07 December, 2012

We have names, letters have sounds

(pic courtesy : aspullchurch.wigan.school.uk via Google)
My tryst with phonics started long before I officially (I mean qualifications wise and all that) became a member of the teaching profession.  I started to get hugely interested in phonics when I taught both Macadamia and Pecan the basic reading skills at home.  For Macadamia, it was around the time she started Primary One but I did encounter quite a bit of resistance from her because immersion into phonics takes effort and as kids grow, the amount of time and effort into what seems like a kiddy thing to do, is inversely proportional.
With Pecan, I started doing phonics at home when he was in kindergarten.  Now, they do teach the alphabet at kindergarten level and that’s the way schools in India used to work when we were kids.  The letter A is the letter A.  The teacher would drone “A for Apple, B for Ball” and so on and so forth. 
This is where phonics comes into play.  Phonics begins with getting the concept across to children that every letter, every alphabet has a sound.  The way I explain it to the Primary Ones (and I do find they understand much faster) is to say – we have names and letters have sounds.  I cannot call myself Amanda and I cannot call you Ms. Gauri.  We have OUR OWN names.  Just the same, we cannot say “b” for the letter A or “a” for the letter B. 
Once it is established in their little minds that each letter has its own sound, it’s time to slowly immerse them into the world of phonics.  The keyword here is “slowly”.   Given too much of input all of a sudden, they would just get freaked.  Depending on the level of the kids I’m working with, I usually take about 5 letters (max) at one go.  At this stage it is once again important to make it clear that “A” is the letter and that “ah”(that’s how it sounds phonetically) is the sound that we associate with that letter.  
Once you’re through teaching the kids sounds of all the alphabets, there  is an activity that kids love.  It’s called the Action Alphabet.  This can be done with two kids, a whole bunch of them or a classroom full of kids.  In this case, more the merrier.  For that matter, Action Alphabet can be taught in bits too - five sounds at a time, five actions at a time.
It’s a fast beat that goes something like
A says “ah ah ankle”
B says “b b back”
C says “c c come”
Likewise, each alphabet has a reference word and each of those words has an action.  Here’s the YouTube link to the action alphabet. 
We do this regularly with our Primary One classes and the kids love it.  The main aim of the activity is to cement in the relationship between an alphabet and its sound – the first and in my honest opinion, the most integral step that kids need to take towards being able to read later on.  This is the basic foundation and it has to be laid in really strong before even going onto the next step.
Once I started these basic phonics with Macadamia and Pecan, the world of phonics began to get more and more fascinating with each step we took into it, together.
Another good way to get kids into the letter sound association is to play simple phonics games with them. 
One could do paper craft as in a letter caterpillar – give them a caterpillar template and a bunch of colour pencils or crayons – give them the sound of the letter you want them to colour “colour ah pink” and they have to decode that and colour the letter A pink.  Alphabet caterpillar templates are available on the internet.
Write the alphabets down on small squares of paper, tac them up with some blue tac anywhere – wall/floor.  Remember that hammer (the one which makes a boingy noise when hit) you had bought from Toys R Us a long time back – the one that’s lying unused somewhere in the house – well, now would be a good time to put that to use.  Give the tots the hammer.  Call out the letter sounds and let them go “hit” the matching letter.  I do this a lot with the kids at school and it never goes out of vogue.  They love doing this and without them being made aware of the fact that they are learning – they learn and how !!!  
There are scores of other initial phonics games – online and ones that we could just do at home with the kids.  Let your imagination rip but the only thing to remember here is not to aim too high as at this point.  It is important to take things at their pace and not what we think should be their pace.  There is a lot of difference between the two.  Make it fun and learn, they will.
I cannot think of a more fitting way to end this post than with a quote from the movie Bee Season.  Eliza says in the movie " My father told me once that words and letters hold the secrets of the universe."

(Coming up soon in another post The next step :  Where to go next, What to do once a child is familiar with letters and their sounds ?)

4 voice(s) said so:

Sirisha said...

Thank you Thank you so much,.. I wanted to start with phonetics..
My two year old tries now to say things like a a apple b b ball .. funnily sometimes she says it wrong like p p house.. but she is getting there.
Your posts will be helpful to me :)

Archana Doshi said...

hmmhmmm english I tell you is a funny language and when my kids question me on word pronunciationa, all I tell them is hey..it is phony you know :)

Aparna said...

I am a big Phonics fan too :). Both my kids learnt in this manner, and though I was a bit taken aback initially at needing to learn a new "language" myself, I embraced it completely and had a lot of fun :) !!

Nice to see a detailed post for someone wanting to start on it for young kids, makes it very approachable.

Swathika said...

It was a youtube video that let my son get into the phonic sounds. He s too young but he can relate...cos when I ask him A for...he says ammamma...P for Paati....D for Dada....I dont know how he picked it up...but he gets the idea!
I dont know if he is doing consciously or if its already embedded in him but it makes me a happy mom...I'll follow you to read your post on the phonics! I have a lot to learn!