Article: FUNdations of Phonics Creates Change in Focus at Stephen Bell

FUNdations of Phonics Creates Change in Focus at Stephen Bell

Posted Thursday, February 9, 2023
Students in Mrs. Beekman's class work on FUNdations

By now, everyone has heard the term reading is FUNdamental. It’s thrown around in an effort to make children focus on the enjoyment of reading. 

But when reading doesn’t come as naturally for some as it does for others, it isn’t fun. In fact, it’s downright frustrating. 

But there’s been a sea change in the last few years. 

The FUNdations program focuses on phonics – one of the five pillars of reading per the Science of Reading. Those five pillars are: Phonics, Phonemic awareness (known to students as Heggerty), vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. 

One of the biggest changes, according to Stephen Bell Elementary Kindergarten teacher Kristine Beekman is what the first focus is. While in the past it started with recognizing the letter and then the sound that goes with it, now it’s sound first. 

Students in Mrs. Beekman's class work on FUNdations“They learn the sound and then you attach the visual of the letter,” Beekman said. “It helps them with the decoding of the words.”

Beekman finds it helpful because of the difference in skill level coming into Kindergarten. 

“Some students already know some of our sight words (also now known as trick words) while others are struggling to identify the letters in their names,” Beekman said. “Most kids are writing words based on sounds.” 

Beekman said she learned about FUNdations before the COVID-19 pandemic and visited other local schools to see how they were using it to instruct their youngest learners in reading. She and a small group of teachers who observed were amazed at what the students were doing. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a stop to instituting the program as quickly as Beekman and the other teachers who were with her would have liked. 

Once teachers were able to participate face-to-face in classrooms again, a few more teachers were able to witness the theory at work, and it was full speed ahead.

Students in Mrs. Beekman's class work on FUNdations“We had a lot of teacher buy-in after they were able to observe it,” Beekman said. While the district is just a few months into using FUNdations, and the success isn’t measurable quite yet, Beekman said she will be interested in the year in review.

But count her amongst the believers. 

“This really makes sure it reaches every child,” Beekman said. “So, any child that might have an issue will be reached. It is a more across-the-board platform. We teach the children based on what their needs are. It really is a much more broad approach.” 

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