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    Default Introductory Phonics (ES-targeted)

    Target Audience: Elementary Schoolers (could certainly be used for JHSers, too); ideally those who at least sort of know how to write the alphabet (they often learn romaji pretty early on) but I have done this successfully with kids who don't really know the ABCs.
    Objective: Teach them that English letters correspond to sounds. Teach them what the sounds for each letter are so they can read new words themselves, instead of using the outdated Japanese method of memorizing whole words (sight reading) as though they were kanji.
    Length: Can vary from a full lesson to a ten minute bite-sized warm-up. At ES, when possible, I like spending a whole class period on this. However, at my school where they use Eigo Noto, I end up doing it in 3-letter pieces, 10 minutes or less each class. It still works fine, although (for instance) I don't generally have time for the karuta game.
    Materials Needed: Chalkboard. Preferably: some whacky-sticks for karuta, if you're going to do that. Magic markers (マジック) work great. Really optionally: laminated phonics letter cards.

    Optional: Overview of Phonics

    To start with, sometimes it makes sense to do a short Japanese summary of phonics. Here's one example. I think it's actually a bit long, and I don't often give this whole talk: I prefer to get straight into the meat of it. However, it might help people structure their own explanations. The important part, I think, is to tell students that 1) English letters have both a name and a sound, and they're not the same. (I use this a lot during the lesson: point at new letters and say "name" or "sound".) 2) Letters can have more than one sound, but there are rules. Today, we're going to study the basic sounds. (So they don't feel heartbroken or betrayed when they realize that "c" is not just "k-k-k-k" but sometimes also "ssss", or that an "a" is not always "ah" like in "cat".)

    I suggest just hitting those points quickly and efficiently. If you want, though, here's an example of a little talk: (Japanese has been largely made up on the spot and has not been proofed by a native speaker, so likely has mistakes.)

    • Phonics is the study of the connection between letters and sounds.
    •「Phonics」とはもじとおとのかんけいのべんきょうです。
    • For example, in Japanese, what is this letter's name? (Draw a き or さ or whatever.) (Students answer.) What is its sound? (Students answer.)
    • たとえば、このかなのなまえはなんですか。 (Draw a kana.) (Students answer.) このかなのおとはなんですか。 (Students answer.)
    • In Japanese, usually, a letter's name and its sound are the same. (For example: name -- き. Sound -- き.)
    •ふつうににほんごではもじのなまえともじのおとはおなじです。 (たとえば、なまえ? き。 おと? き。)
    • However, in English, the name and the sound are different. For example, this letter's name is "s". Its sound is "ssssssssssssss".
    • しかし、えいごでは、もじのなまえともじのおとがちがいます。 たとえば、このもじのなまえは「s」です。 おとは「ssssss」.
    • Also, sometimes one letter has more than one sound. The sound varies depending on the word.
    •それに、もじ(アルファベット)ひとつはおとがふたついじょうあることもあります。 ことばによって、おとがちがいます。
    • Today, we're going to learn some English letters and their basic, common sounds.
    • きょう、えいごのもじときほんの(ふつうの)おとをべんきょうします。
    • With phonics, you can read English on your own. You can even read words that you have never seen before.
    •Phonicsで、じぶんでえいごをよめるようになります。 あたらしい、みたことはないことばもよめます。

    You can also talk about vowels (ぼいん) and consonants (しいん) if you want. You can mention that it's the vowels that are the most likely to vary based on phonetic rules.

    Again, if you actually read through all of this, you may lose a good share of the class to boredom. You've been warned.

    Introducing Letters
    This is where you introduce letters. I have changed my mind and now recommend going in order, starting from a. (I do sometimes also throw in "th", "f", or "v", especially if we've already covered them with "I'm fine, thank you" or other phrases.)

    Write some letters on the chalkboard. Teach them the basic sounds. (See attached "Phonics Tricks" sheet.) Use whatever method you like, but I've lately been fond of teaching initial and terminal two-letter combos: e.g., teach a, then b, then ab, then ba, then c, then ac, then ca, then d, then ad, then da...etc. I'd avoid terminal "e" stuff, because that usually becomes a strong vowel...but you can always cap it with another consonant so you get those consonant-vowel-consonant trios with a weak vowel.

    You can also make simple three or four letter words. Dad, cab, etc. (Make up words, too: no problems there.) Two approaches for that:
    a) point at each letter in sequence, walk them through each letter, then combine them. E.g., for "dad"..."d-d-d-d-d-d. a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a. d-d-d-d-d-d-d. da-da-da-da-da. dad."
    b) "conducting": orchestrate it with your hand. Use low levels for consonants and peaks for vowels. You can illustrate stops by smacking your hand into your other hand for sharper stops or just leveling off for smooth, continuous stops.

