Phonics is something that I have grown extremely interested in throughout my college career. Decoding, sounds, and words in general are just so amazing. Even though I know a great deal about these things, I still encounter words every so often that I don’t know, and I must use the early skills I learned to try and decipher them. Now imagine being a young reader trying to decode simple words. If you haven’t mastered this skill, this could be a difficult situation. It is important to really learn and instill the basics in young children so they can continue to use it throughout their lives.
In Gunning’s Chapter 8, he listed and described the phases in learning to read words. Being an early childhood minor, I find the early years of literacy development especially interesting. The prealphabetic phase is first, where children don’t even really know what they are reading. They simply know these words or signs because they are high frequency or memorize the words in some way. Pictures can also be used to help them guess the words. While this can be a helpful technique, it can lead to faulty assessment and really not make for an accurate grasp on where the child is in the reading category. For example, the child might know a sign says “Subway” just because they’ve been to the restaurant so many times. In their reading, they are really making no letter-sound connections.
Next is alphabetic, when they start to use these relationships to decode words. Words are becoming more familiar to them, and they can use the knowledge that they have to decode simple words. This makes it easier for the children to learn. Sounds are typically viewed all individually; the kids look at them separately and put them all together to form a word. This differs from the final phase, consolidated alphabetic, as they start to see units in words. They put sounds together in chunks before they form the whole word. They gain even more knowledge about strange sounds, like double vowels, and spelling comes easier to them.
Another thing I found interesting and helpful was the use of pictures next to letter sounds. It’s a good way for children to visualize and understand what certain sounds occur in certain words. They can use these devices to help them. This reminded me of an example my mom shared with me from her classroom. She has a student in her classroom that is extremely speech delayed and talks at about the same level as a two year old. Their class has been working on letter sounds, and there is a video or website of some sort that has an action that goes along with each letter sound. For example, the [k] sound showed someone doing karate. When she was being assessed on her knowledge of these sounds, she did the action with every single one, and got nearly all of them right. It was an effective device that worked really well for her, and she knew how to portray what she wanted to say. This is a perfect example of finding something that works best for certain students.