in the previous levels. This works well, allowing students to begin reading real books as soon as possible. The same lesson plan is followed for each new pattern taught. For example, students learn that the ai pattern represents the long a sound, as in rain.They practice spelling and reading ai words with that sound. After studying one or more new patterns, students then read a short practice story that contains words with those patterns and previously taught patterns.
Level 4 is when most of the sight words in the program are taught. As they study a new set of phonetic words, students are introduced to any non-phonetic words that are spelled with the same pattern. For example, when studying words with the ai pattern, which represents the long a sound in words, they are also introduced to the sight word said. The word said has the short e sound instead of the long a sound, so it is taught as an exception to the rule. Students are not taught the word saidbefore learning phonetic words with the ai pattern, because they might expect other words with the ai pattern to have the short e sound. Learning the phonetic words first eliminates that type of confusion.
The ultimate goal of this phonetic instruction is to provide enough practice so that students are able to decode, or "sound out" words well enough that the process becomes automatic. At this point, the phonetic words, in a sense, have also become "sight words" that are recognized instantly.
How Reading Aloud Can Be Used To Reinforce Skills At Different Levels
For the suggestions listed below, you can do several words on each page, depending on the amount of time you have and how long your son remains interested. You will probably be able to think of other similar questions to ask.
Preparing Students To Read Easy Trade Books Aloud
In Level 4, students study a series of eight books that teach the most common phonics patterns. They will be able to begin reading easy trade books starting with Phonetic Words And Stories, Book 5. The books are listed on the sequence charts to show when then can be read. When a book is listed, you will know that almost every word in the book can be read phonetically, using the patterns that students have already learned. The sight words that have been taught are also taken into account. For example, after studying the er/her pattern in Book 5, students will be able to read The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss. Because they have already learned the necessary phonetic patterns and sight words, students can generally read these books by themselves, with a little help as needed.
A good strategy is to read each of these books aloud before asking students to read them. This can be done from the very beginning of instruction, at the earliest levels. Multiple readings of each book, over a period of time, are the most effective. Being familiar with the story provides extra support as students read the words and sentences.
Today I contacted the hosting service for the old Sound City Reading website at www.soundcityreading.com to ask them to close the site. It should be down as soon as they can fulfill the request. Within a short time, the .com address will automatically forward to the newer site at www.soundcityreading.net.
I have strong mixed emotions about discontinuing the older site. I originally posted it in 2008, if I'm remembering correctly. I updated it regularly with the newest versions of the phonics books I created. I was able to see a map showing the locations from which people were downloading pdf files from all over the world. It was very exciting to see more and more countries colored in on the map. The web site also provided a way to share phonics materials that I created with fellow teachers in Shelby County.
The software platform for the old site was completely outdated, so much so that my newer computers could not even log on to the site builder any more. Yet, I didn't have the heart to take it down because hundreds of people were still visiting the site every week.
The hosting network updated to a new platform but I was stuck in the old one. It became difficult to even communicate with the web hosting site at all. So today is the day that the old site is coming to an end.
As I looked at the old site for the last time, it struck me how much better the new Weebly site really is. I sincerely hope that the users that have visited the old web site faithfully will find many things to like about the new site.
I've updated the overview charts and the flow charts showing all of the Sound City Reading phonics books. Click on any chart to enlarge it.
The changes to the overview charts make it more clear that it is not necessary to use every book in a given level. You could choose, for example, Book A OR Book B OR Book C at a particular level. The different options may present the material in a different order (as in the short vowel books) or in a different format (as in the phonics patterns books). Although having a variety of books at some of the levels may be initially confusing, the advantage is that you can fine tune your instruction by selecting the particular books that are best suited for your students.
The overview charts give a range of suggested grade levels for each group of books. The books are not limited to a single grade level, so that they can be used at any level as needed.
The flow chart pages have been changed to show two alternate routes for beginning readers.
I've revised the Learning The Alphabet books and have uploaded the PDF files today. A separate teaching guide for these books will be posted in the near future. These books are perfect for students who are learning the alphabet letters. I developed these pages for my grandson when I was teaching him the alphabet. The PDF files are copyrighted but they may be downloaded and printed by teachers, parents, and tutors, to use with their own students.
I had previously thought that I might combine these books into one book and put the handwriting and sound story pages into a separate book. After more thought, I decided that since this is the very first book in the Sound City Reading program, I should leave everything together. This will make it easier for teachers and parents to follow the teaching sequence. All you have to do is go from one page to the next, in the order in which the pages appear in the book.
The changes in the books are as follows.
Both the original and revised versions are set up with beginning learners in mind. They use multi-sensory instruction to teach new letters. Tracing large and small letters helps students internalize each letter shape so that they can recognize the letter when they see it. Saying the letters sounds as they trace helps students associate each letter with its sound. After tracing a new letter, students complete a letter discrimination page, on which they circle the new letter in rows of individual letters, in rows of words, and in a sentence. (Students are not expected to read the words and sentence; they are read aloud by the teacher.)
As each new letter is taught, two types of picture pages are included to teach beginning phonemic awareness skills. The first teaches oral blending, and the second introduces students to rhyming
Students also study a page with words and pictures. Each word on the page begins with the new letter. The students look at the pictures to figure out the words, with the teacher's help. As students pronounce each word, they listen carefully for the first sound, and circle the beginning letter. This introduces them to the concept of beginning sounds in words. The begin to understand that the beginning letter in a written word represents the first sound in the spoken word.
