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Junior High Phonics Course

The OnTrack Reading Junior High Phonics Course is a free mini-curriculum that any content-area teacher in junior high school, or even high school, can use to improve your weaker readers’ ability to read multisyllable words. It's designed to be ten 15-minute blocks to be spread over ten class sessions and is based on the multisyllable method of the OnTrack Reading Phonics Program.

Following the completion of the ten lessons, the information taught can easily,and productively, be reinforced by the simple process of the teacher writing some of the more complicated, content-area, vocabulary words on the board while chunking them and coding them according to the method.

For example, if one of those words was circumnavigation,Tired of your students guessing at content-area words? Show them this easy method for reliably decoding each unfamiliar word they encounter it would be coded as: cir cum na vi ga tion, with a tiny 2 written above both the letter c (in cir) and the letter a (in ga) to denote their second sounds. In relatively short order, most of the struggling readers could learn the minor, but very consistent, coding required, and would begin learning the various pronunciation options for the vowel letters and for the vowel and consonant digraphs (such as the /sh/ pronunciation of the digraph ti in the example.)

The Table of Contents of the course is on the next page. The rest of this discussion will address some of the issues involved when teaching phonics to an older child and some reviewing you might want to do before proceeding to use this mini-curriculum.

Why an Older Child Didn't Learn to Read Well

I'm not one who automatically blames the teachers and the school's curriculum for students failing to learn to read. Yes, there are inefficient curricula, and certainly there are some poor teachers, and poor school systems that subject their students to both poor teachers and poor curricula. Yet, even in those situations, many children do learn to read.

It's quite possible that many of the older students who struggle with reading were dealing with undiagnosed, untreated, vision problems of the sort discussed elsewhere on this site. If you're curious and want to learn more, see The Vision Piece of the Dyslexia Puzzle.

The Potential of this Mini-Curriculum

If vision issues were not responsible for a particular student's inability to read, it's possible that he never had sufficient phonics instruction.Some of your students might now finally be able to absorb phonics instruction. You might just be their last chance to get it In that case, the phonics mini-curriculum described in this section will build a foundation for filling in the needed information over the year as vocabulary words are discussed in regular classes.

Also, it's quite possible that by junior high or high school a student's vision problems will either have resolved or that his visual system has accommodated somehow to compensate for his particular problem. In that case, the student might finally be receptive to phonics instruction, even if he struggled in the early grades. Again, the mini-curriculum here will pull things together for such a student very quickly.

Be aware, however, that some students might still be dealing with vision issues that can make reading quite difficult. Though such a student might easily comprehend the information presented in the mini-curriculum, he might not practice it enough to internalize it because of a general avoidance of print.

A Caveat and a Request

As of early 2011, I know of no classroom teacher who has tried to use the OnTrack Reading Junior High Phonics Course in a classroom. The information was available for a few years on the previous version of my website, but I am unaware of any teacher trying it. The caveat, then, is that this method is untested in a full classroom. Having said that, I did use the multisyllable method described in this curriculum one-on-one with nearly 200 struggling readers, and most of the time it worked exceptionally well. The issue, then, is whether the translation to a full-classroom mini-curriculum will work as well, or at all.

The request is simple. If someone out there does decide to try to implement the mini-curriculum described here, I'd like to know about it. I'd be happy to try to clear up issues that arise, clarify points, and otherwise help with implementation. That would also help me revise lesson plans to increase their effectiveness. Use this Contact link, also found at the bottom of any page, to reach me.

Getting Up to Speed

If you do decide to try this phonics mini-curriculum in your classroom, I believe that you will get the most value from it by extending its use (not instruction, but use)Sharing this easy decoding method could help the weaker readers in your class a lot if you continue to apply it to content-area vocabulary as the year progresses over the rest of the school year. You would do this by simply discussing the coding of the more complex vocabulary words that your students encounter in your content area. That complexity might be due to the word having many syllables, or due to the peculiar phonics coding within the word, or both.

You will learn all you need to know about chunking the multisyllable words appropriately by just going through the ten lessons in the mini-curriculum. However, to properly code the phonics structure in accordance with the techniques used here at OnTrack Reading, you should review some of the information found elsewhere on this site. Below are three pages that are useful for that purpose. (All three are located in The OnTrack Reading Homeschooling Program.

Coding Revisions explains the proper use of underlining, double-underlining, and numbering when coding a word.

Phonogram Revisions explains each of the items of the phonics code that you will need to know to properly code the individual sounds in words.

And, finally, Chunking Multisyllable Words is a concise overview of the information to be covered over the ten lessons of the mini-curriculum.

The next page lists the Table of Contents for the OnTrack Reading Junior High Phonics Course.