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Units of Study in Phonics, Grade K

By Lucy Calkins, Natalie Louis, Amanda Hartman, Rachel Rothman-Perkins, Rebecca Cronin, Allyse Bader, Angela Báez, Katherine Wears, Casey Maxwell, Valerie Geschwind, Sarah Picard Taylor, Christine Holley, Emma Coufal Bemowski, Laurie Pessah, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project

Although human beings don't experience the metamorphosis that characterizes the life of a caterpillar, the transformation that happens during kindergarten is no less astonishing. Many of your children start their year holding books upside down and backwards and making letters look like squiggles, and then end the year reading and writing for their own important purposes. Phonics instruction is at the center of this transformation.


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The UOS Phonics Series

Full Description

About the Series

The Units of Study in Phonics:

  • provide an instructional pathway in phonics that is realistic and doable, and that taps into kids’ skills and energy for tackling the fabulous challenge of learning to read and write
  • introduce high-leverage phonics concepts and strategies in a way that keeps pace with students’ reading and writing and helps them understand when, how, and why they can use phonics to read and write
  • offer delightfully fun and engaging storylines, classroom mascots, songs, chants, rhymes, and games to help students fall head over heels in love with phonics and to create a joyous community of learners
  • align with state-of-the-art reading and writing workshops for a coherent approach in which terminology, tools, rituals, and methods are shared in ways that benefit both teachers and kids

Overview of Grade K Units

Unit 1: Making Friends with Letters

Over the course of this unit, you’ll immerse your children in letters and sounds, rhyme and word play. Your kids will grow in leaps and bounds. This unit supports a variation of Patricia Cunningham’s beloved “Star Names” unit. On almost every day throughout the unit, the class will study another name. You’ll use your children’s names, and the letters in those names, to teach phonics concepts. Over the course of the unit you will build a name wall which will eventually contain all of the names in your class.

Unit 2: Word Scientists

In this unit, you will focus on letter knowledge and letter-sound correspondence, phonological awareness, and high-frequency words. You’ll work with kids to study the alphabet chart, to use the alphabet to write, and to study and use high-frequency words to read and write. In each bend, you’ll introduce songs, games, poems, and nursery rhymes that you’ll revisit again and again to support phonemic awareness and early reading concepts.

Unit 3: Word-Part Power

You’ll start this unit with a bend that help all your students make that giant step from writing labels to writing sentences. In Bend II, kids learn to use word-part power to grasp the power of phonograms. We also introduce the word wall to support kids in learning a growing number of high-frequency words. In Bend III, students learn that the words at, in, it, and an have word power and can be made into lots of other words. We introduce digraphs (sh, th, wh, ch) and use them with word parts to make even more words.

Unit 4: Vowel Power

At the start of this unit, we add a new super power: vowel power! You will introduce new high-frequency words, am and did, that further students’ study of short A and short I. As the first bend gives way to the second bend, you’ll continue the puzzling work of distinguishing short-vowel sounds from one another. In the third bend, students will study vowels in words that are longer than CVC words. You’ll teach children how knowledge of CVC words is foundational to writing any words they choose.

Unit 5: Playing with Phonics

This unit is designed to be whimsical, experimental, joyful and most of all, fun, as students are introduced to blends and think about not only what sounds letters make, but the instances in which those sounds are changed, muted, or manipulated by neighboring letters. This unit challenges students to to tackle longer words and to begin thinking about the sounds that they hear in word parts or phonograms. The unit culminates with phonics projects that draw on all the phonics work children have engaged in during their kindergarten year.

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