These instructions in the book Color-Coded Short Vowel Words explain how to make letter connections materials to teach sound blending. However, both a large and small version of these materials are available as pdf files to download from this web site.
The two versions of the Letter Connections Activity can be found on the PDF Files page for sound cards, sounds charts, etc. The larger version has been available for a while. It is large enough to use with a whole class, displayed on a large easel or on a chalkboard. I uploaded a smaller version today. It is a good size to use when working with a single student or a small group. For one student it can be used on a flat surface such as a desk or table. For a small group, it can be used on a tabletop easel. These charts are used to teach "sound blending," the ability to connect a series of letter sounds smoothly when pronouncing them.
Often, students are able to say the sounds for the letters of the alphabet, put alphabet letters together to form words, and read words by saying the sound for each letter. They understand that letters are symbols for sounds and know that the letters are arranged sequentially in words to show us how to pronounce those words. However, they are still reading each word by saying one letter sound at a time, pausing between the sounds. While they can mentally put the sounds together after they have pronounced them separately, they are not yet able to read fluently because the decoding process slows them down quite a bit.
The Letter Connections Activity teaches students to pronounce two or more letters, one after another, putting the sounds together smoothly.
Step One: Working With Two Sounds
Students begin by pronouncing short vowel-consonant combinations, such as ab, ac, ad, af, ag, and am. This exercise helps students learn to slide two letter sounds together smoothly. For beginners, this can be a challenge but it is much easier than trying to put three sounds together smoothly to pronounce a whole word. As students pronounce these vowel-consonant combinations, they are also learning that single vowels followed by a consonant usually represent the short vowel sound. Most of these two-sound combinations are not real words, so in this program they are called "silly sounds." Often, when students are having trouble pronouncing three-sound short vowel words smoothly, they will also have trouble putting just two sounds together. This activity teaches them how to do that.
Step Two: Working With Three Sounds To Read Short Vowel Words
After the first step has been mastered, students can begin reading series of short vowel words formed by moving cards showing the same ending chunks they have already mastered (_at, _oss, _in, _ell, _un, etc.) down a column of beginning consonants. Students add various beginning sounds to the ending chunks to pronounce either real words or nonsense words. For example, using the ending chunk _at, students would read bat, cat, dat, fat, gat, hat, etc. Even though not all of the letter combinations are real words, many of the non-word combinations will be beginning syllables from multi-syllable words that students will eventually learn to read. Because students are only having to change the beginning letter sound as the ending chunk is moved from one letter to the next, they will find it easier to pronounce the three-letter combinations smoothly, without having to say the sounds separately.
If you prefer to work with only real words with the students, you can just skip any combinations that don't form words.
Step Three: Working With Advanced Letter Connections Charts
After mastering short vowel words, students will learn to read words with beginning and ending consonant blends and words with various long vowel and r-controlled vowel patterns. As they learn new consonant and vowel patterns, the teacher can use the various advanced letter connections charts to give students practice pronouncing consonant-vowel and vowel-consonant combinations. Again, these combinations are often not real words, but they are generally found in words that students will be learning to read. For example, students might practice putting beginning consonants with long vowel patterns, as in bai, cai, dai, fai, gai, hai. They can also practice pronouncing words or chunks with ending consonant blends, for example band, cand, dand, fand, gand, and hand, or with beginning consonant blends, as in stee, snee, smee, and spee. (Spell check is NOT happy with these pseudo words!)
Notice that studying these non-word syllables will prepare students to read many multi-syllable words such as daily, Haiti, candy, gander, steeple, and speedy.
Reinforcing With Color-Coded Short Vowel Lists and Color-Coded Phonetic Lists
These two books contain both rhyming and body-coda (same beginning sounds) word lists, sorted by vowel patterns. They would provide excellent follow up reinforcement after students have done particular letter connections activities. Students can practice reading words with the same consonant and vowel patterns they have studied on the charts.
Some students pick up decoding more quickly than others. It's important to provide enough decoding practice for students who find it more difficult. Often students who struggle initially go on to become excellent readers, after mastering sound blending, which is an important sub-skill for decoding. Developing this skill allows students to begin reading more fluently. Working with specific letter combinations helps students begin to decode words more smoothly and automatically. At the same time they are able to study a lot of new words in a short period of time. This allows students to read on their own with more confidence and better comprehension.
In my experience working with first grade students, even those students who come into first grade already reading will benefit from this specific type of decoding instruction. It helps them become more conscious of the various letter patterns so that they can apply them when they begin to read more advanced words. I've seen many good readers become advanced readers who are reading above grade level by the end of the year.
Some students who begin reading without any problems have particular difficulty with spelling. These students benefit greatly from this type of instruction because they are able to apply the patterns they have studied when spelling words.
The Videos For All Of The Sound Charts In Advanced Phonics Patterns From Children's Books Have Been UploadedRead Now
I finished the remaining sound charts for Advanced Phonics Patterns From Children's Books today and uploaded them to the portfolio. You will be able to see the charts and hear the sounds for all of the patterns. These videos don't have any intro or music. They are in the same order in which they appear in the book.