Before Learning to Read - Phonics
Apr 17, 2010 Pronunciation/Phonics 3101 Views
Even before your children get to school you can give them a great start in learning to read by helping them develop their skills in phonics - or the ability to discriminate and use speech sounds. English speech is made up of 44 sounds combined in different ways, and a child's ability to be able to hear and use these sounds is of vital importance in their ability to speak, listen and write. Below are a number of way in which you can help your child develop these skills before they even reach school age.
1) Listen to sounds in your environment. If you are taking a walk with your child or playing in the park, listen to the sounds around you and discuss them. Can you hear the magpie? How is the sound it makes different from the sound another bird makes?
2) Play a 'what sound is that' game. Hide several objects with well known sounds e.g. keys, squeaky toy, an instrument. Make the objects noise and ask the children what it is. Alternatively, demonstrate each sound before you hide them, and tell the children the objects get revealed if they can remember the sound they make. Keep the children guessing till they have revealed all the objects.
3) Have your child use musical instruments. These do not have to be professionally purchased instruments, they can make their own. Having musical instruments teaches children to hear different notes and the timing of sounds. Play two notes and ask the child if they are the same or different, which one is higher? Which one is louder?
4) Participate in action songs with your children e.g. 'going on a bear hunt', or 'twinkle twinkle little star'. The combination of actions and music provides a fun, multisensory approach and requires careful listening to the music.
5) Rhyme all the time. Read books with rhyming verse, play rhyming games (how many words can you think of that rhyme with cat?) and ask your child if words rhyme or not. Rhyming is a great way for children to think about the individual sounds that make up a word.
6) Use alliteration and concentrate on the initial sound of a word. For example, you could play 'I spy' but use sounds instead of letters 'I spy something beginning with Ssssss...'
7) Get children familiar with the sounds they can make with their voices. See if they can imitate silly sounds you make with your voice.
8) Play with breaking up the sounds in words and combining them again. Ask your child, what word these sounds make - 'c-a-t', or ask them to 'go and get your c-oa-t'. Have a competition to see who can come up with the word with the most sounds in it.
9) And most of all, read to your child. Reading has positive impacts far beyond your child just learning to read, and if you get the right books it should be fun for you as well. You can use many of the other techniques while reading.
These techniques seem simple but thinking about and playing with speech sounds is a critical first stage of reading. If children do not understand that speech is made up of separate sounds, they have great trouble understanding that different sounds map onto different letter combination's, and that is how we spell and read. When children are young their brains are deciding which sounds are important and which are not, and it loses the ability to hear unfamiliar sound combination's as we get older. That is why it is much harder to learn a language when you are older. So it is crucial we teach our children good phonetic skills while they are still very young.