Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey – Week 2

Word Awareness

Phonological Awareness Games and Book Sharing Ideas

Phonological awareness relates to our sensitivity and understanding of the sound structures of our oral language. It enables us to progress from our awareness of large sound units (words in sentences) to smaller sound units (phonemes in words).

Our phonological awareness develops over time and the depth of that awareness is based on the range of experiences we have. Research suggests that our phonological awareness begins in the womb at about 24 weeks and is continually built upon throughout our lives. We tend to think of children going through ten distinct phonological stages; the later stages being related to phonics.

Children are taught to read in schools through phonics; the association between sounds (phonemes) to written alphabet letters (graphemes).

Phonics reading is the process of firstly segmenting the written word into letters, or letter combinations, then associating known sounds to those letters and finally blending the sounds together to form words (decoding). If a child is weak in any of the phonological awareness stages before those relating to phonics then they will struggle with learning to read.

Because of the nature of how we develop our phonological awareness games and activities cannot easily be split into categories. Playing, drawing, writing, singing and book sharing all require you to talk with your child highlighting sounds, words and rhythms of language.

Here are some games and activities to help you:

  • Singing and sharing nursery rhymes is a great way to help children hear sounds in words because the words are drawn out and the sounds highlighted or exaggerated.
  • Clapping, bouncing or tapping to songs and rhymes helps to highlight the syllables of the words. A syllable is the largest phonological unit (one or a group of sounds) of a word and is like the rhythmic beat of the word.
  • Pointing out the sounds you hear, such as animal or environmental noises, and explaining what is making that noise.
  • Playing games or sing songs where you and your child can make noises such as animal sounds (Old MacDonald had a farm) or vehicle noises (The Wheels on the Bus).
  • Drawing animals or other everyday objects that have a distinct sound, name them and make the sound they produce.

Book Sharing

What books should you choose?

  • Books with sounds of animals and other objects that make sounds
  • Nursery Rhymes
  • Books formatted from songs
  • Books with rhyme and alliteration
  • Poetry books
  • Any book really, remember your local library can help you to choose a good range of books to share with your child if you are not sure.

Book Sharing Tips

  • Don’t be shy, make animal and object noises. If you are self-conscious about it your child will pick up on this. No one thinks twice about an adult making what may appear to be strange noises if they are sharing them with a child (it’s when you forget they are not with you and you do it that they tend to look at a you a bit funny).
  • Talk about whether the words in a book rhyme or not. Point out the rhyming words, make up other rhyming words for any of the words in the book. Remember they do not have to be real words they can be silly funny words that pick up the rhyming sounds in the original word.
  • It is important to remember for some children saying a word that rhymes with one you have given that can be very difficult, if not impossible. So, don’t stress them out with this, it is often easier for them to recognise a rhyme than to make one. You could ask them to tell you if two words you give rhyme or not. If they find this easy try giving them three words with only two that rhyme and ask them to identify the rhyming words.
  • After sharing the book pick out words that you can clap out the syllables for. You could make this into a jumping or hopping game instead. With older children ask then to tell you how many syllables the word has and then to check their answer by counting the number of claps or jumps they make.
  • Play an ‘I Spy’ game using the pictures in the book looking for rhyming words for instance by giving clues such as; “It is red and rhymes with the word sock.” The answer is clock.

Accents and Phonics

Bath - phonics section

Because the English language is so rich and diverse it is very difficult to create a phonics system that caters for all. Every region that speaks the English language has its own accent which means there are always variations in the way that a word is pronounced.

Across England we all spell words the same but we certainly do not say them all the same, even though we all use the same 44 sounds. In the English language the 44 sounds can be represented by over 280 letter combinations.

So accents have arisen from regions applying different phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters) when they pronounce words. The regions still use the same sounds and letters, they just associate them differently.

