Activities for Mastering Phonics Skills

The Importance of Mastering Phonics

In our last post we discussed phonemic awareness and it’s critical importance to learning how to read. This week we will discuss phonics, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as, “a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.” So, phonics further builds upon the foundation of phonemic awareness. Once your little one begins to correlate letters with sounds, they will begin building an important foundation for reading! Today Red Apple Reading shares several activities that will help your kiddo become a phonics master!

 

 

Beginning Activities

  • Practice letters with pictures:  Use letters with pictures that contain the letter sound to demonstrate sounds to your child. For example, show your child a flash card with a picture of a dog on it next to the letter d, and say the word “dog” out loud, emphasizing the /d/ sound.
  • Point out letters:  Point out letters within words in books, around the house, on signs, and so on, and explain the sounds those letters are making within the words. This phonics I-Spy bottle from The Imagination Tree is a fun way to sharpen this skill!
  • Introduce your child to phonics-related online media:  Let your child watch videos that demonstrate letter-sound relationships, and introduce your child to interactive phonics activities. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to sign up for your free 14 day trial of Red Apple Reading.

Intermediate Activities

Once your child becomes more comfortable with the sounds that letters make, it’s time to help her connect the letter-sounds into words. Some of the best words to start with are CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. These are phonetically regular words (words you can sound out, as opposed to words that include silent or unusually pronounced letters) like “mat,” “big,” and “get”.

  • Buy or create CVC word puzzles: Find a commercially produced product, or simply create your own puzzle by writing out a CVC word and then dividing it into separate letters. Puzzles that include a picture of the word can help children connect the word and the letters to meaning. This cute nuts and bolts activity from No Time for Flashcards not only helps your kiddos with their CVC words, but it also develops their fine motor skills!
  • Make a Letter Wall: Designate a spot in your home—perhaps the refrigerator door, or a bulletin board—and make it into a letter wall. Place magnetic or adhesive letters on the wall, and let your child create his or her own CVC words by moving the letters around. Check out No Time for Flashcards’ spin on this idea using a cookie sheet and letter magnets.
  •  Play writing games: If your child has begun to write some letters, you can begin to let him practice encoding (i.e. using knowledge of letters and letter sounds to write words). Play guessing games such as asking your child to write the letter that comes at the beginning of the word “bed.”

Advanced Activities

As your child’s developing reading skills continue to grow, you can build on these activities to include more advanced objectives. You can use many of the same resources as before such as flash cards, online activities, puzzles, but expand the material to include new and more complex aspects of phonological awareness:

  • Digraph and blend activities: Digraphs are two or more letters grouped together but making a single sound, for example “th” and “ch.” Blends are two or more consonants grouped together but making separate sounds, for example “br” and “gl.” There are several activities your child can do to practice recognizing digraphs and blends. Download this free, adorable diagraph activity from Make, Take, and Teach!
  • Blending and substitution games: Once a child can comfortably blend the letters “c” “a” “t” into “cat,” you can progress to more complicated words. For example, give your child the letters “f” “r” “o” “g” and let him or her practice blending those letters into a word. You can also introduce substitution activities, for example asking, “What happens when you take away the ‘r’ in “frog?”
  • Segmenting activities: Working in the opposite direction as the blending activities,   you can have your child start with a whole word, such as “block,” and break it into pieces. You can use the pieces to make a puzzle, or a flipbook with “-ock” at the end, or create a list of rhyming words (sock, rock, dock).

We hope these ideas will be helpful as you help your little one work on her phonics! Leave us a comment telling about your favorite phonics activity!

Phonemic Awareness: A Foundation for Reading

Phonemic Awareness: A Foundation For Reading - Red Apple ReadingRed Apple Reading is committed to children’s literacy! Here we will explore the importance of phonemic awareness as a foundation for reading. You probably already understand the concept even if you don’t immediately recognize the name. Now for the definition:

Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand how the spoken word is made up of individual units of sound, and how manipulating these sound units changes the meaning of words.

Why is Phonemic Awareness Important?

Why does a frequent portion of my kindergarten child’s homework involve me asking what sound he hears at the beginning of the word pat, cat, and bat? Does it really matter if he knows that the sound in the middle of the word, pot is short O? Yes it does! According to the International Literacy Association, “Research has shown that a child’s awareness of the sounds of spoken words is a strong predictor of his or her later success in learning to read.” Because phonemic awareness plays such an important foundational role in your kiddo’s ability to read, it’s important to help your little one develop this skill.

