The Skills a Child Needs to Achieve Phonics Success

Phonological Awareness Chart

Phonics is actually stage 8 of the 10 distinct and progressive stages of phonological awareness development.

Pre-phonics skills are those a child learns as they develop through the phonological awareness stages 1 to 7. Throughout this time they are continually developing their understanding and knowledge of our spoken language as well as other communication forms such as gestures, facial expressions, body language and social conventions.

Speaking and listening skills play a vital role in helping children develop their phonics knowledge as they need to be exposed to a wide and varied vocabulary that allows them to hear and use the range of sounds that form our language.

Being exposed to a greater range of sound experiences helps children to develop their awareness of the sounds around them. The more they hear, the more associations they can make to those sounds (what they see, feel, experience), the greater their ability to distinguish between them. This skill becomes important later on as they begin to isolate individual words in sentences, being able to distinguish between words that sound similar such as dog and hog.

Through listening and speaking games and activities children are exposed to new vocabulary as well as learning to play with the sounds in their language. This helps them to remember how the sounds feel when they make them as well as how they sound in isolation and when combined with other sounds.

Scientists believe a child’s sound awareness begins before they are born; at about 24 weeks, which highlights the importance of sound awareness, including environmental and speech sounds, as part of our instinctive natural development.

The Phonological Awareness Stages on our website (http://bit.ly/2FMnYsS) are set in a developmental order from one to ten. Against each stage we have provided an age range guide based on research, which shows when most children develop the various phonological awareness skills. Clicking on a stage will take you to another page which gives more in-depth information and links to help you support children through the stage.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological Awareness Chart

Phonics is stage 8 of our phonological awareness development, so what comes before?

Pre-phonics skills are those a child learns as they develop through the phonological awareness stages 1 to 7. Throughout this time they are continually developing their understanding and knowledge of our spoken language as well as other communication forms, such as gestures, facial expressions, body language and social conventions.

Speaking and listening skills play a vital role in helping a child develop their phonics knowledge, as they need to be exposed to a wide and varied vocabulary that allows them to hear and use the range of sounds that form our language.

Being exposed to a greater range of sound experiences helps a child to develop their awareness of the sounds around them. The more they hear, the more associations they can make to those sounds (what they see, feel, experience), the greater their ability to distinguish between them. This skill becomes important later on as they begin to isolate individual words in sentences, being able to distinguish between words that sound similar such as dog and hog.

Through listening and speaking games and activities a child is exposed to new vocabulary, as well as learning to play with the sounds in their language. This helps them to remember how the sounds feel when they make them as well as how they sound in isolation and when combined with other sounds.

Scientist believe a child’s sound awareness begins before they are born; at about 24 weeks, which highlights the importance of sound awareness, including environmental and speech sounds, as part of our instinctive natural development.

To find out more about the different developmental stages of a child’s phonological awareness click here.

The Difference between Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Single word reading

With the new school year well under way many new parents are being introduced to the world of phonics and the all the technical language associated with it. So we thought we would take this opportunity to demystify some of that technical language.

Phonemic awareness is our ability to split words into their smallest sound units (individual phonemes) and to manipulate these sounds through segmentation, blending, substitution and deletion. This is based on what we hear and say, not the written word.

The phonemic awareness sound manipulation skills; segmentation, blending, substitution and deletion are developed further through phonics, as letter associations are introduced.

  • Segmentation – being able to split words into their individual sounds, for example ‘cat’ into c-a-t.
  • Blending – being able to blend individual sounds together to say a word, for example d-o-g into dog.
  • Substitution – being able to swap one sound/letter association for another in a word, for example swapping the /k,(k)/ sound in the word ‘cat’ with a /h,(h)/ sound to say the word ‘hat’.
  • Reordering – being able to swap the sounds/letter association around to create a new word, for example changing the order of the letters in the word ‘cat’ to form the new word ‘act’.
  • Deletion – being able to remove a sound/letter association from a word to create a new word, for example removing the /t,(t)/ sound from the word ‘cart’ to say the new word ‘car’.

