teaching thoughts · writing

Phonetic Spelling

Have you ever seen your child write on their own? Children will write in play without support all the time, but as soon as you sit them down to write something they expect you to write it for them and/or tell them how to spell it. Why? The reason is the adults.

When children write on their own they go through a natural progression from scribble writing and random letters all the way to correct spelling. But, if adults tell children how to spell and/or that they are spelling words wrong then the child is afraid, cautious and concerned about doing it right. So, what can we do?

Teachers have learned that you can guide children through these writing stages without hampering their development. Wait what does that mean? Phonetic spelling, as known as inventive spelling or transitional spelling, is the process of writing words based on the phonetic sounds you hear in the word.

When children begin the process of phonetic spelling, they start by writing only the beginning sound. This is because it the the key sound you hear in a word. The next step is to add on the ending sound and later when they have mastered an understanding of more letter sounds and especially vowel sounds they will add in the medial sounds. For example, let’s pretend your child drew a picture of a house. When they begin the process of writing they may label the picture just with an “h”. As they gain more confidence in their own writing process they will naturally begin to add more sounds. Now they will write “hs” as house. Moving forward they may learn that “ow” says /ow/ and will write “hows”.

While none of these are the correct spelling they are steps towards getting the correct spelling. One concern that adults often bring up is that the child is learning it wrong. Let me dispel this myth, your child is not learning to spell the word, (s)he is learning the process of putting their thought on paper. At this point in the learning development, we are working on the concept of print has meaning and that you can put your thoughts down in words. Later as children learn more phonics skills and begin to see that words are spelled a specific way, they will master the correct spelling of words.

When teachers assist children in progressing through this process, the key is to sound out words slowly and teach children to stretch out words. We have them visualize the words on an elastic band. Pull the band slowly to stretch out the sounds. Write the sounds you hear. The key is to always go back to the whole word before you are finished. Here is another example: candle. Have your child stretch out the word c-an-d-l. When your child starts writing they will probably write “c” or “k”… either works. Then they may add in the “d” as this is a more dominant sound than the “l”. They will then progress to cndl as these are the consonant sounds you hear in the word candle. This is praised as they have progressed. If your child has learned “an” you can stretch it out and say do you hear the “an” sound in the word?

So why? Why do we want children to do through this progression? Well… a few reasons. One, they are writing. They are putting their own thoughts on paper. They are doing it their way and aren’t being told no that’s wrong. They aren’t ready to do it independently and in book spelling and won’t be for a few years. We want children to view themselves as writers and the earlier they write, the stronger this image will be.

Why else? When children make this natural progression of writing they actually develop stronger phonics and phonemic awareness skills. They need to use these skills to write on their own. They are not waiting to memorize and learn a new word or rule before they can write. If children had to memorize all the words they wanted to write before they began writing they would not get beyond sight words and simple cvc words until late in first grade. With transitional writing they can begin writing words as soon as they master their letter sounds.

So… what does this mean for parents. First if your child writes something that you can’t read it is OK! Ask your child to read it to you. “I see you labeled your picture, will you read the words to me?” “I noticed you wrote sentences to go with your illustration, I’d love to hear what you wrote.”

Next, if your child gets stuck on a word help them sound it out. It’s ok if it is not spelling exactly. In the classroom, I always talk about kid spelling (or kindergarten/preK spelling) verses book spelling. I do not expect the children to write in book spelling, but this addresses the fact that there is a correct way to write something, but since they are in K, preK are kids whatever, it’s ok to write it their own way.

Finally, if you are working with your child to sound out a word and they spell it correctly… tell them. Look you wrote that in book spelling. This will begin to solidify the correct spelling and that they can transition from phonetic spelling to book spelling. Just remember to praise their effort to use phonetic spelling too or else they will revert to depending on you for all the book spelling!

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!

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!