I finally have some video from my classes I can put up here, thanks to Patrick. Here is a clip from an oral spelling drill. This isn’t rote memorization. None of the words I ask the students to spell have been previously taught; they have to use phonics rules to figure out how to spell them. I accept any phonetically equivalent spellings, since there’s no possible way for students to differentiate between them. In other words, “pound” and “pownd” would both be considered to be equivalent responses, as would “gait” and “gate”, “carpet” and “karpet”, “staff” and “staph”, etc… In my opinion, these drills are one of the main reasons my students at First Step have so much better pronunciation and so much better of a handle on phonics in general than my students at Tomcat did. It just isn’t possible for kids to make it through this curriculum and not be able to hear the difference between words like “special” and “spatial”, or “hit” and “heat”.
This class had studied at my school for a total of 4 hours per week for 5 months at the time this video was taken. On the first day of class most students couldn’t understand, “How are you?”, or tell the difference between E and A sounds. On the very first day, we did a spelling drill on words composed of only short A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and T’s. Less than one third of the students’ answers were correct. In contrast, at the time of this video, the words they could be quizzed on included all of the letters of the alphabet, long and short vowel sounds, including “oo”, “ow/ou” sounds, “th” (voiced and unvoiced), “ch”, and “sh”. At the time of this spelling drill, the students were expected to know our school’s first 22 phonics rules.