Articles – Reading Words

Note: The term “students” is used so that the term “he or she” doesn’t have to be used.
The slash signs are used around a letter sound: e.g. n = a letter name, but /n/ = sound /n/ in nit or don.

When are students ready to read?

When students have learnt a few sounds and their letters, such as those below, they are ready to read words.

For example: d = /d/ in dog, hid;  i = /i/ in it’s itchy, Dylan;  
n = /n/ in necklace, in; t =  /t/ in touch, it  

It’s often easier to learn to say a sound correctly by saying the sound first in a word that begins with that sound,  then say the sound in a word that ends with that word – using the sound at the end of the word as the one you say when you’re learning to say the sound correctly.

As you would have noticed in the list of sounds above, it’s not always possible to do this: in the example: i = /i/ in it’s itchy, Dylan, we use letter i to show sound /i/ at the beginning of a word. But we don’t use letter i to show sound /i/ at the end of a word; we use letter y to show sound /i/ at the end of a syllable. So when learning to say the sound /i/, just use the first syllable of Dylan – Dy, when learning that sound.

The words students should read

It’s essential that the words students are expected to read use only the sounds and letters the students have been taught.

did      din      in        inn      it         nit       tin       tint

Don’t go teaching students whole words – no matter how common (or high frequency) these words are. These students are learning to read, which is a process. Don’t short-circuit the process by cutting corners. If you do, the students will become confused, and think that words are made up of random letters. If they believe that the letters in words don’t make sense, they will guess, because guessing is the only sensible way to tackle random assortments of letters. Students who guess often look at the first letter and say its sound, and then decide whether the word is long or short, and guess accordingly.

Let students point

Students find it very helpful to be allowed to point to the letters as they sound them out, because pointing helps them focus on the word letter by letter. It also helps the brain link the sound and letter together once again. (Brains learn best through repetition.)

When students start to sound out the letters, remind them to start at the left side of the page, and work their way across to the right. Once students have sounded out the word, they blend those sounds together, and can then hear what the word is.

Require sounding out

Don’t be tempted to let the students do sounding out silently. It’s important that the students hear the sounds spoken aloud, and hear the sounds spoken closer together, so they can hear the word. When students are competent readers, they will be able to stop reading aloud; until then, you need to be able to check what they’re doing – so you can spot errors and fix them before they become major problems.

You can be the students’ temporary memory

If your students can sound out accurately, but aren’t yet confident at blending, you can act as a “temporary memory” for them, while they become more skilled and confident. To do this, follow the pattern below.

For example, if the students are given the word tin to read, they sound out:

/t/                   /i/                   /n/      perhaps with a second between the sounds. The important part of this step is that the students sound out accurately. If they have said the wrong sound, or have said the sound incorrectly
(e.g. they’ve said /duh/ instead of /d/, tell them to try again.

You can then say:    /t/       /i/       /n/      making the sounds closer together.

The students then repeat your sounding out even closer together, while pointing at the letters:
/t/   /i/   /n/

If the students can’t work out what the word is, you say:
/t/  /i/  /n/  tin

And the students repeat, saying the sound, as they point to its letter:
/t/  /i/  /n/  tin

Soon, students will be able to sound out and blend

Once students become more confident, they can do all the work themselves. Eventually, when they have really grasped how reading works, they will be able to sound out and blend in one process for nearly all words.

Require students to learn the sound/letter combinations well

As you can see, it’s important that before students are expected to read words, that they learn the sound/letter combinations in those words to “automatic” stage, so that they are able to say the sounds close together. When students can sound out close together, they find it easier to hear the word those sounds make.

Taking the time to laying these firm foundations carefully, will result in rapid progress and student confidence. To learn more about the Course that uses all these techniques, go to Reading Course in the website menu.