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.

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  • 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.

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