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Preparing to read

March 03, 2009

Hello again,

My teaching experience has been confined to adults and I therefore feel diffident in suggesting ideas for teaching children. But when somebody asked me how to go about preparing children to read English when their mother tongue ...

...was logographic rather than alphabetic, I decided to look into the possibilities.

The task would be easier if the English alphabet allowed one letter to represent one sound. Unfortunately it does not. Thus for /f/ we have –f but also –ph, -ff and -gh. For /k/ we have –k and –c and –ck. Well, you know the problem. Thus for children who have learnt to speak a little English, the introduction of the alphabet and the written word presents quite a challenge.

Perhaps , therefore, we need to begin with phonemic awareness to ensure that learners can easily identify the separate sounds before they come to see them at whole-word level. Phonemic awareness is “the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds.” (Yopp, H. K. (1992). Developing Phonemic Awareness in Young Children. Reading Teacher, 45, 9, 696-703.)

Phonemic awareness can help in that it shows readers how letters represent sounds and helps them understand the relationship between the alphabet and the way a word sounds. In these respects it can also help with listening comprehension as it helps students to hear sound clusters and recognise where word boundaries lie.

So what do learners need to know and how can we teach them? Some main tasks are:

• Phoneme deletion: What word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cod?
• Word to word matching: Do men and mice begin with the same sound?
• Blending: What word would we have if you put these sounds together: /h/, /o/, /t/?
• Sound isolation: What is the first sound in dog?
• Phoneme segmentation: What sounds to you hear in the word dog?
• Phoneme counting: How many sounds do you hear in the word time?
• Odd word out: What word starts with a different sound: cat, kick, can, pan, cook?
• Sound to word matching: Is there a /t/ in hit?
• Rhyming: does hat rhyme with bat? Tell me a word that rhymes with man?
• Syllable segmentation: say the two syllables in letter.
For plenty of ideas, see: http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00001851.shtml/.

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  1. anthony innerd Says:

    hi brenda

    i think i comment here.
    i am wanting to teach conversational english and phonetics, grammar tenses. i came across a wonderful colour tenses chart in england but have searched oup, et and cannot find the source.
    i have a celta but have not been able to use it here in sweden where everyone has to be fluent in swedish before chances of teaching or work,etc.
    since i passed my celta,there is now an extension to celta,tesol where it allows you to teach in european schools. i have been told that for me to do this here in sweden, i need to study a pedagogy course of six - twelve months but waiting on exact times. anything to get me encouraged to teach again would be well received. i think will start with conversational english amnd then lead onto tenses.

    can you advise.
    i heard of jazz chants in language school but never used this book. have you?
    i found english grammar are hard to teach to peopl of another language and phonetics and i want to begin here, and then build up vocab, etc

    thanks for taking the time to help
    i still am strugling with my swedish and it slows my progress to teach english again.

    mamy thanks
    anthony in sweden

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Try looking at: http://www.slideshare.net/stevepowell99/tenses-charts/.

    And OUP publish jazz chants, e.g.
    Jazz Chants Audio CD
    Author: Graham, Carolyn
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Format: Audio CD(s)
    ISBN-10: 0194386058
    ISBN-13: 9780194386050
    Publication Date: 2003
    Price: £15.00
    Description: English level: Beginner to Advanced

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