How Can I Help Improve My Child’s Phonemic Awareness?

Segmenting, blending, rhyming and identifying sounds are just a few ways you can help your child improve her phonemic awareness.

  • Segmenting – Breaking words down into their individual sounds. For example, you can ask your child to break the word dog into its individual sounds – /d/ /o/ /g/.
  • Blending – This is pretty much the opposite of segmenting. Try asking your kiddo to blend the sounds, /c/ /a/ /t/ together. Cat, of course, is the word she should make.
  • Rhyming – Reading books with lots of rhyming words is a great way to build phonemic awareness in kids. You could also ask your child if two words rhyme. They can give a thumbs up if they do rhyme and thumbs down if they don’t!
  • Identifying Sounds – Ask your kid what sound he hears at the beginning of the word pot, or what’s the last sound he hears in the word pig. You can do this with all kinds of different words.

Mastering phonemic awareness is foundational to becoming a strong reader. Want more ideas on increasing your little one’s phonemic awareness? Check out these excellent resources!

  • Kids Activities Blog: Have some phonemic awareness fun with these great activities using alphabet sound tubs!
  • Imagination Soup: Discover 5 ways to play with sounds in words using picture cards.
  • Fun-A-Day: This series of posts on teaching kids about rhyming is a valuable resource for teaching phonemic awareness
  • Red Apple Reading: This informative YouTube video gives a brief explanation of phonemic awareness, and how you can help your kid improve his.

 

Mastering Phonics Skills – Reading Essentials #18

In this installment of the fundamental reading skills series, we’ll be focusing on phonics. Phonics is the relationship between a letter and its sound. For example, the letter “d” makes the /d/ sound when spoken out loud. Individual letter sounds, as well as some sounds resulting from combinations of letters such as “ch” and “sh,” are called phonemes.

Phonics gives beginning readers the strategies they need to sound out words, so their reading can become automatic. Once a child reads without constantly struggling to figure out each word, real understanding (and enjoyment!) of the reading can take place. Here are some ideas for bolstering your child’s phonics skills:

Beginner Activities

  • Practice letters with pictures:  Use letters with pictures that contain the letter sound to demonstrate sounds to your child. For example, show your child a flash card with a picture of a dog on it next to the letter d, and say the word “dog” out loud, emphasizing the /d/ sound.
  • Point out letters:  Point out letters within words in books, around the house, on signs, and so on, and explain the sounds those letters are making within the words.
  • Introduce your child to phonics-related online media:  Let your child watch videos that demonstrate letter-sound relationships, and introduce your child to interactive phonics activities.

Mastering Phonics Skills

Intermediate Activities
As your child becomes more comfortable with the sounds that letters make, you can begin to help your child connect the letter-sounds into words. Some of the best words to start with are short, phonetically regular words (that is, words you can sound out, as opposed to words that include silent or unusually pronounced letters, like the word “thought”).

Many of the easiest beginning words are CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant words). Examples are “mat,” “big,” and “get,” which are phonetically regular, short CVC words comprised of phonemes that are easy to identify. To give your child practice with CVC words, you can:

  • Buy or create CVC word puzzles: Find a commercially produced product, or simply create your own puzzle by writing out a CVC word and then dividing it into separate letters. Puzzles that include a picture of the word can help children connect the word and the letters to meaning.
  • Buy or create a CVC flipbook: Again, commercially produced products are available, but you can also make your own. Simply write out the last two letters of a CVC word—for example, “-at”— and then add a stack of letters at the front of the word, for example “m,” “b,” “c,” “r.” Your child can then practice creating different words by keeping the “-at” sound at the end of the word the same, and varying the beginning sounds to form the words “mat,” “bat,” “cat,” and “rat.”
  • Make a Letter Wall: Designate a spot in your home—perhaps the refrigerator door, or a bulletin board—and make it into a letter wall. Place magnetic or adhesive letters on the wall, and let your child create his or her own CVC words by moving the letters around.
  •  Play writing games: If your child has begun to write some letters, you can begin to offer him practice with encoding (i.e. using knowledge of letters and letter sounds to write words). Play guessing games such as asking your child to write the letter that comes at the beginning of the word “bed.”