For example, in the South of England the letter ‘a’ can be pronounced as the ‘long ’R’ controlled’ vowel sound /ar,(ɑː)/ in words such as ‘grass’ and ‘bath’ whereas in the North of England it will be pronounced as the ‘short’ vowel /a,(æ)/ sound in these two words.

Click here scroll down the page to see the animations of the different pronunciations of the word ‘bath’.

Both pronunciations are correct, which can make teaching phonics a little tricky; the key is to teach the sound to letter relationships which best suit the children being taught in relation to their regional accent. It is important to remember that children’s knowledge of the sounds that make words is based on how you speak to them naturally and not a strict standardized set of sounds.

However, for general educational and learning purposes the English language’s phonics system has been standardized, this is known as the ‘Received Pronounced’ (RP) English, and is used in comprehensive English dictionaries and translation dictionaries. The RP is based on a southern accent sound to letter relationship basis.

The ‘Long Vowel’ Sounds

Long Vowel Sounds

There are 13 ‘long vowel’ sounds in total; 7 ‘long vowel’ sounds and 6 ‘long ‘R’ controlled vowel’ sounds.

The 7 ‘long vowel’ sounds are so called due to the length of their pronunciation; these can often be held without distorting their sound.

 The /ai,(eI)/ sound found in the words: train, tray, cake and break.

The /oa,(ǝƱ)/ sound found in the words: boat, hotel, toe and bone.

The /oi,(ɔI)/ sound found in the words: boy, coin and buoy.

The /ow,(aƱ)/ sound found in the words: owl, house, drought and hour.

The /ee,(іː)/ sound found in the words: tree, pea, me, and pony.

The /I,(aI)/ sound found in the words: iron, fly, pie and light.

The /oo,(uː)/ sound found in the words: spoon, blue, screw and you.

The 6 ‘long ‘R’ controlled vowel’ sounds are so called because of the slight /r,(r)/ sound quality that can be heard in them along with the length of their pronunciation; these can often be held without distorting their sound.

The /ar,(ɑː)/ sound found in the words: car, father (southern UK accent) and art.

The /or,(ɔː)/ sound found in the words: fork, door, walk and sauce.

The /ear,(Iǝ)/ sound found in the words: ear, here, deer and pier.

The /er,(ɜː)/ sound found in the words: bird, kerb, nurse and worm.

The /re,(Ʊǝ)/ sound found in the words: manure, tour and mature.

The /air,(eǝ)/ sound found in the words: chair, pear, square and where.

How Many ‘Short Vowel’ Sounds Do You Know?

Short Vowel song Pictures

There are 7 ‘short vowel’ sounds, although children are usually only introduced to the 5 which are most commonly heard in simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words: /a,(æ)/ in cat, /e,(e)/ in peg, /i,(I)/ in pin, /o,(ɒ)/ in hot, /u,(ʌ)/ in bus.

The other two ‘short vowel’ sounds are: /oo(u),(Ʊ)/ in bull or could and /uh,(ǝ or schwa)/ heard  as the final sound in the words: zebra, doctor and corner.

Our ‘Short Vowel’ Finger Chant can help you, and your child, to learn and remember the 7 ‘short vowel’ sounds: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/free-resources-phonics.html

English (UK) Vowel Sounds

Learning to hear and differentiate the vowel sounds from consonant sounds is an important skill in understanding how words are formed. Every word in the English Language has to have a vowel sound in it and every syllable in a word also has to have a vowel sound within it. This knowledge is an important element in developing our phonemic awareness and phonics knowledge as we start to learn how to read and spell words.

There are 20 vowel sounds in the English (UK) Language, usually (in the UK Education System) split into two main categories based on sound quality:

  • ‘Short’ vowel sounds, due to the short duration of the sound being made, the sound cannot be held onto without becoming distorted
  • ‘Long’ vowel sounds, due to the length of their pronunciation, these can often be held without distorting their sound.

Here at Teach Phonics we split the ‘long’ vowel sounds category into ‘long’ vowel sounds and ‘long ‘R’ controlled’ vowel sounds. The ‘long ’R’ controlled’ vowel sounds are so called because of the slight /r,(r)/ sound quality that can be heard in them.

