TRT Podcast#33: 5 Tips for teaching phonological awareness virtually
Virtual teaching hasn’t made things easy on us, but I have good news! You can easily teach phonological and phonemic awareness from a distance. These tips will help!
Listen to the episode here
- Free sample of phonological and phonemic awareness activities
- Phonological & Phonemic Awareness Super Bundle
- Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Curriculum
- Free phonemic awareness curriculum from Reading Done Right
- Equipped for Reading Success, by David A. Kilpatrick
Full episode transcript
Hello, my name is Anna Geiger, and thank you for joining me for this presentation on Facebook. I am The Measured Mom at themeasuredmom.com. I also have a membership site, The Measured Mom Plus, two online courses, "Teaching Every Reader" and "Teaching Every Writer", as well as Facebook groups, and a podcast, "Triple R Teaching". The podcast helps educators reflect on what they're doing, refine by making small doable changes, and recharge so they're excited for the next day in the classroom.
You are listening to Episode 33 of the podcast which is all about how to teach phonological and phonemic awareness VIRTUALLY.
We have been spending the last month diving deep into these important prereading skills, phonological and phonemic awareness. Let's take a quick review of the things that we've talked about in the past few weeks.
We talked about the difference between phonics, phonological awareness, and phonemic awareness. We talked about why phonemic awareness is so crucial for helping kids become strong readers, and the reason is because scientists are telling us that when kids read, they do a process called orthographic mapping. It's a mental process that strong readers have, and it has to do with connecting the phonemes to the graphemes. That means connecting the individual sounds to the individual letters in a word. If they don't have an ear for sounds, so they don't have phonological, or specifically phonemic awareness, orthographic mapping cannot take place and they won't be able to remember those words easily for the future. That's why we have spent so much time talking about this.
We talked about specific levels of phonological awareness, from the very basic, rhyming, all the way to the most advanced, which is phonemic awareness. Then we also talked about the levels of phonemic awareness itself, starting with the very basic skill of phoneme isolation, where you can hear individual sounds, all the way to manipulation, where you can add sounds to a word, delete sounds, and substitute.
After we learned all of this base knowledge, we moved on to talk about what you do with it! I gave you some recommendations for programs, and I also talked about the importance of mixing things up. So not only do you want to have a daily routine of about 10 minutes of teaching these skills, but you also want to do things like read aloud rhyming books and books with alliteration. You want to make sure that you mix it up with interesting things like games and perhaps dances, or anything that helps your students learn the skill in a different way and helps prevent boredom for all of you. Because as wonderful as those scripted programs can be, they can also begin feeling rather tedious after a while, so it's good to mix them up with some other things.
So now, today I want to talk to you about how to do this virtually. I'm going to give you five quick tips, so if you're short on time today, good news, this is not going to take long!
Much of the way that you teach phonological and phonemic awareness virtually is going to be the same way you would do it in the classroom, because this is an oral skill for the most part. So if you're using something like Heggerty or the free program at reallygreatreading.com, where you can print out the lessons, it's all comprised of you talking and your students responding. You can simply do that on the computer as well, but the only issue would be that you need to make sure that you've got a setup so that they can see you in real time and you can see them.
Now, in terms of programs to use, like I've mentioned many times, Heggerty is a really good one. They actually have virtual, prerecorded lessons, that you can purchase and use, but I think as much as possible, it's nice to do them live with your students.
My first tip is to make it a part of your daily routine. I would say preferably at the beginning, like a warmup, because it involves so much engagement on their part as you're talking to them, and they're responding to you back and forth constantly. It could be a really good way to kind of wake everybody up and start your virtual classroom day. Even in an in-person classroom, it could be a great way to start your day.
My next tip is to be consistent in your oral and visual cues. Again, Heggerty is really good at this. They supply a lot of hand motions and things that you can look into. I personally have not studied their hand motions, but for an example of something you could do, when you're giving a prompt, you can be pointing to your lips. Then when you want your students to respond, you could put your hand to your ear. So you could say, "I say cat, you say cat" (pointing to your lips), and then you listen (putting your hand to your ear). Then you might say something like, "Take the word cat, take the sound /c/ and change it to /b/". Then maybe you give them some wait time and maybe you point to your head while they're thinking, as you want them all to be thinking about it. Then you say, "Ready?", and then your hand to your ear means they respond to you.
That's just one example of how you might do it, amd I'm sure you can think of better ones! I'm sure Heggerty has a really good set of visual cues to use as your students are responding to you, so go ahead and check that out. I think that's really important, because as your students do those movements automatically, it frees up their brain to think about the more challenging things you're asking of them.
