When teaching children to read and spell in the early years, the most effective method, as recommended by every government report for the last decade, is a ‘systematic phonics’ approach combined with blended activities to promote phonological awareness.
If parents are teaching their own children to read, write and spell at home, they can choose a ‘starter set of speech sounds’, for example the sounds chosen in the popular synthetic phonics program Jolly Phonics. These sounds are s, a, t, i, p and n, and children are taught to hear speech sounds in words and to recognize these ‘speech sound pictures’ as a way of representing this speech sound. For example, that ‘s’ is a sound image for the speech sound ‘sss’ (there are 8)
Why start with this particular group of speech sounds? This is because the word ‘sat’, for example, can be ‘pronounced’ for reading as well as spelling, allowing children to quickly learn to read, write and spell words using only those letters, for example tan , tin, pan, pat, sit, sat. , in in. With the introduction of a few ‘hard’ words, children can read, write and spell complete sentences in no time, eg I, was, the. Readers can be made so that children actually ‘read’ picture books. Many are available online for free to non-profit organizations such as Fantastic Phonics and SPELD SA.
When parents know what their children need to know before moving on to learn new sound images (letter sounds), the following list can help them, like a “checklist”. By using this checklist, parents can ensure that the child has understood the important concepts and can demonstrate the skills required for early acquisition of reading and spelling, i.e. code knowledge, blending, segmentation, and phoneme manipulation.
When children can decode a word, they can begin to learn its meaning. Fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary come after decoding. If a child cannot figure out the word (ie read the word) she cannot begin to understand it within sentences. If she can’t hear speech sounds, she can’t encode (spell new words) easily. So parents should focus first on teaching children how to decode, and then expand their teaching to include fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. However, as you can see from the list below, this can happen very quickly, and these additional skills (fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) will be incorporated into instruction along with phonics and phonemic awareness training.
At the end of the initial speech sound group, the children should be;
* ‘hear’ speech sounds in words – beginning, middle end
* recognize printed sound images and know which speech sound they correspond to.
* form letters correctly (this is possibly less important than the other concepts, before they start school as they can ‘spell’ words and form sentences using magnetic letters etc.)
* match the sounds of speech orally into words, and as they ‘read’ the sound images into words on paper (knowing they do so from left to right)
* ‘read’ words by decoding the sound images from left to right and combining the sounds into words, also exploring what the word means and how we use it in our language.
* ‘spell words by hearing the speech sounds in order – and (next step) knowing how to order/combine them on paper (using letters and also forming the letters themselves – you can use a pencil and also the keyboard with lowercase letters)
* ‘read’ the words (sat, it, at, in, pin, tin, sit, pat, nip, spin, tan, etc.) and then understand the meaning of the word and the sentence if the words are written inside a sentence (and in this case knowing that we read the words from left to right)
* learn some ‘tricky’ words, eg ‘I’ ‘was’ ‘the’ – to recognize as sight words
They will also be able to read sentences, using online decodable readers with these sound sets (also initial sound set in Jolly Phonics).
If they are ready, they can move on to digraphs, learning that 2 or more sounds can make a new sound (s, h and sh- 3 sounds) You can use bold text to show children where the ‘chunks’ are in words- or ‘Sound Pictures’. So the store would be shown to have 3 sounds and 3 sound images: sh+o+p.
After the first set of speech sound pictures, children can go on to learn that sounds in our spoken language can be represented in a variety of ways (f could be ff as in gruff, ph as in phone, etc.)
And that some sounds on paper can represent more than one sound in our language -ay- like cow or trailer.
Parents should focus heavily on speech sounds at first to develop phonological awareness, rather than print. When we start with what children can do, that is, talk, then it is easier for them to understand how to crack the code. When they are encouraged to listen to speech sounds in words and to know where they are placed, it is easier for children to learn that there are ‘sound pictures’ that are simply pictures of speech sounds. So ‘s’ is simply a paper representation of the sound ‘s’, and so they can be called ‘sound pictures’ to make it easier for children to understand the concept. Even from a young age, children can learn to hear how many sounds are in words, even if they have not been presented with the picture yet. For example, hearing that ‘ship’ has 3 voice sounds and would therefore have 3 voice sound images. Then I would draw 3 lines on paper and kids can figure out which sound image is on which line to build the word.
Teaching your child to read and spell early is one of the best gifts you can give your child. It should be fun and help develop a love of learning and words. The Reading Whisperer is often heard telling parents, “Being able to read and spell even before they start school will give them greater self-confidence, and they can start ‘reading to learn’ much earlier than most children.” other children, who are still ‘learning to read'”.
What parent wouldn’t want that for their child?