1. Explain that chunks with exceptions applied are probably being pronounced correctly.

2. Discuss the Third and Fourth Vowel Sounds.

3. Discuss the fact that many digraphs have more than one sound associated with them also.

3. Extend the method to content-area vocabulary used in your classroom.

Pre-Class Preparation

1. Write the Main Rule and its Three Exceptions on the board again.

2. Choose approximately five challenging content-area words from your text or the class’s assigned reading.

3. Download this PDF of the Digraphs and Overlap Options to help you decide how to code the content-area words you've chosen.

4. Familiarize yourself with the lesson plan.

Class time elapsed: 0 minutes

In-Class Procedures

1. Review the Main Rule and the Three Exceptions

2. Remind the class that the First Vowel Sound should always be attempted first in an unfamiliar word.

3. Point out that a Marker is called that because it marks the preceding vowel as a First Vowel Sound.

4. Point out that doubled consonants were also conceived as a mark of the First Vowel Sound.

5. And point out that whenever a chunk has another sound added to it under the Third Exception, that chunk almost always also uses the First Vowel Sound.

Program Tip

Applying the Third Exception results in what is called a closed syllable, and closed syllables nearly always have short vowel sounds (First Vowel Sounds) in them. Thus, trying the First Vowel Sound yields the correct result when a chunk has a consonant added to it under the Third Exception. (Incidentally, the “ol” and “al” words discussed in a previous lesson violate this quite often, e.g., gol-den and fal ter.)

6. Sum up by saying, preferably in your own words: “So, if you always use the First Vowel Sound in every chunk on your first attempt at decoding an unfamiliar word, any chunks that had more sounds added to it by an Exception are probably being correctly pronounced. This means that you can work on the other chunks and leave the Exception chunks alone. They are already likely to be correct. This is why it is so important to always try the First Vowel Sound on your first attempt at the word.”

Time elapsed: 5 minutes

7. Discuss the Third Vowel Sounds of a, e, i, o and u

a: The /o/ sound in want, ago and father

e: None

i: The /ee/ sound in ski, taxi and ravine

o: The /oo/ sound in to, do and movie

u: The /oo/ sound in truth, flu and super. (Also, mention that the letter u has a fourth sound, the /oul/ sound in put, push, pull, bush and bull, but that they already know most of the words where the fourth sound is used.)

Time elapsed: 10 minutes

8. Write one of the challenging content-area words on the board without chunking it. Discuss chunking it according to the Main Rule, applying any Exceptions as they occur. Use First Vowel Sounds for the single vowel letters and a common option for any vowel digraphs, such as ea, ou and ie.

9. Write the word in its chunked form next to the original word, leaving a space between each chunk and marking a 2 or 3 over any single vowel letter that is not the First Vowel Sound. Underline all digraphs and put an accent mark on the strongest syllable.

10. Repeat this process for the other content-area vocabulary words you’ve chosen, discussing any new code that surfaces.

11. Conclude by telling the class that you will be putting about five such vocabulary words up on the board each day and discussing how the code works in them. Ask them to suggest words that they found difficult to decode in the assigned material, as well.

Time elapsed: 15 minutes

Author’s Note

To assist you in organizing the English code in your head I’ve included two additional PDF files here that you can download. They list the options for the vowel and consonant spellings which have more than one common pronunciation. The most common option is listed first, the second most common is listed second, etc., so when coding a word like trouble, split it after the vowel sound, trou ble, underline the digraphs ou and le and put a 4 over the ou to denote the /u/ sound, the fourth sound of the digraph ou.

This concludes the curriculum description for the OnTrack Reading Junior High Phonics Course. Again, this mini-curriculum is adapted from the comprehensive phonics curriculum contained in the OnTrack Reading Advanced Code Phonics Workbook. While the mini-curriculum has not been formally tested, the workbook has been used by the author with nearly 200 struggling readers.