Good phonemic awareness is the vital skill required before phonics can be introduced successfully as a tool for learning to read and spell.

Phonics is the association of sounds (phonemes) to written alphabet letters (graphemes). For reading (decoding) the phonics coding system is used to convert the written word into sounds. For spelling (encoding) the same phonic coding system is used to covert sounds heard into letters to form written words.

Watch our ‘Single Word Reading’ animation to see these manipulation skills in action: bit.ly/20JAHSa

Games to Develop Listening Skills – Part 3

Musical Bottles

These games are designed to help a child learn about the different levels of sound, pitch, tone and volume.

Music Fun

  • Skittle Band – Use or make a drum stick (wooden spoons are good for this) and explore with your child the different sounds the drum stick makes against different objects made of different materials, such as steel saucepan, another wooden spoon, plastic bottles etc. Choose items that are safe and you are happy for them to play with. You could photograph the object and record the sounds they make or video (on your phone), to play back and talk about later on. Try moving the activity outside for a different sound quality experience.
  • Orchestral Conductor – Once your child is happy and enjoys playing and making sounds, with different objects and instruments, try the conductor game. You can use your hands or a baton to point and encourage them to play certain sounds just like an orchestral conductor does, but make sure you have a clear stop gesture which your child will understand (you may need to say stop at the same time as the gesture to begin with, but they will soon get the idea). Then swap places and you become the musician and they the conductor; it may not be a classic you create but it is great fun. As your child develops their skills you can add new elements and hand gestures to make the sound louder or softer.
  • Musical Bottles – Use plastic bottles with different amounts of water/sand in them and different things as a beater. Talk about how:
    • Low/deep or high pitched a sound is compared with another.
    • Using different beaters can change the quality of the sound when used on the same bottle.
    • Using different amounts of pressure to hit the bottle makes the sound louder (harsher) or quieter (softer).

Try organizing the bottles in order of pitch to create a musical instrument and using this as part of the Orchestral Conductor game. You could number each bottle or use a different picture on the bottle as a way of encouraging your child to play the bottles in different orders (making music).

Enjoy!

Games to Develop Listening Skills – Part 2

Listening Games Scanning

These games are designed to help a child learn how to block out ambient noises so that they focus and concentrate on one particular sound.

Sound Scanning Games

The idea is to identify and talk about different sounds in different locations; in the park or at home in different rooms. Ask the child to listen for a moment (timed activity 30 seconds to start with then increase) and to pick out different sounds they can hear. Some will be close and easier to identify, other sounds may be further away and require more focused concentration to work out what they may be.

  • Sound Scanning Questions to help:
      • What can you hear that is far away?
      • What can you hear that is close by?
      • What can you hear that is loud?
      • What can you hear that is quiet?
      • What can you hear that makes a high pitched sound?
      • What can you hear that makes a low pitched sound?
      • What can you hear that sounds big?
      • What can you hear that sounds small?
  • Listening Walk Activities- You could record some of the sounds heard and talked about on the walk. Try changing the ‘What can you …?’ questions to ‘What did you…?’ Depending on your child’s age they may be able to draw a sound scape picture showing all the things they heard on the walk.
  • Where is the Sound? – The aim of the game is find out where the sound is coming from. Start by using something that makes a good clear sound. Ask your child to cover their eyes (can use a blindfold) and have them sit or stand in the middle of the room. Move around the room, starting not too far away from them and make the sound. Pause between each sound to give your child time to settle and focus on it before you make the next sound. Try to keep an even, slow pace. The aim is for your child to point in the direction they believe the sound is coming from. Gradually move further away, maintaining the same sound level. Swap places with your child, so you have to guess where the sound is coming from.

To make it more challenging:

  • Change the volume of the noise.
  • Change the object that is making the noise.
  • Change the speed (rhythm), as well as the location, at which the sounds are made.

Have Fun!

