Word Wizards is BIS’ phonics and spelling program for students in KG to Grade 5. Word Wizards is split into 2 parts: handwriting and phonics/ spelling. The first 10 minutes of the lesson is for handwriting. KG and Grade 1 focus on print and learning to correctly form letters. Grade 2 and above review print and then moves on to teaching cursive writing. Once cursive is mastered in Grade 2, students are encouraged to use it for all their writing. Teachers explicitly teach how to form letters and give feedback to help make student’s handwriting better. Teaching handwriting helps students have legible writing, improves motor and visual skills and makes sure the letters are formed correctly.
The phonics section of Word Wizards focuses on the 44 sounds of the English language. There are 7 phases that students progress through named after the colors of the rainbow. Each phase has students reading, writing, listening and speaking the specific sounds of the English language. The lower phases focus on the alphabet sounds, reading and writing CVC words like cat, pin and fun. The higher phases look at vowel teams and their alternative sounds. Phases last 6 weeks in length and students are tested at the end of each phase to ensure mastery.
Once students have finished learning the 44sounds in phonics, they move into our newly made spelling program. Here, students learn about spelling patterns by combing sounds, letters and meaning. Students listen to the sounds in each word, discovering the different sound patterns, and the meaning behind these words. This program has 9 phases, starting with plurals and multiple vowel teams reviews going to silent letters and suffixes and ending with Greek and Latin roots. Unlike phonics, students are tested atthe beginning of their spelling journey and will continue throughout the progression until the end. The teacher checks for mastery at the end of each unit.
BIS’ Word Wizards program is explicit, targeted, and structured, which research proves is the best way to teach spelling and phonics. Based on testing, students get the targeted instruction they need to grow and be challenged. Our MAP tests have a whole section on phonics and spelling called Beginning Reading and Writing, which teachers also use to chart growth and provide additional instruction. Our students have come a long way in our Word Wizards program and their success is obvious when you look at how they used to spell and read until now. Teachers have seen improvement in student confidence in sounding out words for spelling words in their writing. For example, a Grade 1 student recently spelled the word ‘fighnalee’ while writing a creative story. Although the spelling is incorrect for this word, this student understands from her phonics classes that the letters ‘igh’ make the long /i/ and that ‘ee’ make the long /e/ sound. These are the spellings that she has learned for those two sounds so it makes sense that she would use those spelling patterns. Phonics classes are giving students the confidence they need to sound out and spell words on their own.
We are very excited for the improvement and growth we have seen in our students reading and writing ability since beginning this program over two years ago. According to research, phonics knowledge is a precursor and strong predictor of reading proficiency. At BIS, we believe that phonics instruction is an essential part of reading instruction because it is when beginning readers learn the relationship between the sounds of the spoken language with the letters they relate to in written language.