"The Missing Piece:" Beth's Experience Using From Sounds to Spelling
During the 2020-2021 school year, first grade teacher Beth L. used the From Sounds to Spelling phonics program. She saw huge improvements in her students' test results, including their oral reading fluency.
In this post, we're sharing our interview with Beth AND her best tips for teachers using the program! (She has some great ideas!)
Q: How did you find out about From Sounds to Spelling?
A: I just stumbled upon the program. And I was like, "Oh perfect, this is the missing piece," because I was using another phonics program, and pulling my hair out.
How do you use the program From Sounds to Spelling?
A: I used From Sounds to Spelling as my primary phonics program. Our kids were really lacking in K to 2 phonics instruction. So, that's been a goal of our school...I loved that the professional development was built right into each unit. So, when I pulled up unit one, I sat and watched the video.
Q: Can you tell us how you structured it in terms of groups? Small group? Whole group? A combination? What was working for you all?
A: It was mainly the whole group, just because of the situation last year. What I did do then is, for my students that were a little more advanced, I took full advantage of my aide coming in for an hour, three times a week. And she actually took out my advanced kids, and worked with them, and then I kept everyone else. And then we split into two groups, so I had a group that was like, they just needed the basic core instruction and could keep moving, and then I had my group that needed the core instruction, but then we also needed to go back and do a little bit more intensive work.
So, during that hour I spent a half hour with each group. So, the group that was ready to go, we just did your lesson plan as written, and then they would use some extra decodable text, and just practice their reading with each other. And then my other group, I would go back and I would re-teach the lesson, or go back in and just focus really on the blending segment, the things they were struggling with. So, I envision that this coming school year my plan is that, that will be my small group instruction. So, instead of pulling your typical level A's, B's, C's, D's, we'll be doing it based on phonics skills, which is what we've really been pushing for.
I would do the dictation for the whole class. And when I taught the lesson itself. Anything that said whole group instruction, minus the phonemic awareness, I did whole group instruction with all of my class. And then sometimes, if I needed to with my more intensive group, I would go back to that whole group lesson and just review the parts about the skills.
Q: What was your phonics and reading instruction like before you had From Sounds to Spelling? What was missing?
A:The program that we have built in was just not quality. It didn't follow a good scope and sequence, I felt like it was all over the place. And it really didn't support what I had been hearing about in the science of reading. So, when I found From Sounds to Spelling, I really felt that it supported the science of reading, and that all students need the phonics instruction, not just my strugglers. Where the other program was built in a way that it's such little instruction, and such little practice that if children are struggling at all, there's no real intervention there for you to use as a classroom teacher. You almost had to seek out someone else. And that's not always available. Or not every teacher knows how to ask for help. They feel like they're the ones making a mistake when it was actually the program. And when we were trained with our last program, we weren't really trained in phonics itself, where with this program each unit gives us that training so that when we go into the unit we know exactly what we're teaching, and how to teach it, and I think that's extremely important, even for veteran teachers. But I think it's great for new teachers as well.
Q:What was something that made Sounds to Spelling stand out versus maybe some of the other programs you were looking to purchase at the time?
A:It was having everything in one spot. And having the built-in professional development. That is key. Like I've said before, even with veteran teachers it's always important for us to go back and be reviewing, and always learning. But the fact that I could log into one place, I went in and I found it all. Download week one, print it all out. Week two, everything's there. I don't have to hunt around. Also normally I wouldn't have left reading groups for a substitute, I could this year because it's spelled out. There was no way to mess it up. I also like, too, with the decodable readers, there was a page form. And there was a book form, because a lot of times when I sent just the passages home, parents were asking for books. So, a lot of times we read the passage in class, and then the book went home.
Q: What do you think your students enjoyed the most about From Sounds to Spelling?
A: I think they enjoyed the games the most, because again, once they learned how to play them they didn't need me to do it anymore, so it gave them that sense of independence. Once they knew the skill they knew they could go in and practice that game, because they knew how to do it. And I think that was key. I think in the past what I've used, and what other teachers have used, the games changed constantly so it was a lot of reteaching the games, and they didn't always get to enjoy them because most of your time was spent teaching them how to do it.
So, the fact that once we got through those first couple weeks of school, they knew once a game was out how to play it. And that was the key.
Q: What advice would you give to teachers just starting the program?
A: Telling them to watch the videos. I think the videos really help to solidify why you're doing what you're doing in the program. I feel like it sets me on the right path for the unit then. Like okay, this is my focus this unit, if other little things come up, awesome. But if I teach this unit, I'm going to get my kids where they need to be by the end of the year. And too, I have said work smarter, not harder. So, my team, for next year, we're already prepping this week, but I said too, pick and take your turn. Okay, this unit, so-and-so's going to print it out and be in charge of it. And then the next unit someone else is in charge. And take turns so that both of you aren't wasting your time printing it out, and copying it for your class.
We are so grateful to Beth for sharing her experiences! If you're interested in learning more about how From Sounds to Spelling can make a difference for you and your students, check it out at this link.