February 23, 2019, 09:16:16 PM

Author Topic: Cannot seem to find an age-appropriate phonics curriculum for middle schoolers  (Read 2854 times)

Offline richardh.stahl

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Hey guys, this is my first post on this site ^^

I imagine many of you have encountered this situation before, and so I figured I'd have a decent chance of finding a solution - how can I help middle schoolers who cannot read??

I have rounded up all of these students and set up an after-school class for them - however, I quickly started to notice that the free phonics curriculum that I found is neither for speakers of other languages nor age appropriate for middle schoolers (the maturity level is way too low). In other words, it bores them to tears and is pretty unusable in the first place.

Has anyone been able to remedy this deficit through a decent phonics program for speakers of other languages (or even for Koreans specifically)? This would really help me out because these students have no way of participating in my actual classes and will get left behind in English if they don't get some kind of support. Thank you.

Richard S.


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Will send you a pm in a few hours - I've got to run to class but I've taught phonics to middle schoolers.

Offline MissSA

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Will send you a pm in a few hours - I've got to run to class but I've taught phonics to middle schoolers.

Heya Gidget! I'd also love in on this delicious phonic action please! I don't have many, but I definitely have a few kids who would benefit from a couple extra phonics lessons.

Offline tommyb.goode

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Will send you a pm in a few hours - I've got to run to class but I've taught phonics to middle schoolers.

Yes, please don't PM, post here so everyone can see it: it's something a lot of people need help with.

I teach North Korean defectors most of which are middle schoolers. They are recent defectors so their level is close to zero. It's so hard to find low level materials that aren't too childish.


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I don't have a copy of the message I sent because I didn't check the tiny box to save a copy. II (think?) asked if richardh.stahl for more information because it would change how and what I'd suggest. And I told him I make my own program.
I haven't found a single program/textbook here that I like on its own. I've found a few that have bits and pieces and that's it. And a pretty much all of the free stuff doesn't quite fulfill what I expect/need. The programs that I do like (like Orton Gillingham or Jolly Phonics are insanely expensive or irrelevant to ESL students.

I don't know your education background so I don't know how much information to give. Basically, it all depends on your class size, your students' learning styles and their individual abilities and learning issues and interests.

The hardest thing about middle schoolers is getting them interested in trying in the first place because a lot of people have given up on them already. Once you have their interest it's a nightmare trying to keep it because they'll have to WORK and most of them won't want to do that once their initial enthusiasm wears off. The hard part won't be the curriculum, the hard part will be keeping things moving. Teaching middle schoolers here is different to back home. Here you can have them memorise quite a bit because they're used to it and kinda expect it, and while they're doing that you can show them step by step how to use what they've memorised.

There'll be 2 (main) types of students. The first type will be the ones that need just a little extra guidance - they can't infer things, you'll need to show them step by step - to understand/work out how to read and then they'll start flying along. They'll do fine with a minimal amount of guidance once they're in their stride.
The 2nd type will need a lot of extra work and lots and lots of repetition and reinforcement.

Nutshell: No program. Teach them like you would elementary students just level the work and go slowly, more slowly than you'd think. I make my own program based on my students but if you want to follow a pattern, this basic one isn't too bad: http://getreadingright.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sequence-at-a-glance-ls.pdf

Sight words: Lucy Calkins. Students need to be drilled in these words and need to recognise and understand them instinctively. So I drill them until they die. Do lots of speed activites with these. Don't teach them all at once.

Fluency sentences: Make my own according to students level/need or buy stuff from Teacherspayteachers.com. Teaching With Love And Laughter has some good stuff that your kids won't feel is childish. Lavinia Pop has some. Moffatt Girls have a couple but you have to check their things.

Phonics: Standard teaching, standard drilling.

Readers: I love, love, LOVE the Sing, Spell, Read, Write books by Sue Dickson (Pearson Publishing). They're phonetically levelled really well and the kids understand the pictures and the words. Middle school kids will think they're baby books until they actually try reading them, realise they can and then they read them as fast as they can and their confidence levels go through the roof.
I balance easy readers with words sentences from their textbooks.
Also stuff from Teaching Biilfizzcend at Teacherspayteachers.com

Offline maximmm

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Hmm... what is 'age appropriate' phonics anyways? 