Something else you could do, this is from Heggerty's website, is to consider having all the students muted except for a few every day. The reason being is so you can really focus in on several students and hear how they're doing. You could create a calendar, and on it you list which students will be un-muted every day so that you make sure you hit everybody, and you have a chance to really listen in on how they're doing.
The next tip is to make sure that your camera is set up so that when you are giving your cues, they go in the correct direction. I know sometimes when we use cameras things can be flipped. If you've been doing virtual teaching for a while now, I'm guessing you're a pro at this and you know how to make sure that nothing is backwards. But just a good reminder to practice first and check and see what it looks like before doing this with your students.
So we've talked about making it a routine, being consistent with your oral and visual cues, muting some of your students, different ones every day, and then making sure your camera is set up properly.
The last tip has to do with things I've already talked about in this series, which is to mix things up! I think it's really good to do those oral lessons every day, but I think it's also good to mix it up, and especially to include something visual on your screen. I can only imagine how challenging it's been all these many months for some of you to be teaching virtually and to keep your students' attention. It is not easy! And so, putting something visual on the screen, something fun, can help break things up a bit.
For example, you could put a fun scene on your computer. You could grab it anywhere, there's a lot of picture of the day things you can find, but put a nice photograph on there and then give a clue. If you're teaching phoneme isolation, you could say, "Who can find something in the picture that starts with /c/?" Or if you're teaching phoneme blending, you could say, "I'm going to say a mystery word, find the answer in the picture. Here's the mystery word, /f/, /i/, /sh/. Who can blend those sounds and find the picture?" It's connecting those mental skills to something on the screen.
Then I would also ask you to consider looking into some kind of visual lessons that provide answers on the screen. So if you're wondering how that can work exactly with phonological awareness, I just created a set of 30 digital presentations and I'd love to share those with you really quick. If you're listening to this in the future on the podcast, you won't be able to see this, but you can always go to the show notes, themeasuredmom.com/episode 33, to get the link to the Facebook post where this video first was shown. You could also go ahead and check out the preview of this product in my shop.
Let me go ahead and switch my screen really quickly to show it to you. Once you purchase the digital lessons, you'll have access to 30 different lessons, and each one has anywhere from 20 to 40 slides. They start really basic here, and we've got some for every level. So let's say we're doing the rhyming one, "Do They Rhyme?" What you would do is open it up on your computer, and then for most of these, you would put it in present mode so the students can't see what's coming up. Then it also has a script for you if you want to follow it. On the first page it says, "Say the picture's names. Do the words rhyme?" Then the kids say "cat, hat". To check their answer, you move to the next slide, and yes, they do rhyme! So what you could have said on the first one is, put your thumb up if they rhyme, put your thumb down if they don't, and then they would check it when you move to the next slide.
They get more complex, of course, as we get to more challenging skills. For example, substituting syllables in compound words. What you would do is read the script, "Say doghouse, but change 'dog' to 'hen'." Once they've given the answer, you flip to the answer screen and there is the picture of the henhouse. This is a fun way to keep their attention and it's kind of self checking while you're doing the presentation. These are very simple, clean visuals with engaging pictures that will help you mix up and improve, in some ways, your phonological and phonemic awareness instruction by helping more kids stay engaged. We're always looking for ways to do that, whether we're teaching virtually or in the classroom!
If you want to purchase the whole set of phonological and phonemic awareness digital slides presentations, they will soon be in my shop for $18. However, if you're listening to this in real time (end of January/beginning of February 2021), then I have a special offer for you! You have the opportunity to purchase the entire Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Bundle, which is a big collection of printable activities and is normally $57, on sale for only $27 through February 8th. You will also get the digital slides presentations as a free bonus! These normally cost $18, but you can get all of it right now for $27.
If you go to themeasuredmom.com/offer, you will find this offer where you can get the whole bundle of Rhyming, Syllables, Phonemic Awareness, Nursery Rhyme Concepts of Print, and Personalized Emergent Readers. When you buy them separately, they're $89, but when you buy them in a bundle for the special offer, they're just $27. Plus you get the special offer of the digital lessons! This video here on the sales page will help you see more about the digital products because you can watch a bunch of them in action. Go ahead and check that out to make sure it's something that's going to work for you, and then you can just click down here to purchase.
After this timer runs out, this page will revert to a regular offer for the bundle. So if you're interested, now is the time, themeasuredmom.com/offer. My team and I are always here to answer questions, so if you need to reach out to us, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That concludes Episode 33. For show notes, head to themeasuredmom.com/episode33.
Next week we'll be kicking off a new series, so stay tuned for that!
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Link to original Facebook Live presentation