HOW TO USE PHONICS WITH FEELING READERS
The Big Picture
Your own goals, and the kind of role you are playing in supporting young readers, will determine how you use these readers.
If you have made the decision to do home schooling, or to teach your child or children to read before they go to school, then the readers can be used alongside other SSP-based series and packages to provide extension work, particularly with the sound/letter relationships of the Extended Code.
Alternatively, a less costly option than using commercial SSP packages is to use apps and resources available on the internet (see Resources) and free materials available on this site - along with Phonics with Feeling decodable readers.
If you are lucky enough to have found a school that does use the SSP method, then these readers can provide extension work.
If you are a teacher, or have a child, at one of the many schools that does not teach reading via the SSP method, and thus does not provide decodable readers, then Phonics with Feeling readers can provide a way of doing ‘back-up’ work. These readers will allow you to ensure that children have a good grounding in all the sound/letter relationships necessary to become a good reader – and good at spelling too!
Phonics with Feeling Decodable Readers are suitable for children who have a grounding in the Foundation Code (see What is Phonics?).
To sum up, the readers are suitable for children who have learned the following:
the basic sound/letter relationships of the alphabet and the consonant digraphs ck, ss, ff, ll, sh, ch, qu, th;
how to blend sounds to make consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words;
how to read short phrases and sentences of connected text
Children should also be able to recognize a few ‘tricky’ words like a, the, go, and should have started sounding out and blending CVCC and CCVC words.
The Set One readers revise the Foundation Code. Sets Two to Nine introduce the Extended Code. There are five readers in each set. The readers should be read in the given sequence.
Each reader includes pre-reading tasks that promote discussion about the context of the story and introduce the relevant sound/letter relationships.
The stories in Phonics with Feeling readers are longer than those in most decodable readers, so it may take two or three sessions to read each one. Otherwise, it’s a good idea for the adult to read alternate pages, which provides the opportunity to model fluent and expressive reading. In this case, the adult should run a finger under the words in the process of reading, so that the child can follow and not simply listen. Also, the story should be read again later, with the child, or children, reading the pages that the adult read before.
While the child reads the story, the adult will need to provide help with the following:
Sounding out and blending letters to make words – but only where necessary. Allow the child to attempt this first. Once the child can recognize the word, it’s no longer necessary to sound out the letters.
Punctuation (e.g. question marks, exclamation marks, speech marks)
The meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases – important work in developing vocabulary
Tricky words. These are words with irregular spelling, or words that children can’t decode with their current knowledge of the regular sound/letter relationships. Children need plenty of practice at recognizing these words, and can be given strategies to help work them out: usually, only one of the letters in the word represents an irregular sound/letter relationship, so the other letters can be decoded. Also, children can be shown how to recognize similarities in sound/letter patterns in clusters of tricky words like go, no, so; do, to, who; he, she, me, we, be. For more information on tricky words, see What is Phonics? For useful tips on how to teach tricky words see the link on Resources. See my Free Materials for word cards and games to provide additional practice with these important words.
In the early stages, the adult can help with comprehension by repeating each phrase or sentence as the child finishes sounding out the words. It can be difficult for children to’ hold it all together’ as they concentrate on one word at a time.
The post-reading tasks in each reader include sets of questions to help to promote conversations about themes and issues raised in the story. This helps develop comprehension and reflection, encouraging children to make meaning by connecting what they read to their own life experiences.
On the last page of each reader there are lists of words containing the relevant sound/letter relationships, as well as lists of the ‘tricky’ words from the story. Going over these lists promotes fluency and sound/spelling knowledge.
Each story should be read several times on subsequent occasions. Stories should be re-visited to compare new sound/letter relationships with those already learned (see Why Phonics with Feeling Readers?).