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Part 1 – Skills needed for reading and writing

A summary is provided of the skills that are needed for learning to read and write, as well as details of the essential phonic knowledge.

Part 1: Skills needed for reading and writing

 

There seems to be a mystique about teaching children how to read and write. I guess it is because most of us adults were young when we learnt to read and we have forgotten how we did it. After a while, the skill of reading becomes automatic and the how to do it somehow becomes lost. My aim is to take some of this mystique away because it is relatively easy for children to learn to read and write, so long as they are taught to work the words out from the beginning and to progress from simple words to more complicated ones.

 

With reading, there are two basic skills needed. The first skill is decoding – that is, word reading – getting the words fluently off the page; and the second skill is comprehension, which means understanding the words.

 

The skill of decoding is being able to work out unfamiliar words by looking at the letters from left to right, saying the sounds linked to the letters, and then blending the sounds and listening for the word, as in c-a-t… cat; or – slightly more complicated – sh-ee-p…sheep; or longer and perhaps more unusual words, like m-er-m-ai-d…mermaid. Once a word has been blended a few times, it becomes known and then decoding is only needed for new words that have not been read before.

 

Comprehension, on the other hand, is just as important as decoding but it is a different skill. Comprehension mostly develops naturally through speaking, listening and reading. English-speaking children whose parents read stories and talk to them a great deal have a huge advantage when they start school. Their understanding of spoken English is much better and they have a far wider vocabulary. However, it does not teach them how to read. What it does do is enable them to understand and enjoy what they are reading, once they can easily read the words on the page. On the whole, comprehension skills improve naturally through spoken language, but there is nothing natural about learning to read and write and it needs to be systematically and carefully taught, using synthetic phonics.

 

One of the main skills for writing is being able to hear the sounds in words and choosing the correct letters for those sounds. For example, if a child wants to write the word dog he or she needs to hear the sounds /d-o-g/ and write the appropriate letters. This skill is known as segmenting.

 

In Steps 1, 2 and 3, the first 42 letter sounds are taught, one after the other. This is actually one way of representing the main sounds of English. Then this is followed in Steps 4 and 5 by 22 more letter sounds, which are the main alternative ways of representing those sounds – that is, a different way of spelling them. With the knowledge of just these 64 letter sounds and the skill of blending, the children can read thousands of words by working them out for themselves. As the children learn the letter sounds, one by one, they are taught how to read and write words that use those letter sounds. Gradually the children progress from reading words, to phrases, then on to sentences and, finally, to reading books and writing independently.

 

 

  • Letter sounds in Steps 1 - 5.

    This provides a simple guide to the letter sounds that are taught in Steps 1 - 5

  • Word Bank for 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.

  • Word Bank for 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.

  • Teachers' Word Bank for Steps 1 - 5

    Lists of words are downloadable, in the order that is used for teaching the letter sounds. This is useful for teachers who would like to prepare their own materials.

  • English-Alphabetic Code Chart

    English alphabetic-code charts are particularly useful for adults who are interested in the many alternative spellings that are used in the English code.

  • Overview Chart

    This chart provides a simple overview of the teaching in Steps 1 - 6.