    Definitely get the kids to read some words on their own with no cues from you or the other teacher. This is one of the biggest reasons for doing phonics: they don't have to memorize English words like kanji.


    Blackboard Karuta Game
    This is a lot of fun and one of my favorite activities. Split the kids up into teams (I usually make four). Write each of the day's letters up on the chalkboard. Hand out magic markers or whatever whacky-sticks you're going to be using. Call up one kid from each group.

    Four phases in ascending dificulty:
    a) You say the name, they hit the letter.
    b) You say the basic sound, they hit the letter.
    c) You say a word, they hit the letter that corresponds to the first sound in the word.
    d) As (c), but with the final sound in the word.

    First to hit the correct letter gets a point for their team. (Resolve ties with janken.) I usually rotate the kids after 5 letters. I also like to have the next group up on deck behind the kids currently playing, to keep it moving quickly. Finally, I suggest having the kids crouch down in front of the blackboard while waiting for you to say the letter/sound/word, so that the class can stare at the board and think about the letters.

    Additional rule that I often introduce partway through: only one touch. If they get it wrong, they're out of luck that round! Makes them think harder, and avoids random sequential letter-striking.

    Wrap-Up Activity
    If you have a couple minutes at the end, have them run up and make their own new words -- probably consonant-vowel-consonant -- on the board with chalk. Then read them as a class. Fun!

    Attached Files: Phonics Tricks, and the old version of this post.
    Last edited by Wakatta; June 3rd, 2009 at 21:15.

  2. #2
    Senior Member ampersand's Avatar
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    Good stuff, but I have some comments.

    When I explain the concept of phonics, I explain that it's more complex (I try to avoid describing anything I want them to do as "difficult" as too often 難しい is taken to mean やっぱりできないはず) than hiragana or katakana as there are more rules, but it works the same way: you don't have to know the meaning to know how to read it. I throw up some random string of hiragana on the board and ask them to read it. Of course they can, so it gets the point across. It works for me, anyway.

    The two sounds for th are pretty simple to explain in my experience. Because hiragana explicitly marks (some) voiced consonants as variants of unvoiced ones, they're already familiar with the idea. It's just a matter of explaining what the difference between さ and ざ actually is. I teach voiced versus unvoiced first when doing f and v, and it's a useful concept to have available. And it comes up for s a lot as well.

    (And I, too, had to add "yasashiku" to my "shita no kuchibiru o kande" instruction after one kid drew blood. That class still laughs everytime I have to give that instruction.)

    On consonants and vowels, explaining these is a good point for a JTE or home room teacher to help you with a quick explanation. Teachers should know what they are in Japanese and can probably explain the idea more easily than an ALT can. You can then add what you want about consonants at the ends of words or in clusters.

    My key instruction for a short a is "kuchi hiroku shite"--"make your mouth wide". That's not the only difference but it's the main one.

    Your lesson seems pretty good. You probably do it, but one thing I like to do, in the beginning at least, is to put a sort of intermediate stage between individual sounds and a word. If the word were cat, between them saying "Kuh. Aaaaa. Tuh." and "cat", I have them do the individual sounds without pausing yielding something like "k'a'tt". Think Sesame Street if you don't know what I mean. It seems to help them get the notion that words are made of sounds which have letters.

    And you mention it, but I'd like to second having premade word lists. Nothing brings a good class to an abrupt halt like the teacher having to stop to think of an example or problem. It doesn't take long to do before hand and can prevent a good lesson from going bad.

    Again, good stuff, Wakatta.
    "I have ... relations... with many of the students." -- Sai1

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by ampersand View Post
    When I explain the concept of phonics, I explain that it's more complex (I try to avoid describing anything I want them to do as "difficult" as too often 難しい is taken to mean やっぱりできないはず)
    Well, to clarify, I wasn't saying that phonics was difficult; I was saying that without phonics, you have to memorize (anki anki anki anki anki!) every word separately; phonics is the easy way!

    But yeah, on a sidenote, I hate it when the other teachers interject something like, "Muzukashiiiiii!" when I'm teaching "th" or something. I usually stop to laugh and throw in, "nah, it's easy!"

    By the way, do you know a good word for "complex" in Japanese? I often grope for that concept.

    Quote Originally Posted by ampersand View Post
    The two sounds for th are pretty simple to explain in my experience. Because hiragana explicitly marks (some) voiced consonants as variants of unvoiced ones, they're already familiar with the idea. It's just a matter of explaining what the difference between さ and ざ actually is. I teach voiced versus unvoiced first when doing f and v, and it's a useful concept to have available.
    Exactly! And a fine idea to use that for f and v too...I hadn't thought that far, as I lack a real linguistic background. Actually, I got asked that just today by a teacher! (I ended up just demonstrating the blowing vs. vibrating thing, and she got it, but it'd have been nice to have been able to throw in a "like さ and ざ" note.)

