Category Archives: consonants

New Embedded Picture Mnemonics now available

Despite a universe determined to throw spanners in my works, I’ve finally put artist Cat MacInnes’ new, improved version 2 Embedded Picture Mnemonics into the Spelfabet website shop. If you already bought version 1, you can now upgrade for free.

Research has shown embedded picture mnemonics help children learn the relationships between speech sounds and letters.

There are now two versions of the Spelfabet Embedded Picture Mnemonics: one for speakers of Australian/British (non-rhotic) English, and one for speakers of American (rhotic) English. If you speak another version of English, download both files and mix and match to suit your accent.

Each set contains a mnemonic for each sound (phoneme) plus one for each of the three letters that represent the same sound as c (k, q, x). The pictures are now more relevant outside Australia, with k as in ‘key’ not ‘kangaroo’, ur as in ‘burn’ not ‘surf’ and u as in ‘up’ not ‘undies’ (I’m a little sad about the undies, so if you are too, just keep using the original mnemonic).

The sets now contain ‘o’ as in ‘octopus’, ‘ue’ as in ‘statue’, ‘or’ as in ‘horn’, ‘th’ as in ‘thunder’ and ‘themselves’, and ‘f’ as in ‘fish’ (no adjacent consonant). There are new ‘aw’ as in ‘claw’ and ‘wh’ as in ‘whale’ mnemonics in the US set. The relationship between ‘short’ and ‘long’ vowels is now clearer, as the ‘long’ vowels have a consistent format (ae, ee, ie, oe, ue).

Both the Aust/UK and US A4 poster size files can be found here. The pictures on them are now bigger, with less white space around them.

Both the Aust/UK and US A4 flashcard size files (four to a page) are here. Consonants are in portrait format and the vowels are in landscape format, which I hope helps children understand the difference between vowel and consonant sounds.

You can make and change words with these embedded picture mnemonics, using the flashcard size with individuals and small groups, like this:

Use the poster size mnemonics if doing this with a whole class, asking a child to hold each mnemonic you’ve taught and another child to rearrange them, while the rest of the class writes down the words thus created.

You can also use the mnemonics to build Sound Walls with your class, adding sounds and/or spellings as they are taught in your phonics teaching sequence, and refreshing the wordlists as new vocabulary is learnt, so that you might end up with mnemonics that look like this:

 

 

 

Teachers, therapists and others have already thought of lots of other great ways to use these mnemonics – too many to list here.

Thanks for the feedback and questions about version 1, which made me think about how to improve them. I hope you like Version 2, and thanks to the always-creative Cat MacInnes for her artistic talent, patience and hard work.

Steps for upgrading a previously-purchased file:

1. Go to the Spelfabet website and click on My Account.

2. Type in the email address you used for your original purchase, and the password you created. If you can’t remember your password, just reset it.

3. Go to the downloads area, click on the file(s) you want, and save it/them to your computer before printing. Ordinarily you get three chances to download any file from the online shop, in case of computer crashes or power outages, but I’ve increased this to four for these files in case some previous purchasers have used up their first three.

Any feedback or problems, email me on info@spelfabet.com.au.

Phonics stocking stuffer

It’s the first day of summer here in Melbourne, after a long, hard year of lockdown. We’ve been mostly working online since March, which was quite a learning curve, so I’ve had almost no energy for blogging or the website (sorry). We’ve now had no new COVID-19 cases for a month (hooray! it can be done!) so are cautiously looking forward to the silly season.

If you’d like a simple, inexpensive phonics game as an end-of-year school activity or Christmas stocking stuffer, you might like my new printed (no laminating or cutting up required!) word-building card game. Lots of kids didn’t learn very well this year thanks to COVID-19, but we’re all pretty weary, so it seems like a good time to build skills and knowledge through games.

Here’s a 90-second video about the game:

Children who only know one sound for each letter of the alphabet will need adult help with the sounds for the consonant digraphs and trigraphs in this game (sh, ch, th, wh, ll, ss, ck, ng, tch, dge), but children who know these spellings can play more independently.

If a child builds a word they don’t know, you might like to tell them what it means and put it in a sentence or two, to build their vocabulary, or just skip over it if it’s not a common word.

