Last week I explained why children need to learn to read with phonics. However, with all due respect to the theory, how do we translate the idea of reading into practice?
Teaching reading with phonics is the same, no matter what the language is. The most important thing is to teach in a systematic and constant way. I start with explaining to children that each squiggle makes a sign. Sometimes we have more complicated squiggles (such as digraphs like ch and sh).
For some students, it's enough to tell them this and they go on. For others, however, it's necessary to give them tricks to remember the actual letter. Usually the first letter of the student's name is easy for them to remember. The other letters need tricks.
There are two parts to helping a student to make that firm connection between letters and sounds. The first part is giving them a hook to remember what each squiggle is. In the past I've mentioned tricks for b, d, s and l. It's important to note that mnemonic devices for English speakers are different than for those whose native tongue is French, Hebrew or Chinese.
For example, this trick for s works nicely in both English and Hebrew, as a snake says ssss. Likewise, h is a high hill in English or a har gavoa in Hebrew, since the back of the hill goes up.
M is easy for English speakers because it looks like a m-m-mountain in both the upper and lower case. Hebrew speakers can remember that the lower case m looks like the two tablets that Moshe Rabenu (Moses) brought. Interestingly enough the word for fell in Hebrew is nafal - when one tablet fell we are left with a n! For Hebrew speakers I like to explain that s and sh are like the sin and shin in Hebrew letters.
The second part of making that firm connection is the drilling. Nothing works better than practice, practice and more practice! Next week I'll expand on fun, easy ideas to practice at home and in the classroom!
Gaila has almost 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns