The core of my classical instruction methods has always been the phonics program I learned when I taught my son to read in 4th grade. The Orton-Gillingham phonics program works on the basis that in English there are specific letters and pairs or groups of letters that make just about all the English spelling patterns. If the student masters these, they will be able to decode text.
When I got my first grade class into the classroom this year, I assumed that they would know at least the “first 26” phonograms — that would be the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. But many did not know these, and some were struggling with the phonetic principle itself. The modern educational theory for correction of this problem would be teaching the letters one letter, one day at a time, or even one letter, one week at a time. That’s just not going to fix the problem soon enough! Teach all 26 phonograms daily right away and in about 2 weeks some of your students will begin reading, and by the end of 2 months some will have gone close to a year in reading ability.
To perform this whole class intervention, years ago I created a powerpoint with each phonogram presented in sequence. The class sits on the carpet, the teacher shows the PowerPoint on the smart board or projector, tells the students to look at the letter in green, and speaks the sounds the letter makes, indicated on the left column below the letter. The class then repeats the sounds. Words which are examples of the sound are presented in the right column. This drill is performed perhaps two or three times, for about 5 minutes, every day.
You can download the first 26 letter powerpoint for free on my teachers pay teachers store here. (Note: I just removed the direct download link from the original post below and put in the link to Teachers Pay Teachers today, 12-30-16) Since I started the drill two weeks ago I have noted several students beginning to read on their own spontaneously. I expect to see the rest of the class move into the group of “readers” as the weeks go one, some more quickly than others — but with the right instruction, every child in the regular education classroom can and should read in first grade.