How long might a phonics 'Teaching and Learning Cycle' take?

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How long might a phonics 'Teaching and Learning Cycle' take?

Post by debbie »

A student who is undertaking the self-study Phonics Training Online course has just asked a very practical question about how long the phonics 'teaching and learning cycle' might realistically take.

In my phonics programmes and approach, I suggest that a full phonics 'teaching and learning cycle' takes two sessions to complete from code to word to text level (including vocabulary enrichment and language comprehension) - and which, over time, includes building up knowledge of spelling word banks.

The student asked:
I need a little clarification on time management and the teaching and learning cycle. Should the teaching and learning cycle be completed in one lesson (single or double of 20-40 minutes or 40-80 minutes each respectively) in one day or in two days or in a week? in short, how long should a teaching and learning cycle last.
This is my response:
Generally speaking, a full teaching and learning cycle going from introducing the focus letter/s-sound correspondence (‘code’) through to word level for reading, spelling and writing (plus vocabulary development – what do the words mean?) – through to text level content – would realistically take two full lessons on separate days.

It may well take around 30 minutes to complete the word level activities for Session One, and longer for the text level activities – perhaps up to 45 minutes.

There is a big ‘BUT’, however, because it depends entirely on how much time the school allocates to these foundational literacy lessons. If the time allowed is only 20 minutes, for example, it could be that to complete a teaching and learning cycle takes three sessions. What is important is that the cycle with the core word to text level content is completed to reasonable quality.

Another factor is teachers and children becoming more ‘efficient’ at the routines of the teaching and learning cycle. At first, the material and approach is new to the teacher so she or he needs to get used to it but also train the children in the phonics routines. It is important to train the children well so that the teacher doesn’t have to use precious time to go over and over what the children need to do.

Even the youngest learners can soon get used to the expectation of what to do, for example, with the core word level material. At first the teacher needs to do really good modelling every step of the way – and indicate that care must be taken with, for example, letter size and letter formation – and the position of letters on the writing line (by kind, repetitive modelling as necessary). But then it’s really important that the teacher doesn’t over model once the children do know what to do. This takes out all the learning opportunity for the children – they need to attempt new words to blend, and so on, themselves first before repeating along with their classmates and the teacher.

Over time, then, the teacher can become more familiar with what to take time on, and what to speed up with, and find the balance of time needed for quality teaching and learning.

A further consideration is whether the school teaches the English language as the main language or additional language – and how many lessons a week the school provides for the English foundational skills. If time is allowed daily, it is reasonable to expect to introduce and complete two full teaching and learning cycles in a week. The important factor is not ‘how much code’ is covered in a week so much as the level of quality teaching and ample practice – giving the quicker learners more challenging activities to do with the words and texts, and enabling the slower learners to get ample practice.
Debbie Hepplewhite
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