Advanced Activities
As your child’s developing reading skills continue to grow, you can build on these activities to include more advanced objectives. You can use many of the same resources as before such as flash cards, online activities, puzzles, but expand the material to include new and more complex aspects of phonological awareness:

  • Digraph and blend activities: Digraphs are two or more letters grouped together but making a single sound, for example “th” and “ch.” Blends are two or more consonants grouped together but making separate sounds, for example “br” and “gl.” You can let your child practice with recognizing digraphs and blends through activities involving flashcards, puzzles, online games and media, and by pointing them out in text.
  • Blending and substitution games: Once a child can comfortably blend the letters “c” “a” “t” into “cat,” you can progress to more complicated words. For example, give your child the letters “f” “r” “o” “g” and let him or her practice blending those letters into a word. You can also introduce substitution activities, for example asking, “What happens when you take away the ‘r’ in “frog?”
  • Segmenting activities: Working in the opposite direction as the blending activities, you can have your child start with a whole word, such as “block,” and break it into pieces. You can use the pieces to make a puzzle, or a flipbook with “-ock” at the end, or create a list of rhyming words (sock, rock, dock).

Once your child has mastered phonics, you can rest assured that reading is just around the corner! That means it’s time to move on to the next essential reading skill—vocabulary. We’ll be discussing this skill in more detail in our next Reading Essentials post! In the meantime, you can check out more fun phonics activities here, and be sure to let us know which strategies are working best for your child. Best of luck and happy reading!

Phonics vs. Whole-Language Learning: Why Not Both? – Reading Essentials #13

Phonics vs. Whole Language Learning: Why Not Both?Educators have long debated whether phonics-based or whole language-based instruction leads to the most effective reading instruction.

Those who argue for a phonics-based “bottom up” approach point to the importance of auditory skills and phonological awareness in reading development. Knowing basic phonetic rules helps children learn to sound out words they might otherwise not know.

Those in favor of whole language, or a “top down” approach, see phonics instruction as perhaps slowing the process down, and argue that beginning readers should focus on meaning and vocabulary in a literacy rich environment, learning to recognize entire words as whole units.

Today, however, there seems to be consensus that no single approach is best for every child. The International Reading Association has stated that effective phonics instruction is important as part of a complete reading and language arts program. It is necessary, but it isn’t the only piece.

Most educators now use a district-mandated language arts curriculum that incorporates a balance between the two strategies, understanding that phonics instruction can be beneficial for learning letter sounds and for deciphering new words. Then, as developing readers become more proficient, instruction can rely less on phonics and more on whole word recognition. A variety of strategies are taught and children are exposed to many forms of literature.

Keep in mind that if your child is struggling with learning to read, any supplemental help you get should include both phonics and whole word instruction. Online reading programs like Red Apple Reading, for example, teach reading with a combination of phonics, sight words, and word family lessons. In this way your child is getting a balance of both phonics and whole language instruction, increasing the likelihood for reading success.

As your child becomes comfortable with sight words, you can encourage the transition toward whole word reading. Once your child has the phonics skills to attempt to sound out longer words, he or she will quickly discover that most words are not phonetically regular! This can lead to frustration–but can be an opportunity to introduce alternate reading strategies, such as:

  • Guessing words from context: If your child encounters an unknown word ask him to make a guess about the word, based on what would “make sense.” For example, if you are reading a book called “I Like Toys,” and the first sentence is “I have a (toy),” and your child cannot sound out the word toy, remind him of the title of the story. You can also give a phonics “hint” by pointing to the “t” at the beginning of the word and making the /t/ sound. With the beginning sound and a prompt to think about what word would make sense, a child will most likely be able to produce the correct word.
  • Looking at pictures: Using the same example, if your child was stuck on the word “toy,” you could point to the picture accompanying the text and ask your child to guess based on what is illustrated.
  • Skipping and returning: In the example sentence, if a child knew or guessed the words “I,” “a,” and “toy,” but was stuck on the word “have,” you could suggest a “skipping and returning” strategy. Tell your child to skip the word “have” and read the rest of the sentence. Then return and look at the sentence as a whole, reading it as “I /h/— a toy.”  Then ask your child what word would make sense.

As your child encounters more new words through reading, the words will become increasingly familiar, and will soon be read automatically. This will enable your child to read more complex text and longer and more complicated words.

What are your thoughts on the best strategies for teaching reading? We’d love to hear from you.