Tag Archives: letter awareness

More tips to help a child read bigger words

  • The same rule that applies to CVC/CVC words applies to CVC/CVCE words; that is, to words of two syllables which have (usually) a short vowel in the first syllable, two consonants in the middle of the word, and a long vowel in the second syllable controlled by a silent “e” at the end of the word.  The syllables split between the middle two consonants unless there is a blend, in which case the syllables split before or after the blend.
  • To teach these words, it might be easier to find some compound words that form this way, such as “tadpole,” “backbone” and “pancake.”  Make a list and let the child circle the two separate words which form the compound word.  Then ask the child to put the separate words together to form a new word.  Some words you might use are
    Two words that together make one word
  • When these words are mastered, move on to CVC/CVCE words which are not compound words such as “membrane,” “umpire” and “pollute.”  The same rule applies as above.  Have the child divide the word between the syllables.  If the child has trouble deciding where to divide, remind her that usually one syllable ends and another one begins between the two middle consonants.  Help her to identify blends that need to stay together in the same syllable.  Some words you might use are
    two syllables divided by middle consonants
  • When your child understands the pattern, you might explain that some bigger words follow the same pattern.  Introduce three syllable words with the CVC/CVC/CVCE pattern, such as “illustrate,” “vaccinate” and “indispose.” But if the child is struggling to understand the previous CVC/CVCE words, hold off on three syllable words.  Some words you might us are
    Introduce three syllable words.

Our blog will continue to teach multisyllabic words in the near future.  Let us know if you find this information useful or if you have particular problems teaching your child reading.  We will investigate for you and offer the best advice we can find.  –Mrs. K and Mrs. A

My granddaughter can read small words, but she stumbles over bigger words when we read together. How can I help her?

Here are some tips to help with bigger words:

  • If you are reading for sheer enjoyment, anticipate the words she might not know and say them quickly, so she can keep reading and not lose her thought.  Don’t worry that she might not be learning new word attack skills in your reading session; she is learning other aspects of reading such as fluency and comprehension which are often hard to learn when she stops to consider every new word.  Also, if she is tired or ornery, this kind of reading lesson gets her to read without causing frustration.grandparent reading with grandchild.
  • But if you are reading with your granddaughter to help her decipher words, and if she is in a receptive mood, you might cover parts of the word (usually syllables) and then uncover them, so she can join them together.  For example, if the word is “continent,” cover the “tinent” part with your thumb and let her say “con.”  Then cover the “con” and the “ent” parts and let her read “tin.”  If she mispronounces “tin,” pronounce it correctly.  Then cover all but the “ent” and let her figure out those four letters.  If she can put it together, fine, but if not, you do it while covering and exposing parts of the word as you say it.  Then move on to another word.  The goal should be to teach her a method of figuring out words, not mastering every word you encounter in a particular lesson.
  • If you own the book, and don’t mind marking it, you could highlight every word she can read correctly.  She will see that the number of words she can read far outnumbers the few she can’t.  You might ask her what she notices about the words that are not highlighted.  She might say, “They are long,” or “They have lots of letters.”  Tell her there are ways to figure out those words just like there are ways to figure out three-letter words, and you will work with her on those long words.
  • A good place to begin is with compound words.  They can be easy to decipher if the child looks for small words inside big words.  Try some with her such as “pancake,” “popcorn” and “forget.”  Make a list of such words and let her be the detective, discovering the small words inside the large words.  Have her circle each of the small words and then pronounce them together.  Some words you might use are:compound words are small words inside big words
  • Some longer words have pronunciation rules that are easy for a child to remember.  For example, if a six- or seven-letter word has double consonants in the middle (biggest, kitten, flabby), that means the word usually has two parts, or syllables, and the first syllable ends between the “twin” letters.  (Use the word “syllable” since this is a term your granddaughter will need to learn anyway.)  Phonics books sometimes refer to these words as VC/CV or CVC/CVC words since they generally have short vowel sounds in both syllables.  You could practice a handful of those words, writing them on notebook paper for your granddaughter to pronounce.  Choose words whose letters follow the rules of phonics so she is not confused.  Have her draw a line between the double consonants and then pronounce each syllable.  Some words you might use are:"twin" letter words have double consonants in the middle.
  • Some other six- or seven-letter words have one vowel near the beginning, another vowel near the end, and two or three consonants in the middle.  These are a variation on VC/CV or CVC/CVC words with twin conconants.  Show her words like “contest,” “nutmeg” and “insect.”  Explain that the words have two syllables, and that the first syllable ends between the two consonants.  Have her draw a line between the middle consonants and then pronounce each syllable.  Some words you might use are:two syllable words with vowels in the first and last syllable

Our blog will have more on how to teach multisyllabic words in the near future.  Let us know if you find this information useful or if you have particular problems teaching your child reading.  We will investigate for you and offer the best advice we can find.  –Mrs. K and Mrs. A

My child is struggling to learn short vowel sounds. What can I do?

