Please read to the bottom of this article to get your free download of the ABC Journey Phonogram Flashcards, and see how to use them.
I think you'll agree with me when I say:
It's REALLY important that children learn the basics of phonics in order to become good readers. And, at the same time, it's REALLY hard to know where to start.
Point 1- English uses an alphabetic writing system, and so teaching phonics (the sounds that letters and letter combinations make, i.e., phonograms) is vital. Check!
Point 2- There are so many conflicting ideas and opinions on how to teach reading. This leads to decision paralysis. It's hard to know where to start. Check!
As homeschool parents, you and I are already overwhelmed trying to balance daily schedules, and trying to keep the house in order.
The last thing we need is to be overwhelmed at the first and MOST FOUNDATIONAL STEP in our child's education: READING and WRITING.
In this article I'm going to show you how Noah Webster (the father of American education, and a master of the English word) suggested we teach children the sounds of English, and give you a free set of 70 phonogram flashcards, so you can get started today.
Let's do this!
In order to build a strong literacy foundation for our children, we need two elements:
- Knowledge: give your child a correct understanding about our language
- Action: instill daily habits that cultivate their literacy sensibilities
1- Knowledge: Give Your Child a Correct Understanding of the English Alphabet
In Webster’s “Analysis of Sounds in the English Language,” at the beginning of his Blueback Spelling Book, he says:
"Letters are the marks of sounds, and the first events of written language which is presented to the eye."
Did you get that?
Webster is saying that letters are the marks of sounds, put on paper!
It's so simple. Yet, it's not what is being taught in schools today.
Letters are the marks of sounds, and the first events of written language which is presented to the eye.
Beware of Fake Reading Methods
Modern Day teaching methods
Whole-word and sight-word methods, turn our alphabet on its head by turning words into pictures; much like Chinese characters, pictographs, or hieroglyphs.
- Step 1: See the picture of an apple.
- Step 2: See the word apple below the picture.
- Step 3: Say the word, ‘apple.’
(Good job! Way to go! You just read the word apple!)
- Step 4: Repeat until child knows that those scribbly lines mean apple.
- Step 5: Repeat Step 4 with several hundred pictures and words.
- Step 6: Start reading Dick and Jane, graded-readers.
Sure, it might be that some schools implement partial phonics instruction, like looking at sounds in the initial position of words, etc. But this is usually done unsystematically.
The majority of masters of education programs teach aspiring teachers that reading is the activity of getting meaning from text.
This is in contrast to the traditional idea of getting sounds from text.
These are two conflicting schools of thought. But only one is right.
But can Whole-Word methods really be called reading education when students are simply taught to recognize English words as pictures? When guessing is the norm? And when the letters and sounds are taught in an unconnected manner?
Is that reading?
The Whole-Word method leads to the following:
- teacher dependence
- rampant guessing
- dyslexia (reading problems)
- aliteracy (an aversion to reading)
When a child is faced with a new word, they are dependent on an adult to pronounce it for them, they guess what the word is from the context clues or pictures, or they simply mumble the word and quickly skim over it.
Sadly, this describes how most of us were taught to read. This kind of reading leads to frustration, a lack of confidence, weariness, poor spelling skills, and an aversion to reading.
But, Stephen, it works! My child can read!
The proclaimed benefits of whole-word reading and writing methods are deceptive.
You can see quick initial progress in the students, as they memorize words as if they were pictures.
And it feels good to see your children jumping right into to reading books with lots of pictures or repeated words (see Dick and Jane, or Cat in the Hat).
However, these types of books encourage guessing, not reading.
This becomes a real problem by about third grade when students start running into similar-looking words, and books with fewer illustrations and context clues.
Use Webster's Proven Method Instead
The correct use of English letters is to have them act as a visual representation of the sounds in our spoken language. That’s it! Symbol and Sound. Teach your child the truth about English letters.
Webster would have you do it this way:
- Step 1: Alphabet- Teach the names of the letters
- Step 2: Handwriting- Teach how to write the letters (Cursive First)
- Step 3: Phonics- Teach the sounds that the letters make
- Step 4: Syllabary- Practice blending these sounds together in syllable chunks
- Step 5: Spelling- Practice spelling words, syllable-by-syllable, sounding out each syllable as you go.
- Step 6: Start reading real books, not fake books like Dick and Jane.
This is the way that students of the past were able to go from their spelling books, straight into difficult books like the Bible.
Even if they couldn’t understand all the words they were reading, at least they could pronounce the words.
And that's what our alphabet is all about!
YOUR OBJECTIVE: give your children the keys to pronouncing any form of text.
Why is this important?
Because once you teach your children to produce the sounds of our alphabetic system, you equip them to become independent in their learning.
The efficiency of an alphabetic language is that once your child learns the basic sounds that each letter and letter combination (phonograms) makes, along with the various spelling patterns, they can begin to pronounce words that they’ve never seen before.
Sure, English has a complex (deep) alphabet, which requires more time and explicit instruction at the beginning to master.
That's why Webster wrote his American spelling book.
However, it is still more efficient and empowering than a system in which words must be memorized as pictures, repeated over and over in graded readers, or taught through picture or teacher-provided clues.
Once you teach your children to produce the sounds of our alphabetic system, you equip them to become independent in their learning.
2- Action: Instill Daily Habits & Teaching Phonics
Teaching phonics to your child is important. But it’s only step 3 in your child’s journey to literacy (See 'Use Webster's Proven Method' above for all the steps)
Below is a complete set of Phonics flashcards for you to download and print for use with your children.
Do this today:
- Print out the phonics flashcards on thick white paper (250 gsm to 350 gsm. Normal printer paper allows words to show through, and doesn’t work well.)
- Laminate the cards if you want them to be water-proof and a little more durable
- Teach your child the names of the 26 letters of the alphabet by showing them the card, saying the letter’s name, and asking your child to repeat the name. Do this daily. Eventually, cycle through the cards, removing the ones they can say without mistakes. Place the problematic cards back in the pile to be re-circulated until mastered, whereupon they are removed from the deck. Do this until all cards are gone from your hand.
- Teach your child the sounds of all the phonograms (letters and letter combinations). Show them a card, make the sounds for your child to hear, and ask your child to repeat the sounds. All 70 phonogram sounds can be found HERE. Do this daily. Eventually, cycle through the cards while having your child make the sounds by themselves. Help them with any that they forget. I have written example words on the backs of the cards for you to remember what the sounds are.
- Practice the letter names and phonogram sounds for a total of 5-10 minutes per day. You can not over-teach these. They are foundational.
Download Your Free, Printable Phonics & Phonogram Flashcards (16+ Page PDF)
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