A successful phonics program is underway when teachers can distinguish which are the students’ known and unknown letter sounds. Then teachers focus on unfamiliar letter sounds and pass over the rest.
Some English second language students have an ABC advantage over others. Latino students are one example. Spanish and English are similar languages and share many letter sounds. At home, Latino students hear and speak these similar sounds: Ramon, David, R, D, etc. Therefore, language familiarity provides Latino kindergartners from Spanish speaking homes a solid entrance point to the ABCs. But only if this fact is recognized by their teachers.
Today, when Latino kindergartners begin their long journey into phonics, often no prior adequate ABC assessments have taken place. Therefore, it is not always known which English letter sounds are already familiar to Latino students. Teachers are likely to misspend valuable instruction time on already known letter sounds.
Valuable ABC assessment is supported by the type of examples chosen. Currently teachers have one option: traditional English-only picture examples. “B is for BEAR/oso,” is not helpful because its value is delayed until English names are established, possibly as long as three years.
On the contrary, a second unrecognized option is also available. PAN AMERICAN Spanish/English examples, “B is for BICYCLE/bicicleta,” confirm awareness of specific English letter sounds. The phonics program should focus on unknown letter sounds, such as “H” and “W”. Spanish/English examples reveal the students’ awareness of English letter sounds: M is for MAGICIAN/mago, A is for AIRPLANE/avion.
Leisy’s PAN AMERICAN images, “T is for TRAIN/tren,” “T is for TURTLE/tortuga,” etc., reveal a quick path to assessing English letter sounds. PAN AMERICAN examples are a valuable addition to the assessment phase of the phonics program.