As a temporary help, you could create word lists or flash cards using color-coded letters for the vowels.

Colors for vowel soundsIn Tutoring is Caring, Montessori teacher Aline D. Wolf suggests printing the letter representing the vowel sound in a particular color to help the child remember the sound.  She suggests using colors whose name has the letter sound that the child is trying to say.  So for example, short e words would be written with red e’s.  Since vowels are the most difficult sounds for the child to master, the color would alert the child that the colored letter is a vowel, and the color would also give the child a clue as to the letter’s pronunciation.

The colors Wolf suggests are

  • Red for the short e sound since red’s vowel sound is short e.
  • Rust for the short u sound since rust’s vowel sound is short u.
  • Silver for the short i sound since silver’s vowel sound is short i.
  • Tan for the short a sound since tan’s vowel sound is short a.
  • Olive for the short o sound since olive’s vowel sound is short o.
  • Black for all consonants.

Wolf says it is important that the child recognize the colors using their specific names.  If a child sees olive and says green, then the clue that the sound of “ol” gives would be lost.  She recommends beginning with “e” and then “u” because they are easier.

Wolf wrote her suggestions in 1981, before personal computers, so today we have other options.  Using a computer, it is easy to duplicate these colored letters in words, just as using crayons or colored pencils makes it easy by hand.

Another suggestion she makes is to use broken lines for silent letters, a signal to the student that the letter is necessary but it is not pronounced.  This is easy to do if you are handwriting the letters, but I could not find a broken letter type face on my computer.  However, the computer offers other options such as outlined letters or highlighted letters, either of which could indicate silent letters.

With her lists of color-coded words, Wolf puts a drawing of a word that begins with that letter at the top of the list as an extra reminder of the letter sound.  So for short e, there is a drawing of an elephant; for u, an umbrella; for i, an igloo; for a, an alligator; and for o, an olive.

Cautioning that color-coding is a crutch, Wolf says it should be used as long as necessary, but that gradually the child should be weaned from the colors.  For children who don’t need the extra boost that colored letters give, they should not be used at all.

How to wean a child?  Wolf suggests that the child could match color coded words with the same words printed in black.  Or the child could match words printed in black with objects around the house or at school such as milk, pan and egg.  The child could also match words with pictures.

Can dyslexia be identified in a preschooler?

By definition, dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by difficulty reading.  There are secondary characteristics—difficulty spelling, and illegible handwriting, for example—but until a child has attempted to read, it’s probably too early to identify dyslexia.

Even so, the National Center for Learning Disabilities has listed several warning signs for dyslexia, shown in the chart below, and some of them apply to preschoolers.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting about five percent of American children.  Its cause is unknown, although scientists think it probably has more than one cause.  About a quarter of the children who have dyslexia also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, though most children with dyslexia don’t exhibit ADHD.  If an older child in the family or a parent has dyslexia, then the younger child has an increased chance of having it too.

Children diagnosed with dyslexia have normal intelligence and vision, yet they cannot figure out how to read by first grade.  Eventually they do, but they often require intervention from the school system, a tutor or a dedicated parent.

Dyslexia affects information processing in the part of the brain controlling language.  Usually children without dyslexia begin to realize that sounds combine to form words or parts of words, and that those sounds can be represented by letters.  Children with dyslexia have difficulty making these connections.

Children with dyslexia do learn to read, but it takes longer.  Teachers need to repeat the phonemes or basic sounds of English (about 44) and help children recognize these sounds in words and in syllables.  “Go” for example, has two phonemes, g and long o.  Then teachers need to connect these phonemes to letters, and the letters to tiny words which follow the rules of pronunciation.

If you are concerned about dyslexia, the National Center for Learning Disabilities website offers a 40-page toolkit about dyslexia, including several pages about characteristics of children pre-K to second grade and strategies to help them learn.  Your right to have your child tested by the public schools, the type of testing done and a video from an educator who has dyslexia are included in the toolkit.

Do electronic games teach kids how to read?

