Final Project: English phonics - CH/G/J/OO
For my final project, I have decided to discuss the topic of phonics and, more specifically, the several distinct pronunciations of four phonic sounds in English: 〈CH〉, 〈G〉, 〈J〉, and 〈OO〉. This topic was taught over three separate 45-minute sessions for Year 5 students (5th Grade) in my school. Working with the teacher of the class, I taught:
One class discussing different sounds of 〈CH〉 in English.
One class comparing the sounds of 〈G〉 and 〈J〉 in English.
One class explaining the different sounds of 〈OO〉 in English.
For ease of reading, I will discuss the resources I used for these classes separately, although the methodology used for each class is largely the same. In each class, I used Microsoft PowerPoint to present my topic. I chose to use Microsoft PowerPoint because I believed that it would allow me to easily integrate digital tools and other Web.2.0 resources into my presentation. Along with the PowerPoint, I also prepared a worksheet based on each presentation that my students could stick in their workbooks for revision with their teacher.
before the class
As a language learner myself, I understand that pronunciation can be one of the most challenging aspects of speaking a foreign language, especially when the language you are learning uses a range of different sounds to that of your mother tongue. For Spanish speakers learning English, whose language follows a notably distinct phonetic system than that of their target language, this challenge is inescapable, for there are many English sounds that are never or rarely used in Spanish. So different is the phonetic system of English to Spanish that there exist words in both languages that are identical in their spelling but pronounced using entirely different sounds ("Plaza", "Alcohol", and "Chocolate" come to mind).
Aware of these challenges before preparing my materials, I anticipated that my topic could be challenging for my students given that they had never before studied phonics in much depth. My principal objective whilst preparing the materials was thus to simplify my explanations of the topic as much as I could in order to not confuse my students.
Innovation in the Classroom
I believe that what makes my teaching of this topic innovative is my use of digital resources not commonly associated with the classroom. For instance, in one class, I adapted a popular Videogame called "Among Us" into a teaching resource using recognizable graphics and functionalities from the game, whilst in another class, I used the examples of well-known celebrities and characters, such as Charlie D'amelio and Christiano Ronaldo to help students understand the digraph 〈CH〉. I believe that by using materials derived from popular culture in this way, I was able to create a relaxed, familiar environment for the students that aided their understanding of the topic.
I think we must remember that, as language assistants, our role is rather different from that of a traditional teacher. In many cases, we are often not too much older than the students we teach; we are aware of the current trends; we know what is popular; what isn't; and who and what our students are currently interested in. I believe that we, as well as teachers, should use our knowledge of popular culture to our advantage, for, it enables us to personalize our classes to the likes of our students, allowing them to truly enjoy the classes we teach. I hope to have done this in the classes I taught on this topic.
The first class I taught discussed the pronunciation of 〈CH〉. For most of this class, I used a prepared PowerPoint presentation that I prepared before the class. I created a worksheet for the students to stick in their book for revision of the topic with their teacher. The link for these resources can be found here:
Powerpoint: https:/CH powerpoint
Worksheet: https:/CH worksheet
My presentation began by briefly discussing each pronunciation of the 〈CH〉 sound. I kept this as brief and simplistic as possible to avoid creating any confusion and utilised as many digital resources, such as animations, images, and other presentational skills to keep the Students engaged. I also decided to separate each word I discussed into its different syllabic sounds (Stomach: STU - MAK, for example), to ensure my students could easily understand and repeat the sound of each word.
After explaining the different pronunciations of the CH digraph, I then showed my students a short interactive video, made by the Youtube Channel Scratch Garden. With the help of amusing characters, this video encouraged the students to think of their own words beginning with 〈CH〉 whilst making them laugh at the same time! This video can be found below:
After this video I began with the first activity; a tongue twister challenge. In this activity, I asked students to volunteer and come to the front of the class and attempt to say each difficult phrase. I then selected a winner for each phrase according to who was closest to the correct pronunciation, before correctly pronouncing the word myself. To involve the teacher in this activity, I also had the teacher attempt to pronounce each tongue twister. This was very interesting to the students, for it allowed them to see the differences of the pronunciation of a native speaker of English and a Spanish speaker who had mastered the language.
Following on from this, I then played another game with the students which I dubbed "This or that". In this game, I provided two separate pronunciations of a word and asked the class to collectively decide on which was correct and come up with an final answer together. This was a very engaging activity for the students because it encouraged them to debate amongst themselves and use their individual abilities to collectively decide upon a response to a problem as a group.
To conclude my presentation, I played one final "picture round" game where my students were tasked with naming the celebrity from a number of photos and write their names on their worksheet. For this activity, I split the class into 6 groups of 3 and asked them to work out the names together. This activity went down well, the only name my children could not figure out was Cher, perhaps because she is a bit before their time!
