First Grade Reading and Phonics

In a first grade stimulated by poems and stories, children become fascinated by words. All of the shapes, meanings, spellings, sound relationships, and poetic sound values interest them. The good reading teacher makes all of these interesting features of words a part of class life. She brings out rhymes, spelling-sound consistencies and inconsistencies. She brings in jokes. She asks riddles. She has words around the room - Size Words (tiny, huge, tremendous, large, thin, thick, long . . .), Feeling Words (happy, sad, calm, quiet, nervous, jittery, awful, . . .), Hallowe'en words, Thanksgiving words, etc. She extends vocabulary. "Evergreen" - an interesting word. How does it sound? What does it mean? What kinds of things does it describe? Let's look for such plants outdoors. Let's make a chart. "Carnivorous" - what a sweeping kind of word! It starts slowly and then races to the final "s" like a snake striking. Are first graders carnivorous? Is an (animal)?

Children will want to practice new words. If a new word is written on an index card, it can be kept in a pack and the words studied with a friend. Children can also play games with their word cards: find all of the words that began with a "c." Find all of the words that have an "o" in the middle.

As children write, they will benefit by having a list of the most commonly written words, which the teacher can duplicate, one for each child. Knowing what words are used in basal readers, the teacher can particularly emphasize these words.

On chart paper, the teacher can list questions and directions for the day. Rules can be listed. Visits can be summarized. Assignments can be written (add "s," "ed," and "ing" to these words: jump, play, work, . . ., etc.).

The regularities of words are fascinating. At the same time the irregularities are confusing! Phonics can be both overstressed and understressed.

First grade children will be helped in their reading by learning the sounds of initial consonants. Often, these will have been learned in kindergarten. These sounds are always taught with words ("b" as in boy and ball, "d" as in dog, etc.). Beyond the initial consonants there is much less certainty. One study discovered that in first grade reading materials 121 different phonic principles were offered - 50 on vowels, 15 on consonants, and 28 each on endings and syllabication. - too many for first-grade minds! Furthermore, many of the generalizations often did not apply. For example, the rule "When there are two vowels side by side, the long sound of the first one is heard, and the second one is usually silent" is true only 45% of the time.

Here is a thought: n cntxt, mny wrds dn't rqr th vwls fr chldrn t ndrstnd thm.

The abilities needed for rapid progress in beginning reading come about not only through the natural maturation of the child but also through his many interactions with the environment. Children who have not played much with toys and games close at hand and who have done little hand work will not have had the experiences that prepare them for the visual discrimination needed in reading. If children lack good visual discrimination, it only makes sense to interest them in activities that require close-up concentration. These activities need to be ones that the children enjoy. Children will happily work at a sewing card who will see no purpose in finding the one design that is different from three other designs. Coloring and drawing are other natural activities that develop visual discrimination.

Children who have difficulty with rhymes and with identifying beginning and ending sounds in words will have no success with phonics. The many poems and stories that the teacher reads, and the word play, will help these children develop auditory discrimination.

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pcleas. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Navigate to Home Page - Teaching First Grade