phonemic awareness · teaching thoughts

Why Can’t my Child Rhyme?

Rhyming is such an important step in phonemic awareness. What is phonemic awareness you ask? Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate letter sounds in spoken words. It is the hearing part of reading! When children are able to hear, manipulate and isolate letter sounds, they are able to utilize this skill in decoding and encoding words for reading and writing.

So why rhyming? Rhyming is the ability to switch out the beginning sound of a word to make a new word. That it! Ok so why is it so hard for some children?

Did you know there are actually 5 stages of learning to rhyme! Say What???? You read that correctly. Your child needs to develop through five levels before they are proficient at rhyming independently.

Step 1- rhyme exposure— this is the understanding of the word rhyme. Children need to be exposed to words that rhyme and be taught the context behind the word rhyme. So when you read books, sing songs and recite nursery rhymes with your child, state things such as “hey wall and ball rhyme” “/w/- all and /b/- all rhyme because they both end in -all”

Step 2- rhyme recognition– this is being able to determine if two words rhyme. Children need to listen to two words and be able to tell you if they rhyme or not. Provide pair of words tree/key, car/bike, blue/glue, man/money etc… Have your child give a thumbs up if they rhyme and a thumbs down if they don’t. Often times children will struggle when the two words begin with the same beginning sound, point out the ends of the words are different and that is where we focus on rhymes.

Step 3- rhyme judgement– in this step you will provide your child with 3 words and have your child pick out the pair that rhymes. This works on recall as well. Stating night/moon/light your child would need to say night and light rhyme. In class I encourage children to say night and light rhyme because they both end in -ight. This shows they understand the focus on the rime of the word.

Step 4- rhyme completion– in this step your child will complete a sentence or line from a poem or song with the correct ending rhyme. Begin with using familiar song and stories and then move onto unfamiliar materials. I want to go out and play, because it is a sunny ____. DAY play and day rhyme. Check out this activity I shared called rhyme away for another fun activity on this step.

Step 5- rhyme production– this is the step of independence! this is your child producing sets of rhyming words on their own. I often go back to step 2 and have the child be the one in charge. Have your child give you sets of words and you determine if they rhyme or not. Then move on and have your child tell you a list of three words with a pair of rhymes. Finally have him/her give you rhyme completion sentences (this step is hard and not needed to master rhyming)

Yay! Your child has now mastered rhyming. Time to move onto the next skill… but do not forget to come back and practice rhyming. When you stop working and reviewing skills it makes it harder for your child to remember the skill when needed.

phonemic awareness · story

Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Farm

Today let’s read the story Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Farm by Joy Cowley. When the farm animals do not want another bath, they decide to leave the farm. They travel from the farm to the city. This is a great rhyming story.

Can you find the rhymes in the story? Practice listening for rhymes (you say two words and your child says if they rhyme or not). Creating rhymes (you say a word and your child says a word that rhymes). Do these with your child leading too… when your child is able to create their own rhyming pairs and understands the difference between words that rhyme and don’t they are mastering one of the phonemic awareness skills needed for reading development. Want to read more about rhyming? Click here, here, or here.

Mrs. Wishy-Washy loved to give her animals a good scrub. Let your child rub and scrub some of their toys today. Fill up the sink or a bucket in the backyard and let your child wash their toys. This encourages sensory play which is important for development.

Sensory play is any play the stimulates the senses. Allowing children to play with textures- hard, soft, wet, dry, sticky, smooth, bumpy etc encourage and allows for acceptance of these various textures in other aspects of life. The use of sensory play is soothing for children who are anxious or frustrated. This play also helps develop and connect brain pathways that are needed in more complex learning. Want to read more? Check out this article Why Sensory Play is Important for Development by Educational Playcare

phonemic awareness · story

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes are short poems/songs that children have learned for years and years. These are still important to learn today. They allow children to play with words. Also, by reading these simple rhymes in story book form, we encourage the connection between the text and spoken word. The goal is for children to recognize that they can tell the story. While we do not want children to believe that the way to read is to memorize all the words, we do want them to make the connection between what is said and what is written. We do want them to view themselves as readers. We do what them to gain the confidence that they can and will read books. So… provide your child with books they love. Provide your child with books they know. And read, read and read some more.

Here are links to nursery rhyme books read aloud:

phonemic awareness · story · teaching thoughts

Over in the Meadow

This week we will look at how learning songs is important in literacy development. We will take one song format and listen to a different version of that song. For centuries and in all cultures, songs have been past down as teaching tools. We need to continue this tradition, and recognize the importance of using songs and music as teaching tools.

Today we will look at the song Over in the Meadow. This is considered an “Old counting rhyme”. It has been transformed over and over to focus on other ecosystems. But, we will start with the original. Over in the Meadow, illustrated by Jill McDonald.

Now, let’s listen to Over in the Jungle, Over in the Ocean and Over in the Artic.

