With all the hype around phonics, it’s not surprising that there’s a group of people who are extremely against teaching phonics to kids and prefer the whole language method instead. (Not very clear on what phonics is? Check out my beginner’s guide to phonics. )
The phonics system can be intimidating. It needs to be taught in a systematic way for it to be effective. A lot of people are against this method of teaching due to the assumed importance that phonics is merely rote learning and flashcards.
Yes, children are expected to memorize letter patterns, etc., and learning does happen through flashcards. But there is no need to make it boring!
It can be hard to integrate phonics into your current curriculum. Even if you don’t teach phonics explicitly, you can still use activities and games to teach simple phonics concepts along with your curriculum.
Make Learning Fun
The best way to teach any concept to kindergartners is through various activities. If the same content is introduced through different engagements, then the concept is more likely to be understood. By reinforcing the concept through variety, the learning does not become monotonous and the child is given multiple chances to understand the concept being taught.
For example, if your goal is to teach your children how to isolate consonants, you can play I SPY and other activities that reinforce the letter sounds.
Playing games in the classroom can be a great way to build friendships, make your students learn to work together and gives them a chance to exercise their critical thinking skills. But if the game doesn’t reinforce the content they’re learning, then it might not be the best use of classroom time.
While designing games for your students, make sure it’s connected to the concept they worked on recently. If you play a numbers game during English class, it will not further their understanding of the English concept, nor will they be able to connect it to the math concept, making it a waste of precious classroom time.
Listen to an informative ten-minute podcast on how to effectively use games in classrooms by experienced educators from the US. A few notes that they discussed to keep in mind while designing a game are:
- Try not to play a competitive game. If you have a clear winner during every game, this might discourage half the class from playing.
- Make sure all students get a chance to participate. Actively encourage reluctant kids without putting them on the spot too much.
- Pick a skill that can be improved upon such as LSRW, problem-solving, critical thinking, etc.
Phonics Games to Play in Class
Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize that words are made of discrete sounds. Identifying these sounds and being aware that they can be manipulated to form new words is essential in learning to read successfully.
Identification, Manipulation, And Pattern
Can your children make all the sounds used in English? Can they differentiate between two similar sounds? Can they find patterns in the sounds? Try these sound games!
Say these out loud: babalamoo gujalala, bananama henbenden sunrunumum, palka laka dilkha.
Make up more gibberish and ask the child to make up his own gibberish. Have a conversation in gibberish! It’s fun, and it helps the child explore all parts of his mouth that make sounds.
Pronounce animal sounds, vehicle sounds, and other sounds we hear around us.
Try these – MOOO, MEEAAOO, MAAAA, OINK, HEE-HAW, BOW-BOW, DISHUM, DHAMAL, CLICK, TRING TRING, QUACK, VROOM VROOM, etc.
The Listening Game
Ask the child to close her eyes and listen to the sounds around him. What can she hear? Ask her to make the sounds. Exaggerate them.
I’m Thinking Of
Say a word such as an animal name very slowly, stressing each syllable. The child has to guess what you’re saying before you complete the word. “I’m thinking of a TI…GER”. “I’m thinking of an EL…E…PH…ANT”.
Rhythm, Parts, And Sequence
Sounds come together to form words, and speech is made up of words. Does your child understand this intuitively? Can they freely put sounds together to make words? Can he/she do so slowly or quickly (when required)? Can they put words together in a rhythmic way?
March To the Syllable
In this game say a three-syllable word slowly like “a-ni-mal” or “In-di-a”. The child stamps his/her left foot for the first part, right foot for the second part, and so on (as if marching on the spot). You could even ask your children to swing to the left for the first part, swing right for the second part, and so on.
Get the child to chant this: Old miller, caterpillar, lazy boy, ping pong, turn around, touch the ground. With every word, change the hand gesture. As the chant picks up the pace so can the action sequence. Maintaining rhythm and the attempt at speaking is more important than the exact pronunciation of each word.
Ask your child to name an animal, e.g. “dog”. Then you add an animal to this, e.g. “dog, cat”. Then the child has to add another animal and say the sequence, e.g. “dog, cat, cow”. Keep going till one of you forgets the complete sequence. Try it with other words.
The easiest way to teach rhythm is through rhymes. Sing rhymes and popular songs that your child likes. Whenever he says “fast”, sing it fast. Whenever he says “slow”, sing it slowly. Next turn, make your child sing and you say “fast” and “slow”.
Letters (Alphabet Knowledge)
Once your children master phonemic awareness, they are usually taught the alphabet. Of course, the best way to teach the alphabet is through the alphabet song!
The tricky part is teaching them to differentiate between vowels and consonants.
If you’ve never come across ‘sticky vowels’ before, watch this catchy video (Be warned, it’s hard to get the song out of your head).
This song is a great way to teach your children that vowels are the letters that ‘stick the word together’. Turn your class into a sing-along game, and your children will master vowels in no time.
Short Vowel Sounds
Can your children distinguish the short vowel sounds /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ and /u/ one from the other? It is very important to have mastered these sounds. Reinforce these sounds until there is no hesitation in identifying and pronouncing the short vowels. Make the learning of short vowel sounds fun by singing this rhyme with the child.
Old Macdonald Vowel Farm
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