Learning how words work doesn’t have to be a boring, mundane drill. There are ways to get your students excited and engaged in active thinking about language and how it works. Fountas and Pinnell have developed a lesson structure for phonics, spelling, and word study that uses a balance of direct teaching and discovery, which will encourage students to become active examiners and analyzers of print.
Below is the structure that Fountas and Pinnell use in their Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study System (PWS), which provide well-planned, organized, direct teaching of language principles, but also contain an element of inquiry.
The Simple Framework
Each lesson in the PWS system follows a simple structure: teach, apply, and share. Ideally, these lessons would be embedded in a design for responsive literacy teaching that offers a combination of experiences, each of which contributes uniquely to students’ literacy development. Here’s what a lesson looks like:
TEACH whole-class lessons based on a principle related to phonics. Each principle is listed and explained in The Comprehensive Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study Guide, and each incorporates an element of inquiry. The inclusion of inquiry, where possible, rivets students’ attention to discovering something about language; it makes the lesson enjoyable, even exciting! Students become pattern seekers and word discoverers, which, hopefully, will be a lifelong habit.
APPLY through hands-on practice to apply the principle. Students can learn much more through these hands-on activities because they provide an experience in constructing their own knowledge. You can choose to have all the children do the Apply activity simultaneously, individually, or with a partner after the lesson, or they could rotate to a word-study center to engage in the activity during independent work time as they develop the ability to manage their own learning.
SHARE, as students meet briefly in a whole-class meeting, to talk about the discoveries they made. This brief sharing time gives you a chance to assess the effectiveness of your lesson, return to the principle and summarize the learning, and link to reading and writing so students know how to use what they have learned.
A general goal in presenting any lesson is to pique students’ curiosity about words. We want them to seek patterns, notice similarities, take words apart and reassemble them, think about various chunks of words and what they mean, and more. When students perceive word study as word play, an important instructional goal has been achieved.
Fountas and Pinnell believe that phonics instruction is most effective when used within a wide range of engaging literacy experiences accompanied by rigorous teaching. Download the PWS mini-sampler to learn more about the unique lesson structure for PWS, and how this system fits into a comprehensive design for classroom literacy instruction.
~The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Team
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