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Part 3 – Letter-sound intervention in small groups

Several intervention activities for improving letter-sound knowledge are demonstrated.

Part 3: Letter-Sound intervention in small groups

Intervention activities

The following sections (Parts 3 to 5) suggest ways to help develop the necessary skills for decoding and encoding (letter-sound knowledge, blending, segmenting and tricky words). It works well to keep each activity fast paced and short; young children thrive on this style of teaching. Although various examples are provided in each section, in reality there will only be time for one or two activities linked to each skill. Usually, intervention sessions of 15 to 20 minutes work well and, if possible, they should take place every day. In the following examples, assume that the class is being taught Step 3 but that the intervention group requires more revision of Step 1 and also needs to make a serious start on Step 2.

Revising the letter sounds

Flash cards

Imagine that there are three or four children, sitting around a table in front of their teacher or teaching assistant. The children call out the sounds as quickly as possibly as the letters are shown [demonstration].

Who can say it first?

Do the flashcard activity, but this time encourage the children’s fluency by seeing who can say the sound first. Hold up each letter-sound card and give it to the first child who calls out the correct sound. If two children say the sound at the same time, put the card back in the pile. At the end of the game, the children count their cards and the one with the most is the winner. This works well with evenly matched children.

Touch the letter sound

Lay a few letter-sound cards on the table. Call out the letter sounds one by one, each time asking a child to touch the correct card. A (noisy) alternative is to call out each letter sound and see who is the first to touch it. This is good fun as long as it does not disturb the rest of the children or other classes.

Letter-sound focus

During each session, it is a good idea to focus specifically on the next two letter sounds that need extra practice. For example, the teacher could show the children the first two letter sounds in Step 2 – /ai/ and /j/ – and ask if anyone remembers them. It is likely that one of the children will do so, because these letter sounds are being revised regularly as part of the normal classroom teaching. Letter-sound formation should also be practised [demonstration]. The teacher could, for example, dictate the letter sounds and watch carefully to see whether the children form /ai/ and /j/ correctly. (This could be done in two stages: first while the children can see the letter sounds, and then when the letter sounds are hidden.) Alternatively, the children could be encouraged to form the letters correctly on the table with their finger. The formation could either be checked by the teacher or by the other children in the group.

Deal and say

Deal out some letter-sound cards and ask each child to point to their cards and say the letter sounds, as fast as they can [demonstration]. From this you can see which children know their letter sounds and how well they know them. It also provides useful revision.

Word building

Although the intervention activities are presented in different sections, according to the skills they promote, it is not necessary to keep to that order within each session. For example, when all the children have some letter sounds in front of them, it is a good time to do some word building.

Start by encouraging the children to hear the sounds in some words. Call out the words and ask the children to say the sounds together, holding up a finger for each one: for example, fun, /f-u-n/. Now repeat the activity so that the children are able to have a go on their own. Follow this by calling out a few words, such as bed, rain and jump (making sure the focus sounds – /ai/ and /j/ are used in some of them). Then ask the children to make the words, using the letters in front of them [demonstration].

Not only do these activities develop the children’s ability to hear the sounds in words, they also show the children why they need to be able to do so: namely, to work words out in preparation for writing.

  • Letter-sound Box

    Print the letter sounds on one side of thin card or paper, and the appropriate words on the other side. Cut up. Use as recommended.

  • Letter-sound Box - print letters

    Print the letter sounds on one side of thin card or paper, and the appropriate words on the other side. Cut up. Use as recommended.

  • Consonant blends

    It is helpful to blend the consonant blend and learn to say it joined together.

  • Consonant blends - print letters

    It is helpful to blend the consonant blend and learn to say it joined together.

  • Consonant and short vowel

    It is helpful to blend the consonant and short vowel and learn to say them joined together.

  • Consonant and short vowel - print letters

    It is helpful to blend the consonant and short vowel and learn to say them joined together.

  • Consonant blend and short vowel

    It is helpful to blend the consonant blend and short vowel and learn to say them joined together.

  • Consonant blend and short vowel - print letters

    It is helpful to blend the consonant blend and short vowel and learn to say them joined together.

  • Words for blending in Steps 1 - 5

    Words are in squares for the children to use for blending practice. They are in the same order that is used for teaching the letter sounds. As each new letter sound is taught more words that use the new letter sound, and the previously taught ones, become available.

  • Words for blending in Steps 1 - 5- print letters

    Words are in squares for the children to use for blending practice. They are in the same order that is used for teaching the letter sounds. As each new letter sound is taught more words that use the new letter sound, and the previously taught ones, become available.

  • Teacher's Word Bank for Steps 1 - 5

    Useful words for blending practice. More words are provided as each letter sound is taught. It helps to ensure the words are decodable.

  • Dr Marlynne Grant's Research - follow-up longitudinal studies

    It is well worth reading the whole report. It demonstrates what can be achieved with good synthetic-phonics teaching in the classroom and, if necessary, in intervention groups.