The use of this song/story is much more than just enjoying the music, while this is important also. The use of this song works on counting, vocabulary development, rhyming and much more. When children learn to sing songs they are building language skills. When they learn songs that are easily manipulated they learn to play with language. Working on oral language development and listening skills are key pieces to reading and writing development.

Where do we go from here?

  • Have your child pick their favorite version and illustrate an animal from that ecosystem.
  • Pick a different ecosystem and see if there is a version of that song, or better yet, write your own.
  • Re-write the song using items and animals you see in your backyard, your playground, your city block, or wherever your child has the opportunity to explore.

phonemic awareness · teaching thoughts

Phonics and Phonemic Awareness

As I continue my series on topics for parents, today I will explain a few terms that are tossed around, especially when children are beginning to learn to read and/or struggling to learn to read.

Phonics is the connection between the printed letters and the sounds they make. Children need to have strong phonics skills to decode words. Typically they will learn that short vowel and consonant sounds first. Then they will move on to learn about long vowels, digraphs (th, sh, ch, wh, ck etc), vowel pairs and so much more. But, the thing to understand is that phonics is connecting the sound to print. This is reading and writing! This is key, but it is not all!

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate phonemes (sounds). This is rhyming, blending onset and rime, syllables and more. Children need to be able to play with phoneme they hear, note these skills do not involve print! This is playing with sounds. Singing songs, manipulating rhymes, poetry, breaking words apart and putting them together… but out loud.

Here is the thing… strong phonemic awareness is the precursor to strong phonic skills. When children develop the skills and confidence in the ability to play with letters and sounds. The ability to isolate the sounds they hear and manipulate them to make changes, then the understanding of phonics becomes sooo much easier.

To give an example. When children develop an understanding of rhyme they know that they can remove the beginning sound of one word, replace it with a new sounds and the create a new word (real or nonsense). This is word families. Cake, bake, make, take, rake… word family… words that rhyme. Now, if I have a firm understanding of rhyming words and I learn to read one word in a word family, I can use my understanding of rhyming words to create new words to read and write.

Another phonemic awareness skill is blending words. This can be done with onset and rime (/b/ /asket/= basket) as well as with individual sounds (/f/ /l/ /a/ /t/ = flat). When you can take the sounds you hear and push them together in your mind and hear a whole word, it makes it easier to sound out the words and then hold them together to make a word. Sounding out words is just what I did, but reading the printed letters instead of just hearing them aloud.

So, if your child is just starting to read and write, or struggling to learn to read and write, you might want to step back and play with sounds. Build their phonemic awareness skills first… then the phonics will fall into place smoother.

letter work · phonemic awareness · word work

Twizzlers Letters

Today we will listen to the story Twizzlers Shapes and Patterns by Jerry Pallotta. This story talks about a lot of math terms and describes shapes and other geometrical terms as well as making patterns.

Today we aren’t going to make shapes or patterns as it is Words Wednesday, but you are certainly welcome to try out some of this Twizzlers fun.

But, we will use Twizzlers for our learning today. If you don’t have Twizzlers, you can use chenille stems, yarn, wiki sticks or other long thin manipulatives.

Today use your Twizzlers to make letters and or words. Here are a few suggestions!

  • Say a letter name and have your child make the letter
  • Say a word and have your child make the beginning or ending sound
  • Make word family cards and have your child add the beginning sounds with the Twizzlers
  • Have your child make a letter with Twizzlers and then go on a beginning sounds hunt. You can search for objects around the house, in magazines or just draw pictures

Just notice, I had to hold the candy in shape while taking the picture. Twizzlers do not like to stay in a curved shape, but it is doable!

art · phonemic awareness · story

Monsters Puppets Love Words

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley. This story will quickly become a favorite. I would encourage you to listen to it once and then the second time have your child create big green monster while listening to the story. It is a great story for retelling!

Today lets make monster puppets. For my sample I used both markers and construction paper. I love encouraging children to use mixed media. You could also add other items such as yarn, buttons, googly eyes etc… the key is creativity!

For Words Wednesday we are going to work on blending onset and rime. Onset is the first sound you hear in a word and the rime is the rest of the word.

One way to help your child see the pattern is to either work with word family words or words groups (animals, names, foods or other familiar groups of words)

Here is a simple chant to use with your child(ren)

  • It starts with a /__/,
  • And it ends with /___/
  • Put it together,
  • and you say __________. (your child needs to say the word)

It starts with a /c/ and ends with /at/. Put it together and you say “cat”

It starts with a /h/ and ends with /orse/. Put it together and you say “horse”

If your child is struggling still, I would provide visual clues. Provide a group of pictures or toys or other items and use words represented there, this helps the visual learner make the auditory connections.

It stars with a /c/ and it ends with /ar/. Put it together and you say “car”.

It starts with a /d/ and it ends with /oll/. Put it together and you say “doll”.

