Part 4: Identifying the sounds in words

Getting children to hear the sound

An activity, which is particularly important for writing, is to call out a word, e.g. ‘pin’. The children have to say the sounds ‘p-i-n’, holding up a finger for each sound. This activity should be regularly practised with 2/3 letter words, e.g. ‘up, pet, hat, wet, in, leg, beg’, etc. Most children are able to identify the sounds in small words by the end of the first term.

When the children have been in school for two weeks it is helpful to demonstrate how reading and writing are linked. The children are asked to help the teacher to write a word, e.g. ‘pen’. They easily hear and say the first letter, in this case ‘p’, and the teacher writes it on the board. Gradually all the sounds are ‘teased’ out of the children and written on the board (plastic letters could be used instead). Then all the children read the word by blending the sounds. It is often possible to see the penny drop as the children see the significance of decoding and encoding in order to read and write. It is this understanding that makes the children confident and the programme so successful.

As soon as most of the children can call out the sounds in three letter words, longer words can be tackled. This often involves hearing the consonant blends.