You are trying to teach your students the connection between letters and sounds. 
Vocabulary doesn't matter and words don't even have to make sense, in order for you to teach them the basic rules.  Don't focus on vocabulary, because that's not the actual purpose of teaching phonics.  Though do try to use real words when testing them.  Try to use words they don't know, because otherwise they'll simply memorize these words like pictures without knowing the phonetic rules. 

I have a few students who appear to know how to read, but that's only because they've memorized certain words/sentences.  They know what they 'look' like and it's engrained in their brains like a picture.  The moment you give them a new, even if simple, word, they have no idea how to even attempt to pronounce it and that's because they have no idea what sounds each letter makes. 

Teach them letters and the sounds they make, have students memorize them, do a few tests - listening 'you say a word, students write what letter the word starts with' - or snatch the word 'you say a word and students have to find the same word among others'.  Reading - 'you write a word and students either say it, or write its pronunciation in Korean'.  Writing - 'you say a word and students have to write it'; or 'you write a word in Korean letters and they write it in English'.

You can also do a few speed listening/reading/writing/spelling games. 

There are plenty of rules in English which apply to different sounds 'long a, short a, etc'.  If the students really want to learn, they'll memorize what you teach - and use the tests or game activities to further cement their knowledge via practice. 

Here is an interesting case:
I had one student who knew the alphabet and which sound each letter makes, but whenever I'd write an easy word, he had no idea how to pronounce it.  In order for him to understand how it all works, I had to first help him learn how to disassemble a Korean word and write it in a line rather than in the standard Korean syllable cube.  Only after that did he finally begin to understand how reading works. 

Do a small test - write ㄱ ㅏ ㄴ ㄷ ㅏ  and see if the students can read this word.  If they can't (it's 간다), you have to first teach them how to disassemble the Korean word into a single line and explain that this is how English is written. 

Oh, and by the way, I usually give my students a cheat sheet at first - with English letters and their Korean equivalent letters (though I double the Korean ㅍㅍ for F and do the same for R/V/Z.  Furthermore, when it comes to vowels, I first teach short sounds, and focus on the long sounds later on. 

Good luck.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2017, 07:09:40 PM by maximmm »


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I forgot to mention (reading your post reminded me, thanks maximmm) that some of your kids might not know the alphabet as expected because of the differences between letters in different fonts e.g. a a      t t         I I , watch out for combinations of AE (sounds) BD, FITJ, IL, BDP, OQGC, WV, HNMUR. Some kids don't even know that A and a are the same letter and count them separately. Some kids need you to point out this out to them.

You need to keep an eye out for letter reversals and change your teaching method according to whether the reversals are caused by visual or auditory problems, or whether the student might be dyslexic. 

A cool way to get middle school kids attention is to teach them to write in cursive. Because of the continuous strokes and the greater differentiation between letters it cuts down on reversals and it makes them look cooler than their friends.

Regardless, you need to work big, even with middle school kids. When you're printing stuff out like a lot of text, 16 point minimum and be careful of the font you use. Also, don't put harsh black on harsh white, use a dark grey text or a cream paper.

Do a lot of basic practice with -ip, -id, -it, -at endings until your kids go crazy. Work slowly but with a lot of pressure. 

Offline traveler

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Hi!  I have this small PowerPoint from an online class I did.  I don't have any experience teaching phonics to middle school students, but have you tried googling "phonics for adults."  A bunch of results came up when I did that.  You might find something useful there.  Good luck!!!

Offline beaniemaz

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Hi!  I have this small PowerPoint from an online class I did.  I don't have any experience teaching phonics to middle school students, but have you tried googling "phonics for adults."  A bunch of results came up when I did that.  You might find something useful there.  Good luck!!!

This is great, I will be using this to help my super low level middle school girls! Thank you :)

I made a (very) simple handout, using your ppt pictures, to go with it. I will attach it here.