Phonological awareness, or being able to hear the sounds that make up words, is essential and one of the first steps for any young learner to become a successful reader. They must learn to associate those sounds with written letters and words in order to start reading. This is done through phonics.

Many schools teach students the sounds a letter makes one sound at a time. For example, students first learn the sound of “a” as in the word cat and apple. Then later on they are taught “a” can also make a long sound, as in name. This is called horizontal phonics. Horizontal phonics is a method used to teach students one sound of a phonogram, a letter or combination of letters representing a sound, at a time. The most commonly used sound is taught first and additional sounds are introduced later.

In vertical phonics, all the sounds of a phonogram are taught at one time. For example, students are taught the sound of /a/ in apple, /ā/ in snake, /ä/ in water, and /Ə/ in around. GrapeSEED follows this effective and sensible method of teaching phonics. The program focuses on repeated exposure to oral and printed language through Songs, Chants, Shared Reading Poems and Big Books, and Action Activities. Through these materials and activities, students are continuously exposed to the different sounds of each phonogram. They easily learn how to correctly pronounce words, identify letters in print, and recognize sounds in other words outside of the program.

Teaching Vertical Phonics for Literacy Development

GrapeSEED Materials (above): Students learn the sounds of the letter “a” with the Phonogram Card. Students learn words that demonstrate the different sounds of the letter with the Phonogram Word Card. The letter and its sounds are repeated in words used in other program materials, like this Shared Reading Poem.

Senior GrapeSEED Trainer Daniel Johnson recently shared an anecdote about one of his students with a group of teachers from Ringgold School District near Pittsburgh, PA during GrapeSEED Foundation Training. “One of my students got excited and yelled out ‘A says “uh” in my name – Joshua!’” when he connected the sound with the spelling of his name. It was a great aha moment for Joshua; he remembered that it’s correct for the letter “a” to sound like “uh” (/Ə/) in addition to the other sounds “a” makes.

To make each pronunciation clear and eliminate any confusion, GrapeSEED teachers are instructed to number each of the sounds a letter makes as they say and air-write it with their students.

Teaching Vertical Phonics for Literacy Development

The image above shows Senior GrapeSEED Trainer Daniel Johnson demonstrating the numbering of phonogram sounds during GrapeSEED Foundation Training so teachers can model it for their students in the classroom.

By providing young students with a strong foundation in phonological awareness and teaching them the relationship of the sounds with print, students’ literacy development will flourish. To learn more about GrapeSEED and vertical phonics or other methods used in the program, contact us!

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