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Phonics' Failures and
Fun with Phonology


There is more to phonics than letter-sound identification. Sometimes we rush into phonics too quickly. We ask children to identify letters and the sounds they represent before children have become skillful in detecting the specific sounds. Books on this site are for children (birth to age 5) and for all ages who need extra help in reading. The books can also help ESL students.

Failures in phonics and other reading skills occur more often when phonology and other pre-reading skills are omitted. Phonology is the study of how speech sounds are used. On the other hand, phonics is the study of written symbols and the speech sounds which they represent.

For more background information, see pre-reading skills which has tips and definitions for phonology, phonological awareness, phonograms, phonemes, phoneme awareness, and phonics.
Enjoy books for specific pre-reading and reading skills.
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Basic Pre-reading (and Reading Skills)

In addition to phonology and phonics, there are other basic pre-reading skills. These pre-reading skills remain important reading skills as well.

Hearing Details of Language
What is reading? It's making sense of written symbols which represent words and other speech sounds, e.g. ugh, ah, moo, cluck-cluck . How are words first introduced? It is by hearing.

Speech comprehension problems can be caused by hearing difficulties which are not detected in routine school examinations. The Test of Auditory Perceptual Skills is administered at some schools and is a test which goes beyond routine school testing. It is used to detect auditory perception and memory problems. If a weakness is detected, further examination is recommended to rule out the possibilities of sensory-neural or conductive hearing loss including ear wax build-up and ear infections.

If there is no physical problem, help is available from an inexpensive workbook, the Auditory Sequential Memory Instructional Workbook: for the Development of Auditory Listening, Processing and Recall of Numbers, Letters, and Words. It helps students develop the ability to listen, process, and recall series of numbers, letters, and words. The author states: "Throughout my years of testing I have found a higher percentage of students with weaknesses in the auditory memory areas than any other learning skill area even among those students whom we would not classify as learning disabled. In addition, most children who have attention deficit disorders and/or hyperactivity have serious auditory memory deficiencies. These children are desperately in need of remediation in the auditory skill areas."

Fine tune children's auditory skills with these workbooks. Primary Phonics: Workbook 1 ,   Primary Phonics: Workbook 2 , and Primary Phonics: Workbook 3

Story Sequence
While helping children develop pre-reading skills, call attention to details of oral language without talking about written language at this time. Help them appreciate books and to follow the story from the beginning to the end without interuptions. If they want to stop and talk about pictures and the story, this can help comprehension. However after this is done, it is also important to follow the pace and sequence of the whole story during some readings. Compare this concept with singing a song. It can be helpful to analyze the song, learn vocabulary words from it, and relate it to experiences. However! Attention span is enhanced when they can enjoy singing the whole song or hearing the whole book. Attention is strengtened as they grasp the whole idea of the story or song.

Awareness of sequence is helped by using cumulative tales such as
This is the House that Jack Built,
Jack's Garden (This is the garden that Jack planted, etc.), and
The Buggy That Boogied Away. See a lesson plan for The Buggy That Boogied Away.
Jack's Garden and The Buggy that Booggied Away are excellent for students who are too old for This is the House That Jack Built.

The ability to create story sequence is also enhanced by having fun with making sentences and stories. See directions for making your own Novelty Book with Divided Pages. This can be done during the pre-reading years or later.

Vocabulary
With an infant, use names of objects and places in addition to names of people. "This is a ball. See the bird? This is your bed room. We are in the hallway." With older children, explain words in stories and in songs. Enjoy a lesson plan for music as an easy way to build vocabulary.

Seeing Symbols
As the move is made from instruction in hearing to instruction in recognizing written symbols, visual conditions need to be taken into account. If there is any question about the child’s ability to see letters well, have this evaluated. Sometimes school visual examinations can be passed without revealing the need for glasses or for help with visual memory and perception. Children benefit from similarities - differences training beyond what is given in the classroom.

It is essential to note likenesses and differences in similar words such as this and that, went and want, was and saw, big and dig. Differences are more easily perceived than similarities e.g. seeing the root word in look, looks, looking. Students who experience difficulty with similar words need help to develop visual discrimination skills. Visual Discrimination: Noting Differences in Frequently Misperceived Words is a recommended workbook.

Phonology = Rhymes, Syllables, Alliteration, Assonance, Phonemes

  • Rhymes - books (same ending sounds - poetry and word families)
  • Syllables - books (divisions of words which enhance hearing, reading, and spelling)
  • Alliteration - books (same initial sounds - tongue twisters)
  • Assonance - books (same middle or ending vowel sounds - poetry and verse)
  • Phonemes - books (separate sounds in words) More about phonemes
  • Phonology Leading into Phonics - books (sounds in words and their corresponding written symbols)
The following books help in developing a good ear for spoken language by using devices in poetry and verse. Many of these books are to be read to the child. Help readers appreciate books by reading the whole book or poem with expression and enjoying the pace of the tale. Enjoy the sounds of poetry. Easy-to-read books are great for beginning readers but the focus here is on pre-reading skills. Expand listening and speaking vocabulary in these pre-reading activities. Talk about the sounds.

The sequence of teaching phonological awareness skills has some overlap. Generally speaking, begin with larger units of sound and move to smaller units.

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