You might think that word study would be implemented beginning in first grade, but that is not the case. Our emergent readers are part of the reader continuum, and phonological awareness and phonics are a critical part of reading instruction at the emergent level. What does it look like? Well, one might think of it as word play, but there is a systematic progression even for our youngest learners.
Suggestions for Word Study Instruction
As COW develops and the student builds letter identification skills, it’s important that the teacher model sorting pictures by initial consonant. Sort picture cards by initial consonant sounds and gradually add to the level of difficulty.
-B and S / B,S, and M / B, S, M, and R
-T and N / T, N, and P / T, N, P, and G
-L and K / L, K, and W / L, K, W, and J
-YZVAs you work on the sounds above, you should encourage students to label their pictures with invented spelling. Certainly, we know they will be watching each other and will try to copy you as you model writing. Having fancy pens, stampers, chalk/chalkboards, and markers for kids to use encourages writing, and we know writing reinforces reading. Writing letters to friends, drawing and labeling, filling in a sentence frame, and making lists are just a few writing options that work well to solidify letter/sound relationships.
Finally, be sure to model how words can be segmented into sounds and match them to particular letters as you write for the children. This can be done as you write a “morning message” together, or as you write the children’s dictations under a drawing they have done. Have LOTS of chart paper on hand (old school…maybe, but guess what? Those chart paper samples make great souvenirs of learning for your students. Send them home to share with mom and dad.) Remember that any time you write in front of the students, you have an opportunity to show them how to listen for the sounds in words.