Saturday, January 24, 2009

A quick explanation of sounds vs. letters.

My goal with this blog is to offer ideas about activities you and your child can enjoy that also help your child get ready to read. This post contains background information that you can skip or read. If you are a researcher, then you'll want to go further than the brief explanation I'll provide here.

The activities described in this blog promote phonemic awareness. Don't I mean phonics? No! Phonemic awareness comes first, then phonics.

Here's an easy definition of phonemic awareness: an understanding that words are made up of smaller and different sounds. For example, the word BATH is made up of three sounds: "buh" "a" and "th."

Phonics is what happens when kids start associating the sounds with letters. Children learn to use the spelling of a word to determine what it sounds like.

You can't "do" phonics until you understand the sounds first. So, while it is fun and perfectly fine to sing the alphabet song and learn the sounds each letter makes, pre-reading activities focus on developing that phonemic awareness.

My favorite reading professor describes the difference this way "phonemic awareness activities can be done in the dark." In other words, you don't have to see the letters to learn about how individual sounds come together to make words.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah,

    Thank you so much for this blog. I plan to share it with several friends. You're translating your graduate studies in to lay folks' terms. I get it! And, the activities you suggest are definitely doable. Why is it that all we ever hear is "read to your child every day"? There's so much more we can do. I'm very much looking forward to sound games in the dark!