My second class concerned the several different pronunciations of the letters "G" and "J" in English, two letters with similar sounds that are often confusing to learners of English. Like in my previous class, I relied on a PowerPoint and a worksheet to teach this subject to my students, the link to which can be found below:
Worksheet: https://Worksheet - GvsJ
My presentation began by discussing the difficulty of the G and J sounds in English due to their very similar pronunciations. To help my students differentiate the two sounds, I colored G with the colour blue and J with the colour red, to emphasize the differences between the letters.
After explaining the several possible sounds of each letter, I then moved on to a tongue twister challenge activity similar to that of my previous class. This allowed students to reflect on the previous classes' challenges and to apply what they learned in that class to these new difficult phrases. Unlike the last class, however, I decided to split the class into groups to allow them to discuss their answers before presenting them before the class. By working together, I found that students were able to correct each other's mistakes and present better pronunciations of the difficult phrases.
After this activity, I invited my students to play a game of "Hangman" in which they had to think of different words in English in which they would need to think of a word for each different sound of 〈G〉 and 〈J〉 that we had previously discussed in the presentation. I started with my own wor and then allowed the student that guessed and pronounced my word correctly to think of their own word and have the rest of the class guess it.
To conclude the presentation, I decided to create a game to help the students distinguish between G and J based on a children's videogame called "Among Us" which was extremely popular amongst the students at the time. In my own educational adaptation of this videogame, I gave students each a word beginning with "G" and asked them to say their word in front of the class. Those that had a word beginning with G that started with a soft 〈G〉 sound (E.g. Geography, or Gym) were the "imposters" of the game and would need to say a fake pronunciation of their word that gave it the sound of a hard /G/ (E.g. Game, or Girl). The rest of the class would have to collectively decide which students among them had this fake pronunciation, creating debates and discussions about pronunciation in a fun and intuitive way. The students really enjoyed this activity. The words I used for this activity can be found in the document below. I printed and cut out each word and gave one word per student:
Among Us document: https://Among us-words
My third and final phonics class discussed the pronunciation of the digraph "OO" in English. Once again, I employed a PowerPoint presentation and a worksheet as my principal resources for this class, the links to which can be found below:
Powerpoint: https://PowerPoint - OO
Worksheet: https://Worksheet - OO
I began the class by demonstrating to the class why pronouncing the 〈OO〉" digraph can be difficult for English-learners by having them pronounce several words with the /oo/ digraph. I deliberately chose words with distinct sounds to allow students to see that even though words containing the letters oo may look similar, they sound entirely different.
Once I believed the students understood this, I introduced them to the two sounds of 〈oo〉; the "long" /oo/ and the "short" /oo/. I compared these sounds to the Spanish sound of /u/ for the short /oo/ and the sound /uu/ for the long /oo/ to help the students understand these sounds. Then, showing a list of basic English words with each sound on my PowerPoint, I read each word aloud and asked the students to repeat.
After introducing the two sounds of /oo/ and where they could be found, I then began with my first activity; "This or That". Like I had done in my first class comparing the phonic sounds of G and J, I asked students to pick the correct pronunciation of a word between two different digraphs of /OO/: one with the short /oo/ sound (/u/) and one with the long /oo/ sound (/uu/). I would have wished to have the students stand up and walk to either the left or right side of the room to choose their answer. However, due to safety concerns relating to Covid-19, I instead asked them to raise their hand for each answer while remaining seated.
For the next activity, I once again presented a series of English tongue twisters to the class, this time ones containing the /oo/ sounds, and asked the students to try and pronounce them.
My final activity of the class comprised of a "Guess the picture" game inspired by the British game show "Catchphrase". In this game, I showed the students a series of colourful boxes with difficult words containing the letters /oo/ on them. I then divided the class into two teams and asked each team to choose a box and try to pronounce the word inside it. If they answered correctly, their box would be removed and they would have the chance to guess the picture behind the boxes.
It is important to note that, although the ideas for these powerpoints are my own, I was largely inspired to create such games by other teachers who have shared their ideas. Below are some websites with shared teaching resources that I have found extremely useful during my time as a language assistant:
ISOCollective - https://en.islcollective.com/
This is an amazing website with plenty of free English games and activities that can be used in class. One feature I particularly love is the "Video Lessons", which allow you to add questions or gap fills to any online video, including those from Youtube.
Games to learn English - https://www.gamestolearnenglish.com/
This is a great website filled with games to practice a range of different topics.
Wordwall - https://wordwall.net/
Thank you for reading my final project!
Tongue Twister Challenge with the pronunciations of /G/ with 5A
Discussing the pronunciation of /ch/ to 5B
All credit of original game and its graphics to InnerSloth: https://innersloth.com/gameAmongUs.php
Idea for this game is inspired by the " Picture reveal" game by Teknologic. See their website here: https://tekhnologic.wordpress.com/