11 December, 2012

My child knows single sounds - What do I do next ?

(Picture courtesy : eduzone.co.uk via Google)

I’m trying (keyword : trying) to put together a series of thought processes on teaching phonics.  That is to say - simple phonics that can be taught at home.  However, I have to mention here that it would be a very good idea to go through the post altogether, make sure you are confident with the sounds first before even trying it with your kids. 
Once kids are familiar with the single letter sounds, what I normally do is revise the single letter sounds over and over again until it is firmly cemented in them.  Like I said in my earlier post, use simple games to do this.  You could set aside five minutes in a day to drill the sounds – meaning you say the sound and the child repeats. 
Once the single sounds are done, the logical step is to move towards sound blends – that is – blending two consonants together (not vowels, blending always begins with consonant sounds).  What I found in the process of teaching is that after Stage One (learning single sounds), it is imperative that the single sounds be revised as vowels and consonants separately.  Especially the five short vowel sounds. 

Consonant Sounds
/b/ in bat
/k/ in kite
/s/ in sun
/k/ in cat
/l/ in lip
/t/ in top
/d/ in dog
/m/ in map
/v/ in van
/f/ in fan
/n/ in nest
/w/ in wig
/g/ in goat
/p/ in pig
/ks/ in fox
/h/ in hat
/kw/ in queen
/y/ in yell
/j/ in jam
/r/ in rat
/z/ in zip

(Both of the above tables are from www.nrrf.org which lists the author as Sandra Elam.)
I emphasize on the five vowel sounds first.  Isolate the five vowel sounds and drill these separately.  It may seem like an unnecessary waste of time but trust me, the number of mistakes that I see committed with just these five basic sounds, is nothing short of jaw dropping.  Even at Primary Six level, it is distressing to see students struggle to make sense of words because they make mistakes in the pronunciation of the basic vowel sounds.
One good way to help children remember the five basic short vowel sounds is to draw their attention to the shape of the mouth.  Stand in front of a mirror and watch your mouth as you yourself say these sounds. 
When we say the /a/ sound as in /apple/ – the short vowel A sound, our mouths are open wide.  Now try saying the /e/ sound as in /elephant/.  Your mouth should have stretched wide – slightly open but stretched wide towards the sides instead of wide open.  Now the /o/ sound as in /orange/ - mouth is wide open but not as wide open as the /a/ sound.  Now the /i/ sound as in /igloo/.  Again, the shape of your mouth as you say the short vowel /i/ sound is different.  Last comes the /u/ sound as in /umbrella/.  This is more like a “uh” sound that one makes when one gasps in disbelief.
It does help to make a rough drawing of a face with attention to the shape of the mouth in relation to the vowel sound being uttered.  Once children grasp this concept, even as you open your mouth, without any sound being emitted, children can tell you which short vowel sound you’re trying to sound out – just by looking at the shape of your mouth.  I am not kidding here when I say this works.  It does !!  I speak from personal experience !
Once you’re done with the five short vowel sounds, run the single consonant sounds separately.  But do remember, not to drill these sounds for more than fifteen minutes  a day.  With the very little ones, it is important to remember that their attention spans are very short and if we try and cram too  much into those short spans of time, we end up pushing more data out of those little minds than get data in.  Drilling sounds too much is an ideal way to make the kids lose interest in learning the sounds.  So, little baby steps and tread very softly and carefully. 
After my earlier post on phonics, couple of my friends had mentioned that their kids are learning to string words phonetically by learning the sounds first and that they are trying to string any set of alphabets together.  This is pretty much normal when children learn to read phonetically rather than memorising words pretty much like the basic sight words.  In sight words, a word is pretty much like a picture.  There is no phonetics involved in decoding such words.  For that matter, there is no decoding.  It is like looking at a picture of an elephant and saying “elephant”.  One does not go into the phonetic equivalent of each and every letter that goes into making up the word “elephant”.  Once children learn that a word is nothing but a string of letter sounds put together, they pretty much try and decode any set of sounds that they come across. 
Do remember, if there’s one thing that phonics demands in huge quantities – it is patience, patience and more patience.  In fact, I always say approach phonics with a whole container load of patience at your disposal J.  Yes, it does take that amount of patience and then some.
But what is important is to remember that these sounds have to be drilled everyday for atleast five days a week.  Work on phonetic sounds regularly because what is important is consistency of practice.  Doing 15 minutes of phonics every day would definitely be more effective than doing 2 hours of phonics at a stretch on the same day.

1 voice(s) said so:

ßiju said...

Very informative. I should prepare myself for my 2 month old when she grows older. Happy blogging.