Thursday, September 2, 2010

Manipulating Sounds in Words

Wow!  This is really the mother lode of being able to play with sounds in words.  Most of us naturally learned how to do it when we were young and learning to read, but for some children, especially those with reading problems, this is very very very difficult and must be taught directly.   Why is it important?  Because when you see a word like "bat" and you see a word like "cat" most "normal" readers are able to pick out the part of the word they recognize and substitute the new sound, making a word. For children with phonological awareness problems, it's like seeing a new word, causing much more work in decoding, and in most cases that means more struggling.

Ways we can manipulate sounds in words are:

Deleting syllables from words.  Again, we're going to start with compound words because it's easy to hear the different syllables in those words.

  • "Say baseball."  "Now say baseball without saying ball."  Hopefully at this point the child would say "base".  
  • Say hotdog without saying hot.
Then we would move into syllables:
  • "Say silver.  Now say silver without saying ver."
  • Say bandit without saying band.
  • Say prepare without saying pre.
  • Say hinder without saying der.
  • Say also without saying so.
  • Say dismay without saying dis.
From there we go into deleting sounds from words, starting with beginning sounds:
  • Say cat.  Now say cat without saying /c/ (Hopefully the child would answer "at".)
  • Say bat without saying /b/.
  • Say quilt without saying /qu/.  (NOTE:  In the english language q is almost always with the letter u unless it's a word that originated from the French.  When I teach my children q, I always teach it as "qu" because of this.  By the time they realize there are words of French origin with a q standing alone in our language, they're much older and can deal with it at that time.  That's why I treat it as a single initial sound here.)
  • Say shrug without saying /sh/
Then we go into deleting ending sounds in words. I always like to start with long vowels here because long vowels are easier to hear in the middle of the words.  Try it for yourself and see if you agree with me!
  • Say tide.  Now say tide without saying /d/.
  • Say Mike without saying /k/.
  • Say bead without saying /d/.
  • Then go into short vowels..... Say pack without saying /k/.
  • Say tub without saying /b/.
And this is probably the hardest.  Finally we delete medial (middle) consonant sounds from words.
  • Say cast.  Now say cast without saying /s/.
  • Say went.  Now say went without saying /n/.
We substitute syllables in words as well.  I have never done this with my kindergartners, but I have done this with older dyslexic children.  It's really hard for them, but they love it.
  • Say publish.  Now replace "lish" with "lic".  The child would hopefully come up with the word public.
  • Say prepare.  Now replace pare with vent.
  • Say invert.  Now replace vert with vest.
  • Say content.  Now replace tent with test.
  • Say enjoy.  Now replace joy with tail.
And finally, we substitute sounds in words, starting with the beginning:
  • Say gate.  Now change /g/ to /l/.  Hopefully they come up with the word "lame"
  • Say Meg.  Now change /m/ to /l/.

Substituting sounds at the end of the word:
  • Say soap.  Now change /p/ to /k/.  Hopefully they come up with the word "soak".
  • Say life.  Now change /f/ to /m/.

Substituting sounds in the middle:
  • Say cup.  Now change /u/ to /a/.  Hopefully the response is "cap".
  • Say bag.  Now change /a/ to /i/.

You can also add sounds at the end of the words:
  • Say mass.  Now say mass with /t/ at the end.  Hopefully that response would be "mast".
  • San bran.  Now say bran with /d/ at the end.
  • Say men.  Now say men with /d/ at the end.  
  • Say bell.  Now say bell with /ch/ at the end.  (Yes, they completely crack up and love to be silly with words like this.)

I know I've spent a lot of time detailing phonological awareness activities, but I cannot overstress how important these are in developing reading skills.  Phonological awareness is one of the strongest indicators in kindergarten of good reading skills later in school.  It's huge.  

A wise mentor of mine once said that a good kindergarten teacher can make all of the difference in the world for a child who is struggling with phonological awareness by identifying it and playing games like these with the child.  I couldn't agree more.  Feel free to use these activities with your child, have fun, and increase her phonological skills at the same time.  

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all.  :)

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