“Teaching phonics is a lot easier than teaching children to use the phonics they know. When taught in isolation children often learn what letters makes what sounds but are unable to quickly apply this knowledge. The logic is in the pattern, not in simple “vowel rules.” Psychologists tell us that our brains separate unknown words into their onsets* and the rimes. ** To be good decoders and spellers, children need to learn to quickly separate words into these parts, think of sounds associated with the patterns, and recombine the sounds.” Dr. Dottie Hall
Several years ago when I was teaching second grade, I was introduced to the Four Blocks reading program. It is the most comprehensive program I have ever come across for teaching phonetic reading and spelling skills to students. It approaches learning from a hands-on method, the preferred learning style of most children. In this post I will explain two components: the word wall and making words.
The program begins with the word wall. In the classroom, the teacher will begin adding the children’s names, a few each week, so you can add your child’s name. If your child’s name happens to rhyme with other words like Lane or Pat you have the beginnings of some great lessons. If your child’s name doesn’t rhyme with real words, you can have fun playing the Name Game and making nonsense words. (You might have fun making up definitions for them.) Add a word a day perhaps on your refrigerator or another specified area. Be stingy with your choices, mixing sight words and pattern words. Mix nouns and verbs so you can eventually construct sentences. As you add the word, cheer and clap the letters. “There. T-H-E-R-E There!” You can continue this throughout the day.
Play games with the words by breaking down the rime of the word and adding other onsets. For example, say your word wall word is kind. Make a flash card with ind. Then add: f, m, b, bl, gr, r, etc. Discuss the meaning of unknown words such as rind. Now add t, z, g, fl, etc. As you make nonsense words make up definitions for them. You are not only learning phonics, but you are developing vocabulary. You could even write a rhyming story about a fantasy kingdom. What a way to practice context clues!
The second component is making words. To begin, make a strip of mixed letters that make a word. Cut into individual letters.
Have (help) your child make words in a logical succession such as.
Now is the exciting part. Have your child put all the letters together and find the “magic” word, plate.
Making words is for children who have learned most of their basic phonetic sounds. It helps them put meaning to the sounds, and the manipulation of the letters stimulates learning. It also solidifies learning to write the words on a piece of paper after each one is put in place. You might even write a simple story and have your child place the missing word into the correct slot.
This is just an introduction to the concept of making words. If you are interested in learning more you can buy Making Words for different grade levels. They are written by Patricia Cunningham and Dottie Hall.
* Onsets are beginning consonant sounds.
* *Rimes are vowels followed by consonants. Some examples are:
ack; ail; ain; ake; ale; ame; an; and; ank; ap; ash; at; ate;
aw; ay; eat; ell; est; ice; ick; ide; ight; ill; in; ine; ing;
in; ip; it; ock; oke; op; ore; ot; uck; ug; ump; unk
This is the School Marm,
Ringing her bell.