Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Teaching reading in English to second(maybe third or fourth) language learners is not easy. In my personal experience as a Reading Tutor, many Malay children(who do not speak English at home) are able to read quite well after using Readeasy Phonics Beginner & Intermediate Level. However, understanding what they read is another issue.

Thus, parents and teachers alike, should include enrichment
activities at the same time of teaching phonics reading skills. These activities will help the children acquire the language. Good language acquisiton will help them learn to read fluently and with understanding.
  • Read aloud story books(so teachers please don't throw your Big Books away).
  • Sing action songs.
  • Recite poems, nursery rhymes, chants & alliterations(Cory Cat caught a crab.).
  • Role-play, show & tell.English Yr 1 Textbook, Action Song pg 29 , Poem pg 121, Role-play pg 38
I've come across a few people who refused to use phonics for the reason that children are reading like 'parrots'. Above are some suggestions to help children comprehend what they read. Showing & talking about the pictures of what they read will also help them understand. And don't forget to speak English to your kids wherever you go, whenever you can.

As a phonics practitioner for more than 20 years, I believe it is a tragedy NOT to teach children to read using synthetic phonics!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


To make teaching reading using phonics in classrooms a breeze, you will need:
  • a big pocket chart
  • sound cards
  • picture cards(of beginning sounds)

You can use the sound cards in my Cory Cat Phonic Song VCD.

These sound cards are suitable for introducing symbols for the speech sounds. The letters(graphemes) are in lower-case and big enough for the whole class to see.

When you start teaching blending, I suggest you use my 'Kad Rantaian Bunyi' which can be used for teaching blending in English & also BM.


Pictures fr English Year 1 Sekolah Kebangsaan Textbook KSSR, Book Cover, pg. 35, pg.39

As stipulated in the Learning Standards, the strategies of phonics are to be used in the teaching of reading for students in Year 1 beginning next year. I would like to stress that the phonics used for English Year 1 is Synthetic Phonics.
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading which first teaches the smallest speech sounds and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of words.

UNIT 1: Sounds Around Us
This unit gives opportunity for students to imitate sounds that people, animal or things make. This activity is to develop students' listening & speaking skill and phonemic awareness. It would be fun for teachers to take the students outdoors for a SOUND WALK - take the children around the school or neighbouring area. Get the students to cup their ears & listen and imitate sounds around them. Some teachers in the UK make big ears for the students to wear on their walk.

Teacher:(T): Listen.. What can you hear?
T: Is that a bird tweeting? Can you make the sound?
T: Was that a car? Lets all make the sound of a car.
T: I can hear a loud noise over there. Can you make the sound?
What makes the sound?

Possible sounds you might hear during your Sound Walk - sound of a drill(schools have lots of construction work going on!), motorbikes, cars, planes in the skies, bees buzzing, cats meowing, dogs barking/growling, monkeys(those teaching in rural areas)chattering, cows mooing, goats bleating, clocks ticking, bell ringing,doors creaking, people coughing, sneezing... teachers shouting(oops!)

Now if you have a knee problem and are not able to take the students on a Sound Walk, then you could draw animals & things that make sounds and put them around the class. Get the students to walk around the class with you(use a cane to help you walk) and pretend to hear the sounds. Don't forget to encourage the students imitate the sounds.

But if you have arthritis and can't draw, just open your English Year 1 textbook page 1 & 2 to teach students sounds around them. End your lesson by singing an action song All DAy Long on page 4. Sing again with other sounds - the bird in the tree, the cow/goat on the farm, the bee in the hive.

Remember the brain learns better when there's fun.. So Have fun!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blending & Segmenting

In Malaysia, many, including teachers are not too familiar with the terms 'blending' and 'segmenting'. In the phonics approach, 'blending' is 'reading'. Children are taught to read by blending the individual sounds in a word. They will say 'puh-eh-tuh' when reading 'pet'. A word of caution to new phonics practitioners, do train your children to minimize the 'uh' sound at the end of some consonants sounds such as 'puh' for 'p' and 'buh' for 'b'.

Also, please bear in mind not to teach them letter names(ay, bee, cee). I know many who would teach both the sound and the name of a letter. But in my personal experience(I've been teaching my 6 children to read using phonics for more than 20 years), this will only slow them down. I know NOT teaching ABC is going to be a BIG challenge to primary school teachers in Malaysia because it has been a tradition to teach them from the first day of school. Take it from a different point of view, you are NOT teaching the names but you are teaching the shape and formation of the letters and associating them to the speech sounds they represent. In other words we DO TEACH ABC in phonics!

'Segmenting' is actually 'spelling'. When children are able to say the individual sounds in a given word, then they are spelling. In the early stage of spelling, children will say 'buh-uh-guh' to spell 'bug', 'sh-ih-puh' to spell 'ship'. I know, yes, you are right, your students will sound 'funny' , 'weird', you name it, when they do spelling. Give yourself a couple of months and you'll get use to it. Next year, we will hear the Year 1 students spelling this way. So teachers (& parents too), better start practising blending and spelling the phonics way.

It is easy to spell simple words like 'bit' and 'Tom'. But it gets more challenging for words with diagraphs, such as 'chess' and 'duck'. We teach diagraphs in Readeasy Intermediate Level.

To practise spelling , for example for the word 'chess', you can ask yourself "How many sounds are there in 'chess'?" There are 3 sounds, /chuh-eh-ss/.

What about for the word 'grilling'(Readeasy Intermediate)? There are 6 sounds in 'grilling', /guh-rr-ih-ll-ih-ng/. (Isn't this fun?:)

Spelling/Segmenting is an oral activity. Creative teachers will turn this activity into a game . You must also train your students to write the words after spelling orally(dictation).

Teachers and parents alike must understand that spelling and writing words is more challenging then reading because there are NO VISUAL CLUES. When children read words,the letters in the words give them clues. But when spelling and writing, they have to think of the word they want to write. Hear the sounds in the words in their minds, and then map the sounds into a symbol-by-symbol representation on paper.

The fact that there are more than one spelling for a sound(/k/, c, k, ck, que) and sometimes a spelling can represent more than one sound('a',
/æ/, /ə/, //) in the English language, makes reading and writing challenging. You have to know which symbol pattern fits which sound into which word. My Readeasy Comprehensive Reading Programme which has a step-by-step teaching manual and a Sound-Symbol Chart will help you understand the complexity of the English Sound System.

So exercise lots of PATIENCE when teaching children to read and write.