So we have the sounds of English - 44 of them - and we have the alphabet - 26 letters. How do we make sense of it all? Enter the phonogram. A phonogram (also referred to as a grapheme) is the written character that represents a speech sound. Phonograms are the basic building blocks of written English. The best way to learn the phonograms is through explicit instruction. A student cannot intuit the sounds of the phonograms. A student using Reading - You Can Do It! will learn the sounds of 65 phonograms.
Here's the problem. In English we use 26 symbols (the alphabetic letters) to represent 44 sounds. This means some letters have more than one sound, like the letter y (which has 3 sounds). Some sounds are represented by teams of letters. Some teams of letters have more than one sound. Think of /ow/ as in cow and snow. Some groups of letters sound the same. Think of the four letter combinations that make the same /sh/ sound: sh, ci, ti, and is.
Now imagine being 44 years old and you are learning the sound-symbols relationships. You may remember some of it from school but it is a daunting task. You may be an ESL learner who knows another alphabetic system altogether (think Arabic or an ideographic language). Reading - You Can Do It Too! gives tutors and students tools to learn alphabetic awareness and remember it.
There are 44 distinct sounds in the English language. Phonemic awareness is the knowledge of these sounds and the ability to manipulate them. Students who do not automatically know the 44 sounds in English rely on inefficient decoding strategies when they read. As text becomes more complex, these students' ability to understand what they read breaks down because they are laboriously trying to decode words. So too for English Language Learners, knowledge of the individual sounds is essential to speak and understand English.
Reading - You Can Do It Too! uses a systematic approach to teach the sounds of English. Students learn to divide words into sound units -- and not syllables. In my experience as a tutor trainer, I've seen tutors attempt to teach syllabication before they teach phonemic awareness. This is a mistake. If you consider the components of reading, it is essential to start with the first skill (phonemic awareness) as your base and then build upon it. Margaret Barker
As the author of Reading - You Can Do It Too!, I intended the curriculum to be adaptable to a program's needs and to be taught in any of the tutoring modalities. So let's look at each modality in more detail.
One-on-One tutoring is typical in community-based literacy programs that use volunteers. A volunteer tutor usually meets with one student for two hours. Because many volunteer tutors are unsure about how to frame a tutoring session, Reading - You Can Do It Too! contains a script and detailed instructions for the tutor to use.
Small Group is when a tutor meets with two to five students at the same time. At Reading Works, we have used Reading - You Can Do It Too! in small ESL groups. The tongue twisters, card games, writing exercises work well in a group setting.
Peer Tutoring is when a student's peer -- an inmate in a correction facility for example -- works with the student. The peer tutor can be a solo-act or work in conjunction with a trained volunteer tutor. I intentionally wrote the Instructor Book at the 7th grade level (the Fry Readability Scale) so it could be used in peer tutoring.
I'd love to hear about how you're useing Reading - You Can Do It Too! - Margaret Barker