5 Strategies to Help Develop Phonics Skills

Phonics skills are the backbone to all reading. There are workbooks, DVDs, music CDs and videos all devoted to teaching phonics to young children. Many of these are great, but for some children even the best of these isn’t enough.

Everyone has their particular learning style and for many young children the method that works best is a tactile, hands-on one. We have been teaching subjects like science and mathematics like this for years. But have you ever considered teaching reading hands-on? Well, you can and here are five ways how.

1.) There are two basic sets of rules for phonics, the long vowel rules and short vowel rules. These rules are represented below by combinations of consonants (c) and vowels (v):

Long vowels:

  • cv – Whenever a vowel comes at the end of a word or syllable it is long as in the word “he.”
  • cvce – This is the magic “e” or silent “e” rule. The “e” makes the preceding vowel long but is not pronounced, like in “cake.”
  • cvv – Two vowels went walking and the first one did the talking. The first vowel is long and the second is silent. Think “sea.”
    .

Short vowels:

  • vc – With the vowel before the consonant, in words like “at,” the vowel becomes short.
  • cvc – Same as the rule above. The middle vowel is short as in “cat.”
    .

Now, here’s the hands-on part. Create two signs on typing paper or index cards, one for each set of rules. Then purchase or make flash cards with a variety of short words. Explain the rules and then show how a sampling of words, one for each rule, follows the rules. Then have your child sort the remaining cards according to rules. Sound out the words together. This turns rule memorization into a game instead of a chore.

2.) Word families are another way to teach phonics and boost vocabulary. Make a simple wheel game by using two circles cut from poster board. On one circle cut out a small window and write the word family next to it (-at, -an, -ug, etc.). Around the other write letters that when placed before the word family ending create a word. For instance, for the –at family write b, c, f, h, m, p, r, s, and v. Just make sure you are creating child friendly words. Place the window circle on top of the other and push a brass fastener through the center. Now you have a wheel. Spin the wheel and create new words.

3.) Have your child illustrate her first book. Fold a sheet of typing or white construction paper in half forming a card. Using short words that are easy to sound out and the child’s name create a little story with one sentence on each “page”. (Example: Mary ate cake.) Have your child sound out the words, with your help as needed, and read the sentences. Then, have her draw a picture of what she just read on each page. Kids love having their own books.

4.) Play ‘Guess that letter’. With your child facing away from you, trace a letter on his back. Have him tell you which letter you just traced. It may take a couple of tries but once kids get the hang of this game they love it. Next, switch places (you may need to sit down to make it easier for your child to reach your back) and tell your child a letter sound, like “ah” for short “o.” Have your child trace the letter that corresponds to the sound on your back. This is a game that is sure to result in giggles and learning.

5.) Find that letter! Write each letter of the alphabet on an index card (to make this even more hands-on create tactile alphabet cards using items that begin with that letter, like cotton balls for “c” to create the letter) and place them in a large shoe box. Shake the letters around to mix them up well. Then say one of the letter sounds and have your child dig in the box to find the correct card. You can advance this game by giving your child a short word to spell and having her find the correct letters and, using clothes pins, clip them to one side of the box in order. Best of all, once the lid is replaced, everything is safe and sound for next time.

Phonics is a great tool and once the world of reading is unlocked for your child the potential for learning is endless. With a little creativity and basic art supplies, you can create a learning experience that will last the rest of their lives.


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