Our district has been rolling out the TC Phonics Units of Study for the past three years. Throughout that time, we’ve been growing our understanding and practice when it comes to teaching children how words work. In growing our understanding and practice, we find ourselves looking at children through multiple lenses in order to know their strengths and find teaching points.
Last week, I walked into Rachel’s room for Reader’s Workshop. Her second graders were all engaged in reading. Red book bags lay open and children were scattered. Rachel was at her table working with a reader. I quietly called three children over for a guided reading group. We began our work with a snap word warm up. “I know you all can read these words, but we want to be sure we can spell them, too!” Then, I modeled how to trace the letters of each work, whisper the spelling into their mask and then read the word. They followed my lead and independently worked. I watched. I taught into formation while they concentrated on spelling. I transitioned them from the snap word warm up to the book with, “Now that you’ve practiced spelling, let’s read.” Eagerly, the children took the book and we went on to guided reading which then led them back to independent reading.
As the group dispersed, Rachel came over with a stack of papers and sat down next to me. “So, here’s the DSA (Developmental Spelling Assessment). I’ve got a couple of kids who are strong readers and their DSA surprised me.” “Great!” I said. We then talked about how important it is to use the information from a spelling assessment to let it inform our instruction for not only the reader, but the writer. “If children know phonics elements in reading, we need to be sure expect them to use them as writers. If they aren’t using those elements then we need to adjust our teaching and our expectations.” I said to Rachel as the workshop came to close.
This moment has lingered in my mind. A few years ago, without the TC Phonics Units of Study and the DSA, this conversation would never had happened. But now, thanks to a careful roll out of the Units and continued conversations within and across grade levels our understanding of what it means to teach phonics is evolving. We are striving to expect the transfer of phonics to reading and writing all while growing confident, strong readers.