Learning new words (vocabulary) and their meaning begins with earlier play opportunities. Activities, that use play-dough type modelling materials, are great for developing the language knowledge relating to touch, texture, actions and instructional language. Words such as: cold, warm, soft, hard, smooth, rough, gritty, roll, squeeze, squash and pull. An added benefit to these types of activities is that they also support your child in developing their hand and finger strength, bilateral coordination, sensory perception and for learning and perfecting different grips for using tools. Salt Dough So, why not make some great salt dough Christmas gifts and tree decorations with your child. Not only will they melt the hearts of those who receive them but you will be developing your child’s fine motor skills (needed for good handwriting) while having fun; can’t be bad! For a salt dough recipe that I have found good to use with children go to our Go to our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ page: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/more-activities.html and just download the ‘Salt Dough Modelling’ pdf (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/assets/pdfs/Salt%20Dough%20Modelling.pdf )
Back in September we explained that Phonics is very useful as a decoding tool used for developing reading skills and an encoding tool for spelling. It is the simple process of linking sounds to letters, its complexity comes from how many sounds (phonemes) to letter combinations (graphemes) there are.
Some letter and sound associations just don’t follow the normal phonics rule of a single sound being associated to a letter or letter combination. A few letters represent two sounds, such as the letter ‘u’ which in the word ‘cupid’ represents the two sounds /y,(j)/ and /oo,(uː)/.
A more common one letter two sound relation is that of the letter ‘x’ representing the two sounds /k,(k)/ and /s,(s)/ as in thewords: six and box.
Here are some other examples of single letters and split digraphs making two sounds instead of the usual phonics rule of only making one sound:
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.
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 singing 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, naming them and making the sound they produce.
What books should you choose?
Books with sounds of animals and other objects that make sounds
Books formatted from songs
Books with rhyme and alliteration
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 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.
It is not just the key to literacy success but an essential social communication skill.
Sadly, with the COVID-19 situation, schools are reporting ever increasing concerns over the decline in young children’s speaking and listening skills. So, over the next 14 weeks, we are looking again at the different developmental elements of speaking and listening; providing practical games and activities to help build a child’s skills.
Week 1. Conversational Turn Taking Skills
Week 2. Different Types of Talk
Week 3. The Importance of Small Talk
Week 4. How to Encourage Your Child to Keep Talking
Week 5. What is Listening?
Week 6. Games to Develop Listening Skills – Sound Screen Games
Week 7. Games to Develop Listening Skills – Sound Scanning Games
Week 8. Games to develop Listening Skills – Music Fun
Week 9. Games to develop Listening Skills – Phonemic Awareness
Week 10. Word Awareness
Week 11. Activities to Develop Talking & Language Skills
Week 12. Activities to Develop Rhyme & Alliteration
Week 13. Activities to Develop Syllable Awareness
Week 14. Activities to Develop Directional and Positional Language
A couple of weeks ago we started to explain some of the technical language associated with the teaching of phonics, which some new parents may have little or no knowledge of. So, we thought it would be a good idea to continue with this over next couple of weeks to further support you in helping your child.
Graphemes are the alphabet letters, or letter combinations, that represent a single sound (phoneme) in a written word.
An example of a single letter (grapheme) representing a single sound (a phoneme) can be seen in the following words: sat, pat and dog.
Some sounds are represented by two letters and are called digraphs such as the ‘ch’ in ‘chip’ or ‘sh’ in ‘shop’ or ‘ea’ in ‘head’ and the ‘ai’ in ‘rain’.
Other sounds can be represented by 3 (trigraphs) or 4 (quadgraphs) letter combinations such as ‘igh’ in ‘light’ and ‘eigh’ in ‘eight’.
Phonemes are the smallest units of sound of a language; which we blend together to form words.
The English Language has 44 phonemes, 24 consonants and 20 vowels, represented by the unique symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
The 44 phonemes of English (UK) are represented by more than 280 letter or letter combinations. Most letters therefore never make just one sound and that sound can be made by more than one letter or letter combination.
We have created over 1,000 videos that split words into their individual phonemes, showing which letters are making which sound in each word. You can access these videos in two ways:
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.
Print Awareness to Develop Understanding of Reading Conventions
Print Awareness is knowing that print (words) has meaning, including noticing print around them in the environment (posters & street signs) and understanding how to handle the conventions for reading a book. We can often assume that all young children or pre-readers (as not always young children) will develop print awareness naturally. However, research suggests that 95% of their visual attention is directed towards pictures, which in themselves hold a great deal of meaning and often tell the story very effectively.
Pictures/ illustrations in story books and pure picture books are powerful ways to engage children and adults with books, storytelling and reading. This is not to say that pictures are any easy way to interpret a storyline as they can hold a great deal of meaning, from simple obvious interpretation to more sophisticated symbolic representation.
Young children and pre-readers need opportunities to explore print and be helped to understand that the written word (print) has meaning. Once they start to see print they will begin to notice it everywhere not just in books but on posters, food packets, menus and street signs.
Again we can often assume that a child or pre-reader knows how to handle a book, however this is not always the case and can be due to a lack of experience with books or different cultural reading conventions. So it is important to check and teach these reading conventions for reading English:
Front cover opens to the left and we read it from the front to the back.
Print on a page is read left to right.
Usually print is read from the top of the page across and down (this may differ slightly in some children’s books).
Supporting Print Awareness:
Use takeaway menus or create your own as part of role playtime, they could have their own café serving up all sorts of interesting dishes for you. A blackboard can be very useful for this, allowing you or your child to write up their own menu for the day.
Travel brochures or leaflets from your local tourist information office are great for role play encouraging new language as well as a different way to explore print as they often have maps and timetables.
Use sticky labels or post it notes to label items or furniture as part of a ‘can you see or find’ game.
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).
For slightly older children making simple invitations and thank you cards can be fun. Try not to make the messages too long or to write too many as they will get bored and see it as a chore not as fun.
Making and drawing their own story book.
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes
Showing the printed words to songs and rhymes.
Point out signs, logos and labels when out and about as well as at home.
A lot of print awareness skills are developed through the sharing of books and appropriate on-line material.
Through Book Sharing
What books to choose?
Books that have writing as part of the story;
Books that have writing as part of the picture;
Story books; all types;
Factual (non-fiction) books; all types;
Children’s magazines and newspapers.
Book Sharing Tips
Remember babies will chew and bash the pages of the book as you read. This is normal and part of their learning experience so go with it.
Encourage and let your child turn the pages.
Point to the words of the title as you say them
Explain what the author and illustrator do as you say their names.
Point to words or repeated phrases as you say them or as your child says them. This will also help your child to develop the skill of reading from left to right and from the top of the page down (English).
Point to words of interest and explain how words have spaces between them and why.
To help your child understand how to handle a book use the word ‘front’ and ‘back’ of the book. If you are handed a book upside down or with the ‘back’ cover facing you explain that you have to turn it around or over so that you can read it.
Explain that page numbers help you to find things in the book as well as to help make sure you do not miss any part of the story.
Explain that content pages in story books show the chapters and in factual (non-fiction) they show different subject areas, as well as giving the page numbers on which to find them.
Explain how the index page in non-fiction books work.