When your child gets good at this, switch the rolls. Have your child say the first part of the rhyme and you finish it with the answer.

phonemic awareness · word work

Word Family Pumpkins

Here are two more great Pumpkin stories: Christopher Pumpkin by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet and Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Both these stories talk about pumpkins that don’t quite fit in, but stand out all the same.

For Words Wednesday we will work on short “a” word families. Word families is a great way to work on sounding out words, for those ready for this skill, but it is also a great way to work on rhyming words. I will explain how you can alter these activities based on what skill your child is ready for at this time.

For the first activity, have your child draw 2-4 pumpkins on the page. Make sure they are big enough to draw inside. Label each pumpkin with an “a” word family (-ab, -ack, -ad, -ag, -am, -an, -ap, -at). Brainstorm with your child words that could fit in that word family. I typically ask the children if they can come up with one on their own, if they can… go from there. If they can’t then I will give an example or two and then see if they get the concept and can move on. For children who are working on this skill strictly as a phonemic awareness skill, they will just draw pictures of the words. For children who are working on reading and writing these CVC, CVCC words, they will illustrate and write the word. Continue to do to the same for each pumpkin on your page.

The second activity is real vs nonsense words. Children love playing with nonsense words. They love to create words that just sound funny. So… why not play with nonsense words with word families. Pick a word family, see list above. Divide a sheet of paper in half, and write real words on one side and nonsense words on the other side. Now work the same concepts. Put different beginning sounds on to the rime and see if the word is real or nonsense. Using magnetic letter or other letter tiles helps with this skill as children often struggle to go through the alphabet to find more words. You can do this totally orally as a phonemic awareness skill or write it on paper as a phonics activity.

phonemic awareness

Key to the Code– phoneme blending

Today for Words Wednesday we are going to work on some phonemic awareness, the understanding of how sounds (phonemes) work in words.

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry– this is the story of a very unique friendship. A baby crow finds itself cold and lost until a kindly scarecrow helps.

Lets use some of the images in this story to work the Key to the Code game. Provide your child with 5-10 keys, real or ones made of paper.

Tell your child that you are going to tell him/her a word in secret code! The key to unlock the code is to blend the sounds together. For example you would say /b/ /ir/ /d/ and your child will say bird. If your child gets the word correctly with little to no support, they get to take a key. When all the keys are collect, switch roles.

Few tips!

Start by play I-spy style… you can use images from the story– bird (/b/ /ir/ /d/), hat (/h/ /a/ /t/), crow (/c/ /r/ /ow/), hay, (/h/ /ay/). The key to this format is having the visual for your child to refer back … so if you do not want to use the pictures from the story, then pick items around you book, apple, etc…

Choose words with two or three phonemes to begin with, then move onto longer words.

Say the sounds with a distinct break to start. They do not get the word, then say the sounds a bit faster to see if they are able to make the connections.

If your child is doing awesome with this skill… then move onto longer words! You can also transition to having your child write the word as they sound it out to make the phonics connection as well! (remember at this age the goal is to get all the sounds but they might miss some and not know the correct phonics skill yet– they may write cro for crow or brd for bird…. this is fine)

letter work · phonemic awareness · topic · word work

Beginning Sounds and the Five Senses

Recognizing and naming words that begin with specific beginning sounds is a key phonics skill (when done totally orally it is actually a phonemic awareness skill!).

I will share with you how I would do this as a phonics activity as well as a phonemic awareness activity… two for one!

As I have mentioned in the past, phonemic awareness is how sounds work in words orally. So a great place to practice these skills is in the car! For this one you don’t need anything resources other than what you can see around you, or in this case see, hear, taste, touch and smell! Think I spy. I spy with my little eye something that starts with the sound /m/ (mom, mouse, money, movie etc). But, instead of looking for just one thing, see how many you can list. I smell with my nose something that starts with the sound /f/ (flower, fart, fish etc). You can do this with I hear with my little ear. I touch with my little fingers, I taste with my little tongue.

If your child struggles, then give an example and see if that spurs them to think of more. Often children need a word cue to help them think of words that begin with the beginning sound. I hear with my little ear something that starts that same as bird (bells, bongo drum, boys playing).

To make this more of a phonics based activity, lets get out a sheet of paper! Here is a quick classroom tip, when making activities that you want your child to do over and over, put the paper into a sheet protector (or laminate) then have your child use dry erase makers. Now you can do the activity over and over and not use more paper!

Take a sheet of paper, create a circle in the middle to put the beginning sound. Around the outside divide the paper into 5 sections and label them — see, hear, taste, touch, smell. (Now put it into the page protector or laminate if you want)

Have your child pick a sound to work on. Some fun ways to do this is to roll a letter die, pick a letter out of a hat (magnetic letter or letter flash cards), or any other way to pick you can think of!

Have your child write the letter in the circle. Now illustrate words that begin with that sound in each section. Encourage them to sound out the words to match the pictures.

Beginning Sounds and the Five Senses

Looking for more ways to work on beginning sound and the five senses? Check out my kit at Teachers Pay Teachers for a one page chart and a mini book you can make!