Practise makes perfect…
To help our youngest children remember the names and sounds of the letters, we practise them every morning. During this 10 minute ‘Automaticity Drill’ there is a focus on a variety of important phonological awareness and phonics skills. In this blog I will demonstrate how we approach learning letter names and sounds, although this is only one aspect of our daily routine. (We also learn new sight words, segment and blend CVC words and develop rhyming words.)
To begin with we listen for the first sound in words. In our first school week we looked at a Powerpoint slideshow featuring photos of objects that began with the sound /m/, such as monkey and mouse (Figure 1).
We use Passey Cued Articulation to make finger movements to help us produce this sound correctly (see figure 2).
Figure 2 Passey Cued Articulation for /m/
This finger cue is also a useful prompt to remember the sound. The sound /m/ is quickly followed by pictures of words beginning with other letters of the alphabet. To link with our Reading Eggs programme staff taught the sounds in the Reading Eggs order; namely s,a,t,b,c,f etc. The speech pathologist recommended that consonant blends be avoided in this early stage of practise. Thus we removed words like snake and replaced them with words like sun.
The children also learn to say the names of the letters using Paget Gorman Signed Speech finger signing. Finger signing slows the children down and also gives useful cues about how to recognise the shape of the letters. For example, the letter ‘m’ uses three fingers (see figure 3),
Figure 3: finger signing for letter ‘m’
similar to the written formation of an ‘m’ which has 3 downward strokes. We avoid singing the alphabet to the popular alphabet song because the students invariably rush over l, m, n, o, p.
The third prong of the letter name/letter sound programme is to link a cue word with each sound. To avoid reinventing the wheel we have utilised the THRASS key words. For example, the THRASS cue words for ‘c’ is cat and ‘k’ is kitten. Cue words are useful when children learn to read and write. For example when spelling a new word such as cup the teacher can cue by saying ‘Cup starts with c like in cat’.
This programme has had many positive effects. The daily repetition has meant the new sounds are being learned and retained. We are noticing that many children are transferring their knowledge into other reading and writing situations. We have been able to teach new letters and sounds more quickly than in the past, giving flow-on effects to their literacy development. By linking their daily automaticity routine into the handwriting, reading and spelling activities the literacy programme has become more integrated.
(Eduarda van Klinken – April 2014)