Is inventive spelling your norm? Are your students between age 5 and 8? Are you beginning the school year with short vowel sounds? If the answer to these questions are yes, then chances are you are teaching letter name spellers. Why is it called “Letter Name” you may wonder? Well, at this stage of learning, the child writes the letter name that they hear, so let’s learn a little more.
What Does a Letter Name Speller Know and Need?
What Activities Work Well for Letter Name Spellers?
How are Features Taught?
BEGINNING LETTER NAME STAGE
At the beginning of the Letter Name Stage, most students are in kindergarten. They’ve learned a collection of letter names and sound, and they’re using the most salient sound in their writing. At this stage, using picture sorts works very well for helping solidify the sounds/symbol connection. Challenges for students at the beginning are the letters G and J, S and C, N and M, Y and W, F and V, and P, D, and B. As you work on picture sorts for beginning sounds, using a consistent key word to attach to the letter helps students remember the sound.
MASTERING SHORT VOWELS
When you are working with initial consonants, using word families helps the student get a preview at the families that are coming. We begin with short a words with common endings such as MAN, CAN, FAN, and TAN. Why is this? Well, it puts the focus on the initial consonant, right? Then, we change the ending consonant with the same vowel sound by comparing words like MAN, FAN, and PAN with MAT, FAT, and PAT. Later, when a family such at HOT, COT, and POT is compared to HAT, CAT, and PAT, the attention moves to the short vowel sound.
As we work on vowels, we focus on comparing vowels that are produced in different parts of the mouth. Sounds that are often confused are e/a and e/i because these are produced in a very close part of the mouth. Instead, contrast a/i/o or o/e. Below is a possible sequence of word family study.
Remember that the GOAL is for students to apply what they’ve learned to their reading too. They will begin to generalize the ability to “chunk” the-vowel-and-what-follows in other words which even carries over into multisyllabic words. My friend, Emily from Curious Firsties made THIS FREEBIE and I have used it quite a bit with my tutoring students this summer. Working with nonsense words and applying the chunks to 2 syllable words helps my students build automaticity in their reading.
MOVING ON WITH BLENDS AND DIGRAPHS
At first, you’ll work on initial digraphs (CH, SH, and TH) by comparing them to the single consonant sounds that the students may be using (compare S and SH, C, J, H and CH, T and TH). A lot of the time, students don’t see the h or recognize that a new sound is formed. ELL students will often substitute sh/ch, so be on the watch for this. It is common in the way the sounds are formed. When teaching WH, be careful to not compare it to W because in most WH words, the sound is challenging to distinguish. Instead, compare to sh, ch, or th.
Blends come quickly for many children and this progression should be abbreviated unless it is needed. Kids who have had speech related challenges and ear infections will have difficulty “hearing” the second consonant in blends.
WHAT IS AN AFFRICATE? (FEATURE 4)
Affricates refer to the speech sound heard at the beginning of job or chop when they are pronounced. Several letters and combinations of letters besides j and ch also produce this sound in English. For example, the g in gym, and the blends tr and dr in tree and trot feel the same when you produce the sound. (Say them to yourself to fully understand, but make sure you are in a private setting. LOL!). Common formations of these sounds include g, j, dr, tr, and ch.
PRECONSONANTAL NASALS…More terminology? Yep!
The focus for this last feature is on the word family or rime part of the word. Teaching them in this way helps your kids better recognize the chunks of sound in other longer words. When beginning with rimes, you can have students examine ash, ish, ush, and then collapse then into the final element /sh/, as was done with short vowels. Rimes with final ck (ick, ock, uck) are also introduced during this feature; but also reviewed in the Within Word Pattern Stage when they’re compared to long vowel patterns.
What about the Homework Routine?
- Day 1-Cut apart the sort and practice reading/sorting with your parents. Write the sort once comfortable. Place words in baggy.
- Day 2-Practice reading and sorting your words 2 times. On the third sort, time yourself.
- Day 3-Student choice…write your words with sidewalk chalk, in shaving cream, with colored pencils, or someway fun. Complete a no-peek sort with your parents after you’ve practiced.
- Day 4-Glue the sort onto notebook paper
- Day 5-Test if ready. (Note…I stagger introduction days to avoid Friday test days)