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 Patrick's Phonics L 01 Start Sounds

SUBMITTED BY: Patrick Bickford

Example: B, C, D, J, K, P, Q, T, V, Z


DATE ADDED: Apr 17, 2009


  Small Classes (1-15 Students)ÒLarge Classes (16-39 Students)ÓHuge Classes (40+ Students)Ô


30-50 min.

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BRIEF OUTLINE: This is the first lesson I teach when it comes to phonics. It teaches the students eight alphabet letter sounds by using a mnemonic technique that I have entitled 'Start Sounds'.




  1. First of all, 'Start Sounds' are the alphabet letters that when the letter is spoken slowly, the sound for the letter is found at the start of saying the alphabet letter. For example, when the letter B is said slowly it looks like this: bu.....eeee." (NOTE: Some alphabet letters include more than one sound but I have chosen to only focus on one sound for each of the targeted letters in this lesson.)
  2. To start off the lesson, I write a simple English word on the chalkboard and have the students read it. Then, I launch into a "looks like/sounds like" dialog, which can be seen at the beginning of the video on this page.
  3. I then proceed to show the students where the sound of the letter is located. I like using a student to help me demonstrate this part of the lesson because it keeps the class engaged and because they always get a kick out of this section of the lesson for some reason. I have the volunteer student hold both their hands in a vertical position at shoulder-length distance apart. Sorry, in the video, a student's head is in front of the camera so you can't see this demonstration very well. The area in between the student's hands represent a horizontal timeline from start to finish of saying an alphabet letter. By using my hand and sliding it along the imaginary timeline, I show the letter B being spoken at regular speed. I do this a couple times and finally isolate the B-sound in the timeline and show the students exactly where the sound of B is located. I repeat the exact same process for the letter C.
  4. Then, I get the students to put their hands on their throat and once again repeat the sound of B. I explain to them that if their throat viberates (ぐるぐる) when they say the sound then the sound is 'voiced', and if there is no viberation (つるつる) then the sound is 'voiceless'. I think this is an extremely important part of the lesson considering this highlights a major difference between Japanese and English; the Japanese language doesn't have voiceless sounds. By the way, B is voiced, while C is voiceless.
  5. Once the students understand where the sound is located and the basic understanding between voiced and voiceless, I move onto the rest of the letters while frequently reviewing the sounds previously taught.
  6. After teaching all the sounds and because I feel voiceless sounds are thoroughly understood, have a couple of students come to the chalkboard and mark all four voiceless sounds (C, K, P & T) because I had a feeling the idea of 'voiceless' wasn't sinking into their heads...and as you see in the video,


       I was correct. One student couldn't identify one of the voiceless sounds. After identifying the four voiceless sounds, I briefly practice each of them with the students.

7. Then, I move onto to the showing-off area of the lesson where I race through each of the sounds quickly and then slow the process down and race through the sounds together with the students. However, as fate turned out, my show-off time was a complete flop with constant mistakes.



8. Finally, I hand out the worksheet. The worksheet consists of:

    • FIRST SECTION: I say a sound and the students circle the correct letter of that sound.
    • YAMANOTE LINE GAME: Yamanote is the name of the circular light green train line in the center of Tokyo.
      • The goal of this activity is to ride the train around and around the track by students chanting each of the letters' pronunciation. I first have the students play this game in their 6-person lunch groups, and then together as a class.
      • Start the students off by having them pound two times on their desks followed by a 'fake clap', similar to the rhythm of Queen's We Will Rock You. A 'fake clap' is used because you need complete silence to hear the students say the sounds.
      • The game starts by the class starting a 'pound, pound, fake clap' rhythm.  Count backwards from three and after you reach one, from any given corner of the classroom, a student begins the game by saying the sound of B. Then, it's another 'pound, pound...' and the next student says the next letter's sound. The train continues until a mistake is made. I have the JTE follow the sounds around the class and act as a judge. Also, to avoid the students pre-counting their sound, every time a mistake is made the train starts back at 'start', but play continues from the location of where the mistake was made.
      • Once the students get the hang of the game, I split the class into three teams and insert a batsu (punishment) into the game.  Everytime a mistake is made, that team receives a 'batsu point'. If a team receives 3 batsu points, the game stops and the entire team must do two laps around the track together, while the other teams pounds the rhythm.
      • This game can go for about 10 minutes before it starts losing its luster.
      • 最初の声がない MAZE: Students must find their way through the maze via only voiceless sounds.



          • At first glimpse, the phrase 'Start Sounds' sounds strange but the reason I chose it was because both of the words in the phrase are pretty easy for students who don't have a huge English lexicon to understand what the lesson is about.
          • Most teachers teaching phonics start off by teaching a 'hard-C' sound (cat), but I classify C into a 'soft-C' (rice) because it fits nicely into this particular group of letters.
          • For teachers just starting out teaching phonics, I highly recommend syncing up with your JTE and have a long discussion about what your phonics lesson is going to include.  In my experience, I have gone down the phonics path alone, AND I have gone down the path with a JTE. I have found that even with my mad Japanese skillz, a JTE can express the point of the lesson much more thoroughly than I could.  However, this can only be done if both you are on the same page going into class. Communcation is of the utmost importance you and the JTE because this style of teaching is not commonly seen in the average Japanese classroom.
          • You'll see in the video that I keeo changing how I review each of the voiced sounds. I do this primary to keep the students engaged and laughing. In my experience, laughing creates a healthy learning environment, which help open minds to more easily allow for them to learn something that is not familar to them. To prove this point, if you look at the boy and girl sitting closest to the camera, at the start of the lesson they were talking to each other, but after a couple of minutes into the lesson, they both had stopped whispering to each other and were concentrating on the lesson. Furthermore, by the end of the lesson they were conferring with each other in regards to a question I asked the class.


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