Older/more advanced learners can put up to three adjacent consonants in their first words (e.g. bench, truck, splint and strengths), which are then much harder for their opponent to change. Knowing the consonant combinations used in English syllables helps with spelling and reading.

The game – 52 child-sized cards and 2 instruction cards in a box – costs $12 including GST from our online shop, plus $9.20 for packing and postage to anywhere in Australia, or you can click-and-collect from our office in North Fitzroy. Please ring first (03 8528 0138) to make sure our reception will be staffed when you visit, and it won’t be waiting room Peak Minute.

Sorry we can’t currently ship this game overseas. The DSF online shop also sells this game, and may take overseas orders. You can also get this game from the lovely people at Childplay toy shop in Clifton Hill, where I never fail to find the best gifts for kids.

The download-and-print version of this game is also still available, either by itself or in a set of three games, but you have to provide the cardboard and colour printer, laminate it and cut it up, and the end result isn’t as robust or professional-looking.

An earlier version of this game contained spellings like ‘v’, ‘j’, ‘ff’ and ‘zz’ which aren’t in many words, so that version was a bit harder to play. These spellings have been replaced by more common ones in the new game, so it’s easier and more fun for beginners and strugglers. I’m hoping to be able to produce more printed resources in future, if these cards are a success.

More phonics playing cards

We have a new set of download-and-print decks of phonics playing cards, this time targeting more advanced spelling patterns. The cards are still child-sized (5 X 6.5cm) with words facing both up and down, making them easy to read from either side of a table.

The first few decks each target one sound (phoneme) spelt multiple ways:

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Free early phonemic awareness, phonics and handwriting workbook

Last week, I read my state education department’s booklet advising parents on how to help children with literacy and numeracy. I understand it will be in the Prep bags given to all Victorian children starting school in 2019.

I was, frankly, appalled. The booklet mentions phonics only once, saying onscreen phonics games improve reading and “letter sound awareness”, whatever that is. It doesn’t mention phonemic awareness or handwriting at all.

A ton of scientific research has shown that phonemic awareness and phonics are key ingredients in getting literacy beginners off to a good start, along with work on vocabulary, comprehension and fluency, and that writing letters helps you remember them. Continue reading

Free Learning Difficulties Including Dyslexia webinars

La Trobe University and the Victorian Department of Education have this year collaborated to run workshops across Victoria about learning difficulties including dyslexia. The workshops have been available to teachers and other Department of Education staff.

The information from these workshops is now being made available free online via YouTube as webinars. Wow. Amazingly generous of both the University and the Department, since most professional development of this type and quality is paywalled. So thanks to all involved.

The webinars are presented by Dr Tanya Serry from La Trobe University, and the workshops on which they are based were developed with Professor Pamela Snow, Ms Emina McLean and Assistant Professor Jane McCormack also from La Trobe, and Dr Lorraine Hammond from Edith Cowan University in WA. Continue reading

Pom pom phonemes

For a while I’ve been trying to think of a good way to represent individual sounds in words  (phonemes) in a video.

First I tried using my toy fruit and vegetables. These showed nicely that actual productions of a phoneme (allophones) can be slightly different. A cob of corn is still a cob of corn, whatever its size or shape. An /n/ sound is still /n/, no matter where it’s found in a word.

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Phonemes are sounds AND articulatory gestures

Phonemes are perceptually distinct speech sounds that distinguish one word from another, e.g. the “p”, “b”, “t” and “d” in “pie”, “by”, “tie” and “die”. They’re also articulatory gestures.

A 2009 article co-authored by reading guru Linnea Ehri says “awareness of articulatory gestures facilitates the activation of graphophonemic connections that helps children identify written words and secure them in memory.” Melbourne Speech Pathologist Helen Botham (Hi, Helen!), lists a number of references on her Cued Articulation website indicating articulatory awareness facilitates phonemic awareness.

I sit right across the table from my clients, so we can see and hear each other’s articulation well. It must be a lot harder to teach a whole class about phonemes, in order to link them to graphemes. Videos on the internet (including my own) about phonemes seem to put them all in one video, making them hard to isolate and repeat on a classroom interactive whiteboard.

I’ve thus filmed my utterly adorable and orthodontically photogenic niece Vivien (thanks, Vivien!) saying each phoneme separately. The 44 videos are below, each with example words which link to the relevant spelling lists on my website. Continue reading