Curriculum Corner with Mrs. Gorr
Almost every morning in first grade, we spend time going over the phonograms. A phonogram is a letter or combination of letters that represents a sound. Some of the phonograms are simple. “M” makes just one sound. Others are more complex. “Ou” makes different sounds. Think of how this letter combination sounds different in the words “round,” “soul,” “you,” and “country.” Why do we spend time doing this almost every day?
Just as we want our students to learn and memorize the basic math facts, we want them to learn the basic code of our language. Letters (or letter combinations) represent sounds. These sounds are put together to make words. Once this concept is mastered, reading begins. Memorizing the math facts fully and then applying them in more complex math calculations takes time. Memorizing the phonograms and then applying them while reading does too. A student who is learning the phonograms might not be able to sound out an unfamiliar word correctly right away, but as he or she becomes more familiar with the sounds, this process becomes more automatic. As Leigh Bortins describes in The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, eventually, the goal is for students to “look through the code of symbols right to the abstract meaning and read beyond the squiggles on the page”.
This is exactly what we want our students to do after time and practice. We want them to read poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, free to focus on the meaning behind the words on the page. We want them to be able to delve into the beauty of language. We want them to take these units of sound and internalize them so fully that the world of reading and learning through what they read is open to them.
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