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Units of Study in Phonics, Grade 1

By Lucy Calkins, Natalie Louis, Amanda Hartman, Elizabeth Franco, Kelly Boland Hohne, Havilah Jespersen, Katrina Davino, Jennifer Russo, Celena Dangler Larkey, Sarah Picard Taylor, Dani Sturtz, Christine Holley, Emma Coufal Bemowski, Laurie Pessah, Rebecca Cronin, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project

First-grade phonics is all-important. In this one year, students are expected to make the growth that enables them to go from reading little books comprised of just a few pages to reading early chapter books. In writing, too, there are ambitious expectations—children are asked to go from writing a few lines on a couple of pages to writing books with chapters—filling up multiple lines on a page and organizing their writing into sections. 


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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 the Grade 1 Units

Unit 1: Talking and Thinking About Letters

This unit has big goals. First off, the unit provides cumulative review and reinforcement for key concepts in phonics that students encountered in kindergarten. The unit moves very quickly, as one might expect of a review, and it touches on all the most important phonics concepts from kindergarten: letter names and sounds, short vowels in CVC words, phonograms, blends, and digraphs, and a short list of approximately fifty high-frequency and high-utility words.

Unit 2: The Mystery of the Silent e

Unit 2 challenges children to use phonics workshop as a place to study words closely like a piece of evidence and make discoveries to help them understand how language works. In the first bend, this investigation will focus entirely on CVCe words with the vowel A. Across the first bend, you’ll also introduce a new set of high-frequency words. Bend II asks your detectives investigate CVCe words with a different vowel each day. In Bend III, the focus shifts to looking closely at words and word parts to decode difficult words by breaking them into parts and putting those parts back together.

Unit 3: From Tip to Tail: Reading Across Words

In this unit, you’ll rally kids to read nonfiction closely and thoughtfully. In Bend I, you’ll point out that doing so involves looking all the way across words. In Bend II, you’ll teach kids common phonograms that contain blends and digraphs. Bend III focuses on high-frequency words. It’s helpful for young readers to orient themselves to a page by scanning that page and noting upcoming high-frequency words—and their knowledge of these words can help them read other words by extension. The bend and the unit wrap up with a big celebratory tournament of word games!

Unit 4: Word Builders: Using Vowel Teams to Build Big Words

You’ll launch this unit by introducing the theme of becoming word builders. Using snap cubes with word parts, children will get to work constructing words, and challenge themselves to build longer, bigger words. Alongside your teaching about vowel teams in this first bend, you’ll also introduce a new set of high-frequency words. Bend II tackles a whole different group of vowel teams, ones that need to be explicitly taught. Bend III focuses on less common vowel teams. The unit ends with a celebration where you’ll reveal a big plan to build a whole town made out of words—Vowel Town!

Unit 5: Marvelous Bloopers: Learning Through Wise Mistakes

This unit has been designed to help you teach an assortment of topics that the first grade curriculum hasn’t yet addressed and that deserve attention before the year is over: r-controlled vowels, high frequency words, capitalization… The ellipses in that sentence are important because this unit, like the final unit in kindergarten, is deliberately designed so that it will set you up to continue teaching other assorted topics if you have more time in your school year and if your students are game to learn yet other topics: prefixes, contractions, punctuation.

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