The Unified Phonics Teaching SystemBritt Ceder1
How we did it earlierDedua Pre-reading
In the Dedua Prep Schools we have a good programme for teaching children to read. It has been in place since 1988 and is a combination of Phonics and Whole Language. The first month we do a pre-reading course concentrating on one Dedua sound per day. We also do pre-writing during this time. We do not mention the letters combined with their sounds, we show the children a picture and they choose the same one from three or four choices. There is a whole language story in the pre-reading books for each day.
Dedua Primer courseWhen the sound course is done we go to the primer part of reading instruction. This is phonics starting with the most frequent letters in the language and then making short texts and exercises with only the letters that have been taught. We take about two days for each letter before adding a new one. There are full story parts in the primer for each day. In the inner margin there is a column on each page with information telling the teacher how to work with the texts and the exercises.
There are also pages for writing instruction. The primers are good but we felt there was one weak point, even if we got the children through to reading in 6 months. The writing instruction was not enough to train the children well in writing.
1 Britt, and her husband Sune, worked with the Dedua people of Morobe Province from 1985 in language development. They completed the New Testament and Psalms in 2006.
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The writing road to readingOne day I got a book named The Writing Road to Reading in my hands. It is written by Romalda Bishop Spalding. It is a system of teaching called the Unified Phonics Method. To really understand what the author finds important I recommend you find the information yourself, reading the book2 or finding it on the Internet.
I will try to make it as clear as I can in this short article, even if I cannot give the full picture as the book does.
Writing instruction firstIt suggests that you start with writing instruction before you try to teach children to read and that you do not introduce any other reading instruction during the months you are working through this program taking them through all the sounds in their language.
This is a kind of phonics but not organised by frequency of the letters used.
The writing program starts with letters which are formed in the same way. Starting with the round letters you show the children that they start at 2 oclock. You do the small letters to begin with, not the capitals.
You take the first letter and show it.
You say the sound and have the children say the sound and feel how they make that sound with their mouth.
Then you show how to form the letter starting at 2 oclock under the top line in the writing space.
These are the English round letters:
a c d f g o s q2 Spalding, R.B. with W. T. Spalding 1990. The Writing Road to Reading: The Spalding Method of Phonics for Teaching Speech, Writing and Reading, (4th revised edition), Quill William Morrow, New York
In the book there is an explanatory text with each letter of how to write it plus a picture of the letter.
For a it looks like this:
For d it looks like this:
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The book expects that the teacher does dictation, without writing a word on the blackboard, and that he requires the children to write the letters neatly and in the way they are taught.
With two round letters taught you can give a real dictation word. Say the word and have the children think of what sounds they hear when they repeat the word. Have them form the sounds in their mouth and say them while they write them. Do NOT tell which letters are in the word. Just do it as a dictation word.
With the third round letter the dictation words grow longer.Letters which Begin with Lines
The following letters in the English alphabet begin with lines: They sit close to the preceding letter.
b e h i j k l m n p r t u v w x y zWhen the children have spent about two days on each round letter you start introducing the stick letters in a logical order following how they are written.
This is how to introduce b
The last thing you introduce is the double letters representing one sound, if you have any.
An addition to the curriculum in the Dedua Prep Schools
When I had read the book I got excited about it and thought that it would solve our writing problem in the Dedua schools.
I made an addition to the curriculum in the Prep Schools. I put in a writing course that follows the Unified Phonics method of teaching, after the sounds have been introduced in the pre-reading course.
Now the reading instruction phases look like this:February pre-reading using pre-reading books 1 and 2March May Unified Phonics using the Dedua Phonics bookJune November Primer instruction using the Primers 1, 2 and 3
Translating English Unified Phonics to DeduaThe book The Writing Road to Reading was written for the English language in United States of America, so my first work was to translate the ideas of Unified Phonics to a Papua New Guinea setting and the Dedua language setting.
The Dedua alphabet contains these letters:
a b c d dz e f g gb h i k kp m n ng o p r s t u w yFirst I picked out the round letters and after some testing I decided to introduce them in this order:
o a s c d g fThe letters that begin with lines I made into several groups. The first group is a logical build up from the line in i:
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i r n h b mAfter that I took the letter e which has another shape and the two-line letters where you have to lift the pencil one time to complete them, t and k.
e t kThen I took the single letters that were left:
p u w yFinally I took the double letters representing one sound:
ng dz kp gbA book for the teachers
Now I had to make a little book containing the letters and words I wanted the teachers to ask the children to write for dictation. I sorted them into a good order starting with the letter o then another new letter a and then the Dedua word oa which means crocodile.
The idea was that any teacher should be able to just take the book and start doing the dictation in the order that I had written the letters and words which I had made up with letters in the sequence the children learned them.
Part of the first page looks like this:
The teachers course
The next piece of work was to train the teachers in the Unified Phonics teaching system. We spent five days just teaching them the importance of following the teaching method and trained them in forming letters neatly.
They sat writing day after day and their writing became neater and neater. We had tests every day and they got marks for how well their letters were written. They worked hard and I felt many of them showed a big improvement in their letter writing.
They went home with the thought that the new class they would teach was a test class and they would trial the Unified Phonics teaching system.
ResultsIn the first year only a handful of the teachers understood enough of the System to try it out. The second year, when we had more courses for the teachers, more of them tried it. Those who tried it
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and followed the directions said it worked well and we decided to keep it.
In our village I took part in the teaching in order to show the teachers how to do the teaching. We had 12 children in the class. We kept them writing from 8.30 to 10.00 each morning. The first two weeks we needed one person for each three or four children just to teach them letter formation and to teach them neatness. When they had learned the idea they worked better and more independently.
They were excited about doing real work and writing real words; between the writing times they read the words that they had been writing. These mornings they showed 100 percent concentration.
When the course was finished in May ten children out of the twelve could write what we told them to write and during the process they had learned to read.
Now we could move them onto the primer, strengthen what they already had learned and teach them the capital letters and the language and sentence structure in Dedua.
It was an interesting experience and I think the Unified Phonics will stay in the Dedua Prep Schools. I hope that the Elementary Schools also will take advantage of it.
In READ Volume 38:2 October 2003 there was a case-study, Reading through Writing, about another area of PNG with adults.