The English Phoneme Chart, which uses the unique symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), splits the 20 vowel sound into two groups based on mouth position:

  • Monophthongs which have one mouth position throughout the sound
  • Diphthongs, where the mouth position changes, giving a 2 sound quality to the phoneme.

The Consonant Sounds with their Most Common Letter and Letter Combinations

There are 24 consonant sounds in the English language. A consonant sound is made (produced) when the air flow is being restricted in some way, which means that the mouth doesn’t open as wide and so the jaw doesn’t drop noticeably, which is different from vowel sounds.

Here is a list of just some of the most commonly seen letter and letter combinations used to represent the 24 consonant sounds. For a more comprehensive lists check out our English Phoneme Chart or Alphabet Keyboard which can be found on our ‘Phonemes’ page: bit.ly/1Qgc9dA

  • /b,(b)/ bin, rabbit
  • /k,(k)/ cat, key, duck, queen, anchor, broccoli
  • /ch,(ʧ)/ church, watch
  • /d,(d)/ dog, ladder, towed
  • /f,(f)/  fish, puffin, phone, laugh
  • /g,(g)/ girl, digger, ghost
  • /h,(h)/ hen, who
  • /j,(ʤ)/  jigsaw, giant, bridge
  • /l,(l)/   lion, llama
  • /m,(m)/  man, hammer, lamb
  • /n,(n)/   nest, penny, knife, gnome
  • /ng,(ŋ)/ king, sink
  • /p,(p)/    panda, hippo
  • /r,(r)/   robin, lorry, wrist
  • /s,(s)/  sun, dress, city, geese, castle
  • /sh,(ʃ)/  ship, chef, delicious, initials, sugar
  • /t,(t)/   tent, butterfly, jumped
  • /th,(θ)/  thumb
  • /th,(ð)/ feather, breathe
  • /v,(v)/ van, sleeve, of
  • /w,(w)/ well, whale, penguin
  • /y,(j)/ yo-yo, euro
  • /z,(z)/  zero, puzzle, sneeze, cheese, is
  • /zh,(Ʒ)/ measure, television

Sounds in the English (UK) Language

Blog Phonics

The English Language is created through the different combinations of 44 sounds (phonemes), 20 vowels and 24 consonants. Vowel sounds allow the air to flow freely, causing the chin to drop noticeably, whilst consonant sounds are produced by restricting the air flow.

Vowel sounds are usually (in the UK Education System) split into two main categories based on sound quality:

  • ‘Short’ vowel sounds, due to the short duration of the sound being made. The sound cannot be held onto without becoming distorted
  • ‘Long’ vowel sounds, due to the length of their pronunciation. These can often be held without distorting their sound.

Consonant sounds are made (produced) when the air flow is being restricted in some way, for example, changes in tongue position resulting in the mouth not opening as wide. This means that the jaw doesn’t drop noticeably, which is different to vowel sounds.

Because the English language is so rich and diverse it is very difficult to create a ‘phonics’ system that caters for all. Every region that speaks the English language has its own accent with variations in the way that a word is pronounced.

Across England we all spell words the same but we certainly do not say them all the same even though we all use the same 44 sounds. In the English language the 44 sounds can be represented by over 280 letter combinations.

So accents have arisen from regions applying different phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters) when they pronounce words. The regions still use the same sounds and letters, they just associate them differently.

However, for general educational and learning purposes the English language’s phonics system has been standardized, this is known as the ‘Received Pronounced’ (RP) English, and is used in comprehensive English dictionaries and translation dictionaries. The RP is based on a southern accent, sound to letter relationships basis.

This can make teaching phonics a little tricky; the key is to teach the sound to letter relationships which best suit the children being taught in relation to their regional accent. It is important to remember that children’s knowledge of the sounds that make words is based on how you speak to them naturally and not a strict standardized set of sounds.