A father of a four-year-old told me his son recently said, “Dad, I know how to spell exit.  E-X-I-T.”

“You’re right.  How did you learn that?” the father asked.

“Easy,” the child replied.  “Playing Mario.”

Seated young boy is playing a portable video game..

Click on picture to enlarge it.

The father explained that the boy is crazy about Mario games.  He can read little words, but not big ones, so sometimes he pauses the game and asks his father what a particular word means.  “He wants to know all the words so that he can beat the game,” the father explained.

So eager is the boy to win the games that on his own he learned how to navigate to YouTube on an iPad and typed in “Mario” and “Super Mario Bros. U.”  Then he listened to college kids commenting on how to win the games.  “He picked up the lingo and improved his vocabulary,” said the father.  And he won the games.  Now he wants to teach other little kids how to win the Mario games which are the rage at his preschool.

This child has been raised with electronics.  At two he received a Leapster and a dozen games, some of which taught letter recognition and small words.  On the family iPad he routinely searches Google for tips on playing Mario games.

Kneeling young girl is playing a portable video game.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Sometimes he finds what he thinks might be useful information, but he can’t read it, so he and his father read it together.

Similar to how bilingual children merge words from one language into another, this child mixes “electronic” terms into his “analog” life.  On a family vacation his grandfather was reading a book to him when his mother called the child for a minute.  “Pause it, Grandpa,” the four-year-old said.  “Navigate” is as natural to him as “go.”

How about your child?  Has he or she learned how to read from playing electronic games?

Can flashcards be used with preschoolers? If so, how?

I have worked successfully using flash cards with three and four-year-olds.  The children were learning the alphabet.  I used a deck of cards with all 26 letters printed on them, plus pictures of words which begin with each letter.  Here’s how you might use the cards:

Child holding a pile of flash cards that she's studied and now knows.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

  • Use flash cards to recognize the names of the A, B, C’s.  For very young children, start with just a few cards (such as the letters in family names, Mom and Dad).  Later increase the number of letters until all 26 could be identified.
  • Use flash cards to recognize the sounds of the A, B, C’s.  Start with a few cards whose sounds the child already knows and add more until all 26 letter sounds can be identified.
  • Use flash cards to pair letter names and sounds.  Once the child knows the names of the A, B, C’s and the sounds individual letters make, shuffle the cards and pull them one at a time for the child to identify both names and sounds.  Resist the urge to place all the cards face up on a table.  For some children, seeing all 26 cards at once is overwhelming even though they know the letters and sounds.  Showing one card at a time is not so intimidating.  Start small.
  • Use flash cards to order A, B, C’s.  Taking a handful of cards at a time (A to E, for example), place them face up in mixed order on a table.  Let the child arrange the cards in order.  Sing the ABC song slowly with the child if she hesitates.  Then add another set of cards (F to J, for example) until all the cards are in proper order.
  • Use flash cards to identify a letter and its sound with a word.  It’s important for the child to memorize a word which comes to mind immediately for each letter.  This will be useful when the child is beginning to sound out words.  When learning with vowels, choose words that begin with short vowel sounds.  For example, A is for apple, E is for egg, I is for igloo, O is for octopus and U is for umbrella.
  • Flash cards are also useful for learning sight words.  Not all tiny words follow the rules of phonics (the, as, of, is, was and they, for example).  Yet children need to be able to recognize these words to read.  In many kindergarten and first grade classrooms, teachers have lists of these words on the wall for students to use when writing.  Manufacturers sell boxed sets of commonly used sight words too.

How do I begin teaching reading to my child?

First, as with all “work” with young children, keep the lessons short and repeat them as often as possible.  Children are eager to learn but their attention spans are short.  Several five-minute lessons may be better than one 15-minute lesson for a three-year-old.

KELLY spelled out on the refrigerator

Also, make learning fun.  Children respond to work disguised as games and humor better than to work that seems like work.

That said, where do you begin?

Help the child become aware that letters are all around, and that they are important.  How?

  • Start with the child’s name.  Teach him or her to recognize his name on a birthday card, on decorations, and on your computer.
  • Point out family names on envelopes, smart phones and tags.
  • On food items—cereal boxes, soup cans, rice bags—point out letters, especially letters from the child’s name or family members’ names.
  • When you are reading to the child, point out letters from his name or from other words he is learning.
  • On electronic devices, point out letters and let the child create letters.
  • In the car at a red light, point out letters on a license plate or in a company name.

Focus on the existence of letters, not their proper names.  That comes next.