Monday, 20 July 2015

Paper chains

How do you encourage a reluctant writer? I am trying at present to encourage a child who is reluctant to write, mainly due to a confidence issue. I have often used paper chains in other areas of work but thought I would try it with writing and phonics.

We played the spinner game from last week, wrote the words on the 'Race the word' grid and then I asked the child to write each word on a paper chain link to make a paper chain of her writing to display. She crossed off each word as she wrote it. She was very motivated to do this and we ended up with an 8 link paper chain. Next week we will add more words to it. You could do this with tricky words, or just letter formation and learning sounds.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Race the words

This idea is brilliant for practising all sorts of words. The image is of a session with one of the children I tutor. I have done the same session but with different words. We were working on phase 4 tricky words.

I just want to say something about tricky words. Some people seem to think that children should just learn these as sight words but evidence shows that if you teach them phonically they are much more likely to stick. You may think that some words aren't decodable. All words are decodable but there are obviously different representations of the sounds. In every word there will be something to go on.
For example /said/ has the /s/ and the /d/ which you can point out. The child needs to know that in this word /ai/ makes the /e/ sound. It is surprising how quickly they pick it up if you do point out the decodable parts and then point out the different representation of the sounds.

Back to the game. Basically it is a spinner which you can write any words in each section. I worked on cvc words with another child who isn't as far on as this one. They spin the spinner (they all love doing that) then they must read the word. When they have read it, turn the spinner over and ask them to write it in the first column and row of the grid. There are eight rows in this grid to match the number of words. They spin again and if they get a different word it goes underneath the first word. However if they spin the same word then it goes into the next column. The idea is to see which word wins. Repeat as many times as possible to practise all the words. Children love playing this game. You can buy the spinners off Amazon. and can download the word version of the spinner below. I have changed the font to comic sans due to the fact that the one I use is Sassoon primary and you may not have that one installed on your computer so it will look slightly different.

After we had played the game the word that 'won' was used in a sentence and written on the back of the laminated grid. That image is below.

Download 'Race the words'

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Guided reading with beginning readers

Here is a fact sheet that I created when training new teaching assistants in guided reading. It is aimed at low ability or beginning readers.

Click here to download

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Which vowel?

Some children struggle to hear that vowel in words when writing. I usually do a focus activity on that medial vowel. We go through the vowel sounds first and then I simply read a word out and the child must peg the correct vowel peg to the correct vowel sound. Great for those motor skills too.
The download consists of three vowel strips written in different order which is useful when working with a group of children, and a sheet of cvc words with all the vowels. Simple read in downward strips. These little cards could also be cut up and used as a sorting activity. Cut them all up and have 5 containers for the child to read and sort.

If working in a class situation you could just give each child a strip and one peg. The child pegs their peg to the correct vowel on the strip.

Download: Can you hear the vowel?

Saturday, 25 April 2015

What do children need to be able to do before blending sounds to make words?

There are lots of things children need to be able to do before blending to read. I often feel children are rushed into this phase and so make poor progress. Taking a bit of time with these pointers will add to the success of blending.

Download this image in PDF format

  • What is a word? What is a letter? When looking at a book ask the child to point to a letter. Then ask them to point to a word. You will be surprised how many do not know this basic vocabulary. Yet we are asking them to blend sounds or letters to make words.
  • We read from left to right. Children need to know this. They need to know that we start blending on the left and blend to the right to make the word. They need to know that when we get to the end of a line of print we go to the beginning of the next line.
  • They need to know the phoneme/grapheme correspondences automatically. Not all of them straight away but just the ones that you are expecting them to blend with. You might have taught satpin and so are now ready to begin blending. Show the letter and they just KNOW it. The longer it takes them to recall the letter sound the more unlikely they will be to be able to blend. It's all short term memory and the fact that they will forget the sounds they have said, and can't hear the word because they have said them too slowly.
  • Articulation of sounds. Children must say the sounds correctly. If you are teaching them then you must learn them yourselves properly. There are lots of videos on youtube which illustrate articulation of sounds. Try Ruth Miskins who has some videos on articulation and blending. When children add a schwa at the end of a letter for example muh, suh, cuh they will not get the word. Take a word back yourselves and think about what sound you actually hear in the word. for example man mmmmannnnn not muh a nuh. When I first started many years ago I always broke a word up first myself before asking a child to blend and read that way I could guarantee they were saying it properly and could correct when necessary.
  • It is helpful to be able to hear rhyming words or continue a rhyming chain. Say mat, bat, cat ...what other words can they think of that rhyme with those words? Give them a selection of picture cards cat, mat hen. Which two words rhyme? Look at rhyming words when you read to them. There are loads of books that are written in rhyme.
  • Oral blending - children MUST be able to hear a word when you say the sounds. If they cannot do this then how on earth will they be able to do blend sounds to make words themselves? You must teach this constantly. During the school day ask for things from the child - can you pass me the p/e/n? As I have said in my other posts give children clues to begin with to help tune them into what you are asking them to do. Oral segmentation is more for writing but still important that children can hear the different sounds in words.
  • They must be able to listen to themselves when they say the sounds. They get used to us sounding out for them with oral blending. The focus must be on their voice and short term memory. Practice this by pointing to a sound asking them to say it then asking them again what did they say? Point to 2 sounds. What are they? Say them again. Point to 3 sounds. What are they? Say them again. Practising short term memory and listening to themselves. You can buy or make little phonic phones which are helpful for this. Really focusing them into what they are hearing. Also make sure their hearing is ok. Children who struggle with hearing can struggle with phonics. 
  • Smooth blending. Children need to hear you saying the sounds smoothly. If you say them in a choppy robotic way they will never get it! Try modelling how to say them smoothly. Practice singing the sounds in your head first so that you can get the smoothness. Encourage children to say them smoothly when practicing oral blending. 
  • Eye tracking - children need to be able to track words/letters with their eyes from left to right. You can practice eye tracking using bubbles or balloons. Blow bubbles and ask the child to follow the bubble with their eyes. Bat a ballon up into the air and ask them to watch the balloon at all times. Smooth eye tracking really helps children to read. Also use a ruler underneath the words or encourage them to use a finger to follow each word in turn. 
  • Compound words - can the child give you the word when you say the two syllables in a compound word. So for example = laptop, flip....flop = flipflop, hand....bag =handbag. Practice this too. If they can't do this they they won't be ready to blend.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Clap rap

