If Children are to learn to read they need to learn how we represent the words in our language in a printed or written form. For this to make sense they need first to ‘hear’ the sounds in our language. That is one of the reasons why the Sounds-write phonics programme is so effective – because it starts with the ‘sounds’ in the language.
Most adults will know that we have 26 ‘letters’ in our alphabet yet we have 44 common sounds. If you think of a letter as a picture of a sound then clearly children need to be able to identify sounds as they hear them – they need to develop auditory discrimination. Until they can identify the sounds they are hearing then then there is little point in trying to teach them to read.
So for pre-schoolers devote time to making sure they can ‘hear’ the sounds in the language – spelling or reading the word ‘cat’ becomes easier when you can identify that the sounds in the word are ‘c’ – ‘a – ‘t’, even if a child can’t write the letter, which is a representation or picture of the sound, if they can hear and say what the sound is that’s a great start.
Yes at some point children will need to know letter names but PLEASE don’t start with these- it just confuses small children. Start simply with the sounds in words.
Start by identifying with children the first sound in a word. You can play loads of games that will help – but REMEMBER it’s the sound NOT the letter.
Find things that begin with the sound ‘s’
snake, slipper, sausage, sand, summer, sun etc
Now lots of other words also begin with the sound ‘s’ like circle and city and cement so if they spot this they are right – the SOUND is ‘s’. You may be thinking in letters but with a small child we want them to listen for sounds – the pictures (letters) we use to spell a sound will be something they will learn later.
You can move onto games like having a tray with objects that begin with ‘s’ and perhaps one that doesn’t and saying the names together and spotting the odd one out.
You can do this with any sound just remember you are thinking about the sound so ‘e’ as in egg and elephant is fine but not eel as that is a different sound – it’s ‘ee’. Try to listen yourself to the sounds you say.
When a child becomes confident with the sounds at the start of a word you can start to identify the sounds at the ends of words. Words ending in a ‘l’ sound for example – try saying a few yourself doll, smell, tell but also apple, table, and petal, as we have different ways of spelling the ‘l’ sound but the sound we SAY is the same.Many of the common sounds in our words have more than one spelling – but here the important thing is just to concentrate on the sounds.
Number of sounds in a word
As children get proficient at the above try seeing if they (with your help initially can hear how many sounds are in a word. They don’t actually need to count them – just identify the separate sounds.
cat, dog, bin, bag, are all 3 sounds but so too are boat, cake, mouse and night, sounds remember NOT letters listen to what you say.
Step, frog, pond and mask all have 4 sounds but so too do please, treat, ghost and bottle.
And for 5 sounds words there are drink, crisp, plant and Tesco but also straight, and scream
Also remember to sound out each sound – its important to identify every sound in the word. So identify each sound especially if there are adjacent consonants, at the beginning or end of words where it can be easy to miss a sound – drink (5 sounds) slump (5 sounds) crisp (5 Sounds) and strict (6 sounds) for example. But don’t move onto these until children are pretty good at identifying the sounds in 3 or 4 sounds words.
If you haven’t done phonics – it can be confusing but try to forget the spellings and don’t visualize the word in your head just get used to hearing the sounds. That really will be a great start for your child and will help them enormously when they come to learn to read.
If you want a bit more to think about – count the number of sounds in ‘enormously’!!
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