Teaching Phonics to Older Students

A frequent request at Wisdom Seekers is for materials that are basic phonics for older students.  There are materials available that are designed specifically for older students, but there are several key factors to keep in mind when selecting materials or creating activities for older students.

The first is to remember that the structure of the English language is simply that–structure.  There is nothing babyish or immature about structure.  However, understanding the structure is foundational to reading and spelling for students who are struggling.

Reading is primarily a visual task, but current research in dyslexia and learning disabilities is revealing that auditory processing skills are equally, if not more important than visual processing skills.  Therefore, when selecting materials or designing reading activities for older students, it is still crucial to utilize multisensory instruction, which includes seeing, hearing, saying, and writing (or another tactile task), and for some students kinesthetic movement tasks as well.

Visual prompts should be kept large.  In print form, 16 point font or larger is preferred.  More space between lines of print and wider margins can also help with visual discrimination and focus of words.

Teaching students to segment and blend syllables and words helps to eliminate skipped words (omissions) or guessing.  It is interesting to know that about 47% or syllables in English are closed syllables.  Therefore, when teaching phonics to older students, concentrate on those 3 letter words, but combine them as soon as possible into 2 and 3 syllable words.  Megawords, Book 1, has many multisyllable word lists that have only closed syllables.  Another source is the Phonics Word List book.

Once introduced to multisyllable words that have only closed syllables, concentrating on Silent-e syllables and introduction the -tion suffix can assist older students to decode and spell MANY age-appropriate words with less effort than typical phonics programs for younger students.  These programs often cover all the vowel combinations for digraphs (ai, ea, oa, etc.) and for diphthongs (ou, aw, oy, etc.) with 1 syllable only words.  Older students’ need to be encouraged that long words are not a mystique, but fit the structure of the English language with even more regularity than 1 syllable words.

Check our Special Needs and Homeschool Catalogs for phonics materials.  We try to select quality programs for a variety of learners, so if needed we would be happy to assist in selecting the appropriate program for your student(s).


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