Part 5: Intervention activities for segmenting and for learning tricky words
Identifying the sounds in words (holding up a finger for each sound)
This activity was demonstrated earlier. The children say the sounds in a word, holding up a finger for each one: for example jug, /j/ (one finger) – /u/ (two fingers) – /g/ (three fingers). Doing this seems to help the children, but there are alternatives that are just as effective, such as tapping the back of the hand (rabbit, /r-a-bb-i-t/) or tapping the head, (slip, /s-l-i-p/) [demonstration]. Hearing the sounds in a word with a consonant blend is more difficult, so encourage the children to say the word slowly: /sss-lll-i-p/.
Word building with letters
Word building with letters can be done with plastic letters or, as demonstrated earlier, with letter-sound cards.
Dictation is the best way of developing the skill of writing. In intervention lessons, the dictation could include the focus letter sounds and a few others (for example, /ai/, /j/, /b/, /u/) and some words that use the focus letter sounds (such as jet, pain, raid, job, snail). Keep it snappy and fairly well paced.
If the whole class has been learning the tricky words, start with the first two that were taught: I and the. Teach them in the same way as outlined in Steps 3 to 5, using flash cards and dictation. Also try and find ways to help the children memorise the spellings.
If there is time, finish by encouraging the children to read a few sentences that use the focus tricky words and other words that can be worked out: for example, I am hot, The dog is black, It is a bad stain on the dress. (Again, the word bank is a useful resource for making up sentences.) Having blended the words in the sentence once, encourage the children to read them again, this time without the blending. Finally, quickly go through the letter sounds again, including the focus sounds, and bring the session to an end.
These intervention ideas are merely suggestions. Teachers and teaching assistants will have further ideas of their own. For example, I once saw a teacher in Canada doing auditory blending with the class. Each time she said a sound in a word, she tapped her arm: first on the shoulder, then on the elbow and then on the wrist. Then, as she blended the sounds together and said the word, she ran her hand down her arm [demonstration]. I thought that was rather impressive and after that I added it to the activities I did with my class. It is still auditory blending – one of the basic skills needed – but it brings a bit of variety into the teaching, which is something we all like.
However, if all the children in an intervention group are able to hear words when the sounds have been spoken, there is no point in using up precious teaching time on an activity that improves auditory blending. It is always important to keep in mind the aim of the intervention session: to catch-up and keep-up with the rest of the class by learning the letter sounds, blending, segmenting, learning tricky words and improving spelling.