Is your child beginning school next year and you would like to give them a head start? Or is your child already at school, but having difficulty learning to read and spell? There are some things you can do to help your child. Work through the following activities (start with the top ones first; when your child is able to do them, move on to the next few).
- Syllable Clapping
Can your child clap the syllables (“parts”) in words? For example, “How many claps in the word banana?” (“ba-na-na” has 3 claps). Counting the syllables in words is an important pre-literacy skill. This skill can be practiced anywhere – when eating at the dinner table or driving the car. Ask your child to “clap the parts” in words of things you see (e.g. pasta; table; lady; shopping trolley; stop light).
- Rhyming Words
Tell your child that rhyming words sound the same at the end. Read books that have rhyming words. Draw your child’s attention to how they sound the same at the end (e.g. “mat and cat… they rhyme… they sound the same at the end… mat… cat… they both end in at…”). Get some pictures of words that rhyme and place 3 pictures in front of your child (2 that rhyme and 1 that doesn’t). Ask your child to find the 2 pictures that rhyme. When you’re child has grasped the basic concept of rhyming, give them a word and ask them to think of words that rhyme with it (e.g. “light” – “night, right, kite, fight, etc”). It doesn’t matter if your child says words that aren’t real words!
- Identifying the First Sound in Words
Begin talking about everyday objects and the sounds they begin with (e.g. “ball.. what sound does ball start with… b-ball?”). You may like to put some things in a bag and have your child lucky dip them out. Discuss what sound each item begins with. Some good sounds to begin with are m, b, t, s, f (it may be helpful to focus on one sound one week, and then another one next week). Draw attention to your mouth – have your child look where your lips and tongue are as you say each sound. Read books with alliterations and comment on them (alliterations are when words in a sentence start with the same sound (e.g. Betty bought big bananas)). Tongue twisters are good alliterations!
- Sound/Letter Link
Teach your child the letter names and sounds of the alphabet. If your child has trouble grasping both the letter names and sounds, it is more important they learn the sounds (e.g. “b” is the sound; “bee” is the letter name).
- Short Vowel Sounds
Focus on teaching your child the sounds of the 5 short vowels ( i.e. a, e, i, o, u). It is helpful to associate them with a picture, as this way, if they forget the sound, the picture can help them recall it (for example, ‘a’ for apple, ‘o’ for orange, ‘u’ for up, ‘i’ for igloo, ‘e’ for egg).
- Flashcards – Blending & Segmenting
It is helpful to have some alphabet flashcards (you can generally get these from stores like Kmart or Big W for a cheap price). Make a 2 letter word and place it in front of your child (e.g. “up”). Ask your child “What are the sounds in ‘up’?”). Show your child, “u”… “p”… “up” is made when we join “u” & “p”… “u-p, up”. Continue to make other 2 letter words with the flashcards (e.g. “in”, “on”, “am”, “ad”) and encourage your child to segment them into their sounds. Keep giving your child examples until they can do it themselves. This will encourage your child to understand the link between sounds and words (i.e. we spell words by sounding them out).
Give your child a go at blending 2 sounds together (e.g. put 2 flashcards in front of your child and ask them, “What does this say?”. Help them until they can do it themselves, e.g. “i..t. i..t. it. When we join “i” & “t” together we get “it””.
Working on the above activities will give your child the basic skills they need to learn to read and spell!