Friday, April 5, 2013

The Phonics Dance

After leaving second grade I thought I would never use Virginia Dowd's The Phonics Dance again. Boy was I wrong! Friends, my fourth graders still struggle with decoding some of their words because the only word attack strategy they are familiar with is to sound it out or use context clues. What about words that are not phonetically correct? How are these students suppose to attack these words? The answer... they can't! We have to teach them.

Everyday while my students are in their centers I rotate through the classroom and confer with readers. I use my Reader's Workshop binder to record all kinds of information about what I hear and what I see. Most of the things I hear and see with my fourth graders fluency wise are: decoding problems, intonation and accuracy. I use these notes to help set up my intervention groups. After reading with each student I observe common patterns in their weaknesses. One day after listing to my students read, I decided to pull the students who I had observed with decoding problems. I showed them each of the The Phonics Dance cards and asked them to tell me the sound that the letter combination made. I was shocked! They had no clue! There was a long pause and then /a/ /u/. The next day, I assessed each letter combination they knew and did not know and we went to work.

First students learned The Phonics Dance by singing, chanting rhymes and dancing for common blend, digraphs and diphthongs like au, aw, ough, ing, th and ou. I did not introduce one card a day, but more like four or five since they were older students. The best part about The Phonics Dance is that it is a spiral review. After practicing these sounds in isolation we began working on placing them within words and "hunking" and "chunking". When students are "hunking" or chunking " they are training themselves to look at letter combinations and the sounds these combinations make instead of looking at each letter individually.

Finally, it was time for reading paragraphs with these letter combinations hidden within the words. This was not an overnight success  There were many days in which I sat with a whiteboard beside a child as they were reading. Once they came to a word they could not sound out I would write it on the white board. Then we would "hunk" and "chunk" the word together. Now the responsibility has shifted to the students and they record unknown words on their board and "hunk" and "chunk" it themselves. To me the board was a way to show a "think-aloud" strategy for them. Eventually, the board will be gone and they will be much more fluent readers. These students are now responsible for looking for the "hunks" and "chunks" within their spelling words and even creating new words that have the same weekly spelling pattern.

As you can see The Phonics Dance can be used with any grade. After all this is what intervention is about. Finding out what individual students need and making sure they get it! If you would like to see a free sample of what you will get when you purchase The Phonics Dance click here.



  1. I LOVE the Phonics Dance! This is my first year to use it and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to teach without doing it. My students can decode so much better and constantly search for hunks and chunks in words we see. Great post!

    Rowdy in First Grade

  2. What is the title of the book? I looked at the website but none of the books were 446 pages long as shown in your freebie PDF.