Thursday, 18 April 2013

Montessori Phonics : Word Building

Parents have come to me asking for assistance on how to help them teach their children... how to move on from recognition of single letter sounds to blending the 3-letter words in the Pink Scheme.

This is where many have overlooked, even teachers themselves, yes... even Montessorian ones. I believe in working with word building exercises prior to actual blending lessons. Word building is frankly the key to reading all phonetic words. Children who have done word building do not need to have letters grouped together to be able to read efficiently especially if they have been exposed to a lot of books, either they have parents reading to them regularly or they have been given a lot of encouragement and stimulation to read independently or both.

Word building is the pre-reading stage where children are guided to listen to sounds in words. Any phonetic words. In my Montessori sessions, we have word building games to help children use their listening skills and put them to good use. 

For example :

Teacher : What do I have here?

Children : A bag!

Teacher : Now... I think I can hear a few sounds in the word 'bag'... Can you hear the sounds in that word too? Let's say that words together real slowly... Now, what sounds can you hear in the word b....a.....g.... (drag the sounds)

In my experience from having taught for many years, my students/children always give the first and last consonant letter before the middle vowel sound.

Children : We can hear the sound /b/.

Teacher : Good. Now what other sounds are there in the word b....a....g....

Children : We can hear the sound /g/.

Teacher : Good. Now we only have the sounds /b/ and /g/... and that is
not enough to form a proper word. I think we need a vowel. Now what
vowel can you hear in the word.... b.....aaaaa....g.... (this time drag the
/a/ sound) to make it seem more obvious. 

Children : /a/!!!

Teacher : Good. Now, let's sort the sounds out. What is the first sound in
the word bag?

Children : (saying to themselves) b... a... g. /b/ should be the first sound 
in the word bag.

Teacher : Good, what do you think comes next?

Children : (repeating the word to themselves again) b... aaaa... g.

(From the teacher's obvious sounding hint, the children will repeat the same sounds to themselves, hence providing indirect reinforcement for the children to grasp it all on their own. It's fine if you sound like a broken record, just make it a happy though broken one) 

If the children are stuck here, you may guide the process by offering... "I think it's a vowel sound next... what do you think...?" 

Most times, children with an already concrete foundation in single letter sounds will get it almost automatically. Cos through the lessons during foundation, children have been reinforced with the sounds regularly. Many fun repetitive activities would have been carried out as well to ensure that while having fun the children retain the essence of the lesson objective, the sounds.

Children : /a/....?

Teacher : Yes, an /a/... now what would the last letter be then?

Children : (repeating the sounds to themselves one last time) b... a... g.

Children : /g/ is the last sound!

Teacher : Well done everyone, now let's build this word and see if we get the word bag. 

Slowly now... /b/.... /a/... (buh.... aaaaaa.....) then... put those two together.... it wud make /ba/ = baaaahh.... and lastly fit in the /g/ in a brief sounding second. Hence making it sound /ba/.... /g/. Bag. Let's try that again.. (repeat)

Note : This word building process goes through 3 steps.

1. Say first letter sound. (/b/)

2. Say second letter sound. (/a/)

3. Combine sounds (/b/ and /a/) and roll in the /g/ sound at the end.

Lastly, read the word as a whole. Don't break it up. 

So, just say it briefly in one breath. 'bag' This; to sum up that built up word. 

Gosh. I do hope this helps give an idea.

I'm trying my best to provide the sounds and techniques just typing words out here.. not an easy task when you can't hear me sounding them out. Sweating now.. Teheeheehee..

Most teachers seem to go right into the 3-letter stage. So children miss out on word building opportunities which is really really really helpful moving on from the single letter sounds stage. The reason why some children may get stuck at blending 3-letter phonetic words can be due to that. Other kids who can grasp the concept of blending word families faster do eventually get it anyhow. 

Word family blending is simply giving them the combi (combination) of sounds for example : /an/... and then get children to read words that comes under that family like...

ban can fan man pan ran tan van 

Though that method works, i just prefer to better layer my children's foundation skills with word building. I prefer to make it concrete. 

Plus you can do word building with 4 or 5 or 6 letter words like a game if you want... just to see if they can indeed hear the sounds in words. Phonetic ones of course. 

For children who are confident learners, you don't have to emphasize the sounds at all. You can just say the word and ask for what sounds they can hear. :D

When my kiddies we younger, (during outings or travels) we also played word games like "I Spy" (things in the train beginning with... : for single letter sounds) and "What sounds can i hear in the word...? Like pram or shop.. as and when we are looking out from where we are traveling in. ie. bus or train.

Don't take my word for it, of course. Try it out with your children and see how it works out... and of course please do leave me your happy notes of success. If you are still stuck for any reason at any point while trying to teach your child/children to read... i am just a PM/email away.

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