Games to Develop Listening Skills – Part 1

Listening Games

Last week we explained the three things required for good listening skills:

  • To pay attention – being able to focus on a particular voice or sound by filtering out other voices and ambient noises.
  • To concentrate on the voice or sounds to take in the information, building the stamina needed to listen for extended periods of time.
  • To interpret that information to gain meaning – comprehension.

Here are some games to help build these skills.

These games are designed to help a child learn how to block out ambient noises so that they focus and concentrate on one particular sound.

Sound Screen Games

Create a barrier between you and your child so they cannot see the object you are going to use to make noises with and see if they can guess the object. Try to use objects that make sounds that occur around them a lot of the time, for example keys rattling together or wooden blocks being knocked together. There are many variations of the game that can be played but you need to make sure your child has the opportunity to experience the sounds with the relevant object beforehand, if they are not to be frustrated by the game.

  • Mrs Blog has a box… To the tune of Old Macdonald changing the name as best fits the situation. Place a box, on its side with a number of objects inside that make a noise (choose items your child is familiar with the sound of) between you and your child so they can’t see what is in the box. Start singing “My mummy has a box ee, i, ee, i, o and in that box she has…” Stop and gesture to encourage your child to listen (maybe a cupped hand to your ear) then pick one of the objects and make a sound; your child then tries to guess what it is. Continue to sing but imitating the sound of the object you played, which your child can now see. If it was a bunch of keys for example; “with a jingle, jangle here and a jingle jangle there, my mummy has a box ee, i, ee, i, o.” Swap places so your child can choose an object in the box, change the song so you are using their name, for example “My James has a box…”
  • Same or Different? Place a barrier between you and your child so they cannot see which object you will use to make a sound and that you duck behind so they cannot see your face when you make vocal sounds.  This can be played at different levels. At the basic level using animal noises such as baa , moo, woof etc. A more complex level would be to use shakers with different size things inside to make different shaking sounds. Plastic containers or bags of the same size and type can be used to make the shakers with different small items in such as dried pea, rice, sand or small coins, pebbles or small lego bricks. Make the noise once and then repeat either with the same noise or a different one. The child then says if they a were the same or different.
  • Copy Cat! Place a barrier between you and your child so they cannot see which object you will use to make a sound and that you duck behind so they cannot see your face when you make vocal sounds.  You will need two set of the same objects, a set for you and one for your child. The aim of the game is for you to make a noise with either an object or your voice and for your child to copy that sound choosing the correct object in front of them or using their voice as you did. The game can become more complicated as you mix a number of sounds using objects and your voice. Swap roles so that your child becomes the leader of the game and you have to copy them.

Have Fun!

N.B. Be careful of small objects escaping from shakers etc. as these can be a choke hazard.

What is listening?

Listening

Listening is a complicated skill that requires children to learn how to pay attention – being able to focus on a particular voice or sound by filtering out other voices and ambient noises. They then have to concentrate on the voice or sounds to take in the information, building the stamina needed to listen for extended periods of time. Then they have to interpret that information to gain meaning – comprehension.

The usual approach to teaching children to listen is based on three behaviours:

  • Sitting or standing still
  • Looking at the person who is speaking
  • Thinking about what the person is saying or said

However just because your child is replicating these behaviours doesn’t mean they are listening.

It is also surprising how often children are happy to follow steps 1 and 2 but completely miss step 3.

This is not surprising really as listening is not a set of behaviours but a set of skills that need to be taught and developed, starting from birth.

A child with poor listening skills will find it difficult to complete tasks, as they have not taken in all the information and so not understood the full extent of the task, or what was required of them. This can lead to a child flitting from one activity to another and never finishing anything, slowing down their learning. They also miss out on the sense of achievement and feeling of pride when a task is completed. This helps to build a child’s confidence, self-esteem and self-motivation to try again or attempt a more challenging task.

For many children good listening skills do not develop naturally, they have to be taught!

Over the next few weeks we will introduce games and activities to support listening skills.