Word recognition is essential to reading comprehension. Phonics helps readers identify sounds for each letter and sound out words. For boys who often assume unknown words when they read – instead of recognizing or trying to sound out the word – phonics can help increase their comprehension.
Phonics Sets a Foundation
Phonics is critical to children’s success in learning to read and write. When young children learn and apply relationships between letters and sounds early in their reading experience, they will develop adaptable lifelong skills for word recognition, comprehension and spelling. Yes, even spelling!
Learning the Code
Phonics equips developing readers with the rules and knowledge of letter sounds. When boys learn the rules or “code” to the language, they learn the sounds that correspond to letters and the various letter combinations. The rules can be used like a guide to decode the sounds in a word to make meaning out of it. With practice the letter and sound associations will become more recognizable and intuitive while boys read.
When Close Enough Doesn’t Work
Once the basic foundation of letter to sound correspondence is made, it becomes easier to read both recognizable and unfamiliar words. Very often while reading simple texts, boys who lack strong phonics skills tend to look at the beginning and/or ending of words and guess at it. Sometimes they will get the right word, especially if they use other words in the sentence to figure out the unknown one. However trying to look at the context of the word will not work every time.
The text may read: “They bought a horse.”
But the reader may read: “They bought a house.”
Only one letter is different between “horse” and “house”, but the difference is important to the meaning. Not looking at every letter in the words and reading one for the other, changes the sentence meaning entirely.
Practices Leads to Success
It is true that the rules to phonics can be tricky. Not only will students not remember every rule of phonics, but there are also many exceptions. Primary aged boys who are still developing recognition depend on rules and can be thrown by the exceptions. That’s why it is essential that boys who may struggle have lots of opportunities to practice decoding and pronouncing the sounds until they can recognize the printed word.
The students I work with read out loud with me during our sessions. I try not to interrupt them while they are reading, however when they guess a word they do not recognize and change the meaning of the sentence, I will suggest we go back and sound it out together. Often on the first try, the sounded-out word sounds like a verbal jigsaw of phonetic sounds. We’ll repeat the sounds together until it resembles the word more closely. Hopefully if the word appears again in the next paragraph he will either recognize the word or sounding it out will go more smoothly.
Giving boys the opportunity to practice with support demystifies the reading experience for them. It’s important they know that while decoding the word, it might not sound right the first time but it will read naturally with more practice.
Examples of Games for Phonics Support
Letter naming games:
Example: A is for Apple, B is for Button, C is for Cat, etc.
Creating new words by changing one letter:
Change the letter to make new words; see how many you can come up with:
Example: Take the word “cat” and change the vowel to make “cot” or change the first letter to make the word “hat”
Create new words that stem from the original word:
Divide big words into smaller parts and look for familiar patterns; see how many you can find:
re . ac . tion
ac . tion
fr . ac . tion