    What had me concerned was more the rules on when it's voiced and when it's non-voiced. There certainly are rules, but early on, I wonder.

    Quote Originally Posted by ampersand View Post
    (And I, too, had to add "yasashiku" to my "shita no kuchibiru o kande" instruction after one kid drew blood. That class still laughs everytime I have to give that instruction.)
    Ahahaha! Owww.

    Quote Originally Posted by ampersand View Post
    My key instruction for a short a is "kuchi hiroku shite"--"make your mouth wide". That's not the only difference but it's the main one.
    Oh, great idea! Although it seems like one can make the "cat" sound without widening your mouth, that does probably make it more natural!

    Quote Originally Posted by ampersand View Post
    You probably do it, but one thing I like to do, in the beginning at least, is to put a sort of intermediate stage between individual sounds and a word. If the word were cat, between them saying "Kuh. Aaaaa. Tuh." and "cat", I have them do the individual sounds without pausing yielding something like "k'a'tt".
    Good idea! When I did it, I mostly would do a building sort of thing:

    c c c ... a a a ... c ... a --> ca --> ca ... t --> cat

    But I think the rapid sequence idea is a potentially better approach. I'll try that.

  4. #4
    Senior Member ampersand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wakatta View Post
    Well, to clarify, I wasn't saying that phonics was difficult; I was saying that without phonics, you have to memorize (anki anki anki anki anki!) every word separately; phonics is the easy way!
    Sorry if I wasn't clear. I got that. I was saying that I don't tell them that English phonics is more difficult than Japanese, just more complicated in that there are more rules. Too often labelling something as 難しい leads to giving up early. "If the teacher thinks it's hard, how are we supposed to be able to do it?"

    By the way, do you know a good word for "complex" in Japanese? I often grope for that concept.
    You can use 複合 (fukugou), but I usually explain something like "日本語の平仮名より色々なルールありますけど、簡単でできますよね。"

    What had me concerned was more the rules on when it's voiced and when it's non-voiced. There certainly are rules, but early on, I wonder.
    I'm pretty sure there are rules for when th is voiced or not, but I don't know them. If they're complex, just having to memorize whether its a voiced or unvoiced version of the same sound is less effort. Very rarely will using the wrong one result in a meaning change.

    The two sounds for ow are the same way. Even if you don't know whether flow is pronounced so that it rhymes with "oh" or "ow", you've narrowed it down to two options and know it's not "hraw".

    Oh, great idea! Although it seems like one can make the "cat" sound without widening your mouth, that does probably make it more natural!
    As a native speaker, it probably doesn't feel like you're widening your mouth (and how much you do depends on accent), but it's probably wider than あ, which is what the students will want to say. My experience is that positive commands ("Do this.") are easier to follow than negative ones ("Don't do that.").

    But I think the rapid sequence idea is a potentially better approach. I'll try that.
    I say do both ways. You need to find what works for you and your students.
    Last edited by Paul; January 23rd, 2009 at 14:02.
    "I have ... relations... with many of the students." -- Sai1

  5. #5
    Senior Member ampersand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Introductory Phonics (ES-targeted)

    Oh, and transcription or dictation can be surprisingly difficult, especially once you get the other short vowels in there. Imagine trying to write down words you've never heard before in a language you're only just beginning to study. Even things like fill in the vowel for g_t (did I say get, git, got, gut, or the non-word gat?) can be really hard. It will take more preparation, but giving them something like two or three options (get / got / gut) and having to chose which you said might practice the same skill with a lower chance of damaging what little confidence they've built.
    "I have ... relations... with many of the students." -- Sai1

  6. #6
    FranklinKirby
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    Default Re: Introductory Phonics (ES-targeted)

    just rely on the monkey to run the class


  7. #7
    Али Димаев AliDimayev's Avatar
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    Default Re: Introductory Phonics (ES-targeted)

    thanks for writing hiragana in kanji.
    <a href=http://www.ithinkimlost.com/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=3134&dateline=1245615339 target=_blank>http://www.ithinkimlost.com/image.ph...ine=1245615339</a>
    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman View Post
    As usual, you all (Aliを除く) have your heads up your asses.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Introductory Phonics (ES-targeted)

    Updated and revised.
    Quote Originally Posted by katsudon View Post
    Principal: 'genki no nai shapenaa'
    Me: *giggle*
    Principal (turns to me, says): Very old sharpener. I am not as old as that sharpener.

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