Category Archives: sound-letter links

English spelling has five kinds of logic

This Wednesday at 6pm AEST I’m presenting Learning Difficulties Australia’s free Weekly Wednesday Webinar (yikes, but I’m back on LDA’s Council so thought I’d better contribute. Also, here in Melbourne we’re going into Stage 4 lockdown, our Jacinda The Warrior Princess hammers ready to smash the virus, so I don’t have an awful lot else on).

Here’s a bit of a preview, to help you decide whether to attend live and ask me Hard Questions in the chat, or perhaps watch it later on Youtube.

The title of the webinar is “English spelling has five kinds of logic”, and I’m hoping it helps teachers and parents better understand and explain our superficially bizarre spelling system. Much of what I’ll say won’t be news to LDAers or other experts, but I hope they find some useful ideas, angles and resources, and maybe a few laughs, and will want to send the link to others. Continue reading

Reading Eggs – Fast Phonics

Reading Eggs is a very popular early literacy program for young children, but to date I have not been much of a fan. Its logic has always seemed too Whole Language/Balanced Literacy. I didn’t include it in my Top Early Literacy Apps list earlier this year.

I was therefore pretty excited to hear that there is now a synthetic phonics version of Reading Eggs called Fast Phonics, and that it includes decodable books. I signed up for their 30-day trial (the sign-in options were “parent” or “teacher” so I tossed a coin and got “parent”), hoping to be able to enthusiastically recommend it. Continue reading

Teaching vowel spellings with a moveable alphabet

Late last year we made some videos with the help of a couple of amazing kids. Heroic Harrison, then aged four, has already starred in a couple of blog posts about early literacy apps and Embedded Picture Mnemonics.

His sister Amazing Amelie, then aged seven, here helps me demonstrate an approach I use to teach about vowel spellings with the Spelfabet moveable alphabet. Sorry it’s taken me so long to put this video up, was already snowed under before we had to switch to online therapy.

You don’t have to use my download-and-print moveable alphabet for this activity if you have a similar one, including an online one, or prefer to make your own. You can also devise your own teaching sequences, or try my Level 3 sequences. If getting anything from my shop before 30 June 2020, don’t forget to use the COVID-19 coupon code to get 30% off.

Thanks to Amelie for her amazing help, and to Caitlin Stephenson for organising this.

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:

Continue reading

New moveable alphabet word sequences

I’ve just written 30 pages of new word sequences/word chains for learners to build using my moveable alphabet. These cover the sound-spelling relationships that lend themselves to this type of word-building from my Workbook 3.

They cost $1.40 now everything in the Spelfabet shop is 30% off (use the COVID-19 coupon code. Sorry I can’t make everything free).

Sequences/word chains like these build phonemic awareness and sound-spelling knowledge, and are especially useful with kids who find handwriting difficult. They are hard to make up on the fly without tripping over words that don’t follow the pattern you’re trying to target.

First you make a word using the moveable alphabet, read it aloud, and then ask your learner to change it into a different word. They must consider the identity, order and number of sounds in the words, work out how and where the words differ, and make the relevant spelling change.

Having ready-made sequences allows you to present this activity at a fast pace, get through a lot of words in a short time, and not inadvertently confuse anyone with too many patterns at once.

Many of the readers of this blog probably already use the earlier, free sequences, so these ones probably don’t need lots of further explanation. I’ll just put a snippet here of what they look like, to give you the idea:

If you are getting them, don’t forget to put in the code “COVID-19” to get the 30% discount.

These sequences took me absolutely ages to make, so I hope you like them, and please send me any feedback you have on them. Stay well!

Embedded picture mnemonics: flashcard size

I’ve had many requests for a flashcard-sized version of our Embedded Picture Mnemonics, so (finally, sorry, I was moving house) here they are.

Embedded picture mnemonics are drawings of letters embedded in a picture of something with a name that contains that sound. The classic example is a snake in the shape of a letter S.

Mentally linking two abstract concepts (a speech sound and its letter/spelling) to the point where one automatically evokes the other is hard work, and typically requires hundreds of repetitions. Continue reading

Top early literacy apps 2020

Most young children are already using apps on phones or tablets, at least occasionally. Whatever you think of kids’ screen time, we want it to be quality time. There is some evidence that interactive apps support early academic development, but finding quality early literacy apps can be difficult and time-consuming. Lots of what’s available is (IMHO) simply rubbish.

It’s helpful to read adult reviews of apps for children, but a lot of online information is available about them already, and to REALLY road-test an app, I like to watch a young child using it. My colleague Caitlin Stephenson and I have thus filmed Harrison (aged 4, nearly 5) trying out some of my favourite early phonemic awareness and phonics iPad apps for young children.

The resulting video is below. We hope it gives you a taste of how each app works, to help you decide whether it would suit the small person/people in your life. The video is 16 minutes long, and the apps tried are listed below (numbers in brackets are start times on the video clock):

The only tablet I have is an iPad, but some of these apps are available for other platforms. Many also work on iPhones. If you’re not in Australia, please note that my app store links are all to the Australian store, so you’ll have to search your local store for apps that take your fancy.

I’m not quoting prices here because they often change, and things that I’ve said are free suddenly aren’t, while things I’ve said are expensive drop in price. Also, some apps have hundreds of activities, while some have only one/a few, so it’s like comparing apples and banquets. I’ve decided to leave the value-for-money question up to you.

Other early literacy iPad apps IMHO worth considering for young children include:

Beginners’ decodable books allow children to practice phonics skills by reading stories  containing simplified spelling patterns, and some of these are also available as apps:

Apologies to all the people who make good apps of which I’m not aware. I’d love to hear about them, and wish I had more time to search for and try them.

I hope this blog post helps you find apps that the small people in your life enjoy, and which help them develop great early literacy skills.