As a group of first graders gathered on a colorful rug around their teacher Stacy Bilgoray, they eagerly looked up to her to practice their phonic sounds. After engaging in a brief writing exercise, they returned to their desks to further practice their new skills.
The exercise was part of the elementary school’s K-2 phonics program, implemented at the beginning of the school year, to teach reading and writing of the English language by developing students’ phonemic awareness – the ability to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes – at a faster pace than the previous curriculum.
“We have seen so much growth from our students across grade levels,” Bilgoray said. “We engage them in a variety of hands-on learning opportunities because when students are relaxed and having fun, they are more open to learning.”
During a recent lesson, the first graders began studying the silent “e” that comes at the end of words. Throughout the unit, they will continue to practice the new skill with a partner before transferring their knowledge to reading and writing. The units of study also come with a small group book that further allows teachers to support their students in a variety of reading and writing workshops. In addition, each grade level has a different animal mascot that is woven into the lessons with a storyline that the students enjoy.
“The mascot helps students become part of the storyline,” said Bilgoray, adding that the first graders’ mascot is a lion, named Rasheed. “Each unit contains snap words that we learn to read and write in a snap. The words go onto the word wall and the students learn phonics principles.”
The teachers, who participated in professional learning development through Columbia University’s Teachers College before implementing the program, will continue to work with a staff developer to further advance the phonics program.