Explicit instruction for phonics overview transcript

Elaine Stanley: 

In our last topic, we looked at the important elements of phonics progressions and how they introduce simple to complex code. Today we're going to focus on how using an instructional model to plan your phonics lessons can work alongside your progression and really bring that progression to life. We’re really excited to be doing this session with you because it provides the second part to that puzzle of what to teach, but then how to teach it as well.  

Our instructional model, which you can see there on the right-hand side, is split into two sections. We've got a review section at the top in green and the explicit teaching section in purple. How this works is that the explicit teaching part of the model is the part that will happen every time you teach a new phonics concept from your progression. We would advise, usually it's two to three letter–sound correspondences that you introduce per week. If you're interested in more information about that, it would be good to look back at the Topic 1 webinar where we give more information about the pacing of how often to introduce letter–sound correspondences.  

Two to three times per week you'll be doing that explicit teaching phonics. With the daily review part, as the name suggests, we would suggest that you are doing that daily, to revise concepts that students have already learned, and really to keep all the balls in the air with things that students know and what they can do and keep practising every day. 

Rebecca McEwan: 

It keeps up that repetition, doesn't it? 

Elaine Stanley: 

Yes, that's it. I'm going to start with the explicit teaching section where new concepts are introduced and practised during a phonics lesson to show you how that lesson works. Then Rebecca will lead us through the daily review part, which would usually come first at the beginning of the lesson, but for the purposes of today, we'll do them the other way round just to demonstrate. 

Okay. I'll just zoom in on the explicit teaching part of the model for you.  

You can see that explicit teaching usually begins with an area of phonemic awareness that you would like to develop with your students, then we move to introducing the learning intention and success criteria for the students. Through the learning intention, we are making the learning for this lesson really transparent, there's no surprises, students know exactly what they're going to learn in this lesson and the success criteria tells students the way they will be able to show they've been successful in the learning in the lesson.  

Then we move to the gradual release of responsibility process through the I do, We do part of the lesson, initially introducing a new letter–sound correspondence – so that's at the grapheme level – then moving to reading and spelling words with the new letter–sound correspondence at word level. If students are up to that level of skill application, you'll also include sentence-level work.  

As I said, work at each level incorporates that focus on reading and spelling, so you’re really developing both those areas at once. It's good to note that the I do, We do process isn't a linear one. At any time a teacher can make decisions about, ‘Oh, I think we need more modelled or demonstrated practice here, so I'll go back to the I do,’ and keep flowing between that I do and We do in whatever way is needed as the students’ responses demand. 

The teacher is constantly monitoring student progress and also making decisions about how much guided practice is needed and how much scaffolded support is going to be given from the teacher.  

Then we move to, after we've progressed through those phases, we move to the check for understanding, which is a really important part of the lesson. It's an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning against the success criteria, and also, it's the point where the teacher makes the decision about whether students are ready to move on to that independent practice or not, or we need more guided practice. 

This is the ideal instructional model for a standard phonics lesson, but it does take time to build up to students being able to contribute to all aspects of that lesson. Right from the start, you're building the routines and the expectations so that you can get to that point where we can do all parts of that lesson.  

Before we get there, I just wanted to show you a beginner lesson, just to give you an idea of, before students can work at that word and sentence level, where are they beginning. A beginning lesson, which would be say at the beginning of Foundation, the teacher might just be introducing new letter–sound correspondences, forming the letter and saying the sound, and maybe practising some phonemic awareness skills like stretching words and listening to the first sound in the word. Your lesson's just going to incorporate those things right at the beginning, and gradually you build up to that word and sentence level. It still follows the same process of I do, We do, all the parts of the model, but just simpler content.  

It's really good to also think about, this is your time in those beginning stages – where there's not so much in the lesson – that you can really work on those phonemic awareness areas, like building their skills at oral blending and segmenting, because they're going to be needed when you get to that word level working with print. 

We are going to demonstrate a standard phonics lesson today. This is one that incorporates all aspects of the instructional model with that focus on reading and spelling, so both areas are developed in the lesson. Students have built enough knowledge and skills by this stage to complete all parts of the lesson up to the sentence level, and the routines and responses that are required during the lesson will have become automatic by this stage.  

Just bear in mind that you would be building all of those routines and expectations since Phase 1, and the content we're going to show for the lesson today is actually from Phase 8 of our progression, so it gives you an idea of how much time you've had to build all of these routines into the lesson. 

There are four key takeaways we'd like you to look out for as we're going through the lesson today. The first one is how the gradual release of responsibility works, how we’re moving from modelled practice from the teacher into the guided practice where the students join in, and then eventually when we've done the check for understanding, moving to the You do independent practice, so seeing how that works within the lesson.  

Also, taking note of the level of student participation and active engagement in their learning during the lesson, because that's a really important part of the explicit instruction structure.  

Also, how the teacher is freed up during the lesson to really have their focus on the student learning, on the learning that's happening, and being able to directly interact with students to give immediate feedback during the lesson, which is another really important part.  

As I've said already, check for understanding is a really vital part of that lesson, because it helps teachers make diagnostic decisions about when to move on.