Phonics for the kinesthetic. This program was originally developed by a special education teacher to help struggling readers better grasp phonics through tactile manipulation. She found that, rather than dealing with symbols of sounds on a board, children who could physically move letters were better able to assimilate the sound-symbol association. Children could "build" their own words, then self-check by touching and sounding letters and clusters, easily rearranging them as needed to correct. Since then, the program has been tested and proven successful with both learning disabled and non-disabled students. Particularly beneficial for children who learn best by doing, the system incorporates visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile elements.
The general principles imparted to students of this program are: words are made of separate parts; each part has its own sound; these sounds are blended together to form words; parts of the words can be substituted to make new sounds. This is accomplished by reinforcing the solid phonics instruction with an emphasis on word structure. Word patterns are conveyed both explicitly through instruction and intuitively through the color-coding of the touch units. As students gain familiarity with these common structural patterns and become proficient at letter-by-letter decoding throughout the program, they are able to transfer this knowledge to new words, increasing their ability to both read and construct them at a faster pace.
Instruction scope and sequence is: short vowels, consonant digraphs, initial consonant blends, final consonant blends, silent letters, long vowels, vowels + ck and ke, open syllable with silent e, vowel + ce and ge, r controlled vowels, vowel combinations, compound words, contractions, open and closed syllables, syllables with le, suffixes, inflections and comparison suffixes, prefixes with meanings, borrowed sounds. You may have noticed the omission of single consonant sounds. These are covered in a warm-up section preceding the first lesson. It provides sketchy instruction for teaching individual letter sounds. This is fine if you have done some early instruction with your child. If not, an appendix entitled “Prereading Activities” contains suggestions that nicely round out the instruction. If you feel you need more ideas or a more letter-by-letter program with worksheets, see the Alphabet category in our Early Learning section for several excellent resources.
There are 59 lessons in the Touchphonics Teacher’s Guide and Resource Book. Each begins with phonemic awareness, the aural introduction of a new phonogram. A phonics “mini-lesson”, linking sounds to letters, comes next. This involves tracing touch-units and repeating sounds in words formed on a whiteboard. Word building by the teacher follows, again using touch-units (this step omitted in review lessons). Next, it’s the student’s turn to word-build using touch-units then to record these words in his workbook. He then reads the recorded words before completing correlating phonics activities in the workbook. After this, your child will write from a dictated sentence that includes words with the target sounds and patterns. Next, you review recently learned skills and build additional words that will be found in the correlating reader. Any sight words that need to be learned for the reading will also be introduced or reviewed. Now your child is prepared to read the reader. Afterwards, she will respond to the reading by completing an activity in the workbook; often this is drawing a picture relating to the story and writing words or sentences to accompany it. Using this presentation, each lesson incorporates phonemic awareness, word building, dictation, spelling, vocabulary, reading in context, and reading comprehension into each lesson. A really great bonus of this program is the inclusion of supplementary word lists at the end of each section (see table of contents on website). These supply additional words, grouped within list by pattern, so you can augment the instruction in individual lessons as desired. I would use them as daily spelling words; they will save you much time in preparing correlating lists and trying to find a spelling program that would reinforce your phonics lessons. You can also use alongside each daily lesson to provide additional vocabulary or word-building activities.
Also worthy of note is a small section preceding the lessons entitled, “Extended Techniques for Building Words.” This includes several good ideas for “changing up” the usual process of word-building in the lessons lest it become stale. The appendices also contain suggestions for extending or enhancing the lessons, including Pre-reading Activities (besides the already-mentioned letter names and consonant sounds ideas, these include sections on Book Conventions and Learning About Stories), Phonemic Awareness Activities (games and ideas for working with rhyme, sound matching, sound/syllable segmentation, finger/syllable counting, word sorts, songs, poetry, stories, and using mirrors), and Additional Word Activities (short games to play and manipulatives to make). These provide extra practice and reinforcement where needed. Also included in the rear of the teacher’s book are assessments. The Consonant Inventory tests your child’s knowledge of letter names and sounds prior to using the lessons. The Diagnostic Inventory can be used prescriptively (to identify which phonemes or graphemes you need to teach) or for post-testing.
At the heart of Touchphonics is the set of rubber-crepe Touch-Units. These are color-coded according to type: yellow for consonants and consonant digraphs; red for vowels and vowel combinations; yellow and red for r-controlled vowels; blue and green for consonant blends; white for silent letters; brown for borrowed (spellings taken from other languages) sounds, schwa, and punctuation marks; orange for prefixes; purple for suffixes. The set contains 203 touch-units in all. Each unit has a textured side and smooth side to both provide tactile stimulation and help children self-correct letter reversals. Other core components include the Teacher’s Guide and Resource Book, the Workbook, and two sets of Decodable Readers. The Workbook contains three student pages for each Touchphonics lesson. The first is an activity page with matching, circling, or fill-in-the blank exercise. The second is a word-building page, used to record built words. The third is a reading-response page to complete following the reading for the lesson. Decodable readers correlate to the particular phoneme taught in each lesson (there is one reader per lesson, divided into two reader sets). Volume 1 skills include short vowels, vowel-consonant patterns, CVC patterns, consonant digraphs, initial and final consonant blends, silent letters, long and r-controlled vowels. Volume 2 includes vowel combinations; compound words; contractions; open, closed, and –le syllables; suffixes; prefixes; and borrowed sounds. Also available are: a small whiteboard designed specifically for this program, with marked areas to manipulate, finalize, and write words during word-building activities; a storage center to help organize the touch-units for easier management and retrieval of specific touch-units. The hard, plastic case is 20”L x 6 3/8”W x 15 13/16”H and has 64 drawers. It looks much like those you find in hardware stores to keep nuts, bolts, and nails in. Guaranteed for life against cracking and breakage. Please note that the unit no longer includes the drawer labels and organization sheets; these are now available separately but are free. Organization sheet includes care and cleaning instructions for the Touch-units and a suggested by-drawer storage plan.
Touchphonics may be used as basal instruction or as a supplement to another program, especially to provide an additional, tactile component. If used as a supplement, precede your usual phonics instruction with the correlating Touchphonics lesson to provide the concrete, kinesthetic component first, before traditional pencil-and-paper work.