15.2.15

Time to read - Synthetic Phonics - First Phase

There's a big debate about whether or not children should be taught to read before they are 6. It seems that there's a chance that forcing them to read too early could impair the development of faster connections between the two lobes of their young brains.

Here in Spain, children start reading and writing vowels at the age of 4.
I'm definitely against this rush, and I have my own theory about the reasons why kids are tortured this way, but I'm not here to talk about Spanish education policies today!

Instead, I'm going to tell you what I think might be an intermediate solution to this big dilemma: Synthetic Phonics taught using the Montessori method.

Many of you probably already know the Jolly Phonics method. When I first heard about it, it was being advertised as an innovative way to teach reading and writing, but last summer, reading 'The Discovery of the Child'  written by Maria Montessori and published in 1948 I realized that the use of the Synthetic Phonics method is not new at all; it has just been ignored for decades.

At its simplest, it consists of familiarizing the child with the sounds of the letters by presenting the vowels and consonants separately. However, while the Jolly Phonics method involves written exercises, the Montessori method only requires that kids to first trace the letters with their fingers, and later use a stick to learn the right direction in which a given graphic sign must be drawn, so that the visual and the muscle memory become associated with the letter's sound.

No child even has to pick up a pencil, so with this method, their synapses are safe and children can start to move along the correct path towards reading and writing.

The first phase (which is what I've been experimenting with my class over the last few weeks)  consists of recognizing the first sound of a word. Here you can see a clear example of this exercise.

First you should make Initial Sound Boxes - Each box in the set of 26 contains objects or pictures that start with the letter that box represents. 



Since I haven't got my own classroom (yet) I had to choose the pictures option and  instead of using a little chest of drawers, as Maria Montessori suggests in her book, I'm storing the pictures into envelopes, one for each letter. Of course, it is also possible to use boxes, recycled egg cartons,  and such. Just stick a letter on the outside of each container and you'll have your alternative chest of drawers to group pictures or toys according to the sound of the first letter in their names.

Here you can find the Jolly Phonics chants which will help kids remember each sound.

By presenting single sounds, the Synthetic Phonics method also allows teachers to point out the correct mouth positions needed to produce each sound and to avoid Spanish mispronunciation of English sounds for R, W, V, B etc.

 

At the moment, we're still on the letter 'M' and it seems that, little by little, the kids are building a certain awareness of the sounds. For example, the other day one of the kids said that the word SNAKE starts with an E. Of course this mistake was due to the fact that he was pronouncing it the Spanish way, which places an E before every word that starts with an S. The good thing was that I could point out the difference and the look on his face showed his surprise and interest in that unexpected information.

Also, recently, they were singing a winter song that goes: Winter! Winter! Winter's very cold!" which they were pronouncing the Spanish way, especially the vowels and the Rs. So I used Synthetic Phonics to teach them how to sing it properly and they did it perfectly. The funny thing is that now they are so aware of the difference between the right and the wrong way to sing it, that when I ask them to sing it, they sing it wrong, on purpose, just to see my horrified expression and make fun of me!
Although I have to admit, I find it kind of cool…!


Some free downloadable resources here

--> Quiero leer este post en castellano 


Lucy dedicates a lot of time and love to thinking about and writing the posts she shares with all of you. Because she believes that a better teaching is the key for a better future. If you find any help, value or joy in this blog, please consider becoming a supporting reader. A donation, in any amount, will be gratefully accepted.