Phonics in Ms. Baehler's Class

How I teach phonics to my second graders

What is Phonics?

Phonics is an instructional approach where spelling and reading is taught with an emphasis on the sound to symbol relationship. It builds on the alphabetic principal that sounds are associated with written symbols. A child who knows which letter to change in bat to make it bar is demonstrating phonics knowledge. Phonemic awareness and phonics are closely related, but they are not the same thing. Phonemic awareness deals more with the oral manipulation of sound, while phonics deals with the writing of sounds (Sousa, 2014).

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Why Teach Phonics?

Developing good spelling skills can lead to quick word recognition and comprehension. Phonics is considered an important component to a balanced and comprehensive reading approach (Sousa, 2014). Therefore, spelling/phonics can be beneficial for not only writing development, but also reading.

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Ways I Teach Phonics in my Classroom

The Elkonin Box Technique

Using Elkonin or sound boxes helps students enunciate sounds slowly in order to identify the letters they represent. A student moves a marker or chip into a box for each sound they hear. They then write the sound they hear in the box (Sousa, 2014).

Here is a picture of how I do this in my classroom on the Smartboard. I call on a student, they come up, the class slowly pronounces each sound they hear in the word, while the student pushes the markers in the boxes for each sound. Once all the sounds are represented (or mapped out), we write the sound we hear over each chip. We then blend the sounds together. We call this "Tap it, Map it, Graph it" in my classroom.
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Decodable Passages

Sousa (2014) says practice materials for phonics should include stories that contain the spelling pattern being learned.

Each week the students are given copies of two passages containing words following the spelling patterns we are learning. On day 1, I introduce the first passage. I read it to them sentence by sentence. After reading each sentence, I pause and ask the students if they recognize any words that follow our spelling pattern. I call on students to tell me. Once we determine they follow our spelling pattern, students highlight it on their copies. On day 2, I read the passage, pausing after each sentence to have the students read it back to me from their highlighted passage from yesterday. On day 3, it starts again with a new passage. Below is a picture of a decodable passage I use.
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According to Sousa (2014), one component of effective phonics instruction is vocabulary development. This is an important component for me to teach at my school because we are a Title 1 school and many of our students lack the vocabulary knowledge a typical second grader is expected to have. Research shows there is a significant gap in vocabulary knowledge from students of different socioeconomic levels. Early vocabulary growth is a strong predictor of how well students will test on language skills in third grade (Sousa, 2014).

We talk about what our spelling words mean each day. A screen shot of my Smart Notebook for phonics is shown below. The students have to click and drag the word to the correct definition. Then they have to use it correctly in a sentence. The words are from our weekly spelling lists/patterns.
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What Am I Doing Well Right Now?

  • Making connections with the spelling pattern in other activities, not just during phonics time.
  • Informing parents of ways they can work on the phonics pattern at home. Below is the document I send home on the back of my newsletters every week.


Below is a list of activities your child can do at home to practice the pattern or rule we will learn each week in spelling. Remember the goal is for the student to learn the pattern/rule rather than memorize the spelling list. By learning the rules and patterns the students will be able to apply this knowledge to reading (decoding unfamiliar words) and to their daily writing. Thank you for your continued support in your child’s education.

Spelling Skill Practice

1. Scavenger Hunt – Highlight words in a passage that show the pattern/rule of the week.

2. Friendly Words – Write words that share a pattern/rule and letter. Scrabble style. See how many you can connect.

3. Pattern Detector – Using what you are taught at school, put on your detective hat and find the pattern/ rule you have learned.
Example: (have, gave, move) each end with v and require a silent e. (hanging, sang, stung) each have -ng which can occur at the end of the word or end of a syllable

4. Silly Skill – Write your words and write the letters that fit the pattern/rule in silly letters.
Example (-dge and –ge endings)– Examples: stage, ridge

5. Skill Master – Find two words that are not on the list that meet the pattern/rule for the week. Students can look in their daily reading books, cereal boxes, street signs, magazines, newspapers, anywhere there is print.

6. Spelling City – At the top you need to click on the “Find A List” tab, then in the advanced search box enter “Harvestridge” search by “Username”. Click the search button and our list will pop up.

7. The Educator – Teach your family the pattern/rule for the week and how it works.

8. Syllable Slasher – Clap the syllables in each spelling word. Then draw a slash mark to divide the word into syllables.

What Would I Like to Improve on?

  • Even though I think I am doing well with referencing the spelling pattern in other areas, I think there is still room for improvement. I would like to incorporate the spelling pattern we are learning in more areas. I really want to focus on it more in guided reading groups.
  • This will be difficult, because there is so much to do and so little time in our days, but I would like to try and work on interventions for students who do not master the spelling pattern for the week.


Phonic Talk :: Understanding Phonics and Its Importance. (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2015, from

Sousa, D. (2014). How the Brain Learns to Read. (2nd Ed). Corwin: CA.