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.

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