Homonyms and homophones need to be heard or read within a specific context if we are to understand what the word means, for instance, if I say the word ‘bank’ and do not give any other verbal or written clues what do I mean?
The word on its own could mean a couple of things the bank of a river or sand bank or a bank where I can collect money. If it is not put into a context its meaning is unclear. The word ‘bank’ is classed as a homonym.
Homonyms are words which are pronounced and spelt the same; therefore, their meaning can only be truly understood when the context in which the word is being used is made clear. For instance, the word ‘bark’ can be used to mean the bark on a tree or the noise a dog makes.
Homophones are words which are pronounced (sound) the same but have a different meaning and are spelt differently such as, ‘their’ and ‘there’, ‘one’ and ‘won’ or ‘two’, ‘to’ and ‘too’.
Developing good speaking and listening skills along with a wide vocabulary knowledge is an important part of your child’s phonological awareness development and phonics pre-skills base. So, it is not surprising that if a child has a weakness in these areas, they may struggle in learning to read and write.
The summer holidays are the perfect time to start working on supporting your child to develop the skill sets needed for learning to read.
How do we do this?
Last week we looked at the importance of different types of play. By giving your child the opportunity to experience the different types of play you will also be supporting them to build their speaking and listening skills as well as broadening their vocabulary.
Developing these skills is not all about paper and pencil worksheet activities (though these help later on).
So, it is the perfect time to go out and play or, as is often the case, stay indoors and play.
Play is often thought of as a frivolous pastime rather than a practical and meaningful one. However, here at Teach Children Ltd we see play as a vital part of a child’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and well-being.
There has been considerable research over the years on play, which supports our point of view, with the consensus being that children need to experience five different types of play (Dr.D Whitebread, 2012). These five types of play are roughly based on the developmental opportunities they provide, especially if it is child driven rather than adult lead.
In our update parent section of the Teach Handwriting website we have a new ‘Learning Through Play’ section. Here you will find games and activities ideas to suit all ages.
If you click on the ‘Games’ button or follow the link (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/games.html) you will find games split into the five types of play, which will help you encourage your child to experience them all.
This wide range of play opportunities will also support your child in developing their gross and fine motor, communication and turn taking skills.
That the same letter can look different, for example, a lower-case letter ‘b’ looks different from a capital letter ‘B’. Letters will also look different depending on which font type is being used or if it is handwritten, for example, an Arial font letter ‘g’ looks different from a Calibri font ‘g’.
That letters have names and the same name is used for that letter even when they look different, so the lower-case letter ‘a’ and its capital letter form ‘A’ are both called ‘ay’.
That letters (graphemes) are used to represent sounds (phonemes) in words. Teaching the unique letter names of the alphabet is an important pre-phonics skill. A letter or combination of letters can represent more than one sound and so the only way of identifying alphabet letters when we talk about them is to use their unique names.
Developing Letter Knowledge:
Sorting and Matching Games- use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards; can they group all the lower-case letters together, or all the capital letters or all the different letter ‘ay’s’ together.
Kim’s Games – use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards. Using a few letters at a time, place 5 to 10 on a tray and let your child look at them and talk through which letters are there. Cover with a tea towel and ask your child to look away, then remove 1 or 2 of the letters. Then ask your child to look back and remove the tea towel. Can they spot which letters are missing.
Detective Games– focus on identifying individual letters of the alphabet and naming them, this can be played at home or when out and about.
Leap Frog – use the letters of the alphabet on home-made paper lily pads. Use the letter names to identify the target lily pad for your child to either jump onto or to throw a bean bag/soft toy on to.
Skittles and Throwing Games – use letters of the alphabet on the targets and use the letter names as a way of identifying which of the targets your child is aiming for.
Making lists of things to do or a shopping list. Their version of the list may be just squiggles and dots (so don’t rely on this for your shopping trip) but it is the beginning. I would keep the list and get them to tick off things done or items purchased as part of the experience so that it has a genuine purpose (children really like this).
Singing Alphabet Songs, try singing it to different tunes.
Make up Your Own Rap – point to the letters as the rap is said.
Talk about letters as being shapes made up of straight, curves and diagonal lines.
Look at the letters in your child’s name, talk about the fact that the first letter in their name is always a capital letter and that normally the other letters are lower-case letters.
Point out, especially for slightly older children, that lower-case letters are about half the size of the capital letters.
Compare letters looking at what is the same and different about them.
