"Its Magic!" IWB Rub to Reveal in a Phonics Session

Friday's are great with my timetable including a day with one of our younger Phase 2 classes.  The students all aged between 6 and 8 are Year 2 and 3 and a lively group.  Their day with me includes a focussed reading session, which for the last couple of weeks has involved using activities to investigate spelling and reading texts and words including the phonemes they have been working on during the week.  To help with this I have begun collecting images from the web, that we can use as a starting point for the sessions.

Some of the phoneme groups I still think are a little obscure, and image collections not easy to compile. This week for example we have been looking at the various graphemes that can be used to represent /er/.  The collection included things like ferns, birds, a teacher, a winner who came first in a race, a collection of words, a Whirlwind and  screen capture of a wordsearch.

The images were used as an introduction to the session, and as a way of re-engaging the students in listening for the sounds they had been learning about, or thinking about what each image might represent within the rhyming groups they were working on.  In addition however the images were also selected to support engagement with the main task, which was to work in pairs on a "phoneme Spotter" activity before sorting and grouping the words according to the graphemes they contained.  I was concerned that some of the words might be unfamiliar to some students, and hence the choice of a fern, though the choice of some images as visual metaphors, such as a flame for burn was also interesting allowing discussion of what fire or flame might have to do with the /er/ sound we were working on.

Previously I have printed or copied the phoneme spotters we are going to use to a smart board notebook, to act as a shared read before asking students to find and code words.  For some reason I decided last week to present the spotter covered by a layer of digital ink, and to make it into a "rub amd reveal" activity.  The students loved it, and were completely captured as the IWB eraser was dragged across the text slowly revealing the text a word or sentence/phrase at a time.  "It's magic!"  seemed to be the common consensus, and the looks on the student's faces who had obviously not seen this before was great.  This week when I was passing the class I was asked if I would be making the computer write stories again.  Moments like this are the kind of thing we live for and I was happy to oblige.

What was really interesting today was  though that element of "magic" remained, the students were now anticipating the text appearing and began to read along with the rubber as the text was revealed.  This offered some interesting opportunities to begin playing with the text,
  • skipping on and revealing words later in the text while leaving others preceding it hidden.  Discussing what might still be hidden under the ink before revealing this and testing our predictions.
  • Stopping to ask what might come next, before reading and checking our predictions
  • revealing a few letters or a few words from the next sentence and asking what might appear next.
  • Revealing the initial phonemes and final phonemes and asking which grapheme or sound picture will be under the ink to spell the word we were reading.
Putting the "magic" aside for the moment, engagement with the text in this way prior to the spotter activity, improved student familiarity with it, while the use of the images to begin meant some of the stranger vocabulary had been introduced.  In pairs I asked them to use their own versions of the text to identify the words that contained the /er/ graphemes or sound pictures, and then pulling the group together we began identifying how the /er/ sound could be written and where each grapheme usually appeared in words.

After this, the students were asked to test our ideas and generalisations by soritng the words they had found in a table.  The group was pulled together again for a final review with a "drag and drop" version of the table top task used to sort the words as a class and check against the work we had done.  While discussing how well our generalisations worked.  E.g did "ir" always go in the middle of words, and "er" always come at the end.  From the examples we had the rules seemed to work pretty well, even though I did introduce at least one example from our photos that didn't match, eg shirt, first, girl and bird followed our rule, but the fir tree didn't, however as a rule of thumb it worked pretty well.

I'm sure for many colleagues the structure of this session is more than familiar, however for me what was interesting was
  • How use of "Phonic Photos" or text related images helped re-engage the students with phoneme and grapheme groups introduced and even though metaphorical in nature how some of these prompted discussion and inferential work, while also helping introduce visually, unfamiliar vocabulary
  • How introducing the spotter as a whole class shared text, and in a slightly different way, using digital ink  and rub to reveal techniques opened possibilities to engage students with higher order reading skills such as prediction and deduction based around an accesible and manageable text chunk
  • How student response and motvation seemed to increase through the "magic" created by a relatively simple extension of a previous task by the addition of digital ink and use of the rub and reveal technique.

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