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The Skills Early Learners Need To Become Readers – Knowing The Single Sounds

One of the first things I do as a Year One Teacher at the beginning of the school year is to find out which single sounds each child does, and doesn’t, know.

By the end of the Foundation Year (Known as Pre Primary in WA, Preparatory in VIC, QLD and TAS, Kindergarten in NSW and ACT and Transition in NT – nice and consistent across Australia, isn’t it?!!) learners are expected to know the most common sound for most of the letters of the alphabet.

In fancy terms this is known as the alphabetic principle or sound/symbol relationship. The premise is that the alphabet letters are the symbols that represent a spoken sound.

This is super important for reading.

Understanding this relationship is a huge step for beginning readers as it gives them a strategy to ‘sound out’ words leading them towards being able to read them.

We must teach our children that the letters correspond to a sound. They will not just pick this up by osmosis. This will give our children a skill known as word attack or ‘decoding’ – being able to sound out the word.

Yes, most children will grow to memorise words by sight but we shouldn’t rely on this as an early reading strategy – for some kids this will then just become an activity in guessing. By arming them with a strategy of knowing the sounds the letters make, our children have an actual way of helping them begin to read.

So how can we help our children learn the letter sounds?

* Point them out during normal daily activities – when you are at the shop, when you see a sign tell your child the sound the letter makes. Emphasise them at any chance you get!

* Have a selection of letter stamps – I bought a set of stamps from K-Mart and my daughter loves stamping them on, well, everything! You do have to remember that you will need to point to the stamped letters and tell your child the sound – they won’t just know this.

* Do activities that require your child to hear the sound and see the letter – after ‘Blowing bubbles’ you can write the words down and point out the /b/ sound.

* Play ‘schools’ – this seems to be quite a popular one in my house. Try being the student – I bet your child is very strict with you! A set of handwritten flashcards with a letter of the alphabet on each card can turn into a fun way to practise the single sounds!

* Alphabet books – books like Animalia by Graeme Base can assist. You can go through the alphabet letters and emphasise the sounds as you go.

* Support activities your child’s Classroom Teacher may send home.

Keep an eye out for my next few posts on how to say sound the single sounds and some fun, simple activities you can do!

Happy Reading!

Leigh

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