When taking about letters use the letter name as well as the sound it is making in the word, remember a letter is often used to represent more than one sound. The letter ‘a’ can be used to represent different sounds in the following words: ant, apron, was, and any (just 4 of the eight sounds it is used to represent).
Through Book Sharing:
What books to choose?
Books with shapes
Books where you have to find things (like I spy)
Books which use different font styles in the pictures and text.
Book Sharing Tips:
Alphabet books do not need to be read from cover to cover. Let your child choose which letters they want to look at.
Trace the letters with your finger or let your child trace it (make sure you trace the letter using the correct formation orientation, encourage your child to do the same).
Talk about the pictures in alphabet books before focusing on the letter, its name and the sound it can make.
Show your child the first letter in their name and then look for that letter in the book.
Show and talk about how some letters are in their capital form and others in their lower-case form. Can they find other examples of the letters?
Choose two letters to talk about: How do they look alike? How do they look different? What shapes/line styles are they made up of?
Narrative Skills to Support the Understanding of Different Writing Styles
Narrative skills are based on understanding and using expressive language. This is the kind of language we use to describe things and feelings, to tell events in order and to recall and tell stories.
Children develop their narrative skills over time taking prior knowledge, what they already know, and building on this through:
Conceptual thinking; the development of concepts such as shape, colour, the passing of time; as well as developing and using strategies for problem solving and prediction (thinking skills).
Content knowledge; what they already know about the topic/situation; the ability to relate situations to their own experiences, the ability to sequence events in a logical order as well as to sequence processes such as getting dressed or making things.
Understanding that different genres are set out in different ways, story structure such as that used in fairy tales is different from that used for poetry or informational text (explaining things) or instructional text (how to do something) such as a recipe.
Developing Narrative Skills:
Role play different situations; doctor’s, school, office, shops etc.
Dramatic and imaginative play; acting out stories together using props and/or puppets and toys.
Matching and sorting games to develop understanding of concepts such as colour, shape and size.
Puzzles for developing problem solving skills.
Ask your child to draw pictures for a story and you write the words
Ask your child to draw or write (make mind maps) of the things they already know about something.
Ask them to draw different shapes in different sizes and to use specific colours for them.
With older children make and draw charts and graphs for classifying objects.
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes:
Children’s songs and nursery rhymes cover a wide range of concepts:
Everyday sequences such as in the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’ which uses the phrase ‘This is the way we…’ to order the event of getting up in the morning.
Introduce concepts such as size, colours, shapes and numbers such as “One, two, three, four, five once I caught a fish alive…”
Tell stories for example ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ or ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury.
As your child explores objects, describe them and their uses; compare and contrast objects.
Remember to give your child time to work things out, or to solve a problem. It can take a child several minutes sometimes to process what they have heard and to formulate a response.
Talk about concepts such as shape, colour, size, texture.
Explain and use language that explains where things are in relation to each other (spatial awareness) such as above, below, on top of, next to, first, etc.
Help your child to develop an awareness of time, not just the here and now but what happened in the past and might happen in the future.
Put processes into sequence using things like recipes, making things or how plants grow, the passing of time, weeks, months, seasons etc.
Encourage your child to recount their day or to re-tell a story.
Encourage your child to tell you what they know about something as well as sharing what you know.
When sharing information explain how you learned about it; read it in a book or on the internet or heard it on the TV or radio.
Encourage your child to guess and predict what might happen.
Encourage your child to solve problems or resolve conflicts; if you do it for them explain what you did and why.
Embed conversation into everyday routines such as getting dressed, meal times and bed time.
Through Book Sharing:
What books to choose?
Books that tell a cumulative tale
Books with a natural sequence
Books with a repeated phrase or repetition as part of the story
Book Sharing Tips
Read books on topics that interest your child.
Ask your child to tell you what they know about the book you are reading.
Encourage your child to join in while sharing a book, saying repeated phrases for example.
Read with expression.
Encourage your child to re-tell the story.
Re-read books so that your child can become familiar with the story, making it easier to re-tell the story.
Relate what is happening in the story to your own child’s experiences or ask then to tell you how it might relate to them.
Use props to tell the story to help your child remember the sequence of the story. They may find using props a great way to re-tell you the story.
Encourage your child to talk about the pictures. Take their lead and try to ask open-ended question (those that cannot be answered by yes or no).
Talk about the books you like and what you like about them.
If your child loses interest, try again another time.
Talk about the pictures in a book or sections of a story and let your child tell you their thoughts about what is happening and might happen next.