Monday, October 1, 2012

Reading Research Monday: Phonics Phones

When students, especially young students, read they often are so focused on decoding words and comprehending what they’ve read that they don’t have a good idea of what they actually sound like when they are reading.  Struggling readers might not know how long it takes them to sound out a word or that the sound they are actually saying out loud isn’t the sound they think they are saying.  One way to help with this issue is by using Phonics Phones (sometimes called Whisper Phones). 

What are they?

Phonics Phones are tubes that are shaped like a telephone receiver, and like a telephone receiver students hold one end to their ear while speaking into the other end.  This shape allows sound of the student reading to travel to their ear and thus students can more directly hear themselves read.

The Research

According to Marygrove College’s Master in the Art of Teaching’s website, phonics phones help students in many ways: 
  1. Phonemic Awareness is built as students hear their own voice
  2. Students can focus on blending, proper sound use, and fluency when reading
  3. Focus and attention on reading (time on-task) is improved.
  4. The noise level of the classroom drops since students must whisper into the phones.
  5. Shy readers can gain confidence reading aloud as they practice and get used to hearing their own voice.
  6. Regardless of a students’ reading level, the phones help build reading fluency.

Right Track Reading also lists similar benefits for phonics phones and also emphasizes that the phones provide privacy for students while also improving focus and attention as they are less likely to be distracted by a neighbor. 

What does this mean for your classroom?

  • Phonics phones can be used as a whole class, in a small group, or at a station.
  • Since the phones offer a quiet and private setting for building phonemic awareness and fluency, teachers can easily differentiate instruction by having students read books that are at an appropriately challenging level for students as individuals.
  • If there are particularly loud readers, these phones will help quiet them.  If a student speaks in a loud or even a normal voice it will funnel right back to his ear.  Almost all students quickly regulate their voices to a soft, comfortable level.
  • Make sure not to single out struggling readers by only have certain students use the phones.  By using stations, small groups, or whole class activities, it helps struggling readers build reading skills and confidence without being detrimental

Where can I get them?

Phonics phones can be purchase from several different sources.  A few are listed here: The CANDL Foundation, Whisper Phones, Amazon.

For a less expensive version, phonics phones can also be made from PVC pipe.  Make, Take, & Teach has easy step-by-step instructions on how to make them for your class.

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