This is an old activity from ELS. - Early literacy support.
I use it a lot because it helps make learning sounds a bit more fun.
Very simple to do. Have a stack of grapheme cards. The first clap rap is showing a letter to the children and they have to shout out the sound. The second clap rap is saying the sound without showing the letter to see if they can write it down,

Right click and copy the poster below to download it.

Sorting words

Another great activity to encourage children to look carefully for vowel digraphs is 'word sort'
Children can cut and stick the word in the correct column or they can write the words in the correct column and then cross them off. Depends if they need practice at writing or cutting skills really.

Download Word sort

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Recognising vowel digraphs in words

Children need to really know the different representations of the vowel digraphs to be able to read them automatically. This is one way to help children do that.

One of the children I work with knows all these sounds but doesn't recognise them in words.

The idea is for the child to really look at the words, read them and highlight them in different colours. This really focuses them into the sounds they are searching for.

Download ay/ai/a-e search

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Polysyllabic words - blending and segmenting

One of the things children find difficult is when they meet a long word. How many times do you hear children sounding out every letter and not getting the word? Teach children how to chunk the words so that they read a bit at a time then put it together. What you are actually teaching is syllables. Children read one syllable and then the next syllable. It is good to practice this skill with compound words such as sunset, giftbox, sandpit, etc.

Last night I based my lesson around syllables. I wrote the word on a whiteboard and we looked at where the vowels are. In sunset there are two vowels. Ask the child to read around the first vowel to get 'sun' and then read around the next vowel to get 'set'. Then put them together to get sunset. It takes some practice but children soon begin to chunk when reading themselves. It might be a good idea to teach children which letters are vowels. There is the vowel rap from the old ELS scheme which has a nice rap. I use this for letter sounds and letter names. It goes:

aeiou that is how we say them
aeiou that is how we play them
We say them soft
We say them loud
of our vowels we sure are proud
aeiou (shout)
aeiou (whisper)
that is how we say them

When teaching children how to write words with more than one syllable you must teach them about syllables first. Lots of practice and counting how many syllables there are in words. Either clap the syllables or get the child to put their hand under their chin as they say the word. Each time their chin touches their hand is a syllable. Try it! It works!

When spelling ask the child to say the word. How many syllables? Write the first syllable so for example in sunset there are two syllables. The child writes the first syllable 'sun' and then the second syllable 'set' to get the word 'sunset'. This really helps children with spelling.

Here is a photo of some polysyllabic words a child who is five year old was writing with me last night. She continued on the back of the white board with more words of her choice but I didn't take a photograph. She wrote oven, kitchen, pencil etc. It was as if a barrier had been opened. I am hoping for some lovely long words from her in the next few weeks. These words were totally her work I had no input what so ever apart from asking her to count the syllables, write the first syllable and write the second syllable.

Can do bag

The 'can do' bag is a winner as far as phonics is concerned. It is something I devised many years ago when working with Special needs children and something I do to this day when tutoring.

I create a bag of things the child can do. This is their bag, it belongs to them and can be used anywhere. I have found parents are more interested, children love their bags because they can do everything in them. When I first assess a child for phonics I put everything they can do easily into the bag. So for example with a special needs child there may be 6 or 7 graphemes that they know the sound of. They might not be able to blend yet so I might put some picture cards in so they can practice oral blending. I would put a blending mat in, a whiteboard and pen, a letter formation book, an outline of their name laminated for writing practice, a little phonics game with some counters and a die, and a writing book. I might put some pegs, scissors, or playdough in to help motor skills. Children can roll the playdough and cut it with scissors or practise pinching little bits off with their thumb and index finger.

When I teach a new grapheme then that gets added to the pack. They may not quite 'know' it but one new sound to practice is manageable and they don't feel over whelmed because the rest of the bag they can do.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Blending mats

Sometimes children really struggle to blend and I use these to help. Smooth blending is helpful for children who cannot put those sounds together. Try and make the sounds blend into each other even if the sound is a short sound. For example iiiiiiiit, aaaaat, iiiiiin. Try singing it to help. You won't always need to do this. It is often a eureka moment for some children when they eventually click.

Download: Blending mat (3 box with car and road)

Download: Blending mat (3 box with arrow)

Download: Blending mat (4 box with arrow)

Download: Blending mat (2 box with car and road)

Download Blending mat (2 box with arrow)

Download Blending mat (4 box with car and road)

Monday, 16 March 2015

Roll a sound

This is a very simple activity using a die with dotty numbers, a laminated sheet, some counters or a whiteboard pen.

Each number represents a sound and the child rolls the die, finds the sound it represents and either covers it with a counter on the grid or crosses it off with a dry wipe pen.

There is one already made using satpin but I have included a word version using comic sans as the font. I am aware that many will not have sassoon.

Roll a sound

Roll a sound (word) so you can edit to put your own sounds in